Friday, July 15, 2016

When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin - a book review

This was my first time reading a Charles Martin novel. The book was recommended to me by a friend with high accolades. As I began reading it, I was pleasantly surprised to find the story was set in a small Georgia town. Since I'm a Georgia native, I knew immediately I'd find this book interesting. 
The story revolves around a little girl named Annie. Annie has a way of capturing the hearts of those around her and for a good reason. Annie has some major health problems. Her parents are dead. She has no insurance and though her life is full of struggles, she finds a way to keep a positive attitude. Annie has a small lemonade stand in the center of town. Every morning she greets the townspeople and offers them her sweet smile along with a cup of lemony drink. She sells her lemonade for 50 cents a glass but the jar beside her stand holds large bills. She's raising money for her own heart transplant and the people in this small town want to help. 
When a stranger comes into town, he has no idea what he's about to encounter. With a past filled with hurts, this stranger befriends Annie and their lives become instantly intertwined. The mysteries of a stranger named Reese come colliding in with Annie's need for a new heart and the healing of his own. 
I loved the way Mr. Martin wrote this story. He used such beautiful descriptive words and instantly drew the reader into the story. The book was filled with familiar Georgia towns and attractions that helped me visualize my native home and as the story unfolds, I felt like I was in the midst of the struggles the characters faced. 
When the book was recommended to me, I was told I'd cry before I completed the book. I didn't believe I'd shed tears but about midway through the book, as one of the characters prays for Annie, I lost it. The prayer was so heartfelt and genuine I couldn't help but be filled with empathy. 
This book is one I'll keep on my forever shelf. There aren't many books that make it to my permanent library but this one is a definite keeper. I loved the way the author allowed faith to be a central theme in this book, too. As a Christian, I love finding books of this caliber and enjoy looking for spiritual depth amid the story lines. 
I think you'll be pleasantly surprised if you read this book and I really hope you will. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

All But Normal by Shawn Thornton – A Book Review

Recently, I was provided a complimentary copy of the book, All But Normal by Shawn Thornton, in exchange for my honest review.  I always enjoy reading about true life stories written by Christians and how they use their faith to overcome obstacles. All but Normal is such a book. The author, Shawn Thornton, has compiled a memoir about the life of his mother, Bev Thornton and her difficult journey into the world of mental illness. After a tragic automobile accident, Mrs. Thornton becomes someone the family doesn’t quite recognize. Once a gentle, loving woman, Bev Thornton, begins to display uncontrollable fits of anger. She throws things and uses filthy language. Her family struggles to understand and love her in spite of these changes but it is extremely difficult.
Pastor Shawn Thornton

As I read the book, I could sympathize with the author. His open and honest writing allowed me to step into his world and experience the things he was experiencing. When the objects flew across the room, I wanted to duck with him. When the curse words were flung into the air, I cringed along with Shawn.

This real life journey through a life changing trial was captured moment by moment through eyes of love and faith. The author, Shawn Thornton, gave readers a very vivid portrayal of the reality of crisis but also, how faith in Christ can allow a person to rise above circumstances and love the unlovable.

I was very impressed by the authenticity of the author’s faith and would highly recommend this book to anyone who may be interested in studying mental illness, real life experiences, or journeys of faith. Mr. Thornton has a wonderful talent for weaving his faith throughout the story. The book is a very quick read and once started, is hard to put down.

I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for allowing me the opportunity to review this book. I was not encouraged to write a positive review. For more information on author, Shawn Thornton, please feel free to visit the sites below: 

·         Promo/Main Site: 
·         “All Things New” Blog:  
·         Radio:

·         Facebook:  
·         Twitter:        

·         Instagram:

·         Videos of Pastor Shawn Preaching:


Return to Joy by Bev DeSalvo– a Book Review

Return to Joy is a powerful book! I was impressed by the author’s ability to be so open and honest in telling about her experiences with childhood sexual abuse and how she learned to overcome the feelings of shame and guilt that often accompany such a tragic ordeal. The author, Bev DeSalvo, grew up in a home with an abusive father and an emotionally distant mother. From a very early age, she learned to cope by pretending everything was okay. Wearing masks became a part of her daily life and caused her to become immersed in gaining performance based acceptance. She did whatever necessary to keep the peace in her home and to avoid more painful situations. She did the best she could but it wasn’t good enough and soon, Ms. DeSalvo was contemplating suicide. At the age of nineteen, Bev accepted Christ as her Savior when invited to attend a college outreach program. It was difficult for her to accept the unconditional love of Christ but it was exactly what her heart had been longing for all of her life. The author, after learning her identity in and through Christ, begins to understand and surmount the lies she believed throughout her childhood. As Bev combats those lies with the truth of God’s Word, she quickly learns to identify and refute those lies.   

Return to Joy is a story of overcoming personal tragedy and replacing it with a life filled with joy and hope. Ms. DeSalvo allowed her readers to understand the abuse she suffered as she shared very personal details about her feelings and experiences. As she shared her own experiences, she followed with questions for the reader asking if he or she had suffered similar experiences. She offered practical faith based solutions and always pointed the reader to Christ. I enjoyed the Bible study following each chapter of the book. The questions were well thought out and helped counsel the reader to move past hurtful situations.

In the book, Ms. DeSalvo has a section entitled “Where is God when bad things happen.” I’d like to share an excerpt from that section: Bev says, “I’ve had lots of people try to explain where God was when bad things happened to me. Some said He was in the room, weeping in the corner while I was being abused. That didn’t bring comfort because that would mean that God is passive. Others argued that He was doing His best to protect me, but that the perpetrator wouldn’t listen. Well, doing His best was not good enough for me. That would mean that He is impotent. I could never trust a God who is passive and weak. As I was on my knees in desperation one day, I heard Him speak into my heart. It wasn’t an audible voice, but a miraculous Spirit to spirit encounter. As I listened with spiritual ears, He revealed Himself as the God of angel armies in the heavenly battle that I can’t see. He isn’t passively and impotently standing by, observing our pain and doing nothing. God is actively engaged in heavenly warfare, and electrifying power fills heaven and earth as He wages war against the forces of evil on our behalf…” The author overcame her abuse by learning to walk by faith and shared Scripture passages and details like this throughout the book.

I think this book would be a wonderful tool for Christian counselors or those working with victims of sexual abuse but could also be used for victims of any type of abuse. The goal of this book seems to be helping a person understand and walk in their identity in Christ. By understanding how to move past suffering and pain into fullness of joy, the victim can be truly set free.

The author's writing style is easy to understand and read. There is a familiarity in her writing that causes the reader to feel as if he/she is having a confidential conversation with dear friend. After having read the book, the reader will feel equipped to take on challenges of the past and trials of the future.

This book would make a wonderful gift. It is one I will recommend often to friends and family. I will also be adding this to my personal library of counseling materials. As a lay counselor for a large church, I often find myself using materials such as these to help my clients.

I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to review Return to Joy. It was my honor and privilege to write this review although I was not encouraged in any way to give a positive review for the company. If you know anyone who has been sexually abused please share this book with them. It will bless them and help them move forward with their life. 

You can purchase the book here on Amazon