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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading new author's novels or author's who have not had many reviews or exposure and giving them much needed encouragement where appropriate.   
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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

The Posse - Volume 1 - Visions by C.Q/ Scafidi, Cindy Koepp, Giovanni Gelati


The Posse. Stealth, Swift and Sure was their motto. Frontier justice was their mission. Secrecy was their modus operandi. They were Three West Point graduates with a single mission, to eliminate corruption and injustice wherever it was found, with the clandestine assistance of their handler back at West Point, General Milton Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh was decorated, respected, and in charge of the most secretive law enforcement body of the time, exacting justice and dispensing punishment without court oversight, using technologies still unknown to the common man, across the entire frontier.

Release date: March 10, 2016

The Guru's Review: 

I was asked by author, Giovanni Gelati, to review this short story pre-release for an honest review. 

I have read only one steampunk novel previously and this would be my second western novel. Putting these two genres together works well, despite the fact that the former is technology ahead of the time of this western set in the late 1850s, during the American Civil War. Being only 27 pages in length, it succeeds in setting the stage for the first mission in the series, introducing the team of three operatives who make up The Posse, a little about their steampunk aircraft, the Union Flyer, and allowing the reader to experience a little of their first mission.

Having technology that is ahead if its time included in this short, reminds me of how effective and fun this same type of scenario was in the Kel Richards series, Ben Bartholomew Mystery Series, set in the time of Jesus where there was modern technology such as phones, electricity, computers, taxis and fast food delivery. There are hints of this in this short and hopefully, this will be expanded upon in future volumes/shorts of this series. I loved it in the former series and I love it in this new one.

The authors of this new series have created a team called The Posse who motto is, "Stealth, Swift, and Sure. Eradicating corruption and injustice wherever it is found". And in this first volume, the seeds are set to show that they live up to this motto.

I like some of the infrastructure that the authors have created that underpins this team and how they operate. It is backed by a General at West Point (United States Military Academy) who uses methods that are 
clandestine, to say the least. This group is a secretive law enforcement team who aim is to exact justice and dispense punishment without court oversight, using technologies (including an advanced communication device and vehicles of the steampunk kind) that are ahead of the current technological age. There is even a secret support group called the Silent Stewards, who, 
....are everywhere. They tend to appear when we need them the most. We don't necessarily know how or why, just that they exist as part of General Cavanaugh's Special Forces group. Many of them are just regular people who volunteer for the cause of justice. They hid in plain sight, and their anonymity is essential to their survival. No one is who they appear to be. 
One aspect that stood out to me was the attention to detail of this era, the 1850s, the civil war, New Orleans, the way they spoke and the culture, the civil war sympathies evident, even this latter aspect was part of their mission. I look forward to more of this in subsequent "volumes".

The Posse team seem to be a very tight-knit and unified team. It appears they know each others strengths and weaknesses and compliment each other as evidenced by their game plan in dealing with the perpetrators of the crimes they are sent to address. This seems to be one of the strengths of this new series. I presume they are Christian but this is not obvious or evident in the narrative but that may be my presumption. I hope that the authors will be including and expanding Christian themes in future volumes and plot lines as this one barely hints of anything, but I do get the impression that this is a Christian story and is therefore in the genre of Christian fiction. It is being promoted on Gelati's blog as paranormal series and that Volume 2 has a strong paranormal/steampunk vibe!

My only criticism is that the ending was just very sudden, in the midst of some action with the perpetrators of their mission. The plot just ended, leaving you hanging. I kept clicking on the next page button on my kindle but it said Book Completed.

For only 27 pages, there is only so much that be included without risking the characters and plot lines becoming weak and disjointed, but the authors have achieved a lot here, with what I have described. I am looking forward to this new series. It does show a lot of promise. 


Strongly Recommended. 4/5

Monday, 22 February 2016

Guest Post: How to write an Excellent, Well Written Book Review and Why by Pastor George McVey

I often see Memes on Facebook and elsewhere stating that the best thing a reader can do for an author is post a review of their book. How very true this is. Sadly, not many readers know the importance of this and, therefore, do not post a review. Readers can sometimes be under the misconception that once an author has published a book and it is on Amazon or on a retail bookshelf that everything is ok and that the book will sell and the author will reap in the monetary rewards for the months/years they spent toiling over all the steps and procedures needed to produce their book. In fact, the opposite is true.

To explain more, I have author and Pastor George McVey explain from his point of view, the importance of writing a review. Thanks for being here today, George! 
  

How to write an Excellent, Well Written Book Review and Why.


Can I talk to you the reader for a minute? I and every other author you know need your help. I’m serious. If you know an author who has books listed on Amazon, then they need your help. No, I’m not asking you to buy more books, though that would help us as well. I’m talking about leaving excellent reviews.

I bet as a reader you don’t know how important it is to leave a review for that book you just finished. Let me give you some interesting information you might not know. Lot’s of readers choose the book they read next by the reviews they see at places like Amazon.com or Goodreads.com. If they don’t see any reviews or if the reviews they see aren’t well written, they may pass on the book.

Not only does leaving a review help readers pick a good book but here are a few other benefits that Author’s get from having a lot of well-written reviews. I bet you didn’t know that after an author gets 25 reviews on Amazon, the company begins to include them in their “Also bought” and “you might like this” lists. This increases that books visibility on Amazon and helps put the book in front of more potential readers. That helps to boost sales.

When a book gets 50 or more reviews, Amazon highlights that book for spotlight positions in its monthly newsletter. This put’s the authors book in front of literally hundreds of thousands of potential readers. This can mean a huge boost in sales for your favorite author.

Are you one of those readers who get emails from sites that promote books that are free or on sale? I bet you didn’t know that almost all of those sites require a certain number of high star reviews before you can submit your book. For example, before submitting a book to E-Read News Today, an author must have a minimum of 10 reviews that are 4 stars of above. Some places require even more. One place that I list my nonfiction books when they are free Require 60 four stars or above reviews. Without readers leaving those reviews, your favorite author can’t use these advertising tools.

The final reason your need to not just leave a review but leave a well-written review is because of a new app that came out recently called “Fakespot”. This app claims to be able to tell you how many reviews of a certain book or product are fake. By that they mean not posted by customers but by friends, relatives of authors or are bought reviews. How they determine if a review is fake is based on the quality of the review. So Let me give you some Do’s and Don’ts that will help you write an Excellent and Honest Review.


Guidelines for Excellent Reviews.


1. Do be honest. If the book was good, then say that. If it was bad then say that. People are more articulate when they believe what they are saying. Every author I know would rather have your honest review than for you to just say “It was great.” We don’t need you to pump us up if we don’t deserve it. We want to write the best stories or information books we can. If you tell us it was perfect, then tell everyone you; how it blew chunks, that doesn’t help us.

2. Don’t leave a 5 word or less review. This is one of the things that Fakespot considers a bogus review. For instance, a review that says “It was great.” Without saying why it was great, is not really a review at all; and will be considered by this App as less than honest. Let me tell you what I think has started happening. Now Amazon has a link at the end of every Kindle book to leave a review right from your E-Reader. However, most people don’t like typing on those tiny keyboards, or hard to use touchscreen keyboards. Because of that, people leave a single word or just a few words review.

The purpose of leaving a review is to help other readers decide if they want to read the book. We have all been taught an informed customer is a smart customer, so we do our research before we make a purchase. We only have so much time to read in this hectic world of ours, so we use reviews to help us decide if the book is worth our time. “It was good.” Or “Awesome” or “Loved it” don’t help anyone else decide if the book is for them. Tell why you loved it. What made it a good book? Describe the awesomeness. The same is true if you feel you must leave a terrible review. Tell us what made it terrible, how did it suck? You get the picture, use your words.

3. Do share your review once you’ve written it. Post a link to it on your Facebook. Pin it, tweet it. Heck, even blog about it if you want. Those reviews don’t help us sell more books unless people see them.

4. Don’t review things that weren’t about the book. I can’t tell you the number of authors who have poor reviews that talk about a problem they had with the place they got the book. We as authors have no control over which device the book was downloaded from. We don’t control the font size of the book the reader does. (There’s a place on you E-reader where you adjust that.) We didn’t charge you twice, the bookseller did. Don’t post a one or two-star review because of something the bookseller did. Reviews are about the story and cover themselves. Not about the process of getting the book. If you have one of the above-listed problems then contact Amazon or the book provider.

5. Do check your spelling and grammar. Nothing makes a review look more like a fake than someone who use bad grammar and spelling. Books are made up of words and grammar; if yours seems poor, then people who read your review will think- “They can’t even spell or follow basic grammar, they must not have read this book. I’m not saying you have to be perfect, but if you can’t tell the difference between think and thank; people will wonder if you can even read. Seriously it happens.

6. Don’t tell the plot of the book. No-one and I mean NO-ONE likes spoilers. A good review talks about why you liked the book; it doesn’t give a the plot and details of the book. Nothing is worse for an author than a review that tells everything that happens in the book. If you do that in a review, what reason does the potential reader have to read the book? You already described the whole thing to them. Imagine you are looking for a good mystery book, and you think the cover and book blurb make the mystery sound interesting. So you want to see what those that have read it have to say about it. You go to the reviews, and the first one you read gives the book five stars; then tells you who did it, why they did it, and how they did it. No mystery left for you. This is not a quality review, it's a spoiler without a warning.

7. Do make sure you are reviewing the right book. I’ve had this problem myself. I received a 1-star review, and the guy was saying why he didn’t like my book. Yet nothing he talked about was in my book. I’ve talked with other authors who’ve had similar experiences. If you are going to review a book, make sure it’s the right book. Read the book blurb. Look at the cover. If you're using your computer to write it get out your E-reader and look up the name and author of a book. Some people don’t know, this but more than one book can have the same title. I have a book out called Redeeming Love, so does another dozen authors including, Francine Rivers. Imagine the confusion, if a review of her book which is a historical romance, but not a western, was posted to my book which is a western with some romance in it. Or if a review of my Redeeming Love was posted to her book reviews. The reader would not get the book they thought they were getting.

8. Do contact the Author if you find a ton of spelling, grammar, and formatting mistakes. We know they shouldn’t happen, but they do. Personal example, I paid over 300.00 for editing on my book Redeeming Grace. It was money well spent and I made all the changes the editor suggested. However, when I went to upload the content to Amazon I used the wrong file, the unedited file. I messed up. But a reader contacted me and said this is so much a lower quality than your books are normally. What happened? I went to Amazon and very quickly noticed, yep, I uploaded the wrong file. I re-uploaded the right file and informed Amazon, who in turn, informed everyone who bought the book so they could re-download and get the correct version. However, I’ve had friends who’ve gotten poor reviews on bad grammar, spelling and formatting. This keeps readers from reading the book, even after it’s been corrected. So give the author the benefit of the doubt, and contact them first to see if they will fix it. Give them some specific examples if you can of what you’re referring too. Again, most indie authors want to put out the best product they can. Most will correct the problems and respond to the reader with a thank you. If you don’t get that after say a month then check to see if a new version is up. Your kindle or e-reader should let you know when that happens. If it still hasn’t been corrected don’t leave a review, contact amazon. They will put a hold on the book till the author fixes it.

As you can see, it isn’t hard to leave a great, well-written review if you just follow these eight simple guidelines. In the end, the author will love you for it. Other readers will love you for it, and maybe, just maybe Fakespot won’t think your review is a fake review.

Thanks for this explanation, George! Even I learned something and I review books on a regular basis! 

So readers of fiction of all genres, please write a review and support the authors who love to write and input into our lives! 

A Little About Pastor George McVey


George McVey is a pastor with twenty years experience in leading people to a closer walk with Jesus Christ. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia with his wife, two sons, daughter, and grandson. They live in a house with running water and everything.

From an early age, George has been a storyteller. He never considered writing until people in his life kept telling him the stories he told and made up should be written down. Still he resisted the idea. Then in 2010 during a conversation with a fellow pastor, he was asked to send the pastor notes on prayerwalking. As Pastor George put those notes together he realized that what he had was the making of a good book. That as they say, was that and Pastor George took those notes and turned them into “Prayer Walking for Spiritual Break Through” his first book.

Since then George has written one other teaching book called “The Complete Armor of God” as well as his first fiction book the story of young Nathan Ryder in the book “Redeeming Reputation

Rise of the Champion is his first serial and another episode will be released each month till Tal’s story is told. Get Episode One here.

You can find all of PG’S books and blogs listed on his Amazon Author page here.

You can reach Pastor George through his email at pastor.george.mcvey@gmail.com or on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pastor.mcvey.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Lynessa's Curse by Adam David Collings



Mankind reached for the stars, and civilization crumbled.

The Red Planet was Mankind's first home after Earth. But when silence fell across the solar system, humanity found themselves in a new dark ages.

Alastair is a serf, toiling in the lands of his lord. Each day the blue orb of Earth rises on the horizon, whispering of the ancient time of magic when mankind traveled the night sky, but that time is long past and he is content with his lot. Until his beloved Lynessa is struck with the dreaded curse – a mark on the skin that brings certain death.

When Alastair hears the legend of an artifact from the time of magic that can lift the curse, he leaves his lord's lands and journeys to the Argyre Planitia in search of a fabled cure. But the dense jungles there contain unthinkable creatures, remnants engineered from a time long ago, and a tribe of warriors who will stop at nothing to protect the artifact.

Lynessa’s Curse is a novella originally published in Medieval Mars: The Anthology (Terraformed Interplanetary Book 1) created by Travis Perry. Begin your epic journey on the Red Planet today!

The Guru's Review:

This is the first of Collings work I have read and I must say, I am impressed. He writes well and certainly has an active imagination. I loved Collings' depiction of the Medieval style lifestyle/hierarchy and setting on a terraformed Mars. I understand that this short story is part of an anthology (Medieval Mars: The Anthology (Terraformed Interplanetary Book 1)set in this same setting. I bought the anthology to see how the rest of the short stories all fit together as this is how the anthology is described, 
A future terraformed Mars, where civilization crashed back into a Medieval Era. Christian Knights called “riders” patrol the Pilgrim Road from Olympus to New San Diego, on the Chryse Sea. The technological past is known as the “Age of Magic” and only a handful of people understand how the remaining ancient devices really work. Lighter gravity in dense air makes flying dragons and bird riders a reality; alloys of the past make “magic” swords; and masters of ancient knowledge wield wizard-like power.
Nine authors spin tales in this unique story world, one which combines elements of science fiction and high fantasy.
Lynessa's Curse is one very enjoyable tale. I instantly liked the character of Alistair and Waleran, the two main characters. Alistair is the love-stricken serf who proves that he will do anything out of love for Lynessa and it is this that forms the main thrust of the story. Lynessa has contracted an illness that the community regard as a curse from God and these cursed are segregated to their own community, left alone to die the horrible/painful death that this curse brings. It is this that further motivates Alistair to not give up on Lynessa; it is not only his love for her but his bitterness and disillusionment towards God, who would allow this to happen to his beloved, that he sets out to find a cure so he can Lynessa restored and prove God wrong. 

I loved the mythology of this story. The backstory of the highly technological age that created the terraformed Mars that is now known as The Age of Magic has a certain mystique to it and throughout the novel I found this more and more intriguing especially when part of the cure for this curse is to be found in this past technology. It was certainly beneficial on my part to have watched the video created by Collings where he describes the background to this mythology and backstory and more of the previously mentioned anthology.

For a short story, Collings has created some good world building within this backdrop of a terraformed Mars and its mythology. This really does form a solid foundation for this short. I would have loved to have seen more of this world building and the backstory to how Mars was terraformed and what caused the silence over the universe that caused this Earth colony on Mars to be cut off from Earth and plunged into a Medieval world. This really caught my imagination seeing that the recent movie, The Martian, and a news story outlining how Mars would never be inhabitable is the opposite to this anthology's premise. I am not sure if my curiosity for the above is explained in one of the other short stories in the Anthology, if not, it has scope for further explanation in future anthologies, as this is Volume 1 that I mention in this review. This depiction of a highly technological age that preceded the terraformation of Mars and an undetermined catastrophic event that plunged this colony into the medieval lifestyle is reminiscent of another Christian fantasy story called the Chiveis Trilogy by Bryan M. Litfin where Earth is almost destroyed by nuclear war but a remnant of the human population survive but have no recollection of the technology that preceded the war and reverts to a Medieval style of life where Christianity is lost and the main religion is satanic in origin. This is a worthy comparison as Collings' has depicted his world with Christ.

Collings has balanced the character of Alistair with that of Waleran. Waleran is confident, experienced in weaponry and warfare, is skilled in the strategy of same and is confident and loyal to a cause. He is the leader while Alistair is the follower. However, it is Alistair's determination and motivation in the cause for seeking the cure to Lynessa's curse that enables him to take on this leadership role when Waleran is unable to (spoiler avoided as to why this is so) and I found this twist a very satisfying one that enables the ending of this tale to happen.

I loved the adventure that Collings has depicted for Waleran and Alistair in seeking the cure and having to battle more than the elements in this quest. Here, more of Collings' imagination comes into the fore and despite the shortness of the story length, he manages to pack quite a bit of action without making this part of the plot thin or just not realistic. The barbarian type races, the dragons, and "mountable" and flyable large birds add much adventure and suspense to this part of their quest.

Spiritually, Collings has depicted a rather medieval mindset in relation to the interpretation of Scripture and how they see God as evidenced by the fact that this illness that Lynessa and others have is seen as a curse from God and not as an illness that can be cured. It is Waleran who sets the record straight in outlining from Scripture itself what is the real cause and the correct character of God. Waleran is depicted as a bit of an evangelist type person in this regard and Pastor Bryan, who believes in it being a curse from God, is rather Pharisaical in his approach to this curse. However, I appreciate the inclusion of the redemptive nature of Christ's death on the Cross in relation to this curse and various mentions of having a relationship with Jesu Christu (Jesus Christ) and living by faith in Him.

It is this revelation from Waleran and Lynessa being cured and how this happens, that shows Alistair that he and his community have an incorrect view and interpretation of Scripture (p
harisaical) and who God is that encourages him to let go of his bitterness and anger towards God and be restored to Him and realise that God is his Saviour and not a God who is merciless. Nice way to end this engaging short.

I would love to see more of this story in future volumes of Medieval Mars Anthology or outside of this. There is a lot of potential with the world building Collings has created.

If this story represents the quality that Perry and these nine authors set out to develop for this Anthology, then I am in for a real treat when I read the rest of it.


Rating:

World building: 4/5

Characters: 4/5

Spiritual level: 3/5

Story: 4/5


Strongly Recommended. 

To buy or preview a sample, click on the Buy or Open Preview buttons below.


Friday, 12 February 2016

Author/Novel Spotlight: Brad Duncan

I first met Brad Duncan when he requested I review his book, First Fruits. I checked out the novel on Amazon and was hooked by the sample that Amazon provides. I wanted to read it there and then but with many author requested reviews I am committed to, I was unable to do so at this time. So I offered Brad an Author/Novel spotlight post to further promote this book that has done so well with reviews.

So sit back and let Brad talk about this intriguing novel, its background and Christian themes, and himself as an author.

However, to whet your appetite and pique your interest, here is the book cover and description:

What happens when the popular Pastor of a growing church is faced with a crisis of belief? When life spirals out of control where will he place his faith? How will his well-to-do congregation respond to the challenge of sacrificing for God? First Fruits is the inspiring story of what happens when everyday people are challenged to give their very best to God.

Now a few words about Brad: 

Hi I am Brad Duncan. I am happily married to my awesome wife Michelle and have three wonderful daughters. I have worked with youth for over twenty years and attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I received my Bachelor of Science degree in Radiography and currently work doing MRI at Baptist Health Hospital in Little Rock, Ar.

Brad states the following about the Spiritual themes in his novel:

First Fruits deals with the issues of Pastors and their relationships with God, the church & their families. It also looks at practical discipleship and what the church should look like in the real world. 

When I asked Brad about the background behind his novel, this is what he had to say:

I didn't originally intend to write a novel, but God kept placing this story on my heart and I felt like I was supposed to write it down. I finished it and ran it past my wife and told her to please give me honest feedback. She really encouraged me to pursue publishing it. The greatest reward I've had is people who have begun following God more closely because of the impact of my story. I recently received a Facebook message from a young mom who had basically given up on God. She shared with me that after reading First Fruits she had restored her relationship with Jesus, was going back to church and now helping with her 4 year-old Awana's class. Stories like that are the best part of having written First Fruits. 

In case this has further piqued your interest, click on the Open Preview button below for an excerpt:



Below are some of the reviews from Amazon. These are the Top Customer Reviews:


Customer Reviews

5 star
97%
4 star
3%
3 star
0%
2 star
0%
1 star
0%
See all 32 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book was a book that I couldn't put down from start to finish. It really challenged my faith, and made me think 
about doing more in my community. I walked away from reading this book ready to take the 3tChallenge and just 
be a better christian. I would recommend this book to all walks of life. There is truly something for all ages, and 
demographics. I would recommend this as a read for any Pastor, and their congregation. I
Comment  1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?  YesNo  Report abuse
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although this book is fiction it has a real life dynamic. It paints a picture of where so many churches are today. It will
cause you to question your priorities and hopefully challenge your lifestyle. This is an easy read and difficult to put 
down once you started. The 3T Challenge this book promotes is Biblical and is part of “The Great Commandment” 
and “The Great Commission.” I recommend this book to Clergy and Layperson.
Comment  1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?  YesNo  Report abuse
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Knowing Brad as a co-worker validates the challenges and truths presented within this book. He is an excellent 
steward and follower of our Lord. He's also a great author!!
Comment  1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?  YesNo  Report abuse
Format: Kindle Edition
I recently read this book for the second time. The first time I read it I couldn’t put it down. The second time was the 
same. Even though First Fruits is a work of fiction it has a character of reality that could be seen not only by
 “church people” but everyone. This book will evoke tears of sorrow and joy alike. Everyone will identify with one
 of the characters.

The main story is about a minister and his family and the church they serve. The family is typically dysfunctional with
 the husband paying more attention to his church board and congregation than to his wife and children. The church 
is typical of many churches in that the main thrust is on growth in numbers. All of this changes drastically overnight, 
due to one horrendous event, with a life changing effect on the pastor, his family and the congregation.

All the characters are masterfully developed and you can see yourself being part of the story taking place. The 
family creates a new awareness of unity and the church changes into what most would say it was meant to be. The
 book held my attention from beginning to the end. I would consider this story a story of a life adventure for all the 
stories characters. It is a most compelling and enjoyable read.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a really good read! Its easy to follow but it is definitely a page turner! Really makes you think about 
your life and how you fit into your church.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Could not put it down. Makes you stop and think about your spirituality. Good read. Would highly recommend and 
easy reading.
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Format: Paperback
My husband and I enjoyed this novel and would give a rating of 5. First Fruits is a moving inspirational novel 
promoting Christian principles. Even though this is a novel, the writer has written in a way to inspire Christians in 
their faith. We would recommend this book for teens through adult ages.
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By Eric on February 25, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
This book has great truths wrapped up in a fictional story. The offer clearly illustrates what a reward it is to follow 
God by using your time, talents, and treasure. This book has inspired me and I encourage anyone who wants a 
closer relationship with Jesus to check it out.



















I asked Brad what he is working on currently and he stated: 

I have written a sequel called Second Chances, and I'm currently working on the 3rd book in this 3tChallenge series. I'm thinking this one will be something based on foreign missions. It's exciting to immerse myself in the story, but have it reflect real life.

Second Chances Description:

In the dark and dangerous city of Westside there is a growing light. New Hope Church is meeting crime and poverty with love and hope. When God moves in ways His people don't understand, will they continue to trust and follow Him? Will they learn to accept His Second Chances?

You can preview Second Chances here


If you want to investigate more about Brad, he can be found here:

Website: 3tChallenge.com


Twitter: @Bradleyjeep

After all this, if you want to buy First Fruits or Second Chances, they are available from Amazon: