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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Review: First Fruits by Brad Duncan

This is an engaging read with a wonderful, faith-based message and challenge.
First Fruits
by Brad Duncan
File Size: 413 KB
Print Length: 248 pages
Publisher: Bradleyjeep Publishing (February 8, 2014)
Genre: Christian, Inspirational
My Rating: 4.5 of 5.0

Pastor Patrick Spakes is a huge success in the eyes of the world. He's the husband of a beautiful wife, and dad of two healthy kids, and leads a large growing church. It appears he's living a happy and blessed life, but appearances can be decieving. Serving the church has drained him to the point his family feels abandoned.
Christy Spakes loves her husband, but feels tired and lonely as her husband makes the church his priority.
Deacon Joe Smith loves the power and prestige he has acquired in his church being best friends with the church's pastor.
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.

Pastor Patrick Spakes was focused on gaining a record attendance each year at his beautiful Big Oak Christian Church. He is close friends with the board of deacons and especially the head deacon, Joe Smith, a wealthy business man in the community. The wealthy and influential board members spend time together playing golf and discussing programs to increase the attendance and income of the church. Pastor Spakes spends more time running the church like a business than he does caring for his own family. He does not see that his beautiful wife and two teen-aged children are feeling abandoned.

Although stressful, the morning of High Attendance, when the numbers from the membership drive are announced, provides Pastor cause to celebrate. But one of the church’s oldest parishioners, Sister Snyder, stops Pastor after service to give him an admonishing message of two Bible verses. Pastor jots them down but is too busy to even read them until much later. Any warning goes unheeded until a catastrophe brings the church down and pulls the rug out from under Pastor. As he takes a serious look at his goals compared to God’s goals he finally realizes he has been off track. He commits himself and then presents the 3T Challenge to the congregation. This begins to transform lives, while alienating a section of the church who do not like the new direction Pastor has chosen.

One of Pastor’s supporters, Hector and his family, live across town in a poorer neighborhood consisting of Spanish and other minority families. That community and the local church there are plagued with gangs and threats. Hector asks Pastor to meet with the local church leader to give him encouragement. Their meeting opens doors for both of them to grow and support each other. God works out circumstances to bless the Westside church which expands blessings to Pastor Spakes’ church too.

I really enjoyed the concept of the 3T Challenge, which I had not heard as expressed in this book. The story seemed real although it is a fictional creation. It moved in a natural way and, from my own fundamental faith, I found all of the non-coincidences quite believable. I enjoyed watching the new relationships develop between the two church congregations who found common ground in their faith and service in spite of their different social and financial circumstances.

This is an easy read that kept my attention and therefore moved quickly. There is heartbreak but there is the comfort only having hope in eternity can give. I was inspired by the story and most particularly by the 3T Challenge. I also enjoyed the Discussion Questions and think this would make a good group read. I recommend this to all readers. Those who walk in faith will find it uplifting and inspiring. Hopefully readers who may be searching will find the same and more beyond the entertainment value of the book.

I am grateful to have received this from the author for an honest review. This will be an "F" title for my Alphabet Soup Challenge.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Audio Book Review: Making Amends by Melinda Clayton

This is an engaging suspense drama with excellent narration.
Making Amends
Written by: Melinda Clayton
Narrated by: Michelle Babb
Length: 5 hrs and 49 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release Date:03-16-16
Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing, LLC
Genre: Suspense
My Rating: 4.25 of 5.0

Publisher's Summary
On a beautiful fall evening, in the middle of a game of hide-and-seek, five-year-old Bobby Clark is kidnapped by his estranged father, a shiftless man with a history of domestic violence and drug abuse. Bobby's twin brother Ricky watches, terrified, from his hiding place behind the bougainvillea, while mother Tabby, who also struggles with addiction, lies inebriated on the living room floor.
Bobby isn't seen by his loved ones again until a fateful morning 25 years later, when video of his arrest dominates the morning news. He has been charged with the murder of his father, but before the trial can begin, he manages to escape.
As Tabby and Ricky absorb the news of Bobby's return and subsequent escape, Tabby is convinced he'll come home to the quiet Florida street from which he was taken so long ago. But when events begin to spiral out of control, she's left to wonder: is a child born to be evil, or shaped to be evil? And in the end, when it's time to make amends, does it really matter?
©2015 Melinda Clayton (P)2016 Melinda Clayton

Tabby was raised in the foster care system until she was booted to the streets when she reached 18. She was ripe to be caught in a downhill web of alcohol and drugs with the help of her dissolute, abusive husband, Vernon Clark. When Tabby learned she was pregnant…with twins no less…she managed to get clean for the pregnancy and delivery of two beautiful boys, Bobby and Ricky. Sadly, after they were born she fell back into bad habits. Tabby loved her boys but lived on the edge of consciousness.

Then, one morning when the boys were five years old their father swooped in and kidnapped Bobby. Tabby’s best friend, Von, shocked Tabby into sobriety for the sake of Ricky. But Tabby remained obsessed over the loss of her son. She got little help from the authorities to find him. Twenty-five years later the authorities finally found Bobby. He has made the news for being arrested for the murder of Vernon, his father.

Ricky works for a scandal sheet newspaper which specializes on getting the dirt on the periphery of the big news stories. Ricky knows his boss will be merciless in digging out the old family history on his mother and his brother’s kidnapping. Ricky would love to shield his mother but his co-workers tend to be relentless.

Tabby is anxious to get to Bobby and help him. She is sure that the killing was self-defense after years of abuse. Ricky will do what he can to help his mother and protect her although his own feelings about Bobby are mixed. Before Tabby and Ricky can arrive at the police station, Bobby has escaped. Now Ricky is even more conflicted not sure how his mother will cope with the pressure of the press and the renewed loss of her ‘first son’. Although she clearly loved Ricky somehow he was always “second place”.

I enjoyed the easy, natural flow of the writing style which is very straightforward. The story unfolds from alternating character perspectives by Tabby, Ricky and Von. Von is Tabby’s longtime friend and boss. As much as she wants to be there for Tabby, she has her hands full coping with and caring for her husband who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

This is a fascinating and gripping portrayal of several issues including, addiction, loss of a child, and caring for an Alzheimer's patient. The book description hints at what may occur so parts are not completely surprising. However, the final resolution is a bit of a heart wrenching twist as Tabby decides she must make amends to her sons.

Drama’s are not my favorite genre and I wasn’t quite sure how I would react to the family drama aspect of this story. I was very glad to find that the combination of writing perspectives, psychological suspense and insightful narration made this an engrossing listen. I recommend this to readers who do like family drama with the added kick of suspense.

Audio Notes: Michelle Babb does a wonderful job with the narration of this story. She manages to
convey the personalities of the characters that adds to the interest and suspense. The narration enhanced my enjoyment of this gripping story.

I received this audio from the narrator through Audiobook Blast (now Audiobook Boom) for an honest review. It qualifies for my Audio Challenge and Min Alphabet Challenge.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Post May 22, 2016/It's Monday! What are You Reading? Plus Mailbox Monday May 23, 2016

I am linking with Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading now at The Book Date.
Thank you to Sheila for the years that she handled this meme.
Thank you to Kathryn for taking up the baton.
What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

This week I had to juggle work while my staff were out with sick children and then attending school year end events.
We have our D-I-L and Granddaughter visiting so I'm not sure how much computer time I will get at the beginning of the week.  (In addition to my reading I am getting to read to our Sweet Pea Granddaughter.)
The week ended with a lot of rain but we are still having nice spring, mostly sunny weather.

Once again I got a lot of reading in but not as many reviews as I hoped. I finished three books: two ebooks and one audios. I posted three reviews and my usual memes.

I enjoyed visiting other blogs early in the week but then didn't get back to do more.
Thanks as always to all the nice people who visit me.

These were last week's posts:
  • Book Review: Violets in February by Clare Revell; Christian Romance, Suspense; my rating 4.25.

Finished Reading:
1. eBook/Kindle (Author)

First Fruits
by Brad Duncan
This is an easy read with a strong faith message.
I will post my review this week.
Click on book title for full description.

2. eBook/Kindle (Author)

Embattlement: The Undergrounders Series Book Two 
(A Young Adult Science Fiction Dystopian Novel)
by Norma Hinkens
I enjoyed this sequel.
My review to post this week.
Click on book title for full description.

3. Audible/MP3 (TBR)

Old Man's War
Written by: John Scalzi
Narrated by: William Dufris
Dufris is a great narrator; makes this a super listen.
Click on book title for full description.

Currently reading:
1. eBook/Kindle (Author)

The Girl in the Time Machin
by Debra Chapoton
I have started this and it is very engaging.
I received this from the author for an honest review.
A desperate girl
A faulty time machine
A paradox waiting to happen ...
Seventeen year old Laken may want to get revenge on the girls who have bullied her, but she also wants to help them. Honest. Secretly using the time machine in her father's science lab, she sends them one by one into the last century. Poof, problems solved.
Except they're not.
Now the disappearances are being linked to unmarked graves. Parents are lying about their missing kids' whereabouts. The police want to search the lab. And Laken is running out of time to retrieve the last girl she sent to 1994.

2. Audible/MP3 (My Audible Library - 2016)

Enforcing Home: The Survivalist Series, Book 6
Written by: A. American
Narrated by: Duke Fontaine
I started this and it is hard to put down. 
I am half-way through already.
Publisher's Summary
Morgan has managed to get through a lot. Having made it back to his family and dealt with the issues of unscrupulous neighbors, he then had to deal with the presence of the federal government and their nefarious activities. But with the help of his close-knit group he prevailed. Life is settling into a familiar routine. And with the help of the US Army, they are starting to rebuild their community. But just when Morgan thinks things are assuming some kind of normal, another surprise lands in his lap. He's made sheriff.
Harkening back to a time when law enforcement was a local face in the community, Morgan is forced to step up and be that face, much to his chagrin. With the help of Thad, Danny, and the rest of the crew, he accepts the challenge and tries to make a positive impact. But he's in for yet another surprise. New foes will arise, and old ones will return to conspire to destroy his efforts.
Morgan's group will suffer loss, injury, and constant assault. His new position has made him a target as well as those he loves. The peace and tranquility that the group has fought so hard for will continue to elude them. The fight, as Morgan soon learns, is just beginning.
©2015 A. American (P)2016 Podium Publishing

3. eBook/Kindle (Publicist/Author)

Cast Adrift
by Mannah Pierce
I am looking forward to this sci fi which I received through Publishing Push and the author. The author also provided an interesting guest post.
Cast Adrift is the first part of a science fiction saga set in an interstellar world of the far future where Earth is merely a myth. Ean is queen of the Willow, a small ship with a Traditional crew who live in space and trade between the stars. Suddenly Tre, the laid back crew enforcer, is demanding that they dash to one system to pick up cabin boys and then divert to another to recruit an adolescent who is utterly unsuited to spacer life. Who is Jax? What is Rae? Why is the most powerful individual in Known Space interested in Kip? Most importantly, what is Tre up to?

4. Audible/MP3 (ABB/Author)

The Arrival: The Evaran Chronicles Prequel
Written by: Adair Hart
Narrated by: Michael Pauley
I liked the looks of this Sci Fi story.
I received this title from the author through AudioBook Boom.
Publisher's Summary
Jake Melkins is a few months away from turning 21. By the Seceltor Empire's laws, he will have to go to a breeding camp, or directly into slavery. Neither choice appeals to him. All this changes with the arrival of a space-and-time-traveling being known as Evaran at the space-station-turned-rest-stop that Jake lives on.
To make things complicated, Greecho, the slaver who abducted Jake as a kid, has arrived at the station. He and his crew, along with his 22-year-old human pet, Kathy, are about to go on a slave run to Earth.
Evaran has decided to interfere and free Jake and Kathy. That decision will lead him to Earth, where he will need to deal with the consequences.
©2016 Adair Hart (P)2016 Adair Hart

May 8, 2016 - Current with Reading The One Year Bible again along with my husband and others from our church. I will also be listening (sometimes) to the companion commentary online.

I only posted three reviews last week so I am a bit behind. I will try to post five reviews this week to catch up.

I am finally getting to the five nine, now seven nine (again) back to five author ebook reviews committed with no specific dates.
My NetGalley shelves are down to four  with one of those next in line.

I hope to add another upcoming release this week to eTreasure's NetGalley titles.

Welcome to Mailbox Monday.
Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week and explore great book blogs. This Meme started with Marcia at A Girl and Her Books (fka The Printed Page) and after a tour of hosts has returned to its permanent home at Mailbox Monday. Thanks to the ladies sharing hosting duties: Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit and Vicki of I'd Rather Be at the Beach. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

This week I received one review titles and I am still expecting some audio titles to come in.
I selected my two Audible selections for April credits.
I resisted kindle titles other than the usual free ones.

Are your mailbox and TBR piles blooming?

Review Titles
I received this title from the author through AudioBook Boom.
The Arrival: The Evaran Chronicles Prequel
Written by: Adair Hart
Narrated by: Michael Pauley
I liked the looks of this Sci Fi story.
Full description is above under current reading.



I picked up two titles with my April Audible credits:

Of Treasons Born: A Novel of the Treasons Cycle Of Treasons Born: A Novel of the Treasons Cycle
Written by: J. L. Doty
Narrated by: Noah Michael Levine
A gripping military science fiction adventure...

Written by: Trent Reedy
Narrated by: Andrew Eiden
I decided I wanted to continue with book two of this series.


Over the past week I added another 51 free Kindle titles to my library. Titles found linked through Bookbub, Bookfun, Ereader News Today, Free Par-tay, Ignite Your Book, Inspired Reads, Pixel of Ink or Kindle ebooks.

Sunday Words of Encouragement May 22, 2016

We enjoyed the service this morning and the youth pastor provided the sermon as the pastor had surgery this week. The message was titled “A Rock and a Hard Place”. The initial observation was that sin always has consequences. Every decision has consequences, some good some bad.

Current day Christians fight our inner man, just as Paul the apostle describes (the good I would do I do not and that which I shouldn’t do I do Romans 7:19). We are faced with evil in our world, in our politics and society. How do we make our choices?

The main points were based on the scripture from Numbers 20:1-12. The Israelites in the wilderness were once again grumbling about their lack of water and comfort. God told Moses to “speak” to the rock so God could show His provision. Moses, in apparent frustration with the demands and pressures of the people, took his staff and struck the rock two times. Yes, the water flowed, but Moses was still disobedient.

1. Moses allowed the people to influence him. 1 Cor 15:33-34 notes how the wicked will try to corrupt you.
2. Moses allowed the people to drive him to anger. We have to be careful how we express frustration and anger.
3. Moses disobeyed.

The punishment was that all the grown men, including Moses, were precluded from entering into the land that God promised. This may seem harsh but it was a consequence of the disobedience of the people... and their leader. Each man/woman must be careful not to minimize or justify sin. We must stand firm and not compromise. We keep our focus on God and not allow the circumstances we find ourselves in to influence our position with God. We must remember to have a Fear of the Lord. Not the fear we might have for evil or material loss, but the righteous reverence, respires and honor for our God. We must keep God present in all of our thoughts and decisions no matter what is going on around us. We must seek His Will.

W sang this song this morning. It was new to me but the words fit how we need to face any trouble!
Bring the Rain by Mercy Me
Verses for Today:
Psalm 33:8-9 New American Standard
8Let all the earth fear the LORD;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
9For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.

Lord, I pray for me and anyone who faces hardship or trouble: help us to remember this song; draw closer and seek God’s rain/reign.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sharing Beyond Books #253 Comment Giveaway May 21, 2016

Hello again and Welcome to Sharing Beyond Books, SBB!
This was another busy week when I had to pick up the slack as my staff were out with sick children and end of school year events.
We have family in to visit this weekend and into the week so I hope I can keep up with everything.

Thanks to everyone who commented last week and "Welcome" to another new visitor.

Twelve of us identified crushes we had in our youth or might still have. Viggo Mortensen from LOTR was mentioned by three of us and Gerard Butler by two. Several of us like men of a distinct look, and some like the character that is portrayed, instead of the actor. I appreciated Alyssa's comment that she has 'no need for a crush' while in a committed relationship. Four stated they do not have crushes.


The Winner from SBB #252 comments is: #11 Elizabeth who can make a GC choice if international or book choice from the Updated ARC/Review titles or (not yet updated) Love titles - all linked near the end of the post. [I'm hoping to update the book choices - maybe the beginning of next year, lol.] Please let me know your choice by completing the WINNER FORM.

WEEK #253
(One Question.)
MaryP asks: Do you prefer classic and traditional names for characters or more off-beat and unusual??
I'm not sure if Mary meant this question as to book names or real-life names. My first thought was of book character names. I do like off-beat and unusual names for characters. And I guess I like unusual names for real life too although some of the tradition names are quite lovely. Hopefully everyone learns to like the name they were given. If not, then when they are old enough they could pick a nickname.
Our son and daughter-in-law are just starting to ponder names for the twins due in late August. :-)

Image from Freeman Advertising (naming a business - not a baby)

Thanks to those who are sending in Questions. DON'T BE SHY! Surely everyone has a Q or two you'd like to ask. Input suggestions in this Suggested Question Form. At the end of each month I draw from the suggestions I used during the month and that person will get a book choice or GC. I thank everyone for submitting questions. Thanks for sending in questions! The supply of questions is dwindling so share some if you think of any -- even if they are duplicates I'll weed through or try to modify to use.

Your turn to share:
MaryP asks: Do you prefer classic and traditional names for characters or more off-beat and unusual??

SBB Comment Winners can choose a selection from the Valentine and "Love" books or the February 2015 Newly Updated ARC/Review List. (My daughter pulled several of the Christmas titles to give with gift bags we made up for the nursing homes. One of these days I will get together a new box of Christmas titles.)

SBB Rules:
a) Must be a follower.
b) Share a comment on the question above.
Open internationally and an international winner may get a smaller book or a $5.00 GC if I decide the mailing is too much.
I will pick a Comment winner from all comments made through Saturday May 28, 2016 at 5 PM central.


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