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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Tammy Hill is a homeschool mom with a love for reading, photography, and writing. She grew up in the South, but married an Army pilot and traveled throughout the U.S., China, and Europe. A few years ago, they decided to trade an ordinary, comfortable life for a full life in Christ. This book is just one of the many exciting results of that decision. They now live with the three youngest of their six children and two poodles in the South of France.
Knowing: A Series of Gifts releases on June 5th. Tammy plans to give away a Kindle! Visit her blog to learn more!
Sixteen-year-old Ember Matthews is tired of being the person everyone else wants her to be. Although she is nervous about moving to a small town and leaving behind the comforts of her old life, Ember welcomes the opportunity to escape the mistakes and pain of her past.
Ember truly wants to change, but when faced with temptation and peer pressure from some new friends, she finds herself slipping into the same old patterns. As she reconnects with God, Ember begins to realize that she is no ordinary teenager. She sees things that no one else sees, and knows things she has no business knowing. Will Ember learn to use her God-given gift, or will the burden of her calling be too much for her to carry?
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Creation House; First edition (June 5, 2012)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
of us so we can help each other.
—1 Corinthians 12:7
My dream haunts me, and not only when I am
asleep. It also scratches the back of my wakened
mind, as elusive as a forgotten lyric or name and yet,
it leaves me in a state of perpetual hunger; searching for some‑
thing I know is close but just out of my reach.
This recurring nightmare never deviates for a moment. As
always, I lay on my stomach across my bed in my old bedroom,
engrossed in the book that lies open in front of me. Sheltered in
the pastel pink of my room, I am always oblivious in the begin‑
ning. My bare feet move lazily from the bed and back heaven‑
ward as I bend my legs with each turn of the page, humming a
tuneless melody. Although there is nothing alarming; no sound
or movement other than my own; a sense of unease washes over
me. My heart begins to thud loudly in my chest and my veins
turn to ice as I slowly move to a sitting position in my bed.
Then, my walls crumble to the floor in one swift movement as
silently as a curtain dropping after the final act. I jump up and
stare in disbelief at what I see around me. No longer protected
by the false security of my walls, I see a wasteland of charred
earth and darkness. A whimper escapes me and tears spring to
my eyes. I turn in a circle looking for a place to hide, but every‑
thing from my past life is gone now; only destruction and ruin
remain. Just beyond the darkness, I can barely make out the
shadows of horrific creatures. I can’t help but to close my eyes
to them. Then, the screams begin. I hear hundreds of voices, all
screaming in pain and pleading for help. As I cower in the place
that was once my safe haven, I have a strong feeling of urgency
to do something. Even in my fear, I know the answer is close.
I fall to the ground, kneeling over with my arms bent over my
head. I rock back and forth like this, pleading to someone for
the answer all the while knowing I should get up and help these
Then, as quickly as the revelation began, it’s over. I wake up
with my heart pounding, gasping for air, knowing inherently
things aren’t what they seem. I wake up knowing that I have a
purpose to fulfill. Soon though, the dream fades, along with the
feeling of urgency. Although the desire for answers never leaves
me, my everyday life begins to take precedence over the fervor
of my dream.
Once again, I’m lulled into believing that I’m just an average,
I reclined on the beach towel and grabbed another to
throw over my face. I had only just taken a few steps out of
the ocean, but the drops of water were already baking off
my sun‑darkened skin. I blindly groped for the small, red cooler
positioned between my cousin and me. I should have gotten out
a bottle of water before I covered my face; dilemmas like this
were the extent of my problems nowadays. I found the bottle
and pulled it out, ignoring the mumbling of my fifteen‑year‑old
cousin, whom I had evidently splashed with ice water. As the
older by a year, I had been looking out for her this summer; she
could consider this my aiding her against heatstroke.
I leaned up on my elbows to take a sip. The towel fell from
my face, so I glanced around at the carefree families playing in
the surf and then took a minute to check out the guys as they
checked out the girls. I had been staying with my grandparents
at their house on the beach for four weeks now; it had become
a familiar scene. I tunneled my toes further down to find the
damp coolness in the white sand as the DJ on our small por‑
table stereo talked about the record‑breaking heat. In the dis‑
tance, I could hear a gang of squawking seagulls demanding
more food from the unfortunate tourist who made the mis‑
take of tossing up the first crumb. Further off, there was the
occasional crack of a firecracker, leftovers from last weekend’s
Fourth of July celebration.
I looked over for my bag so I could toss the now empty bottle,
but didn’t see it. Instead, I caught a glance of my grandfather
waving to me from the boardwalk. It was not just a friendly
wave. Instead, it yelled, I need you for something! My cell phone
was securely zipped up in plastic and tucked away in our beach
bag, wherever that was. I nudged Priscilla, who must have been
in a sun coma, because she didn’t budge. I reached in the cooler
and doused her again, which snapped her right out of it. She
didn’t think it was funny, to say the least, and was a little too
smug for my liking when she told me the bag, along with my
cell phone, was in the house. Now it was my turn to grumble as
I threw my swimsuit cover over my head. Then, I realized my
flip‑flops were also in the absent bag. I would have to attempt
to jog up to the beach house without burning my feet on the
white‑hot sand. I skeptically judged the distance. I told you I
“Hi, Gramps, what’s up?” I asked from the wooden steps just
outside the screened back porch where he stood. I reached over
and twisted on the short water faucet. It let out a squeak in reply.
I used the attached green hose to spray off my legs and feet; a
ritual my grandmother expected us to perform each time we
made the short walk from the beach.
“Ember, I hate to tell you this, but it looks like we’re going to
have to cut your stay with us a little short.”
I hope it will only be by a few days, I thought, as I opened the
screen door. I had been having a great time. When I asked him
how short was short, he ran a hand through his thinning hair.
“Well, I just talked to your mom. She wants you back
There was about a five second moment of shocked silence,
then I exploded, “Tomorrow, but that’s ridiculous!” I began
shuffling around sofa pillows, looking for the lost cell phone bag
with urgency, already concocting arguments with Mom in my
mind. I found the missing beach bag lying on the floor behind a
chair. I pulled out the baggie and held it up, grinning from my
victory; until I noticed Granddad didn’t share my excitement.
He had taken a seat on the porch swing and was just looking
down at his tented fingers.
“Granddad,” I asked with a sense of unease. “Is everything
OK?” He just smiled and patted the empty spot beside him.
“Honey, everything is fine. Everyone is healthy.” I let out a
deep breath in relief because he had answered the question I
was afraid to ask. My grandfather smiled again to reassure me.
As I remember it now, I realize his eyes didn’t match his
smile’s optimism, but I was—to make a grand understatement—
a lot less “in tune” back then.
“I didn’t want to be the one to tell you this . . . ,” he hesi‑
tated, looking over at the back door. My gaze followed his to
my grandmother, who was watching us through the window.
Realizing she had been discovered, she quickly wiped her hands
on her apron and came out, taking a seat in the rocking chair.
“ . . . but, your mom wanted you to know now and not over the
Grandma broke in. “Just say it, George, you’re scaring her.”
“Grace, if you think you could do better . . . ”
“Please, you two, what’s wrong?” I pleaded.
Grandma shot him a scathing look and filled me in on what
would be yet another life changing transition for me. “Your
mother has divorced Bill, honey. It looks like they decided to end
it the last time you were here, during spring break. The papers
were finalized last week.” She paused and glanced nervously at
me then continued, more brightly, “It sounds like Kim’s found a
cute little place for you two, just a few miles outside of the city.
She needs our help to get some of your things moved in and, of
course, we’re happy to help. I’ve already talked to your uncles.
They’re willing to take off the next couple of days and go with
us. They’ll just have to work the weekend to make it up, but
their boss is always real understanding about family matters . . . ”
She was just rambling now, graciously giving me time to
wrap my head around the unexpected news. My mother had
left my stepfather. Four years ago, almost to the day, they were
getting married on this beach; now it was over. Grandma
used the words, “cute and little” when she described the house.
Knowing Mom, she had refused to take much financial help
from Bill, if any at all, even though he was loaded. I took a
deep, shaky breath. So, the life of popularity and wealth was
over, just like that. I tasted the salty tears before I sensed I
was crying. Grandma must have realized it at the same time
because she stopped chattering. She and Grandpa both jumped
up and sandwiched me into a fierce hug.
“I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I can’t believe they did this to you.
It’s going to be all right. We’ll help you through this . . . ”
On and on it went, these words of encouragement she and
Granddad cooed at me through my tears. What they didn’t
know—couldn’t understand—was their pity fell on deaf ears.
I was crying tears of relief.
The movement of the swing lulled me into numbness as I sat
on the screened back porch of my new house. The rain mim‑
icked my mood and took the place of the tears I no longer had
in me to shed. Only yesterday, I was enjoying the summer at
my grandparents’ beach house in Florida. We had planned for
me to stay until mid‑August, but it was cut a month short by
Mom’s insistence to get out of my stepfather’s house. I mean ex‑
stepfather. Instead of an address in the wealthy area of Atlanta,
we now resided on the outskirts in Smalltown, USA, popula‑
tion 15,000. I know he was helping her financially because she
was able to get a day job in a pediatric clinic instead of the
many shifts she used to work before Dr. Bill. He wasn’t exactly
throwing money at her feet, though, considering we were the
proud owners of a 1950s brick ranch house, roughly only a little
larger than a mobile home.
After the long drive, my grandparents, uncles, and I stayed
in a rundown hotel by the interstate. My grandmother and I
slept in the same room, though only one of us actually got any
sleep. I spent the night with a pillow over my head in a futile
attempt to drown out the sounds of my grandmother’s snores
and the neighbor’s television that blared all night through the
paper‑thin walls. We had an early morning rendezvous in the
lobby for breakfast. Soon, we were on the road to my new house
and life. I wasn’t ready, but cold cereal from a plastic dispenser
in a room the size of closet didn’t exactly inspire anyone to hang
out. Besides, they were all here to work. After a surprisingly
quick reunion with Mom and an even faster tour of the house,
everyone went to work unloading the moving van. Thankfully,
the carport kept us from getting too soaked and we managed
to unload all of the boxes and put the furniture in place. My
family left to get an early dinner and to help Mom return the
rental truck before heading back to Florida. I said my goodbyes
and stayed at the house to sulk. I just wanted to be alone for a
while and process everything. I had spent my time staring at
nothing, lost in the past. When I came out of it I noticed, for
the first time, a dead plant in the corner of the porch. The pre‑
vious owners must have left it behind. I couldn’t blame them. It
obviously hadn’t seen water for days; no way it was coming back
to life. In spite of my better judgment, I picked it up and put it
outside in the rain. We all deserve another chance.
Just as I got comfortable again, the sliding glass door opened.
I turned to see Mom standing there, shaking her head.
“Daydreaming again, Ember? What’s the fantasy about this
time?” she joked.
“That I have my life back,” I retorted and felt instantly sorry,
but pride kept me quiet.
Mom’s face fell. She looked as if she wanted to say more, but
we were interrupted by a guy who looked about my age carrying
one of our boxes of stuff.
“Where would you like this?”
Mom asked him to set it on the table for a minute. “Ember,
this is Cade. He rode by, saw me unloading this box we missed,
and insisted on helping.”
Cade walked over to me and stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m
Cade,” then rolled his eyes at his mistake.
“Yeah, I heard. And as you heard, I’m Ember,” I said, still
grumpy from being disturbed. I saw the appalled look on Mom’s
face and took the hint. I reached out and gave his hand a quick
“With an E?” he asked, seemingly unfazed by my rudeness.
“Yeah, my parents had a weird sense of humor.”
He laughed at my misfortune and then grinned, not taking
his eyes off of me. I surprised myself by smiling back. I couldn’t
seem to help myself. The guy practically radiated crush vibes.
Plus, he was cute with sun‑lightened, thick blond hair cut in
uneven layers, blue eyes, and a 100‑watt, mischievous smile.
Mom cleared her throat, and I dragged my eyes away to check
“That goes to my room. Come on, I’ll show you.”
My “new” room had obviously been decorated for a little boy.
It was powder blue from the ceiling down to the shag carpet
and was about the size of a box. In fact, the entire house could
almost fit into my closet. The closet that used to be mine, that
is; in the life I lived for four years beginning when I was twelve.
In here, there was a double closet with a sliding door just to the
left of the doorway. Straight ahead was a large picture window
that took up most of the wall. Underneath it was my twin bed.
A full‑sized bed wouldn’t have fit in here. On the right, by the
door, was my mirrored dresser. Further over on the far wall was
my memory collector, a white shelving system that took up a
full wall. It was comprised of dozens of different‑sized cubbies.
My grandfather had assembled it for me that morning. I had
hoped to put off organizing my things until another day but it
looked like fate had a different idea.
“Keep the door open!” Mom instructed loudly from the
I rolled my eyes at the reprimand. “That is so not like her,” I
informed Cade. Maybe it was the extra stress. I let it go and
stepped out of his way. “Just lay it over by the shelves.”
“Wow, what are you going to put in here?” he asked, as he
placed the box on the floor and took his place by it.
I knelt in front of the box and, once again, found myself
smiling, “You have no idea.”
When I leaned over the box to open it, a few curls escaped
from behind my ear, which is usual for me. It’s thick, wavy, and
falls a few inches below my shoulders. My hair was normally
brown, but the summer sun (and an Atlanta hair colorist) made
it lighter with blond highlights. Sunlight, both real and artifi‑
cial, also darkened my usual porcelain‑colored skin, which my
mom said made my green eyes “pop,” whatever that means. I
pulled a hair tie from my wrist and tied my hair back in a knot.
I looked up to find Cade staring at me. He quickly looked away.
I continued working on the box. I tore it open and brushed away
Styrofoam popcorn to reveal my treasure.
“What is all of this?” Cade asked reaching inside.
“Memories,” I responded with pride and pulled out a Statue
of Liberty snow globe. “My bio‑dad brought me this after one
of his trips.”
“Yeah, my biological father, Jackson Matthews. He and my
mother dated in high school. He was tall, dark, and handsome
and wanted to see the world right after graduation. She was
underage and smitten, but knew her parents would never approve,
so they eloped. That summer, they made it from Florida to
Atlanta before they found out Mom was pregnant with me. He
left the summer after I was born to ‘explore their next options’
and finally only came back to give her divorce papers.”
“That bites. So, you don’t see him often?”
I shook my head and placed the globe on a shelf. “He has four
different kids from four different wives. That and his wanderlust
keep him busy, and absent. That’s why the few things I do have
from him are special. He’s never been there to give me any other
kind of memories.”
“And this?” Cade asked as he held a little, white Bible.
I took it and thumbed through it, smiling. “I received that as
a gift from my old church when I got water baptized. That was
right before Mom got remarried to Bill. I was twelve. I don’t
think I’ve ever felt happier than I did that night,” I whispered,
lost in the memory.
“So, you’re a Christian?”
“Yes. I mean a lot has happened since then, but that doesn’t
matter, right?” I asked, chewing my lip.
Cade shrugged. “Don’t ask me. I don’t get into that stuff.” I
guess he noticed my concern at his abrupt behavior because he
added, “Look, I totally understand your need for religion, espe‑
cially when you were young and weak. I just don’t need that
right now in my life. Everything is going great for me.”
“How so?” I prodded.
“I’m going to be a junior this year. That means only two more
years of this place, then I’m outta here.”
“I’m going to be in eleventh grade, too,” I offered. Our eyes
locked for a second then he reached around his neck and
unclasped his necklace. It was a black leather strip with some
kind of gem as the pendant. He slid the pendant off, stood up
and laid it on the top shelf.
“What are you doing?”
“This is definitely a good memory kind of day,” he said with
a wink. I’d better get going. If you want to talk church with
someone you should meet Mouse.”
“Mouse?” I questioned.
“Yeah, I think you two will really hit it off. You want me to
introduce you to her and show you around some tomorrow?”
“I would like that,” I said happily, as I stood up.
Cade asked for my cell number and dialed it to send me his
number. On the way out, he paused at my doorway and said, “I
know this must be rough on you, moving and all, so you’ll just
have to forgive me.”
“For what?” I asked, puzzled.
“For taking pleasure in your pain. I’ll call you later tonight,
new girl” he said with a smile and left me alone with the butter‑
flies in my stomach. I blinked as a glare bounced off my mirror.
I turned around to face the window.
“So there you are,” I said to the setting sun with a grin.
Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by
permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois, 60188.
All rights reserved.
Names appearing in this text have been changed to preserve the anonymity
of the individuals. Any similarity to actual persons is coincidental and
unintended by the publisher.
Design Director: Bill Johnson
Cover design by Nancy Panaccione
Copyright © 2012 by Tammy Hill
All rights reserved
My Thoughts ~
As a homeschool mother who loves to write, I have a soft spot for doing book reviews where the author has that similarity to me. Maybe it’s my longing to actually finish my own writings and get published some day that has me feeling that connection. Or, maybe I am seeking inspiration and affirmation that a homeschooling mother can write a novel and still meet the needs of her family.
Overall, I enjoyed this title. There were a few times early on as characters were being developed where things seemed a little awkward. However, that feeling soon passed and I was interested in seeing where the story of the teenaged Ember would lead. She has managed to capture some of the angst and concern commonplace to a teenager finding their voice in this world and growing into the person God desires them to be.
I have always believed in the gifts of the Holy Spirit being alive and well in the church. Reading a story about a teen discovering her own gifts was moving. Some of the scenes during the story reminded me of my own previous experience in the charismatic movement within the Catholic Church. That group seems to be at a whole different plane of experiences compared to the mainstream church and that dichotomy is felt as Ember finds herself at odds with new friends that learn of her gift of knowledge.
I will be interested to see if Tammy Hill takes this initial work and grows it into more for the future.