Saturday, June 9, 2012

Win a Nook Color from Shannon Dittemore (@ShanDitty)! "Angel Eyes" Giveaway and Facebook Party {6/26}

Celebrate with Shannon by entering her "Angel Eyes" Giveaway and connecting with her during the Author Chat Party on 6/26!

Find out what readers are saying here.

One "angelic" winner will receive:

  • A Brand New Nook Color
  • A copy of Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore

Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 25th. Winner will be announced at the "Angel Eyes" Author Chat Facebook Party on 6/26. Shannon will be hosting a book chat, testing your trivia skills and giving away some great prizes!

So grab your copy of Angel Eyes and join Shannon on the evening of the June 26th for a chance to meet Shannon and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 26th!

Friday, June 8, 2012

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!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Crossbooks; 2 edition (January 12, 2012)

***Special thanks to Samantha Ryan Chandler for sending me a review copy.***


Samantha Ryan Chandler grew up in a small town in “nowhere, Louisiana”. She formed a not for profit international children’s ministry helping severely deformed medical kids from 3rd. world countries by gaining donated surgeries in the United States. She is an author and contributing writer to Southern Writer’s Magazine. Her proudest achievement is mother of three girls.

Visit the author's website.


The tale of Samantha Ryan Chandler's life is evocatively portrayed in her book: A Love Story, How God Pursued Me and Found Me. It tells of a life that is as disturbing and unsettling as it is uplifting and, in the end, gratifying. How "A girl from Nowhere, Louisiana" finds her way from such humble beginnings to live and walk amongst presidents and the supremely rich, only to find her trust and faith betrayed by those that she loved and trusted the most. She would be tested to the point where she began to doubt her own sanity and, at the moment of her greatest desperation and doubt, she was found by God and brought back from the brink of hopeless despair. Blessed with an almost unquenchable optimism and a unique sense of humor, she relates the story of a life that will speak to those who have encountered abuse, unfairness and anguish.  Her love for her children and her faith in God carried her through a crucible of fire and in the end, made her a better, stronger person, ready to carry on with a life that is again filled with love, joy and laughter. A Love Story, How God Pursued Me and Found Me will both inspire you and touch your heart.

Product Details:
List Price: $7.00
File Size: 296 KB
Print Length: 108 pages
Publisher: Crossbooks; 2 edition (January 12, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English
ASIN: B006X5ZH54
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
Lending: Enabled



I write my story from a place that God took my hand and led me down a path. I do not regret the horrors I have experienced nor do I want to do them again.  I am profoundly changed by every turn in the road that I did not choose to go down. I speak of massive acts of unfairness and perfidy.  My writings give great insight and hope to anyone that has encountered wrongs in life that are out of control. This would encompass anyone that has ever taken a breath. To all that have encountered childhood abuse, I give you courage. I pray that all that reads this will gain optimism for their own future. If a skinny girl from Nowhere, Louisiana with unnerving circumstances and totally stuck on ignorance can rise; then all can rise.
My background is life.  My qualifications are that I have had more happen to me than Hollywood would ever think of to write about. If I had not lived it, I would not believe it. I have been quite poor and only gazed at wealth. I have experienced poverty to the point of wondering where my next meal would come from.  This has happened in more than one cycle of my life.  I also lived within the walls of the privileged having dined with two United States presidents, governors in their mansions, and invited to dine with President Mitterrand at Versailles. I am a voracious reader and cling to self-help books. I have yet to see one written from the “privileged” world spelling out what greed is capable of doing. Having run in the circles of the very wealthy, I have witnessed the destruction of marriages when the wealthy husband does not want to share the revenues of many years of marriage.
I co-founded a not for profit children's ministry that is now international. I have appeared on television and many newspapers have interviewed me. I have modeled.  I have read the Bible eleven times and with fifteen years of Bible study. Nothing had prepared me for the life I lived.
Ignorance is fixable; stupidity is terminal.  I was ignorant for much of my life. My narrative has colossal betrayal, distortion of truth, vulnerability and true love. I started with the challenges of growing up to a pagan abusive Irish mom that dallied with a spirit table. I chronicle events showing God's hand in my life even when I was without a clue who He was. It is a journey He takes me down many paths and then prepared me for the fight of my life…marrying a man worth in excess of 100 million dollars and then to culminate with the divorce called annihilation.
I write of seeing an angel three times, God's hand holding mine once, and peering deep into Satan's eyes filled with fire that was endless in capacity.
My book is filled with scriptures and God given promises. God has taken me to the place that if He said it….it is done….the boldness of David. I have become David bold. I pray with his boldness expecting no less than what is written in scripture. I have often said if Samantha says it, then it's possible to be negotiable but when our Lord says He will….it is not a suggestion but facts.
I tell of many places where God intervened in miraculous ways and His relentless pursuit of me. My book comes with a guarantee that the reader will laugh out loud as well as cry between a verb and a vowel, all coming from the sentence. You then will feel happy and grateful you were not chosen to walk in my shoes.

Chapter One

Life According to Samantha

I begin to write this with the ending unknown. All I do know is that I am a child of God, and I win. I am certain that when I am heading to a finish, God will have restored me to victory. It is His job. It is His promise.
I grew up in a very small town in the middle of Nowhere, Louisiana, to a pagan mother and a former altar boy in the Catholic religion father. God did not live in our home, nor was He invited in. My mother was quite abusive, and my father lived in the land of denial. My father's mom was in love with Jesus but spoke almost no English, only French. My Irish grandparents adored me, but they were unaware of anything religious.
As a young girl, I heard ghastly stories of my mom and her antics. She was more than likely the most beautiful woman in her Irish enclave of a village, but she had the soul of the wicked. The stories I heard were beyond frightening. As a young girl, she "worked a spirit table." This meant that several people would put their hands on the table and ask it questions. Answers came through an alphabet formed by how many times the table would rock or move. Participants even bragged about contacting a deceased spirit and gaining information that checked to be true with the local city records. This apparently scared the group, so they took the table to the woods and left it. As the story goes, the table was back on the porch the next morning! I have no knowledge of how long this continued or what else happened, but hearing about it profoundly affected me.
I grew up in a home that felt "haunted." As a kid going out on Halloween night to trick-or-treat, I would always be more frightened of returning home than of being out in the neighborhood. This feeling never left me, even as a matured in age and relationship Christian . The house was unnerving. I will tell of more stories as I unveil my life and God's relentless pursuit of me.
I recall hearing that my birth was a medical miracle, as my mom was
told after birthing my older brother that she would never conceive again.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Real Virtue by Katy Lee

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!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Soul Mate Publishing (April 4, 2012)

***Special thanks to Katy Lee for sending me a review copy.***


 Katy Lee is an inspirational author, speaker, home-schooling mom, and children’s ministry director. She has dedicated her life to sharing tales of love, from the greatest love story ever told to those sweet romantic stories of falling in love. Her fresh and unique voice brings a fast-paced and modern feel to her Christian romances that are sure to resonate with readers long after the last page. Her debut novel Real Virtue is a finalist in many writing contests, and took second place in the 2011 Georgia Maggie Award of Excellence. Katy lives in New England with her husband and three children.

Visit the author's website.


In a virtual reality game where she can fly, someone’s aiming to take her down.

Mel Mesini is a New York City restaurateur and an avid, virtual reality world traveler. But her successful life—both online and in reality—takes a swerve the night her father is seriously injured in a hit-and-run. To make matters worse, Officer Jeremy Stiles, the man who had once cut her deep with his harsh, rejecting words, is heading the investigation.

When Jeremy realizes Mel is the actual target, his plan is to protect her—whether she wants him to or not. What he wants is answers, especially about this online game she plays. Is it a harmless pastime as she says? Or is she using it to cover something up? As a faceless predator destroys the things that matter to her, Jeremy knows he’s running out of time before she loses the one thing that matters most—her real life.

Product Details:
List Price: $4.99
File Size: 2383 KB
Print Length: 289 pages
Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing (April 4, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English



In just a moment, and with one little push, the game would begin. Every domino piece strategically set up would come crashing down, one after the other. A line of crafted maneuvers coiling around and around like a winding snake until the last piece lay flat.

Game over.

White-knuckled hands tightened around the steering wheel preparing for that little push; anxious to get started—so the voices would finally stop. Cruel, taunting voices from cruel, taunting people.

These old, rejecting voices bounced back and forth against cranium walls, playing skull ping-pong to the point of near insanity. If only people weren’t so mean. But they were. They are, and enough was enough. After all, there was only so much cruelty a person could take before they gave some of it back.

A pinpoint of light bounced through the sheer, black forest.

The first domino had arrived.

With each step the old man took, the light from his flashlight grew brighter; his bull’s eye bigger. He strode out onto the paved road fifty feet away, oblivious to the game plan.

High beams clicked on, flooding the old man with their blinding light. He raised one hand to shield his eyes from the glare; a rifle filled his other. Too bad he wouldn’t get a chance to use it. The engine roared as the gas pedal hit the floor. It would be over for him in less than a second.

As for the game, it was just getting started.


With one nudge of her gaming controller, Mel concealed her avatar behind an immense African baobab tree. Its wide, silvery-barked trunk perfectly shielded her videogame character from her competitor’s eyes. Legend had it that the gods grew tired of listening to the baobab complain about not being slender like the palm and not bearing fruit like the fig, so they pulled the tree up by its roots, replanting it upside down to keep it quiet.

Now, from its gnarled, root-like branches, a green and gold snake slithered down this distorted tree of life. Mel’s lips twitched as the slender, virtual arm on her flat-screen monitor extended with a fluidity an experienced ballerina would envy. Her avatar invited the computer-graphic snake to coil around her hand and then slither down her side. Mel delighted in the fact her avatar’s ruby red smile never wavered. Not a trace of fear glimmered in the dazzling blue eyes of Mel’s virtual self.

She felt bad for the baobab, silenced because it wished for a better life. Mel didn’t see anything wrong with modifying your appearance if it made you a stronger being. She was living proof of how a makeover could help you stand a little straighter, and there would be no one shutting her up because of it.

Not in her new life anyway.

The baobab blurred around the edges as another tree from her past invaded her mind. A lone oak tree with a lone girl beneath it. Well, not totally alone. One person sat beside her. One person who didn’t laugh at the town’s outcast. At least, not until that last night.

Then the joke was really on her.

Mel squeezed her eyes to shove the image back behind its wall. Back to where it couldn’t hurt her. Not in her new life, and definitely not on this website where she’d earned the name Tough-as-Nails.

Nails. That’s what she called her steely-natured avatar. A name she lived up to by nailing every level in the online interactive game of Better Life Virtual World. And tonight she would reach the highest level possible.

As long as she stayed focused.

“Then stop digging up your dead-and-buried past and get focusing,” she scolded herself aloud.

A red flashing dot popped up in the corner of her screen. Her radar alerted her that her competitor closed in. He was here to beat her to the finish line. She could actually lose tonight. The idea of it made her grit her teeth. Her eyes narrowed. She would win. Tonight she would earn her rightful place in the kingdom. All she needed was the key to open the gates.

Mel scanned the side of the tree for the secret door that hid her prize. An opening, a handle, hinges—anything that might resemble a door.

Nothing. Not even an outline of one. She’d completed all of the tasks for it to be revealed to her. It should have been here. She bit her lower lip. Had she slipped up? Missed a step somewhere along the way? Perhaps back in the forest?

No. Nails didn’t slip up. Nails was perfect.

But even Nails’ perfection wouldn’t stop the clock from ticking away, taking Mel’s victory right along with it. Any second now, it wouldn’t matter how perfect Nails was if she didn’t find that key. Mel yanked her hair back in a death grip. “Where is it?” she demanded of her empty office.

The radar alarm blared through her headphones. If her competitor found the key first, the game would be over—and shewould be the loser. Again.

“No!” She sat up straight in her swivel chair, which creaked beneath her. Determination empowered her to find that compartment. “Not again! Never again!”

The gaming rulebook stated that the key could be found on the side of the tree where the afternoon sun shined upon it. Mel looked up and down the illuminated side of the trunk while Nails stood motionless beside it. Sunlight shined from behind Nails’ long, chestnut-colored hair, casting a warm glow on her, too. So Mel knew she had to be searching in the correct location. She brought Nails to a crouching position for a different view.

Eureka!” Mel said on a rush of air. There was a contour, just a shade darker than the rest of the tree. In a crevice of one of the monstrous tree roots she found the hidden door. A missed opportunity to the untrained eye, but not to an avid gamer like herself. She moved her controller to bring Nails’ hand over the door.

Click. A shiny golden key beckoned for its new master. Mel touched the screen. If only she could reach in and grab it with her own flesh-and-blood hands.

Beep ... beep, beep, beep. The radar sped up. The game’s version of life support alerted her to the peril of her chances of winning.

“Time to zap out of here,” she said and typed the code that would teleport Nails out of the jungle and directly to the palace.

But the scene remained the same. Nails still crouched beside the tree, holding her key and waiting for Mel’s next move. Instant transport should have occurred. Nails should have been standing in front of the magnificent golden gates, taking her place with the “best of the best.”

“That’s weird,” Mel mumbled, and clicked the code again.

Still no change.

She went bug-eyed on a sharp intake of breath. “This can’t be happening.” Her voice shook. She couldn’t teleport. She couldn’t escape. And the radar showed he was here! She banged on the keys repeatedly, but to no avail.

“Well, hello, Nails.” His slick voice came through Mel’s headset, and her shoulders sagged in defeat. A leopard avatar with black spots and a shiny golden coat of fur stepped out from behind the tree. “What, are you going soft?” His beady amber eyes targeted her key. “That was almost too easy.” He chuckled. Two long saber teeth glistened on the screen.

“Something’s wrong with the game.” She rubbed her forehead furiously. Think. Think. She dared not take her eyes off him. At any moment she expected him to pounce. She moved Nails a step away before he took the opportunity.

The sleek cat closed the gap. “Yeah, right, you just don’t want to admit you’re losing your touch.”

“No, I’m serious.” She tensed, and the controller cracked in her hand. “I lost my teleportation powers.”

“I guess that means the game’s over for you. You might as well give up the key.” His sharp-clawed paw shot out for the key at the same moment Mel backed up Nails another space.

The phone intercom on her spotless desktop buzzed into the room. The feminine singsong voice of her business partner spoke through it. “Mel, you’ve got a phone call.”

Mel kept her eyes on the screen while she fumbled to find the intercom button. She hit it. “Not right now, Chris.”

“It sounds important.”

“Not as important as this.” She shut the intercom off to stop further interruptions.

She had to get away from the leopard. But without teleporting, her only other mode of transportation meant taking Nails to the skies. Nails had earned her ability to fly back at an earlier level, but Mel couldn’t be sure if leopard boy had. She doubted it, though. He tended to just show up and take what he wanted, rather than earn it.

“The game’s not over yet.” Mel broke Nails into a run before swooping her up to soar toward the puffy white clouds above. The leopard shrank as she left him behind. She’d been correct. They didn’t share the same skill in flying.

“If I were you, I’d watch your back!” he yelled. “This can be a cruel world, Nails.”

“But oh, so rewarding!” She waved her key in his direction as her flying skills put rapid distance between them. Nails gained altitude and speed, and Mel triumphantly pumped her fist, loving the feel of victory. “Maybe I’ll send you some chocolates from the palace, or not.”

Mel giggled out loud. If she still ate chocolate, she would have indulged in a piece herself. Besides, she didn’t need chocolate when victory was sweet enough. On the screen, Nails soared onward like an angel, floating through the air. Any thoughts of sweets vanished. Years of practice and control showed through each of her movements.

“The only things you’re missing are the wings,” Mel reflected, imagining an iridescent pair fluttering on Nails’ back. With the threat dispersed, Mel relaxed back into her chair. “I should create a pair for you. I’d say you’ve earned them more than any other celestial being out there. If they’re out there.”

Nails flew out of the jungle and over a shimmering body of water. Ahead, a city skyline of various buildings reached to the darkening sky, luring Mel to her online club and the number one destination in better Life—ClubCreare.

Blue and purple lights shined into the night, leading her, and all the other virtual world travelers, to its doors. They were a beautiful group of beings, people, animals, even a black snake coming up behind Nails, each living out their fantasy in a world of their own making.

People came to socialize, to network, to fall in love. Many were here to make it big, to find their fame in the online world. All they needed was the right person to like their artwork or music and they could carry that fame into the real world. And, being that she was the co-owner of a real-life restaurant and in charge of the entertainment, she just happened to be that right person.

Mel hit the down controls to swoop Nails in, but chaos in the streets below caught her attention. Avatars ran in every direction. She pulled Nails up short to hover over the group. “What’s going on?” she called out.

“Someone’s giving away great stuff,” a buxom blonde with a sparkling diamond necklace in her fist answered. Mel’s eyes narrowed. Was that one of her necklaces?

“Where did you get that?” There wasn’t another one like it. Mel had created it herself.

“It’s free stuff. Get down here quick before it’s all gone.”

She brought Nails in for a quick landing and immediately recognized more and more of her virtual belongings scattered about for the taking. One by one, her clothes were taken away; her jewelry hung from body parts; someone even drove off with her car!

Mel sprang out of her chair, sending it flying back. It clanged loudly against her metal filing cabinet, but her mind screamed louder. Her hands reached for the screen again. “These are all my things! Put them back!” Yelling, her only recourse.

“How do we know you’re telling the truth?”

Mel tore her gaze from her disappearing property to look at a man with bleached-blond hair tied back in a queue and blue-tinted glasses perched on a wide nose.

“I’m serious,” she pleaded. “These are my things! How did they get out here? I didn’t give anything away. How did this happen?”

Mel waited for the man to come to her aid. To help retrieve her belongings. Instead, a laugh burst from his lips. A great big belly-of-a-laugh that had him bent over at the waist, then flinging his head back in abandon.

The hair on the back of her neck rose. Her lips curled in revulsion, and trembled. He was laughing at her, like so many other people before him. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. Not in this world. Not in her new life.

Pain seared her palms, and she had to unclench her fists to stop her nails from further slicing through her skin. The laughter coming through her headphones echoed in her head, sending her back in time to when being the butt of jokes was an everyday occurrence.

No! She yanked back from the memories, refusing to go there.

“Dude,” he said, his laughing ceased. She focused on his voice. It sounded muffled and distant as her memories still fought for her attention. “Looks like you’ve been hacked.”

“What?” Mel retracted from the screen. Was that possible? Had she heard him correctly? “You mean someone broke into my account and stole my possessions?” Reality sank in. “And then,” —she swallowed—“just dropped them all out here for the taking?”

“Looks that way to me. You got any cyber-enemies out there?”

“No, I don’t think—” Her mouth gaped open. Did the leopard have the ability to take her possessions away? But if that were the case, wouldn’t he have taken the key, too? It couldn’t have been him.

“Well, someone’s having fun with you.” The avatar turned to walk away. “But hey,”—he stopped—“it could’ve been worse. They could’ve killed you ... virtually, anyway.”

Her throat tightened at the truth of his statement. This hacker could have deleted her whole account. Essentially “killing” her with the click of a button.

Dazed and numb, she stood frozen in her spot. Her skin crawled; she felt violated. These may have been virtual possessions, but she had worked hard for them. It would have been no different if someone had broken into her apartment and robbed her blind. “Why?” she squeaked.

“Why do any hackers hack? Because they can. It’s all in the joy of proving no wall is impenetrable.” He walked away, his chuckle rumbling through her headphones.

Nails stood motionless, her owner too stunned to move her. Her few rejected possessions littered the computer-graphic blacktop. Cars whizzed by, and Nails still didn’t move. Mel didn’t know what to do. What direction to move Nails in. What direction to move herself in. She stared at the screen and realized the laugh was on her. Again.

Monday, June 4, 2012 Tammy Hill

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!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Creation House; First edition (June 5, 2012)

***Special thanks to Tammy Hill for sending me a review copy.***


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!

Visit the author's book website.

Visit the author's blog.


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?

Knowing Book Trailer from aseriesofgifts on GodTube.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Creation House; First edition (June 5, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616389265
ISBN-13: 978-1616389260


A spiritual gift is given to each
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
lost souls.
I know.
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,
powerless teenager.

Chapter One

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
had problems.
“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
the box.
“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

Knowing: a series of Gifts by Tammy Hill

From the Back Cover of the Book:

Ember Matthews has a gift.....

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?

My Review:

When I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect.  For a while I thought, great, just another teenage drama book... just what the world needs.  And then, it opened up into a whole other realm of spiritual understanding.  Ember has a gift that she neither understands nor is sure she believes in... but she knows there is more to life than what she's living.  Every night she has a nightmare and wakes up crying and trembling.  Every day she goes through life just looking for what's more and what can fill the aching hole and need in her life.  When she moves to this small town, she decides that she will be different and she will be more... but how and more what? She meets a few people in town and she feels like she is going back to the same old Ember that she was in the last town, until she is invited to a different church.  She is warned not to go to this church because they are weird, but the draw is too great and she goes anyhow.  That's where she meets God again.  During this meeting she speaks in a heavenly language and she can really feel God.  Thinking that this would be the change she's been wanting, looking for she heads into life with a new attitude and outlook.  Then it happens.  God uses her gift to speak into someone's life and instead of the warm reception and welcome, the recipient is angry and threatening.

Wow and wow.  I have never seen a young adult book that approached the Spiritual Gifts and I am so glad to see it.  While I definitely believe in the Spiritual Gifts, I really don't have much knowledge about them because the modern church chooses to ignore them (or at least the denomination I am in doesn't put much emphasis on them; they are more cessationist in their beliefs regarding miracles).  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the next one (yes, I have emailed the author about when the next one will be available, but I can't tell you the answer!).  While the book is about spiritual things, I still found it enjoyable, not overwhelming or bogged down with the spiritual or "Christian-ese."

I would recommend this book for Teens, young adults, and adults.  It is a fairly quick read (I read it in about a day around my regular routine).

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