Readers nominated (via email) the finalists in six categories. An individual who is not an author and who doesn’t sit on the Board counted the nominations. Finaling titles were then given to judging teams. At that point there was no contact between the teams and the Chair of the Board, except for administrative issues. The teams independently picked winners. Each step in the process was removed and separated from the next step, to insure impartiality.
We are thrilled that our winners include self-published works, titles from small houses, as well as from moderate and large traditional houses. Our finalists included titles from traditional houses, small press, self-published authors and ebook publishers. Our aim was to be an egalitarian award, and we believe we’ve accomplished this right out of the gate.
The winners are…
Women’s Fiction: serious women’s issues, can have humor and suspense elements
WHEN SPARROWS FALL by Meg Moseley (Multnomah Books)
It’s rare for an author to be able to capture a reader’s attention up to the final the final word, and Meg Mosely’s WHEN SPARROWS FALL does just that. With language and imagery that are never contrived, she weaves Miranda Hanford’s and her brother-in-law Jack’s tale with depth and poignancy. This book presents two ends of the Christian spectrum, the strictness of Miranda’s faith juxtaposed with her brother-in-law’s more liberal, mainstream construct. Never was either character condemned for his or her beliefs. This kind of book is highly needed for the Christian community, and for those caught up in “Christian-like” communities on the fringe. The writing was perfect—the plot unfolds logically and uniquely and leaves the reader praying in gratitude for God’s mercy and grace, as well as hoping for more of the book. Though it could have been an advocacy for home-schooling, the author resisted while showing the characters as sympathetic and concerned for doing what is right. This book is everything executable and desirable from the Women’s Fiction category—realistic, warm and likeable characters in a truly human drama that strengthens faith. The writing was superb, deftly and lightly handled so that the entire Women’s Fiction judging team got caught up in the story.
~~Judges: Deborah Kinnard (Team Leader), Carol McClain, Christine Lindsay
Romance/Historical Romance: primary element is love/courtship/marriage, be it set now or then
GIVE THE LADY A RIDE by Linda Yezak (Port Yonder Press)
The story began with action and stayed at a great pace throughout. Each scene successfully drove the plot forward, was believable and full of conflict. The author established setting early on using great imagery and sensory skills. GIVE THE LADY A RIDE stayed true to ranch life and all things cowboys. Not only was it entertaining, but the details of bull-riding provided interesting information a reader could take away from the story. The author’s characters stood out by being well-described physically, emotionally, and spiritually. There were no questions of their motives, which drove them to behave in a believable way—even at their low points. The two female characters’ sisterly bond sometimes made the reader laugh out loud. Minor characters were used appropriately—not simply as filler but to help the main characters either see truth or deter them, adding increased conflict. Yezak’s prose was well written, beautifully edited and her voiced shined. Each character had a clear and unique voice. The dialogue was believable and appropriate for the characters and the scenes. The romance had plenty of tension and was highly enjoyable. It read easily, without confusion, or having to skim back over a paragraph to figure something out. Obviously, a great amount of research went into the book in the areas of estates, wills, ranch life, and bull-riding.
~~Judges: Jessica R. Patch (Team Leader), Janalyn Voight: Rachel Wilder:
Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller: crime fiction, there’s probably a body
GOODBYE NOEL by Nike Chillemi (Desert Breeze Publishing)
The pacing proved perfect for romantic suspense—even when there was no imminent danger, the threat hung over two people as they fell in love. Ms. Chillemi’s writing is strong and well-researched. Readers are drawn into the 1940s with the setting and descriptions. The depth of detail in setting and character not only show exceptional skill but make it worthy of all the praise it has received. Katrina Lenart is a pediatric nurse and part of the close-knit Czechoslovakian community on the poor side of town. Detective Ian Daltry’s deep love for his daughter brings out his hero qualities almost immediately. Katrina is devoted to protecting the baby whose mother has been killed; Ian is determined to protect Katrina. Their romance is done in a sweet, respectful manner. The mystery of who killed Noel Bauer develops in twists and turns, presenting a number of possible murderers. The setting is perfect for the crime and all the dialog and action fit exactly with the time period. The lasting impression of GOODBYE NOEL is the way people treat others who are different: lower social standing, less well-off financially, or of a different culture. It rings true for then and remains true today. In many ways, this story points out what’s bad about today’s society by showing the evils in a harsher light of a past setting.
~~Judges: Tammy Doherty (Team Leader), V.B. Tenery, Debra E. Marvin
SPLIT SENSE by Barbara Ellen Brink (Create Space)
At the risk of sounding cliché, one awesome read! This speculative thriller is full of action, intrigue and a touch of science fiction. The plot twists and turns as we follow the lives of fraternal twins – a brother and sister, each of whom has an unexplainable, seemingly supernatural, gift. Adopted separately as infants, neither knows of the other’s existence until fate brings them together to combat a complex web of deceit and subterfuge that centers around a pharmaceutical company that has been conducting secret experiments on humans. Ms. Brink draws the reader in almost immediately and the surprises keep coming, right up to the very end. From a Christian perspective, the gospel is clearly presented but it never impedes the story or becomes preachy. As well, the supernatural events are woven in seamlessly and are not over explained, allowing a certain sense of mystery to prevail even after the conclusion. If you’re not a speculative fan already, you will be after reading SPLIT SENSE. It’s well written on every level and deserves its place in the ‘Grace Awards’ winner’s circle.
~~~Judges: Tracy Krauss (Team Leader), April W. Gardner, Randy Streu
SHADOWED IN SILK by Christine Lindsay (WhiteFire Publishing)
The story is a page-turner packed with action, suspense, and romance. This is an evocative story of life, death, struggle, intrigue, and love during the post-World War I, Raj period of India’s history. The research done on the time period was outstanding. The descriptions of Indian life, lush and detailed. The author placed main characters Abby Fraser and Major Geoff Richards in an impossibly difficult situation. Inadvertently Abby becomes involved in the machinations of a Russian spy dedicated to stirring up unrest in India. Not only do Geoff and Abby face personally excruciating choices, but the safety of both the British and Indian populations hangs in the balance. The reader enters into what life was like in the 1900s in India with British and Indian characters who are three dimensional, highly believable, and well developed. The reader gets a wonderful glimpse of the world of missionaries and native-Christian life in India at that time. SHADOWED IN SILK has enough twists and surprises to keep the reader up into the wee hours of the night.
~~Judges: Nike Chillemi (Team Leader), Krisi Kelley, Keven Newsome
Young Adult: appeals to ages 14 to 21ish
THE MERCHANT’S DAUGHTER by Melanie Dickerson (Zondervan)
Today’s Young Adult reader avidly conquers pages of mysticism, brutality, hedonism, and evil the likes of which would burn Nancy Drew’s titian hair right off. It’s a new generation. The judges enjoyed the great conversation this engaging novel stimulated. THE MERCHANT’S DAUGHTER by fairy-tale spinner Melanie Dickerson was, in our opinion, extremely readable and appropriate in voice to the genre. Word choice, characters, and scene were well delivered. The historical elements were true. The characters, scenes of medieval England, drama, and events were period-faithful and easily understood. Faith elements were woven consistently throughout the tale, and the parallel to Beauty and the Beast lovingly underscored.
~~Judges: Lisa Lickel (Team Leader), Diana Sharples, Barbara Ellen Brink