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Grace Awards 2014 Winners ~ in Faith Based Fiction

Grace Awards 2014

Thanks to Robert Treskillard for the design of our new award seal/badge.

The Grace Awards, a reader driven awards and the most democratic awards in Christian fiction, now in its fourth year, is very proud to announce its 2014 WINNERS. This year we had an array of widely diverse judges (multi-published authors, traditionally published ones, indie authors, and a pastor). Our judges commented on how pleased they were with the high quality of the finalists chosen by readers this year. We have faith in the judgement of Christian readers. That’s what the Grace Awards is all about.

We’ve tried to use, if you will, a separation of powers in choosing our winners. Readers nominated (via email) the finalists in six categories. After the nominations were counted, finaling titles were given to our judging teams. From that point on there was no contact between the judging 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, ebooks as well as paperbacks. Our aim is to be an egalitarian award, and we believe we’ve accomplished this.

The winners are…

Atonement for EmilyWomen’s Fiction/General Fiction: serious women’s or men’s issues, can have humor and suspense elements

ATONEMENT for EMILY by Susan Lawrence (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

This is a very well-written tale about a woman caught in a situation of her making, but never of her wanting—she accidentally hits and kills a young boy with her car. Set in small-town Kansas, the story relates the grief of young Isaiah’s parents and grandparent, and Emily’s all-too-authentic reaction. She embarks on a frantic effort to make up for the accident, to “matter” in a cosmic sense though she starts with no faith basis for her actions. Her efforts imperil her marriage, as she is not at all open with her husband regarding the understandable chaos in her emotions. The end was uplifting and satisfactory. There must be healing for Emily, or the novel would not have satisfied at all. We liked that Nate was still searching on the faith-question rather than too-easily Christianized. We liked the characters immensely. The married pairs, Isaiah’s parents included, didn’t thrash things out as much as they should, and this added to their realism. We found Josh’s attempt to find “closure” true to life. Often it’s said that the loss of a child means the loss of the marriage, so the four mates’ distancing seemed emotionally authentic. Josh’s sister from Colombia at first had little relevance to place in the story of Isaiah’s loss, but it was tied up very neatly in Ramón’s adoption. Perhaps too neatly for real life, but this is, after all, fiction. The pacing was good and we found ourselves reading at times when we were supposed to be doing something else! This novel rang true to the emotional lives of the varied characters. All in all, well written, emotionally satisfactory, and a worthy winner of the Grace Award.

 

KeptRomance/Historical Romance: primary element is love/courtship/marriage, be it set now or then

KEPT by Sally Bradley (Salena House Publishers)

This is a beautifully woven story of redemption, and proof we don’t always get what we deserve. It’s a terrific story of the battle that takes place in a young woman—an “other woman”—when she is confronted with reality. It’s also the story of a man who waited his entire life for the right woman. The perfect woman. Though Miska Tomlinson definitely isn’t what Dillan Foster imagined, Dillan is what God imagined for Miska. Sally Bradley’s characters are real. They’re edgy and flawed. And the greatest message of this book is love. But don’t think it’s a sappy, sweet story about how love conquers all. Dillan’s brother and Miska’s half-sister present great contrast, showing what happens when we either are too selfish to care how others feel or too weak to overcome temptation. Ms. Bradley uses these characters to both support Miska’s doubts about Jesus and Christianity and to solidify her growing faith. Seems like a contradiction, but it’s actually so real this story feels more like reality TV (except better!).

 

Harmful Intent 300 PMystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller/Historical Suspense: crime fiction, there’s probably a body

HARMFUL INTENT by Nike Chillemi (Crime Fictionista Press)

From nearly the beginning of the story we knew we were into reading a potential award winner. Right off the bat, Nike Chillemi brings characters onto the scene that are real, with both strengths and weaknesses, and a plot that gets going right away. She has a real talent for spinning the “hard-boiled detective” kind of story. The fact that she takes her New York bred lady detective and lands her square in the outback of Texas adds real flavor to the tale. As the main character, Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels, learns about her murdered husband’s double life and unravels the mystery of his death, we are thrown along with her through a gamut of emotions — anger, resentment, sorrow, and the promise of closure. The story does not lag. Nike has a great “voice” — that magical thing writers long for — in storytelling. Her use of setting, language, pacing, and especially dialogue sparkles. Nike does a bang-up job of weaving a delicious tale of suspense and romance, catching the bad guy, and tying up all the loose ends, even while leading us into the promise of a sequel to come. Nike set the course for these characters’ continuing journey (personal and spiritual) and it will be interesting to see how their character arcs continue. Nicely done!

 

Chronicles of Steele RavenSpeculative Fiction: science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.

CHRONICLES OF STEELE: RAVEN by Pauline Creeden (AltWitPress)

Pauline Creeden weaves an intriguing tale of honor and romance in Chronicles of Steele: Raven. This ‘Steampunk’ fantasy follows Raven Steele, a ‘Reaper’ who is bound by the strict code of ethics followed by her sect. When she is asked to protect the young baron from his own family, she is thrust into a journey of danger and magic that tests her intensive reaper training, not to mention her mettle. The mechanized ‘Steampunk’ elements are well constructed and fit the genre, while the full bodied descriptions bring the story to life. There are plenty of well written action scenes and surprising plot twists, and the pacing is consistent with very little ‘lag’ time. Woven throughout are Raven’s inner struggles as she tries to reconcile her commitment to the ‘Reaper’ way of life with guilt over her father’s death. It is refreshing to see a proactive female protagonist that takes charge and is not objectified. The romantic sub-plot doesn’t take away from the main story line, but does add depth, as does the development of the relationship between Raven and her young charge. The book delivers in terms of character development and the creative use of speculative themes.

 

Chasing the LionAction Adventure/Western/Historic Epic Fiction: exploits, quest, expansive

CHASING THE LION by Nancy Kimball

From the first page we were drawn into this powerful novel. The hero and heroine are crafted so perfectly that we felt we knew them. Under Nancy Kimballs skilful pen, even those who appear briefly are clear and consistent. The main character, Jonathon, is complex. Manius, his “half-brother,” betrays Jonathon, resulting in a life as a slave and gladiator. Jonathon sinks into doubt and despair. Nessa, the heroine, is a beautifully drawn character. Providing medical care for the injured gladiators, Nessa struggles at times, but ultimately faces challenges with grace and faith. The plot is full of adventure and ever-increasing obstacles for Jonathon and Nessa. The author seamlessly interweaves a story spanning a great number of years. The theme of Christian sacrifice and faith flows wonderfully throughout those years. This is truly an EPIC adventure, as stirring as “Ben Hur,” that kept our judging team reading late into the night. Jonathon’s and Nessa’s lives engaged our hearts. It seems incredible that humans could treat each other so cruelly. But as we look at the daily news of terrorism, beheadings, torture and kidnappings, it becomes clear that humanity hasn’t changed. Evil still exists, faith is still needed.

 

JessieYoung Adult: appeals to ages 14 to 21ish

JESSIE by Rebekah Lynn ( Real Life Books & Media)

This was one of those stories that stays with you after it’s over because of the message it held. While the book was long and very heavy on the details of the space program, it held the message that we all deserve redemption and we all can find that one thing we love to hold onto even through the tough times. Jessie’s dad was proof of this as he found his way back to God. While Jessie suffered beatings at his hands, as the book went along he too learned how to forgive his father and look at him as a man of God again. The use of secondary characters outside of the four Cole boys was very well done and each character was well thought out and paced throughout the book to leave the impact that was needed at that point in the story. The editing of Jessie was without a doubt flawless. Since this book is part of a series there is much more to learn about the Cole brothers and their life experiences. Jessie would be a favorite of most teen boys who enjoy books about space, with a hidden Bible lesson about forgiveness.

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And…the Grace Awards 2014 Finalists are…

Grace AwardsThe Grace Awards 2014, now into its fifth year, had and avalanche of reader nominations to determine our finalists. The number of reader votes were up significantly from last year, as was the number of novels nominated in each category.

According to the rules, every novel had to have been accompanied by at least a 40+ word statement telling why the story was nominated…a sort of mini-review or “notice”. This year the reasons given were astute and outstanding. There is no doubt that today’s Christian reader is both intelligent and perceptive.

And now…the finalists in six categories are…

 

WOMEN’S FICTION/GENERAL FICTION (serious women’s/men’s issues, can have humor and suspense elements) :

ATONEMENT FOR EMILY ADAMS by Susan Lawrence (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas) ~ When Emily Adams hits and kills ten-year-old Isaiah Nelson with her car, she is overwhelmed with remorse. Knowing she cannot undo this tragedy, Emily hopes to atone for Isaiah’s death by good deeds and community service. However, the more she does, the more her life falls apart. With her job on the line, her volunteer efforts fruitless, and her marriage in jeopardy, the final blow comes when Isaiah’s grieving parents file a wrongful death suit. For them, this will be justice and closure, but for Emily this is final proof she will never be forgiven. Not by Isaiah’s parents—not by God. Where do you turn when “I’m sorry” isn’t enough?

DWF: Divorced White Female by Carol McClain (Desert Breeze Publishing) ~ Sassy, unsaved and desperate, Cheryl Chandler realizes one thing will redeem her from her ex-husband’s betrayal. A man. Any man—so long as he’s hot. Finding love in rural New York proves a daunting challenge. Should she find her man, he must meet her quirky teens whose eccentricities range from New Age ideology, to OCD, to religious fanaticism. And a toddler—her husband’s parting gift. What man would love her and accept them? Her kids have the solution—online dating. Here she meets two men. Religious fanatic, Tarrant, charms her, but is too pious. And mysterious Carleton who’s everything her desperation desires. However, nothing is as it seems. Can she sacrifice her family for love?

THE FRAGRANCE OF GERANIUMS by Alicia G. Ruggieri (Create Space) ~ A  story of three women in Rhode Island, 1934. Grace Picoletti has nothing going for her – but she’s determined to succeed in life. Born to severe destitution, she claws her way up from the pit of family shame and secrets. Despite her own agonizing emotional pain, childless Emmeline Kinner reaches out to a young woman so far beneath her. She could never have known whom else God would set in her path through her friendship with Grace. Long ago, Sarah Picoletti resigned herself to a loveless, abusive life – and she believes that her daughter Grace must inherit the same fate. Yet Sarah’s own soul cries out for the blessed peace and hope of which the radio minister speaks.

 

ROMANCE/HISTORICAL ROMANCE (primary element is love/courtship/marriage, be it set now or then)

IN THE FIELD OF GRACE by Tessa Afshar (River North) ~ Destitute, grief-stricken, and unwanted by the people of God, Ruth arrives in Israel with nothing to recommend her but Naomi’s, love. Her loftiest hope is to provide enough food to save Naomi and herself from starvation. But God has other plans for her life. While everyone considers Ruth an outcast, she is astounded to find one of the most honored men of Judah showing her favor.  Long since a widower and determined to stay that way, Boaz is irresistibly drawn to the foreign woman with the haunted eyes. He tells himself he is only being kind to his Cousin Naomi’s chosen daughter when he goes out of his way to protect her from
harm, but his heart knows better. Based on the biblical account of Ruth.

KEPT by Sally Bradley (Salena House Publishers) ~ Life has taught Miska Tomlinson that there are no honorable men. Her womanizing brothers, her absentee father, and Mark, the married baseball player who claims to love her. Miska runs her editing business from her luxury condo, stays fit with daily jogs along Chicago’s lakefront, and in her free time blogs anonymously about life as a kept woman. Enter new neighbor Dillan Foster. Between his unexpected friendship and her father’s sudden reappearance, Miska loses control of her orderly life. Her relationship with Mark deteriorates, and Miska can’t help comparing him to Dillan. His religious views are so foreign, yet the way he treats her is something she’s longed for. But Dillan discovers exactly who she is and what she has done. Too late she finds herself longing for a man who is determined to never look her way again. When her blog receives unexpected national press, Miska realizes that her anonymity was an illusion. Caught in a scandal about to break across the nation, Miska wonders if the God Dillan talks about would bother with a woman like her—a woman who’s gone too far and done too much.

SHAKEN by Kariss Lynch (Realms) ~ Idealistic and sheltered with a passion to change the world, Kaylan Richards leaves her comfortable life in Alabama to serve in poverty-stricken Haiti. Despite her inexperience and the opposition of a voodoo priest, Kaylan develops a love for the country and the Haitian people. But something deadly is about to strike. It is the worst earthquake the country has ever seen, and in its aftermath bodies, buildings, and broken lives litter the streets. People she cares about are dead, and Kaylan is caught in the middle of the destruction, questioning a God who said He was good. Navy SEAL Nick Carmichael never planned to find a girl he loved more than his country. Now she is a world away, trapped in a deadly situation nothing could have prepared her for. Can Nick’s love help Kaylan heal and show her the God who never abandoned her, or will tragedy shake even the most rooted faith?

 

MYSTERY/THRILLER/ROMANTIC SUSPENSE/HISTORIC SUSPENSE: (crime fiction, probably a body)

BETWEEN THE LIES by Joy DeKok (Infusion Publishing) ~ Olivia Morgan was fine. Until the dead guy in the elevator, her married lover’s disdain, the loss of her dream job, and an FBI agent who is looking into the past she’s worked so hard to hide. All she wanted was the perfect life; the love of a wealthy man, a beautiful place to live, and to be an art teacher. She didn’t mind doing what it took to get those things, and for ten years, she had it all – almost. Plus, someone is watching her – someone who knows things and how to get to her without being seen. To prove she’s innocent of at least one of the murders she may have committed, Olivia uses her ability to notice what others often miss, and her art to remember and reveal what she knows. Will her sketches save or convict her?

HARMFUL INTENT by Nike Chillemi (Crime Fictionista Press) ~ Betrayal runs in private investigator Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels’ family. So, why is she surprised when her husband of one year cheats on her? The real shock is his murder, with the local lawman pegging her as the prime suspect. Ronnie Ingels is a Brooklyn bred private investigator who travels to west Texas, where her cheating husband is murdered. As she hunts the killer to clear her name, she becomes the hunted. Deputy Sergeant Dawson Hughes, a former Army Ranger, is a man folks want on their side. Only he’s not so sure at first, he’s on the meddling New York PI’s side. As the evidence points away from her, he realizes the more she butts in, the more danger she attracts to herself.

SHE’S MINE by Tammy Doherty (Amazon Digital Services) ~ Caitlin Harrington has a new job and a new life away from her menacing ex-boyfriend, Adam. Issues with her parents, losing her previous job and the death of her beloved grandmother leave her wondering if God has abandoned her. Two things she is sure of: she’s a lousy judge of character and men just can’t be trusted. Now a volunteer firefighter who has come to her rescue more than once is dangerously close to breaking through her defenses. And not everyone in sleepy Naultag, Massachusetts is welcoming. Someone is leaving ominous notes on her door. Sean Taggart likes being a rescuer. But a failed engagement has taught him to be cautious with his heart and Caitlin is a threat. Women just can’t be trusted. Still, he’d like to save Caitlin from whatever demons have her so spooked. If only she’d let him.

 

SPECULATIVE FICTION (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.)

CHRONICLES OF STEELE: RAVEN by Pauline Creeden (AltWit Press) ~ Raven has lived by this first tenet since she was trained by her father to become a reaper. But since his death, she’s been spending years redeeming the lives she’s taken. By her count, she’s even and it’s time for that life to end. If she settles down and becomes a wife, she might just feel human again. But on the way to the life she thinks she wants, the baron of New Haven asks her to complete a task which she cannot ignore… Just when Raven decides to give up on her life as an assassin, she’s pulled right back in.

RISE AND SHINE by Sandra D. Bricker (River North) ~ Shannon Malone thought she’d found her happy ending when she married Edmund Ridgeway, but a diving accident on their honeymoon left her in a coma. Waking up to the news that she’s thirty years old would have been daunting enough . . . but she also learns that Edmund has lost his interim battle with cancer and the world has marched on without her. Her gorgeous doctor, Daniel Petros, seems to know everything about her and becomes Shannon’s tour guide into a whole new world of madness where reality television has taken over the planet and everyone’s life appears to revolve around a tiny screen on their cell phones!

SHENANDOAH DREAMS by Lisa Belcastro (Oak Tara) ~ “It’s just a dream,” Melissa Smith whispers as she stares into the intense eyes of a man dressed in Colonial clothes, as though he’d stepped out of an American Revolution movie set. A school chaperone with Holmes Hole Elementary, she’d boarded the old schooner Shenandoah for a weeklong educational sail. But they are not visiting Plimoth Plantation, the Boston Tea Party Museum, or the Concord Bridge reenactment. They are sailing the waters around the island of Martha’s Vineyard. Yet, when she awakes in Cabin 8, the captain claims to be Isaiah Reed, who sailed the original Shenandoah in the eighteenth century. Melissa knows he cannot possibly be real. And traveling back in time is impossible. But days pass, and she’s still in 1770.  What if Isaiah, who is simply too handsome to be real, is real? What if the fire he ignites in her from barely a touch isn’t in her imagination? Can a dream last for weeks on end? If so, how will she find her way home . . . to the twenty-first century? And can she bear to leave the one man who has captured her heart, when everything in her longs to stay?

 

ACTION-ADVENTURE/WESTERN/EPIC FICTION: (exploits, quest, daring, expansive)

CHASING THE LION by Nancy Kimball (Nancy Kimball) ~ For as long as Jonathan Tarquinius can remember, everyone has wanted something from him. His half brother wants him dead. His master’s wife wants his innocence. The gladiator dealers want him to fight—and die—for their greed. Rome’s most famous prostitute wants his love. And the gentle slave girl who tends the wounds on his body and the hidden ones on his soul longs for him to return to his faith. What Jonathan wants is simple. Freedom. But God wants something from Jonathan too—something more than anyone would ever imagine. The young warrior’s journey will push him to the limits of human endurance and teach him that true freedom is found within. The greatest battle Jonathan must ever fight will not come in the arena, but deep within himself as he is forced to choose between vengeance and mercy—with the fate of an empire and the life of the woman he loves hanging in the balance.

HOPE REBORN by Caryl McAdoo (Caryl McAdoo) ~ New York dime novelist May Meriwether decides a heroic Texas Ranger will make a great love interest for her new heroine. Bored to tears and loving adventure, she sets out to the Lone Star State with her constant companion and confidant Chester in tow. Dreams for a husband and children are relegated to the recesses of her heart, the self-confessed old maid deems it too late. But the near-perfect widower resurrects a smidgen of hope. Only his impenetrable, superstitious religious beliefs stand in the path to her falling head over heels, those and his love for his dead wife. Would there ever be room for her in his heart? And would he give up his fanaticism for God? An unexpected romance surprises both. Hope is reborn in God’s unfailing love and grace. Can a life built on lies find the Way to confession, forgiveness, and true joy? In a day when the church offers the only stability on the 1850 Texas prairie, these unlikely players find one another and fall in love. But will it be enough?

ONE NIGHT IN TEHRAN by Luane Ehrlich (Amazon Digital Services) ~ In Tehran, while hiding out from the Iranian secret police, CIA intelligence officer, Titus Ray, finds shelter with a group of Iranian Christians. Compelled by their unwavering faith, the battle-hardened, covert agent becomes a believer shortly before they smuggle him out of Iran to freedom in Turkey. Back in the States and forced to go on medical leave, he discovers a Hezbollah hit man has targeted him for assassination. Now, while trying to figure out what it means to be a follower of Christ, he must decide if the Iranian couple he meets in Oklahoma has ties to the man who’s trying to kill him, and if Nikki Saxon, a beautiful local detective, can be trusted with his secrets.

 

YOUNG ADULT (appeals to ages 14 – 21ish)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS by Pauline Creeden (AltWit Press) ~ Because of one ugly rumor, Chira lives as an outcast at her school. Which is fine with her, because she works better alone. Always has, always will. And at least she has her one and only true friend, Tasha. When Tasha insists that they join a group to visit a possibly haunted abandoned old schoolhouse, she’s wary, but joins her friend. Because of that decision, their lives are in jeopardy as a malevolent spirit targets the group. Tragedies and accidents pick them off one by one, and Chira finds herself drawn to the one person who can see the truth. But can he protect her?

JESSIE by Rebekah Lyn (Real Life Books & Media) ~ The four Cole boys suffer abuse at the hands of an alcoholic father, while largely being left to their own devices by a heartbroken and overworked mother. Their adventures on their island home have become a welcome escape, and one of the only things in life the boys can truly rely on. Jessie, the youngest and a dreamer, becomes enamored with US plans for manned space flight and its race to the moon, stirring his own dreams of one day becoming an astronaut. In a strange twist of fate, it is the space program and the momentum it gains that abruptly brings their beloved island life to an end. The family is forced to move to the city and start anew. Life in town creates new challenges,financial pressures, news of the Vietnam War and the impending threat of the military draft for Max, the eldest of the Cole brothers.

THE QUIET SKY by Joanne Bischofs (Mason Jar Books) ~ Sixteen-year-old Sarah Miller doesn’t expect anything out of the ordinary when she begins her first day at the one-room-school house in her new hometown of Rocky Knob. But when she meets seventeen-year-old Tucker O’Shay—the boy with the fatal illness who volunteers to tutor her in algebra—she finds herself swept up in a friendship that changes the way she sees the world and a love that changes her life.

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