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Grace Awards 2017 Winners ~ in Faith Based Fiction

GA Winner Badge 2017

The Grace Awards, a reader driven awards and the most democratic awards in Christian fiction, now in its eighth year, is very proud to announce its 2017 WINNERS. This year we had an array of widely diverse judges. They are multi-published authors, traditionally published ones, indie authors, and avid readers. Our judges commented on how exciting it was to select a winner from finalists selected by readers who are fans. Several judging teams ‘complained’ they had trouble picking a winner because all three stories nominated were so good. 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 showcase self-published works as well as titles from  publishing houses, ebooks as well as paperbacks. Our aim is to be an egalitarian award, and we believe we’ve accomplished this.

The winners are…

Women’s Fiction/General Fiction: serious women’s or men’s issues, can have humor and suspense element

The Austin Escape

THE AUSTEN ESCAPE by Katherine Reay (Thomas Nelson) ~ The title is apt. This novel is just that: an escape. Ms. Reay masterfully takes the reader into two different eras—no this is not a time travel novel—while at the same time treating you to tidbits about Jane Austen’s classics. Once you fall into the many layers of the life of Mary, you will not want to leave her world—or is it worlds—behind. Ms. Reay is clearly a scholar of Austen works, and Ms. Reay’s story merges the Austen style with this author’s magnificent talent for writing contemporary fiction.

 

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

Magnolia Storms

MAGNOLIA STORMS by Janet Ferguson (Southern Sun Press) ~ This novel  drew us in to the deep south with its rich sense of place, culture, and family. We liked how the author wove elements of an approaching storm into the story. In the beginning, we were introduced to a blended family, held together by love and respect, rather than intermarriage. The characters are well written and interesting, the romance elements strong. Relationships are mostly well explored. Past and present combine and intermingle as a monster storm takes aim at the Mississippi coastal regions, stirring unwanted memories of Katrina. The well-told story combines elements of single-parenting, and families working together for a common goal. The spiritual content is organic and woven throughout, it never seemed contrived. The drama of the approaching storm, endangering lives and livelihoods, and the promise of a rekindled love kept us turning pages until the end.

 

Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller: crime fiction, there’s probably a body

The House on Foster Hill

THE HOUSE ON FOSTER HILL by Jaime Jo Wright is a story told in two timelines, with parallels between the protagonists of each time. In the present, Kaine Prescott refuses to accept that her husband’s death is anything less than murder. Since his death, someone has been playing tricks on her, tricks the police dismiss as the distraught mind of a grieving widow. In desperation, Kaine buys a “fixer-upper” sight unseen, half a country away. When she arrives, the house is more than a fixer-upper – it needs loads of work. To make matters worse, it seems her tormentor has followed her. Kaine has two new friends to help her, both with the house and the mystery of who is tormenting her. A century earlier, Ivy  Thorpe has her own mystery to unravel involving a murdered unknown woman and her vanished baby. Both Kaine and Ivy discover that the house on Foster Hill plays an important part in the mysteries. This novel captivated the judges from the beginning. The parallel stories of Kaine and Ivy are well-paced in presentation, keeping the tension just taut enough to ensure the reader must keep turning the pages. The secondary characters are great support for each timeline. As the end draws closer so too the main characters seem to draw closer. The conclusion of each timeline’s mystery is handled perfectly. This novel delivered in spades!

 

Speculative Fiction: science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.

The Revisionary

THE REVISIONARY by Kristen Hogrefe (Write Integrity Press) ~ This dystopian novel was engaging and well-paced, reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984, with a more modern vibe similar to The Hunger Games. The author uses deep point of view in a first person present style, in keeping with current tastes in fiction. The story never stagnates but keeps moving and surprising all the way through. The plot follows young Portia Abernathy who has clung to the belief that if she excels enough to get drafted into an upper-level educational system, she can change the laws that keep her brother in prison. Her meager existence with her father in a world without electricity or most basic creature comforts is a struggle, but she has learned how to survive and hopes to beat the system at its own game. Portia is shocked when she learns the system is not only stacked against her, but that there are those targeting her for failure. In the midst of the chaos, she finds surprising friends and allies. This volume is the first in a post-apocalyptic series called The Rogues and deservedly takes first place.

 

Action Adventure/Western/Epic Fiction: exploits, quest, expansive

These Healing Hills

THESE HEALING HILLS by Ann H. Gabhart (Revell) ~ When settling into the post WWII story of Francine Howard’s journey to the Appalachian Mountains to learn midwifery and help “catch babies.” One is almost immediately reminded of the classic tale of Christy. The settings, period authenticity, and characterization are very similar. The heroine’s focused, kind, and professional care for all the mountain residents despite differences and sometimes superstitious notions, and her growing love for the mountain makes for a wonderful story. All the judges felt they learned something more about an aspect of history: the Frontier Nursing Service. Most of the characters were vivid and lovable. The male protagonist was multi-dimensional and easy to become charmed by. Ms. Gabhart captures the “mountain speak” of the period without being over the top with her characters, and she has some beautiful dialogue as well as lines of description that sang off the page. We liked that the sense of mountain community is revealed little by little in an engaging way that allows the reader to grow attached to the people, just as the protagonist Francine did. The spiritual aspect in the story of learning to trust God in all circumstances is a common Christian fiction theme, which Ms. Gabhart weaves nicely into the tale so that it isn’t awkward, while the romance aspect of the story was gradual and gentle, and did not overwhelm the other aspects of the story. We would also like to give our compliments on the seamless editing of the book.

 

Young Adult: includes YA, NA, and middle grade

A Trail of Crumbs

A TRAIL OF CRUMBS by Susie Finkbeiner (Kregel Publications) ~This is a well written, original novel. There are so many positives about this book! The story was realistic and touching. There was some sadness and some very serious moments, but those were balanced out with humorous moments that made the reader smile and sometimes laugh out loud. Pearl dreaming about Momma leaving her baby was a very powerful scene. The message of God and His love was expertly woven throughout the story and was a real part of Pearl’s life. It was not preachy and yet the label Christian wasn’t just tacked on. 

 

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Grace Awards 2016 Winners ~ in Faith Based Fiction

Grace Awards Badge 2016The Grace Awards, a reader driven awards and the most democratic awards in Christian fiction, now in its seventh year, is very proud to announce its 2016 WINNERS. This year we had an array of widely diverse judges. They are multi-published authors, traditionally published ones, indie authors, and avid readers. Our judges commented on how pleased they were with the high quality of the finalists chosen by readers this year. Several judging teams ‘complained’ they had trouble picking a winner because all three stories nominated were so good. This only serves to justify the faith we have in our Christian readers who nominate the finalists. 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 showcase self-published works as well as titles from  publishing houses, ebooks as well as paperbacks. Our aim is to be an egalitarian award, and we believe we’ve accomplished this.

The winners are…

Women’s Fiction/General Fiction: serious women’s or men’s issues, can have humor and suspense element

You Are The Cream In My Coffee

YOU ARE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE by Jennifer Lamont Leo (Smitten Historical Romance) ~ The author has a lively writing voice and captivated the judges’ attention from the start. Set in the roaring twenties era, YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE was fresh and fun as small town girl, Marjorie Corrigan, is swept into the frenzied world of 1928 Chicago. The story has the usual cast of characters, stepmother, the hometown love and the exciting new man. We found ourselves rooting for Marjorie to follow her dreams yet fearful that she would succumb to the vices of the day. For a young woman who had sworn that coffee was the strongest drink that would pass her lips, the temptations were real. The author adroitly illustrated how easily we can let our guard down on the little things until we end up on the roof of a speakeasy being raided by the authorities. Jennifer Leo didn’t force the action but allowed it to evolve with interesting twists and she totally sold the story.

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

A Reluctant Melody

A RELUCTANT MELODY  by Sandra Ardoin (Heritage Beacon Fiction) ~ This beautiful story appeals to the heart. Though it started out slowly, we were never bored, but intrigued by the unfolding narrative, the promise of secrets to be revealed. We were soon gripped by the suspense, action, and strong undercurrent of romance, and drawn into the lives of the central characters. Though the subject matter is definitely mature, dealing with alcoholism, premarital sex, and spousal abuse, the writer keeps it clean. The interwoven spirituality inspires and encourages. We were very pleased with the ending—it’s not tied up in a pretty little bow—almost like real life.

Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller: crime fiction, there’s probably a body

Much Ado About Murder

MUCH ADO ABOUT MURDER by Barbara Ellen Brink (Lapdog Publishing) ~ is a well-written, entertaining cozy mystery. The characters are believable and feel like people you might know in your own town. Blake and Shelby are charming main characters, just the right mix of strengths and weaknesses to keep the pace moving and the plot plausible. Alice and Tucker provide a light, romantic thread while Jack and Oliver add a touch of humor. The setting is presented well and the mystery progresses at a steady pace that keeps the pages turning.

Speculative Fiction: science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.

The Alliance

THE ALLIANCE by Jolina Petersheim (Tyndale House Publishers) ~ This was a very enjoyable book. The use of literary techniques, together with strong, well-developed characters and an engaging premise, made for an interesting read. Unlikely partners were forced to form an “alliance’ of necessity, forcing readers to ask the question, “Would I be able to preserve my core values when faced with horror on every side?” This story expertly demonstrates the struggles that Christians face between religious traditional practice and selfless, Christ-like spirituality. While dystopian in presentation, the author’s focus was on the budding relationship between the two mismatched main characters. The book exemplifies the difficulty in maintaining human dignity despite destruction and possible death. A sequel is anticipated.

Action Adventure/Western/Epic Fiction: exploits, quest, expansive

Imperfect Bonds

IMPERFECT BONDS by Elizabeth Noyes (Write Integrity Press) ~ This novel  struck us as having well-formed, even complicated characters. They could be moody, funny, full of snap and wit, and sometimes just confused, like most people. The set up was immediate, and the sense of danger quickly drew us into the story. There were plenty of twists that kept us entertained and easily turning the pages. Likewise, good rising and falling action kept the plot moving forward, and the romance was smoldering without actually going anywhere beyond a kiss. The book was written from a clean and Christian world view without becoming preachy, and we liked that the main characters were on both spiritual and personal journeys. The theme of fighting human trafficking and the hunt for the bad guys made for an engaging, modern day western read.

Young Adult: includes YA, NA, and middle grade

No Safe Haven

NO SAFE HAVEN by Angela Moody (Amazon Digital Services) is a well-researched, well thought out, based on true events, historical novel for young people. A truly enjoyable book, especially to Civil War buffs. The history and spirituality of Tillie was naturally woven into the story. The war was made very real to the reader: people started out excited, but that excitement dwindled as loved ones were lost and battles were fought at home. Many young people are unaware of what our country has gone through in the past and just how gruesome and heartbreaking it was for the families who lived in the war zones and had sons and husbands off fighting often without communication for months at a time.  It was enjoyable watching Tillie grow and mature as a young woman, facing whatever came her way, even things that were out of her control. She stood up to do what was right and grew spiritually because of that.

 

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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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