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And…the Grace Awards 2016 Finalists are…

Grace Awards

The Grace Awards 2016 is now into its seventh year. This year, the number of reader nominations kept pouring in and we were eager to count them. We had a record number of novels nominated. Works from major publishers, small publisher, and independent author were nominated.

Grace Awards is a reader driven literary awards. We are “the little engine that could” of Christian fiction awards.

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 critique. 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, societal issues, can have humor and suspense elements)

LAND OF SILENCE by Tessa Afshar (Tyndale House Publishers) ~ Elianna is a young girl crushed by guilt. After her only brother is killed while in her care, Elianna tries to earn forgiveness by working for her father’s textile trade and caring for her family. When another tragedy places Elianna in sole charge of the business, her talent for design brings enormous success, but never the absolution she longs for. As her world unravels, she breaks off her betrothal to the only man she will ever love. Then illness strikes, isolating Elianna from everyone, stripping everything she has left.

INCONCEIVED by Sharyn Kopf (LoJo Publishing) ~ Realizing you’re a spinster is one thing; understanding what that means and how to handle it is another. And it would seem Jolene, Uli and Catie still have a ways to go before they truly comprehend what God is trying to show them not only in their desire to marry but in their longing to have children of their own.

YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE by Jennifer Lamont Leo (Smitten Historical Romance) ~In 1928, Chicago rocks to the rhythm of the Jazz Age, and Prohibition is in full swing. Small-town girl Marjorie Corrigan, visiting the city for the first time, has sworn that coffee’s the strongest drink that will pass her lips. But her quiet, orderly life turns topsy-turvy when she spots her high school sweetheart–presumed killed in the Great War–alive and well in a train station. Suddenly everything is up for grabs.

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

A RELUCTANT MELODY by Sandra Ardoin (Heritage Beacon Fiction) ~ Kit Barnes’ drinking ruined more lives than his own. Now sober, he wants to make amends by opening a mission for drunkards. The most suitable location belongs to Joanna Cranston Stewart, a love from his sordid past and the one person he hurt the most. A pariah among her peers, Joanna is all too eager to sell her property and flee the rumors that she sent her late husband to an early grave. But she will let the gossips talk and the walls of her rundown property crumble around her before she’ll allow Kit back into her life.

THE PROMISE OF RAYNE by Nicole Deese (Waterfall Press) ~  Rayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.

CLOSE TO YOU by Kara Isaac (Howard Books) ~ Allison Shire is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happy eveer after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree as a tour guide at a theme park featuring scenes in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. Now he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan.

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

MUCH ADO ABOUT MURDER by Barbara Ellen Brink (Lapdog Publishing) ~ Blake and Shelby Gunner’s plans to renovate the old boathouse go awry when murder comes calling…Autumn in Port Scuttlebutt usually means a stormy Lake Superior, crisp temperatures, vibrant fall colors, and an invasion of deer hunters. This year, there’s also a shallow grave. Someone killed Pete Dugan’s ex-wife and planted her under his woodpile. The police consider him the obvious suspect, but the Gunner’s have other ideas. What does the death of a pet squirrel, the sighting of a mysterious car, a break-in at the bed & breakfast, and the reappearance of three ex-cons into the community have to do with the murder of a middle-aged legal assistant?

A LESSON IN LOVE AND MURDER by Rachel McMillian (Harvest House Publishers) ~ The city of Toronto has been thrown into upheaval by the arrival of radical anarchist Emma Goldman. Amid this political chaos, Benny Citrone of the Royal North-West Mounted Police arrives at Merinda and Jem’s flat, requesting assistance in locating his runaway cousin—a man with a deadly talent. While Merinda eagerly accepts the case, she finds herself constantly butting heads—and hearts—with Benny. Meanwhile, Jem has her hands full with a husband who is determined to keep her out of harm’s way.

MISCONCEPTIONS by Colleen Scott (Castle Gate Press) ~ It’s the near future. Dominique, an investigative TV news reporter, is sent to solve a mystery: why the birthrate in the United States has dropped precipitously … everywhere except a few small pockets. Undercover at an Ohio hospital, she sidesteps oddly incompetent police and finds herself in a stew of kidnappings and murder threats. Her investigation takes a radical turn when she meets Dr. Joseph Armstrong. His attention makes her heart flutter, but his theory about the birthrate decline makes her heart stutter. It’s too strange to even consider.

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

ASCENT OF THE NEBULA by DJ Edwardson ( Girrafix Media)  ~ With the Developers’ plans to reengineer the human race in disarray, this may be the one chance Adan and the Sentient renegades have of saving the their world. Using the chronotrace, a device capable of looking back into time, Adan discovers their next point of attack. But a window to the past can’t prepare him for what the future has in store.

ACOLYTE by Keven Newsome (Splashdown Darkwater) ~ The FBI have never been this close to trapping Xaphan and they need Winter’s help to set their dangerous plan in motion. But Xaphan is weaving a trap of his own. The Acolyte is unleashed…a demon, slaughtering its way to Sandy and haunting Winter with memories she would rather forget.  As her past threatens to tear apart the present, driving those she loves to turn against her, she must now face a far worse enemy alone…Herself.

THE ALLIANCE by Jolina Petersheim ( Tyndale House Publishers) ~ When Leora Ebersole sees the small plane crash in her Old Order Mennonite community, she has no idea it’s a foreshadowing of things to come. Soon after the young pilot, Moses Hughes, regains consciousness, they realize his instruments were destroyed by the same power outage that killed the electricity at the community store, where Englischers are stranded with dead cell phones and cars that won’t start. Moses offers a sobering theory, but no one can know how drastically life is about to change. With the only self-sustaining food supply in the region, the Pacifist community is forced to forge an alliance with the handful of stranded Englischers in an effort to protect not only the food but their very lives.

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

THE BATTLE OF SEATTLE by Doughlas Bond (P&R Publishing) ~ It’s 1855 in the Pacific Northwest, and hostility between white settlers and native tribes is rising quickly, leading to deaths on both sides. As tensions mount, young William Tidd joins Charles Eaton’s Rangers on a mission to hunt down Chief Leschi of the Nisqually. If they can stop him, they may be able to end the bloodshed before it gets worse . . . but not everyone wants peace with the enemy. Is all-out war inevitable? Through skirmishes, raids, close calls, and betrayal—William’s assumptions, beliefs, courage, and friendships will all be challenged in a few breakneck weeks.

COUNTER POINT by Marji Laine (Write Integrity Press) ~ Someone is determined to finish a murdered hit man’s final assignment. Her former boyfriend, Ray Alexander, returns as a hero from his foreign mission, bringing back souvenirs in the form of death-threats. When several attempts are made on Cat’s life, she must find a way to trust Ray, the man who broke her heart. Keeping Cat safe from a fallen cartel leader might prove impossible for Ray, but after seeing his mission destroyed and several godly people killed, he knows better than to ignore the man’s threats.

IMPERFECT BONDS by Elizabeth Noyes (Write Integrity Press) ~ Cassidy Cameron’s life is in a tailspin. She’s lost her driver’s license and any hope of a new job. Worse, the arrogant town deputy who stole her heart wants more than she’s willing to give … or is she the one who wants more from him? And now she’s being threatened by a pair of unsavory ruffians. Deputy Derek Naughton is stumped and aggravated by a series of malicious pranks around the county. He pulls out his guns instead when Cassie stumbles into a maelstrom of illegal arms deals, illicit drugs, and human trafficking.

YOUNG ADULT: (including Middle Grade and New Adult)

THE REVOLT by Douglas Bond ( P&R Publishing) ~ In his short career as a battle secretary, Hugh West’all has come close to death many times. But when he leaves the war behind to enter the hallowed halls of Oxford, he meets John of Wycliffe and soon embarks on a mission even more exciting—and perhaps just as dangerous. Using his scribe’s quill to translate the Bible into English, the language of the common people, Hugh begins to understand the beauty of the gospel as never before. But he and his friends are up against the corrupt monolith of the medieval church, and it will stop at nothing to crush Wycliffe’s work.

NO SAFE HAVEN by Angela Moody (Amazon Digital Services) ~ Tillie Pierce is a thoughtful, fifteen-year-old young woman, living with her family in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It’s 1863, and the Civil War is touching every town and home with tragedy. Tillie’s is no exception. She has two brothers fighting in the war, but she receives news that it’s her sister’s sweetheart who has died defending his country against Confederate forces. This shatters Tillie’s faith—she finds it impossible to believe that God, in all of his sovereignty, would allow such horrors to take place.

6 DATES TO DISASTER by Cynthia T. Toney (Write Integrity Press) ~ For her mom’s birthday, Wendy finds an old jewelry box at a flea market–the perfect gift for someone who loves salvaged junk. Inside the box is a cryptic note that appears to have been written recently. Wendy’s curiosity leads her on a search for who wrote it with boyfriend David at her side, eager to help. But Wendy needs more personal and urgent help–the financial kind. Wendy’s stepfather has lost his job, and the family’s plan to visit Alaska is now off. How will Wendy ever see Mrs. V or Sam again? An opportunity arrives in the form of tutoring Melissa, one of the Sticks, and Wendy’s money problems appear to be solved. Until the arrangement takes a turn that gets Wendy into trouble like never before.

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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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