Grace Awards

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And…the Grace Awards 2015 Finalists are…

Grace Awards

The Grace Awards 2015 is now into its sixth year. The number of novel readers nominated in each category were up significantly from last year.

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)

FREED TO FORGIVE by Julie B. Cosgrove (Prism Book Group) ~ Shackled by her past, can she be freed to forgive? Abused in her Mexican village, Marisol’s anger is her ticket to freedom in America or so she thinks. But her temper lands her in worse and worse situations. Trafficked and pregnant, she gives up her baby so it can have a better life. Now, ten years later her past returns to haunt her, just when she has caught the eye of Jesse, the one man who wants to know her…and not just her body. Marisol has struggled hard to disguise her past, but will the unforgiving spirit she harbors prevent her from embracing her future?

WATERS OF SEPARATION by Carol McClain (Desert Breeze Publishing) ~ Africa’s secrets resurrect the despair physician assistant Anna Haas buried in America. Her pregnancy and the discovery of boys bound by slavery in the cacao sector of the Côte d’Ivoire revive her childhood guilt. Her mother’s suicide claimed the lives of the two small sisters Anna had vowed to protect. Her failure to save them was unforgivable. It will not happen with these boys. Her interference prompts a corrupt government to threaten the thriving mission and the lives of Anna and her friends. Her action also threaten her marriage. However, doing nothing will destroy her.

ANNABELLE’S RUTH by Betty Thomason Owens ~ After their husbands perish in a fishing boat accident, Connie Cross determines to follow her mother-in-law, Annabelle, from Southern California to Tennessee. Her misgivings begin as they cross the bridge over the muddy Mississippi River. In their new town, where living conditions are far below their previous expectations, they must set up a household and hunt for work to survive. Thanks to the kindness of Annabelle’s handsome, young cousin, life begins to settle down. But Connie has a secret that could uproot them once again. Inspired by the Book of Ruth, Annabelle’s Ruth is a 1950’s era “Ruth” story, set in western Tennessee.

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

THE THORNBEARER by Pepper Basham (Vinspire Publishing) ~ When her fiancé leaves her eight months before their wedding, the unexpected blow ignites a battalion of insecurities stemming from her father’s intimate betrayal. Her worst fears are confirmed – who could ever love a soiled woman? Sam Miller is always making up for his best friend’s mistakes. Determined to help Ashleigh, he offers his compassion and protection as she ventures across a perilous sea. With the faint hope of renewing his lost love for Ashleigh’s sister, Sam never expects to find the woman of his dreams in his best friend’s former fiancé and his own childhood companion.

PLUM UPSIDE DOWN by Valerie Comer (GreenWords Media) ~ Green Acres newcomer Chelsea Riehl is annoyed she’s assigned to farm work alongside the only other single, a faith-filled hippie with a missionary vision.  She’d hoped to organize events and keep her heart safe, not pit plums with annoying Keanan Welsh. Discouraged by Chelsea’s lack of spiritual depth, Keanan is confused when she offers to arrange meals for the church Alpha program he is co-hosting. Maybe he misjudged her, after all.  When fake it ’til you make it gives way to stepping out in faith, both Chelsea and Keanan have some soul-searching to do. And while getting on the same page spiritually is a good start, other barriers may keep their budding romance from flipping right-side up.

BRIDGE OF FAITH by Catherine West (Amazon Digital Services) ~ Julia Connelly is finally free from twelve long years in an abusive relationship. Now able to live the life she’s longed for, Julia takes her two children back home to Vermont, hoping for peace and healing. The last person she expects to see is the man she eloped with at eighteen—who then abandoned her two months into their marriage, with little explanation. When an assignment in the Middle East ends in tragedy, popular news correspondent, Reid Wallace, returns to his hometown seeking answers and peace of mind. Confronting his past was not in the plan. Now he’s asking different questions. Like why the only woman he’s ever really loved still mesmerizes him. Why the haunted expression she wears reaches right into his soul. And why her twelve year-old son looks just like him. They say you can’t go home again. Sometimes you don’t have a choice.

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

NO PLACE TO HIDE by Lynette Eason (Amazon Digital Services) ~ It’s not every day you see your childhood friend and onetime crush on national news. Jackie Sellers just wishes it were under different circumstances. She can’t believe that Ian Lockwood is wanted in connection with a terrorist plot, and she’s determined to find him and help him clear his name. Unfortunately, she’s not the only one looking for him. The FBI wants him captured. The bad guys want him dead. Ian just wants to stay alive long enough to prove his innocence and prevent a catastrophe.

TRIAL BY TWELVE by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press) ~ Tess Spencer loves her low-key job at the Crystal Mountain Spa, which allows her plenty of down-time with her one-year old daughter and lawyer husband, Thomas. But when a pool installation turns up eight skeletons in the spa’s back yard, Tess becomes entangled in a sleuthing job destined to go awry. As the investigation gets underway, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia…a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey. When Tess agrees to help the cunning Detective Tucker gather clues from the inside, she discovers the posh spa hides more than dead bodies. Even as she sifts through layers of deceit, Tess realizes too late that the killer’s sights have zeroed in on her. As the investigation gets underway, someone dumps a fresh body near the excavated burial site, confirming unspeakable fears. A serial killer has returned to Buckneck, West Virginia…a skilled hunter with a unique taste in prey.

SABOTAGED by Dani Pettrey (Bethany House) ~ Growing up, goody-two-shoes Kirra Jacobs and troublemaker Reef McKenna were always at odds. Now, working together as search-and-rescue for Alaska’s arduous Iditarod race, a growing attraction seems to be forcing aside old arguments. Then Reef catches Kirra sneaking from camp in the middle of the night. Kirra’s uncle, a musher in the race, has disappeared. Kirra and Reef quickly track the man, but what they discover is harrowing: Frank’s daughter has been kidnapped. Kirra and Reef, along with the entire McKenna family, are thrown into a race to stop a shadowy villain who is not only threatening a girl’s life–but appears willing to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.

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

STORMING by K. M. Weiland (PenForASword Publishing) ~ In the high-flying, heady world of 1920s aviation, brash pilot Robert “Hitch” Hitchcock’s life does a barrel roll when a young woman in an old-fashioned ball gown falls from the clouds smack in front of his biplane. As fearless as she is peculiar, Jael immediately proves she’s game for just about anything, including wing-walking in his struggling airshow. In return for her help, she demands a ride back home . . . to the sky. Hitch thinks she’s nuts—until he steers his plane into the midst of a bizarre storm and nearly crashes into a strange airship like none he’s ever run afoul of, an airship with the power to control the weather. Caught between a corrupt sheriff and dangerous new enemies from above, Hitch must take his last chance to gain forgiveness from his estranged family, deliver Jael safely home before she flies off with his freewheeling heart, and save his Nebraska hometown from storm-wielding sky pirates.

ANGELHOOD by A.J. Cattapan (Vinspire Publishing) ~ Seventeen-year-old theater geek Nanette believes her life is headed toward stardom on Broadway. But when her dream theater college rejects her and her best friend dies in a terrible accident, Nanette decides the world would be better off without her. Unfortunately, the afterlife offers something less than a heavenly situation. Trapped between alternating periods of utter darkness and light, Nanette is stuck following a high school freshman around. Soon, she learns she’s a guardian angel, and the only way she can earn her wings is to keep her young charge, Vera, from committing the same sin she did—taking her own life. Unfortunately, Nanette is missing more than just her wings. She has no tangible body or voice, either. Frustrated by her inability to reach out to Vera and haunted by memories of her old life, Nanette wants to give up, but then she sees what happens when another Guardian at the high school turns his back on his charge. The shock is enough to supercharge Nanette’s determination. She’s going to find peace in the afterlife…as soon as she can convince Vera that living is what life is all about.

A NEW THREAT by Aaron DeMott (AltWit Press) ~ When an alien ship lands unexpectedly in the middle of her clan’s territory, Bast is sent to investigate as part of her scout trial. After an accident, she meets these new visitors. She and her senior scout Rrrark are invited to return with the aliens to their home planet to open diplomatic relations. What started out as a simple diplomatic mission becomes complicated when they discover a pirate scheme that might be more than it seems. Only Bast, Rrrark, and two of the aliens called Pysgens are capable of stopping the pirates.

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

SAVING ERIC by Joan Deneve (Write Integrity Press) ~  Templetons don’t break down. Even when their worlds are falling apart. Eric Templeton’s well-ordered life as a top CIA agent is shattered when a traitor within the agency plots to have him eliminated. Sent on a bogus mission to Africa, Eric is ambushed and critically wounded. A helicopter pilot flies him to a remote mission hospital where Dr. Brock Whitfield and his daughter, Ellie, work to save his life. If Eric survives, his life may never be the same, and he still has to deal with the traitor who wants him dead. Eric wants justice, but Brock and Ellie know that Eric’s survival is the least of his worries. What he needs most is mercy and truth.

TWO DAYS IN CARACAS by Luana Ehrlich (Potter’s Word Press) ~ Titus Ray faces a threat he never imagined. Can he overcome the obstacles and capture Ahmed Al-Amin before it’s too late? In this pulse-racing Christian thriller, CIA intelligence officer, Titus Ray, travels from Costa Rica to Venezuela in an effort to stop Ahmed Al-Amin, a Hezbollah assassin, from murdering a high-profile government official. Along the way, a family crisis jeopardizes his mission, and an Agency division head threatens to destroy his career. As the danger mounts, he’s forced to partner with an untested operative to complete the mission and bring Ahmed to justice. Will he make it in time?

A LADY FOR THE LAWMAN by Jewell Tweedt (Prism Book Group) ~ On special assignment from the White House to the Nebraska prairie… Crack undercover Pinkerton agent Jason Reynolds gets the toughest assignment of his career. Sent by President U.S. Grant to Omaha to capture a loco ex-soldier accused of stealing Jefferson Davis’ treasury gold, Jason falls for feisty shopkeeper Arianna Quincy. Trouble is, she’s not interested. When the lunatic grabs Arianna, Jason’s skills are put to the test. Can Jason get his man and his woman?

YOUNG ADULT: (including Middle Grade and New Adult)

TO GET TO YOU by Joanne Bischof (Mason Jar Books) ~ To get to the girl he loves, Riley Kane must head off on a road trip with the father he never knew. Then pray for a miracle. Most teens would love to have a pro surfer for a dad. Just not Riley. Abandoned as a kid, he hates the sound of the ocean and the man who gave himself to it. When the eighteen-year-old learns that his best friend is stranded at a New Mexico hospital as her father fights for his life, Riley hits the highway to head east. But when his Jeep breaks down before he even leaves California, he must rely on the one man he despises to get to the girl who needs him the most. And when it comes to the surfer with the Volkswagen van and dog-eared map, a thousand miles may–or may not–be enough to heal the past.

ROPED by DiAne Gates (Prism Book Group) ~ Thirteen-year-old Crissy Crosby chases a dream to live up to her parents’ rodeo legacy. But the rodeo championship is two months away and problems beyond her ability to solve stack and teeter like a game of Tumbling-Towers. Meanwhile rival Jodie Lea and her father, Ed Fairgate, contrive to swipe the silver buckles from Crissy’s grasp any way they can. Prejudice, anger, and dark secrets simmer in a pot of family feuds destined to boil over in a tragic nightmare at the rodeo. Will Crissy develop courage and faith to overcome the consequences of her temper? Will her dreams of buckles and titles become reality? Or will the character-building adversities of her life quash her dreams forever?

STONE AND SNOW by Sibella Giorello (Running Girl Productions) ~ Raleigh Harmon, teen geologist, has a seriously dysfunctional southern family, an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal codes, and a literally odd best friend named Drew Levinson. After surviving a terrifying experience, Raleigh’s ready to relax and enjoy the Christmas season with her new boyfriend. But her smart and kind classmate Sloane Stillman is suddenly found dead—by suicide. Only Drew refuses to believe it. Drew says science can prove Sloane didn’t kill herself. And the harder Raleigh tries to show Drew the truth, the more she herself questions the facts, and the people she once trusted. Christmas swirls in like a snowstorm, and Drew spirals downward, burying Raleigh under mountains of evidence about Sloane’s suicide, threatening to destroy everything, including Raleigh’s new relationship with her boyfriend. Desperate to put the pieces back together, Raleigh digs for answers, trying to uncover what really happened on that cold, silent night when Sloane Stillman lost her life.

 

 

 

Grace Awards 2013 Winners ~ In Faith Based Fiction

GA Winner Badge 2013The 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 2013 WINNERS. This year we had an array of widely diverse judges (multi-published authors, first time published authors, writers who specialize in areas of publishing other than fiction, a pastor, and in YA for the second year we had a youth expert who has an extremely popular family and educational blog).

In addition, 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. Our aim was to be an egalitarian award, and we believe we’ve accomplished this.

The winners are…

Beloved DaughterWomen’s Fiction/General Fiction: serious women’s or men’s issues, can have humor and suspense elements

THE BELOVED DAUGHTER by Alana Terry (Amazon Digital Services)

In THE BELOVED DAUGHTER, Alana Terry presents Chung-Cha, a young woman who is interred in one of North Korea’s notorious prison camps because of her family’s faith. In this meticulously researched novel, Terry gives readers everything a good novel should—a gripping story, an uplifting theme, encouragement in their own faith and exquisite writing—a story too real to be a simple novel. This tale sweeps us into a world of inhumanity in a geographic area largely ignored by the world. North Korea does everything in its power to destroy those who dissent from their “Beloved Leader.” Chung-Cha’s faith is tested and almost destroyed because of the brutality she faces. Throughout the book, the reader is awakened to the truth behind this dictatorship, yet hope always arises. The struggles the characters face show us the faithfulness of God; remind us that although our lives are hard, others have sacrificed everything for it. It imbues us with the courage the characters displayed. The ending could not be predicted and seamlessly offered a resolution both satisfying and heart rending. THE BELOVED DAUGHTER will leave you breathless. ~~ Judges: Deborah Kinnard (Team Leader), Christine Lindsay, Carol McClain

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

FINDING BETH by Linnette R. Mullin (CrossRiver Media Group)

When Beth Gallagher runs out of gas on a lonely highway, a door opens to her future before she’s entirely closed one on the past, and the past refuses to let go peacefully. FINDING BETH is both a suspenseful and layered romance with subplots that fill out the story without overwhelming it. Even while watching the hero and heroine fall for each other, there was enough emotional tension and suspension of certainty to keep hanging on to find out how it would happen and how they would overcome their major obstacles. Characters felt real and individual, and story twists built to a powerful dark moment for the main character. The reader will appreciated the way the author handled the thematic depth of the story and what happened in that dark moment. FINDING BETH deals with abuse on all levels — emotional, physical, and spiritual — and the scenes and character’s reactions rang true. While this is Christian fiction, the author pulled back in places that might have become too “preachy” and allowed events to unfold naturally, not offering total solutions, but the reality that the characters would continue to have to work out their faith. Some of the characters were left at the end still trying to overcome their issues, which was good. So often novels with such heavy themes give us the problems sewn up too easily. In FINDING BETH, we’re shown characters heading in the right direction and characters whose lives, like our own, are works-in-progress. As to the story’s main conflict, the antagonist was absolutely heinous! The author did a terrific job of describing the most intense and vicious  scene with just enough description to make us feel the heroine’s horror, and yet she used enough discretion to keep it readable. This is a very good romance, with well-fleshed characters and deep themes that lovers of women’s fiction will also appreciate. ~~ Judges: Naomi Musch (Team Leader), Joy Ross Davis, Betty Thomason Owens

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

THE RISING by Lynne Chandler Willis (Pelican Ventures Book Group-Harbourlight Books)

A young boy has been beaten to death, the extreme violence troubling homicide detective Ellie Saunders. When he suddenly comes back to life – a seeming miracle which Ellie is unable to accept on a spiritual level – the need to find the “killer” becomes desperate. Because the boy also can’t remember anything about himself. What if his parents did this to him? Ellie is desperate to uncover the boy’s past while making sure the one who assaulted him receives justice. The clues are minimal leading first one direction then another. To complicate matters, Ellie get assigned a new partner – Jesse Alvarez, someone with whom she has a history she’d rather forget. Jesse seems determined to protect Ellie and help figure out who is responsible for the little boy’s “death.” Much to Ellie’s irritation, Jesse accepts that the boy coming back to life is a God-thing. Ms. Willis keeps the pacing in this story flowing at a fast clip. The spiritual matters—ranging from believing in God to believing in miracles—are handled in a realistic, credible way. Though Ellie is the child of a minister, her doubts are authentic. She spends work time dealing strictly in facts but when it comes to dealing with family she’s at a loss in regards to her emotions. The reader is hooked on caring both for Ellie’s personal struggles as well as rooting for justice for the little boy. The whole story wraps up with a satisfying and convincing ending that lets the reader choose what to accept as explanation for the boy’s rejuvenation. The author presents relevant, contemporary issues in a non-preachy, non-offensive manner, giving both spiritual and worldly viewpoints and allowing the reader to examine his or her faith to form an opinion. The mystery is well-written, developed at a tempo consistent with romantic suspense. Overall, an enjoyable read! ~~ Judges: Tammy Doherty (Team Leader), Debra Marvin,  Peggy Blann Phifer

Merlin's BladeSpeculative Fiction: science fiction, horror, fantasy, etc.

MERLIN’S BLADE by Robert Treskillard (Blink)

MERLIN’S BLADE by Robert Treskillard is a fresh and welcomed retelling of the Merlin\Arthur story. Mr. Treskillard has done his research on the time period and it shows in wonderful detail. There is humor, romance, heroism, and a touch of the poetic. His Merlin is more approachable and human, as well as a bit less mystical than in other retellings. The author’s approach is refreshing and the ending leaves the door open for further exploration. ~~ Judges: Tracy Krauss (Team Leader), Tim Akers, DeEtte Beckstead Anderton

Burning SkyAction Adventure/Western/Historic Epic Fiction: exploits, quest, expansive

BURNING SKY by Lori Benton (WaterBrook Press)

BURNING SKY by Lori Benton is a captivating historical epic novel. The characters, even the secondary and minor ones, feel believable and authentic to the post-Revolutionary War period. Many of whom bear deep and painful scars due to the brutal battles on the frontier, with both the British and Americans having committed atrocities. Ms. Benton moves the characters from one element of the story to the next with great skill. The author did a superb job when Burning Sky, who had been captured by northern New York State tribes, returns home to her family’s cabin and transitions back to thinking and speaking more and more in English as she tries to resume her former identity as Willa Obenchein. Neil MacGregor and Joseph Tames His Horse, two very different men, with dissimilar strengths, both devout Christians, vie for the love of Willa/Burning Sky. The author does a marvelous job keeping the reader guessing how this love-triangle will turn out. The villains are not stereotypes, but rather are well fleshed out. One of them skillfully and horrifically manipulates events. While his younger brother, who has developmental challenges, is a touching character crafted with depth. ~~ Judges: Nike Chillemi (Team Leader), Kenneth G. Winters, Catherine West

The Revised Life of Ellie SweetYoung Adult: appeals to ages 14 to 21ish

THE REVISED LIFE OF ELLIE SWEET by Stephanie Morrill (Playlist Fiction)

THE REVISED LIFE OF ELLIE SWEET by Stephanie Morrill is delightful and engaging. The characters are fresh and well-developed to the point the judges became invested in their lives and wanted to continue reading to see how their story would end. Ellie Sweet is a teenager who turns to writing in order to express her feelings when she feels like an outsider. She weaves a fictional world that contains bits and pieces of her real-life struggles. With this creative outlet, she feels empowered and not so alone. ~~ Judges: Marcy Dyer (Team Leader), Deborah K. Anderson, Aileen Stewart

 

And…the Grace Awards 2013 Finalists are…

Grace Awards LogoWhat a ride it has been!!!

The Grace Awards 2013, now into its fourth year, had and avalanche of reader nominations to determine our finalists. The number of reader votes was 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 35 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) :

PAINT ME ALTHENA, Naomi Musch (Desert Breeze Publishing) Ava Day lost her way, abandoned her painter husband Ethan and their young daughters, convinced they’d be better off without her…and became “Althena.” She buried herself in painting fantasy-art while searching for herself, and moved in with a tattooed biker. Left alone to care for the girls, Ethan finds strength in his new faith. Danger brings Ava back to Ethan’s protection, but can the broken marriage and scarred family be saved?

THE BELOVED DAUGHTER, Alana Terry (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform) North Korean officials arrest a father, mother, and their 12 year-old daughter, Chung-Cha, for their Christian faith. The daughter is thrown into solitary confinement, tortured, and then is sent to a camp where even the slightest infraction of the rules is severely punished. Chung-Cha questions her faith. A Christian woman in the prison camp befriends the girl and she begins to renew her faith.

PILGRIMAGE OF PROMISE, Cathy Bryant (WordVessel Press) As Bo Miller faces stage four cancer, he and his wife Mona Beth face a dusty stack of unopened love letters forcing them to revisit a part of their lives they’d rather leave buried. Only as they retrace history will they learn the truth about the shattered promise that threatens to come between them. But can their relationship endure the deception and sabotage they unearth, or will the experience compel them to trust more fully in the promises that never fail?

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

RIVER OAKS PLANTATION, B.J. Robinson (B. J. Robinson)  Plantation manager,Noah Gautreaux, took vehicles to higher ground in order to escape a super hurricane, but will he make it back in time to save Amaryllis Camilla O’Brien  and his two “pet girls” who are still in the antebellum mansion? Amaryllis, who inherited the house from her grandmother, has discovered an old, yellowed diary in the house and she’s determined will survive the storm, along with herself and Noah’s beloved dogs.

WHERE HOPE STARTS, Angela D. Meyer (CrossRiver Media) New York City restaurant manager Karen Marina is fleeing to her Midwestern home after she loses her job and discovers her drunken and abusive husband is addicted to pornography. She’s struggling between a possible new boyfriend and forgiving the unforgivable when she discovers a secret that could tear her family apart while her angry brother is set on revenge.

FINDING BETH, Linnette R. Mullin (CrossRiver Media) Beth Gallagher’s brother died in a fatal accident, but warned her about Kyle before he passed away. After turning to Kyle in grief, she becomes engaged to him and only then discovers his dark side. In a state of confusion, she flees to the Smoky Mountains seeking God’s will, and discovers a new friend who helps her find answers. But what will it cost? Kyle is used to getting his way, no matter what. So when she returns with her new man, Kyle is furious.

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

MURDER AT WILLOW SHADE, Jean Kinsey (Desert Breeze Publishing) All Ashley Kennedy wants is to marry her childhood sweetheart and make a go of Willow Shade Stables, but her fiance Kyle gets cold feet and refuses to set a date. Then the builders unearth a skull while digging her basement. The skull is identified as an old adversary and the sheriff suspects Ashley’s mom, Maddy. Before her mom can be convicted, Ashley puts her life on hold and joins several of the town’s women in an investigation to prove Maddy’s innocence. To obtain evidence, the Fearless Five ladies bend the rules which law-abiding policemen dare not do.              .

THE RISING, Lynn Chandler Willis (Harbourlight Books)  Detective Ellie Saunders’s homicide investigation takes a dramatic turn when a young victim of a fatal beating “wakes up” in the morgue. The boy has no memory prior to his “rising” except walking with his father along a shiny road. Ellie likes dealing with facts. She’s not interested in any supernatural talk, but wants medical answers. Will her probing put her in danger?

BROKEN ALLEGIANCE, Mark Young (Mark Young Books) After seeking justice for more than ten years, as well as experiencing intense suffering due to the hit and run death of his young son at the hands of an unidentified gang-banger, Detective Tom Kagan is a broken man. What keeps him going is protecting his wife from an anonymous serious threat. Then a gang member thought to be “untouchable” is assassinated by his own gang. This throws Kagan into the middle of a viscous, internal gang war and places his friends and family at risk.

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

THE EARTH PAINTER, Mellisa Turner Lee (AltWitPress) Holly Scruggs has been corrected by her image conscious parents to the point of brokenness. When she discovers the boy in her high school drama class is actually the immortal who painted the world into being, she becomes the target of another painter who hates humanity.

MERLIN’S BLADE, Robert Treskillard (Blink). When a meteorite crashes near a small village in fifth-century Britain, it brings with it a mysterious black stone that bewitches anyone who comes in contact with its glow—a power the druids hope to use to destroy King Uthur’s kingdom. The only person who seems immune is a young, shy, half-blind swordsmith’s son named Merlin.     

SHENANDOAH NIGHTS, Lisa Belcastro (Oak Tara) The last thing sixth-grade teacher Rebecca O’Neill wants to do during the final week of her summer break is chaperone 25 kids on a one week trip aboard the schooner Shenandoah. But after a desperate phone call from the school principal, she doesn’t have a choice. Worse, the ship is rumored to be “haunted.” Five years ago, during another student cruise, the teacher-chaperone heard voices, saw visions, then disappeared without a trace-from the very same cabin where Rebecca will be staying.

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

CAPTURED BY MOONLIGHT, Christine Lindsay (WhiteFire Publishing)  After a daring rescue goes awry, Laine Harkness takes a nursing position at a plantation in the jungles of South India, only to discover that her abusive former fiance is the owner. Laine’s friend, Eshana, is captured by her traditional uncle and forced once more into the harsh Hindu customs of mourning, and doubts freedom will ever be hers again, much less the forbidden love that had begun to flower.                    

STEALING THE PREACHER, Karen Witemayer (Bethany House Publishers)  On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind–a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.                

BURNING SKY, Lori Benton (WaterBrook Press) The woman who had been known as Burning Sky was a colonial girl kidnapped by Indians before the American Revolution. She then returned to her childhood home after the war as an adult, but finds the situation not to be what she expected. On the border of her parents’ land, she rescues Neil McGregor, a Scots doctor from the East who is in the area to catalog the flora and fauna. Still more perplexing, she finds herself trapped between two worlds, and in a triangle of affection with Neil and the native Joseph. And what should she do when those she thought would support her efforts actively work against her and threaten her survival?

YOUNG ADULT (appeals to ages 14 – 21ish)

THE REVISED LIFE OF ELLIE SWEET, Stephanie Merrill (Novel Teen Press) Ellie Sweet is a good girl, novelist, silent adorer of hunky Palmer. When “outcast” gets added to the list, she decides on a bit of literary revenge. In her book, she’s Lady Gabrielle, of the Italian medieval court. Her once friends are reduced to catty ladies-in-waiting. Palmer is a rake wracked with unrequited love for her. Just as she’s enjoying her fictional world, in real-life things shift. Chase, from the wrong side of the tracks, wants to date her, and so does Palmer. Then her manuscript becomes public and her friends decide to teach Ellie a lesson about using her pen as a sword.

DIVING IN DEEP, Nora Ballew ( CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)  Just as her family’s troubles start to mount in their new home town, Kelly Eberly dives head first into a strict diet and rigorous swimming routine. Kelly wants nothing more than the “nice normal family” her mother talks about. Before long, even within the chaos that is the Eberly household, everyone is noticing her dramatic weight loss. Her aunt is praying. Her brother is lecturing. Even her new friends are studying her under a microscope. How thin is thin enough?

STOPPED COLD, Gail Pallotta ( CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)  Margaret McWhorter enjoys a laid-back Freshman year in high school flirting with Jimmy Willmore, swimming and hanging out with friends—until her brother, Sean, suffers a stroke from taking a steroid and is lying unconscious in a hospital. Margaret is angry at her dad for pushing Sean to be a great quarterback, but a fire of hatred burns inside her to make the criminals who sold the drugs pay. Looking for justice, she takes Jimmy and her best friend, Emily, through a twisted, drug-filled sub-culture where they overhear drug dealers discuss Sean. They are walking a treacherous path and even the cop on the case can’t stop them from investigating. All the while Margaret really wants to cure Sean, heal the hate inside of her, and open her heart to love.

     

Grace Awards 2011 Winners – in Faith Based Fiction

631The Grace Awards, the most democratic awards in Christian fiction, is very proud to announce its 2011 WINNERS. 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. 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…

When Sparrows Fall

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:

Goodbye Noel, Amazon

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

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

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

Action Adventure/Western/Historic Epic Fiction (exploits, quest, expansive):

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

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