Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays is a meme from Should Be Reading, where we answer three questions: What are you currently reading? What did you recently finish reading? and What do you think you'll read next? If you want to participate, answer the three questions, then put your link on the Should Be Reading Blog in the comment section. Happy reading!

          Comes a Horseman     Call Me Mrs. Miracle     Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food    

What I am currently reading: Comes a Horseman by Robert Liparulo - I compare this book to a Ted Dekker suspense/thriller novel. The plot is fast-moving and the antagonists are pretty scary. It shouldn't take me very long to read this 496-page book.

What I recently finished reading: Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber - I have enjoyed several of Mrs. Macomber's books, and this one is as good as all the rest. It was a delightful read for the holiday season.

What I'll probably read next: Made To Crave by Lysa Terkeurst - The subtitle to this book is "Satisfying Your Deepest Desire With God, Not Food." Looks like something I need to read. I will be reviewing this one in a few weeks.

Won't you tell me what you have been reading? Did you read any good Christmas books?

Also, think about your favorite reads of 2010. I will be sharing mine with you on January 1st, and I want you to tell me yours on that day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The 2010 INSPY Awards

Recognizing the need for a new kind of book award, the INSPYs were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.

Here are the 2010 INSPY Winners:

General & Literary Fiction:

Crossing Oceans
Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes

Crossing Oceans focuses on issues we must all face, such as life, death, relationships, and the choices we make when faced with our mortality. Through her protagonist, Genevieve “Jenny” Lucas, Holmes addresses these through Jenny’s final months of battling terminal cancer. Jenny makes difficult choices about her daughter’s future, and her own care and relationships. In the midst of this difficulty, Holmes places the message of faith very subtly throughout the narrative. She leaves her characters flawed and human, which makes them extremely relatable.

Creative Non-Fiction:

Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions
Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans

Evans’ Evolving in Monkey Town chronicles the author’s move from complete acceptance of the faith of her childhood, through a desolate period of questioning, arriving at a renewed conviction about the love of God. Interweaving her own tale with the views of people she meets, Evans juxtaposes all of the voices about God in her life. Evans’ honesty in telling her faith journey impressed us along with how much her love of the Lord imbued the entire narrative.

Historical Fiction:

She Walks in Beauty
She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

With carefully placed ephemera, a succinct sense of verisimilitude, in-depth characterization and a challenging historical context, She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell provides a moving look at the tarnished edge of America’s Gilded Age. While aligning with the subtle thematic thread that ties Mitchell’s previous historical novels together, She Walks in Beauty stands sufficiently on its own. She Walks in Beauty holds the widest appeal to readers of the CBA market and beyond. A steadfast faith is embedded into the plot seamlessly and not, instead, centered out as a forceful plot device. The novel’s inspirational resonance will reach Christian and non-Christian readers alike.

Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction:

The Knight (The Patrick Bowers Files, Book 3)
The Knight by Steven James

How does one (who has no Christian reference points) make that first step toward the Lord? Where does that first question about spirituality come from? How does the author make it believable? Steven James makes it believable. This question encapsulates many of the judges’ thoughts about Patrick Bowers as he struggles to solve a series of grizzly crimes in the INSPY Award winner for the Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction category. The literary skill employed by James creates a story that steals the reader’s sleep while also stealing their breath. Creating an unforgettable set of characters who face an unimaginable and escalating series of terrifying crimes, James captures both the imagination and heart of the reader as he spins his tale.

Speculative Fiction:

Green (The Circle Series)
Green by Ted Dekker

Green was an excellent addition to the short list, with lots of emotion, lots of plot, and deep characters. The allegory is strong throughout, with the juxtaposition of past/present and far future showing the importance and far-reaching consequences of the characters lives. Dekker did a fantastic job with character development, plot development and faith. The brilliance of Green is the fact that it is both the beginning and the end of the series. While discussions of faith in literature are not new, Dekker created a different way to start/finish a series. Who else has done that with a series? He did something completely unexpected with the ending of his book, while tackling the Christian faith from a different angle.

Amish Fiction:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,” Romans 12:2.

Plain Paradise is perfect for people who have never read Amish fiction before. The story line was interesting and it was easy to get involved with the characters. This book dealt with subject matter not normally found in Amish fiction, which made it a refreshing change. Wiseman explains the Amish culture without it being in your face, while being informative at the same time. This book shows that the Amish live their faith in God by example instead of simply ministering and witnessing to others. While the latter things are important, they remain separate from the English so their opportunities for ministering and witnessing to non-Amish are almost non-existent. This book is a reminder that our goal as Christians should be to minister and witness to the lost, but not everyone will take the time to listen to a sermon or a testimony. We should always be mindful that our light is shining, and that our lives are a living example of God’s grace and love.

Romance/Romantic Suspense:

Sons of Thunder (Brothers in Arms)
Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren

INSPY Award winning novels are books that possess exceptional literary qualities and respectfully grapple with some element of the Christian faith. The Romance/Romantic Suspense category was filled with outstanding choices and those of us on the panel found it a very difficult category to judge. We debated right down to the wire, but we’re confident we made the right decision. Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren is an epic story that spans a couple decades and takes place on several continents. The setting of this one swept us away. Warren took us from the Greek Isles to Prohibition-era Chicago, and back again, with enough description to make us feel like we’d lived in both places. She filled the book with rich detail, multi-layered characters, and plot twists we never saw coming. For these reasons, we feel Sons of Thunder deserves the 2010 INSPY Award for Romance/Romantic Suspense.

Young Adult Fiction:

Once Was Lost
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Once Was Lost authentically portrays Sam, a pastor’s daughter, grappling with her faith in the midst of personal upheaval and uncertainty. The pressures to be perfect that Sam and her parents experience and the expectations of judgmental church members are depicted well, and this story demonstrates that pastors and their families are just like many others, struggling to deal with unexpected tragedy and unfathomable pain and, at times, questioning God’s presence in the midst of suffering. Sam’s sadness and confusion, as she misses her mom and wrestles with her own faith and what she believes, is palpable. Teens will relate to this excellent and very real book that goes beyond a surface-level exploration of what it means to follow God.

For more information, go to the INSPY Award website.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 Christy Awards

In the spring of 1999, nearly a dozen Christian publishers confirmed the need for establishing a Christian fiction award to recognize novelists and novels of excellence in several genres of Christian fiction. By late summer, ideas and planning had come together to launch The Christy Award, named in honor of Catherine Marshall’s novel and of her contribution to growth of the fiction Christians love to read.

The Christy Award is designed to:

■Nurture and encourage creativity and quality in the writing and publishing of fiction written from a Christian worldview.

■Bring a new awareness of the breadth and depth of fiction choices available, helping to broaden the readership.

■Provide opportunity to recognize novelists whose work may not have reached bestseller status.

There are 9 categories in the Christy Awards: Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Series, Sequels, and Novellas, Contemporary Standalone, First Novel, Historical, Historical Romance, Suspense, Visionary, and Young Adult.

The Winners:

Contemporary Romance:

Breach of Trust (Call of Duty Series, Book 1)Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills (Tyndale House Publishers)

Paige Rogers, the kindly librarian of Split Creek, Oklahoma, has a secret. She’s a former CIA agent, the sole survivor of an attack on her team during a covert mission in Angola. Paige thinks that Daniel Keary, their leader at the time, caused the deaths of her friends. Knowing that someone wants her dead, too, Paige has stayed hidden in her quaint, quiet Oklahoma town for the past seven years.

But now, a stranger has come to town, and he’s asking a lot of questions. In addition to this, Keary has just announced his candidacy for governor of Oklahoma, and it’s time for him to finally destroy the major roadblock to his successful campaign—Paige.

This masterfully crafted suspense novel immediately hooks the reader with a pervasive sense of imminent danger. A real page-turner, Breach of Trust is the first book in Mills’ faith-based Call of Duty series.

Contemporary Series, Sequels, and Novellas:
(Book 2 in the House of Hope Series)

“Who Do I Talk To? is one of the strangest books I've ever read,” wrote Neta's editor after reading the manuscript. “Don't get me wrong, I loved it—love it! But seriously: It's about [Gabby Fairbanks] learning to walk in faith while homeless, trying to get her sons back from her conniving husband. And then her mom dies, and she [along with Jodi Baxter] drives the corpse across country in a casket in the back of a van with her homeless friend [Lucy] and Dandy the dog in tow.... And yet you pull it off beautifully. And I was so blessed by the journey.”

And now you are invited to come along for the ride!

As reviewer Lori Kasbeer wrote, “I believe a good author has you thinking about the book even when you are not reading it. Neta Jackson is that type of author. I found when I set the book down, I was often wondering why Gabby made certain decisions, what if she tried a different alternative. Who Do I Talk To? has unexpected twists and turns, but through it all you see God's hand moving in unexpected ways.”

For everyone who loves the best-selling Yada Yada Prayer Group novels, the Yada Yada House of Hope series features familair faces and places with a fresh new life all its own.

Contemporary Standalone:

The Passion of Mary-Margaret
The Passion of Mary-Margaret by Lisa Samson (Thomas Nelson)- Mary-Margaret yearned to dedicate her life to the Lord. Jesus had another idea.

When Mary-Margaret Fischer met Jude Keller, the lighthouse keeper's son, she was studying at a convent school on a small island off Chesapeake Bay. Destined for a life as a religious sister, she nevertheless felt a pull toward Jude--gorgeous, rebellious, promiscuous Jude. But Jude, driven by demons no one really understood, disappeared into Baltimore's seamy red-light district. Mary-Margaret moved on with her life, preparing to serve God with her sisters as a teacher and artist.

Then Jude comes home--but now he's bitter, dissolute, and diseased. And Mary-Margaret receives a divine call that shakes her to the core, a call to give up her dreams for the troubled man who befriended her so long ago. For Jesus' sake, can she forsake the only life she ever wanted for a love that could literally cost her life?

First Novel:

Fireflies in DecemberFor more infomation, visit the Christy Award site.

“The summer I turned thirteen, I thought I killed a man.”

So begins the story of Jessilyn Lassiter, a young girl whose world is torn apart the summer of 1932. When Jessilyn’s best friend, Gemma, loses her parents in a tragic fire, Jessilyn’s father vows to care for her as his own, despite the fact that Gemma is black and prejudice is prevalent in their southern Virginia town.

It doesn’t take long for the Lassiters to attract the attention of a local band of Ku Klux Klan members, who make increasingly violent threats on Jessilyn and her family.

As she struggles to navigate a complex world of first crushes, loyalties, and betrayals, Jessilyn ultimately discovers what it takes to be a bright light in a dark world.


Though Waters Roar

"Thank goodness you're such a plain child. You'll have to rely on your wits."

So went the words of Grandma Bebe. And for all of my growing-up years, I scoffed at the beauty of my sister and what I saw as her meaningless existence. But my wits hadn't served me well in this instance, for here I was, in jail. And while I could have seen it as carrying on the family tradition (for Grandma Bebe landed in jail for her support of Prohibition), the truth is, my reasons for being here would probably break her heart.

So how did I end up becoming a criminal? I've been pondering that question all night. Perhaps the best way to search for an answer is to start at the very beginning.

Historical Romance:

Silent Governess, The
The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen (Bethany House Publishers: a Division of Baker Publishing Group) - Olivia Keene is fleeing her own secret. She never intended to overhear his.

But now that she has, what is Lord Bradley to do with her? He cannot let her go, for were the truth to get out, he would lose everything--his reputation, his inheritance, his very home.

He gives Miss Keene little choice but to accept a post at Brightwell Court, where he can make certain she does not spread what she heard. Keeping an eye on the young woman as she cares for the children, he finds himself drawn to her, even as he struggles against the growing attraction. The clever Miss Keene is definitely hiding something.

Moving, mysterious and romantic, The Silent Governess takes readers inside the intriguing life of a nineteenth-century governess in an English manor house where all is not as it appears.


Lost Mission: A Novel

Among the dirt-poor barrios and ultra-wealthy enclaves lining the hills of southern California, a construction project unearths a long-lost Spanish mission. This discovery sets off a chain of events that presents four unrelated people—Reverend Tucker Lockwood, Concha Rivera, Delano Jones, and Detective Harmony Killeen—with difficult choices. In every case, a greater good could be served with a compromise of some basic moral value. Lockwood could steal to feed the poor. Delano Jones could lie—or at least bury the truth—to protect his monument to God's law. Concha Rivera, a Christian with a strong sense of mission, could trespass to preach the Gospel. Detective Killeen could betray her sense of legal responsibility to defend her family. It seems these devil's alternatives will inspire these modern people to perpetuate the very crime that left the mission buried and forgotten 250 years ago—a mystery that is gradually revealed through research into a mysterious triptych excavated at the mission site, as well as through historical flashbacks. At least two themes of magical realism appear repeatedly through the story. First is the appearances of Santos, a mysterious being characterized by a crooked nose, in both the contemporary and historical storylines. And second, the gradual appearance of faces on the triptych as the story's four protagonists—often with the help of a mysterious Hispanic man with the crooked nose—decide whether they will repeat the mistakes of the past.


By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings, Book 1)
By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson (Marcher Lord Press) - Half of Er’Rets is locked beneath an impenetrable shroud. On the side that still sees the sun, two young people struggle to understand the mind-communication abilities thrust upon them. It’s called bloodvoicing. Some say it’s a gift. One of the newly “gifted” wish it had never come.

Achan has been a slave all his life. He is consigned to the kitchens of a lord and forced to swallow a foul potion every day. When an enigmatic knight offers to train Achan for the Kingsguard, he readily accepts. But his new skills with the sword do not prepare him for the battle raging between the voices in his head.

Vrell Sparrow is not who she seems. She masquerades as a boy to avoid capture by the powerful forces that seek to exploit her. But Vrell feels called to help a young squire who recently discovered his bloodvoicing gift, even if doing so requires her to work with those who could destroy her.

While Achan learns to use his new ability, Vrell struggles to shut hers down. All the voices strive to learn Achan and Vrell’s true identities—and a different kind of voice is calling them both.

Young Adult:

North! Or Be Eaten: Wild escapes. A desperate journey. And the ghastly Fangs of Dang.
North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)- Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby thought they were normal children with normal lives and a normal past. But now they know they’re really the Lost Jewels of Anniera, heirs to a legendary kingdom across the sea, and suddenly everyone wants to kill them.

In order to survive, the Igibys must flee to the safety of the Ice Prairies, where the lizardlike Fangs of Dang cannot follow. First, however, they have to escape the monsters of Glipwood Forest (1), the thieving Stranders of the East Bend (2), and the dreaded Fork Factory (3).

But even more dangerous are the jealousies and bitterness that threaten to tear them apart, and Janner and his siblings must learn the hard way that the love of a family is more important than anything else.

1. All possessing very sharp teeth.
2. Murderous scoundrels, the lot.
3. Woe!


Tomorrow: The INSPY Awards.