2016 INSPY Award Winners

INSPYs 2016-INSPY Winners Feature

Following careful consideration, our incredible judging panels chose the 2016 INSPYs award winners in our seven respective categories. Following months of reading (by the Advisory Board and later, our judging panels), planning, author interviews and emails in access, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2016 INSPY Award Winners.

Below are the seven winning novels in their respective categories and a statement from our judges on the reason why they felt it was worth the award…


CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE / ROMANTIC SUSPENSEBook - The Dandelion Field

The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer: In a category full of wonderful contemporary romances, we had a tough choice to make! Ultimately though, The Dandelion Field by Kathryn Springer stood out from the rest with its character growth and true-to-life issues as well as the author’s expressive way with words. Each character in the story was intriguing – from Gin and her daughter Raine, to firefighter Dan and Raine’s boyfriend Cody, to Dan’s big crazy family, Cody’s mom Evie, and even Gin’s coworkers. The romance between Dan and Gin was sweet and built slowly (but not too slowly), and the obstacles between them felt genuine, rather than just thrown in to create conflict. The relationship between Cody and Raine also felt real and sincere. Throughout this novel, Springer deftly dealt with true-to-life issues like single parenthood, teen pregnancy, poverty, and judgment within the church, showing how God can work through the hard things in life to bring healing and beauty. Really, that “realness” is what makes The Dandelion Field a perfect expression of the Inspy Awards’ mission statement, and it’s why we chose it for the 2016 award for Contemporary Romance.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH KATHRYN SPRINGER

DEBUT FICTION

JadedJaded by Varina Denman: Representing the best in debut fiction, Varina Denman’s Jaded is a complex contemporary novel that goes against the security most in its genre exhibit. The faith issues it wrestles with, the efficient snapshot of small-town living, and the quiet yet meaningful prose collide to create a story with depth. The romance is refreshing, not because of the opposition it presents, but because of the characters. Its heroine, Ruthie is a beautifully flawed and relatable character, whose fall from grace makes the lessons of forgiveness impacting, a theme that will stay with the reader long after the final page.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH VARINA DENMAN

GENERAL FICTION

Book - Secrets She KeptOur panel chose Secrets She Kept as winner of the General Fiction INSPY award for its deep emotional impact and for the subtly powerful way its theme of forgiveness is threaded into the story. We loved the way the dual timelines interwove and built on each other as secrets from the past were gradually revealed to modern day characters and to readers. Gohlke’s vivid storytelling and close attention to historical detail immersed us in the historical time period with Lieselotte, even as we discovered with Hannah just how profound an impact the past can have on the present. We found the lead characters endearing, and gladly cheered them on – Hannah toward self-discovery and a better understanding of her mother, and Lieselotte in her perseverance in following her conscience despite danger, betrayal, and hardship. The story as a whole impressed us all, and we are delighted to give the INSPY to this title.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CATHY GOHLKE

HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Through-Waters-DeepThrough Waters Deep by Sarah Sundin: Through Waters Deep was an inspiring story about two individuals who learn that they’re stronger together while trusting in God than they are going it alone. Loveable characters, some suspense and danger, an historical setting the comes alive, sweet inspirational moments, and a romance that builds from friendship, all combine to make a masterly woven story that is engaging from beginning to end. Perfect for Historical Christian Romance readers!Book - An Uncertain Choice

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH SARAH SUNDIN

LITERATURE FOR YOUNG ADULTS

An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund: An Uncertain Choice stands out with a breathlessly tangible medieval setting, vividly described characters that are constructed in such a way that invites readers to know them better with every page. The writing, the characters, and the romance; every nook and cranny of An Uncertain Choice was flawless! Every page is a masterpiece of relatable storytelling as expressed through its impactful POV. Beyond its beautiful prose, An Uncertain Choice boasts a delicious romance, with three dreamy and chivalrous knights (!).The novel has everything and more any reader could want in the YA historical, or any fictional world, genre!

Book - The Bones will SpeakMYSTERY / THRILLER

The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks: We chose The Bones Will Speak because it draws readers in from the very beginning. Opening a suspense novel should involve a riveting and twisting plot that will hold reader’s attention until the final page. The Bones Will Speak provided just that. Its suspense is top notch, but the main character Gwen Marcey is what keeps us flipping the pages. The nail-biting suspense keeps readers engaged and the shroud of mystery surrounding the real culprit keeps the whodunit a guessing game. Fine writing, complex characterization and a great story make this book a winner.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH CARRIE STUART PARKS

SPECULATIVE FICTION

9780764213465The Shock of Night by Patrick Carr: This novel seamlessly combined the best of fantasy and mystery to create a unique story all its own. The complex tale described a world very much like our own: a nation grown complacent in its undeserved blessings, flawed characters who sometimes failed despite their good intentions, and yet, also, the redemptive work of God through his servants. The protagonist is a man mired by doubts and fears but unbroken by the darkness around and within him. Instead, he pours his heart out in honest, broken prayer, and takes the example of his Lord to heart by striving against the odds to bring good into a world that often does not recognize it. Engulfing twists, delightful wit, and authentic discussions of tough moral quandaries make The Shock of the Night a book not to be missed.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK W. CARR


We’d like to thank our judges for their hard work and careful consideration of each title.

Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors! 

2015 INSPY Award Winners

After our panel of judges careful consideration, the INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2015 INSPY Award Winners. Below are the seven winning novels in their respective categories and a statement from our judges on the reason why they felt it was worth the award…

Book - Miracle in a Dry SeasonDebut: Miracle in a Dry Season (Bethany House) by Sarah Loudin Thomas: 
We chose Miracle in a Dry Season not only because of the talent of the author, but because it is a unique and engaging story. A refreshing tale of miracles, love, and laughter set in the 1950s, Sarah Loudin Thomas pens an intriguing take based around the miracle of Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. Through the story, characters – led primarily by a male character, Casewell, and events we gain a deeper understanding of faith and what it means to embrace the gifts and blessings God has given us.
Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense: Meant to Be Mine (Bethany House) by Becky Wade: Book - Meant to be Mine

Meant to Be Mine by Becky Wade is the epitome of Christian romance. The chemistry between Ty and Celia is fabulous, and we could feel the sparks in every interaction between them! While the romance is spectacular, this book has so much more to offer. Beautifully written, it is an emotional experience in the best way. Wade’s descriptions of the characters brought them to life, and their relational, emotional, and spiritual journeys rang true. The other four novels in this category are wonderful, but Meant To Be Mine’s excellence is unable to be denied.

 

saving amelieGeneral Fiction: Saving Amelie (Tyndale) by Cathy Gohlke: 

What a challenge, to pick one winner from five fabulous titles including Biblical, historical and contemporary fiction. We are delighted to announce the winner of the 2015 INSPY Award for General Fiction is Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke, which impressed us all with its complex characters, fascinating historical detail, and bold yet subtle Christian message. The story is set in Germany in the early days of World War II, and plot centres on rescuing the deaf Amelie, from her father and from a regime which prized “perfection” over the sanctity of life. The characters face danger, hardship and uncertainty over the course of this thought-provoking and sometimes harrowing read. We were particularly impressed with the sensitive way Gohlke showed how God can use ordinary people in the bleakest of circumstances.

Book - Mark of DistinctionHistorical Romance: Mark of Distinction (Tyndale) by Jessica Dotta: 

We chose Mark of Distinction because it exemplifies the historical romance genre and confronts unique spiritual themes. Jessica Dotta has woven a story with a captivating setting and characters. The writing style and mystery of the plot draws the reader from the beginning into a Victorian society of restraint, secrets, and consequences. At its center is the theme of full surrender and trust in God. With complex characters and a unique voice, the story unfolds with unexpected twists and romance.

Book - Storm SirenLiterature for Young Adult: Storm Siren (Thomas Nelson) by Mary Weber:

Our panel decided to choose Storm Siren as the winner for the YA category. Nym deals with insecurities about her elemental powers and wondering why she was born with such a curse. This makes Nym relatable to young women all over the world and from every generation – we have all dealt with insecurities at some point in their lives. To see Nym have to come to terms with how she was created and to use those powers for the greater good shows tremendous character growth. Another reason we chose Storm Siren was because of the amazing and magical world that Mary Weber created. World building is one of the first things in a Fantasy novel that draws you into the story. Oh…and who doesn’t love a map inside their book!Book - A.D. 30

Mystery/Thriller: A.D. 30 (Center Street) by Ted Dekker:

A.D. 30 is a fast-paced adventure that keeps you turning the pages until the very end. Ted Dekker delivers a powerful, faith-filled story that brims with perils – each with their own kind of mystery and suspense, struggles, and most importantly hope. Dekker takes us on a journey to Jesus through the eyes of the daughter of Maviah, a gentile and an outcast, readers rediscover the message of Yeshua, experiencing it as never before. Dekker masterfully conveys the depth of God’s love for us — a knowledge we often hold in our heads, but fail to carry in our hearts. Warring kingdoms, power-thirsty adversaries, and fickle rulers are only a few of the obstacles in Maviah’s journey that keep the reader flipping pages. Whether she will succeed in her quest is a mystery. An uplifting and simple message, encased in a sweeping historical epic, is the primary reason it was selected A.D. 30 to be the winner of this year’s INSPY award.

Speculative Fiction: Spirit Bridge (Thomas Nelson) by James L.Rubart:

Book - Spirit BridgeSpirit Bridge is a brilliantly written story that was thought provoking and yet easy to follow as a standalone novel, though it is the third and final book in the Well Spring series. The story-world was populated with an excellent group of lead characters who were complex and easily relatable in their struggles in both the physical and spiritual realms. Their struggles challenge the reader to examine aspects of their own lives.  The story’s message, dying to self and keeping the enemy from gaining a foothold, was clear throughout, not getting lost in the suspense and action of the story. Spirit Bridge fully satisfies the reader’s expectations of the genre. It is a powerful spiritual thriller, with the speculative elements underpinning the novel and not requiring any further explanation to better understand it. Spirit Bridge is very worthy of the INSPY for Speculative Fiction.

 

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We’d like to thank our judges for their hard work and careful consideration of each title.

Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors! 

2014 INSPY Award Winners

The INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2014 INSPY Award Winners:

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense:

Barefoot Summer Book ArtBarefoot Summer by Denise Hunter is the quintessential definition of Christian Romantic Fiction. The writing style is in a word lovely, with perfect pacing and wonderful descriptions. Barefoot Summer played like a movie in our heads. Denise created characters with flaws and very real emotions that kept us invested in their story and engaged with each new scene. Not just with the main characters, but the other plot lines as well. While the other four novels were great reads this one climbed it’s way to the top. Barefoot Summer truly is the perfect Summer read, and for many more Summers to come.

Debut: 

Katherine Reay’s contemporary epistolary, Dear Mr. Knightley is one of the most brilliant character studies to come about in literature in years. Book - Dear Mr. KnightlySometimes you are given a gift that everyone assures you will be delightful but you aren’t entirely sure the contents will be to your liking. This is a book where the hype holds up. All the references to classical literature – from Great Expectations to Austen to Narnia, could have made the novel seem detached, but Reay uses them with such talent and creativity, you understand the characters on a deeper level because of them and because Dear Mr. Knightley’s heroine was less “figment” and much more, real. Above all, those qualities are this debut’s crowning glory – it’s more than just an expert piece of fiction. Not only is Dear Mr. Knightley the perfect debut, it’s a must read for any lover of classics, particularly Jane Austen.

16033233General Fiction: 

The field of nominees for the General Fiction category had some of the best books we have read this year, making this year’s selection process difficult indeed. After a lot of in depth discussion, we are awarding the Inspy to Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes. A moving account of a woman’s struggle with self in the face of spousal abuse, this novel will touch your heart and soul. Powerfully personal, beautifully written, with highly relatable characters, Gina Holmes’ novel presents a message of love and hope that Jesus always offered to everyone He met.


Historical Romance: 

???????????????????A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund is an exceptional piece of Christian fiction based upon real events. The rich historical and cultural setting are characters in their own right, making the story come to life. The characters portray authentic growth as the story progresses, as well as an undeniable romantic tension present throughout, encouraging the reader to keep turning the pages. This beautiful story weaves in themes of trust, redemption, and the importance of having a relationship grounded in God, while emphasizing the importance of hope, forgiveness, and sacrificial love. Jody Hedlund is a skilled writer and her work displays the best of historical romance, both entertaining and speaking to the heart.

Literature for Young Adult: CaptivesSafeLands

Captives was a compelling and thought-provoking novel. Jill Williamson’s writing style, vivid imagery and intriguing plot keeps you on the edge of your seat. Captives also has insightful commentary on society. There was a large variety of characters with the light of the believers clearly contrasting the darkness and depravity of the society around them. Captives beautifully illustrates the bigger picture and how important it is to stand up for your beliefs. Thought-provoking and page-turning, Captives was not only far more than your typical YA dystopian story, but definitely one of the top YA novels of 2013.

Mystery/Thriller: The King

The King is suspense at its best and challenges readers to really think – what is our definition of a hero?  The author weaves a thread of faith throughout the novel that infused the story with hope, reminding us Who ultimately holds control and provides meaning when the journey becomes rough; captivating plots, intriguing characters, and twists at every turn immerse the reader deep into the tale. These characters: Patrick, Lien-hua, and Tessa held our heart and made us cheer for them. The writing was superb; this is definitely an author who knows how to write suspense while also endearing his readers to his characters. The story does not let you go. The King is a thought provoking read as much as it was a page turner…one to definitely be read with the light on!

anomalySpeculative Fiction:

Anomaly by Krista McGee featured fully developed characters exploring a world of both tragedy and hope. Details were revealed as they were needed, never intruding or halting the narrative but flowing alongside it. The protagonist Thalli is a heroine who learns to love without being defined it, combining creativity and logical reasoning, and able to eventually make her own choices while remaining compassionate to the needs of others. No easy answers are offered to the challenges she and the other characters face; instead, Thalli’s growing relationship with God gave her the ability to see past her fear and make choices not based on her own needs but those of others. The stark, first-person prose captured exactly what a young teen thrust in such situations might feel, neither drowning in the emotion nor ignoring it, but letting the reader truly live through another’s eyes.

Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors! 

2013 INSPY Award Winners

The INSPYs Advisory Board is pleased to announce the 2013 INSPY Award Winners:

10092908General Fiction: The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth (Tyndale House Publishers, July 2011)

The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones (Tyndale House, 2011) is a real and compelling story. Many facets of this novel made it shine brighter than the other four fine books in this category: fresh characters, contemporary setting, and the author’s ability to inspire her readers to reach deep into their souls, showing the pain of loss, the turmoil of recovery, and the hope of love. After spending time in Jones’ garden, the reader is left with a new look on faith and life. From the poignant symbolism of its title to the true-to-life issue of faith, The First Gardener exceeds every requirement of the INSPY awards, and we are happy to select it as this year’s winner.

9858514Literature for Young People: With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 2011)

With a Name Like Love is a family story with a great plot – a murder to be solved, friendships to resolve, and family decisions to be made – and excellent, heart-grabbing characters. Olivene Love’s daddy is a traveling preacher, as was his daddy before him and his daddy before him, ”all the way back to the time of Moses.” Ollie herself is a good girl, typical oldest child. Ollie’s mama, Susanna Love, is “like living poetry” as she welcomes the people who come to their revival meetings. Ollie’s sisters – the pessimist who gets things done, the daddy look-alike longing to become a preacher like him, the simple-minded but graceful girl who almost has the dictionary memorized, and the eager-to-please baby of the family – fill out this wonderful and down-to-earth family.  Together, the Love family has a character and winsomeness all their own, rivaling other great families of literature such as the the Marches, the Melendys, or the Moffats. With a Name Like Love doesn’t look like much at first, but it is a surprisingly touching – and sometimes tearful – story about family and friends that will appeal to both boys and girls of all ages.

11800313Mystery & Thriller: Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing Group,  a division of LifeWay Christian Resources, 2012)

Written in three unique yet strong female voices, Gone to Ground kept us guessing til the end. With a thoroughly engaging plot, realistic action and believable characters, this is a book we would recommend to anyone regardless of genre preferences. Gone to Ground went above and beyond the Inspy guidelines in terms of literary merit, and though it is categorized as “Christian Suspense/Thriller” Gone to Ground is far-reaching in its appeal to any type of reader.

13511401Romance: The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann (Bethany House Publishers a division of Baker Publishing Group, January 2012)

Irrespective of the category The Breath of Dawn was judged by, don’t let that fool you; this novel is much more than just a romance. It’s full of excitement, challenges and a heart-tugging romance that blossoms under the sanctity of marriage. Kristen Heitzmann deftly balances romance, suspense, history and a much-needed spiritual message without letting any element suffer out of respect to another. The romance between Quinn and Morgan is tender, yet blossoms into something more passionate over the course of the story. The growing relationship between our hero and heroine is believable, and assisted by fleshed-out secondary characters who begin to feel like family by the end of the novel. Quinn’s appeal grows when the reader learns that she grew up in a cult-like religious community, introducing a backstory that makes her all the more relatable. The discussion of the community is a bold move on Heitzmann’s part, but it is dealt with in a manner that is neither derogatory or sounds like a sermon. The spiritual message in The Breath of Dawn organically grows out of the story, tying all of these elements together to produce a well-rounded, satisfying story.

14291950Speculative Fiction: Soul’s Gate by James L Rubart (Thomas Nelson Publishers, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, April 2012)

We chose Soul’s Gate from a strong and diverse field.  James L. Rubart boldly takes on the unseen world of angels and demons in a very imaginative way in regards to their interaction with Christians. This mysterious and uplifting novel takes readers into a world this is often ignored by humans: the spiritual world all around us. The novel quickly engages the reader, which makes it difficult to set the book down. The author carefully works in fresh ideas about Christian living and the way we live our lives in relation to God and with others. The well-developed characters are motivating, varied and passionate. Soul’s Gate ends in a positive way that will engage and intrigue a far reaching and wide audience. The best news is this is just book one from his Well Spring series!

 

Congratulations to the winners and all the nominated authors! 

INSPY 2013 Winners Press Release PDF

Announcing the 2011 INSPY Award Winners

The INSPY Advisory is pleased to announce the 2011 INSPY Award Winners:

Creative Nonfiction: Passport Through Darkness by Kimberly L. Smith

In Passport Through Darkness, Mrs. Smith portrays sacrificial Christian living as the absolutely normal and healthy choice for all Christians. She and her husband are willingly transparent with their weaknesses and present a realistic picture of what a Christian living looks like: hard, messy, and painful, but right and worthwhile. Passport Through Darkness is a powerful story that can change who you are at a fundamental level.

General Fiction: City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell (Henry Holt & Co, September 2010)
We chose City of Tranquil Light because it tells a compelling story with complex characters that feel true to life, characters we care about. Bo Caldwell’s prose is lyrical.

The characters live a very real faith. Everything they do has Kingdom service in mind, yet they never come across as preachy. Their faith is organic. Serving Christ is what they do, it’s who they are. Because of that, this book’s appeal goes beyond that of the Christian community.

Literature for Young People: Saint Training by Elizabeth Fixmer (Zondervan, 2010)

Saint Training is realistic in its examination of religion without stereotype or fundamentalist views. An inspiring read, relevant to young readers and a stand out in its genre. Mary Clare is very down to earth and anyone will be able to relate to her struggles.

Mystery/Thriller: The Bishop by Steven James

Steven James did not shy away from the “tough” questions about God and we appreciate that an author – a Christian author at that, would be up-front and center with the real tough spiritual questions. The Bishop treats the reader as intelligent and with a mind of her own. The plot was engaging and the characters felt real.

Romance: Yesterday’s Tomorrow by Cathy West (Oak Tara, March 2011)

Catherine West gives us a gritty and moving account of the Vietnam War as experienced by an intrepid journalist providing innovation of the setting, time period and subject matter. The edgy realism and poignant honesty that flow from West’s pen in Yesterday’s Tomorrow place it head-and-shoulders above some of biggest bestsellers on bookstore shelves today, and it easily fulfills all the requirements set forth to make it the INSPY Award Winner for Romance.


Speculative Fiction: The Falling Away by T.L. Hines (Thomas Nelson, September 2010)

Non-linear plot lines that all converge without being predictable, responsible treatment of mental disorders without cliche; self sacrifice, demonic encounters and the power of Grace; all these reasons and more make The Falling Away by T.L. Hines the speculative INSPY winner. In his own distinctive “noir bizarre” style, Hines explores powerful truths about life, death and redemption. The author managed to tackle a familiar subject (spirituals warfare) in a most unconventional way. Full characterization meshed with a tight plot that is engaging even for newcomers to the supernatural thriller. Ultimately, more than one character learns important truths about the fallen world we live in and the spiritual dangers one may face from without and within. This novel is an embodiment of the concept that God’s power is made perfect in human weakness.

2010 INSPY Winners

The INSPY Advisory Board is pleased to announced that the following books have been awarded the inaugural INSPYs in their categories. The INSPYs were created by bloggers to discover and highlight the very best in literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith.

Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes, General & Literary Fiction
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.

Evolving in Monkey Town by Rachel Held Evans, Creative Nonfiction
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.

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell, Historical Fiction
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.

The Knight by Steven James, Thriller/Suspense/Crime Fiction
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.

Green by Ted Dekker, Speculative Fiction
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.

Plain Paradise by Beth Wiseman, 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.

Sons of Thunder by Susan May Warren, Romance/Romantic Suspense
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.

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, Young Adult Fiction
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. 

Congratulations to all the winners!


Going forward, please take note of books you want to nominate for next year; we’ll be starting the nominations process earlier in 2011.