Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Award Nominees and my thoughts

Just recently, the Christy Award Nominees have been announced as have the RITA Finalists. In my favorite category of Historical and Historical Romance for the Christy Awards I have read several of the titles and want to share my thoughts with you. Also for the RITA Finalist, I have read several as well and share my thoughts and opinions here.
*Please notice that these are not all of the nominees or finalists mentioned here, just the ones that I have 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.

2009 Christy Award Nominees: (Winners will be announced July 2009)


Shadow of Colossus (Seven Wonders Novel, Book #1) Shadow of Colossus (Seven Wonders, book #1) by T. L. Higley

In a world enslaved by money and power, one woman dares to be free. Will an explosive secret enslave her again?

The place is the island of Rhodes; the time, 227 BC. In the ten years that Tessa of Delos has been in bondage as a hetaeira, a high-priced Greek courtesan to a wealthy politician, she has learned to abandon all desire for freedom and love. But when her owner meets a violent death, Tessa is given the chance to be free if she can hide the truth of his death and maintain a masquerade until escape is possible. Now Tessa must battle for her own freedom and for those she is beginning to love, as forces collide that will shatter the island's peace and bring even its mighty Colossus to its knees.

Here is a powerful story showing how the love of God can transform even the most hardened person and bring back to life a soul jaded by sin and grief.

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
After reading this story, while reading a note provided after the story within the book I found that this really explained what I think as a whole about the tale.

Weaving in and out of actual events, brushing lightly against the lives of characters from the pages of history, the Seven Wonders novels take us beyond man's ingenuity and hubris to explore the Supreme Creator's work in the ancient world beyond Israel. From the fall of the mighty Colossus of Rhodes to the destruction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one thing becomes clear: The power of redemption will never be silenced, and the One True God still desires to draw all men unto himself.

This novel might have taken place in 227 BC, but there is no doubt in my mind that it falls within a classification of Christian fiction. Through the characters hearts and mind, the "one true God" makes his love and redemption vision known.

The author has used a talent for story telling to educate and to fill the soul with a redemptive tale that is as classic as the story of the woman at the well or the good Samaritan. God loves you, and can use you, and desires you, no matter your past or situation.

View all my reviews.

Until We Reach HomeUntil We Reach Home
Lynn Austin
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Life in Sweden seems like an endless winter for three sisters after their mother's and father's suicide. Ellin feels the weight of responsibility for her sisters' welfare and when it circumstances become unbearable, she writes to her relatives in Chicago, pleading for help.

Joining sixteen million other immigrants who left their homelands for America between 1890 and 1920, Ellin, Kirsten, and Sophia begin the long, difficult journey. Enduring the ocean voyage in steerage and detention on Ellis Island, their story is America's story. And in a journey fraught with hardships, each woman will come to understand her secret longings and the meaning of home.

Lynn Austin

Washington's Lady, Ladies of History Series #3Washington's Lady, Ladies of History Series #3
Nancy Moser
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It has been said that without George Washington, there would be no United States. But without Martha, there would be no George Washington. He called her "my other self." Who was this woman who captured the heart of our country's founder? Martha Dandridge Curtis was a wealthy, attractive widow and the mother of two small children when she was courted by, then married to the French and Indian War hero. Her new life as Martha Washington took her through blissful times at Mount Vernon, family tragedies, six years of her husband's absence during the Revolutionary War, and her position as a reluctant First Lady.

Nancy Moser | Ladies of History Series

Historical Romance Nominees

Calico Canyon (Lassoed in Texas #2) Calico Canyon (Lassoed in Texas, Book #2) by Mary Connealy

Let yourself be swept away by this fast-paced romance, featuring Grace Calhoun, an instructor of reading, writing, and arithmetic, who, in an attempt to escape the clutchs of a relentless pursuer, runs smack dab into even more trouble with the 6R's - widower Daniel Reeves, along with his five rowdy sons. When a marriage is forced upon this hapless pair - two people who couldn't dislike each other more - an avalanche isn't the only potential danger lurking amid the shadows of Calico Canyon. Will they make it out alive? Or end up killing each other in the process?

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I got the background on this book, I was a little apprehensive about reading it since I knew that it was about Miss Grace Calhoun. Upon reading Petticoat Ranch Miss Calhoun was present, but only faintly. She was definitely not my favorite character, especially in comparison to the wonders of Sophie and her girls. But, upon reading the first chapter of Calico Canyon Grace came slightly off her pedestal and I began to have some compassion for her. It was by the beginning of chapter three that I was enthralled and ready to commit a full friendship, and by the end of chapter five, I was ready to stand behind her and beat off all the bad guys. Grace is a real person, and just one more example of what you should not just a person by their first impression they leave with you. Grace is so much more than what she seemed and I'm so thrilled that I gave her a chance.

But this book is about so much more than just dear Grace. We meet new characters with Tillie and a plausible romance that just makes sense. Tillie and Grace come from completely different backgrounds, but at the same time could not have more in common. Then there is Hannah and the others in Chicago with their own lives of triumph and struggles. This book captures so many real issues and does it in a wonderful fashion and light. Briefly to mention, there is slavery, and child abuse, and death, and love, and do not forget the idea of multiples!

Mary did a great job with this story, and I was not at all let down! As a matter of fact I was nervous, to see what would happen. I am curious and anxious now about Hannah and Libby and I do hope that there will be more stories of their lives coming from our great author Mary Connealy. I strongly urge you to take the time to read Calico Canyon, it will not disappoint.

View all my reviews.

From a Distance (Timber Ridge Reflections, Book #1)
From a Distance by Tamera Alexander

What happens when the realization of a dream isn't what you imagined... and the secret you've spent a lifetime guarding is finally laid bare?

Determined to become one of the country's premier newspaper photographers, Elizabeth Westbrook travels to the Colorado Territory to capture the grandeur of the mountains surrounding the remote town of Timber Ridge. She hopes, too, that the cool, dry air of Colorado, and its renowned hot springs, will cure the mysterious illness that threatens her career, and her life.

Daniel Ranslett, a former Confederate sharpshooter, is a man shackled by his past, and he'll do anything to protect his land, and his solitude. When an outspoken Yankee photographer captures an image that appears key to solving a murder, putting herself in danger, Daniel is called upon to repay a debt. He's a man of his word, but repaying that debt could bring secrets from his past to light.

Forced on a perilous journey together, Daniel and Elizabeth's lives intertwine in ways neither could have imagined when first they met . . . from a distance.

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is more than a novel, a journey into two peoples lives that brings you to the edge of their experiences and beliefs and makes you focus on your own as well. I had a hard time through the first part of the novel, because I was unsure if I really liked the personality of the main character Elizabeth Westbrook. Yet as the story continued, and I was able to really look more on who she was and who she might be becoming I found that I really did like her.

The humor through out the entire book is true to life. Included with the hardships of live during and after war, as well as life in the West is a love and growth between individuals. It is something that you can read about, and then feel it within your heart and not just turn a blind eye.

Each character within this story has their flaws and they are these bits and pieces that make them so much more realistic and provide a reader the ability to relate. Every page brings something unexpected, and be fully prepared to shed some tears on the last page.

Tammy has done it again with this novel, so far every single one is a complete hit to my mind and I cannot finish typing this review fast enough to pick up the second book in this Timber Ridge Reflections Series, Beyond This Moment.

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The Moon in the Mango TreeThe Moon in the Mango Tree
Pamela Ewen
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Set in Siam and Europe during the 1920s, the glittering decade of change, The Moon In The Mango Tree is based upon the true story of Barbara Bond, a beautiful young ex-patriot and opera singer from Philadelphia who is forced to choose between her fierce desire for independence-a desire to create something of her own to give purpose and meaning to her life-and a deep abiding love for her faithful missionary husband whose work seems to create a gap between them. But when you choose between two things you love, must one be lost forever?

Pamela Ewen

The purpose of the RITA® contest is to promote excellence in the romance
genre by recognizing outstanding published romance novels and novellas.
The award itself is a golden statuette named after RWA's first president, Rita Clay Estrada, and has become the symbol for excellence in published romance fiction.

2009 RITA Finalists:

2009 RITA Finalists for Inspirational Romance

Deep in the Heart of Trouble by Deeanne Gist
Bethany House Publishers (ISBN: 1590529286)
David Long and Julie Klassen editor, editors

Deep in the Heart of Trouble (Sequel to Courting Trouble) Deep in the Heart of Trouble (Sequel to Courting Trouble) by Deeanne Gist

Four years have made a big difference in Essie Spreckelmeyer's life. Then she was husband hunting. Now she's wearing bloomers and running her father's oil business. She wouldn't change anything---not even for a man. But when she and competitor oilman Tony Morgan butt heads over business matters, will their hearts reverberate with love?

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
"Deep in the Heart of Trouble" is the sequel to Courting Trouble. They are definitely meant to be read in order. If you skip the first one you will miss most everything that is important that is said, but not quite fully said. Read both and you'll be a very happy reader. *grin*

Here we have a girl who messed up on life, but has taken another chance to live. By owning a bicycle club and teaching others various talents as well as running her father's oil company Essie really has an eventful life. She once attempted to find love and found that Christ was the only groom for her. Through this book she continues with that thought until she realizes that quite possibly she is no longer acting solely upon the respect of the relationship she has with Christ, but that perhaps she is using that as an excuse to hide from possible potential.

Deeanne Gist weaves together an incredible story with fabulous characters that really get into your heart and under your skin. I feel so blessed to have been able to read this story, both in the first volume and now second. The lessons to be learned and the reflections on your own life are quite educational. This series is a must read for most women, and definitely one for discussion afterward.

View all my reviews.

Faking Grace by Tamara Leigh
Random House Publishing, WaterBrook Multnomah (ISBN: 978-1-59052-929-4)
Julee Schwarzburg, editor

Finding Stefanie by Susan May Warren
Tyndale House Publishers (ISBN: 1-4143-1019-6)
Karen Watson, editor

Love Starts with Elle by Rachel Hauck
Thomas Nelson Inc. (ISBN: 1595543384)
Ami McConnell, editor

Love Starts with Elle Love Starts with Elle by Rachel Hauck

She's the last of five Lowcountry sisters to tie the knot, so when Elle Garvey's wide receiver-turned-minister boyfriend Jeremiah pops the question, the family resolves to give them the send off of the century.

But as Jeremiah leaves Elle to plan the wedding and moves ahead to Dallas to take over a large pastorate, Elle listens for her own call to the ministry-but none seems forthcoming. With the influx of new residents in coastal Beaufort, South Carolina, Elle's art gallery business has never been more fruitful. She's even begun to successfully show her own paintings-paintings she created after Jeremiah left town.

Soon Elle's widowed tenant, Heath, arrives with his four-year-old daughter, throwing a real wrench in the works, and offering a new kind of love that soon takes holdand blossoms.

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I do not know if I shall scream or cry or both. Love Starts with Elle is officially one of my favorite books of all time. It is by far my favorite book of contemporary Christian fiction. I enjoyed Sweet Caroline immensely, but it does not fully compare with the power and wonder of Elle. This is a sequel, but does stand alone on a firm foundation of Christ no less.

Elle is an artist, well in her heart. She mets Mr. Wonderful, who I did not like from page one, but he's so right. Until he's not, but really who is perfect? Well I did not see how in the world the plot could get her out of one situation or get her into another, but after reading the book in entirety I'm impressed. I cannot believe all that has happened. My goodness, our God is a mighty God.

Usually, I really do not like contemporary, because it's so real and harsh and there is just not enough "light". Rachel Hauck gives contemporary a good name. It is real, there is some harshness and full tears. But there is love and light beyond the darkness. The characters are so real, and I want to move to their town and lives near their lives. After Sweet Caroline I just could not see how the story could continue on in Elle's life, but it did and in such a neat way. I had my tears and my giggles. I got angry at people and frustrated when they did not head my suggestions. I cherish their joys and I cannot wait for more works to come from the wonder that I have found in Rachel's words on a page.

View all my reviews.

Mulberry Park by Judy Duarte
Kensington Publishing Corp. (ISBN: 978-0-7582-2015-8)
John Scognamiglio, editor

The Convenient Groom by Denise Hunter
Thomas Nelson Inc. (ISBN: 9781595542588)
Amanda Bostic and Leslie Peterson, editors

The Perfect Life by Robin Lee Hatcher
Thomas Nelson Inc., Women of Faith Fiction (ISBN: 978-1-59554-148-2)
Ami McConnell and Leslie Peterson, editors

The Perfect Life (Women of Faith Fiction #18) The Perfect Life by Robin Lee Hatcher

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars I hated this book. I also really liked it and realize the reasons that I hated it were the reasons why a story like this is so important to read. If you have read any of my reviews before you have heard me say that this kind of Christian fiction is not my cup of tea. I'll take it in, but I don't have to like it. Reading this book, I remembered how I felt when I listened to A Slender Thread by Tracie Peterson. It's close to real life and life hurts sometimes, most of the time. First off my problems with this book, then my likes... The first thirty chapters are a complete depression and drag. I started this book last night, read a little during the day, and finished it tonight. The entire day, I was depressed. Nothing was right, everything was wrong. No particular reason it just was. Katherine faces things that she had never really let herself think through fully before and is ill-equipt to deal with them and basically her body just shuts down. I know how that is, and I don't like it. Lastly, after going downhill further and further for thirty some odd chapters, Katherine finally seeks counsel with God to talk things through.
Then before you know it the book is over and that's that things are finished before you have time to process anything and like or hate the outcome. But as I said... I also liked the book. This is my first
Robin Lee Hatcher book experience and she is a fabulous author. The way that she brings you in and out of different characters' heads throughout the entire story is creative and works wonders with comprehension and empathy. When Katherine starts to really delve within herself to figure out what she is fighting and faces a harsh reality it is of things that she does not want, but needs to know and acknowledge. I think that these things can really open the door to healing when need-be. Hatcher touches on a topic that many people wouldn't touch because it is too difficult and hurts too much. This book did put me in a funk because it is painful, but that also goes to show how well Hatcher wrote. She was able to make you understand her characters and bring them to life in you. I do not think that in one weekend everything can be hunky-dorey again, but I do think that a door to healing can be opened if you let it. I would really say that this book is something that someone should read if they are hurting and doubting God's trust, existence, or having human trust issues. But this book should be read with the warning that I was given before I first read the scriptural book of Job. You have to read the whole thing. If you read parts of it, you might like it, you might benefit, but probably will only become angry. If you read the whole thing, you will learn things about yourself that you didn't want to know nor see, but you will be a hugely better person because of it and will sincerely benefit.
View all my reviews.

Where Love Abides by Irene Hannon
Harlequin Enterprises, Steeple Hill Love Inspired (ISBN: 9780373874798)
Melissa Endlich, editor

2009 RITA Finalists for Novel with Strong Romantic Elements

The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner
Random House Publishing, WaterBrook Multnomah (ISBN: 978-1-4000-7456-3)
Shannon Marchese, editor

and also won the 2009 ECPA Christian Book Award.
Shape of Mercy Fiction

The Shape of Mercy
Susan Meissner
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 9781400074563

The Shape of Mercy    - By: Susan Meissner
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The Shape of Mercy
By: Susan Meissner
WaterBrook Press / 2008 / Paperback

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Front Cover | Excerpt | Back Cover | Discussion Questions | Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Lauren Durough is a West Coast English major at the proverbial age of discovery. Sheltered in her childhood years by family wealth, she is just beginning to grasp how people judge others by what they want to believe about them; particularly, how the poor mistakenly view the wealthy and vice-versa. When she opts out of her family's monthly financial support, she takes on a job as a literary assistant to Abigail Boyles, an eighty year-old reclusive, retired librarian. Abigail tasks Lauren with transcribing the diary of Abigail's ancestral cousin, Mercy Hayworth--a woman hanged for witchcraft in seventeenth century Salem, Massachusetts. The lives of Abigail and Lauren, two very different women, converge as they jointly piece together the life and death of Mercy Hayworth. Lauren finds herself drawn to this girl who lived four hundred years earlier, who also struggled against undeserved cultural stigmatization, but lost. But the more she learns about Mercy, the more Lauren realizes this project is as much about Abigail as it is her ancestor. As secrets unfold, the extent to which the lives of these three women are connected comes to light, and both Lauren and Abigail find their lives and the very way they view the world irrevocably changed.
Reviewed by MJ (Georgia, USA), October 07, 2008

This is one of the most deeply moving novels that I have ever read, and without a doubt it is going on my favorites' shelf in my permanent library. The Shape of Mercy is a story that crosses generations and is both historical and contemporary. I can easily find myself relating to Mercy from early American history as well as Lauren from contemporary life. Life and love is an incredibly deep concept and is amazing how they affect our day to day lives and decisions. As human beings, no matter what century we live in, we care about what other people think (no matter how much we argue it) and live our lives in a small manner to fit into a specific place. The sociology of our day to day environment shapes us and often times it is to something that we do not like, but it is what it is and what we need to live with. Susan Meissner is an incredible organizer of words that fits together some beautiful poetry and prose to give the shape of the ideal of mercy. Through this book, I was taken into three different worlds and captivated. Life went on for me outside of this book, but the book never left my thoughts. Lauren dreamed of Mercy, and I dreamed of them all. Susan created a masterpiece that stays with you and makes you think. This is the first I have read from her, and I cannot wait to pick up something else equally as inspirational and convicting. I do not know how to go pick up another book after such an experience.

4 comments and creative thoughts:

Sheila Deeth said...

Thanks. Great reviews, and great introductions to the authors.

CherryBlossomMJ said...

I wish I had the opportunity to review more of them, but I can only read so much...

Anonymous said...

A lot to take in! I've heard about half of these. Some of your reviews I agree with, others I’ll beg to differ! I definitely agree that every book Tamera Alexander has written is a keeper! Rachel Hauck and Robin Lee Hatcher are fine authors but, but they're not favorites. Shape of Mercy is on my TBR pile, I've heard so much about it, all positive! I tried to read Mary Connealy's three books but they didn't reel me in. I'm gonna try reading some Lynn Austin and T.L. Higley books very soon. I agree that Deeanne Gist writes a fabulous book, but I'd be very careful to which age group of girls I'd recommend them too. Some of them are pretty sensual.

Am I too opinionated?

CherryBlossomMJ said...

Never too opinionated for my taste!

My favorite genre is historical fiction and that leads me to really love Tammy, Mary, and Deeanne Gist's books. Another yes on the fact of Deeanne's books... Mary Connealy makes me laugh and smile and I enjoy her books easily.

The only two books I have read by Rachel are the Low Country and I did enjoy them, and I do not usually like contemporary. In comparison with other books I have read in the last year or so, the Hatcher is not my favorite, and probably not one I would read again (so I feel ya there).

I actually have not read Lynn Austin, but have a copy of this one, and she comes highly recommended with other authors and books that I enjoy.

Tracy Higley is just neat, really neat.

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