Honoring Christian Fiction’s Best | Carol Awards 2017

Carol Award winners (l. to r.) Kelli Stuart, Nicole Deese, Michelle Griep, Cynthia Ruchti, Joanne Bischof, Lynette Eason, Carrie Stuart Parks, James L. Rubart (Photo credit: Emilie of E.A. Creative Photography)

The 16th annual conference of  American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), held September 21–24, at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, TX, got off to rousing  start with the announcement of the 2017 Christy Award nominees as the finalists included several ACFW authors—Kelli Stuart, Carrie Stuart Parks, Cynthia Ruchti, Sara Ella, and James L. Rubart—who were also up for the organization’s prestigious Carol Awards. Three days of writing workshops, agent and publisher pitches, and author interviews culminated in Saturday’s awards gala.

Receiving the 2017 ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award was author and writing instructor Jerry B. Jenkins, whose best-selling “Left Behind” series, coauthored with Tim LeHaye, was cited as having an impact on both the Christian fiction (CF) and general markets and on countless readers.

Following the announcement of the winners of the Genesis contest for unpublished novels, the 2017 Carol Award winners for excellence in CF published in the previous calendar year were named. [In a collection development aside, LJ CF columnist Christine Sharbrough, who reviewed several of the Carol winners below, advises setting a Google alert for the Genesis winners, who in the future may become Carol- and Christy Award–winning authors.]

2017 Carol Award Winners

Contemporary

starred review starThe Feathered Bone by Julie Cantrell, Thomas Nelson
What starts off as a fun Halloween sixth-grade field trip to New Orleans for Ellie and Sarah turns into a terrifying odyssey for Amanda Salassi, the chaperone and Ellie’s mother, when Sarah vanishes. Initially, there is the expectation that the missing girl will be found. But as the search for Sarah extends from days to years, the strain of the guilt becomes too much for Amanda and her family. In a tale reminiscent of the story of Job, Amanda experiences losses that eventually rival those of the missing girl’s family. VERDICT Inspired by the real-life kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, the author of the Christy Award–winning Into the Free and Carol Award winner When Mountains Move has written a dark and disturbing novel about the devastating impact of sex trafficking on two families. Although Cantrell inserts a grain of hope in the novel, her portrait of loss and heartbreak will leave readers reeling. This latest work is bound to be nominated for all the major CF literary awards. (LJ 2/1/16)—Christine Sharbrough, formerly with Tewksbury P.L., MA

Debut

You’re the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont Leo, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Historical

starred review starLike a River from Its Course by Kelli Stuart, Kregel
Maria Ivanova, deported from Kiev to work in the German artillery camps, worries that she will not live long enough to make it home. Her father, Ivan, is haunted by his failure to save his Jewish neighbors from the Nazis. He also grapples with the fear that none of his children will survive the war. Luda is pregnant, the result of a rape by a German soldier. She has no family or home, and Frederick Hermann, son of a high-ranking SS officer, detests the role he plays in a battle he no longer believes in and despairs over a father he can never please. Stuart’s powerful first novel is based on 15 years of research and interviews with World War II survivors. Sadness and unvarnished brutality interspersed with pockets of human kindness are woven into descriptions of a wrecked world no longer familiar. VERDICT Readers who can handle disturbingly realistic World War II fiction will find this story engrossing. (LJ  2/1/16)—Christine Sharbrough, formerly with Tewksbury P.L., MA 

Historical Romance

The Lady and the Lionheart by Joanne Bischof, ACFW QIP (Qualified Independently Published).

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks, Thomas Nelson
At the forefront of Park’s second series outing (after The Bones Will Speak) is a string of crimes taking place in a small town of Kentucky; a rapist and murderer is on the loose, and the sheriff has called in forensic artist Gwen Marcey to help him solve the crimes (even though he doesn’t believe in her theories). Things get a little dicey when Gwen’s daughter joins her in the community, but Gwen will do anything to keep her daughter safe and earn the reward she so desperately needs. Forensic artist Parks’s suspenseful mystery series mingles faith with a tightly paced plot. Each book introduces a different type of religious practice or belief; snake handling is the focus here. VERDICT This fast-moving and readable thriller will delight fans of Dee Henderson, Brandilyn Collins, and Terri Blackstock. (LJ 6/15/16)—Shondra Brown, Wakarusa P.L., IN

Novella

The Doctor’s Woman (Courageous Brides) by Michelle Griep, Barbour

Romance

A Season To Love by Nicole Deese, Waterfall Press

Romantic Suspense

Always Watching (Elite Guardians) by Lynette Eason, Revell

Short Novel

Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti, Worthy Inspired

Speculative

starred review star The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart, Thomas Nelson
Jake Palmer’s life is irrevocably changed when a freak accident burns over half his body. His self-worth always hinged on what he could do, not who he was. Ironically, Jake’s motivational speaking career helps others find their inner self-worth, while he is unable to do the same. A chance meeting with a stranger on a plane causes him to reconsider his life, offering Jake an opportunity he can’t refuse. But Jake soon discovers that true healing can only come from acknowledging the wounds within. VERDICT Two-time Christy Award winner Rubart’s (The Five Times I Met Myself) mesmerizing tale about one man’s journey of self-realization, forgiveness, and healing, will be appreciated by fans of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead or Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. Book clubs will find lots of meaty ideas here. (LJ 9/1/16)—Christine Sharbrough, formerly with Tewksbury P.L., MA

 

 

 

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Wilda Williams About Wilda Williams

Wilda "Willy" Williams (wwilliams@mediasourceinc.com) is LJ's Fiction Editor. She specializes in popular fiction and edits the Mystery, Science Fiction, Christian Fiction, and Word on Street Lit columns.

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