Tag Archives: INSPYs


We announced the shortlists for the 2013 INSPY Awards on Monday, in case you missed it. The lists have some really great books on them again this year, check ’em out!

I spent the remainder of Monday writing lists of all the books I could read and all the things I could knit, now that I wasn’t reading from a set list. Not that I didn’t enjoy the INSPYs reading, but, you know. There’s still freedom in not being constrained. My lists were shockingly mundane. I couldn’t even bring my brain to brainstorm effectively, since I’d been seriously cramming for so very long. (All this before Boston (or even Pulitzer) news. Another day of tragedy. I have no words.)

And then, Tuesday, I had ideas. I even managed to get them jotted down before I forgot them, and I even more shockingly got one of them fleshed out!

Besides those two, I’ve started two other pieces. One is now finished and scheduled to publish. Another is still in progress, but I made significant headway.

And yes, I did pick up a book. I’m reading So Cold the River by Michael Koryta. Don’t expect me to push myself to finish it in a day or two, though. I like room to let my reads breathe.

INSPYs judges needed

If you’re a Christian with a love for faith-driven literature and you have time to devote to reading 5 books this fall for the INSPY Awards, we need you! There are just 10 days left to apply!

The INSPYs are blogger awards so we need bloggers who review books to take the next round! You could be part of choosing the next INSPY winner!

• Be a blogger
• Provide a sample book review in the application
• Agree to our statement of faith
• Be responsible to obtain their own copies of the books they are judging
• Agree to read all 5 of the short-listed books and turn their decision in by the deadline of December 10.

• General Fiction
• Creative Nonfiction
• Speculative Fiction
• Literature for Young People
• Romance
• Mystery & Thriller

Please visit the INSPY site and sign up now if this is you. Don’t delay!

2011 reading, blogging plan

Looking back

• Reading stats: I read 96 books in 2010, which is my highest recorded (for the few years I’ve been keeping track), up from 89 in 2009. The number really doesn’t matter to me, though.

• The INSPYs were a huge part of what kept me busy in 2010.

• How’d I do? My plan for 2010 was certainly an improvement. Although I didn’t stick to it 100 percent of the time, I plan to keep the big parts of this in effect for 2011.

Looking forward

• Reading plan / goals: In addition to sticking to my (above mentioned) limits on books with firm dates (that’s what of last year’s I’m planning to keep in place), I’m also excited about the reading list created from my swap with My Friend Amy.


° I joined the Mad for Maisie read-along and

° am looking forward to the six Faith ‘n’ Fiction Round Table reads.

° I’m also planning a theme week here on the blog (I’ll tell you about it soon, I promise!), and hopefully I’ll set aside a month to focus on mysteries and thrillers. I’ve really missed reading these in the past year, and the shelf is starting to get heavy.

° And, of course, I’m (hopefully) leaving enough space in my reading year for the INSPYs.

• On the book blogging front, I said I’d start adding ratings to reviews in 2011, and I’m sticking to it. Here, briefly, is my rationale:

I know that I appreciate star ratings in the reviews of others, so I’m going to try it. Here’s the scale I’m starting with:

★★★★★ 5 stars — Basically the perfect read
★★★★☆ 4 stars — Enjoyable, fun, a great book
★★★☆☆ 3 stars — OK, but I don’t necessarily feel the need for more. Average.
★★☆☆☆ 2 stars — Subpar. Ugh.
★☆☆☆☆ 1 star — Really terrible.

I have a feeling that my ratings are going to be lower than those given by many other people, which is part of why I’ve resisted. (But who knows? This is really an experiment.)

Note: If these stars, above, aren’t displaying for you, please let me know so I can search for another solution.

• I need to get back in the habit of posting my Words on Wednesdays. I’m toying with the idea of using the Bloggiesta (January 21-23) to get a ton of these scheduled.

• I also want to blog more — more long-form posts and more short-form posts. But I don’t want to be stressed out, constantly feeling like I *need* to blog. So really, we’ll see. 🙂

What are your reading and blogging goals for 2011? Any big projects in mind?

The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry

Word Lily review

The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry (Moody, September 2009), 320 pages

Denise’s husband skips church one Sunday, and during the service she gets a call that he’s been in an accident. For that to be the case, he couldn’t have been where he told her was headed. Although she’s filled with questions, they’re pushed aside as she keeps vigil at his bedside, praying for him to regain consciousness.

This book surprised me. As I got started with it, I thought I wouldn’t like it. But I couldn’t make myself put it down (and abandoning books is something I got a fair bit of practice at this year). As the book went along, I found myself more and more caught up with these characters.

I thought it would be predictable, but I was pleasantly surprised. The characters burrowed into my psyche, I hurt with them. This is a family drama, and most of the book takes place within Denise, but it also has a fair touch of thriller. A really good story.

I really enjoyed the reading experience of this book, and I look forward to more from this debut author.

About the author
Christina Berry (blog) is a single mother and foster parent; she lives with her family in rural Oregon. The Familiar Stranger is her debut novel.

Other reviews
5 Minutes for Books
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I purchased this book. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz

Word Lily review

A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz, The Dark Trench Saga book 1 (Marcher Lord Press, October 1, 2009), 308 pages

Sandfly is a debugger, in a future ruled by sharia law. Debuggers manage machines and are owned by masters. Sandfly is sent into orbit to figure out what went wrong on an experimental, highly classified deep space voyage.

Before I read A Star Curiously Singing, I couldn’t keep the name of this book straight. After reading it, I doubt I’ll forget the title.

    My initial impressions were overwhelmed by nit-picky details:

  • It took me a few pages to get up to speed on the sci-fi tech speak.
  • A lack of editing; the wrong word was used on a number of occasions.
  • The bad (crooked) trim job on the pages
  • The first-person was a bit awkward at times, it took me awhile to get used to it.

But as time has passed (I read it several months ago), I’ve come to love this book. This is one of those books I’ve been talking about every chance I get. The story is brilliant, and very well done.

I didn’t (and still don’t) love Nietz’s use and representation of the Muslim world, but I also can’t see a way around it, given the story.

One of my favorites of the year, for sure. This book deserves so much more attention.

This book was shortlisted for an INSPY award in speculative fiction.

The second book in Nietz’s Dark Trench Saga, The Superlative Stream, was released in April.

About the author
Kerry Nietz is a refugee of the software industry. He spent more than a decade of his life flipping bits — first as one of the principal developers of the database product FoxPro for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates’s minions at Microsoft. He is a husband, a father, a technophile and a movie buff. He has one previously published book, a memoir (FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software).

Other reviews
Scita < Scienda
Have you reviewed this book? Leave me a link and I’ll add it here.

I purchased this book. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

‘It’s always the devil’

Mom always used to say, ‘It’s always the devil who tells you there’s not enough time.’

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The INSPY Awards: The Bloggers’ Award for Excellence in Faith-Driven Lit

In early 2006 I stumbled across the Image Journal’s list of its Top 100 writers (with one book by each listed) of the 20th century. The list only references creative writing by writers of faith and the works must “manifest a genuine engagement with the Judeo-Christian heritage of faith.” [I’ve posted and organized the list here.]

At first the list was simply daunting. I’d read so very few of them. I stuck the list in my purse and pulled it out sometimes when I was at the library. Less than a month after I started blogging in this space, in April 2007, I made this list a project. I aimed to read all the books on the list.

As I read and posted about these books, my estimation of the books as a group only grew — each one I read was so amazing! These are the kind of books I love, these are the kind of books that make me happy I’m a reader, I thought.

From that time, though, even as I’ve continued to make my way through the list, a longing has been growing steadily inside me. I’ve wondered, over and over, where are the new books? Yes, that’s a funny question to ask when your TBR shelf is overflowing with mostly new books. But what I wanted — and still want — is to find new books, new authors, whose books rise to the standard of these older ones. Sure, a few of the list’s authors are still alive and writing, but I want more.

After reading a post in March 2010 from My Friend Amy about the state of Christian Fiction, I was inspired to write, here, about my own unmet desire for books that really dig into what it means to believe, what this walk-by-faith thing is about, and do so with writing that thrills me. As much as I dug, as much as I asked others, I couldn’t to see a way to find these books. Sometimes they’re published by Christian publishing houses, sometimes by indie presses, sometimes by the large general-market publishers. Sometimes they’re even self-published. And as much as I’d love to, there’s no way I can read all the books published in a year [just] to find the ones I really want to read.

Note: This story isn’t exactly in chronological order, but it is how I remembered it.

So when Amy asked if I wanted to be involved in creating a new award that would honor exactly these books, I was hugely excited.

After months of brainstorming and discussion and planning, today we launched the INSPY Awards. And I’m so excited! Like Amy, “I’m so very excited and hopeful that we’ll be able to discover the very best books that grapple with the Christian faith that are being published today.”

Now we need your help. For this to be successful, we need book nominations. We need judges. We need word of the INSPYs to be spread far and wide.

If you’re interested in being a judge, please head over to the INSPYs site and read over the criteria and apply. If you’re interested in nominating the great books of Christian faith you’ve read in the last year, then please read the criteria for books and nominate the books you think should be considered.

It’s been a blast working with the whole advisory committee: Amy of My Friend Amy, Carrie of Books and Movies, Deborah of Books, Movies & Chinese Food, and Rel of Relz Reviewz.

Oh, one last thing: Help us spread the word! Please subscribe to the INSPYs blog, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.