Ambit Creative
Kelly Klepfer

Kelly Klepfer came on board Novel Reviews several years ago as the Senior Editor through her connections with Gina Holmes, Ane Mulligan and Jessica Dotta of Novel Journey fame. Novel Reviews is the baby sister of the popular Novel Journey. At Novel Reviews we offer honest reviews of Christian and secular fiction titles and love to promote exceptional fiction. We began to do so after we met the authors via their interviews at Novel Journey. Disclaimer: Our reviewers are not paid for their reviews. Some may consider the receiving of a complimentary book or loosley bound manuscript (by publisher or author), as a form of compensation, so, be forewarned that our reviewers RECEIVE BOOKS. In our defense, it would be difficult to review without them. (Also, we are not affiliated or paid for any links to online bookstores.)

Novel Reviews


Crossing OceansCrossing Oceans by Gine Holmes

Published by Tyndale
ISBN# 978-1-4143-3305-3
280 Pages

Back Cover:
Sometimes love demands the impossible

Nothing deepens a stream like a good rain . . . or makes it harder to cross. Jenny Lucas swore she’d never go home again. But life has a way of upending even the best-laid plans. Now, years after she left, she and her five-year-old daughter must return to her sleepy North Carolina town to face the ghosts she left behind. They welcome her in the form of her oxygen tank-toting grandmother, her stoic and distant father, and David, Isabella’s dad . . . who doesn’t yet know he has a daughter.

As Jenny navigates the rough and unknown waters of her new reality, the unforgettable story that unfolds is a testament to the power of love to change everything—to heal old hurts, to bring new beginnings . . . even to overcome the impossible.

Time! There never seems to be enough time to do the things that matter! Knowing you only had months to live, what would you do? (Thanks to the publisher for the review copy of Crossing Oceans.) I have to be honest I didn’t think I could read this book because I had lost my dad to cancer a short time ago. But Gina Holmes pens a brilliant story of love and sacrifice. It’s one I won't soon forget!

Gina Holmes’s story reminds me of A Walk to Remember and The Notebook both written by Nicholas Sparks. This author has an amazing gift to masterfully blend together a memorable story filled with a special tenderness, hope, love, forgiveness, mixed with a sense of well-timed humor, throughout her book, that touched my heart deeply. It ignited warm feelings of love and hope inside I can’t explain.

Isabella’s mom, Jenny is sick. Jenny is on a mission to go to North Carolina, to make peace with her family and her past. She knows what it’s like to lose a mom at a young age. She was going to do everything in her power to make this journey easier for her daughter.

Five-year-old Isabella is the common denominator between two families not fond of each other. She looks to her mom, Jenny, for an understanding of the change taking place in her world. Jenny reaches out to God for the strength to do the impossible. I could only hope God would give me the strength to be like Jenny when my time is near.

I anxiously turned the pages of Crossing Oceans, as I read of Jenny’s last days and remembered my dad’s. As I finished the last page, healing tears slid down my cheeks and a knot formed in my throat; forever touched in my heart, mind and emotions by the words I had read.

This author gave me a peak into how it might be to have my heavenly daddy and my earthly daddy waiting for me when it’s my time to run into their loving arms! Home at last! God prepares us for this passage if we let him. Gina gave me a glimpse into a young woman’s crossing to the life after—a journey all of us must take.

Gina Holmes, this book is a gift to me and I suspect it will be for many others. I had no idea you could write like this. I’m excited at what God can do through your obedience to Him, your writing and this book. I’ll be waiting in line to read your next book for sure! Yes, there will be a line :D

Reviewed by Nora St Laurent "Finding Hope Through Fiction" ACFW Book Club Coordinator

Bonus Review:
I am always hesitant to review a book written by a friend. Can you imagine how much more apprehensive I was reading the debut novel from not only a friend but a critique partner? A critique partner lives to rip and shred work to point out what's wrong and what needs to be changed to make the work readable.

Though I've critiqued Gina Holmes for years, I had just glimpses into Crossing Oceans and I knew it was a very different style from her previous suspense novels. Her suspense is strong. But how well would her voice translate to women's fiction?

Once I opened her book and began to read I can say that her voice translates with a poignant grace that is rare in a debut novelist. And Crossing Oceans is a story that Holmes was meant to tell.

Holmes tackles a heavy story line with a touch of whimsy and deep, deep melancholy, sometimes in the same paragraph. A young mother, emotionally orphaned when her mother died and father cocooned himself in a cloak of angry grief, finds herself forced to return to the home she had escaped. Jenny has Stage IV metastatic cancer and must reunite with the family she fled for the sake of her little girl's very near future need. With less than a year to repair and restore relationships Jenny tackles the past and the future, the present and the pain, all while attempting to give her daughter, Isabella, memories and love and what life she has available to give.

This is a novel that quickly overcame the author and my relationship with her. The story told itself in a realistic and three-dimensional tale of life and death, sorrow and fear, choices and consequences, pain and beauty, loss and hope. Holmes voice is similar to some of my favorite authors in the Christian fiction genre, Siri Mitchell, Charles Martin, Susan Meissner, Claudia Mair Burney, Lisa Samson and Bonnie Groves.

Crossing Oceans is not an easy read. It is haunting and beautiful and raw. Expect to cry and expect to remember this family long after you turn the last page.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer at: "Scrambled Dregs"

Stretch MarksStretch Marks: A Novel Kimberly Stuart

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781448921

Back Cover:
Mia is a granola-eating, sensible shoe–wearing, carbon footprint–conscious twenty-something living in a multicultural neighborhood in Chicago. Her mother, Babs, is a stiletto-wearing Zsa Zsa Gabor type who works as an activities hostess on a Caribbean cruise line … and if you guessed there’s some tension there, you’d be right. Factor in an unexpected pregnancy and Mia’s idealistic boyfriend—Lars is such a visionary he doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage—and the mother-daughter relationship is, well, stretched very thin. As is Mia’s sanity when Babs shows up to … help.

With a healthy dose of wit and a touch of whimsy Kimberly Stuart takes on the challenge of a prickly yoga enthusiast who inadvertently ends up pregnant by her tree-hugging, commitment/job-phobe live-in. This alone is enough to challenge Christian fiction readers. But that's not all this novel is about. Toss in the estranged mother who is opposite in all ways and pushy about it. Add a touching teen Juno situation and a will-they, won't-they romantic scenario and, well, you get the general idea, lots of drama and opportunity for change.

This out-of-wedlock pregnancy from a live-in arrangement is a plot enthusiastically brought to you by David C. Cook who seem to have heard the cry of those who are looking for realistic fiction with a bit of heavenly hope tossed in. I applaud the decisions being made at David C. Cook. Not only are the recent novels edgy, but they are well-written.

The scenario of Mia and her unraveling life leaves a lot of opportunity for Mia to come to terms with reality. She is forced to look at the world a little differently since she is carrying a child. The Christian elements in this novel are light. You won't find verses at the beginning of each chapter. Sensitive readers may find a bit to squirm about as Mia and company aren't exactly embracing a Christian walk. There was maybe a bit too much story which hindered some development of a couple of relationships and some timing issues popped up now and again.

Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer at "Scrambled Dregs"

She Walks In BeautyShe Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Bethany House; Original edition (April 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0764204335

For a young society woman seeking a favorable marriage, so much depends on her social season debut. Clara Carter has been given one goal: secure the affections of the city's most eligible bachelor.

Debuting means plenty of work--there are corsets to be fitted, dances to master, manners to perfect. Her training soon pays off, however, as celebrity's spotlight turns Clara into a society-page darling.

Yet Clara soon wonders if this is the life she really wants. Especially when she learns her best friend has also set her sights on Franklin De Vries.

When a man appears who seems to love her simply for who she is and gossip backlash turns ugly, Clara realizes it's not just her marriage at stake--the future of her family depends on how she plays the game.

If you would like to read the first chapter of She Walks in Beauty, go HERE.


“Why do we have to pretend to be people that we aren’t? Why do we have to be thinner than we are, and happier than we feel, and know the uses of dozens of kinds of spoons when usually just one will do?” (p. 76)

Clara Carter was quite brilliant to ask so many intelligent questions! Although the society she was born to frowned upon women who attempted to learn anything at all beyond the required social graces, Clara was blessed with the fortitude not only to learn, but to continually question everything. The answers that eventually reveal themselves are both shocking and heart-breaking!

From the moment her aunt tightly laced her into her first corset and began to teach her to talk about nothing in particular, Clara felt the falsehoods of proper society deeply. Clara’s father and aunt acted with unnatural determination to ensure that her debut in society coincided with the heir of De Vries’s return from abroad. For you see, the pursuit of a spouse among properly suited society was painfully purposeful and included the act of cutting – literally and completely snubbing someone. Both Clara and her best friend Lizzie are set upon a collision course in an effort to become engaged to the heir of the DeVries fortune. Eventually, one of the two would be cut from the race!

She Walks In Beauty carried my heart and mind into the very depths of the Gilded Age. New York’s upper class in the late 1800’s was as opulent and ostentatious as the imagination was able to reach. Young women were molded and poured into a set of social graces as rigid and unforgiving as the corsets they wore beneath their gowns, and the results were often just as deadly! Clara’s situation was particularly heart-breaking, because her mother had died at a young age, and her father paid her little attention. When the decision was reached that Clara would debut a year early, her aunt fired her governess and truest confidante. The moment Clara lit into her aunt over this rash decision I knew that there was much more to her character than even she realized!

And oh! How I praised God for Harry De Vries! And his sister Katherine! Harry may have been the younger of the two brothers, but he had more character in his pinky finger than old Franklin had in his entire body!!

All in all, every detail of this social setting is carefully designed and cleverly paces so the reader’s anxiety reaches “hysterical” levels as the story nears its end. On page 341 Clara’s thoughts finally become crystal clear and these thoughts come to mind: “Just in case, I whispered a prayer. I prayed that if God truly cared for me, just as I was, that He would make a path for me. Because there would be no undoing what I was about to do.”

Praise God, He answers prayer! The last chapters of this book will leave you breathless! You cannot imagine where God’s hand moves in the lives of these characters! After all of the pompous, self-centered depravity of New York’s society pours its filth upon Clara Carter, she discovers the truth behind these wise words: “I must insist that you matter to Him much more than you seem to realize.” (p. 159)

Reader, this review has waxed too long, but I want to make sure you understand the full scope of Siri Mitchell’s She Walks in Beauty! There are moments that will make you laugh out loud (the visit with the mortician’s wife!), and there are moments that will make you weep. You will shake your head in wonder that two seventeen-year-old girls would be thrust into such extreme social settings. You will also feel like shouting in glorious praise when these same young women blossom into ladies who reflect all that is truly precious in the human heart. She Walks In Beauty is most excellent!! I cannot recommend this novel highly enough!!

Reviewed by Kim Ford at "Window To My World"

Bonus Review
Siri Mitchell's historicals have been some of my favorite books. She Walks In Beauty is not an exception.

With poignancy, grace and beautiful prose, Mitchell, takes the reader back to the late 1800's. In a time when women had few choices and society had many expectations, Mitchell introduces us to Clara Carter, a young lady who must debut and must catch the most eligible and desirable bachelor in the city.

The story is full of rich details of the gloss and glitter of the affluent and powerful and stark glimpses of what lies beneath the glitz.

If you love historicals or Siri Mitchell, run , don't walk, to a bookseller.

Reviewed by Kelly Klepfer at "Scrambled Dregs"