Fall From Grace

Fall From Grace

Fall From Grace by J. Edward Ritchie (Fantasy)

Fall From Grace is a riveting fictional account of the heavenly schism that turns brother angels Michael and Satanail into arch enemies, destroys the peace and tranquility of heaven, and results in the emergence of Satan and the concept of eternal damnation.

Designated by the Creator as His Word and His Hand, respectively, Michael and Satanail are the most highly revered among the seven Seraphim — the highest order in the angelic hierarchy. In an environment free from discord, they have always maintained a good-natured rivalry built on mutual respect and brotherly love. But when the Creator reveals the existence of mankind only to Michael, Satanail is filled with resentment — an unfamiliar emotion he strives to contain. To make matters worse, Michael states that the Creator expects the angels to protect mankind from destroying itself. Satanail argues against such subservience, his anger boiling into rebellion and open defiance. Angels at all levels are forced to choose sides as a battle between good and evil commences.

J. Edward Ritchie has researched the religious and mythological lore of celestial beings to produce a fascinating, complex heavenly society populated by three-dimensional characters with strong personalities, unique capabilities, and credible emotions and motives. Satanail is a likeable individual, and his metamorphosis into Satan is not without internal conflict. The familiar archangels of my childhood — Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael — are among the seven Seraphim with dominion over seven regions of heaven, each contributing to the needs of the heavenly population known as the Host. Ritchie’s use of language is eloquent, in keeping with the nature of the story to be told, and he captured my interest from the very beginning. Battle scenes and other scenes do contain a fair amount of gory detail.

All in all, I found it to be a very satisfying book with a number of important messages, including this from Gabriel when Michael suffers from profound doubts about the decisions he has made: “I believe that we all have roles in this life. Maybe they’re not the ones we’d hoped for, maybe we even stray from them, but they’re ours to own. So we do it, because that’s what needs to be done. Those who can’t understand that will always be followers, never leaders.”

Grandma gives Fall From Grace five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author in return for an honest review.


Meanwhile, at the Dernstrum Institute…


Meanwhile, at the Dernstrum Institute… by Catherine Griffin (Mystery)

England, 1923: Following the death of her eccentric inventor father, Constance Wright has no money and no prospects. She takes a secretarial job at the scientific institute founded by her late godfather. There, in between learning to type, fending off her boss, coping with the Giant Walking War Machine, ghosts, and a dangerous variety of cabbage, she discovers her godfather left her a trail of clues to follow. Clues that might lead her to a fortune… if she can find it. And someone else is already on the trail…

Eccentrics are the norm at the Dernstrum Institute, where inventors of oddball things  come to live and work in the isolated town of Uggley-on-Sea on the Somerset coast. Told in the first person by young Constance Wright, this story comes complete with the sinister director of the institute, the crabby housekeeper/cook, the con artist, the medium, the vicar, and a couple of well-intentioned but misguided inventors. We get a glance at life in the 1920s, while also facing the mystery of what really caused the death of Professor Dernstrum, and what is he trying to tell his god-daughter with his posthumous clues? The narrator’s wry observations are part of the fun, and while the story is so-so, it provides a light, entertaining read.

Grandma gives Meanwhile at the Dernstrum Institute… four stars. 4 stars


Claiming Noah

Claiming Noah

Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp (Women’s Contemporary Fiction)

Two baby boys are born through in vitro fertilization — one to Catriona and James Sinclair, who are the genetic parents, and one to Diana and Liam Simmons who receive the extra embryo donated by the Sinclairs. Then, one of the babies is kidnapped, and everyone’s life changes.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons. The premise itself is intriguing and immediately caught my imagination: Where was this headed? The characters are well-developed, and they act like real people. Nobody is too good to be true; no one is intrinsically evil. The author knows her stuff, whether medical or legal. And the pacing is just right, moving the action along while still allowing the reader time to learn to care about everyone involved.

The story is told, alternately, from the points of view of Catriona and Diana, giving plenty of opportunity to personally experience each mother’s joys and losses. The story itself had enough suspense to keep me reading “just one more chapter,” until I read the entire book in one day. I had my theories and my opinions of what I hoped would happen, but was never sure that it would be so.

The topic of IVF and all of its personal, social, medical, and legal ramifications is ripe for discussion, making Claiming Noah a great choice for a book group.

Grandma gives Claiming Noah five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the publisher via Net Galley, in return for an honest review.


The Traitor’s Story

The Traitor's Story

The Traitor’s Story by Kevin Wignall (Thriller/Suspense/Espionage)

If you like complex spy stories with lots of international intrigue, this book is for you. Finn Harrington is a former spy who’s been trying to go straight after making some spectacular mistakes in his espionage career and his personal life. But when a fifteen-year-old neighbor girl goes missing, her parents come to him for help, and he’s drawn back into the world of intrigue and violence that he thinks he has escaped. He soon discovers that her disappearance is linked to his tragic past, and he has never really made it out of that world. Now he must find and put an end to former enemies who would make him pay for his mistakes, or he — and those he cares about — will never be safe.

I chose this book because I had read Kevin Wignall’s A Death in Sweden and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found this book a little less satisfying and a little more confusing, but an interesting read, nonetheless. I didn’t always understand what was happening or why, but I knew that in the end it would all make sense, which it did. It’s not exactly the kind of book you can put down for any length of time and come back to easily because of the complexity of the story. Present-day events are related to Finn’s espionage history, requiring frequent trips into backstory, and sometimes, upon returning to the book, I had to reread a former chapter in order to remember where I was and who was who.

Wignall is a good writer whose books provide a glimpse of life in Switzerland, Sweden, and other parts of northern Europe. His characters are culpable, vulnerable people struggling to change against difficult odds, and I cared about what happened to them. That said, I now find myself looking forward to reading something a little less complex.

Grandma gives The Traitor’s Story four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of The Traitor’s Story from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



Last Seen Leaving

Last Seen Leaving

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig (YA Mystery/Thriller)

Fans of John Green will love Last Seen Leaving. Flynn Doherty, the fifteen-year-old narrator of the story, is laugh-out-loud funny even as he struggles with two major dilemmas: the disappearance of his girlfriend, January, and his own personal secret that complicates his life and makes him appear to be a suspect in her disappearance. At first, I thought this was just another version of Looking for Alaska or Paper Towns, but it’s so much more.

Caleb Roehrig has created believable, likable characters who immediately drew me into their world and made me care about what was happening to them. At the same time, he introduces plenty of potential suspects as the person responsible for January’s disappearance and sends Flynn on a mission to identify that person. As Flynn learns more and more about January’s “other” life, he’s filled with doubts about how well he knew her, but he hasn’t been completely honest with her, either.

This book kept me reading non-stop until I finished it. I loved Flynn’s take on what was happening around and to him, and his similes continuously had me chuckling out loud. The author also did a great job of building the tension and creating a cliff-hanger, then inserting a little relevant backstory to prolong the suspense before getting back to the action. I can see myself quickly becoming a fan of Caleb Roehrig novels.

Bella gives Last Seen Leaving five stars. 5 stars

Potty-mouth Index: MODERATE  

Grandma says: Not all kids talk this way, and basically these were not tough kids, so leaving out such casual use of the “f” word would not have diminished the authenticity of the story.

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is available for pre-order with release scheduled for October 4, 2016.





Faithful by Alice Hoffman

This is a beautifully written book that immerses the reader in the life and mind of a young woman for whom everything seems false and useless. Shelby Richmond was once a popular, self-absorbed teenager, but in the aftermath of a tragic experience she suffers from a deep sense of worthlessness. She reacts with brutal honesty toward herself and others, determined to push other people away, even those who keep on coming back in spite of her behavior.

We meet her two years after a car accident that has left her best friend, Helene, in a coma from which she is not expected to recover, and Shelby burying herself in remorse because she was the driver. After cutting her wrists and spending time in a psychiatric facility, Shelby has retreated to her parents’ basement and has shaved her head as penance for her sins. But someone unknown intermittently sends her postcards with little drawings and cryptic messages like “Do something” or “Save something” or “Trust someone,” and the postcards seem to come at just the moment when she needs them. Knowing someone out there is aware of her pain inspires her to not give up.

The story is written in third person present tense, primarily from Shelby’s point of view, but occasionally the omniscient author sneaks in and we know what other characters are thinking or have experienced in the past. Present tense gives it a sense of immediacy—a report of what’s happening now. We are in this together with Shelby. We want to know who is her secret “angel.” We want to make sure she’s going to be okay, that she will eventually heal and regain her sense of self.

While this may sound like a dark, depressing story, it’s not. Nor is it predictable. Shelby is a good person caught in a dark place, but she also has spunk and attitude and a desire to keep things real. At the same time, she’s believable and vulnerable, and a character you will think about after the last page has been turned.

Grandma gives Faithful five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

This book is available for pre-order with release scheduled for November 1, 2016.