Book Review: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

6691426Title: Angelology
Author: Danielle Trussoni
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural
Rating: 3,5 stars
Review copy purchased from the local bookstore by yours truly.

A thrilling epic about an ancient clash reignited in our time- between a hidden society and heaven’s darkest creatures

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.
Genesis 6:5

Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.

For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria.

Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.

After reading a request from a young art historian called Verlaine to look into the archives of Saint Rosa’s convent, based on correnspondence between a former mother superior and the philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller, Sister Evangeline, a young nun working in the library of the convent, discovers a connection between both women. And it has nothing to do with philanthropy, or art for that matter. Aided by the historian Verlaine, who appears to be love-struck over the young nun, Evangeline is forced to find out more, not only about Abigail Rockefeller and what exactly she and her former mother superior were trying to hide in the convent, but also about her own history, family and who she really is. This search leads them into conflict with the Nephilim, children of angels who are currently still roaming this earth. Nasty, vile and capable of anything, the Nephilim are a worthy opponent not to be messed with. But together, and with the help of angelologists like Evangeline’s grandmother Gabrielle, they must find a way to reclaim an archefact of great power. Something the Nephilim want whatever it takes, but something they must never get, for the consequences will be terrible.

It appears to me that Angelology isn’t all that new, exciting and innovating as it tries to be. Danielle Trussoni is simply the latest author trying to grab a slice from the Dan Brown pie. Dan Brown features demons, secret societies, symbols and century-old mysteries. Danielle Trussoni features half-angels, secret angelologist societies, symbols, and century-old mysteries. See the connection? That’s not to say that the book isn’t impressive, it just has this old ‘been there, did that’ vibe, but now with Nephilim rather than demons.

The research Danielle Trussoni did before writing this book, cannot be described anything other than impressive. The minor details touched – from cars to layouts of convents to locations in France and New York – is amazing. The mythology, the study of Angels through the centuries, the bible readings, are all very interesting facts, and she certainly possesses a great knowledge base to start with. Her writing style is amazing as well. She describes certain things in the utmost detail, and it’s debatable whether that is just sheer brilliance or slows the story down. The lyrical prose, the impressive descriptions and the attention for detail really adds a lot of quality and depth to this novel, especially the part that’s written in France in 1939 – that part is simply brilliant. I had a lot of trouble with the last 100 or so pages of the book though, which I thought were less in quality compared to the previous parts of the book.

I hate to say this, but about some things mentioned in Angelology, it appears that Mrs. Trussoni is simply ignorant. She accuses the Nephilim of basically starting World War II – or atleast convincing the Nazis enough to commit such horrible crimes – and puts them in the middle of Nazi parties in the year 1939. She then goes as far as blaming all evil things that happen in this world on the Nephilim. Her novel is all in blacks and whites: Nephilim bad, humans good, and that just makes it unbelievable. The world isn’t black and white. You can’t blame every evil act on Nephilim and paint them off as the bad guys. Humans do enough evil on their own, without outside-help. I also disliked the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any good Nephilim on this world. They’re all bad, wicked, vile and self-centered. Although, in all honesty, I have to admit that Percival Grigori, the main Nephilim character we see, did appear to be capable of some good, at least in the years 1939. I would have preferred if there were some good and some bad Nephilim. It would seem a lot more realistic. Nothing is ever truly bad, and nothing is ever truly good. There are different shades of good and bad, and unfortunately Mrs. Trussoni fails to acknowledge that.

At first, I was quite skeptical about how large the religious factor would be in Angelology, and I have to say that I’m both surprised and relieved that it only takes up a minor part. You don’t have to be utterly religious to enjoy this novel. There are some bible passages mentioned, but that’s it, and basically it can appeal to everyone, from every religion.

The plot is fast-paced and skillfully unfolded as the story continues. The characters range from being believable, interesting, intellectual and clever – read: Gabrielle Lévi-Franche and Celestine – to somewhat-boring, ‘why the hell did they end up in this novel?’ and rather useless – read: Verlaine. I did enjoy reading the stories of the bad guys, and figuring out that Percival Grigori has a genuine reason for trying to get the artefact the angelologists recovered from the mountains in Bulgary in the 1930s, and that it’s not just about powers. The part about the decay of the Nephilim was a brilliant touch, and adding Evangeline’s personal history to this novel was a nice sidestory as well. I enjoyed the part about Gabrielle and Celestine the most, because it seemed the most well-written, tense and suspenseful part of the novel.

The ending left me feeling rather dissapointed, because it all seems to happen in a blur. Also, when Evangeline’s true heritage is revealed, I felt like hitting myself on the head. A novel of this calibre should not need a sequel, and by making Evangeline as she is, Trussoni has clearly left the path open for a sequel. I don’t know why people want to take an interesting idea, make a wonderful, impressive and fascinating novel about it, and then milk it out for a sequel and maybe even a third novel. What happened to stand-alone novels, that are impressive enough on their own? It seems like everyone has forgotten that the old classics we still remember and enjoy are stand-alone novels. Nowadays, everyone wants a trilogy. It’s getting old-skool people.

Angelology is definately an entertaining read. Fans of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian and Labyrinth by Kate Mosse will be delighted to venture into the adventures described in Angelology. The knowledge depicted in this book is impressive, the writing style demands for more and the characters are charming, distinct and well thought-through. The perfect kind of book to entertain you on a rainy sunday afternoon.

Book Review: Bella Maura by Dawn Dyson

9003854Title: Bella Maura (Beautiful Justice #1)
Author: Dawn Dyson
Genre: Spiritual, Christian Fiction, Romance, Suspense
Publisher: Creation House
Rating: 4,5 stars
Review copy provided by the author.
Goodreads | Author’s Website

How far would you go to protect the ones you love?
When novelist Sienna Emory decides to come to the aid of an old college friend, she finds more than she bargained for. Not only does her friend Cheney have a full-blown drug addiction, she also has an endearing ex-husband who is still trying to help her. An unlikely match, Sienna and Jonathan soon become close. Jonathan’s five-year-old daughter seems to be the answer to Sienna’s prayers. Never able to have children of her own, Sienna is overjoyed at the prospect of finding a mate in Jonathan and a daughter in little Bella. But Cheney is not a typical friend and Bella is not a typical little girl.
Join Sienna and Jonathan on the discovery of Bella Maura’s sprirtual gift. It will lead them, and you, from America to Jonathan’s hometown in Ireland, where the gift is perceived as a curse that has tormented the Driscoll clan for centuries. Will Sienna and Jonathan help Bella use it for the good?

I have to admit that I’ve hardly read any Christian Fiction, and that I usually shy away from the genre. Bella Maura is the exception to the rule, the novel I simply couldn’t resist even if it wasn’t in a genre I usually read or am very fond of. I’m glad I made the exception, I’m glad I gave Bella Maura a chance, because it certainly does not dissapoint.

Sienna is a renowed novelist, and ‘foster parent’ for ‘her girls’, homeless or abused young women she takes into her home and makes a part of her family. Since she’s a very generous, compassionate and loving person, she naturally comes to the aid of her old college friend, Cheney, when the latter calls and asks for her help. But Sienna has no idea of the mess she’s gotten into. Cheney has no intention of really recovering whatsoever, and like her drug addiction and alcoholism isn’t bad enough, Sienna also discovers that she has a daughter she’s been avoiding for years. When Sienna gets to know Cheney’s neighbour and friend, Jonathan, it doesn’t take her long to figure out that Jonathan is the father of the daughter Cheney abandoned: Bella Maura.

Unable to have children herself, Sienna immediately feels a strong connection to the young girl. And when Sienna and Jonathan’s relationship blossoms, she ‘adopts’ Bella Maura as her own daughter. But unfortunately, there are still some troubles ahead. Cheney is struggling her addiction in a rehabilitation centre, someone is leaving weird notes for Sienna, and Bella has a special talent to connect with God that could end in disaster.

Dawn Dyson has an amazing writing voice. She writes descriptions with such delicate care, each word of the sentence holding a special meaning, and each sentence as mesmerizing as the one before. She is truly a master of words, and the way she crafts her words, sentences and paragraphs into this great, meaningful and amazing story, is nothing short but a miracle. Her writing style totally charmed me, overwhelmed me even, and left me very impressed. She puts grave thoughts, and life-altering questions in her novel with such ease that I, as a reader, was hardly surprised by all the questions this book kept asking me.

Bella Maura asks questions about the meaning of life, about the existence of evil, about the goodness of another person’s heart, about spirituality, God, and more things that we hardly stand still to think about, but are important parts of our day-to-day life. We deal with good and evil on a daily basis, yet we never stop to think about the very nature of good and evil. And the thing with Bella Maura is that, where in other novels I might be repulsed by such questions, and disregard the novel as being either too spiritual or too difficult and nerve-wrecking to continue, now I didn’t. The beautiful narrator’s voice, the distinctive and recognisable characters, the undeniable sense of love that this novel radiates, is more than enough to keep on reading, to ask yourself the questions this book challenges you to ask, and to do all of that without even a hint of annoyance. Bella Maura doesn’t just force its readers to continue reading, to turn page after page after page eagerly anticipating what’s coming next – it also challenges its readers, dares them to think out of the box, to think about their own part in life, their own connection to God, to define what is good and what is evil. That’s pretty much what all great books do, and Bella Maura truly is a great book.

The main characters, Sienna and Jonathan, share this amazing love connection that makes me believe there’s still hope for all of us. Their love is strong, both on an emotional and day-to-day level and on a higher, spiritual level. From the first moment they meet, they are drawn to each other with a force that cannot be explained any other way then that they’re soulmates. Both are charming, loving, caring, compassionate and giving so much for others that they often forget all about themselves. They are both very inspiring, and although their romance might start off a bit like a whirlwind, and I’ve always had some trouble grasping the whole ‘falling in love with each other in a day or two’ issue, but nevertheless, Dawn Dyson succeeds in making their relationship convincing, heartfelt and adorable.

I also really loved the other characters: Bella Maura, Jonathan’s little girl with a special talent and a deep connection with God and the world around her, the girls Sienna took into her home and looked after, and even Cheney, Sienna’s old college-friend who is now a drug-addict and alcoholist. The personalities of all characters were very well described throughout the novel, and I had the feeling I got to know all of them by the end of it. My heart went out to Sienna, and to ‘her girls’ for overcoming abuse, and for still being able to live, laugh, care and love. They were really a family, despite all their different backgrounds, thoughts and opinions, and it was really heartwarming to see their interactions.

From the suburbs of America to the shores of Ireland, this novel offers a plotline that is as divers and intense as its characters, a fast-paced adventure and a  journey of self-discovery, and acceptance that there is something greater than us all.

As I already said, Dawn Dyson is not afraid to touch some sensitive topics, and to ask her readers some valuable questions, but she does so with the support of an amazing cast of characters, and a strong and suspenseful plot. Bella Maura will both amaze and surprise you.

Book Review: Mojo by Kris Sedersten

9976979Title: Mojo
Author: Kris Sedersten
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural, Horror
Review copy provided by the author. Visit the author’s website.
Rating: 4 stars

When Scottie Brown, a New Orleans college student, is aggressively haunted by vivid nightmares and daytime apparitions, he begins a search for answers; unwittingly putting himself and those closest to him in a confrontation with evil. To defeat the energy that torments him, he recruits a team of paranormal investigators, friends from high school, and a psychic medium. Together, they pursue the ghosts of Scottie’s ancestors in a haunted plantation deep in the Louisiana countryside. They uncover dark family secrets and the spiritual energy of a malevolent patriarch who projects an unholy prophecy that has deadly consequenes for all mankind. The power of an elusive mojo amulet becomes central to fighting Scottie’s demons as the journey through the haunted mansion, filled with twists and turns, takes on a life of its own against time. Mojo is a fast-paced paranormal mystery-thriller. Edgy and fun, this book will show the reader how having faith in a power greater than ourselves will lift us through even the most unforseeable obstacles in life.

Scottie Brown is haunted by scary apparitions that would manage to scare even Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. It starts with Scottie having nightmares about an event that happened several years ago, but scarred him for life. But then, the nightmares start to follow him in his real life as well. Creepy visions through a mirror, his own truck turning against him, and a half-rotten but still walking corpse trying to kill him; that’s only the beginning of Scottie’s problems. When his girlfriend starts seeing strange things as well, he realises he’s not going insane, but is instead being tormented by real, actual ghosts and apparitions. As he recruits his best friend, and some of his old friends from back in high school to track down whatever it is that’s making Scottie’s life a living hell, he realises he needs all the help that he can get. Because whatever it is that’s haunting him, it has something to do with his heritage, as being the heir of the Bennet legacy. The latter, unfortunately for Scottie, were rather notorious for their ventures to the dark side, satanic rituals and human sacrifices. Like that’s not enough, his grandfather thought of a way to become immortal, and is determined to go through with his plans, even after death. Reluctantly, Scottie is forced to go back to his family’s old mansion, and destroy the root of all this evil once and for all.

I thought Mojo was an enjoyable read. The story is very fast-paced, and it literally pulls you in, like when two giant hands would suddenly appear from the book, grab you by the collar, and actually pull you into the pages – that kind of pulling. I felt like I was in the middle of the action from moment one, and was still in the middle of the action by the end of the novel. The storyline is fresh, original and very rich, it actually covers a lot of ground as it dives into old-world-voodoo-practices, ghosts and apparitions, hauned trucks, century-old family secrets, satanic rituals, devil worship, and the fact that some evil things just won’t stay dead. But there’s more. Kris Sedersten actually puts down a very accurate description of ghost hunters, as she brings Scottie and his friends to the devil’s lair and lets them go ghost hunting. It reminded me a lot of those ghost hunting tapes that were popular back in the 90’s, in which groups of friends entered ‘haunted mansions’ and tried to record ghostly noises, apparitions and those light-bulb-thingies, or orbs. Since it has been one of my aspirations to go ghost hunting one day, ever since I was like thirteen years old, this book brought back some nostalgic moments. Nostalgia = always a bonus.

Unfortunately, the main character of Mojo, Scottie Brown, and I have a lot of differences in opinion. I just didn’t like him, and this reached a climax when he voiced his opinion about Mojo towards the end of the novel. When I read that, I was solemly wishing that the ghosts of all his ancestors would come back from the dead, all attack him at once and shred him to pieces. Or do something else, as long as it was  very bloody. I just had the feeling that Scottie was a childish, immature and egocentric young man, although I must admit he often thought about others as well – but I just couldn’t shake this opinion away. It’s like he doesn’t even realise how lucky he is, especially not when a great group of friends comes to rescue him from the forces of darkness, he just takes it all for granted. I must admit that Scottie goes through a lot of character development throughout this novel, and he comes out at the other end as a changed man, a person I could easily endure. So I’m faintly suspicious that it was the author’s goal to initially portray him as some sort of selfish person, and then put his entire experience on him, which would change him forever. That said, the growth and character development Scottie goes through, is one of the most impressive examples of character building I have seen in quite a while. The Scottie we see at the beginning and at the end of the novel, are practically two different people. But the change is slowly, gradually, and as a reader you get to see it quite well through the pages of Mojo. Impressive.

I also enjoyed the fact that Mojo really is a prime example of all the things Team Spirit can accomplish. Scottie and his friends all have very distinct qualities and personalities, but together, they form a practically unbeatable team. And it’s only through their combined efforts that they can stand a chance at defeating the evil that lurks in the darkness of Scottie’s ancestor’s mansion. Talking about that mansion…I loved it. I loved everything about it, from the faintly lit bedrooms, to the architectural descriptions, to the ghosts that haunted it. The way Kris Sedersten described that mansion, it was like I could really see it in front of me, more even, like I could really walk up to it, open the front door and start exploring. This reminded me a lot of the novel The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, in which the author goes through great lengths to describe the house of the Mayfair family. That novel left me with the exact same feeling, like I could just walk out on the street, and there would that house be, right in front of me, and as real as possible. This might have something to do with the fact that I just love old houses, especially old and abandoned houses, as well, but I would like to give all the credit to the author for making the house actually come to live.

There were some parts I didn’t like as well. For instance, the dialogue wasn’t in plain English all the time, but sometimes it was more like one would actually speak the words than when one would write them. I can’t really explain this properly, but it made the novel a bit more complicated for me to read, as a foreigner, and at first, it actually distracted me from the dialogue a bit. But I got used to it after a few chapters, and then it started to make sense in my head, as well. The dialogue wasn’t always that great, though, and sometimes the characters seemed a bit too young or a bit too old to use certain sentences. But since I enjoyed the story so much, and rushed through the pages to find out what happened in the end, I didn’t mind that much about the dialogue being a little off at times.

The other thing is…I wasn’t all that scared. I would have liked to be genuinely terrfied but I wasn’t. And trust me when I say that usually, all you need to scare me, is a ghost. Or not even a ghost, just an object put on a different place, or a picture falling off the wall, or…Well, you get my drift, and I’m scaring myself as I write this. Well, Mojo does a little too much a little too soon to actually get me in the ‘scared as hell’ modus. For instance, we start with Scottie having a nightmare that still chases him even when he’s awake. Then he gets a visit from a very dead and very rotten apparition, then his own car is behaving weirdly, and eventually he goes to a mansion that is just full of ghosts. I mean, there actually were ghosts everywhere there. Like hundreds of ghosts. And that’s just a bit too much for me to actually be believable. I would have liked it more, had the author taken a slower start – perhaps by entering the nightmares first, then slowly things start happening, like objects being out of place, like weird sounds, etc. – and maybe not go over the top as well, for instance only having a couple of ghosts in the Bennet family mansion. Like maybe just the most prominent ones for the story. I had the feeling that Kris Sedersten wanted her readers to be on a rollercoaster ride of scaryness, but actually forgot to build up the tension by doing so. It’s the little things that scare me when I’m reading a book in the eerie hours of the night, the little things that could actually happen to me, as a reader, as well. Not the big ghost-blast-a-thon.

The character I liked the most in this novel? Mojo. God, I loved Mojo. His childish innocence, his protectiveness over his adoptive parents, the sad story of what happened to him and his mother, and of whom he really is. It made me feel so much for him, and then, well. He didn’t deserve to be treated so badly, and he didn’t deserve everything he had to go through. He seemed so pure, so fragile, so good, kind and friendly, as opposed to all the malice he had witnessed, all the evil that still haunted him, and all the wicked things that had been done to him. It was like the oldest of all contradictions: Mojo, the good, the pure, the innocent vs. The Bennet family, the evil, the hating, the wicked.

Although this novel might not have scared me to death and didn’t give me any sleepless nights, I do have to admit that the whole haunted mansion scene made me feel slightly uncomfortable. And I did enjoy this novel, I certainly did. You know, it might as well just be me. Maybe I’ve grown immune to scary novels because of my occasional ventures into the worlds of Supernatural, The X-Files and various scary movies. Let’s just say it’s me, and that this novel, to the average not-immune person would be frightingly scary as well. Because in all honesty, Mojo has all ingredients you need to make one hell of a frightening story. Hauntings, apparitions, devil worshippers, ancient secrets…Do I really need to say more? Add excellent character development and personalization, a cast of interesting characters, impressive descriptions and a fluent writing style, and you know you’re in for a thrill.