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.

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