Book Review: Penny White and the Temptations of Dragons

temptation-of-dragonsNote: We were given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows.

Details:

Title: Penny White and the Temptations of Dragons

Author: Chrys Cymri

Publisher: CreateSpace

Release Date: March 31st, 2016

Genre: Fantasy, Christian

Pages: 230

Synopsis:

Bishop Nigel smiled at me. ‘Holy water doesn’t harm vampires. Which is just as well, as it would make it impossible to baptise them.’

When I was asked by a dragon to give him the last rites, I never dreamed it would lead to negotiating with his cannibalistic family or running from snail sharks. Life as the priest of a small English village is quite tame in comparison. At least I have Morey, a gryphon with sarcasm management issues, to help me. And if all else fails, there’s always red wine and single malt whisky.

As if my life weren’t complicated enough, a darkly beautiful dragon named Raven keeps appearing where I least expect him, I’ve met a handsome police inspector who loves science fiction as much as I do, and my younger brother is getting into trouble for trying to pick up vampires.

That’s what happens when you’re dealing with an incredible and dangerous parallel world full of mythical creatures. And I have to learn to navigate it all without losing myself, or my brother…

 

My First Thoughts:

My last journey into Christian fiction was such a disappointment, so I wasn’t expecting much from this book. The author, Chrys Cymri, is a priest in England with a very Welsh name (from my limited experience), so I was intrigued about how mythology and Christianity were going to combine. The synopsis was… confusing, but all the reviews for it were good. I figured I would at least get a laugh from it, even if I didn’t enjoy it.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

In my review for Soft on the Devil, I stated that there are two ways Christian fiction can go: either Christianity and religion are used to genuinely add to the characterization and story, or the reader ends up getting beaten in the face with a bible. I’m so excited to say that Father Cymri has done a wonderful job incorporating Christianity into his book in a way that feels genuine! I’ve never actually read a book that managed to do that.

The main character, Penny White, is the vicar (a type of priest for those who may not be informed) for a tiny English village. It makes sense for her to have religion be a strong influence in her life, but unlike so many Christian novels that I have read, it’s not the only influence in her life. Penny is a woman who has interests in books, movies, and television that I’ve seen quite a few “Christian” websites completely denounce as “works of the devil” (Doctor Who, Buffy, Charmed, etc.). She supports gay marriage, women’s rights, drinking in a little excess, and evolution, as do most of her fellows in the cloth. She is also imperfect, which I love. She’s been orphaned and then recently widowed; she has doubts about faith and her relationship with God. Those feelings are real and so important. She seeks guidance from those in place to guide her, who tell her it is okay to feel like that and help her to work through it. I feel like too much Christian fiction either has perfect people who never experience doubt and people who don’t believe that have some sort of experience and begin quoting bible verses in a second.

I also love her associate, Morey. This little griffon who wise cracks, follows the verses of the bible to the letter, is a creationist, and is fiercely loyal is a great counter to our vicar as she discovers the new world she has been selected to join. Morey is another character who grapples with his relationship with God, the Church, and his fellows as the story progresses. For a fantasy character, he feels real and I find myself caring so much about him. He and Penny grow so much over the course of the story. Honestly, all the characters feel so deep and real, and I look forward to learning more about them as the story progresses.

Of course, this book isn’t perfect (honestly, would a perfect book be interesting at all?) and there are some minor complaints I have. While I feel like I know all the characters personally, I have trouble picturing the human ones in my head. Every fantasy character gets an in-depth description, but then all the humans are just there. They are deep and I know a lot about them, I just can’t picture what they look like. There are quite a few instances where characters speak Welsh, which is so cool, but because Welsh is such a ridiculous language I would appreciate some sort of pronunciation guide/translation insert at the end of the book, just so I could go back and not just have my inner monologue sound like a keyboard smash (although, knowing Welsh, it still might!). Also, and I’m sure that this is because it is the first book in a series, there are a lot of things that I feel are unanswered. I guess I’ll just have to read the next book to find out!

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this book. It was a lot of fun to read and a different take on fantasy and Christian fiction. I felt the characterization and inclusion of Christian elements was natural and in depth, and I found the story captivating.

Rating(s):

4/5

This book was so much fun. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different. I think it is a wonderful example of what Christian fiction should be, and such a different take on what fantasy normally is. This would be great for a quick read over a long weekend!

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

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Book Review: Testament of Faith

Notice: I was given a free copy of this book by the author to read in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

testament-of-faithDetails:

Title: Testament of Faith (Pacific Cove #2)

Author: JE Grace

Publisher: Self-published

Release Date: September 7th 2016

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Christian

Pages: 93 (eBook)

Synopsis:

Jason and Naomi’s son, Peter, returns home from college and back to the ranch he loves. A series of devastating events will test their strength, faith, and their hope for the future. Can they endure the hardships?

Through their own personal loss and that of their friends, they learn to lean on one another when all hope seems lost. Out of sorrow will come healing and out of healing great joy.

This is a story of struggle, grief, and loss, but also one of victory.

My First Thoughts:

J.E. Grace gave me both Haunted Visions and Testament of Faith at the same time to read and review. While I had many issues with Haunted Visions I thought that I would give the second one a try, especially since I really did like the idea of the first one. Who knows, maybe the author improved with this sequel.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Oh, wow. Where do I begin?

First, I have to say that while my reviews are honest, if I know that the authors will read them I try to make their reviews as helpful as possible. I find completely negative reviews, or reviews that do nothing but spit in the author’s face, to be a waste of time and energy. Authors gain nothing is you point out every flaw or just tell them that they suck. They have a better chance at improving if you give them opportunities or ways to improve, by giving them constructive criticism rather than blunt criticism.

I’m not going to lie; this book has some major flaws. Most of them are the same that I found with the previous story. There’s too much scene set up and not enough substance, not enough interactions between the characters, not enough character action. Grace spends a lot of the book telling me what the characters do, how they feel, what they think. She doesn’t show me their happiness, anger, or grief by describing their body language, how their faces change, or even the tone of their voices. She doesn’t show me their personalities through their actions and reactions; instead she has to tell me what kind of people they are, but then I forget soon after. I’ve been told that her characters have grown and changed through the progression of the story, but I don’t see it. I see no evidence that her characters have changed, that they’ve become stronger, better, or closer. Instead I have to be told about their development without evidence to support the claims.

This book is marketed as a sequel to Pacific Cove: Haunted Visions, but honestly you don’t have to read the first book to read Testament of Faith. The former contained ghostly encounters and unsolved mysteries. Testament of Faith, even though it’s supposed to be a sequel, really doesn’t mention anything from the first book. It’s a completely different story than the first, which is fine, but also a bit jarring. There’s no mention of ghosts and only a sentence or two about Naomi’s struggles with her mental health (which magically got better, but I won’t dive into that one). Sure, some passing comments might not make sense to the reader, but the reader honestly doesn’t have to spend the time reading the first book to understand this one. And honestly, that may be a benefit to some readers.

I think my biggest complaint about this book is the reality that it’s in. At time I wondered if Testament of Faith was set in an oddly normal episode of The Twilight Zone, because the events that happened in this story are just too unrealistic. Every character you’re introduced to is perfect, beautiful, well built, and stylish. It’s off putting to imagine these perfect individuals going through crisis and come out still being perfect. And the plot was extremely predictable; I was not shocked by a single tragedy or happy outcome. Characters are super happy and toast to good health, a few pages later tragedy occurs, followed by an unrealistic turn of event that would not happen in the real world, followed by another tragedy at the same time as another happy reveal occurs, and then the book ends on a happy note. I felt nothing with each event except extreme disbelief in how things occurred. I didn’t feel happiness when good things happened to the characters; instead I was angry because the timing felt wrong. I also didn’t feel sadness or sympathy for the characters when tragedy occurred; instead I was stuck thinking about how incompetent everyone was, especially the doctors and I won’t even waste your time explaining how much they angered me. And just like the previous book, time is treated like a plaything, manipulated by the author to make the story progress in unnatural ways.

Despite all the criticism I gave the book, there were some positive notes. In the previous book, I felt that each scene change was too choppy and threw me out of the story, but in Testament of Faith I felt like scene were a bit more fluid and less jarring. There was a bit more loving interactions between the couples to really show that they loved each, but I still believe that needs some more work. And the scene descriptions were a bit more spread out in the scene. Overall, the story read more like a novella than a screenplay.

Final Thoughts:

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in reading Christian fiction. This book has some elements of faith that readers may enjoy reading. And even though I find the sequence of events a bit unrealistic, I believe some people may enjoy reading a story of overcoming tragedy, especially in times like now.

Rating(s):

1/5

Even though there was some improvement between the two stories, I have to give this sequel a lower rating than the other novella. The idea for this story was less compelling to me and it was really hard to read this book. This book was boring for me to read. I couldn’t relate, empathize, or sympathize with the characters. There were times in which I wanted to quit, but I finished this book because I was asked to and I felt like this review would be more beneficial to the author if I finished their book. Obviously this book could entertain some readers, but I couldn’t get past the mistakes or the unrealistic feel of the story to enjoy it.