RCR Says: “Halaban’s modernization of this timeless classic offers readers an intriguing take on the book’s most well-known tropes.”
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Sunayna Prasad’s From Frights to Flaws tells the story of twelve-year-old Alyssa McCarthy’s unexpected encounter with magic. Alyssa is kidnapped from her home in New Jersey by Beau Dunchap (Master Beau), an evil wizard, and taken to his dark magic center in Fiji. Master Beau plans to kill Alyssa so that he can absorb her strength and fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming France’s dictator, but he quickly realizes that murdering Alyssa will not supply him with enough power. Therefore, Master Beau and his crew kidnap Alyssa’s friends—Hailey, Jasmine, Destiny, and Madison—in order to kill them, as well. With help from a few benevolent wizards and magical creatures, the five girls battle Master Beau and his black sorcery.
Prasad’s writing is playful and lighthearted, despite the abundance of dark magic throughout the storyline. Each page beckons a reader to open his or her imagination as they take in incredible sights, such as a tiny man made of marble, a potion that adjusts you to new time zones, and a glittery lamb who can break sleeping spells. But while the magical world that Prasad creates is certainly wondrous and full of endless surprises, the book’s characters are disappointingly underdeveloped. Flat dialogue and a pervasive lack of emotion distract from the events unfolding before the reader. Thematically, the exploration of Good’s eternal struggle against Bad is a major part of the story, as Alyssa witnesses, firsthand, the extreme kindness and extraordinary evil that magical powers can yield. From Frights to Flaws leaves readers with questions about the fates of Master Beau and Alyssa, which will both surely be addressed in Prasad’s next book.
The Last Straw is Ed Duncan’s second book in the Pigeon Blood Red series. In this crime thriller, readers are reintroduced to the talented hitman Richard “Rico” Randers. Rico is approached by Howard Forester, a notorious crime boss in the Chicago area, after Forester’s son kills a man in an attempted carjacking. Forester is determined to silence Sandra Yanders, a teenager who, having witnessed the carjacking, is set to testify against his son. Forester asks Rico to murder Yanders but he refuses. Rico is against killing such a young, innocent girl but John D’Angelo, another hitman and Rico’s enemy, agrees to take the job. Tensions between D’Angelo and Rico run high as Rico teams up with a lawyer, Paul Elliott, to try to protect Yanders, and themselves, from D’Angelo’s fury.
With danger looming in every chapter, The Last Straw is an action-packed and nerve-racking read. Duncan skillfully draws the reader into a complex web of characters navigating difficult situations. A few key twists within the storyline keep the reader intrigued in this fast-paced thriller, and despite the fact that they are both killers, the main characters are very likable. The Last Straw casts an interesting light on right versus wrong, urging readers to reflect on the morality of the book’s characters and the motivation of one’s actions. Multiple people are killed in The Last Straw, and while these murder scenes are well executed, the emotional reactions of the surviving characters are not convincing. The Last Straw is an outstanding crime thriller which could be made even stronger by further developing its characters’ expressions of grief and fear in the face of extreme violence.
RCR Says: “The Silent Contact tells the emotional story of a family torn apart while also touching on larger societal issues.”
Jesus Loves You by Christine Topjian
Jesus Loves You is a picture-guided story of Jesus’s presence in one young man’s life. The illustrations accompanying Topjian’s text show the main character during all of life’s most significant sea changes, from birth to high school graduation to beyond. Below each image is a brief line or two describing the moment as the main character experiences it, and telling the reader how Jesus was there to lend his support and encouragement. The story even delves into some truly challenging moments, like handling your first heartbreak, fighting with your mother, and caring for aging parents, though this is done thoughtfully so as not to alarm or confuse young readers.
In the style of Love You Forever, Christine Topjian’s Jesus Loves You takes an extended look at the role of parental figures throughout a child’s life, though the parent in this case is none other than Jesus Christ. Topjian’s text innovatively hones in on this key aspect of Jesus’s relationship with his followers – that throughout life’s victories and low points alike, he is there to either console or congratulate those who would listen to him. This seems like an especially appropriate topic for little ones just starting out on the long road to adulthood. This book would make a great gift for a child who is still figuring out who Jesus is, which can sometimes be a difficult concept for young minds to digest. On the other hand, it would be just as suitable for anyone who is about to embark on a new journey, whether that means heading off to college, starting a first job, or getting married.
To purchase a copy of Jesus Loves You, click here to find it on Amazon.