The Offspring by Bill Pinnell

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Offering a read that simultaneously compels, repels, and excites, author Bill Pinnell’s The Offspring, peers into the dark side of human nature via family relationships, secrets, and racism, shown through a multi-layered, multigenerational, multi-perspective lens bringing together a set of characters whose lives intersect in interesting and at times intense ways.

First, the curiosity is piqued by an intriguing prologue which fundamentally sets the tone of this complex character-driven story, as a vivid memory quickly turns from pleasure to horror, within the mind of a character seemingly beguiled by scenes from the past. Next focus moves to the backstory of the romance between Lemuel Decker and Irene Baxter. Both are students at Logan High School during the 1940s in rural Nebraska. Set apart by an age gap and personality the two almost seem to be polar opposites while Lemuel is a shy athletic farm boy, Irene is pretty, popular, and outgoing. Because of the difference in age in school their paths rarely directly cross. However, once they do each makes an impression on the other not soon to be forgotten. Shy farm boy Lemuel holds a soft spot for the pretty and friendly Irene, but his timid demeanor continues to keep him seemingly hopelessly infatuated and at a distance.

Grandma Mable, Are You Able? by Willie Etta Wright

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Jacob has a life that is different from his classmates. It seems to him that he is the only one without a mother and a father. His grandmother acts as his parent.

His teacher, Miss Green, announces that the students are to participate in a Family Exercise Day this Saturday. While his classmates are excited, Jacob feels depressed. How can he possibly spend a day exercising with his grandma? She is old and deaf, wears false teeth, with white hair and glasses, and sometimes needs to walk with a cane. Grandma Mable wants Jacob to consider exercising her way. Somehow this does not brighten his prospects of a fun day. His only hope for a good day is bringing his dog, Friendly, with them. Of course, his grandmother agrees to the day. Jacob would much prefer to stay home and play video games.

The illustrations are bright and perfectly correlate with the text making this book enjoyable for most reading levels. The recommended reading level is for ages eight to eleven and grades three, four, and five.

Grandma Mable, Are You Able?” has the prospect for vocabulary enrichment using words such as raucous, steady, mishap, and knack, as well as the past tense verbs of spotted, whirled, dangling, topped, splattered, chuckled and darted. What a great way to introduce verbs and suffixes!

Dak Ackerthefifth and the Ethics of Heroism by Joshua S. Joseph

Reviewed by Ray Palen

“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” – The Dark Knight

That quote from filmmaker Christopher Nolan resonated with me as I read this complex and extremely satisfying novel from Joshua S Joseph. The protagonist in this, a young Indian man with the unique name of Dak Ackerthefifth — a name blamed on the same slip of the entry pen used on Ellis Island while in-taking droves of new American citizens to our country.

DAK ACKERTHEFIFTH AND THE ETHICS OF HEROISM is more of a spiritual journey than a work of fiction and the reader is privileged to go along for the ride. Throughout Dak’s life he seeks to understand the precept of what it means to be a hero. We understand that for one to be a hero you must pick a side — hero or villain — but we also learn that life is not that black and white and often times it is not clear as to which side you are on. The story begins with the death of his parents, Richard and Rudy. Our narrator indicates that the death of parents is the way every good hero story starts — but be mindful, this is no Disney tale.

Richard Ackerthefifth was a ballpoint pen magnate who allegedly died during a business trip to the Congo — or so Dak’s mother told him. Rudy was left to raise 8-year-old Dak and his younger sister, Emily. Regrettably, or in keeping with the hero plan, Rudy passes away when Dak is 14. Her death is blamed solely on Crazy Uncle Ji. He was not an actual ‘Uncle’, but was given that honorific title by their mother. Shortly after Rudy was diagnosed with cancer, Crazy Uncle Ji gave her a cocktail of various supplements which initially helped her but then quickly pushed her into a physical nosedive that she never recovered from.

Tracks: A Curious Tale of Who’s Her Daddy? by Simon Plaster

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Who is Henrietta Hebert’s biological father? An answer to the question is a conundrum that could be illuminated when Henrietta’s mother finds DNA evidence that supposedly belongs to the mystery man, and this is the impetus behind Tracks: A Curious Tale of Who’s Her Daddy? Henrietta’s mother hires a private detective, Max Morgan, to find out the truth. Max is not only an admirer of hard-boiled detective tv shows and crime novels but also an avid listener to The Fat Man, a popular detective drama radio program in the 1940s and early 1950s. In American history, the show lasted for six seasons. Max fashions himself after the detective in the title role. A marvelous beginning to an entertaining story with a number of complications arising as the detective becomes more embroiled in the speculative paternity case. More than one man is a suspect for possibly fathering Henrietta, and melodrama surrounds each man.

Simon Plaster pulls readers into this delightful story from the first page and keeps their interest right up until the final page. It takes place over a time period of five days in Henryetta, Oklahoma. A good balance of noteworthy, pivotal, and lighthearted moments lends additional meaning to momentous subject matters, such as political treachery and subterfuge, differing views and aspects involving paternity, and ethical issues in both sperm donation and DNA testing. All of these topics are woven together with amazing skill revealing a seamless story from beginning to end. Plaster also beautifully shows how extenuating circumstances and individuals’ subsequent reactions to them can impact a person’s life in positive and/or negative ways.

The Future of Leadership in the Age of AI: Preparing Your Leadership Skills for the AI-Shaped Future of Work by Marin Ivezic and Luka Ivezic

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Are you ready for the next revolution? Few people are. But the good news is that it is not too late to prepare yourself. And The Future of Leadership in the Age of AI by Marin Ivezic and Luka Ivezic proves to be a great boot camp for what is to come.

It is a book that encompasses the past, present, and future in order to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of a phenomenon. The revolution that is to come. Or is it already here? While it might seem like a more or less far-fetched futuristic topic, it is not so. AI is already part of our world. The reason why this might be hard to notice, for some, is that it is so well integrated in our everyday life.

In order to determine The Future of Leadership in the Age of AI, we must first turn to the past. Marin Ivezic and Luka Ivezic will start by walking the reader through the first three Industrial Revolutions, only to set the foundation for the fourth because this will most likely have an exponentially bigger impact than all its predecessors. However, any one of us can act in order to ease this (unavoidable) transition and ensure that we will not be swept away.

Hush, Hush: A Ronnie Lake Mystery by Niki Danforth

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Hush, Hush is an exciting and fast-paced cozy mystery with an intriguing opening, mushrooming tension, imaginative red herrings, scintillating dialogue, brilliant character arcs, a jaw-dropping climax, and an amazing and satisfying twist ending. With a hint of political subterfuge, power struggles among law enforcement agencies, and a tenacious private investigator with martial arts skills, Hush, Hush is a teeth-chattering mystery that keeps readers’ eyes glued to every single word with anticipation.

Hush, Hush is told from the perspective of the main character, Ronnie Lake, a newly licensed private investigator. Ronnie takes on the case of a missing female college student, and her strong and brave German Shepherd, Warrior, participates in the investigation. Even though Ronnie has past experience using her private investigator skills, this case is proving challenging. Ronnie runs into roadblocks, both external and internal, in her search for the missing student. Is the young woman a runaway or a kidnap victim? Is she dead or alive? As the days go by, the investigation into the unexplained disappearance of a seemly happy individual leads to far more sinister ramifications. Will Ronnie solve the case before life-threatening dangers escalate out of control?

New Yorkers: A Feisty People Who Will Unsettle, Madden, Amuse and Astonish You by Clifford Browder

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

When it comes to New York City, its dynamic environ and multicultural fusion of distinctive inhabitants, author Clifford Browder focuses his keen literary eye on his life and experiences as a seasoned resident there, as well as providing glimpses of the eclectic history of the city in his recent work, New Yorkers: A Feisty People Who will Unsettle, Madden, Amuse and Astonish You. Moreover, being no stranger to using the backdrop of New York as a setting for his previously published books, including a series set in nineteenth-century New York, titled Metropolis, author Browder once again provides an intriguing exploration of a very culturally distinctive locale.

Moreover, this is not your typical cut and dry biography, providing dry facts; instead, the read is a heartfelt memoir of a man and the city he lives, loves, survives and works in. The narrative keeps you rapt in its pages with a winning combination of information gleaned from Mr. Browder’s unique standpoint, research, and experiences from his many years as a resident. Consequently, author Browder does well with transfixing the mental eye with descriptions of his life as a longtime resident, including historical glimpses and insider tidbits of the better-known aspects of New York as well as the lesser-known and even the obscure.

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker by Brian James Gage

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: The Sleepwalker is the first book in a new series that takes place in both Romania and Saint Petersburg, Russia. Brian James Gage has written a gripping, edge-of-your-seat supernatural thriller with his own interpretation of Russian history involving Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin and the Russian Imperial Romanov family during the reign of Tsar Nicholas Aleksandrovich Romanov II. Rasputin, a powerful and deceptive vampire with extraordinary, otherworldly abilities, has orchestrated an elaborate scheme that will enable vampires to rule the world and use the human population as a food source. Members of the Romanov family are crucial to the success of Rasputin’s game plan. Vampire hunters with special weapons are trying to thwart Rasputin’s efforts in his promise of victory for bloodsucking evil beings to triumph over humankind. The hunters face a time-constraint for trying to put a stop to this calamitous undertaking. Who will be the victor? Will humans serve as vampires’ food supply or will humans destroy any chance of vampires running rampant?

The Subway by Dustin Stevens

Reviewed by Allen Hott

An interesting book although a bit long, especially in places, due to number of characters. Also lots of words lost in description as author builds places and things for happening. The story is totally believable especially in today’s world.

Tim Scarberry is in Government Witness Protection because he had given witness against a gangster, Eric Bannister, then during the trial and later his incarceration Bannister and his brother with two accomplices worked on a plan to get ahold of Scarberry for retaliation.

A female police officer, Talula Davis, found the body of Scarberry’s uncle where he had been brutally murdered by the Bannister group. She was fairly new on the job and was having a tough time with her supervisor who it appears did not want any women in his crew. Strangely enough at about the same time Scarberry was being checked on by his officer in charge of him, Deputy Marshal Abby Lipski. One major difference is that Scarberry and Lipski were in Washington where he had been sent to live in the Protection Program while his dad and Officer Davis were in Georgia.

My Sister’s Grave (Tracy Crosswhite Book 1) by Robert Dugoni

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Two very close sisters compete in everything with the younger one, Sarah, usually losing. However after a shooting competition twenty years ago that Tracy lost to Sarah, Sarah went one way and Tracy the other. Sarah however was never seen again until now when her remains were found in a partial grave.

It has bothered Tracy for all these years because Sarah, though she won the contest, had given the first prize to Tracy to make her feel good. What she didn’t realize is that not only did the gesture hurt Tracy’s feelings but then the next day Sarah would not be found.

Tracy had left the small town and was working as a detective in Seattle. When the news gets to her that some of Sarah’s body had been found Tracy heads back to the small town to see if somehow she can be of assistance in solving the mystery. She is doing it more for herself than for the people of the small town.

In the Heart of the Fire (Nameless Book 1) by Dean Koontz

Reviewed by Allen Hott

One interesting, but short, story by Koontz with a lot of his typical writing. He seems to always kind of write about the super natural or else spooky kind of scary stories that hold your attention and leave you wondering!

In the Heart of the Fire a guy who has some sort of amnesia is working for some type of organization that is run by the Ace of Diamonds. Although the amnesiac calls himself Ben Shepherd, the Ace has got him booked on transportation and in hotels as Alex Hurkos. (Throughout the book no revelation is made as to what caused his amnesia and why is he working for the Ace, who is also unknown throughout).

After arriving in a little town in Texas he checks into his hotel and retrieves information, money, and a revolver that he puts into his pocket. He has dinner and settles in for the evening wondering what all is going to happen tomorrow. During the night he receives several text messages with two names and three addresses.

Cheater’s Game (Jake Lassiter Legal Thrillers) by Paul Levine

Reviewed by Jud Hanson

Getting into your dream college can be tough. You have to have the right grades, the right extra-curricular activities and the right score on the SAT. But what if someone could take the SAT for you, for a price? Jake Lassiter, former NFL star turned lawyer, has a nephew offering exactly that service. For the right price, Kip will guarantee a score within the range needed for admission. This service is exactly what gets him in deep water when his “partner” turns him in exchange for leniency.

State of Betrayal (Detective Virgil Jones Mystery Thriller Series) by Thomas Scott

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A very interesting, although somewhat complex, read about Virgil Jones who is and has been a state cop for many years. The story begins actually twenty years ago when Jones, in the line of duty, has to shoot and kill a man. The man was beating another man to death with a piece of steel in the back of a pickup. At the time Virgil didn’t realize it nor would it have mattered but the two children of the man he shot to death were sitting in the front seat of the pickup.

And though it doesn’t come out immediately those two youngsters will show up again in the story some twenty years later and they will in fact have dealings with Virgil Jones.

What turns out is that Nicholas Pope, who was in fact the five year old son in the truck, becomes a highly skilled computer technician. Because of his great skills a coder he works his way up into a pretty good position in the state’s lottery program. He is one of those who have to keep track of the numbers and insure that they are definitely “mixed” well before each lottery drawing. And his twin sister, Nichole, is also involved in his latest operation which they both believe will help pay back in a monetary way the loss of their dad many years ago. The state lottery is a giant pot for them to shoot for and especially if they can pull it off using Nicholas’ skills.

The Devil’s Teardrop by Jeffery Deaver

Reviewed by Allen Hott

One more great one by Deaver! In this one he has so many bad guys that even the cops (the good ones) have a hard time trying to figure out just who is the real bad guy. And they do it by using not only FBI agents but one retiree who is specialized in analyzing handwriting. His presence and abilities are needed because a killer (or killers) is shooting up D.C. and leaving notes telling where ransom moneys should be left or more killings will occur.

The handwriting agent is Parker Kinkaid who is separated from his wife and trying to raise two youngsters with the help of an older lady who doesn’t live in their home but is in and out. Parker and his ex-wife are still battling over the children and he is in constant fear that something in his previous line of work will cause him to lose custody of them. The somewhat lead agent of the FBI team is a woman named Margaret Lukas. The FBI wants Parker to come back and assist them because of the notes that are being left and the scheduled shoots. Just as a note “the devil’s teardrop” pertains to a type of writing.

The shooter’s notes say that he will be doing his mass shootings on a four hour schedule for the present. They will be held in heavily traveled places and he somewhat gives them clues as to where they will be held. Finally Parker agrees to try to help but on a limited basis and he will be able to leave whenever he feels his kids are in any danger.