Confessions of an American Doctor by Max Kepler

Book Summary

In 2005, I was arrested by agents from both the US Postal Service and the Food and Drug Administration for the importation of illegal human growth hormone and botulinum toxin (Botox) from China.

At the time of my arrest, I was a thirty-seven year old Harvard graduate with medical and post-doctoral degrees. I attended one of the finest residency and fellowship training programs in the world at the University of California, San Francisco. I played two sports in college, earned awards at every level of education and training, had wonderful friends and a beautiful three-year-old daughter. Having grown up the son of a restaurant manager and a housewife, I had transcended the humble beginnings of a small Midwestern town to become the quintessential American Dream.

Or so I thought.

But with my arrest on felony importation charges, everything I had worked so hard for was swept away and the entire trajectory of my life was indelibly altered. I would embark on a three year battle not only for my medical license, but also for my freedom. This journey would lead to intense personal introspection, and in that process, I would discover with ugliness, there was also beauty, and with punishment, mercy.

There are many reasons I have written this manuscript, with one of the most important being that I hoped my story would resonate with others who have gone through difficult circumstances as a consequence of a dark side of their personality. With this book, I hope to inspire others to accept and embrace the good and bad, while continually striving for improved self-understanding and acceptance.

I have changed names primarily for legal purposes, but the facts are unchanged. Although the events described in the book occurred more than ten years ago, I think about them nearly every day. The shame and humiliation are ever-present. Any simple Google search of my name reveals the truth, and that truth has affected me over and over, despite the years, as it probably should. As the judge told me that day in a federal courtroom, “You have betrayed the public’s trust.”

This is my confessional.

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San Francisco Book Review – 4 Stars

Confessions of an American Doctor is a true account of a doctor in the United States. The author has used different names to respect of the privacy of his patients and peers.

The novel opens with the arrest of Dr. Max Kepler, a rheumatologist by profession. As he is being handcuffed, the events of the previous few months flash before his eyes. He then writes a detailed account of his past, leading up to his venture into cosmetology and anti-aging clinics.

Divorced and bored with his job at Cade County Hospital, he partners up with Lance, who promises him a partnership in a startup, and together they work on medicine aimed for hair growth. Starting with that, they then foray into hormone supplementation as well as Botox and Mesotherapy. Using loopholes in the medical system of the US and the FDA, they manage to bypass standard checks as well as to use substandard compounds imported from China. Lance leads him to meet a range of businessmen interested in financing their projects. Dr. Kepler is too excited at the prospect of incoming money, and he doesn’t bother doing background checks on the sources of funds. He opens a wellness clinic by the name of Forever Lithe, which branches out to multiple locations across the country. He administers Botox, Mesotherapy, and other anti-aging and cosmetology treatments, eventually resulting in a healthy number of patients.

He has an idea that Lance supplies hormones and anabolic steroids to professional athletes, but he feels unconcerned as he is not directly supplying them. They become cautious when their supplies of human growth hormone from China are intercepted at US Customs.

Dr. Kepler didn’t bother doing a background check on Lance, and eventually, Lance’s shady past catches up with him. Lance is subsequently arrested on account of his import and illegal use of human growth hormone for anti-aging purposes on his patients, and his court proceedings are recounted as well. Read on to find out if he feels he is guilty of his crime and what will be the future of his venture with Lance.

The author has given a detailed account of his childhood, relationships, and his struggles through medical education. He also explains the uses of all the hormones they created in labs, which shows his thorough knowledge of pharmacology. His detailed understanding of the medical system of the United States and the loopholes which led to them getting away with using substandard medicines on patients have been described really well. This novel is a treat to read for medical students and current physicians of any country.

Reviewed By: Rabiya Jawed

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Clockwork Strange: Into The Whirlwind by Dale McInnes

Clockwork Strange: Into The Whirlwind by Dale McInnes

Story Summary:

A North American novel inspired by Karel Zeman’s 1955 children’s classic tale Cesta Do Praveku Our first novel begins in 1943 with the disappearance of nine children and their three puppies on a prairie farm when they discover a door to long extinct alien worlds. Their story is one of awe and exploration. It is told as two simultaneous stories, one of the repercussions on the family farm community 25 years later, and the other of how the children struggle to survive their first alien environmental ice age encounter. It is the very first time that the concept of ‘deep time’ will be told through the eyes of children [for both the children and the young adults] and kept as scientifically accurate as a good story can be told. This is the North American Debut of a prehistoric ALICE IN WONDERLAND chronicle of deep time, wherein WONDERLAND is as real as the children who tumble into it.

http://amzn.to/2tGExCj

San Francisco Book Review:

From an author who had experienced the open space needed for a child’s imagination to truly blossom while growing up on a farm in Manitoba, Canada, Clockwork Strange: Into the Whirlwind by Dale McInnes is the first of a series of science fiction books that children will, no doubt, enjoy. Adults, meanwhile, shouldn’t hesitate to read this book at all. It brings back long-slumbering memories of a time when magic was indeed a possibility.

Albert Morley, a man of the early-to-middle twentieth century, is a crazy man, according to some. His sister-in-law isn’t overly fond of him, but really the only thing that’s wrong with him is that he had experienced something extraordinary as a child thanks to a mysterious caboose. For twenty years, Albert had been gone. Nothing had changed upon his return. Now, years later, the caboose has done it’s magic again. Nine kids and three little dogs vanish, never to be seen again.

What happened to these kids and their three little dogs reaches many ears, but what many don’t know is that these kids have been taken to a world and time where everything is big and dangerous. Cats, wolves, mammoths–everything’s big. Armed with writings that can be found in Albert’s diary, the kids have to figure out a way to survive.

Of the nine kids, Daniel assumes the leadership role. When important decisions have to be made, his voice is the one that will most likely be heard. The puppies are out of harm’s way most of the time. The kids use the knowledge from what they see as an added tool to survive. They learn to adapt to their surroundings and do what it takes to survive even when the decisions they have to make become as tough as the mammoth hides they have to cut from mammoth carcasses. Children will love the characters in this book for their bravery in the face of terrifying circumstances and will learn a thing or two about teamwork and smart strategies to fend of predators of the wild.

I did like what the author primarily tried to do and that was to write a story so that readers could experience the less technologically-ridden world of the 1930s to 1950s through the eyes of a child. Childhood is filled with magic. McInnes scatters it about freely in this book. My wish is that McInnes made the absence of the kids more emotionally relatable as we do get to follow the Morley clan back in the real world in the years after the incident with the caboose.

Reviewed By: Benjamin Ookami

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Lucia Zarate Cover

Lucia Zarate By Cecilia Velastegui

Story summary:

Lucia Zárate is based on the poignant, real-life odyssey of the world’s smallest woman. Pretty and gregarious, Lucia Zárate was just twenty inches tall. A celebrity after her ‘display’ at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition, Lucia’s extraordinary, heartbreaking story is one of exploitation by greedy sideshow hucksters and a fishbowl existence on the road, from New York to Victorian London. We follow the adventures of diminutive Lucia Zárate and her devoted governess as they grapple with life and death, finding joy and adventure in their bumpy sideshow journey of more than fourteen years. This is an artfully balanced novel that is a mesmerizing tale of survival, resilience, and the uplifting force of friendship.

Forward Review:

The sad life story of the diminutive Lucia Zárate is intriguing and informative.

Cecilia Velástegui’s historical novel, Lucia Zárate, chronicles the extraordinary life of the tiniest person who ever lived. The opening pages, lyrical and riveting, paint Mexico with vivid brushstrokes, bringing the sights, sounds, and smells of Veracruz and its vanilla bean industry to life.

Like all historical fiction, Lucia Zárate plaits fact and fancy. Lucia Zárate (January 2, 1864–January 15, 1890) holds the Guinness World Record as the smallest human, measuring twenty-one inches tall and weighing less than five pounds at seventeen years of age. Velástegui describes her as “a wisp of a girl, a perfect and miniature thing, whose singular appearance and sparkling personality were as unique as the cherished fragrance of Veracruz vanilla.” Despite her diminutive size, she “spread the velvet folds and lace frills of her gowns in such a way that she extended her personal space in a wide circle all around her.”

Incorporated into the fictitious elements are actual newspaper accounts of Lucia’s nineteenth-century tour of America and Europe. Sometimes these factual reports are artfully woven into the tale; other times, not. As a result, the book wavers between pure history and historical fiction, never landing squarely on either one.

Lucia’s story is told primarily from the vantage point of her governess, Zoila. When Zoila realizes she must extricate herself from her village’s internecine vanilla bean trade skirmishes, as well as from the rumors swirling around her own perhaps-nefarious actions, she tucks a vial of her beloved Felipe’s salvaged blood between her ample breasts and heads out. She secures a position as governess for the improbably tiny Lucia, whose parents have contracted for their daughter to perform in human curiosity sideshows. Zoila accompanies the Lilliputian girl on the decade-long tour, with visits to domestic and foreign heads of state, as well as considerable time spent among seedy denizens and gawking voyeurs.

Lucia and Zoila are well-drawn and complex figures; their emotions ebb and flow according to the particular circumstances they encounter, making them believable characters. Other individuals, however, are less fully developed; they include slimy carnival hucksters, cruel freak-show managers, and greedy parents who want to live in luxury, financed on the back of their tiny treasure of a daughter. Aside from Zoila and Lucia, not one compassionate or multifaceted individual appears in the story. Well-rounded supporting characters would have made the fictive elements more credible.

This sad life story is intriguing and informative. Velástegui’s sensitive descriptions of humans with a variety of deformities and odd conditions is commendable, as is her condemnation of their abominable treatment in nineteenth-century sideshows. Lucia Zárate should appeal to people interested in the human psyche, and those drawn to history should appreciate the author’s adherence to carefully researched historical details. Also, young adults with sophisticated vocabularies should enjoy this book.

Available on Amazon – http://amzn.to/2suSKPT

Author Bio:

Cecilia Velástegui’s historical novels have received international awards: LUCIA ZARATE (2017) is a finalist for Best Historical Fiction and is in competition with an international, literary giant: Arturo Pérez Reverte. Her novel PARISIAN PROMISES won the Paris Book Award (2015), MISSING IN MACHU PICCHU (2014) won first place in the International Latino Book Awards, the nation’s oldest Hispanic literary awards, TRACES OF BLISS (2013) was selected by the Association of American Publishers to the National Book Club, and GATHERING THE INDIGO MAIDENS (2012) was a runner up for the Mariposa Prize. Her children’s bilingual fables were endorsed by the SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, and were finalists for the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year.

Cecilia has a graduate degree from the University of Southern California, is a former Marriage and Family Therapist, has traveled to more than 100 countries and speaks four languages. She serves on the board of directors of several cultural and educational institutions.

Harold Hardscrabble by G.D. Dess

Story Summary: Harold Hardscrabble, by G. D. Dess, captures the feelings of frustration and helplessness that many of us experience in our daily lives. These sentiments are embodied in the contemplative, quietly charming protagonist, Harold, who, like Walter Mitty, lives largely in his own world of thoughts and dreams. We follow Harold’s transformation from a dreamer to a man of action as he struggles to discover how to live a meaningful life in a materialistic world.

Harold copes admirably with the many disasters and injustices that assail him on his life’s journey; but when he is finally overcome by circumstances beyond his control, he is forced to take matters into his own hands to attain justice for the all the misfortunes he has been made to suffer. This is a story of a quest for self-realization that unfolds slowly as it builds to its explosive climax.

5 Star Review Manhattan Book Review

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Harold Hardscrabble met the love of his life in college. Her name is Carol, the attraction, of a physical and intellectual nature, is immediate. Harold sees Carol as having a controlling personality, but he also sees an endearing quality to her vulnerability. They leave college and get married, moving to New York City and to cramped surroundings in an apartment. Harold is an artist within, who is looking for an outlet to unleash the art in his soul, but practicality and his bride push him to the corporate world. Harold works a variety of temp jobs, but his brilliant mind leads to offers of a full time job in a analytical position. Harold still feels insecure but pushes on with the prodding of Carol. The birth of their two children, Jake and Sarah, makes a move to the suburbs an eventuality. Harold thinks back to his time growing up, his propensity to daydream being the fondest of memories. As his children grow, Harold’s mind turns to the pitfalls of commercialism, materialism, and the lack of reality that haunts his existence. He attempts to explain his feelings to Carol but is met with indifference. His thoughts start to take a toll on his home and career. His life takes a tilt toward the mortal when he is diagnosed with prostate cancer. His battle and its unpleasant effects take a backseat to Carol’s departure. Harold emerges weakened from the cancer, drinking more and looking to de-clutter his existence. Will he ever find happiness? Will he ever overcome his own questions and doubts?

Harold Hardscrabble is an excellent, philosophical tale that explores the life of a brilliant, troubled man and his ups and downs. The reader can identify with many of the quandaries that tax the mind of Harold. The existential crises that haunt the titular character make him sympathetic and worth rooting for. The story bobs and weaves but never fails to hold the attention of the reader. A fine read.

Amazon Link – http://amzn.to/2rfIayX

Elmina’s Fire by Linda Carleton – Historical Fiction

Historical fiction at it’s best! Women of Medieval times had few options, marry, or be a nun. As a troubled child of an impoverished family Elmina found the Cathars, a sect that supported her idealism and the seeking of her soul. Her love and devotion for the man who would become Saint Dominic led her to follow him and help him start his own monastery, setting the stage for division in her family. Her sister stayed with the Cathars. Elmina watched helplessly as the Albigensian Crusade rolled onward, she lost her sister and her spiritual and emotional life began to unravel. Elmina learns to paint her experiences within a sacred circle—a practice that helps her discover the origins of her lifelong fears. Read this book if you wrestle with questions about the nature of God, the purpose of creation, the nature of evil, and the possibility of reincarnation.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1975193677

Author Bio – Linda Carleton is a former teacher of history and comparative religions and minister. In 2001 she was ordained in the United Church of Christ and founded Melita House, a refugee welcome house in Guilford, Connecticut. After retirement, she moved to Maine with her husband Peter where she now paints, writes, leads mandala workshops and teaches English to immigrants. She is perpetually seeking new ways to integrate her own Christian faith with the world’s diverse spiritual teachings and to help the world heal from its history of religious abuse.

Amazon Link – http://amzn.to/2qfb4eA

She Came From Afar by Courtney Lindberg – Book Review

5 Stars From San Francisco Book Review – https://sanfranciscobookreview.com/product/she-came-from-afar/

Each family is different, and this is especially true for families who have adopted children. Not only do they have to deal with all the typical struggles of raising a child (sometimes from infancy), but they also need to face questions from the people around them and from their own children. It is a trial, but a common enough one that there are many adoption stories, several of which are beautiful and filled with the grace of parents who manage to pass through the trials and keep their heads held high. She Came From Afar is one such story.

The book begins with the author dreaming that she holds a dark-skinned baby as a voice tells her that this child is hers. The author wakes with the certainty that she will adopt a child from Africa, though her husband is less certain. After all, they already have two children, Seamus and Nolan, and when their third child is born, they learn that she has holes in her heart that require surgery. Still, the author is gripped by the idea that she is meant to adopt a child from Africa, and although her husband disagrees, she does research into various countries that she could adopt from. When her husband admits that he is ready to adopt, the author pushes forward with her plan.

Not everything goes perfectly, as one might expect. The author’s dream featured a baby boy named Ndume, but the child who comes to her home is a little girl whom she calls Eden. When the author’s husband goes to Ethiopia to meet Eden, he finds that she is malnourished and ill, and just before he is able to return home, he falls ill as well. When he does bring Eden home, the family faces all the uninformed questions and remarks any white family adopting an African child would. Through all that, and through the trials of raising four children who are close in age, the family carries on, displaying a grace that would make anyone proud.

She Came From Afar is a short, beautiful book that will appeal to anyone who has looked after children. I was deeply moved by the author’s story, and though I am not a parent myself, I’ve helped look after some younger kids, and I found myself smiling knowingly at the little descriptions the author gave of how her children interacted with each other. I’m glad I read this book, and I would happily read it again.

Amazon Link – http://amzn.to/2rP6mWe

Leadership Reflections: 52 Leadership Practices in the Age of Worry by Dr. Lisa Aldisert – Book Review

Summary:

Do you think of yourself as a leader? Leadership starts with a mindset, not a title. Leaders influence. They share keen insight. They command respect without demanding it. Leaders inspire achievement of successful outcomes, whether leading people, projects, or processes. You’ll relate to the real-world vignettes in this book as they represent typical challenges leaders face as they navigate the wilds of the workplace. This book is a collection of short essays on leadership and relationship management written by Dr. Lisa M. Aldisert, a seasoned management consultant. Not only has she advised hundreds of clients on these issues, but she has faced these situations directly in her businesses. This book will provide you with anecdotes and examples that you can apply on the job every day.

5 Star Review Manhatten Book Review – https://manhattanbookreview.com/product/leadership-reflections-52-leadership-practices-in-the-age-of-worry/

“Many good things come in small packages, and Lisa Aldisert’s small trade paperback is a perfect example. Leadership Reflections is an unusual volume that should be on the desktop of every manager and leader, particularly in a corporate environment, but it would be helpful in any situation, small or large, profit or non-profit, where the situation involves a leader/manager and followers or employees. The author is an executive advisor and management consultant who has written hundreds of short essays for executives. In this book, she compiled fifty-two of these short, one-and-half to two-page essays, all pertaining to management issues. With her clear, precise, and very readable writing, the essays are gems and highly imperative messages to leaders. You may read these from cover to cover in one sitting, but they might be more useful in small doses as perhaps weekly readings while actively putting each of these essays into practice. Following each essay, Aldisert concludes with two questions under “For Reflection”—these are good and presumably leaders reading these essays will reflect on their leadership to answer the questions (e.g. “Do you ignore conflicts in order to keep peace?” “How can you sell the benefits of positive stress to your staff?”). The author includes, and often starts with, little stories or anecdotes that help keep readers’ interests as well as add to the understanding of the concept. A good example is in the essay “Managing High-Performing Talent.” Aldisert quotes a high-performing employee in a boutique investment bank whose independence and refusal to be managed kept her manager in a quandary. Such a situation is not uncommon, and the author gives reasonable suggestions on how to manage such a dilemma. Or how to manage workplace drama of finger-pointing and accusations, another sticky situation requiring the leader’s diplomatic intervention. Aldisert’s advice in these essays is to the point, clearly stated, and is invaluable help to leaders and managers.”

Available on Amazon – http://amzn.to/2ryP7uN

The Hunter: Awakening by Nicholas Arriaza

Story Summary:

The Hunter: Awakening, is the first of a series of novels that will explore the nature of good and evil and the question of redemption: Is it available to those who have perpetrated great evil? Not long after the theft of a leather-bound book from a hidden hillside tomb in LA, a young hiker inadvertently awakens something fearsome that has been laid to rest some two hundred years ago. Soon after an emaciated, amnesiac man falls from a cliffside trail into the backyard of young, pregnant, neurosurgeon Melisa Castro. The young doctor feels compelled to help the “John Doe” regain his memory. Meanwhile a vampire who no longer has a hunger for blood comes seeking to rectify the awakening only to find himself in the middle of a power struggle within the family Melisa’s fiancé Chris leads. Chris has yet to tell Melisa of his true nature and the fact, she is carrying a werewolf’s baby.

5 Stars San Francisco Book Review

In The Hunter: Awakening, we are introduced to Melisa Castro, a doctor who helps a man who falls onto her property and seems to have amnesia. As she is four months pregnant, she tries to be careful around him, but she finds herself needing to help this mysterious man. Even stranger, when she touches him, she sees visions of things that happened to him in the past, which he can’t even remember. Melisa is slowly drawn into a world of vampires and werewolves and those that hunt them. She discovers that the battle between the Hunter and his prey has been going on for centuries. Melisa begins to realize that the child she carries might not be normal at all and that she might possess some supernatural powers as well. Because of the child she’s carrying, she is in danger from the Hunter. But things aren’t always black and white. The Hunter has been awakened, but he wasn’t supposed to be, and now no one knows how the story will end.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the next in the series. The plot was great. Who doesn’t love a story about werewolves and vampires? If you don’t, you should. Even though Melisa was the main character, I actually liked Aaron, her future brother-in-law, and Ranald the best. Ranald, the sarcastic vampire, was an enjoyable character to read about. I hope that if I ever become one of the undead, I can still keep it light like he does. Aaron makes his brother, Chris, who is the father of Melisa’s child, just look bad. He’s willing to go as far as needed to protect her and her unborn child.

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Amazon Link – http://amzn.to/2poA9Tc

Author Website: https://www.thehuntersaga.com/

Author Bio:
Nicholas Arriaza has worked as a pizza maker, an electrician, a carpenter, a luxury home electronics salesman, and an owner operator of a successful luxury custom home theater design company. He is now a stay at home dad and fantasy writer. He lives with his wife, their infant son, and Pit-Bull Basil in Los Angeles, CA. THE HUNTER: AWAKENING is his first published novel. He is currently working on the second novel of the saga.

Rage and Mercy: Part One by Scott Dresden

Story Summary
“This thrilling book delivers a violent tale that is ultimately as surprising as it is gruesome.” Kirkus Review Sayer didn’t expect his life to go any further than wherever his wealthy clients told him to drive to, until he worked for Diana Westcherry. The young, beautiful, epileptic woman stubbornly imposes her kindness on Sayer, exposing a life that could’ve been, if she’d been his mother. Through Diana, Sayer learns that nothing determines a man’s life more than the mother he was born from. And when drug fiends murder her for purse change, Sayer will slaughter all of them to immortalize her, the mother he was denied. But knowing now that the greatest gift a father could give his child is choosing the mother of his child, he abducts Amanda to create the child he was supposed to be. Rage and Mercy is the story of Amanda and Sayer. Amanda is a born again Christian on a mission to shepherd lost souls to God. Sayer is her black kidnapper, determined to give his future child the white, Christian mother he never had. While there is nothing Sayer wouldn’t do for his future child, Amanda must discover if she can endure impossible horrors to prove that no child of God is beyond redemption.

4.5 Stars San Francisco Book Review

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Scott Dresden’s Rage and Mercy: Part One is an intricate fictional work that will engross a reader’s attention start to finish. The murder of Diana, a young, virtuous woman, triggers Sayer, her former driver to embark on the systematic extermination of an unwanted population of drug addicts, referred to as “fiends.” The novel follows Sayer, Diana, Norris, and Adams, the detectives investigating the murders, Margot, a photographer who stumbles across the story, and Amanda, an entwined acquaintance of Diana. Reflective one-liners pop up throughout the narrative, offering thought-provoking concepts, such as “’Catch the devil before you cuff the suspect’” and “’…the most consequential decision a father can ever make for his child is to choose the mother who bears it, and the best fathers do not ask permission or apologize for what they do for their children. I became wealthier than nearly everyone by yielding to no one but my family.’”

Each chapter incorporates another layer to titillate and enthrall readers. Dresden’s work requires a mature audience to appreciate and comprehend the graphic material woven throughout the novel. Dresden boldly engages the themes of rape and murder in a very candid, up-front manner, while avoiding the tendency of some authors to romanticize the acts. Moreover, he considers these themes through the lens of motherhood in a manner not typically utilized. Readers will have to decide for themselves the character, composition, and impact of a “good” mother. Situations like this arise throughout the narrative, encouraging readers to reconsider self-determined truths, like where the boundary between good and evil truly falls. Readers may find themselves sympathizing with, or even rooting for, the vigilante as he tries to avenge the honorable life stolen before its time.

Rage and Mercy: Part One will leave readers on the each of their seats anxiously awaiting the next installment of Dresden’s premier work. Clearly identified as Part One, the novel leaves many questions unanswered at the close of the first installment. How deep into the story will Margot probe? What will happen to Amanda after she escapes captivity? Will Sayer walk away before his vendetta consumes him? We can only hope Scott Dresden does not delay. Rage and Mercy: Part One weaves an elaborate narrative of deceit, desire, hope, and destruction that many readers will instantaneously begin again. Ideal for sunny days at the beach or stormy nights with some popcorn, this book will prove an excellent addition to any adult’s reading list.

Amazon Link – http://amzn.to/2rOUTG3

Gideon: The Sound and The Glory

Story Summary:

Unsung heroes and murderous villains, hidden forever in ancient shadows, now leap to life – blazing onto the pages of revelation. Gideon, a lowly woodcutter, is blessed by an angel to be the savior of all Israel. He does not know why or how and shrinks from this dangerous mission. The commandment to conquer the Midian Empire as one man seems all but impossible. But Gideon’s confidence grows as God guides his every step until he stands fearless and faithfully fulfills his destiny as, “A mighty man of valor.” The fierce warriors, burning towers and devastated cities contained in Gideon’s Journey, are but silver threads that weave into a sweeping tapestry of ancient intrigue. Running through and stitching together the entire saga is The Lord of the Covenant, or The Baal-Berith, also known as Gideon’s mysterious Ephod of Gold.

Manhattan Book Review – 4 Stars
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Barak’s chances of winning the battle of Mount Tabor were slim, very slim. Back in the middle of the 12th century BCE, the Midian Empire with its far larger and stronger army would surely whip the Israelite forces. Then, divine intervention for the worshipers of Adonai, the one God: a mega-storm suddenly appears on the horizon, torrential rain churns up the dusty plain. The idol-worshiping Sisera’s horse-drawn chariots are stuck in the mud and vanquished.

Ganci’s retelling of the biblical Book of Judges is a page-turner. Generals and kings highlighted in the book’s five sections leap off the pages of the Old Testament, usually acknowledged as a collection of rules and extraordinarily long lists of names.

While the author’s forward suggests the realm of science-fiction, within a handful of pages the saga’s origin is revealed. After Barak’s demise, his successor, Gideon, the title’s namesake, takes on leadership of the Israelites. Gideon is a complex character. Physically almost a head and shoulders higher than the other “pesky Israelites,” (Joseph Ganci has a wonderful turn of phrase), he is humble and lacks self-confidence, characteristics which enhance his appeal. Hopefully it is not sacrilegious to compare him with Kirk Douglas in his heyday. He falls deeply in love with Drumah, despite being forbidden to consort with a daughter of the Canaanite enemy. After he “harvest[s] the fruit of her passion” and she spends time hidden in a cave, eventually the rules are bent and she becomes his concubine.

Gideon’s strength and reputation swell until, when he dies, he is mourned by his seventy sons. Abimelech takes the reins. He is emphatically not a chip off the old block, a thoroughly nasty bit of work who kills all but his youngest brother (who escapes) and tries to unite in one kingdom both the idol-worshipers and the Israelites, an absolute travesty.

This is ancient history from a twenty-first century perspective. And it works! Once Abimelech is decapitated, the story accelerates. Further intrigue culminates with the leadership of Eli, the young high priest, who takes the reader from the final pages of the Book of Judges to the first Book of Samuel.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N4LNPMU