Crude Deception – Gordon Zuckerman

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World War 2 is over and the lines of power are being redrawn.  The Middle East is poised to become the world’s oil supplier, and a handful of people are positioning to control the market.  Will the Sentinels be able to expose the plot and raise enough international political and financial support to stop the evil?

Filled with political intrigue and a fascinating plot, this book should be a masterpiece.  However, it reads more like a documentary than a novel, and as much as I like to read and hate to not finish a book I’ve started, this one challenged my attention span to the limit.  I wanted so much to like it and kept pushing myself to become immersed in the story, but it just isn’t an attention keeper.  I did force myself to finish it because  I really wanted to like this book.  All of the elements are there – interesting characters, locale, international politics, nefarious activity – but it just doesn’t come together.

If you are interested in the subject matter, by all means, read the book; but if you are looking for a well-written, attention-keeping novel, I can’t recommend this one.  And it hurts me to say so.  Did I mention that I REALLY wanted to like this one?

Soup of the Day- Williams Sonoma

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365 days.  365 different soup recipes.  What’s not to love?  Organized in calendar format, the recipes make use of easy to find, seasonal ingredients.  I am trying to convince my family to take a 365 day soup challenge.  Okay, so maybe we would get tired of soup for dinner every day for a year, but so far all the recipes I’ve tried out on them have been keepers.  So far, our favorites are the Coconut Broth with Udon Noodles and Shrimp (I substituted chicken since we had shrimp the day before) and the Lobster and Sweet Corn Chowder (I substituted shrimp for convenience but will definitely try again with lobster).

I like recipe books, but only one other time have I found one that I like so much I would purchase as gifts for my friends.  This is definitely a recipe book that I highly recommend for your kitchen.  There are some recipe books that you have on your shelf to make guests think are a serious chef; there are some recipe books that you actually use on a regular basis.  This one will both impress your guests and be a regular go-to resource for delicious additions to your entertaining meals and hearty one-pot meals for your family.

Oregon Outback- Elizabeth Goddard

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Jonas Love is an FBI agent with regrets and some unrequested down time.

Carver Love is a successful rancher with a Texas-size ego and a soft spot for the beautiful sheriff.

Lucas Love is a business owner with an addiction to adrenaline and a fear of marriage.

Justin Love is a bounty hunter with an attitude and a secret agenda.

Four brothers.  Four women.  Four troubles.

An enjoyable summer escape to the Oregon Outback.  It is always a pleasure to visit places you’ve never been before, and Elizabeth Goddard has chosen a location not many writers have explored.  The unfamiliar, rugged setting makes the stories of the Love brothers all that much more interesting.  This one should definitely make your short list for summer vacation reading.

Coming Home- Karen Kingsbury

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She did it again!  Karen Kingsbury is a master story teller with a true gift for pulling on your heart strings.  Coming Home releases in just a few days, and you will want to be waiting at the door when your favorite bookseller opens- just make sure you have an uninterrupted block of time and a full box of tissues.  This very emotional conclusion to the Baxter series brings all the Baxter children home to celebrate their dad’s 70th birthday, but before they have a chance to read him the letters they have written for this momentous occasion, tragedy strikes.  How will this family, who has already experienced so much pain, move through this tragic experience with their faith intact?

If you are already a fan of the Baxter family, Coming Home will be a gripping conclusion for you.  If you have not read any of the Baxter family’s story, it will be an emotional introduction to this amazing story.  If you have never read Karen Kingsbury’s work, you are missing out on a fantastic writer!

End of the Trail- Vickie McDonough

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In 1886, Brooks Morgan was a spoiled and coddled teenager.  After a run-in with his father, he kicked Jester’s side and galloped off the ranch.  Working his way from one job to another, 1896 found him caught in a thunderstorm in Shoofly, Texas.  Taking refuge in a cafe, Brooks meets a fascinating stranger.  Will Langston is a dying man whose only family, the niece he raised for his sister, is away at finishing school.  Will hires Brooks to take care of him and, unknown to Brooks, arranges for him to “win” Will’s ranch in a poker game.  The only catch is that Brooks must agree to take care of Keri.  Thinking that Keri must be Will’s dog, Brooks readily agrees.

Keri Langston hates her life at finishing school in Georgia and wants only to return to her ranch in Texas and live happily-ever-after with her uncle.  When she arrives back in Texas, perplexed that her uncle wasn’t at the train station to meet her, she heads over to the cafe to wait for him and learns from an old friend about her uncle’s death.

When Keri arrives at “her” ranch and discovers a new owner, sparks fly!  As Keri and Brooks learn to work together to save the ranch, they must fight outlaws, murderers, and the truth about each of their pasts.

End of the Trail is a delightful excuse to escape into the Wild West for a break from the Concrete Jungle.

Two Testaments- Elizabeth Musser

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In this second book of the Secrets of the Cross trilogy, the story of the Algerian war for independence from France continues.  David travels to Algeria to rescue his friends and discovers his estranged father has been kidnapped as well.  The orphanage in France struggles for survival in the midst of controversy and threats.  Gabriella struggles with confidence as she contemplates taking on the running of the orphanage with Mother Griolet’s failing health.  A young Arab boy is sent to the orphanage as a spy with orders to kill one of the children as well as Gabriella and David, but in the face of so much love and care, he has a change of heart.

Two Testaments is not at all a disappointment as a sequel.  I read far into the night, way past my bedtime, as the pages seemed to turn of their own volition.  In addition to learning about a segment of history that I knew little about, I also found it interesting to read about life at the beginning of the Arab domination of North Africa.

I am eagerly awaiting book three of the Secrets of the Cross trilogy as Elizabeth Musser brings the story into the present day!  If you are a historical fiction fan, you should definitely put this series on your short list!

Two Crosses- Elizabeth Musser

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Historical Fiction at its finest!  Gabriella is the daughter of American missionaries to Senegal.  Mother Griolet is the head of the French-American exchange program at the boarding school in the south of France.  David Hoffmann is the very handsome American professor of French Literature.  Gabriella finds herself an innocent participator in a world she never imagined.  A Huegenot cross necklace she received from her mother becomes a link to the past and also puts her in danger from those who believe she is part of an underground spy organization.

Algerian innocents and Europeans living in Algeria are caught between the FLN, the Arab socialist political party seeking independence from France, and the OAS, the French nationalist organization working to prevent Algeria’s independence.  Hugo is the mysterious head of the underground resistance, but who is he?  From secret messages hidden in loaves of bread to orphans smuggled out of Algeria on sail boats, the suspense keeps you turning the pages.

I LOVE historical fiction, and this series is not only captivating but also very well-written.  I would put Elizabeth Musser right up there with the Thoenes, and that is high praise indeed!  In addition to crafting a masterful story, the author has chosen a fascinating, yet little known, historical event as a setting.  Two Crosses is the first book of Elizabeth Musser’s Secrets of the Cross trilogy.  Be on the lookout for my review of Two Testaments coming soon!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher and was not required to write a positive review.