Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Women Talking by Miriam Toews

    This book is apparently an Oscar winning movie…but I didn’t know that when I picked it up. It’s a strange story, that takes place over a short two-day period, in a hayloft, will surprise you, anger you, and scare you. Here is my book review Women Talking by Miriam Toews.

    Mennonite Colony, Bolivia

    This book (and subsequently the film) is loosely based on a real crime that took place in a Mennonite Colony in Bolivia. Over a period of several years, the men of the colony consistently drugged and rapped women in their sleep…even girls as young as three. The women are told by the men that they have been visited by the Devil because of their sins.

    Eventually one women wakes up during the ordeal and discovers the two men attacking her. At first the men of the colony try to impose justice within the colony, until one of the women tries to kill the men and another woman commits suicide. The perpetrators are then arrested by the Bolivian authorities and sent to jail.

    Women Talking

    While the other men go to the city to try to bail out the suspects and bring them home, the women gather in a hayloft to discuss what they might do to save themselves. Only one man is present in this secret meeting. August Epp is invited to take “notes” since none of the women are literate. The question at hand is should the women stay and fight? Or should they flee? They have very little time to make a decision. The personalities of the women come into play heavily in the discussion, argument, consideration and eventual decision.

    The Decision

    Written in an interesting style, Toews has you pulling for these women…despite the fact they are illiterate, don’t speak the local language, have no money, transportation or even a map. Can this story end happily?

    Thank you for reading my book review Women Talking by Miriam Toews.

    ****Four stars for Women Talking. See last week’s book review Sacred Hunger by Barry Unworth.

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    Food & Drink  --  Inspire  --  North America Travel

    Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Boehm’s Candies

    I have had the opportunity to taste and enjoy locally made chocolate in multiple countries around the world. I’ve taken chocolate making classes, learned about cocoa and brought home chocolate as gifts. But despite all that, there is one chocolate that remains my favorite – hands down the best chocolate in the world. And it’s right here in the Pacific Northwest. Let me tell you about Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Boehm’s Candies.


    Boehm’s in Issaquah

    The lovely town of Issaquah in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains was my home back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Back then Issaquah was still a tiny little town, where people knew each other and shopped at locally owned stores. Today Issaquah has grown massively, but still keeps a thriving old town area and several successful unique and historic businesses. One of those is Boehm’s Candies.

    Julius Boehm

    Chalet built in 1956

    Austrian born Julius Boehm escaped Hitler’s tyranny and fled to Switzerland in 1940 and on to the United States in 1941. In 1942 he opened his first candy kitchen in Ravenna with the help of two friends and inspiration from his pastry-making grandmother. In 1956 he moved the operation to Issaquah which reminded him of the Alps and built the authentic Swiss Chalet that still is home to Boehm’s Candies today. Julius was a generous, engaged and much loved member of the community until his death in 1981. Thankfully longtime protege Bernard Garbusjuk took over the helm of the operation. With his long family history of Austrian Chocolate making Bernard kept the traditions and Boehm’s flourished. Today Bernard’s children are continuing the quality chocolate making business.

    Hand Dipped

    Hand Dipping

    Today most candy making operations are done with machines and it is rare to find fine chocolates that are hand dipped. In Boehm’s candy kitchen you will find the last two hand dippers at Boehm’s – Judy and Amy have been hand dipping chocolates for a combined 53 years. It is one of the things that make Boehm’s so special. Most people might not recognized how unique this is when they pop a delicious Boehm’s truffle into their mouth. But it is truly a dying art…and one to be savored.

    Machines Work Too

    Nougat rolled and waiting

    Some Boehm’s candies, however, are made by small batch machines. One rolling machine is more than 100 years old and is used nearly every day to roll out the confections. I asked what happens if they need a part for this 100 year old apparatus and I was told it never breaks down. Well they don’t make ’em like they used to!


    Boxing up a special order

    And they really don’t make ’em like they used to when it comes to today’s mass produced chocolate. Boehm’s is not that…rather it is a hands on, high caliber, steadfast operation, that is dedicated to traditional recipes, quality ingredients, old world charm and community. Much of Boehm’s staff have been with the company for multiple decades…unheard of in this day and age.

    If you have not visited Boehm’s Chalet in Issaquah you really must check out this Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Boehm’s Candies. Tours are available by reservation and the shop is open six days a week.

    The boxing room

    You can also visit the beautiful Poulsbo location for the same great product, made fresh in Issaquah and delivered to Poulsbo once a week.

    And of course you can order online…but I recommend a personal visit and tour…because you can’t get a sample, breath that delicious aroma, or stroll the beautiful grounds at the Chalet by ordering online. It’s definitely a treat to visit in person one of my all time favorite Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Boehm’s Candies.

    Hand Dipping a dying art

    Make it an outing today!

    Directions to Boehm’s Candies Chalet in Issaquah

    Directions to Boehm’s Chocolates of Poulsbo

    Thanks for reading this week’s Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Boehm’s Candies. See last week’s Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Maple Pass

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    Hand Dipped Boehm’s Chocolates
    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth

    Often over used, the word epic is the right choice for this novel which I listened to on Audible. I’ve been working my way through several Man Booker Prize winners from the past, and Sacred Hunger won this coveted prize way back in 1992. It’s a brilliant novel that still holds up nearly 30 years later. Here is my book review Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth.

    Unsworth is a real talent for historical novels. The character development of this literary masterpiece is the glue to this saga.

    Britain’s Sacred Hunger

    Sacred Hunger, the term, is used to describe the greed and power and control used by Britain in the 1700’s to capture and transport Africans to use as slaves throughout the colonies. The book follows the folly of the “slaver” ship The Liverpool Merchant, owned by William Kemp. Kemp’s failing fortunes are devastated when the Liverpool Merchant disappears at sea, presumably lost killing crew and slaves alike. Kemp’s son and heir Erasmus, finds his dead father after his suicide due to the financial failing. Erasmus with no prospects must start from scratch to survive.

    Twelve years later Erasmus will hear of a colony in Florida, living peaceably together white and black, the possible survivors of the Liverpool Merchant. Erasmus will set out for revenge against those who he believes he still owns.


    Told in a parallel story (and on audible in brilliant voices by the talented David Rintoul) the survivors of the Liverpool Merchant are many; Irish, British, African and more. Babies have been born, some have died, but together a society has been formed with no particular leader, although the doctor is one of several who stepped up to show leadership when a mutiny killed the captain.

    So Much More

    I’ll stop here for fear of giving too much away, but I loved this book…a perfect mix of fact and fiction and the life of slave traders, sailors and slaves alike. Engaging, deeply flawed, captivating and believable characters

    Thank you for reading my book review Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth. *****Five stars for Sacred Hunger.

    See last week’s book review Book Lovers by Emily Henry

    See our Reading Round Up 2023 – our favorite books we read this year.

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    North America Travel

    Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Maple Pass, North Cascades

    Location: North Cascades, Washington State

    There are four things we commit to doing weekly during our summers in the Pacific Northwest; family, friends, golf and hike. We structure each week with a hike on Friday – rain or shine – and visit some of our old favorites and always make time for something new. A couple of weeks ago we took the beautiful drive north and east to discover something new; Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Maple Pass, North Cascades.

    Maple Pass

    It takes about four hours to drive to the trail head from our house on the Kitsap Peninsula. But it’s much closer for people in King County and the Seattle area. We decided to make it an overnight get-away and headed up the day before. We stopped in the darling historic town of Snohomish and had a fantastic lunch at Heidi’s Sandwich Board. Then we moseyed on to Burlington where we spent the night. Bright and early the next morning we drove the additional two hours east to the Lake Ann/ Heather Pass/ Maple Pass trail head in North Cascades National Park.

    Snow Lake in the distance

    Bird Watching

    We had read about this being a good place to bird watch, and we really enjoy viewing beautiful birds of the Pacific Northwest. We did see five birds that were new to us, but it didn’t end up being about bird watching for us in the way I thought it would. Here are the birds we saw;

    All of the bird images above are from our bird identifier app called Merlin. It’s a perfect app for amateur bird watchers and I highly recommend it. And guess what? It’s free!

    The Views Heather Pass/Maple Pass

    The highlight of this hike, if you do the full loop of Heather Pass/Maple Pass, are the unforgettable 360 degree views on a clear day. The hike begins in a beautiful forested area, quickly rising up to Alpine scrub and meadows above the tree line. It’s here where you begin to appreciate the North Cascades for its remoteness and fewer visitors. Turquoise blue alpine lakes, bright mountain wildflowers, distant views of Mount Baker and the craggy rocks jutting into the sky. Our hike loop was seven miles with about 2000 foot elevation gain, with the high point near 7000 feet in elevation (the trail had just become snow-free in early July). But don’t fear! There are shorter hikes here with much less elevation gain.

    Lake Ann
    Mount Baker

    Lake Ann

    An easy and beautiful walk to Lake Ann is about 3 miles round trip with minimal elevation. Meander through the woods and end up lakeside at the glacial blue lake. Definitely doable for most people.

    We highly recommend no matter which trail, water, sunscreen, hat and BUG SPRAY.

    Lake Ann from Heather Pass


    We arrived on a weekday at about 9:30am and the parking lot was almost full on a beautiful July day. But additional parking is available on Hwy 20 and across the street. This area is also an access point for the Pacific Crest Trail...which runs from Mexico to Canada (the movie “Wild” takes place on this trail).

    National Parks

    The Pacific Northwest is home to three of this nation’s 424 National Parks. How lucky are we to have these amazing places in our backyard. Olympic National Park is the most visited, Mount Rainier second, and North Cascades places third. I highly recommend a visit to the Maple Pass area of North Cascades National Park. It’s worth the effort.

    At the Peak Maple Pass
    We encountered only two small snow patches

    Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Maple Pass North Cascades

    Thanks for reading my post Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Maple Pass, North Cascades. I encourage you to get out and enjoy all the gems of the Washington and the Pacific Northwest. See last week’s post Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Point Defiance Rose Garden. And be sure to check back next week for another hidden gem.

    Made it to the top!

    Get Directions Here

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Book Lovers by Emily Henry

    Okay, usually when I don’t love a book I don’t write a review about it. However, this book is one that I know a lot of people would actually enjoy…it’s just not my cup of tea. Described by even the author herself as “Hallmark Channel”…I struggled. But, if you are a fan of sweet, small town romance, read this book. Here is my book review Book Lovers by Emily Henry.

    Nora Stephens is a cutthroat literary agent. Prone to failed relationships, she spends her time being successful for both her clients and herself. The only person Nora would ever bend over backwards for is her beloved younger sister Libby.

    So when Libby invites Nora to spend a month in a tiny little town called Sunshine Falls, Nora, with a groan, agrees. Libby presents Nora with a list of all the fun and unusual things they will do during their month-long get-away. But right off the bat Nora runs into her nemesis from back in New York City, book editor Charlie Lastra. Nora and Charlie both have a reputation of being difficult and driven. But when in Sunshine Falls…

    The book for me was so predictable I didn’t even need to finish it to know how it ends. A few too many coincidences to keep the story moving. Suffice to say, it’s happily ever after. And despite lots of drama that includes grief, failing businesses, high-strung authors, and an unexpected announcement from Libby… Nora will find a way to be happy in love, career, life, and New York City.

    *** 3 stars for Book Lovers by Emily Henry

    Thanks for reading my book review Book Lovers by Emily Henry. See last week’s Reading Round Up 2023 – the best of the best we read over the past year. You don’t want to miss this one.

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    Inspire  --  North America Travel

    Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Point Defiance Rose Garden

    If you are a resident of the greater Tacoma/Pierce County area, you may question Point Defiance as a “hidden gem”. But take a moment to ask your friends who live even as close as Seattle, or anywhere else and you will likely find this hidden gem is lesser known than you think. And perhaps you’d like to keep it that way…I get it. It really is a jewel for those of us who live close and frequent it’s water access, hiking trails, historic sites, zoo and aquarium. But this local Point Defiance lover would venture to say the 760 acre secret urban oasis has plenty of room for locals and visitors alike. So here is my post Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Point Defiance Rose Garden.



    Long before it became a park in 1888 Point Defiance was part of the homelands of the Puyallup People. Still today the local Native Americans cherish the park which was a hunting and fishing grounds. Over the decades Point Defiance has evolved and today several historic structures remain, as do new and emerging public spaces.

    My Mom enjoying the arched roseway

    The Rose Garden

    It’s difficult for me to chose a favorite spot in Point Defiance Park, and my husband and I frequent the park regularly. But recently I have re-discovered the Rose Garden and realized how easily it is to miss this hidden gem. Although located near to the entrance of the park, it’s easy to drive right by as you are looking for parking. So take time and look around, for this Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Point Defiance Rose Garden.

    Unique Rose species

    The Rose Garden began in the late 1800’s and today the oldest rose is from 1895. Today’s Rose Garden is more than an acre and has a wide variety of roses including miniatures and climbers. Peak bloom time is in the summer, but the garden also includes a Dahlia Garden that is beautiful in summer and fall. In fact, the surrounding area is home to many beautiful plants and trees creating a haven all year around.

    The garden is surrounded by a high but beautifully designed fence to keep the deer away from the tasty roses. Within the protected garden is a gazebo that is frequently used for weddings. Next door to this area is the historic Point Defiance Lodge, built to house the superintendent in 1898 today it is home to staff offices.

    Check out the Antique Sandwich Company only a couple blocks away for a great lunch when you visit.

    Antique Sandwich Company

    Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Point Defiance Rose Garden

    I love Point Defiance Park and all it offers to the public for free. It truly is the Central Park of the South Puget Sound region, and we are so lucky to have it in our own back yard. I for one, welcome visitors from near and far to come discover the hidden gem, and take some time to stop and smell the roses.

    Me Enjoying a stroll through the garden

    Thanks for reading my post Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Point Defiance Rose Garden. See last week’s post Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Linger Boutique.

    We love it when you comment, pin and share our blog posts. Thank you so much. Come back next week for another installment of Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest.

    Get Directions to Point Defiance Rose Garden

    Point Defiance Rose Garden
    Reading Wednesday

    Sixth Annual Reading Round Up 2023

    Reading Wednesday Year in Review

    As you likely know if you have been following all these years, I track my reading year from August to July. Nothing fancy, just keep a little tally in my notebook of all the books I read. This year I read 69 books, (11 fewer than last year) and today I will share with you some of my favorites, once again, for Sixth Annual Reading Round Up 2023.

    Over the past year I have written 52 book reviews, pulling into reviews my favorites of the 69 books. Fifty of the 69 were read on my kindle, four were traditional books, while 15 were audible books we listened to on road trips or in the car while home in the USA. Some of my top books of the year were on Audible…a fantastic way to enjoy a book while driving.

    So as in the past several years (see our year in review from 2022 and 2021) I’m sharing my most favorites in a Top Fifteen list, and a few honorable mentions too. Some outstanding novels, biographies, historical non-fiction, as well as Booker and Pulitzer winners. Other than the number one slot here, the books are in no particular order.

    My favorite book of the year

    My Top Fifteen

    Here are my favorites from July 2022 to July 2023;

    1. The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese One of the best books I have read in several years, Verghese is a brilliant man and writer and I will read anything he writes in the future. My favorite book hands down of this past year. Go Read This Book!
    2. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – powerful yet sentimental this story of a brilliant woman scientist in the “women stay home” 1950’s will make you life, cry and jump for joy. Soon to be a movie too I hear.
    3. The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell – O’Farrell has a magnificent talent to weave real historical characters into fictional historical novels so perfectly you will wonder if the story is biographical. A beautiful read.
    4. To Paradise by Hanya Yanaghihara I believe in my book review of this book I used the phrase mind-boggling. Indeed it was. A spectacular achievement in fiction, difficult to explain, sometimes confounding, absolutely worth the effort. I loved it.
    5. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver – winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2023, this fantastic story of drug abuse, poverty and abandonment in Appalachian USA is deep and sometimes difficult to read. But read it anyway.
    6. The Whalebone Theater by Joanna Quinn – set in England before and then during WWII, the changes in Quinn’s astonishing cast of characters through the book and the war will keep you turning every page. A deep story of the meaning of family.
    7. Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris – I had never heard the historical fact that the killers of King Charles I in England escaped to New England. This part is true. What Harris does so eloquently in this book is imagine how the manhunt for these killers evolves over more than a decade. I really enjoyed it.
    8. This is Happiness by Niall Williams – Sweet, heartfelt and identifiable. This is a story about that one great love. This is a story about life. It will make you smile, cry and remember your first love and past regrets. An unforgettable and well written story.
    9. Becoming Duchess Goldblatt Author Anonymous – Before reading this great book I assumed it was a novel about a 17th century Duchess. LOL! Well you can’t judge a book by it’s cover as they say. This book is brilliant.  Duchess Goldblatt is an anonymous Twitter character who gained a giant following for her uplifting yet hilarious posts about life’s ups and downs in this social media world.
    10. Horse by Geraldine Brooks – Brooks has two books in my top 15 this year (see #14) and Horse is her most recent. She uses the human activity centered around a horse – a real horse from the past – to create this fictional story of racism through the centuries.
    11. Booth by Karen Joy Fowler – what a tale of both fact and fiction of the infamous John Wilkes Booth and his family. The trials and tribulations of this family make a great story, long before anyone shoots Lincoln. Extreme poverty to wealth and prosperity are combined with unfathomable loss of of children and property, alcoholism and rivalry, illegitimate accusations, polygamy, ego, and family love and regret. This was a perfect Audible on a long road trip last summer.
    12. The Night Ship by Jess Kidd – The real life wreck of the Dutch East Indies flagship Batavia in 1629 is the basis for this fictional novel. Wrecked near Beacon Island, the horrifying experience of the survivors of the Batavia is one of the most barbaric ever recorded. Kidd brilliantly chronicles the events in both fact and myth through the eyes of two small children in The Night Ship.
    13. The Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead – A very long saga of a book about a female pilot in the early days of pilots and airplanes. Yes it is long…but I loved it. At first I thought it was about a real person; the character is fictional but comes to life under Shipstead’s genius
    14. Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks – This is Brooks second appearance this year in my top 15. Loosely based on Eyram Derbyshire, a real village that had to quarantine itself during the black plague. Brooks creates a fictional village in 1666. When an infected bolt of fabric makes its way to the isolated village from London, the protagonist Anna’s life will change forever.
    15. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron – Young Daniel and his father run an antique bookstore in Barcelona during a time when Spain and the city are reeling from war. Daniel has lost his mother, and in his grief he finds solace in a mysterious book but the search for the author will nearly kill him.

    More I Enjoyed

    A few for Honorable Mentions;

    Surprising – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid –  was a tiny bit hesitant to read this book. Because I LOVED Reid’s book Daisy Jones and the Six but wasn’t so impressed with her last book Malibu Rising. But so many people were loving on her new book so I decided to tackle it. And I am really glad I did and you should too.

    Local Author – The Whiskey Creek Water Company by Jan Walker – Walker, who lives in my local town, presented one of my favorites this year in a sweet and simple book about a tiny fictional village in the Pacific Northwest during the prohibition.

    Humor – Guncle by Steven Rowley – Gay Uncle Patrick (Gup) also known to his niece and nephew as Guncle, finds his world turned upside down when a family tragedy back home in Connecticut has him caring for his niece and nephew all summer in Palm Springs. I fell in love with the characters and this family story.

    Favorite Author – Delicious by Ruth Reichl- I have been a Reichl fan for years. Celebrated memoir author, food writer and former editor of Gourmet Magazine, her first novel is for foodies as well as anyone who has lost someone they love. 

    Favorite Author – The Museum of Extraordinary Things – I’m a big fan of Alice Hoffman, one of my all-time favorite books was The Dove Keepers a few years ago. And this novel is an earlier work of Hoffman. I suspect there is more Hoffman in my future.

    Travel Through Reading

    Two of my favorite things to do in the world are travel and read…and for the same reason. Both take you to unknown places, where you meet new people and encounter different ways of life. Both open your eyes to alternative ways of life, educate you and present new ways to think and see the world and beyond. Get out there and explore…books are the perfect way for ANYONE to do that. Just. Go. Read!

    Thanks for reading this week’s Reading Wednesday post Sixth Annual Reading Round Up 2023.

    See last week’s book review The Postcard by Anne Berest

    What am I reading now? Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth (1992 Booker Prize)

    Thanks for all your support again this year. We love it when you comment, pin and share our posts. It helps us gain followers and reach more book lovers!