Book Review: Hannah’s Journey

Carmen Peone’s expert horsemanship and knowledge of northeast Washington territory shines through in the second of her Gardner Sibling Trilogy, Hannah’s Journey.

At sixteen, Hannah is the oldest child of a mid-1800’s pioneering ranch family. Hannah’s burning desire to race horses with her adopted Indian Aunt Spupaleena is a constant worry to her parents. They fear not only that she’ll be injured, but that their daughter is not preparing herself for the expected future role of wife, homemaker, and mother.

Hannah’s parents aren’t the only ones against her racing. The Indian boys resent her barging into their sport. Not only is she a girl, but a white girl. The only encouragement she gets is from Aunt Spupaleena and Spupaleena’s brother Pekam.

Heedless of others’ opinion, Hannah participants in a difficult, dangerous race. Not only is there danger in the race itself–riding horseback fast on uneven terrain–but also enduring vengeful rough treatment from other racers. It’s a bold, bloody event.

Hannah’s parents, frustrated and worried about their daughter’s rebellious behavior, threaten to send her to live with an aunt in Montana, a fate totally unacceptable to Hannah. She runs away to the Sinyekst village along the Columbia River, the village of her Aunt Spupaleena.

Hannah’s Journey delves into many of life’s challenges, especially of a young girl with non-traditional dreams. Along the way she must learn to exercise patience, to have faith, to slow down and pray for guidance. She learns that life comes with compromise, and sacrifice. Life isn’t easy and for someone with extraordinary desires, it’s even more difficult.

I found Hannah’s Journey an absorbing, well-written book, a story intriguing to a wide audience. The author speaks with authority about Indian history, and the Sinyekst people. Peone is knowledgeable about the northeast Washington area, the Columbia River and the diverse area surrounding it. Many of this novel’s characters have appeared in the author’s previous books (The Heart Trilogy), but the transition into this second book of the Gardner Sibling Trilogy is smooth and stands alone.

To learn more about Carmen Peone, visit


Book Review: Silver Linings Playbook

Matthew Quick’s debut novel, Silver Linings Playbook, is written in first-person from the viewpoint of Pat Peoples, a man not yet equipped to handle a normal life. Pat has spent the last few years in a mental health facility. Because he doesn’t seem to be improving, his mother insists he be released from what he calls the “bad place,” and he lives at home with his dysfunctional family. Pat sees life as a movie produced by God. Although in his thirties, he grapples with life and is incapable of coming to terms with his divorce from Nikki.

In his attempt to regain Nikki’s love and respect, Pat embarks on a physical training regimen, spending many hours a day on an exercise machine, or doing sit-ups, and running miles each day. He reads books from his ex-wife’s teaching syllabus in a effort to be more literate and raise Nikki’s opinion of him. His goal is to end what he calls “apart time” and resume his life with Nikki.

Pat goes to therapy and the therapist and Pat’s lives begin to intertwine through their mutual love of the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the meantime, Pat meets Tiffany, an angry, troubled young woman with a mysterious agenda. She often shows up at Pat’s doorstep to run with him.

As the story of the circumstances surrounding his being admitted to the mental health facility slowly unfolds, Pat’s awareness of that time brings more grief into his life and his desperation grows. In his mind, all his improvement focus is tied to reuniting with Nikky.

Silver Linings Playbook is an entertaining read, but troubling, too. Pat’s inability to think and act like an adult bothered me. His parents’ marriage brought even more anxiety to his life, and that concerned me. Although the novel ended on a happier note, I found it hard to believe all would be well, let alone “normal.” Admittedly, I am not a fan of organized sports, but I thought all the emphasis on football somewhat “over the top.” Still, I enjoyed the book and appreciated the exposure to, thankfully, a way of life unfamiliar to me.

Larrabee: Washington’s First State Park

Larrabee State Park has been one of our favorite quick destinations for years. Only an hour’s drive from our home, the park instantly offers a welcomed change of pace and a sense of being far away.

The park is set on the seaward side of Chuckanut Mountain, off the famed Chuckanut Drive, and offers postcard views of Samish Bay and the San Juan Islands. Visitors have their choice of activities from camping, hiking and biking trails, birding and wildlife viewing, salt-water swimming, diving and beach exploration, and shellfish harvesting in season. One of our favorite hikes is to Clayton Beach, which features rare sandstone cliff formations and tide pools teeming with life. In addition to the impressive salt-water beaches, two nearby freshwater lakes, Fragrance and Lost lakes offer bass and trout fishing. A lush growth of Northwest foliage abounds: Douglas fir, western red cedar, alder, hemlock, bigleaf maple, willows, rhododendrons and sword fern.

Larrabee features 85 campsites: 51 standard, 26 full-utility and 8 primitive sites, plus a group camp that can accommodate 40 people. A working train track runs through the park and west of the campground. The park has a boat ramp and a large day-use area with a covered shelter.

Twenty acres of land was originally donated to the State of Washington by the Larrabee family in 1915. The donated land was envisioned as a scenic park/auto campground to complement the Chuckanut Drive section of the nearby completed Pacific Highway. That year, Larrabee officially became the first state park in Washington. Later, the family donated another 1,500 acres. The park now stands at more than 2,600 acres. Many of the park’s original buildings are still in use today, as well as a bandshell built in 1944.

Larrabee State Park is located on Chuckanut Drive, just south of Bellingham, Washington. If you’re in the area, check out this prime park. Maybe we’ll see you there!

Book Review: Cavalry Scout

Dee Brown, (1908–2002) was an acclaimed author and historian of the American West. His most famous work, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (1970) details the historical development of the American West from the Native American point of view.

In the novel Cavalry Scout, which takes place in the mid-1800’s, John Singleterry is ordered to guide troops charged with escorting the Cheyenne to a reservation. Although he is engaged to the daughter of his superior officer, Singleterry meets and falls in love with a woman who is half Cheyenne, half white. He becomes involved with the plight of the Indians, their mistreatment and the outrageous injustices they experience.

Brown’s exquisite details and depth of knowledge are impressive. I felt like I rode with him, experienced handling the horses, suffered from the unrelenting cold, and put up with an Army that followed orders dictated by those who didn’t understand the situation. His knowledge of the Indian way of life was fascinating in its authenticity.

Cavalry Scout is a classic and has spurred my interest in reading Brown’s other works. I highly recommend this novel.

Why I Blog

Why blog? When I first heard about blogging, I figured I didn’t need another reason to write. But once I got the hang of it and realized the value of writing concise pieces about a variety of subjects, I found I really enjoyed blogging. Over the years, I’ve had 400+ magazine and newspaper articles published. In many cases, I had a steady, reliable publisher to whom I submitted destination articles, but for other topics I often spent much time finding the right magazine, the right “fit” for my work. Once I became heavily involved in writing books, I found blogging made better use of my time than writing for magazines.

I’m am an enthusiastic reader and read many genres. Book reviews became a natural for me and proved to be worthwhile fodder for my blog. I have had many people tell me they read a book because of one of my reviews. I find I read a book differently when I know I’m going to review it. For one thing, I really have to pay attention so that I can accurately describe the essence of the book’s message.

For many years I wrote for RV LIFE, a magazine devoted to RVers featuring places and products of interest to them. My husband Bruce is an avid photographer and furnished the graphics for my articles. We look at destinations in a different light than we might have if we were just been passing through. I use these same observation skills in writing destination blogs.

After writing my two memoirs, TUBOB: Two Years in West Africa with the Peace Corps and Sailing with Impunity: Adventure in the South Pacific, I found I could take excerpts from them to post on my blog. These pieces not only provide what I hope will be interesting reading of specific incidents, but also help make my readers more familiar with my writing, maybe even entice them to read the books.

I thrive on routine so naturally have a specific day to blog. Almost without fail, I send out a weekly blog Monday mornings. But I don’t just blissfully post a piece in haste. Each blog I post has been written sometimes weeks before. After I write a piece, I let it “sit” overnight, then go over it again. It’s amazing what I find to tweak. Then I ask my husband to read it–he’s a very good “first reader” and offers good suggestions. After making those changes, I read the piece to my Wednesday critique group and use their input to further enhance the piece. Finally, I feel it’s ready for my blog readers. I don’t take blogging lightly. My readers’ time is valuable to them and I don’t want to make frivolous use of their trust that they’ll read something of interest.

Blogging is a way of getting my name out there, of getting people to visit my website, but more than that, it gives me a sense of communicating with a wide range of people, imparting to them what I hope will be fresh perspectives.

Book Review: Unsaid

Neil Abramson’s poignant novel, Unsaid, is told by Helena Colden, 37, a veterinarian who recently died of cancer. Her lawyer husband, David, is left with the care of his wife’s animals: three dogs, six cats, two horses and a pig. The animals were her passion, but David feels an obligation to carry on with their care.

Jaycee, a friend and colleague of Helena’s, asks David to defend her and Cindy, a chimpanzee, against the Center for Advanced Primate Studies. Jaycee has taught the chimp how to communicate through sign language and other aids. The Center feels the study has failed and plans to return Cindy to the primate population for other experimental work, likely to test human diseases.

Still grieving, David is overwhelmed with obligations to his law practice, running the household, and now being asked to take on a questionable case of animal rights. Out of respect for Helena, he consents to defend Jaycee and the chimp, Cindy.

This story is told from an interesting point of view, that of a deceased person who can be everywhere at once, one who sees and hears all.

This novel touched my heart with the many animal scenes, particularly those with a little autistic boy, the son of David’s newly acquired housekeeper. If you are an animal lover, this is a book for you. I have had and loved animals all my life and this book was balm for my soul. I thoroughly enjoyed Unsaid and highly recommend it.

Zipline Adventure: Zipping Among Treetops

Recently, our extended family—eleven of us—zipped along the treetops at Canopy Tours Northwest on Camano Island. The unique adventure takes place on the historic 134-acre Kristoferson Farm, which has served the community in various capacities for more than one-hundred years. Today, half of the farm is devoted to growing organic hay and lavender, with the other half devoted to the well-designed zipline tour.

Upon first arriving we were assisted in “suiting” up. The harness has lots of straps and adjustments and our outfits were topped off with a hard hat. Each step of the way we were shown how to work with the equipment, what to expect, and how to land on the various platforms.

The zipline tour consists of six separate lines, each landing on a different platform. Between the zipline sections, our guides led us on lush, green trails. I’ll admit to being a little apprehensive with the first zipline “ride.” Stepping off into a void was a little daunting, even with all the clip-ins and safety gear and in the hands of efficient, certified guides. But I soon relaxed into the adventure as I zipped along old-growth forest, reveling in the rush and the zinging ring of the line, with the assurance that I’d land safely on the platform with a guide’s help.

Once I felt safe, which was actually right away, I found it easy to let go of control and trust the guides and the equipment. We were in good, knowledgeable hands. I simply enjoyed the ride.

Along the way our guides explained some of what we were experiencing such as the various species of trees, the diversity of shrubs and ferns, and what wildlife we might see. The views are fantastic and we enjoyed observing our island from aloft. The zipline tour lasted about two hours.

For a fun adventure, I recommend Canopy Tours Northwest. For more information, visit or call 360-387-5807.


Book Review: The Reluctant Midwife: A Hope River Novel

Patricia Harman’s wit and wisdom shine through with this Great Depression era novel that takes place in hard-hit West Virginia.

Nurse Becky Myers finds herself the caretaker of Dr. Isaac Blum, a doctor she’s worked with for seven years. When the doctor’s wife dies a tragic death, he goes into a catatonic state, unable to speak or take care of himself. His family will not take responsibility for him and Becky sees no alternative but to care for him herself. Now unemployed, she soon runs out of money and decides they should go to his home in Liberty where at least they’d have a house to live in. When she finds his home has been sold for back taxes, they’re stranded with very little money and no place to stay.

Fortunately, an old friend, Patience Hester, the midwife for Hope River, and her husband Daniel, a veterinarian, let Becky and Isaac stay in their old abandoned house. Although Becky is a trained nurse, she is not comfortable assisting at childbirth, but when Patience becomes ill, Becky must take over her friend’s midwife’s duties. Because he can’t be left alone, she takes Dr. Blum with her. It’s not ideal, but at least they’re not starving.

Money is scarce and more often than not midwifery is paid with a chicken or something from the garden. For awhile Becky delivers groceries for a bit of income, but when that position dries up, she applies and is given a job at a nearby CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp.

The Reluctant Midwife is an engaging, well-told story. The author, herself a midwife, writes of childbirth with expertise. She paints a bleak picture of the Depression era, but also praises the way people pulled together. The relationship between Becky and Isaac develops in a surprising way. I found the CCC details fascinating and admire the significant contribution they made at a time when living conditions were so desperate for so many.

Book Review: Row for Freedom: Crossing an Ocean in Search of Hope

Julia Immonen’s memoir (written with Craig Borlase), Row for Freedom: Crossing an Ocean in Search of Hope, is a prime example of grit, determination and spirit offered for a worthy cause. When the author learns of the horror of human trafficking, she is determined to raise awareness of modern-day slavery.

Julia and four other women pooled their energy and resources to row across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to Barbados. After extensive preparation, they set out to row 45 days to cross 3,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean.

For six and a half weeks this group of women lived in a 29-foot boat, an amazingly small boat to carry 5 people. Below decks were 2 small cabins–each about the size and shape of a coffin. Their sparse belongings were stowed in tiny cubby holes. The crew rowed around the clock in two-hour shifts. It was exhausting, demanding work, and at one time or another all the women suffered from debilitating seasickness, chafing made worse by stinging salt water, sore wrists, painful ankles from the foot slides, and aching hamstrings. Julia handled the pain and discomfort by thinking of the estimated 27-million people trapped in modern day slavery. She rowed for them.

On the boat, one system after another failed, beginning on the second day when the battery tester failed, followed by almost daily failures of other systems including the desalinator used to convert salt water to fresh. Even the boat itself developed tiny holes that had to be repaired at sea.

They completed what they set out to do: spread the word about the horror of human trafficking, establish a new Guinness World Record for the first female crew of five to row an ocean. One of the crew was the first Irish woman ever to have rowed the Atlantic, and Immonen was the first Finn ever to have rowed an ocean. Although she realizes that their actions were infinitesimal in the face of the world-wide problem of trafficking, the author is comforted by a quote from Mother Teresa: “do small things with great love.”

Before their epic journey, Julia worked in the television industry putting together television programs. She had the know-how and skills for effective media. Now that knowledge would be put to work with live interviews to call attention to their feat and the reason behind it–making the world aware of human trafficking.

Row for Freedom is an exciting, worthwhile read. The author’s determination
and the team’s endurance is impressive. The physical hardships, the separation from families, the endless challenges of the boat’s integrity–all make this a worthy and memorial book.

To learn more about the author and her cause, visit

Textile Recycling: It Just Makes Sense

We all know the benefits of donating “gently used” articles to Goodwill or other thrift-type stores. Almost all communities have a way to make donating easy and convenient.

There’s a new type of recycling that I’m excited about: textile recycling, which is the processes by which old clothing and other textiles are recovered for reuse in different forms than originally intended. For instance, old jeans can be recycled into insulation.

The importance of recycling textiles is increasingly being recognized. Once in landfills, natural fibers can take hundreds of years to decompose. During the decomposing process, they may release methane and CO2 gas into the atmosphere, plus may release toxic substances into groundwater and surrounding soil. Additionally, synthetic materials may never decompose.

Which textiles are accepted for recycling? Torn, badly worn or even stained items such as:
back packs
table cloths
area rugs
stuffed animals

How textile recycling works:
● When you donate clothing or any fabric item to a center for recycling, it is sorted into immediately usable items or recyclable items. You don’t have to worry about which is which–the sorters will determine the items’ destination.
● Wearable or usable material is sorted and made available for immediate use.
● Unwearable material is sorted by type of material and color. Color sorting results in fabric that does not need to be re-died, saving energy and pollutants.
● Textiles are then pulled into fibers or shredded, sometimes converting the fabric into yarn.
● Polyester-based textiles are shredded, then granulated and processed into chips. These are subsequently melted and used to create new fibers.

Giving second life to textiles results in many useful products, such as:
wiping rags
athletic equipment
pet bedding
area rugs
Insulation for home, automobile, appliance
We all know it makes sense to recycle. Now we can recycle old clothes or fabrics that may be beyond reusing in their original form. Any item is acceptable for reuse or recycling as long as it is not wet, mildewed, or soiled with hazardous material.

To find the closest textile recycling center near you, visit If a Goodwill Industries center is near you, they are usually a good destination for textile recycling.

What’s in your closet?