Book Recommendation: Do Not Wash Hands in Plates

I recently had the pleasure of reading Do Not Wash Hands in Plates by Barb Taub, with photographs by Janine Smith and Jayalakshmi “Jaya” Ayyer. It’s a lighthearted story of three women-of-a-certain-age traveling across India together, eating, sightseeing, eating, shopping, and eating their way through cities and villages all over the subcontinent and enjoying (almost) every minute of it.

The women, friends from their university days, had experienced international travel together years before, when they met up in Luxembourg from three different points of departure in the United States. This trip was a bit different– this time they were meeting from two different international points of departure (Scotland and the United States) and one from within India. It was a little more difficult this time, admittedly, but the women finally met up (in the middle of the night) and their adventure together began.

From the vastly inconcise traffic rules (really “more like guidelines,” according to Jaya) and the closure of national monuments due to the arrival of a certain high-ranking American to bargaining with locals over the price of souvenirs and experiencing the open friendliness and generosity of the Indian people, this story took me on a journey I only wish I could have experienced in person.

I was laughing out loud before I even finished the introduction. Barb Taub has quite a way with words and her descriptions of people, places, and things were witty and evocative. Her ability to share the trio’s experiences with readers lucky enough to pick up this book is inspirational. Her writing made me want to call up a couple old friends and invite them to the other end of the earth just to see what would happen. I might still do that.

And if you like Indian food, you’re in for a treat. I’m a sucker for Indian food and this book had me drooling. It seems everywhere they went the women’s hosts were determined to feed them until they popped. Whether it was breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacktime, teatime, or any other time, the food was plentiful and delicious. Janine and Jaya have included some luscious-looking photos of the food they enjoyed on their trip.

My favorite part of the book, and undoubtedly Barb’s least favorite, was the illness which befell her while traveling. It was side-splitting in more ways than one. Want to know more? You’ll have to read the book yourself. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

I finished Do Not Wash Hands in Plates in just one sitting with a smile on my face and a lightness in my heart. I’m so glad Barb, Janine, and Jaya shared their experiences with readers. Their desire to showcase to the rest of the world the rich culture of India, the majesty of its landscape and, of course, its food has resulted in a book you’ll love.

You can find Do Not Wash Hands in Plates here ( and here (

If you’re interested in finding out more about Barb Taub, visit her blog at

Until next week,



Book Recommendation: Honolulu

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Ever since I read Moloka’i by Alan Brennert, I have wanted to read Honolulu. And I’m happy to report that Brennert did not disappoint.

Honolulu is the story of Regret, a Korean picture bride who emigrates to Hawaii for the opportunity not only to be free from the land ruled by the Imperial Japanese, but also to be free from the oppression suffered by women and girls in the Korea of long ago. Regret learns from an early age that she is inferior to her brothers (hence her given name), that her dream of getting an education is hopeless, and that her only path in life is a choice between spinsterhood and destitution or marriage in a culture where daughters-in-law are mistreated and humiliated by their husband’s families with impunity.

Regret’s decision to become a picture bride, much to her father’s mortification and dismay, is one that will alter the course of her life in ways she could not have imagined. As was the case with thousands of picture brides over the years, Regret was misled as to the social circumstances of her betrothed (she is led to believe he is handsome and wealthy, but…you’ll have to read the story to find out the truth) and as to the brutal realities of living on a tropical island during the early twentieth century.

The troubles which befall Regret as she tries to build her life in Hawaii seem almost insurmountable, and the story is told in a way that brings the reader straight into Regret’s home and into her thoughts.

I loved Honolulu. It took me a long time to read, but that was my fault–I started the book at the beginning of the holiday season and every time I picked it up to read, I was too tired to keep my eyes open for more than a couple minutes.

Regret’s story is woven into the history of Honolulu and the Hawaiian islands. It is a story of family, love, loss,joy, sadness, fear, resignation, contentment, racial injustice, poverty, and success. Though Honolulu is a work of  historical fiction, much of the story is a carefully researched commentary on the relations among all the different cultures and peoples struggling to live alongside each other in the growing city. Though Regret doesn’t always realize it at the time, she is part of the important events which shape the city of Honolulu into the modern place of mingled races and traditions it has become. Instead of calling the city a “melting pot,” Regret refers to it as a “mixed plate,” which is a Hawaiian dish consisting of different types of food, often from different parts of the world, arranged to complement each other.

I highly recommend Honolulu and I’m looking forward to reading another of Brennert’s works, Palisades Park. If you read Honolulu, I hope you’ll let me know what you think of it.

Until next week,


Book Recommendation: No Comfort for the Lost


This week I’m highlighting a book I’ve waited a long time to read.

No Comfort for the Lost by Nancy Herriman is a beautifully written, historically fascinating look at the underside of 1867 San Francisco. It is the captivating story of Celia Davies, an English-born nurse living in the city and caring for its most unwanted residents–in many cases, the Chinese women and girls forced to work as prostitutes in the seedier parts of town. The reader is introduced to San Francisco as it existed 150 years ago–expanding, dirty, bustling, beautiful.

Celia is the guardian of her half-Chinese cousin Barbara, whose father passed away leaving them a home and leaving Celia a bit of money she uses to run her free health clinic. Barbara, besides being a member of a hated ethnic group in San Francisco, has health problems which prevent her from moving quickly or deftly. She occasionally helps Celia with her patients, but is sometimes not able to help as she would like.

When a former Chinese prostitute, a friend of Celia and Barbara, is found murdered, Celia takes it upon herself to attempt to figure out the culprit because certain members of the San Francisco Police Department have shown reluctance to spend too much time on crimes involving Chinese victims. Luckily, Celia finds a sympathetic detective, Nicholas Greaves, who is interested in the plight of the victim and who, despite the warnings from his overbearing and very unpleasant boss, is willing to invest police time and resources to find the perpetrator. With a past which is only hinted at in the book, Greaves has a soft spot for underdogs and a personal need to do the right thing. And he has a soft spot for Celia, too, despite (or perhaps because of?) her stubborn pig-headedness, which can only be described as both endearing and maddening.

As the story progresses, we find that the list of suspects is growing and that the people Celia and Barbara know and trust are not always what they seem (it wouldn’t be a mystery otherwise, would it?). I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that I suspected almost everyone in the book before being completely surprised by the ending.

I loved the book. I loved the descriptions of old San Francisco, the antiquated medical methods described to treat injuries and illness, and the story of Li Sha’s murder and its aftermath. Not only that, but one of the scariest undercurrents running through the book is the bigotry experienced by Chinese immigrants during the 19th century. In many ways, the issue has echoed down the years and still exists today, even in presidential politics in the United States. I was struck while reading the book of the similarities between 1867 San Francisco and the present day worldwide.

Nancy Herriman has a way with language and uses it in a way that evokes an older time and is still immensely readable and enjoyable. The amount of research that must have gone into No Comfort for the Lost is obvious and breathtaking in its depth. But besides all that, there are the backstory mysteries–what happened to Nicholas Greaves’ sister? What happened to Celia’s husband, Patrick?

And the very best part? There’s another Celia Davies book on the way! It’s called No Pity for the Dead and it will be released in August, 2016. I will be in line to pre-order it!

Full disclosure: Nancy Herriman is a friend, but as you know from previous posts, if I hadn’t liked her book I simply wouldn’t have recommended it.

Until next week,


P.S. If you’re interested in visiting Nancy Herriman online, her website is

Book Recommendation: Asylum

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I recently finished Asylum by Jeannette de Beauvoir and I knew immediately that it was going to end up in the Book Recommendation section of my blog.

As I’ve done for several of the books I’ve recommended, I won Asylum on Facebook during a book launch party for another author (not Ms. De Beauvoir). I wasn’t able to get to it for a while because I was busy reading so many other books, but once I finally sat down to read it I loved it.

Asylum is the story of Martine LeDuc, who works for the City of Montreal as the marketing director. Martine wakes up one morning to find there has been a fourth victim in a series of brutal murders in the city. As the mayor’s liaison to the city’s police department, Martine is tasked with making sure the police are looking day and night for the killer and reporting the department’s progress to her boss. These killings are, after all, a huge smudge on the city’s reputation. The police put a man in custody for the murders, but Martine is convinced the man is innocent of the crimes. Working with a detective on the force, Julian Fletcher, she begins to investigate the crimes on her own, following clues that lead her straight into Montreal’s past.

Martine delves into a dark period of Montreal’s history that has been buried in the memories of some, forgotten by others, and is rarely spoken of in polite company. It is the systematic conversion of some of Montrel’s most unfortunate orphanages into asylums, institutions for the mentally ill. In the asylums these children, known as the Duplessis Orphans, were the unwitting and terrified human subjects in monstrous “medical” experiments that were performed at the behest of some very influential people and organizations both inside and outside of Canada.

As the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place, Martine finds herself in danger that she didn’t see coming–danger that threatens to turn her into the fifth victim.

This book was a fascinating read. The Duplessis Orphans really did exist, and many of them really were human subjects for bizarre drug experiments. Jeannette de Beauvoir has woven a story combining history and fiction that had me on the edge of my seat. From the beginning right through to the breathless climax, the story moves at a fast pace. The characters are complex, and the setting is incredible. Though I did eventually guess who the killer was, it didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the story one single bit (mostly because I wasn’t sure of it until the end). I suspected almost everyone at one point or another.

And bonus: if you like French, you will find much to love in this book. Snippets and phrases in French are sprinkled liberally throughout the book, and I found myself reading those parts out loud and repeatedly just to hear the lilt of the language. It’s gorgeous.

I hope you’ll check out Asylum and let me know what you think. And, in case I haven’t mentioned it recently, if you read it please consider leaving the author a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Authors appreciate reviews, and I’m sure Ms. de Beauvoir would love it!

Until next week,



Book Recommendation: Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth


The book recommendation I have for you this week is part of the Amish Bed & Breakfast series by Tamar Myers. Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth, which takes place in Hernia, PA, is a great read with an intriguing mystery and some laugh-out-loud moments to boot.

The book is filled with quirky characters, not the least of which is Magdalena Yoder, our intrepid innkeeper. When both her parents died in a car accident, they left Magdalena the family home, with the caveat that Mags’ younger sister, Susannah, be cut in for a share of the property when she became responsible enough. An iffy prospect, at best. Magdalena turned the home into the PennDutch Inn, an Amish Bed & Breakfast where guests are treated to an “authentic” Amish experience during their stay (including an added fee for the fun of cleaning their own rooms and making dinner one night of the week).

Susannah, who left the faith temporarily when she married a Presbyterian, is back at the PennDutch Inn and generally gets in Magdalena’s hair with her flirty ways, her immodest bling, and her dog, Shnookums (his name says it all). There’s also Freni, the stubborn and on-again, off-again cook for the PennDutch, and her husband, Mose, who has his hands full dealing with Freni.

And that’s before we even get to the guests, who are a clever mish-mash of people thrown together (perhaps not so much by chance) during the opening week of deer-hunting season in the county. Magdalena has her hands full with the dietary demands of the guests, as well as their personalities, which range from sweet to down-home to brusque to downright mean. And when the bodies start piling up, Magdalena has to figure out what on earth is going on behind the closed doors of her inn.

I loved this book. As with many of the books I read, I downloaded this one on my Kindle when it was free during a marketing promotion. And I’m so glad I did. Tamar Myers has given the reader a light-hearted glimpse into the life of an Amish innkeeper, complete with the concessions Magdalena has to make to the preconceptions much of the world has about the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish. Myers has written a fun mystery that kept me guessing to the end, with humor and a light touch that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Oh, and did I mention the book includes recipes for such things as chicken and dumplings, buckwheat pancakes, and cocoa mocha cake, to mention a few?

What are you reading? I’d love to hear!

Until next week,


P.S. In addition to her Amish Bed & Breakfast Mystery Series, Tamar Myers has also penned the Belgian Congo Mystery Series, the Den of Antiquity Series, and several stand-alone books. I intend to read as many as I can!

Book Recommendation: Death Runs in the Family

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Ready for another good book recommendation? I just finished Death Runs in the Family by Heather Haven and I really enjoyed it.

Death Runs in the Family is the third book in the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries series, the first two being Murder is a Family Business and A Wedding to Die For. I first heard of Heather Haven when Death Runs in the Family was available for a free download on Kindle, and I’m happy to report that I will gladly purchase the other books in the series.

It is the story of Lee Alvarez (short for Liana) who, along with her mother and brother, works for Discretionary Inquiries, their family-owned investigative service.

When the story opens, Lee is being rudely awakened by the appearance at her front door of her ex-husband’s current wife, a beautiful and beguiling young woman who is desperate for Lee’s help.

The young wife has arrived simultaneously with some very bad news for Lee and her family, and the two events dovetail to create a whirlwind of danger, revenge, and villainy. I don’t want to get into a plot summary and spoil any of the details, but I will say that there’s murder, gambling, and catnapping.

Need I say more?

I loved the mystery. I loved the characters and the way the author developed their relationships, I thought the pacing of the story was perfect, and I even learned some Spanish! I found the family threads easy to follow, even though this was the third mystery in the series (normally I like to start at the beginning of a series, but there’s really no need to with this one).

The story takes place in several spots, including Las Vegas, Palo Alto, and one other locale that would spoil the ending if I reveal it. And speaking of Las Vegas, I learned about some of the seedier business deals that are transacted in Sin City, too.

The author ties all the plot lines together nicely at the end, so I put the book down feeling satisfied and ready to pick up some of her other novels. I hope you’ll give Heather Haven’s books a look and let me know what you think!

Until next week,


Book Recommendation: Senseless Acts of Beauty


It’s been a while since I posted a book recommendation on my blog, so I thought it was time for a new one. And do I have a good one for you.

Senseless Acts of Beauty by Lisa Verge Higgins is a beautifully-written story about friendship, loss, love, the passage of time, the emotional upheaval that can go hand-in-hand with adoption, and the secrets that can be unearthed when a child goes looking for his or her birth mother.

Sadie, a fifteen-year-old adoptee and runaway, is looking for her birth mother. Tess, a trucker to whom life hasn’t been kind, is looking for the daughter she gave up fifteen years ago. Their lives intersect in the town of Pine Lake at Camp Kwenbeck, a camp run by Riley Cross. Riley is an old friend of Tess and an adoptee herself. A towel from the camp is the only connection Sadie has to her birth mother and she has come to the camp looking for clues and a connection to her own past.

Sadie, full of anger and slow to trust, sees Tess as a threat.

Tess, full of memories and quick to don armor when faced with tough questions, is hell-bent on protecting Sadie from the runaway life that she led as a young adult.

Riley has her own problems, not the least of which are her overbearing but loving adoptive mother and her fight to keep Camp Kwenbeck afloat financially.

The book held my attention from the very first page. Lisa Verge Higgins has presented a raw and honest picture of what adoption can look like and the struggles that an adoptee can face when looking for a birth parent. The language is real and heartfelt, the pacing is just right, and the ending is exactly the way it has to be. The relationships among the three women in the story are complex and beautiful, but there are also other relationships explored in the book, too: between Riley and her mother, between Riley and her ex-husband, between Tess and her old nemesis in the Pine Lake police department, between Tess and her own mother, and between Sadie and her adoptive family. Each relationship is filled with rich, though not wordy, detail; each is a part of the lives that the women now lead.

If you’re looking for contemporary women’s fiction, either for yourself or as a gift to a woman in your life, consider Senseless Acts of Beauty. It was a bit of a break from the types of fiction I normally read, and I’m so glad I read it! I found Lisa Verge Higgins’s writing style similar to that of Kristin Hannah.

Incidentally, I won the book on a Facebook launch party. For those of you who may not be familiar with a FB launch party, it’s usually a three- or four-hour event that takes place entirely online. The author of the book being released hosts other authors and special guests on a dedicated FB page and fans are invited to ask the authors questions about anything–their books, where they like to go on vacation, what they like to eat, how they do their research, etc. The authors almost always have giveaways of their books or other book-related items to people who leave comments during the party, and I’m happy to say I’ve won several books this way. I highly recommend the FB launch party as a great way to learn about other authors and possibly snag some goodies!


Until next week,