Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Book News and Becka Cooper series by Tamora Pierce

Due to my Crohn's Disease, there are a number of foods I literally can't stomach. So cooking for myself becomes a necessity, and without dairy, eggs, nuts or onions on the menu, it can be difficult to find recipes for things I would enjoy preparing and eating. I have 4 cookbooks that I rely on for most of my cooking and baking, but I would LOVE to have this cookbook to add to my collection: (Vegan= no dairy, eggs or animal products)

Sticky Fingers' Sweets: 100 Super-Secret Vegan Recipes
by Doron Petersan

Don't be deterred by the word "vegan" in the subtitle: Sticky Fingers' Sweets is a delightful, user-friendly cookbook for anyone with a sweet tooth who also hopes to become a healthier and more compassionate baker. Doron Petersan begins by analyzing the science of baking and explains how "mixing, temperature, moisture, air, and chemical leavening agents work together to form the structure and texture of your treats." Can't imagine baking without eggs? "The secret to the egg is in its chemical and nutritional makeup," Petersan explains. "Eggs are not the only ingredients that contain these magic components or achieve these results." Fortunately, the replacement ingredients and techniques are easy to find and execute.
Beyond the fascinating peek into the science of vegan baking, Petersan provides many recipes from her 10 years at her Washington, D.C., bakery Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats, including the recipe she used to win the Food Network's Cupcake Wars. These recipes all come with simple-to-follow directions and ingredients common to most kitchens, making the book a lovely gift for anyone new to the world of baking.
In addition, reading Sticky Fingers' Sweets is like having Petersan sitting at the counter with you. Throughout, she includes "Love Bites"--fun facts that extoll the health benefits of the ingredients--and the chatty accounts of her first whoopee pie or why anisette reminds her of her grandmother are amusing and engaging, yet never detract from the heart and soul of this cookbook: delicious, accessible recipes that do not harm animals. --Kristen Galles from Book Club Classics
Discover: A fun foray into a world of sweets without harm.
Avery, $27.50 hardcover, 9781583334638

I'm also a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and all the wonderful movies and TV shows that his books have spawned. I am a big fan of PBS's Sherlock Holmes played by Jeremy Brett, and the recent BBC incarnation of "Sherlock" with the gorgeous Bernard Cumberbach. Now it looks like the major networks are getting into the act with this new show, Elementary, which has a female Watson to provide assistance to the inimitable Sherlock Holmes, played by the marvelous Jonny Lee Miller, who was wonderful as Eli.

Not so elementary, after all. Lucy Liu will play Watson in the CBS pilot
episode of Elementary,
which has a contemporary setting and stars Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock
Holmes, "a former consultant to Scotland Yard whose addiction problems
led him to a rehab center in New York City. Just out of rehab, Holmes
now lives in Brooklyn with 'sober companion' Joan Watson (Liu), a former
surgeon who lost her license after a patient died, while consulting for
the NYPD," reported. Michael Cuesta is directing the pilot.

I had no idea that there was a caricaturist at the U Bookstore in Seattle!

Bradley Craft,
senior used-book buyer at University Book Store, Seattle, Wash., is
also an accomplished caricaturist who "occasionally sketches for store
publicity" and creates a literary calendar "mostly for friends, but the
limited number for sale sold out," PopMatters reported, praising Craft's
work as "one more ingredient in this city's rich stew of literary

Craft observed that in caricature, "exaggeration doesn't entirely have
to do with physicality. Caricature has to do with capturing the attitude
of the person portrayed." While most of his subjects are flattered, some
have been shocked and others declined to view the results, but Craft
said his work is meant to be a tribute: "I don't draw people unless I
have some level of affection for them... as affectionate as my somewhat
twisted eye can make them."

I finished Tamora Pierce's wonderful series of Becka Cooper tales this past weekend, and I am experiencing withdrawl from these Legends of Tortall books that so mesmerized me that I couldn't put them down and was rabid for the next book in the series to see what happened to the intrepid Becka. There were three books in the series, "Terrier," "Bloodhound," and "Mastiff" each containing a more thrilling adventure than the last.
In "Terrier" Becka Cooper grew up on the mean streets in the poorest section of town with three siblings and a mother who was dying of what sounds like TB or lung cancer. Her family is taken in by the local Lord because Becka, who has a talent for hearing ghosts in dust storms and on the backs of pigeons, lead him to arrest some thieves. With the Lord's support, Becka becomes a "puppy" in the Dog Kennel of her town, which is what the police station is called, and the dogs are the full-fledged officers of the law, mostly beat cops. First year puppies are paired with experienced dogs on the streets, and Becka is fortunate enough to be training with Tunstall and Goodwin, the best male and female cops in town. Together the trio track down the bad guys,who are killing people who mine opals for them, and Becka comes into her own. She has a cat who is a small incarnation of a god or star constellation, named Pounce who appears and disappears into Beckas life to give advice and be something of a deus ex machina in the plot. In Bloodhound, Becka is having trouble finding a suitable partner now that she's no longer a puppy, and she ends up rescuing a police dog from a man who is abusing the scent hound, whose name is Achoo Curlypaws. She ends up training with Achoo and working with Tunstall and Goodwin again to solve the case of the counterfit coins. Because they have to go to another town that sounds like Florida, where there are swamps and gambling and relentless heat, Becka encounters new people, including a charmingly roguish gambler who becomes Becka's first lover. The mystery is solved and we learn a great deal about Becka as a woman and a 'dog' police officer.
In the final book, "Mastiff" we encounter Becka at the top of her game, working with Achoo, Pounce and Tunstall, now that Goodwin has become the head desk sergeant, to find the King's only son, a little four-year-old named Gareth who has been kidnapped by a group of mages and nobles who want to overthrow the king, who is bringing about new laws taxing the nobles and regulating the mages. Becka also teams up with a Farmer mage who acts like a bungling hick to keep the other mages underestimating him and his powers. A noble lady knight, Tunstall's beloved, joins in the chase, and the group are nearly thwarted at every turn by all manner of bad weather, religious fanatics, evil mages and power-mad nobles. It turns out that Tunstall has been compromised, and is in collusion with the nobles and mages who kidnapped the prince, and he is killed at the end for his treachery. Becka and the farmer mage fall in love, and end up rescuing the prince together and returning him to his parents. As a boon for this service, Becka and prince Gareth declare slavery illegal in Tortall, and Becka goes down in history as the best Dog/police officer to ever work and live in the town.
As with all the other Tamora Pierce series I've read, I really enjoyed the fine prose and fast-moving plots of these tales, as well as the amazing and fully-fleshed-out characters. Pierce's YA books are intended for young girls, to show how her heroines always beat the odds to serve humanity and create lives of purpose and significance, but I find them great reading for adults as well, because they provide the reader with riveting characters and sublime storytelling. A solid A for this entire series that I'd recommend to those who enjoy female-centered fantasy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Baker Street Books is Closing in April

I discovered this on Sunday, when I went in to Baker Street Books to buy a copy of Tamora Pierce's "Bloodhound," the second book in her excellent Becka Cooper series. I am heartbroken about it, and would love to have the money to buy the place.

Baker Street Books in Black Diamond, Washington, owned and operated in a historic bank building by Bob Charles, will be closing for good on April 15, 2012. There will be a half-off all books sale starting on March 1.
The bookstore is a landmark in Black Diamond, and the only bookstore within shouting distance of Maple Valley and Covington, both of which have no bookstore to call their own, unfortunately. Baker Street carried new and used books, and was a meeting place for many book groups and musicians. As to why the store is closing, Mr Charles said "I can't sell enough books to keep the lights on and pay the rent, it is as simple as that." Phone 360-886-2131. Website

Then I read this in Shelf Awareness this morning:

Queen Anne Books for Sale

Patti McCall, co-owner and then owner of Queen Anne Books, Seattle, Wash., for the past 14 years, is putting the store up for sale. In an e-mail to customers, she cited
the death of her husband last year, saying, "I am eager to move on and
discover what the next stage of my life will hold. I initially believed
I would continue to be a bookseller but, because the business is
changing so much, I have realized the store requires more than I can
give right now."

She called her time at Queen Anne Books "an amazing ride.... After a
couple hundred book club meetings, four amazing Harry Potter parties,
countless author events and 14 Holiday Magics, I have decided it is time
to turn over Queen Anne Books to a new owner--someone who will bring
fresh energy and ideas to a business undergoing a radical and exciting

The store's lease is up in October, but there is a five-year option.
Interested parties should contact former co-owner Cindy Mitchell at Please use "Cindy" in the
subject line.

Another bookstore I'd buy if I had the money, to save it from closing down. It just kills me that bookstores in this highly literate area are dropping like flies this far into the recession.

Here's something a bookstore in Eastern Washington is doing to stay relevant and open:

When Oscar Met Indie: Encore's Book-to-Film Survey

The booksellers at Encore Books,
Yakima, Wash., love movies, "but we love books more. Every year the
Academy honors the actors and directors and everyone else involved in
movie-making, but they almost never recognize the books... and the
beloved characters in those books... that make so many of their films

To address this oversight, Encore has created a book-themed Academy
Award ballot on the
Oscar nominations in six categories--and is asking voters to choose the
books and characters they deem Oscar-worthy, with one cautionary note:
"When voting, please remember to vote based on the book, not the movie."
The Oscar polls close at midnight February 25 and results will be
unveiled the following day on Encore's Facebook page

Finally, some good news, two of my favorite authors, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller,(the Liaden Universe books) just won a well-deserved award at this year's Boskone Convention:

Maine science fiction and fantasy writers Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are pleased to share the news that they are recipients of the 2012 Skylark Award.
Presented by the New England Science Fiction Association at the annual regional science fiction convention Boskone, the Skylark -- formally The Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction -- is presented to some person, who, in the opini...on of the membership, has contributed significantly to science fiction, both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late "Doc" Smith well-loved by those who knew him. Given since 1966, previous recipients include Sir Terry Pratchett, George R.R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Jane Yolen, and Isaac Asimov. The Winslow writers received the award in person at a surprise ceremony at Boston's Westin Waterfront, Saturday, February 18, with 1990 Skylark winner Jane Yolen attending and sharing her take on the care and feeding of the award.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who knew They were Bibliophiles?

In the "I am amazed" category, here is a tidbit from the wonderful Shelf Awareness about celebrities who buy antique books or out of print books for their collections. I would expect something like that from the very bright and delightful Whoopi Goldberg, but Johnny Depp and Sarah Michelle Geller, aka Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

"Johnny Depp collects first-edition works
by Jack Kerouac, Arthur Rimbaud, Dylan Thomas and Edgar Allan Poe," the
Hollywood Reporter noted in its preview of last weekend's California
International Antiquarian Book Fair at the
Pasadena Convention Center, which drew 200 booksellers.

Among other celebrities "afflicted with bibliomania" are Whoopi
Goldberg, Kelsey Grammer, Sony chief Howard Stringer, director Charles
Shyer and Sarah Michelle Gellar, all of whom "can find themselves
committing serious cash for the hard-to-find, out-of-print books," THR

"I'm about to have a meeting with a gentleman who's nominated for an
Oscar this year," said Mark Hime, owner of the appointment-only Beverly
Hills shop Biblioctopus "He's going to buy a book for $125,000. The last one I sold him was $200,000."

I find myself in total agreement with Anne:

from the blog of author Diane Chamberlain,
who invited historical novelist Anne Clinard Barnhill to share some
thoughts about her recent book tour in North Carolina for At the Mercy
of the Queen.

"I love bookstores," said Anne. "Always have, always will. There is
nothing more exciting than wandering in, gazing at the colorful books
arrayed in the front window and on the tables, looking at posters or
photographs of my favorite writers adorning the walls. When my children
were young, they became adept at luring me into a bookstore because they
knew I could not refuse to buy them a book. Toys, I could turn down;
candy, a definite NO. But a book--I've always been a sucker for a book.

"Over the past few weeks, I've had the privilege of visiting several
bookstores across North Carolina. I love the different personalities
I've discovered in each one--I even love the sameness of the big chains
like Barnes & Nobles. But I confess, it is the indie bookstores that
really captivate me."

As an Unshelved fan of the past several years, I'd like to wish the authors of this wonderfully funny comic strip a Happy 10th Anniversary!

Congratulations to Gene and Bill at Unshelved, which celebrates its 10th anniversary today!
We're not sure how to do it, but we hope to catch up to you guys
sometime. Thanks for a decade of library laughs, which all started with
the strip above.

I've just finished the first of my lovely stack of Valentines Day books, which were a gift from my husband with full knowledge that I prefer books to flowers and candy or jewelry.
"The Flight of Gemma Hardy" by Margot Livesy is a "modern" (ie 1960s) retelling of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. And while often retelling or "rebooting" a story, as they say in films, is a disaster in which little of the charm of the original tale survives, that is not the case, thankfully, with Gemma Hardy.
The story begins with Gemma living in Scotland with her aunt and two evil female cousins, who, though she's only a child when her uncle dies, treat her like a slave, but with less regard or kindness. As soon as Gemma is 10, her Aunt sends her to boarding school, where, since she has no money, she's expected to be a "working student" which translates to more slave-like treatment and more abuse at the hands of the other working girls and the staff. Though she does make one good friend while there, the friend dies of asthma and Gemma is left out in the world once again, alone and without help, until she finds a position as an "au pair," the modern equivalent of an English governess, to a wild little girl whom all the adults seem to indulge instead of trying to make her behave and learn. Her uncle, the mysterious Mr Sinclair, has taken her in and her aunt Victoria, her mother's sister, also cares for her. Gemma, having learned rebellion early for survival reasons, soon has Nella, the wild child, learning, bathing and behaving herself. Yet when she meets a young man in town and others nearer her age, she plays cards and gets along with them, but is shy of any sort of romantic entanglements, for some reason we are never told. Still, when she meets Mr Sinclair, who is more than twice her age, she seems gradually smitten with him, though there isn't any real reason she should be, other than trying to find a father figure who will provide her with security, since her parents are both dead and buried in Iceland, where her father is from (her mother is Scottish). It turns out that Alison, Mr Sinclair's sister and mother of Nella, was crazy, and that Hugh Sinclair sold his name to Alisons lover, a huge farmer and thug who took Sinclairs turn as a "Bevin Boy" in the mines during the war because Sinclair had a horror of small spaces due to some children's abuse when he was a young man. All of this doesn't come to light until he tries to marry Gemma, of course, and then the farmer thug breaks things up and Gemma flees, thinking that she can never be with a man who lied and cheated in a cowardly fashion during WWII.
After nearly perishing when her purse is stolen and she has no money, Gemma is rescued by two Scottish lesbians and their brother Archie, the postman. Archie, it turns out, was a classical scholar and teacher and he and Gemma begin a relationship based on a mutual love of books and birds and an interest in Iceland. Unfortunately, though we are never told for certain, it appears that Archie may also be gay, yet he wants to marry Gemma and honeymoon in Iceland. When Gemma tries to get Archie to even kiss her (and he's also almost twice her age) he runs away, fully embarrassed and appalled. So Gemma steals money from her employer, (a woman named Marian who has a small son Gemma cares for) and flies to Iceland to see once and for all if she has any living relatives, so she can establish where she came from. In Iceland, she meets an Aunt (who is blind) and a cousin, sees photos of her mother and father and herself as a baby, and reasserts to herself that she's not alone in the world.
One the plane home, Mr Sinclair sits beside her and tries to persuade her that he still loves her, while she has come to the realization that she still loves him, too. The two toast with champagne, kiss, and that's the end.
I was hoping we'd find out what really happened to Archie, and whether or not he is gay and just can't bear the thought of being alone, and what his gay sisters think about what Gemma did by just leaving them a note. But, despite that, the prose of this novel was finely wrought, the plot paced well and straight as an arrow, though it was borrowed from Bronte, and the characters keep the reader hooked and wanting to learn more throughout the chapters. I would recommend this to all Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte fans, as well as to those who enjoy a good 'reboot'. A solid B+

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Happy 8th Birthday, Dear Blog

Eight years ago today, I was bored with the Super Bowl and couldn't find a great book to get involved in, so I was at loose ends, when my husband suggested I start a blog. "Okay," I said, and used his PC to start Butterfly Books that afternoon.

I remember thinking how easy the interface was on Blogger, and how excited I was to share my passion for books and love of reading with others. I also felt it was fun to include author interviews and quotes from the library world, and I think I've done a fair job of keeping my blog fresh and interesting for these past eight years.

The book I just finished "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer is the book chosen for our Tuesday night book group at the Maple Valley Library, which I will be taking over starting in March, with this book.
I had a copy in one of my TBR stacks, so I thought I'd get a jump on it and read it before I had to discuss it. There's a movie out just this past week, I believe, based on this book, and they're making it look like a "feel good" family film. The book isn't really all that feel goodish, really, because the main character is a precocious 9 year old boy who lost his father in the World Trade Center terrorist bombings of 2001.

Unsurprisingly, Oskar is a bright, hyperactive kid who is angry and sad at the loss of his dad, but also having trouble forgiving his mother for surviving and wanting to move on with her life. His grief manifests itself in insomnia and a mind that creates "inventions" to keep Oskar from falling into depression and despair. One day he breaks a vase in his fathers closet, and discovers a key in an envelope that simply says "Black" on the outside. So Oskar makes it his mission to find out which "Black" of the thousands of people in New York with that surname that the key belongs to, so he can open whatever lock and hopefully gain insight into the life and thoughts of his departed dad.
Interwoven throughout the book are chapters about Oskar's bizarre grandparents, who survived the Dresden firebombing in Germany during WWII. Oskar's grandfather came away from them without the ability to speak, so he tattoos "yes" and "no" on either hand and writes one-word responses in a book to communicate with the outside world. He also leaves his wife, who is pregnant with Oskar's dad, Thomas, and moves back to Dresden, only to return to New York after the World Trade Center Twin Towers come down. There are lots of typed letters and pages with only one sentence on them in the book because of this secondary storyline/plot, which made the book harder for me to read. I also didn't understand a lot of the machinations of Oskar's grandfather and grandmother, because their lives were so convoluted, and the author made them seem like two really crazy old people whose lives don't make a lot of sense. It seemed to me that the author was trying to imitate Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" with his strange secondary characters and somewhat "stream of consciousness" prose within the secondary plot. In this, he failed, because only Vonnegut can do Vonnegut, and Safran Foer would have been wise to remember that some things cannot be duplicated or even paid 'homage' without sounding lame and confusing.
However, the primary storyline had a number of charming moments, with Oskar meeting a variety of interesting people and walking all 5 boroughs of New York with a friend, one Mr Black who hadn't left his apartment in years, but is persuaded to accompany Oskar on his quest. I liked Oskar, who came off as a younger Holden Caufield of the millennium, and still managed to charm the reader with his vulnerability and his desperate need to feel close to his father, even if only in memory. Unfortunately,Safran Foer leaves the reader hanging somewhat at the end, though we know about the key, we never know the contents of the box it opens, and we don't really find out what happens to Oskars grandparents. Things are inferred, but never completely finished, which is a crime in a book of this quality. I'd give it a B-, but only because Oskar was worth all the confusion. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants an inside look at the true legacy of 9/11.