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.

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