Sept. 19, 2008

Who says that home décor has to belong to a woman’s realm? From Creative Homeowner publishers comes this glossy, fully illustrated book on creating the perfect guy space, from wicked workshops to killer outdoor kitchens – complete with monster grills, of course. Not all of these rooms are decorated with the stereotypical mounted antlers, pin-ups, chrome and dark wood either – although the mahogany and leather-paneled media room (page 74) looks pretty darned cozy. There are chapters for the regular rooms – bed, bath and storage – but also for game rooms, home gyms and outdoor courts (even a putting green or two), as well as garages and workshops. Although this book is heavier on the pictures and ideas than actual building plans, each of these chapters has many immensely practical tips, especially for preparation: like making sure you have zoning permission before converting the garage into a wine cellar, wiring a future music or media room, or ventilating a home gym (and its adjoining steam shower or swim spa). There are lots of tips for future considerations as well, like the four rules of shelving, how to choose a wide-screen television, how to boost the strength of a shed roof in regions that receive a lot of snow in the winter, and the proper safety and etiquette for the home sauna. The rooms in this book are sure to appeal men of all hobbies and interests.
Click here to find it in our on-line catalogue.

August 22, 2008

In the seventeenth and eighteenth century Barbary corsair raids were a common occurrence on the south coasts of England. It is estimated that at one time more than 3000 British citizens were held in the prisons of Salé in Morocco; these raiders were motivated to capture Christian slaves and goods in the name of Islam, just as the Knights Templar captured Muslim slaves and treasure in the name of Christianity. Author Jane Johnson uses this bit history as the basis for her novel, Crossed Bones. In modern day England, Cornish craftswoman Julia Lovat is given a seventeenth-century book of embroidery patterns as a consolation prize when her lover dumps her. Although broken-hearted, Julia is spellbound when she discovers a journal in tiny handwriting between the patterns; the diary of a young woman of Penzance in Cornwall named Catherine Anne Tregana, who became a captive slave to the “Sallee Rovers”, the corsairs of Sale. As Julia follows Catherine’s journey to Morocco and self-discovery, she follows her own journey – she is pursued by her ex-lover who realizes the book’s material worth, and reconnects with her oldest friends as she races to find out if Catherine’s story is true. What she finds are connections to her own past – and to her future. Part historical fiction, part mystery, part ghost story, Crossed Bones is a fascinating story about a little-known era in British and Moroccan history.
Click here to find it in the SPL catalogue.

At 6’5”, the statuesque Lisa Leslie could easily be mistaken for a top model, and she is not an unfamiliar face between the covers of Vogue. But her strongest talent lies on a basketball court – she is the centre for the Los Angeles Sparks, and has led that team to two straight WNBA championships, is tied with Sheryl Swoops for the most MVP awards of the WNBA, and has earned thee Olympic Gold medals as part of the last three US Olympic Women’s basketball teams.. But if that were not enough to earn admiration, Lisa Leslie has had to overcome quite a few challenges to get where she is: The “normal” teasing that comes from being six-feet-tall in the sixth grade, a father she never knew who lead a double-life, and a sister so jealous that she tried to steal Lisa’s identity and ruin her. Although her mother drove a truck for a living and was often absent, Lisa credits her strength of character as a source for her own inner strength when such battles had to be faced – on and off the court. After being told over and over that pretty girls – even tall ones – could not play well enough, Lisa went on to score 101 points in the first half of a high school basketball game, and she never looked back. She has earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, started a family and will be helping her team-mates defend their Olympic title in Beijing starting this Saturday. Lisa Leslie’s memoir is great reading for sports fans and inspiration for anyone facing obstacles in their own paths to greatness.
Click here to find it in the SPL catalogue.

Sept. 12, 2008

Here we are, two weeks into the new school year with the media covering not only scary processed meats but also the scare of childhood obesity and all the other health threats included therein. What are concerned and busy parents to do about filling their children’s lunchboxes? To the rescue comes this nifty little book about eating right in a world of convenience food. It starts out by defining 8 rules of thumb for childhood nutrition, and then hits you with the 20 worst kids’ foods in the industry (with their healthier counterparts). This is followed by the nitty –gritty – what to eat (and not eat) at favourite fast-food places (including KFC, McDonalds and Starbucks) and other types of restaurants (Italian, seafood, etc.). In the next section it shows how to decode nutrition labels (Kellogg’s Smart Start cereal isn’t so smart a choice) and then has pages and pages of what to buy (and not buy) and why in the supermarket (just skip the pages on deli meats for now…) This book doesn’t just list the types of food, but also the actual brands, with pictures (some of the brands are American, but most are readily available in Canada). It doesn’t skip the condiments, beverages or dessert aisles, either. This useful book ends with chapters aimed at the school cafeteria and vending machines, and with a weekly menu suggestion for home-cooked meals with ten ‘kid-friendly’ revised recipes at the back. Grocery shopping for healthier choices will be a breeze, especially as Eat This, Not that! contains a very excellent index for quick reference. Find it here in the SPL catalogue.

A Royal Pain

By Rhys Bowen

The author of the Molly Murphy and Constable Evan Evans mystery series presents her newest Royal Spyness novel. Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie of Glen Garry and Rannoch (Georgie for short) may be thirty-fourth in line for the British throne, but England is still in a depression following the Great War and she’s still stone broke. Learning to fend for herself is a new experience, but as Georgie learns to do without, she also learns to do for others – she hires herself out as a maid. Her cousin, Queen Mary, has no idea that Georgie must now work for a living (she would not be amused) and gives her a different kind of task – playing chaperone for a visiting princess of Bavaria in hopes that the young royal will lure her son, the Prince of Wales, away from that dreadful American woman, Mrs. Simpson. However, the lively young princess is a Royal Handful, and her unbridled enthusiasm soon lands both ladies in a pot of hot water when they are accidentally linked to a murder, then to the Communist Party and then to more murders - not to mention getting in between Georgie and the dashing Darcy O’Mara. With her dear ex-copper grandfather acting as her butler (so the princess doesn’t think she is the pauper that she is), Georgie tries to untangle the murderous mess before she and the princess inadvertently cause another world war. Written with an almost chick-lit tone but set in Interwar-period England, A Royal Pain is a fun-to-read mystery of the “cozy” genre.

Find it here in the SPL catalogue.

Reviewed September 8, 2008

August 29, 2008

The home-decor industry raked in over 20-billion dollars in Canada in 2002 (thank-you, Trading Spaces). For those of us who prefer a personalized touch without spending a fortune, House Proud is a great source. Danielle Proud, the British queen of cheap-chic is the ultimate recycler, reclaiming forgotten treasures with tried and true crafting skills. With great detail and lots of pictures she demonstrates each step in a multitude of projects: turning a threadbare 1960's dress into oven mitts, past issues of Vogue magazine covers into placemats, vintage plates into an attractive roller blind (yep, roller blind), a boring IKEA-like dresser into a one-of-a-kind objet d'art, and a shark into a door-stop (yep, shark). The projects are divided by room, including ideas for 'in-between' spaces and the garden, and she provides tips and tricks for finding fine flea-market furniture too. Since this is a UK publication, the list of sources in the back are not especially helpful for quick visits unless you like shopping on-line, but armed with this book, her website ( and possibly the IKEA-hacker site (, anyone can transform their homes, apartments and dorm-rooms into something spectacular.
Find it here in the SPL catalogue.

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