Charlotte’s Top 5 Must Reads for January

Happy New Year my book loving friends. I hope you had an awesome holiday – good friends, good food, good times, and some special books under the tree.

Sadly the party’s over and it’s time to step up and make good on those resolutions that made so much sense after the second bottle of champagne on New Year’s Eve. You know: eat right, lose weight, join/actually go to the gym, snag your dream job . . .

OK the odds of succeeding are kinda slim – apparently 73% of Canadians who make NYRs don’t stick to them long enough to see success.

But maybe that’s because they didn’t turn to a knowledgeable friend for support – like me! This month: three surefire resolution boosters, and as a reward for all your self-improvement initiatives, two page-turning crime novels to sink your teeth into (instead of scarfing down that bag of crinkle chips and entire tub of Helluva Good Dip).

100 Weight Loss Bowls

You know why most diets don’t work? Because they’re either hard to follow when life speeds up, or they make you eat stuff that is boring and not very tasty (think endless servings of kale- blah!)– or both.

100 Weight Loss Bowls (DK Publishing, 2017) capitalizes on the bowl trend with breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner recipes tagged at 300, 400 or 600 calories so you can create a personal diet plan that’s easy peasy and pretty darned delicious.

Bowls are the new plates for a bunch of good reasons. Bowls typically hold less food than a plate so you have built-in portion control. You create nutritionally complete meals so you eat well and feel full. And just as important, you can make your meal look like a still life by balancing colour and texture.

But here’s what makes 100 Weight Loss Bowls genius: it’s not just a recipe book, it’s a no-nonsense guide to building your personal good-for-you diet plan. You start by targeting your daily calorie intake (because no matter what those weight loss shakes tell you, it’s all about calories in and calories out), and then you spread the calories throughout the day (I’m not talking grazing here, just 20% for breakfast, 30% for lunch, 40% for dinner and 10% for snacks). Next step: build your daily meal plan with breakfast/lunch/dinner bowls under 300 calories, under 400 calories and under 600 calories – plus snack ideas under 100 calories each.

100 Bowls offers tips on how to support your weight loss plan (tracking your progress can be a game changer), and planning and prepping tips to save time (who knew you can freeze peeled and sliced bananas for your morning smoothie?) plus a bunch of bowl boosters like adding matcha – yup, that green tea power house – for 20 times more antioxidants than blueberries.

Now you’re ready to dive into the recipes, calorie colour-coded with dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan options. Plus gorgeous photography that makes you want to lick the page!

1001 Natural Remedies

OK, you’ve figured out your healthy eating weight loss plan. Next on your resolution list: detox, de-stress and get back to basics.

1001 Natural Remedies (DK Publishing, 2016) has a fix for that. Well 1001 actually.

Organized in four sections – Health, Beauty, House and Garden and Pet Care – 1001 serves up uncomplicated recipes using easy-to-find ingredients that make it simple to get all righteous about going green – and save some $$$ into the bargain.

Tension headaches? Try a cup of herbal tea: simmer 1 tsp. fresh chopped ginger in a covered pot for five minutes; remove from heat and add I tsp. dried chamomile and 1 tsp. dried linden. Steep for 10 minutes, strain and enjoy!

Having trouble sleeping? Soak in an Epsom salts bath before you slip between the sheets. Epsom salts are rich in magnesium, a muscle relaxant and nervous system stimulant.

Bet your skin is getting dry and winter-weary. Milk baths have been dry skin beauty boosters since the dawn of time (Cleopatra’s skin secret). This dry skin cleanser is a bomb: mix 1 tbsp. heavy cream with 1 drop sandalwood essential oil. Dampen your skin with warm water; massage the cleanser gently with fingertips for a minute and rinse. It works. Trust me.

And I bet your lips are a dry and flaky mess – thank you very much matte liquid lipstick. 1001 has six lip balm recipes you can make in minutes to moisturize lips. My fave? Grapefruit and lavender. Seriously tasty.

1001 Natural Remedies is also chock-a-block with really useful pet care recipes (garlic biscuits for Fido, baking soda toothpaste for Kitty’s teeth and gums and good luck with that) and household recipes for natural soaps, cleansers, stain removers and more.

Keep 1001 handy – it will become your go-to guide to living naturally.

Tools of Titans

If rebooting your career is one of your NYRs, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers by New York Times best-selling author Tim Ferriss is a must read.

Tim Ferriss is host of The Tim Ferriss Show, an uber-successful podcast (it’s been downloaded more than 100 million times) that has Tim chatting with guests from Hollywood celebs to world-class athletes to legendary Special Operations commanders and black-market biochemists. So influential is the podcast that Tim’s been dubbed the Oprah of audio.

The author of a bunch of best sellers including the 4-Hour Work Week and the 4-Hour Body, Ferriss is a force to be reckoned with (if you don’t believe me, Google him and weep).

Tools of Titans curates the tips and tricks shared by podcast guests with a specific focus on how you can apply them to take your career – and heck, maybe even your life – to the next level.

T of T is organized into three chapters – Healthy, Wealthy and Wise – with big titan-y thoughts from a cast of super-success people, plus complementary chapter sidebars from Ferriss on how he applied what he has learned.

You won’t read this book logically from front cover to back page; you will step up to the buffet and snack yourself into your best year ever.

The Woman in Cabin 10

Ruth Ware is a champion writer of creepy mysteries – her debut novel In a Dark, Dark Wood was an instant New York Times bestseller and apparently Reese Witherspoon almost bit off all her fingernails when she was reading it.

So there was a lot of hype around Ware’s follow up, The Woman in Cabin 10 – but she can relax; her latest is just as creepy and compelling.

Lo Blacklock, a travel magazine writer, gets the best assignment ever: a week on the Aurora, a luxurious and intimate 10-cabin yacht cruising the Norwegian fjords. Hosted by Richard Bullmer, a wildly wealthy and successful businessman, and his stunning wife Anne, who is undergoing chemo for breast cancer, the guest list is a who’s who of money, power and travel writer VIPs including Lo’s ex-boyfriend.

Lo can’t believe the swank cabin interiors, sumptuous meals, bottomless wine bottles . . . it’s not Lo’s experience – personal or professional. She’s pretty much living the vida loca and loving it.

Several days into the cruise, though, fabulous turns frightening: Lo hears a sound from the cabin next door, and then the splash of a body falling overboard off the balcony.

Lo rightfully contacts the yacht’s head of security but here’s the problem: Lo takes anti-depressants, had been drinking (a lot) and PS: the crew and guests are all accounted for.

What happens as Lo refuses to second-guess what she heard and works like Columbo to find out the fate of the woman in cabin 10 offers plot twists and turns that keep you guessing to the last line.

And that, my friends, is the key to a great suspense novel and the perfect snuggle-up Sunday read.

What She Knew

What She Knew, British author Gilly Macmillan’s debut mystery, is a tightly written psychological thriller that, frankly, is way better than the missing children genre usually is. You know the drill: one parent is always a suspect; the lead detective gets too involved; the longer the case drags out the less likely it is that the kid will be found alive . . . all very Criminal Minds-y.

So at first blush I wasn’t hopeful. Rachel Finch is out walking in the woods with her eight-year-old son Ben. He runs ahead, and although Rachel is apprehensive she lets him go, you know, part of the apron-string-cutting process.

Ben disappears. Rachel blames herself for letting Ben go ahead. Det. Insp. Jim Clemo is assigned to the case. He blames himself for not finding Ben.

There are some side plots – Rachel’s ex-husband had left her 10 months earlier for a younger woman; DI Clemo is having an affair with a colleague; there’s a weird family secret that makes Rachel’s sister a suspect – that keep the main story slipping down rabbit holes and the tension taut.

What She Saw is a smart, well-crafted study in how logic can lead us astray, that seeing isn’t always believing and that the devil really is in the details.

Who done it will surprise you.

Written by Charlotte Empey with Illustrations by LEZ AUTRES

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