Get Lost in a Good Book: Your Spring Reading List

Warmer weather means more time to relax in the sun with a good book -- and there are some fantastic must-read books about to hit the stores (or your tablet). Here are some of the most eagerly anticipated new releases of the spring/summer season -- just in time to plan your spring or summer getaway reading! 

Fiction

The One and Only, by Emily Giffin: If you loved her novels about love and marriage, be prepared to be blown away by this tale of a woman from a small college-football town whose life is turned upside down by a tragedy. 

Your Perfect Life, by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke: These two childhood friends joined forces to write a book about -- what else? -- two childhood friends.  But this story has a Freaky Friday twist: BFFs Casey and Rachel wake up after a college reunion to discover that they’ve switched bodies! 

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, by Diana Gabaldon: The latest in Gabaldon’s

Outlander time-traveling series follows the saga of the Fraser family as their destinies cross between Revolutionary War-era Pennsylvania and twentieth-century Scotland. Family secrets and a kidnapped son add to the intrigue. 

Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King: The King of thrillers is at it again with a story that rings all too true in these troubled times: A loner who committed mass murder years earlier threatens to strike again, leading a cop to come out of retirement and hunt the killer down before it’s too late. 

More must-read books: The Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank, The Arsonist by Sue Miller, The Transcriptionist, by Amy Rowland, and Cold Cold Heart, by Tami Hoag. 

Nonfiction

My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut, by Hannah Hart. What began as a goofy joke for a friend -- making a fake cooking video while drinking wine -- turned Hart into an overnight celeb. Now she offers her cooking tips, favorite recipes and, of course, the right cocktails for every dish.

New Life, No Instructions, by Gail Caldwell:  Need a dose of inspiration? You’ll find it in Caldwell’s memoir of grief and hope. After a series of losses -- her mother, her best friend, her dog and her mobility -- she underwent a surgery that brought back not only her ability to walk, but also to believe in herself and in her future.

Save the Date: The Occasional Mortifications of a Serial Wedding Guest, by Jen Doll: Just in time for wedding season!  Doll recalls a lifetime’s worth of invitations, buffets and cocktail dresses as she sums up the whole bridal experience and what it says about relationships today. 

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage, by Molly Wizenberg: Think of it as a Food Network reality show in hardcover. Newlywed Wizenberg supported her husband’s dream of owning a pizzeria -- never realizing how the work and stress of running a restaurant would affect their relationship.

More must-read books: Listen to the Squawking Chicken, by Elaine Lui, Everybody’s Got Something, by Robin Roberts, and a new memoir by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Purse Matchmaker: Find the Best Bag for Your Personality

You never outgrow them. They never pinch your feet. No wonder most women love to “bag” a new purse each season. No matter what your style or needs, there’s a purse that’s just right for you. Better yet, for every pricey “It” bag, there’s an affordable knockoff near you at fast-fashion fixtures like H&M, Zara, Forever 21 and Uniqlo. Check your “purse”-onality below to find your perfect fit!

Personality: Fun and Easygoing

Your bag: Pouch

This relaxed version of a strapless silhouette has become 2014’s most coveted bag. The relaxed frame suits this year’s upscale sweatshirts, track pants and sneakers. Gotta have it? Lanvin’s gold and blue “paper bags” are spring’s must-haves, while Dries Van Noten’s kaleidoscope-patched soft envelope pouches will make fad followers drool come fall.

Personality: Flexible and Ready for Anything

Your bag: Tote

Call this the SUV of carry-alls. Totes are practical, roomy and perfect for moms and travelers -- especially if they have outer pockets or inner compartments, which save you from digging around in search of your keys. This year’s totes include fun furry styles from Marc Jacobs and Fendi -- but if you opt for that look, be sure to streamline the rest of your outfit or you may be mistaken for a Muppet.

Personality: Unpretentious and Earthy

Your bag: Hobo

Perfect for hippies and cowgirls, these bohemian bags feature slouchy posture, scooped center, long shoulder strap and zipper closures. Add fringe or tassels, and you look ready to head into the sunset. The hobo’s cousin is the bucket bag, named for its shape. Our fave source is eBay, where you may be able to snag a vintage Coach hobo for a song.

Personality: Practical and Organized

Your bag: Saddlebag

Perfect for work and play, saddlebags typically have outside pockets that make it easy to find your smartphone and keys, plus top and side compartments with buckled flaps provide extra organization. Barbour makes stylishly earthy versions of this highly practical purse.

Personality: Elegant and Sophisticated

Your bag: Clutch

They’re not just for evening gowns anymore: These small, simple bags have become a daytime “do” in the last couple of years. Choose one with a loop that you can hang around your wrist to free your hands -- perfect for navigating buffets. Need to carry more than just your lipstick? Go for a larger version with pointed flaps, known as an envelope. We’re expecting 2014’s lust object to be Salvatore Ferragamo’s hard case.

Personality: Retro and Classy

Your bag: Handlebag

This top-clasp, hard-sided purse is perfect for pencil skirts, nipped jackets and other ladylike fashions that evoke the ‘40s and ‘50s. Huge, round-top, hard-sided versions are called doctor’s bags -- a nod to their inspiration. Christian Dior’s yellow or red bags for next fall are gorgeous, but if you go vintage, you might be able to afford Louis Vuitton and Hermès versions. Better yet, ask your mom or grandmother if you can raid her closet!

Personality: Always On-the-go

Your bag: Messenger

Whether you’re dashing about the city or hitting the club, you’ll want this carry-all bag by your side. Smaller versions hold the essentials, while larger versions can take on anything you care to stuff inside. Best of all, we adore the ones we’ve spotted at Kohl’s and J.C. Penny!

Keep That Money in the Bank! Simple Ways to Get a Hold of Your Finances

Everyone wants to be better about managing their money, but between hectic work schedules and long to-do lists, sitting down to figure out your finances can easily fall to the bottom of the priorities pile. Fortunately, we’ve brought the research to you, asking money management pros for their top tips on how to save more, pay down debt and bring in a little cash. Here’s what they recommend:

Know Where Your Money Goes

Before you start planning how to save, it’s essential to track your spending. Take a look at how much it costs to run your household each month, then see how much money you have left for discretionary spending, says Sophia Bera, CFP and founder of Gen Y Planning. If you notice any unnecessary debts or spending, try to pare down those expenses. 

Got a pile of debt? Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP and founder of Workable Wealth, suggests either paying off the debts with the highest interest rate first, or tackling your smallest debts first and then, once they’re paid, moving on to the bigger ones. Websites like Mint and You Need a Budget can help you put together a monthly budget and track your spending.

Start Your Emergency Cushion Now

Storjohann suggests storing up an emergency fund equivalent to three to six months of living expenses that you can draw from in case of an emergency. “Having that cushion protects you from having to take on debt if something goes wrong,” says Storjohann.

Saving 10 percent of your income (if you can) is a good place to start, Storjohann adds. It’ll seem less daunting if you treat your fund like a bill payment, setting aside the money every month.

Take Advantage of Employer Matches

If your employer matches up to a certain percentage of your 401k or retirement investment, make sure you’re contributing that minimum. “If you’re not, you’re basically leaving free money on the table,” says Storjohann. Don’t have a 401k or employer investment plan? Storjohann suggests saving for retirement by investing in things like a mutual or exchange-traded fund, which will give you greater diversification of assets.

Avoid the “Facebook Trap”

When friends and former coworkers post pictures of their fabulous vacations or new houses, it’s easy to feel as though you’re falling behind both personally and financially. “People are not putting their true selves forward on social media,” says Storjohann. “It’s best to focus on what really matters to you when organizing yourself financially.” Remind yourself of the non-material blessings you have before you go online.

Learn How Much You Should Be Making

Wish you had a bigger paycheck? You could be entitled to one. Do some research at websites like PayScale to determine an accurate salary for your position. If your salary doesn’t match up, talk to your boss. “Women in general are underpaid and should look to increase their income through their employer,” says Storjohann.

Get Creative to Earn Extra Income

Do you make awesome brownies or homemade jewelry? Baking, crafting or any type of “side hustle” can help pad your personal income and create additional investment opportunities, says Storjohann. Ask local stores, consignment shops and flea markets to sell your wares, or try setting up a website for orders. An even easier way to get extra cash a few times a year: Clean out your garage, basement and attic and hold garage or tag sales. You’ll be rewarded both with a neater home and a bigger bank balance.

Freshen up Your Beauty Routine in Time for Spring

Finally! After a long, cold, miserable winter, spring never felt so welcome. You’re eager to swap out sweaters for sandals, but don’t forget that spring is also the time to switch up your beauty routine. These expert tips will ensure that your skin and hair are ready to face the warm springtime sun.

Make Your Skin Shine

Once daily, exfoliate your face gently with a washcloth or sonic facial brush to help dead skin slough off. Then weekly, follow up with a toner containing glycolic or salicylic acid, which gives a deeper clean. “I’m a big fan of exfoliation,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, author of Skin Rules. “If your skin isn’t exfoliated, it won’t have that nice glow.” You’ll also want to put away your extra-strength body lotion and switch to a lighter formulation.

Say Goodbye to Pimples

As the heat and humidity return, your face becomes oilier and more prone to blemishes. To keep them at bay, apply a toner for acne-prone skin after washing your face; look for ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and niacinamide. Then do an inventory of your makeup. “Many people don’t read the labels, and they choose products that aggravate acne,” says Jaliman. For instance, glycerin, silicone and mineral oil are common ingredients in moisturizers and primers. Finally, to avoid flare-ups, clean your cell phone! Your fingers leave bacteria on the screen that can spread to your face when you make a call.    

Nourish Winter-dried Hair

Winter’s arid air can make your scalp dry out and shed. Dandruff can also appear worse in cold weather when you wear dark sweaters or shirts, which make the flakes stand out. Now’s the time to pamper your scalp: Use an anti-dandruff shampoo and follow up with conditioner.

Spring’s warmer temperatures are the perfect time to change up your hair-care routine, advises noted Boston-based stylist Mario Russo. “As the season changes, incorporate a gloss serum into your hair routine,” says Russo. “The oils and moisturizing ingredients will liven up your color and help prepare hair for the summer sun.” A weekly hair mask, he adds, will rejuvenate your locks by opening up the hair cuticle and letting the moisture penetrate. This is also the time to cut back on heat-styling tools, which can damage your hair. “On days when you don’t use your blow-dryer or straightening iron, continue to apply your favorite frizz, volume or UV-protectant product. They’ll help protect your hair while it dries naturally,” says Russo.

On the other hand, if your hair tends to be oily this time of year, both Russo and Jaliman recommend using dry shampoo several times a week, which absorbs the oil without drying out your hair.

Freshen Your Look

Greet spring in style with a salon visit; even a small trim will remove split ends and revive your hair. Ready for something more daring? Talk to your stylist about trying a new color. “Tones like platinum or icy blonde, cool toned tips and dark roots, rose-gold, dark-chocolate brown and a less drastic ombre will be popular this spring,” says Russo.

When It Comes to the Brain, Age Does Matter

If your keys keep playing hide-and-seek and you can’t recall the name of your daughter’s latest BFF, what should you do? Occasional memory blips are “extremely normal”, especially for busy moms, according to Barry Gordon, M.D., PhD, professor of neurology and cognitive science at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and author of Intelligent Memory. “Your memory’s probably not as bad as you think it is,” he says, and too much self-monitoring might only make it worse.

Besides, the latest research shows there are far more effective ways than worry to sharpen your wits. While we do lose brain cells past the teenage years, there’s accumulating evidence that we can also foster new ones. Some of these brain-boosters may surprise you; many are even fun!

Get a Move On

The evidence that aerobic fitness benefits your mind as well as your body keeps growing by, well, leaps and bounds. One recent study at the Mayo Clinic found that subjects who did moderate workouts (about 30 minutes) 5 or 6 times a week cut their later risk of mild cognitive impairment by 32 percent. Reformed couch potatoes did even better, reducing their risk by 39 percent.

You can also add weight training to your routine: Researchers at the University of Illinois reported that both aerobic and resistance training workouts keep your brain healthier in old age.

Eat Greek

“The best way to keep your mind and memory sharp as you age is to nourish yourself with a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods,” says Elisa Zied, a registered dietician whose new book, Younger Next Week, details many connections between diet and brain health.

Numerous studies show that regular consumption of a Mediterranean-accented diet -- including the fish and low-fat dairy, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and olive oil seen in the typical Greek menu -- can help reduce and even reverse cognitive decline (as well as other threats to brain and body such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes). The mental and physical benefits of omega-3, found in fatty fish used in these types of diets, have often been demonstrated. A 2014 study published in the journal Neurology found that postmenopausal women who maintained the highest blood levels of omega-3 kept more brain cells as they aged, especially in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that forms new memories. (A major clinical study on the effectiveness of fish oil supplements is now underway at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.)

Drink Up

Anyone who needs a jolt or two of java to get started in the morning already knows that caffeine spurs alertness. But a recent study at Johns Hopkins suggests that caffeine can enhance memory, too; participants who drank coffee retained more visual images when tested 24 hours later than those who didn’t.

The benefits of tea, hot chocolate, and wine have been supported by other scientific research too. According to one study published in the Journal of Nutrition, those who regularly drank all three beverages scored highest on verbal and visual tests.

Sleep on It

The National Institutes of Health reports that snoozing powers our memory before, during and after we learn something new. On the other hand, Finnish researchers found that sleep deprivation -- less than four hours in a night -- can impair attention, working memory, long-term memory and decision-making ability (as many new moms might attest).

Challenge Yourself

You’ve probably heard that crosswords or Sudoku can build a more agile brain. But if you’re not into filling out little boxes, says Dr. Gordon, try something new. “Get out of your rut” and find something you enjoy doing, he says. Learn to tap dance or do Zumba, study Spanish or juggling, take up meditation or sketching; there’s ample research indicating that mastering new skills can stimulate the mind.

Train Your Brain

Computerized brain-training programs have proliferated in the last few years. It’s “not clear yet” how well they work over the long term, Gordon notes, but go ahead and play them if you’ve got time and interest. But if you really want to remember a name, he adds, do what skilled politicians do: focus on the person, repeat their name aloud, and write it down when you get a chance. As for those elusive keys: Always drop them in a designated spot, such as a deep bowl on a hall table. And relax.