Your Fully Charged Life

A coincidence is a sort of random accidental event that feels like it was meant to happen. Say, for instance, that you’re reading a book and come across the name Mary and 10 seconds later your phone rings and it’s your cousin Mary, who you haven’t talked to in ages. Things like that happen frequently, and we usually just smile and move on. Synchronicity is a deeper, more meaningful coincidence that forces us to pay attention; it’s not just random, it’s the universe letting us know when we’re on the right path.

I often experience synchronicities, which prompted me to look deeper into research done by Deepak Chopra, Carl, Jung, and several other experts. It really is amazing and awe-inspiring. I’d encourage anyone interested in forming a deeper connection with God, the universe, Mother Nature – whatever you call your higher power – to at least do a quick Google search on it.

I’m starting with this because I believe the universe was telling me to read Meaghan B Murphy’s book. I first learned about it when I was reading a copy of Women’s Day, which I randomly picked up at the grocery store because it had a pretty picture of a heart-shaped cake on the cover. There was a good story called “Love thy cashier” written by the content director of the magazine and a plug for her new book, Your Fully Charged Life. I kind of smiled and moved on. Later, I popped on to Instagram, and the first photo to greet me was Candace Cameron Bure holding up a copy of Your Fully Charged Life. Wait, hadn’t I heard of that before? The next day I went to Barnes and Noble in search of the book The Perfect Marriage – I didn’t find that, but instead, Your Fully Charged Life was beaming at me in its bright orange glory. Okay, universe, you got me.

Title: Your Fully Charged Life
Author: Meaghan B Murphy
Rating: The Spark You Need
Genre: Self-Help
Page Count: 231
Published: 2021

I don’t always see the positives in a situation (especially when I’m having a gray day), I absolutely hate the color orange, and a bad morning can ruin my entire day. Meaghan totally wrote her book for people like me. When she was growing up, everything used to bother her and her childhood nickname was actually Neggy. In her late teens, a tragic event shifted her spirit, and slowly, over time, she morphed into the beautiful lively being we “know” today, with an orange couch and a wardrobe filled with lightning bolt clothing.

A lot of the suggestions to live a happier life are so simple and easy to adopt. I love that she says meditation is not for her because, after about 5 minutes of sitting still, it’s really not for me either. In chapters such as The Work Charge and The Health Charge, she provides ideas for making the shift from gray to yay! While none of the suggestions are revolutionary, they’re still golden advice: health is wealth, sleep is your superpower, kindness is magic, and pivot when purpose runs dry.

Meaghan provides a lot of examples of people living positively charged and she herself can be found living it up on Instagram @MeaghanBMurphy. It somehow helps to know that someone negative did a complete 180 with her life – looking at her social media, you’d never know that she was a former Debbie Downer, a right Negative Nancy. And yes, of course, social media doesn’t always showcase the truth, but something about Meaghan makes you believe that she is the real deal. Maybe it’s because she was appointed Chief Spirit Officer of her town…by the mayor!

While this is a good, short read for anyone feeling a little down in the dumps, I’d highly recommend it to parents. Drawing on her experience juggling work and home school during the pandemic, Meaghan lists ways parents can cope and help their kids during difficult times. Each chapter ends with a summary on how to Charge and there’s a full chapter on Recharging – which I know I desperately need at the end of the day. Overall, it was a nice, light read that inspired me to wear some clothing outside of the gray spectrum.

So, are you ready to live Fully Charged?

Grab this book if you’re feeling a little down. It’s filled with helpful tips to turn your days from gray to yay in no time. With chapters such as The Health Charge and The Work Charge, you’ll learn ways to make each day a little brighter. While none of this information is revolutionary, it’s still a helpful reminder to live your best life and be the light for someone else.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy: any of the Badass books by Jen Sincero.

The Dark Lake

Some thrillers keep you engaged with dialogue and plot twists – they’re good, easy reads, and many times, forgettable. But sometimes you stumble upon a gem – the likes of Karin Slaughter and Gregg Olsen. The dialogue and scenes are complex and intricate, they slow you down so you’re able to soak everything in and remember. You experience the ups and downs of the characters, you empathize with their situations, and your heart breaks just a little bit when they’re going through a rough patch. These are the books you pass along to a friend and such is the Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey.

Title: The Dark Lake
Author: Sarah Bailey
Rating: A Slow Heartbreak
Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Page Count: 384
Published: 2017

Gemma Woodstock is the lead detective on the homicide investigation of a former classmate, Rosalind (Rose) Ryan. While this could be seen as a conflict of interest, Gemma is good at compartmentalizing – work, job, affair, parenting. As a detective, she’s devoted, level-headed, and will stop at nothing to solve a case. As a girlfriend, she’s elusive, commitment-phobic, and rarely present.

As she and her partner (and also her secret lover) try to solve the murder, Gemma recalls bits of the past that intertwine with the present and complicate the case. Who would have thought that the jealousy and mistakes made by a teenage girl a decade earlier would surface now and lead to the murder of a popular teacher? And what was the relationship between Gemma and Rose like in high school?

Prepare to get lost in the mystery of Rose, Gemma, and the collision of past and present. You’ll feel the sadness and the heartbreak, but you’ll want to keep reading more.

This is a heartbreaking story of a detective trying to solve the murder of a former classmate. A decade’s old drama is brought to the surface in this explosive read – one that you’ll remember long after you’ve finished the last page. Don’t hesitate – if you’re a fan of Karin Slaughter or Gregg Olsen – grab this now.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy: The Sound of Rain by Gregg Olsen.

March Bites

Spring is just 19 days away – can you believe it? Here are some of the awesome books on my March reading list. Enjoy!

Your Fully Charged Life by Meaghan B Murphy. The other day I picked up a copy of Women’s Day on a whim (it had a pretty cover!). There was a good story called “Love thy cashier” written by the content director, with a plug for her new book, Your Fully Charged Life. Then, I went on Instagram and Candace Cameron Bure was posing with the same book, encouraging her followers to read it. Finally, I went into Barnes and Noble and there it was again. I knew I had to pick it up. Sometimes the universe tells you exactly what you need and I can definitely use a few lightning bolts of positivity right now.

Too Good to be True by Carola Lovering is the March BOTM thriller. Skye is head over heels for her much older boyfriend and when he proposes, she quickly goes into mega wedding planning mode. But Burke has secrets and he’s planning something seriously sinister for Syke. I don’t know if this will be the edge-of-your-seat thriller I’ve been hoping for, but I can’t wait to start reading. Oh, and this one also has an unreliable narrator. Fun!

The Players Ball by David Kushner is a topic I never thought I’d explore – the birth of online dating and internet porn. This one received borderline okayish reviews, mostly due to typos, repetition, and inconsistencies within the text. Bad editing aside, I’m intrigued.

And last, but certainly not least:

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner is a genre I don’t usually read: fantasy. Two centuries ago, a respected healer started selling poisons to help women rid their lives of unwanted men. There were two rules: never use the poison to harm another woman and write the name of the murderer and victim in the apothecaries register. Now, in present-day London, one woman believes she’s found the key to solving the mysterious murders of so long ago.

Full reviews on the best of the above to follow…stay tuned!

Believe IT

I don’t wear much makeup, but I love a good mascara and CC cream. I don’t remember when I first started using IT Cosmetics, but it was definitely closer to their beginning when there were only a few products. The make-up and skincare lines are formulated for real women with real skin concerns – rosacea, pigmentation, dark circles, large pores, and acne and scaring. When promoting her company, Jamie Kern Lima, the CEO and co-founder prioritized the importance of using real women to model the products. Young, old, spotted, scarred, red-patched – you name it, they had it and their untouched results were highlighted on all platforms. This realness sold and made Kern Lima a success. But the journey wasn’t always rosy. Believe IT is Jamie’s story of grit, persistence, and the power of prayer.

Some of my best ideas and decisions can be attributed to a good business book. What Motivates Me by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton inspired me to find a job that incorporated my top motivators – creativity, autonomy, and challenge, among a few others. I quit my soul-sucking job and transitioned into a great marketing career at a local credit union. Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski taught me not to be afraid to ask for more; for what I deserve. Believe IT taught me that persistence pays off and if something doesn’t work out, it’s because something better is on its way.

Title: Believe IT
Author: Jamie Kern Lima
Rating: An Encouraging Story
Genre: Business
Page Count: 288 (9 hours 13 mins via audiobook)
Published: 2021

Can you believe that someone actually told Jamie Kern Lima that no one would buy makeup from someone who looked like her? First of all, that is a terrible thing to say. Second, she is beautiful inside and out. Third, her products are freaking amazing.

I really loved Jamie’s story. I listened to the audiobook, which she narrated, and her excitement and emotion were on display for the entire nine hours. It just wouldn’t have been the same if it was read by someone else. The reader learns about the evolution of IT Cosmetics and also gets a peek into Jamie’s life – her marriage, struggles with infertility, finding out she was adopted, her circle of friends, and even her time spent on Big Brother!

While this is considered a business book, it’s much more informal and feels like your best friend is casually chatting with you.

Jamie heard so many no’s before she finally got one yes. I think this is something we can all relate to, but where most of us would throw in the towel after a while, she didn’t give up. She believed in herself, her brand, and that God was leading her down the right path. Whenever she struggled, she prayed, and that helped her through tough times.

This story is so inspirational. Sometimes you feel like you’ve been rejected for no good reason at all, only to find out that something better is waiting for you down the road. Jamie teaches us to see rejections as blessings. Eventually, when the time is right, everything will fall into place – the job, the relationship, the family, the promotion, whatever – and you’ll know exactly why every opportunity that came before didn’t work out. It just takes a little patience and faith.

I highly recommend picking up this book for yourself or someone you know who’s struggling. I have no doubts that it will inspire anyone who reads (or listens) to it. And I’m very excited to see what’s next on my own journey.

This is a beautiful story about a girl who had a dream and never gave up – even when the odds were stacked against her. The read you need when you’re feeling down and uninspired. Might I recommend the audiobook so you can hear the stories in the author’s own voice – passion, determination, honesty.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy: #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso.


Towards the end of last year, I saw a great post on social media that said saying All Lives Matter is basically like telling people on the anniversary of 9/11 that All Buildings Matter. Still, there will be people who just don’t understand (or don’t want to) why Black Lives Matter. And that’s where Caste: The Original of Our Discontents comes in. Isabel Wilkerson does an excellent job illustrating the evolution of caste throughout the decades – using examples from Indian, German, and United States history. It is amazing how soon we forget and how soon history repeats itself. For those who want or need a better understanding of the divisions of caste in our present-day country, this book is for you.

Title: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
Author: Isabel Wilkerson
Rating: A Necessary Read
Genre: Non-Fiction/History
Page Count: 395 (476 includes notes, sources, and index)
Published: 2020

Caste seemed so daunting at the beginning; it looked and felt like a brick that was filled with dry and heavy material. But once I got the courage to tackle the first few pages, I realized how wrong I was. This book is a factual account of how casteism has evolved, but is still very present within our society. It’s an engaging read, and I learned more about the history of racism and casteism in our country in one book than in all the years I took history in school.

Wilkerson drew criticism for including some of her own experiences of casteism (and sometimes racism) throughout the book. The majority of the text relies on historical events and anecdotes from the Obama presidency, social justice movement, repeated senseless murders of black Americans, and Trump’s campaign and 2016 election victory to illustrate the discontents. At one point, she mentions Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears and the horrendous treatment of Native Americans.

Your heart may ache throughout this book, but you should still read it to gain a better understanding of the plights that those in the upper caste have so carefully avoided, yet many times inflicted, on the lower caste. This is the book we need in 2021 to prevent hatred from regaining control of the country in 2024. This is the material we need to learn and understand now so that history doesn’t continue to repeat itself.

Don’t let the size fool you – the content is both engaging and factual. This is the material you need to read – especially if you don’t understand why Black Lives Matter.

Bonus Bite: Lenten Reflections

Lent, which is a time of prayer, penance, and preparation for Easter Sunday, begins on Wednesday, the 17th. Some people choose to give up something during those 40ish days – when I was younger, I used to give up French fries and gum (two of my favorite things). Others prefer to do something instead, like give more to charity, donate time, or reflect in prayer. Personally, I think the latter is a better option. Looking back it seems a little silly to give up gum for a month, only to get a complete back fix on Easter. The things we do to compete with friends in elementary school!

Anyway, you don’t have to be Catholic, Christian, or even religious to carve out some time to reflect on your life, your goals, and everything else that’s important to you. It’s always a good time to make time for YOU. Here are a few of my favorite books to connect with yourself, your family, and (if you so choose) your Higher Power.

Draw The Circle by Mark Batterson is a 40-day guided prayer challenge that’s perfect when you’re craving more of a spiritual connection with your Higher Power. My nanny and I read and discussed this together a few years ago and it definitely brought us closer as a family. I like this book because it’s engaging – the author is a masterful storyteller – and there aren’t any exercises you have to do at the end of each daily lesson. This would be your best option if your time is limited – you’ll need approximately 10-15 minutes for each daily reading. Of course, if you have some extra time, you may want to journal through your experience.

The Magic by Rhonda Byrne is a 28-day gratitude challenge that includes options to extend the exercises into an everyday practice. You may have heard of Rhonda’s first (and more popular) book – The Secret. This one builds off of the idea of saying “thank you” and provides actionable steps to bring magic and manifestation into your life. Prepare to spend 30+ minutes a day working through the daily readings and magical practices.

May Cause Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein is a 6-week guidebook where you’ll pray, meditate, and journal your way to happiness. You’ll learn to connect with yourself, others, your Higher Power, and start manifesting the life of your dreams. There are morning reflections and evening exercises to complete each day. While it might seem like a lot, I’d recommend setting aside at least an hour each day to work through this challenge. You won’t want to rush through any of the material – especially the recommended meditations. Before diving in, you might want to read the first 25 pages to see if the content is right for you.

Starting Wednesday, I’ll be re-reading Draw the Circle. What do you have planned? Do you have any books that have helped you spiritually?

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany

I am probably one of the worst Italians there is: I don’t like pasta sauce, I don’t drink coffee, I hate cooking, and I’ve never had a desire to travel to Italy. So, when I first came across this book, I wasn’t overly in love with it. What is the deal with Italy?

If you read the cover flap, you’ll think this book is about a silly curse preventing all second-born daughters in the Fontana family from finding true love. But it’s so much deeper than that (fortunately). This is the beautiful story of love, life, and loss. And the courage to spread your wings and take a leap of faith. Just wait until you get to the author’s note at the end!

Title: The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
Author: Lori Nelson Spielman
Rating: An Unexpected Gem
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Page Count: 378
Published: 2020

In the present day, Emilia, is in her late 20s and has resigned herself to the fact that she’ll never find true love. Instead of getting hurt, she prefers to hide behind frumpy clothes and granny glasses, spending most of her time at the family bakery or home alone in what she calls Emville. Her cousin Lucy is in her early 20s and is so desperate to find love, that she practically sleeps with a new guy each night and waits for them to call – but they never do. Out of the blue, their soon to be 80-year old aunt asks them to accompany her on an all-expenses-paid trip to Italy to celebrate her birthday and promises to break the curse. And so, begins the journey.

I’m not going to lie, I found Lucy to be super annoying and juvenile. And Em was a bit timid and negative. But this early depiction of them was needed to show how the characters grew over their week-long trip in Italy. Lucy emerged wiser, calmer, and embraced a new side of herself. Emilia became more adventurous and optimistic. The girls both learned to lean into who they are, not what their family wants them to be. That was the most magical part (and maybe even lesson): that sometimes you have to break free and be unapologetically you.

And so, I thought this would be the perfect read for Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re looking for the love of your life or to love yourself, this book will tug on your heartstrings and fill you will inspiration. And yes, as expected, it ends happily.

A sweet love story. Not just romantic love, but the love only a family can share. Whether you’re an only child, or one of many, you’ll appreciate this story. And just wait until you read the author’s note at the end. Grab the tissues!

If you liked this book, you might enjoy: Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes.

People Like Her

I first came across this book on BOTM, but bypassed it in favor of The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins. The latter was supposed to be akin to a modern day retelling of Jane Eyre. Well, it ended up being a huge disappointment (and a total waste of a credit!). Clearly I’m not in the majority here, because the book received rave reviews. But, hey, not every book is for everybody.

Since I’m being honest, I didn’t have high hopes for People Like her. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of books with a mom at the forefront because I find them unrelatable. I Googled the authors and learned that one self-published a couple books that didn’t seem very favorable on Amazon. Then I read the word “fortnight” a handful of times in the first few pages and all I could do was roll my eyes. It was almost like the authors made a bet to see how many times they could use the word. But I gave it a chance and it got better. And so, all of this to say that you’re getting the review I never thought I’d write.

Title: People Like Her
Author: Ellery Lloyd
Rating: A Surprising Turnaround
Genre: Thriller
Page Count: 275
Published: 2021

The story revolves around Emmy Jackson, who makes a shit-ton of money as an Instamum (a mother who is Instagram famous) and her husband, Dan, a washed up author with barely a dime of his own money. The chapters are divided between Emmy, Dan, and and unknown person who’s presumably a stalker who wishes harm on the Jackson Family. We learn how Emmy documents every aspect of her life on Insta, but instead of glitz and glam, her brand is a kind of “real mama” who showcases the struggles of motherhood. All of her pre-planned and carefully curated posts have gotten her a million followers, a seven-figure salary, and many free gifts and sponsorships. Of course the fame comes with a heaping side of invasion of privacy too. That last part comes through during Dan’s side of the story. The reader learns how unhappy he is with his failed writing career and fake Instafamous life. Then from the stalker we gather that Emmy has done something terrible, although it takes a while to understand what that is. SPOILER ALERT: This was kind of a let down. So was the resolution at the end.

People Like Her was written by husband and wife writing team Collette Lyons and Paul Vlitos, known by their pseudonym Ellery Lloyd. It wasn’t the best thriller I’ve ever read (by far). It was entertaining at times, but I felt it lacking in several areas – like the climax. The first half of the book was a bit of a drag, but then the last 50 or so pages were rapid fire events. There was also a lot going on, which was probably an effort to divert the reader from uncovering the stalker’s true identity, but it just came across as unintentionally messy. But, if I had to pick, I’d still choose this over The Wife Upstairs.

An entertaining book – just give it a chance. I wouldn’t say it’s a favorite, but good thrillers are hard to come by these days. A good mix of themes – marriage, motherhood, admiration, and revenge. A nice book to take on vacation.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy: Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy.

February Bites

January went by in a blur – feels like we just rang in the new year a few days ago. And now, if you’re in the northeast, you’re getting pummeled with snow.

I’m going to keep it simple today and share some of the books on my February reading list. Enjoy and stay cozy!

Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber. Have you ever felt like your job was pointless or unnecessary? If so, you’re not alone. In his book, the author expands on a magazine essay he wrote about bullshit jobs – or those that only exist for the point of existing and nothing more. They aren’t valuable, rewarding, or enjoyable. The book is dedicated “to anyone who would rather be doing something useful with themselves.” Sounds…relatable.

The Chicken Sisters by KJ Dell’Antonia is about the ultimate face-off between two rival restaurants who serve (you guessed it!) fried chicken. Many years ago, two sisters – Mimi and Frannie – started their separate eateries. Now, a new generation of sisters – Mae and Amanda – are competing against each other to win $100,000 for the best fried chicken dinner on the popular reality show Food Wars. This takes sibling rivalry to another level.

People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd seems similar to another novel I read last year – Unfollow Me by Charlotte Duckworth. It’s the story of a social media influencer who scripts her life for the benefit of 1 million followers (and a 7-figure salary). But not all the fans have good intentions and one might even be a crazy stalker. Or, at least that’s what I’ve gathered from reading the first 50 or so pages. Saw this on BOTM and couldn’t resist a thriller.

And last, but certainly not least:

Well Met by Jen DeLuca, the cutesy read for the month, is about a summer romance that blossoms at a Renaissance fair. Reviews looked good and there’s a sequel out too!

Full reviews on the best of the above to follow…stay tuned!

The Honey Don’t List

Unlike when writing my last post, I didn’t agonize with this one. (Actually, I’m typing it up at the eleventh hour – the night before it goes live.) And I know what you’re thinking – another romance! What gives?

To be honest, it’s been a bit refreshing to read something more upbeat than a thriller. The more rom-coms I read, the more I like the genre. Yes, I still believe they are as predictable as a Hallmark Christmas movie, but for someone who just needs to know that everything works out in the end, it’s a welcome relief that a happy ending is pretty much guaranteed. And, so what if I may have read three rom-coms this month! They were all totally and completely worth it.

Title: The Honey Don’t List
Author: Christina Lauren
Rating: A Hot Mess (in a good way)
Genre: Romance
Page Count: 308
Published: 2020

The Honey Don’t list was a lightning-quick read. It’s the story about a home-renovation power couple who bears a striking resemblance to Chip and Joanna Gaines of the Fixer Upper stardom. But the relationship between this DIY power couple, Rusty and Melissa Tripp, is anything but symbiotic in real life. The owners of Comb+Honey play it up for the camera, but once out of eyeshot can’t stand to be in the same room. When they have to go on tour for their new relationship book (oh yes!), shit starts to hit the fan. Their assistants Carey and James are forced to tag along as chaperones, and what starts out as a nightmare for both, turns into a passionate few days.

This book was mildly thriller-esque. The opening scene is a police interview transcript of a defining event we only find out about much later. (Now that I’m thinking of it, this may be a good transition novel for fans of romance who want to get into thrillers. Is that a thing?) I enjoyed the alternating storylines – the “before” narrated by Carey and James and the “after” displayed as the interview transcripts.

Overall, if you’re looking for something light, fun, and comical, you’ve stumbled across a good pick. Christina Lauren has done it again!

Better than your trashy romance paperback. It’s a little bit rom-com, a little bit thriller, a lot a bit entertaining. As a former personal and executive assistant, I can attest that the job totally sucks. Add a sprinkle of co-worker drama and you’ve got yourself a real great time. Hope you’re sensing the sarcasm here.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy: I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella. (If you haven’t noticed, I love all her books!)