Blog Tour & Book Review: Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle

Soon to be released, Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle jumped out at me when I was looking at my download options from the Harlequin 2020 Summer Reads Blog Tour – Mystery & Thriller list. It was not what I expected going in, and I mean that in a good way. Sometimes you read the book blurb and think you know exactly what you’re getting and this exceeded my expectations.

From the Publisher:
When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

My Thoughts:
I had some serious trust issues with many of the characters. I really couldn’t quite get a handle on whether they were telling the truth throughout the dialogue. The pacing was excellent and most of the characters were appealing… until they were not. There were flashbacks that drew an interesting comparison between personalities as teens vs. who they grew up to be. I had niggling doubts (those trust issues, again) because I couldn’t determine who was lying and being true to their character.

The author did a wonderful job of conveying Charlotte’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Her voice and the threads throughout the novel made me more and more curious throughout. There was a lot of convenient scenarios that had me arguing with myself about whether it was too convenient or just a matter of luck and I think that speaks well to the author keeping things muddy enough to keep the reader interested. Again, it was not a fast paced thriller, but it had me going “hmmmm…” more than once and through in some unforeseen twists and turns.

About the Author:
Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including the forthcoming Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Social Links:

Buy Links:

Stranger in the Lake
Kimberly Belle
On Sale Date: June 9, 2020
9780778309819, 0778309819
Trade Paperback
$17.99 USD, $22.99 CAD
Fiction / Thrillers / Psychological
352 pages

Blog Tour & Book Review: Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon

I’ve really been enjoying thrillers lately – something about trying to figure things out while biting my nails in anticipation and sitting on the edge of my seat only to be blindsided has really worked as an escape mechanism. Plus, there’s usually a whole lot of mess in a thriller, which leaves me feeling happily complacent with my mundane and normal life – no skeletons falling out of closets, figuratively or literally. When I read the blurb for Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon I thought it fit the bill perfectly, being touted as a psychological thriller. With the author being a fellow Ontario resident, I couldn’t pass it up.

From the Publisher:
In Hannah Mary McKinnon’s psychological thriller, SISTER DEAR (MIRA Trade; May 26, 2020; $17.99), the obsession of Single White Female meets the insidiousness of You, in a twisted fable about the ease of letting in those who wish us harm, and that mistake’s dire consequences.

The day he dies, Eleanor Hardwicke discovers her father – the only person who has ever loved her – is not her father. Instead, her biological father is a wealthy Portland businessman who wants nothing to do with her and to continue his life as if she doesn’t exist. That isn’t going to work for Eleanor.

Eleanor decides to settle the score. So, she befriends his daughter Victoria, her perfect, beautiful, carefree half-sister who has gotten all of life’s advantages while Eleanor has gotten none.

As she grows closer to Victoria, Eleanor’s obsession begins to deepen. Maybe she can have the life she wants, Victoria’s life, if only she can get close enough. 

My Thoughts:
As you first dive into this title, it feels a bit depressing – there’s a lot of drama, wallowing, and a bleakness that doesn’t lend you to actually like Eleanor at first, despite the hard knocks she’s been handed, although you do pity her to some degree. The thriller element is a bit of a slow burn – there’s a build up to it and then *BAM*, it’ll hit you out of nowhere, cut you off, slam you into a wall, and you’ll seriously wonder where the heck it came from. You may grow apathetic during the build up and that’s where it will catch you off guard. This aspect alone was truly worth the wait.

This novel had dysfunction, some adult themes, but you won’t be able to help yourself from getting sucked into the characters’ issues despite your initial dislike and eventually you’ll be rooting for them. It’s not a fast paced read, so I did miss that edge-of-the-seat feeling I often look for in a thriller, but again, that’s where I was blindsided so it worked. It feels a lot like women’s fiction throughout the novel – relationships, family issues, etc. with a dose of feel good thrown in – and that curve ball out of left field comes sailing in and you realise it may not having the happy ending you anticipated. I leave you with this – I enjoyed this novel and felt a little sucker-punched with the twist. Well done, McKinnon, well done.

About the Author:
Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors and Her Secret Son. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

Social Links:

SISTER DEAR
Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon
ISBN: 9780778309550
Publication Date: May 26, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books

Buy Links: 

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Summer Set by Aimee Agresti












A few years ago we had plans to take a road trip to the Berkshires. Instead, an incredible deal on a vacation rental led us to Cape Cod instead. Massachusetts does something for this Canadian girl who appreciates the rich history, varied landscapes, and wicked accents. I’d go back and explore a different part of that State every summer if I could, and one day, we’ll find ourselves deep in the Berkshires. When I saw that Aimee Agresti’s newly released title, The Summer Set, was set in one of the places my heart longs to explore, and I was asked if I’d like to read and review it, I was in!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
With a setting inspired by the real-life Williamstown Theatre Festival in the Berkshires where stars like Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lauren Graham, and Chris Pine have performed, THE SUMMER SET (Graydon House Books; May 12; $17.99) is a salacious rom-com, beach read perfect for Broadway nerds and Hollywood gossips alike.

Charlie Savoy was once Hollywood’s hottest A-lister. Now, ten years later, she’s pushing forty, exiled from the film world back at the summer Shakespeare theater in the Berkshires that launched her career—and where her first love, Nick, is the artistic director.

It’s not exactly her first choice. But as parts are cast and rehearsals begin, Charlie is surprised to find herself thriving: bonding with celebrity actors, forging unexpected new friendships, and even reigniting her spark with Nick despite their complicated history.

Until Charlie’s old rival, Hollywood’s current “It Girl,” is brought on set, threatening to undo everything she’s been working towards. As the drama amps up both on the stage and behind the curtains, Charlie must put on one heck of a show to fight for the second chance she deserves in her career and in love.

MY THOUGHTS:
In all honesty, I was blinded by the setting and missed the descriptors like “salacious”, “Broadway nerds” and “Hollywood gossips.” I’m more small-town, feel-good, bit of mystery, hopeless-romantic kind of girl. I’d rather pick up a home and garden magazine than a gossip rag. I couldn’t tell you anything about the latest romantic entanglements on and off screen because I frankly don’t care. Self-proclaimed gossip mavens and theatre buffs and those who enjoy steamy scandal will absolutely love this book – because it’s not bad, it just wasn’t quite my cup of tea. (Although that cover makes me really, really happy!)

That being said, this story is told with a cast of dynamic characters (that you may love or hate at any given moment) in a beautiful setting. The writing is evocative – I could picture every building and feel the refreshing coldness of the lake and hear the laughter and glasses tinkling in the local bar. The pacing is excellent and easy to read. There’s drama, young love, second chances, betrayal, scandal, and more – plus behind-the-scene glimpses into the glamorous and not-so-glamorous world of acting.

Know going in that it’s not all hearts and roses. It’s got some tawdry elements and coarse language that some readers may object to. Final consensus: I enjoyed the young romance, I enjoyed the triumph of the theatre being revived, and I’m glad that two hearts got a successful second chance at true love. (Plus, that cover….) I still want to make a summer escape to the Berkshires.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Aimee Agresti is the author of Campaign Widows and The Gilded Wings trilogy for young adults. A former staff writer for Us Weekly, she penned the magazine’s coffee table book Inside Hollywood. Aimee’s work has also appeared in People, Premiere, DC magazine, Capitol File, the Washington Post, Washingtonian, the Washington City Paper, Boston magazine, Women’s Health and the New York Observer, and she has made countless TV and radio appearances, dishing about celebrities on the likes of Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, E!, The Insider, Extra, VH1, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and HLN. Aimee graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and lives with her husband and two sons in the Washington, DC, area.

WHERE TO PURCHASE:

ISBN: 9781525823589
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House Books

Buy Links: 
Harlequin 
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Social Links:
Author Website
Twitter: @AimeeAgresti
Instagram: @aimeeagresti
Facebook: @AimeeAgrestiAuthor
Goodreads

Overnight Berry Cardamom Oats

I am NOT a breakfast person.  I am NOT a morning person.  One of the nice perks about being home is the chance to hit a snooze button or forget to set an alarm entirely.  Then I can putter upon awakening, give my tummy time to catch up, and then indulge in breakfast of sorts.  Unfortunately, I often decide breakfast isn’t worth the effort and make unwise choices later in the day.

Click here to skip my rambling…

I am making a concentrated mindful effort to improve this one aspect of my diet.  As a whole, I’m trying to be more thoughtful of the food I’m eating, but I’m still going to choose a glass of grape juice and probably a cookie or granola bar if my sugar is crashing even if I’ve made other not-so-nutrient dense choices up to that point. Staying conscious and – you know, alive – will beat counting calories every time.

That said, I’ve been working with my health care team to align a number of (I hate using this word but it’s all I have at the moment) issues and find the balance I need to improve my overall health.  Movement, mental health, medication, and diet all have a role to play without getting into the complexities of keeping this incredible, dynamic, important machine running.

Back to breakfast… I’ve been experimenting with a lot of smoothies.  Some are better than others (don’t ask me about the one that curdled in my glass!) and I’ve been making small swaps for certain ingredients to see if they help me feel better.  (i.e. less milk, more almond or coconut milk options; less animal product, more plants.) I’ve also been trying to eat 40 different plant-sourced foods in a week.  It’s a fun challenge and helps keep me from getting into a rut… but I’m not beating myself up if I don’t make it, you know?  Again… balance.  Smoothies have been a great way to play up the plant aspect and finding what works without spiking my glucose levels or leaving me hungry has been interesting.  Unfortunately, smoothies can start to feel a little… the same. 

When I’m dreading the thought of another smoothie, I’ve been turning to overnight oats instead.  I know this is not a groundbreaking discovery, but hear me out. I don’t love the cold oats, but I either a) pull up my big girl pants and eat them anyhow or b) give it a reheat in the microwave or stovetop.  For extra nutrients, it’s easy to throw in some chia seeds, flax, or hemp hearts without greatly affecting the taste and if you don’t have a certain ingredient, it’s so versatile (like the smoothie) that you will rarely go wrong.  I mean you CAN go wrong (and I have) but usually, at worst, it’s just a little lacklustre.  I think I finally found my favourite flavours combination this morning: mixed berry and cardamom.  It reminded me of fresh berry pie, but healthy!

This was my exact recipe, prepared last night.  I found it to be a bit too filling this morning, so I reduced the oats a bit for tomorrow and eliminated sweetener altogether.  (P.S. it was higher in carbs than I anticipated, BUT because it was mostly “good” carbs – I say that as a diabetic and yes, I know a carb is a carb is a carb – I found my calculated insulin dosage actually surpassed what I needed. Even though I was full, my blood sugar dropped a bit too fast and quite a bit lower than I was comfortable with.  I’m talking 2.4 post-meal.  Yikes!  Tomorrow I’ll reduce my insulin to carb ratio and see if that helps.)

All the yummy details…
Frozen Mixed Berries
Makes It Easy!

In a glass container with a lid, add 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries.  Top with 1 tbsp chia seeds. Add 1/2 cup dry quick oats. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp maple syrup, and a pinch of salt. Add 2 tbsp cultured coconut milk (yogurt substitute). Top with another 1/2 cup mixed berries.  Add 1 cup almond milk, give or take, knowing the oats suck up all the liquid.  I like mine really creamy and loose. Sprinkle with ground cardamom to taste (I think I used about a teaspoon, but really just eyeballed it.) Cover and refrigerate overnight.  To serve, dump into a bowl and mix (or mix in the jar) and eat – or – mix, heat, and eat.  Seriously – it’s an awful lot like berry pie for breakfast, but a bit leaner, with protein and heart-healthy ingredients.  Win.   Unfortunately I don’t have a photo… I ate it too fast, proof in itself that it was just that delicious.

Book Review: A Single Spark by Judith Miller

If you are a fan of historical inspirational fiction or Judith Miller in general, you’ll love this new release from Bethany House! A Single Spark, coming out on June 2nd, captures a pivotal era in American history and I actually learned more about the war efforts from the perspective of women left behind during the Civil War and the danger they faced while lending support to an epic cause.

Wanting to do her part in the war effort, Clara McBride goes to work in the cartridge room at the Washington Arsenal, the city’s main site for production and storing of munitions. She’s given the opportunity to train new employees and forms a friendship with two of them. All seems to be going well, especially when one of the supervisors shows interest in her.

Lieutenant Joseph Brady is an injured army officer who, no longer able to lead troops into battle, has been assigned to a supervisory position at the Washington Arsenal. While Clara has caught his eye, he also makes it his mission to fight for increased measures to prevent explosions in the factory.

But when suspicions rise after multiple shipments of Washington Arsenal cartridges fail to fire and everyone is suspect for sabotage, can the spark of love between Joseph and Clara survive?

Judith Miller sparks interest through her lively and easy-to-read historical offerings. This title in particular, has characters you’ll love, characters you’ll despise, emotion, and mystery! The gentle romance weaving its magic between the pages will endear you. Overall, it’s a 4-star read for anyone who enjoys clean, simple historical fiction with a dash of love and strong elements of faith.

I received a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley with thanks. Opinions expressed are my own.

Blog Tour & Book Review: This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

It’s a bit of a gloomy spring day and somehow it seems a little atmospheric while sharing about the newest title from author Heather Gudenkauf. Just released, I’m taking part in a blog tour organized by the publisher, Park Row Books, an imprint of Harlequin, and throwing my two cents into the hat.

From the Publisher:

With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.

Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve. 

My Thoughts:

As far as a mystery/thriller, this one was excellent. There were portions that I maybe didn’t quite buy as far as how things went down, but overall it was a gripping and evocative read. It was atmospheric and intense – I felt every emotion, saw every incident with a vividness that indicates the magnitude of the author’s talent in delivering a well-written scene.

I seem to enjoy the proverbial small town setting where everyone is in everyone’s business. This small town just happens to also be rife with bad seeds and deep, dark secrets. Fortunately, truth always tells… that or DNA testing. Threads of history keep unraveling as the horrible event and incidents leading up to the death of a beloved friend are revealed throughout an investigation by someone with very close ties to the murder. On the whole, it did what a thriller should – kept me on my toes and I couldn’t put it down!

About the Author:

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.

Buy Links:

Harlequin 
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Social Links:

Author Website
Twitter: @hgudenkauf
Instagram: @heathergudenkauf
Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor
Goodreads

THIS IS HOW I LIED
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
ISBN: 9780778309703
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Park Row Books

Happy “Terrible” Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day (or as my youngest has said via our lightboard, Terrible Mother’s Day… storm clouds and all!)

Let me tell you all, it started like every other morning, and there was a glimmer of hope for all the hearts and flowers. Then it peaked very quickly – soon after my husband gave me a hug, Justin brought me a homemade card, I “watched” church, and then we discussed breakfast. I didn’t want heavy bacon and eggs and he didn’t want to attempt crepes (my favorite!) He gave in and amidst much thunking and sighing in the kitchen, came up with a pretty decent crepe while I tidied, made the filling, made coffees, prepped dinner and threw it in the Crock-Pot so no one has to worry about it later. (Dinner was “meh” but the crusty bread I made was delicious.)

I had big dreams (and I think this is where it all fell apart – unreasonable expectations and all that) – big dreams that I would feel the love and appreciation just exuding in happiness with hearts and flowers from my guys.  (Note: were really not the warm and fuzzy type. Hearts and flowers just ain’t our thing...) I thought that maybe all the little things I do endlessly (and yes, sometimes with complaint) would be reciprocated back. I just wanted a hot breakfast, that we all ate together around the table, with stars in our eyes while sharing all the ooey-gooey gushy stuff they love about me.  (Ha!)

Instead, we staggered our plating, Kev ate standing up, Kaleb snapped at me more than once, and I lost my cool…  Then Justin got upset, everyone gave me a wide berth, Justin changed the light sign message (it started with a heart and a happy) and I said well if we can’t have a nice day we’ll just have a normal miserable day and you can all help me. I then dove into a sink full of dirty dishes and tidied the kitchen because I had bread to make to go with dinner.  And you know what? That’s where the “terrible” came in, and no, it wasn’t actually a terrible day.

I feel bad and yet, I think we forget that moms experience disappointment and frustration and want their special people to “see them”.  I also think that expectations get mixed up due to a lack of communication.  I mean isn’t that the reason usually?  Did I think it would be a perfect day?  No!  Did I think I’d be having a temper tantrum at the age of 38 at my breakfast table?  Uh, not in the least… but it happened… and that’s on me, not the ones who tried to show me love. (Sorry, dears!)

Motherhood is real life, y’all – it’s not all hearts and flowers and stars in the eyes.  It’s messy and imperfect and miscommunication and unrealised expectations and mixed personalities and all the real things.  It’s endless love and wanting to shake sense into your offspring.  It’s worry and wonder, tempers and teacups, sunny days, and stormy weather, laughter, longing, loneliness.  The most joyful of joys and lowest depths of disappointment.  So why would a day, merely marked on a calendar, to celebrate motherhood, actually be any different than the messy complicated relationships that define motherhood itself? 

So, yes, I’m grateful for the crepes, the homemade card, the hug… even though I complained… and I’m even more grateful for my children and husband themselves, even though they drive me crazy.  And I know I’m fortunate and blessed to be a mother with her children near, but I’m also human and I mess up ALL. THE. TIME – so kids, please remember, I love you even when I’m grumpy! Now, go fold some laundry and actually do the things without arguing, please? Also, stop shooting ping pong balls out of your balloon at me, mmmmkay?

A Pondering Insomniac…

I have been struggling with insomnia the last week or so… ridiculously struggling considering a few weeks ago I was in bed by 10 p.m. most nights and sleeping a solid 8-10 hours. I close my eyes and will myself to sleep, eventually drifting off only to jolt awake with my heart racing and absolute alertness a short half hour later. Then I toss and turn for hours, while Kevin snores beside me and I want to silence those snores with his pillow (pure jealousy) or invest in some really good earplugs. I give up on sleeping and start to read until blessedly, I nod off mid-chapter – bringing me some sweet relief until morning comes when I fight the lingering headache that remains of my troubled eve.

Tonight, I haven’t even attempted to close my eyes, though I have been clenching my teeth. My mind is racing, pondering life and all its dichotomies, thoughts zinging and pinging, bouncing around like the ball in a pinball machine. I know sleep is a phantom I have no hope of catching until my mind quiets itself. I hope putting pen to paper, so to speak, will help do the trick.

Tonight, I learned we lost another uncle – another loved one. There’s yet another hole in our family tapestry, another individual who will be absent at family picnics. I honestly want to stomp my feet, throw a fit, and say, “No more!” I am heartbroken for my aunt who has lost her partner, lover, friend; for my cousins who won’t feel his arms around them in hello or his whiskers on their cheeks as he gives a farewell kiss; for my mom, the baby of the family who lost her older brother and holds just memories of moments together, but didn’t get a chance to actually say goodbye.

I feel angry because those who loved him will not be able to comfort one another in person or gather to celebrate his life. I’m upset that what will already be a difficult time of adjustment will be complicated by the restraints of this current climate. I know we can share words of compassion and sympathy, but who will be there to hold the Kleenex or a hand when reality hits hard?

I feel guilty, because while I know Uncle Joe will be missed, while his family mourns tonight, I tend to my family as though life continues just the same. Because life does continue and I have a “baby” who is turning thirteen in two short days who wants his mama to make his day extra special because he can’t celebrate as planned. I feel guilty because we’re embracing life with excitement and I feel like we *should* be subdued. I feel like it’s not fair to be celebrating while another family mourns.

However, as much as “babies” want special surprises on their birthdays, Mama’s tend to want to make things extra special when things don’t go as planned. So my mind is filled with thoughts about life, and love, and loss, and I have teary eyed moments interspersed with to-do lists and visions of chocolate layer cakes “with a surprise” and DIY birthday escape room puzzles because as of this afternoon I heard, “So if I can’t go to an escape room for my birthday, can you surprise me with things I have to solve to find my present?”

As I sit here wide-eyed and restless, I’ll use this moment of insomnia to continue to ponder, to think, to plan. I’ll remember that life is a balance and it’s the little things you celebrate and the special but ordinary moments you look back on when all is said and done. If 40 years from now we find snapshots of a 13th birthday under quarantine and my then 53 year old can smile at the memories he made with his mother and know he was loved beyond measure, then I’ll know that we successfully drove home the life lesson that our best laid plans don’t matter… but love and people do. ♥️

Making Breakfast A Little Smoother…

I’m going to make a confession today: I don’t enjoy midweek breakfast. When the kids are is school, it means we rely on cereal, or breakfast bars and fruit, or sometimes family habits make an ugly appearance, and just like Mom, they skip. Give me an hour or two post wakeup and I’m ready for something, but I have a really hard time eating when I first wake up.

Saturday mornings, on the other hand, are a smorgasbord of delight. Crepes with fresh berries, waffles with fresh berries, bacon and eggs, whatever – I enjoy putting in the time to make a heartier meal, mostly because it becomes brunch. We like to sleep in and I’m not even going to feel guilty. There were years when wake up was 5:30 a.m. or earlier with the oldest boy raring to go the minute his feet touched floor. He’s 14 now and sleeps in the basement. Some days I don’t see him until after noon.

With the change in our schedules we haven’t been up to race out and meet school buses. The kitchen has been a bit of a graze crazy zone and the kids still reach for a granola bar or yogurt before they pick carrots to snack on. One of the ways we find balance without the work of full meal prep has been smoothies… which are definitely not new, but a challenge as I find many carb heavy and they cause my blood sugars to spike like crazy.

Chocolate Smoothie

My naturopath made some suggestions on easy smoothie changes and I’ve got to admit, they’ve been helpful. Less fruit and more veggies has been the big one… and now smoothies chock full of avocado, cauliflower, and spinach are the norm.

This morning we had a bacon and egg wrap just before noon but I knew we wouldn’t be having lunch so I wanted to amp up the vitamins and fibre to cut down on snacking. Kev and I enjoyed a mocha smoothie and when he tried it, he said it tasted like a chocolate shake “kinda”. It was a smooth and rich shake-like smoothie but it was full of good for you ingredients: almond milk, frozen cauliflower, frozen avocado, frozen banana, frozen spinach, cocoa powder, instant coffee, and maple syrup for a little bit of extra sweetness. We top it off with a dollop of whip cream to make it seem more decadent, but it’s a lower-carb, higher fibre substitute to any ice cream shoppe treat.

Does it taste just like a chocolate shake? Absolutely not. Does it take a bite out of any cravings for chocolaty goodness or coffee shop sugar-laden concoctions? Indeed it does and I can feel good (which leads to feeling better!) knowing that we’ve made some little changes to balance our diets.

Berry-licious!

What is your go-to smoothie recipe? I’ll admit that I’m a bigger fan of berry-based smoothies (still balanced with frozen veg) than my mocha concoction this morning, but one of my children consumes frozen fruit as if it’s ambrosia and even though my freezer stash is now empty again, I can’t really complain about that, can I? Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little variety!

Book Review: Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese

Every once in a while you’ll find yourself lucky enough to pick up a book that speaks to your very soul in heartrending yet remarkable ways. Before I Called You Mine by Nicole Deese was such a book for me. I started to read it before bed a few nights ago without re-reading the summary and had totally forgotten what it was about. I selected it because the cover led me to mistakenly think it would be an easy, breezy read. I was so far mistaken that I read well into the early hours of the morning, caught half a night’s sleep, and then dove right in again as soon as my other responsibilities were taken care of because it tied a string around my heart and roped me in until the very last page. It was a fend for yourself, kids, type of day.

As for the easy, breezy I was only half right. It was such an easy book to read, but it gripped me too – I cried more than once at the tenuous tightrope of desires that Lauren, the lead, found herself trying to balance on while trying to honour a commitment to her future child while trying to suss out the right choices in life. There was nothing breezy in the subject matter despite the at first glance, lighthearted appeal of the potential romantic interest, Joshua, and the author’s picturesque humourous situations.

Deese did a wonderful job of painting a not-always-rosy picture of the process of adoption and even issues post-adoption, but she also did a wonderful job of infusing the story with a beautiful yearning and deep heart felt love. She broached family dysfunction and forgiveness, loss, grief, acceptance, faith, trust, hope, healing, complications, connection, commitments, and so much more in this touching, emotional read. This inspirational title was poignant and complex and absolutely splendid all the same.

My thanks to Bethany House for providing me with a complimentary copy of this title via NetGalley. Opinions expressed are my own.

Published By: Bethany House
Publication Date: March 31, 2020