Kristen has an expectation of herself to be perfect, and that she is never good enough, and I can relate. While my mother is absolutely nothing like Evelyn was, I do completely understand holding yourself to the highest standard and making stupid rules “to protect other people”.
I almost yelled at the book once, until I remembered that my infant was sleeping in the next room. I was so infuriated with the relationship between Kristen and Josh. I almost wish that Tyler had stuck around for more of the novel, because I think the character building would have been amazing. On the other hand, I love how much time I spent so frustrated about their relationship.
I liked that the author centered the premise around Sloan, Kristen’s best friend, and her fiancé Brandon. I think this made the meeting and the entire friend zone (or friends with benefits, this is a romance novel after all), story more believable. I am planning to read both sequels: The Happily Ever After Playlist and Life’s Too Short (Pub date: April 6, 2021).
I’m not going to lie- I really didn’t like this one. I recently listened to another audiobook by Holahan and I felt like that made the ending of this one slightly easier to predict. Overall, I felt like the breadcrumbs leading me to the ending were pelted at my face. While there were definitely some late twists and turns, nothing was a complete shock. In some ways, I really like how everything tied together. In other ways, I wish that more had been left to the imagination and a “big reveal”.
What I did really like about this book was the chapter structure. I loved the alternate voices, especially listening to the audiobook version. I felt like it added a layer of complexity to the book that was really enjoyable. The one thing I will say is that at the beginning, when Liza says she doesn’t invent characters, she borrows them from reality, I knew exactly what the alternate voices were doing and that took something away for me.
I would say that if you read a lot of thrillers for the puzzle, this is probably not a book for you. If you read thrillers and just enjoy the story line and the writing style, then absolutely give this book a chance.
Some of the particular things that turned me off were even just the names of the narrators. I realized, rather suddenly, that Liza and Beth were both nicknames for Elizabeth. If I hadn’t been listening to the book, this totally would have been my DNF point. I had a feeling the whole time that Beth was a repressed version fo Liza, and the second I put the names together I was confident in that.
The other thing was the flashback to Liza’s childhood. I found it relevant to the story, particularly in hiding the weapon, but I also felt like it took something away. The dream/flashback felt incredibly forced and I wasn’t a huge fan, though it did help things make sense.
Finally, the ending felt super drawn out. I felt like I was waiting for forever to have the author just get to the point. In the end, I was surprised at the additional murder (if we call it that), but I also felt a little unsettled by the main character being responsible for three murders, even if the first was only as a witness. I did know from reading other Holahan novel that there was no way the main character would be convicted for any of her crimes. The tone of the story and the knowledge of the other ending made this an expectation for me, which ultimately just made the ending fall flat.
It has been 12 weeks since our little baby joined us in the world, and I truly cannot believe so much time has gone by.
The first 12 weeks of my pregnancy felt like they dragged on. I was constantly worried about doing the “wrong thing” and hurting the baby. I was convinced that every single change in my body meant something was wrong (at first), and it was so hard for me to just live in the moment and enjoy my pregnancy.
After my 12 week appointment, it felt like a weight was lifted! We started telling people outside of our immediate circle and overall things just felt more like we’d have ababy soon.
I also had a doctor’s appointment today to discuss my anxiety medication. While I haven’t actually felt any postpartum anxiety or depression, I have found it harder to focus on my job and to remain calm with everything I have going on. I’m really glad I sought the help, because even just vocalizing what exactly was going on helped me so much.
During my first trimester I was terrified to exercise.
During my second trimester I started doing yoga twice a week at a studio in town (Baby Moon– they offer virtual classes and virtual class packages for prenatal and postpartum women now! Totally check it out :)).
Postpartum, I couldn’t wait to be cleared to exercise! I had been walking at least once a day towards the end of my pregnancy and I cannot tell you how difficult that was getting. A short trip around the block took ages. Then, once we brought my daughter home, we started walking again. She needed the sunshine to help with her jaundice and I needed to just move.
My legs still aren’t what they were before I was pregnant, and I’m honestly afraid to try to run because I think they might just crumble. Instead, I’ve added PiYo to my workout routine and I thank my body every day I make it through a workout.
Food So you know how everybody says you’re “eating for two” while you’re pregnant? Yeah, they really need to emphasize that you’re eating for two while breastfeeding!
When I first started breastfeeding I was never full! One thing that kept me going was No Cow Protein Bars (my favorite is the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough). I have inhaled many a No Cow bar, mostly in the middle of the night, but also in the middle of the afternoon.
It didn’t feel like I had lost my appetite that much during my first trimester, sure, I considered potatoes a food group (mores than usual), but I thought I was eating a normal amount. I now have some serious questions about “normal”.
Cooking with a newborn: just figure out what works! We switched to more simple meals that feed an army, and it hs been working out great for us! Since baby was early, I didn’t have time to prepare any freezer meals. We got 2 weeks worth of food from a meal train (thank goodness!), but everything else has just been quick and easy, sometimes stirring one handed while bouncing a baby.
Body Image Here’s the thing: there has been exactly no point in my life where I disliked how I looked. I am way too self absorbed of a person to ever think there’s something wrong with m appearance.
When I look at my postpartum body, I see a body that grew my daughter. And when I look at my daughter I see a life that I sustained for eight-ish months. I don’t care the I have stretch marks or extra skin. Now, as ever before, I care if I get out of breath walking up the stairs. I care if my arms feel weak after carrying groceries inside. I care if I can walk (or run) a mile. Whatever my body looks like while I’m doing that really doesn’t matter to me.
I’ll be honest though, when I look at the scale or see my BMI after a doctor’s appointment I wonder if I can still be truly healthy in this body. That honestly helps keep me going to achieve my health and fitness goals. It’s a far better motivator than “did you run out of breath today?” I try not to put any stock in it.
Finale I am so thankful and blessed to have been on this journey into motherhood. I feel like this is my first real reflection on the past year. There’s so much more I could say, and maybe I will some day, but for now I’m just going to leave this here and thank my lucky stars for my health and my family.
My sweet little Olive was born right at 35 weeks gestation, 6 pounds 9 ounces and 18.5 inches long with a full head of hair (yes, I had heartburn. Yes, I took Prilosec daily. No, Tums did not work). It was an absolutely crazy week. (Featured image is the last photo I have of my prengant belly).
Saturday: Baby shower
Sunday: Order all the crap we still need for a baby
Monday: Call midwives to be worked in because husband is worried about swelling
Tuesday AM: Water breaks
Tuesday PM: We have a baby!
These are the craziest parts of the story for me to think about:
The date of our baby shower was the same as we had planned to do it in person, before COVID reared its ugly head. We would have had to travel five hours by car to host it in the city of our choice (where my in-laws and many of our friends live). I was big and I was swollen but I was still comfortable.
My entire pregnancy, I was convinced it was a boy (and I wanted a boy). The morning my water broke, I woke up and just had this gut feeling that my baby was a girl. My water broke less than 2 hours after that, and ever since she was born it feels like I knew she was a girl the whole time.
These are the things that make me smile:
My Midwife team was incredible. Anytime I had a concern, I got an appointment and reassurance. The Midwife at my delivery was incredible. Her energy matched mine so well and I just felt so relaxed. Shit- I was telling jokes and saying please and thank you.
I loved my daughter the second I held her. All gooed up and it didn’t matter at all. Also, I legitimately had a cute baby. The first few days were a little hit or miss, but man. That’s all I can say.
I was joking around, laughing, and saying please and thank you during labor. I really didn’t ever feel that urge to be mean, hateful, or anything. I did have an epidural and my pain was manageable (I could still feel quite a bit, which was my desire). I truly think that even if I hadn’t, the contractions would have been bad, but the time in between was time to enjoy the miracle we were witnessing.
These are the things that make me sad:
While Olive was still in the NICU, I returned to the hospital to be monitored for high blood pressure. I had to lay uncomfortably propped up and attached to a blood pressure cuff for 3 hours, just a couple of floors above my baby instead of trying to feed her and get to know her.
I didn’t get 5 more weeks of pregnancy. I know this sounds crazy but I loved being pregnant. The swelling really didn’t bother me (although I did have some limited range of joint mobility I noticed the night before she was born that I think would have changed my outlook). Also, seeing the “xx weeks in versus xx weeks out” posts kinda bums me out because mine is going to be 34 weeks, which isn’t bad, it’s just less for both of us.
“It used to be you’d only see bumper stickers for the Gamecocks, or Clemson, or the Citadel. Now you’ve got people driving around with Alabama and UVA stickers. Any one of them could be a serial killer for all we know.”
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Read on my Kindle
Horror, Supernatural, Fantasy, Vampires
Pair with a deep, full bodied red wine such as a Merlot
I thought this book was a really fun read, but it didn’t blow me away like I expected from reading other reviews. The characters weren’t particularly likable, and the writing style wasn’t one of those that really reeled me in. That said, I definitely scare easily and reading this book in the dark before bed didn’t lead to the most restful nights. Incidentally, I finished the book after waking up in the broad daylight (the only time I read the book during the day) and found that to be much easier.
I really felt that something was lacking in the cohesiveness surrounding the women’s relationships with each other. Patricia Campbell is the center of the novel. Everything revolves around her, but there’s just no clear reason as to why. It could just have easily been any of the other women in the book club. I suspect that her job as a nurse and her husband, a psychiatrist were what decided that for the author. But really, any good Southern housewife would have done just as well, and I think that’s part of what made me feel like something was missing.
On the other hand, the plot was great and fun. I’m a mystery/thriller lover so it threw me off a little that we knew who the “bad guy” was all along- but I also found that useful in order to keep reading. The fact that only two people pegged him from the beginning certainly made the book more dynamic and carried the story all the way to the end. And oh! The end! I don’t know how I feel about the ending. Did it provide closure? Absolutely. But there’s something about it that feels way too “tidy” about a vampire novel. I feel like another time skip with more of the character’s stories followed maybe would have helped with this. But I’m also just in a mood with book endings, so don’t mind me there.
I definitely see where all the hype came from for this book, and I think it’s a good read for people interested from the description: “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.”
I’ll be honest, before I had my daughter I had no idea how to talk to other parents, especially new ones. To be frank, I still don’t think I do. What I do realize is how much stress new parents are under for so many different reasons, and how even compliments can be misconstrued with sleep deprivation and constant second-guessing. Likewise, genuine care and concern can be just plain hurtful. Here’s a short list of the things I am ready to punch the next person in the face for.
“You shouldn’t be lifting/doing that.”
I had a vaginal delivery, minor 2nd degree tear, no other complications, and had a 10 pound weight limit for 10 days (which was lifted after 8 days; pun not intended).
I have been exercising (mostly yoga, also some reps of lunges, twists, and squats using baby as a dumbbell) and I have been carrying my daughter in one arm at times.
I lift with my knees and don’t put added pressure on my core and back, because I’m responsible (and have been exercising for years because I want to be fit and healthy).
Worry about yourself and trust in my abilities.
Mama, listen to your body, not the other voices. You know what you can handle, and your healthcare provider knows you. You got this.
2. “Are you sure your daughter needs…”
Yes, I know her different cries.
Yes, I know her daily routine.
Yes, I know this makes her happy.
Yes, I am with her alone for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week.
Worry about yourself and trust in my abilities.
Mama, listen to your baby, not the other voices. You know what (s)he needs, and his/her pediatrician knows what (s)he needs. You got this.
3. “If you don’t pump, you won’t make so much milk.”
This one is the absolute worst of the three, I feel like I need to sit in discomfort, let me boobs leak, and deal with pain for days (which has happened) to help your insecurities. So I’m sorry that this is a personal rant, but someone might find it helpful.
Let me tell you about my breastfeeding journey: my daughter was born ~5 weeks early with no ability to latch and a fleeting ability to suckle. She developed jaundice after ~2 days, and the best treatment is eating breast milk and pooping. There is evidence formula is less effective than breast milk. Therefore, in order to feed her enough I had to pump for her bottles. Because she was in the NICU, her guidelines for milk intake were changed daily and were communicated during morning rounds between 9 AM and 12 PM. I was pumping every 3 hours, on the same schedule as her, with no idea how much milk I actually needed for the day. Even so, once my milk came in, in order to feel comfortable I was pumping massive amounts from the first day on (Hit my daily target in two sessions and didn’t actually feel totally empty after either). So yeah, I had an oversupply and I was advised by multiple nurses and lactations consultants to just keep pumping and let it work itself out once she could feed directly from me.
Once I hit 7 weeks postpartum, I had clogged ducts at least 5 of those weeks. Sometimes it was just annoying, other times I feel like I need pain killers. It’s really painful to massage my breasts to loosen the plug, even with heat packs or ashower.It just feels like such a slight when another woman is willing to tell you to endure that pain.
I’m proud of how much milk I’ve been able to pump for my daughter, and all this phrase does is diminish that. We have no idea how my supply is going to be in a few months. Once I go back to work (even if I’m working from home) our routine is going to change. Her cluster feeds are going to come from a bottle more and more often. I’m going to get stressed out. We may need the milk we have frozen, and then again we may not. I’d rather have it and not need it than not have it.
I have only gotten this comment from people who did not have an oversupply. So basically, it just makes them look jealous.
Worry about yourself and trust my judgement.
Mama, listen to your body and your baby. You know what feels comfortable for you, and your baby knows how much (s)he needs to eat. Lactation consultants are your friends; your healthcare provider and your child’s pediatrician do not need to get involved (but they absolutely can if you want them to). You got this.