Thoughts On THE WIFE BETWEEN US

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday in January, which means it’s time for another book review.  This time, I decided to go for something I wouldn’t usually pick up.  It’s called The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, and was released on January 9th.  It received a lot of hype and a friend recommended it to me as she had also been able to pick up an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC).  Yes, I got another ARC from NetGalley, so I must thank them and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me access to the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Let’s get to the reason you’re here now!

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The Wife Between Us is a domestic suspense novel that follows a woman, Vanessa, as she stalks her ex-husband’s (Richard’s) new fiancé and tries to prevent their marriage.  Sounds simple enough, right?  It’s not.  The blurb on the book tells us all the things we’re supposed to assume as we’re reading, then tells us to assume nothing.  That was a huge red flag for me, basically saying “hey this book is going to be convoluted and annoying!”  But I chose to read it anyway.

I admit that by the end of Part One, I was really disappointed.  I had figured out the big reveal within the first few chapters and kept telling myself I couldn’t have guessed it that easily.  The book promised twists and turns and unimaginable things.  So, when I turned out to be on the right track, the book became less fun, because the “aha” moments became “yeah, and?” moments.  Part Two was a little better with the twists, but it was still pretty easy to decipher what was going to happen.  Though, I admit that the last big reveal was something I didn’t see coming.  But at that point, I had stopped caring about the characters I was supposed to care about.  I mostly wanted to know what was going on with Richard and his sister (the one connection the authors didn’t over-explain).  That was the creepiest relationship in the whole book.

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Pretty sure that was the face I was making the whole time.

Even though I mostly figured things out ahead of time, I admit that it was a fun, quick read.  The writing style was able to draw me in and the conversational tone allowed me to stop and let the narrator know she was being an idiot (yes, I talk to other people’s characters too) without interrupting my reading flow.  So, I’m not say it was bad, just predictable.

The major thing that I didn’t care for about the book was that it felt like two different stories mashed together.  It was as if one author wanted to write about a woman escaping an abusive relationship while trying to prevent her ex from abusing anyone else (a good premise), and the other author wanted to write about a woman whose mistakes in college haunted her the rest of her life (another good premise).  But, instead of trimming things away to make a nice, cohesive story, they just stuck everything together and hoped it worked.  Most of the time, it was okay, but there were parts that I kept looking at and asking myself what the point was.

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Not an uncommon reaction while reading this.

Ultimately, The Wife Between Us was an okay book.  I’m not upset I read it or anything, but I’m not going to rush out and look for everything else by these two authors.  It simply wasn’t my cup of tea for the reasons listed here.

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Overall, I’d rate it a 3 out of 5.  If you’re into books like that, you will probably love it.  If you’re not, skipping it isn’t going to hurt your reading list.

Toyota Music Factory: State-Of-The-Art Experience Or Not?

Hello, hello!  On Monday, Dad surprised me with a trip out to Irving to see the Moody Blues.  They’re a band that Dad and I both enjoy.  I was raised on them.  They played a lot of songs I knew and a few I didn’t.  Of course, Dad sang along to all of them.  We both had a lot of fun, though Dad couldn’t figure out how all the other fans had gotten so old while he stayed young.  But I wanted to talk about the venue, the Toyota Music Factory, and our experience there.

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Still love their music!

According to their FAQ section, “Toyota Music Factory is an experience – with 25 restaurants and entertainment concepts, an Alamo Drafthouse Theater, and the Pavilion – an 8,000 capacity indoor/outdoor, state-of-the-art concert venue, Toyota Music Factory is the new soul of the DFW Metroplex. From power lunches to happy hours, date nights to show time, it’s sure to satisfy any taste in food, music, movies, and more.”  But is it really?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a fabulous concept.  Being able to arrive a couple of hours early and stop for dinner at one of the on-site restaurants is great, especially for people who don’t know the area well (like us).  And since it’s not even a year old (it officially opened in September of 2017), minor problems are to be expected.  Case in point, the security people on parking duty had absolutely no clue about handicap parking.  Even the valet people seemed confused, but there was one cripple spot left up front, so they told us to go ahead and park there instead of in one of the garages.  And that was once we were there.  The signage to get to the place was absolutely horrible.  But I don’t know if that’s a venue issue or a city of Irving issue.

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Borrowed from TMF’s website.

The Pavilion (the music venue itself) was a nice place, but I wouldn’t call it state-of-the-art by any means.  It was stark, all concrete and wood.  It actually reminded me of some of the small venues I’ve been to, only ten times the size.  There wasn’t an actual elevator.  Instead, they have a “lift,” which is a base with a wall on either side, but the front and back are exposed to the concrete/doors of the shaft.  So, while it’s moving, you better keep yourself away from the front and back.  Then there was the seating.  Handicap seating was fairly close (second section) with a barrier that didn’t obstruct the view.  We were in the center.  There was also some handicap seating up in the third section.  But even though the floor seating was the same as the companion seats in the cripple sections, easily removed folding chairs (seemed kind of chintzy for “state-of-the-art”), there weren’t any handicap tickets available down there.  It wasn’t a bad venue by any means, but it certainly wasn’t what they advertise it to be.

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The lift was something like this, encased in concrete.

Overall, it’s a venue I wouldn’t mind going back to if a band worth seeing comes through.  All of the staff were friendly and helpful, which goes a long way to balancing out the not-so-good aspects of the place.  However, it’s definitely not going to be the “new soul” of DFW unless they make some significant improvements.  Plus, it’s all the way over in Irving, so the bands will have to be really good to make me go back.

It Just Irks Me

Hello, hello!  The past few weeks, I’ve been really diligent about submitting to at least two magazines or anthologies each Monday.  This means that I’ve been going through Duotrope, Ralan’s site, and random calls for submissions.  In my searches, I came across a really neat anthology that I will likely submit to if I can come up with a story that falls in the realm of Sci-Fi, but something about their call rubs me the wrong way.  They’re looking for people who “identify as disabled.”  I had to read their call three times before I realized it was that exact phrase that made me twitch every time.  Something about it just irks me.

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If I could tilt my head, this would’ve been my reaction.

The anthology is being put together by people with disabilities and will be comprised of stories/essays/poems/etc. by people with disabilities, so I want to be clear that I think it’s a wonderful thing and I look forward to reading it.  The thing that makes me pause and overthink everything is the concept of choosing whether or not to identify as disabled.  It’s something I never really thought about before, because my crippleness is so apparent that not having it as part of my identity was never an option.  In my experience, people are either disabled or they aren’t.  They don’t really get a choice.

Sure, some disabilities are less severe than others.  Some are even invisible.  But a disability is a disability regardless of whether outsiders can tell it’s there or not.  If you’re disabled in a way that isn’t apparent to others and you choose to keep it to yourself, that’s your prerogative, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re disabled.  If you don’t have a physical or mental deficit/difference, even if you want one (which apparently is a thing, though I have no idea why anyone would want to be disabled), then you aren’t disabled.  You could become disabled in the future, but you aren’t right now.  Disabilities don’t care how you identify.  They either happen to you or they don’t.

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From Ctrl+Alt+Del.  I still laugh when I come across this one.

I suppose my biggest issue with the idea of choosing whether or not to identify as disabled is that it implies disability is some kind of social construct that people can opt into or out of whenever they want.  It’s not.  Disabilities are diseases and abnormalities that people have to deal with every single day.  It’s not a choice.  It’s not politics.  It’s the hand life decided to deal us.

But I also know there are a lot of people who struggle with the idea of whether or not they’re “disabled enough” to claim the title.  That’s why the anthology uses the concept of identity in its call.  They want to include as many people as possible and they want people with disabilities to know that they aren’t judging what counts as a disability.  They want people to feel welcome to submit no matter the type of disability or severity.  In my head, I know and understand this.  I even think it’s a diplomatic way to handle a tough situation.  It’s just something that made me stop and think.

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I do this far too often.

I’m going to stop rambling now.  Feel free to leave your thoughts or comments here or on my social media pages!

And Now For Something Completely Different

Hello, hello!  Today, we have a guest blogger (kind of… technically, I wrote it, but I did so from someone else’s point of view at their request).  Normally, I wouldn’t post something so far outside of the realm of writing or crippleness, but it’s for my dad, Gary.  Say hi to Dad!  Anyway, he enlisted me to write a review of the heart monitor and exercise app he recently started using.  So, here are his issues, written out by me.

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Dad and I at a Christmas party a couple of years ago.

The Polar H10 and Polar Beat App

The Polar H10 heart rate monitor paired with the Polar Beat training app is a fabulous combination if you’re a technophile and exercising/training is a major part of your life, but what about everyone else?  What about the people who just want to track their exercise because their doctor said to lose a few pounds and to work some cardio into their schedules?  What about the people who aren’t techno-savvy and just want to jump on the treadmill without having to mess with an app on their phone both before AND after a workout, but still want to track their progress?  Honestly, the Polar H10 and Beat App aren’t designed with everyday people in mind, so if you’re not interested in becoming a hardcore workout enthusiast, save your money.  They aren’t worth the $100.

One of the features of the H10 that Polar touts on its website is the ability to connect to gym equipment (treadmills, ellipticals, etc.) via bluetooth.  As someone who admittedly doesn’t know much about computers and data transfer, I mistakenly believed that this meant the heart monitor and my treadmill would share information in order to provide me with the best exercise summation possible.  Unfortunately, after my first workout, I noticed that the Beat App didn’t track my distance or my pace (both things that my treadmill tracks).  I learned from Polar’s customer service that the H10 doesn’t sync data from the treadmill to the Beat App and the app can’t track distance and pace without the phone’s GPS (which is useless for indoor exercise).  In other words, the H10 gave me the same information my H1 gave me.  It was an extremely disappointing revelation.

At first, I thought maybe I had just pulled my own ideas of what the H10 should do out of thin air.  But then I reviewed Polar’s advertisements for the H10 and Beat App.  While they don’t technically say they can track distance and speed, the advertisements do imply that they can.  On the website, there’s a picture of the open app nestled behind the H10 strap.  The app is set to “running” and the one visible completed exercise routine lists duration and, underneath that, kilometers traveled.  Granted, the completed exercise is “mountain biking,” but a quick glance (which is what ads rely on) implies distance tracking.  Then, there’s the video of the “crossfit” training that gives you a glimpse of the Beat App in action.  There’s a spot for distance on the screen, which I picked up as I watched the video, but the screen disappears before the brain can register that the distance is 0, unless you pause it and really study the screen.  It’s not technically false advertising, but it is highly misleading.

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The picture I mentioned.

Because of the lack of distance and pace information, my daughter (she’s the techno-savvy one in the family) has to manually input my information.  This would be fine, but once she inputs a new training result, she has to delete the entry from the heart monitor so that I don’t have multiple workouts listed and skewing my data.  That means I lose the actual tracking of my heartbeat anyway.  If it were possible to edit/add data to a completed session, it would make life much easier.

Along with all of these issues, there’s also the fact that the connection between the Beat App and the H10 is iffy at best.  I’ve used the strap and app six times now and twice the app informed me that I had no training sessions stored on the monitor after I finished my cardio workout.  The first time, I chalked it up to me making a mistake during the startup, but then it worked fine for a few days before saying that I had no sessions once again.  I know I did everything properly that second time.  Needless to say, I was more than a little peeved that day.

Speaking of the H10’s session storing capabilities, I find it really odd that the strap supposedly holds up to 30 hours of information, but will only store one training session.  I don’t know anyone who trains for 30 hours.  Maybe in future incarnations of the heart monitor Polar could replace some of that useless storage power by figuring out how to transfer data from gym equipment to the Beat App instead.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not someone who buys something without doing as much research as possible, then complains when things don’t meet my unrealistic expectations.  I tried to find out everything I could about the H10 before I bought it, but there is very little information available.  I’m a larger man, so I didn’t want to buy it only to find out the strap didn’t fit me.  It took me three different Google searches to find something as simple as measurements for the strap.  Finding reliable information about the actual abilities and limitations of the H10 and Beat App was virtually impossible.

Despite the lack of information, I went ahead and purchased the H10 and downloaded the Beat App.  Why?  Because I’ve owned three Polar watches as well as the H1 and have never had issues with the brand in the past.  I trusted that the H10 was an improvement over the H1 and that it would do what the advertisements implied.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t meet my needs or my expectations.

Like I said, if you’re super into working out and you want to keep track of your heartbeat and burned calories (but nothing else), the H10 and Beat App are perfect for you.  If you’re just looking for an easy way to track your exercise while you lose a few pounds, I suggest just sticking with a fitness watch or something like that.

The Year Of Persistence, Revision, And Submissions

Hello, hello!  Welcome to 2018.  I hope everyone has a wonderful year.  May the year be filled with everything you need and something you want!  A few weeks ago, I talked about my goals for the new year (here).  So, I thought I would go ahead and share my January goals this week.  Even though it’s only been two days, I’ve been doing pretty well so far.  Let’s hope the rest of the month is just as productive!

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Definitely not the view here in Texas.

So, here are my January goals in no particular order.

1. Get DS1’s (the current novel attempt’s code name) shitty first draft to at least 60,000 words.  It’s currently 44,000 and I’m aiming for a complete draft of 70-75,000ish words.  For a month, 16,000 words is a pretty reasonable goal.  Hopefully, I’ll get further, but it’s always a good idea to stick with tough but reasonable goals.

2. Submit stuff 10 times (2 every Monday).  This refers only to short stories, flash fiction, and poetry.  Not agent searching.  Last year, I focused primarily on my novel and neglected my other work.  I don’t want to do that this year.  Sure, it means more rejections, but I can’t get any acceptances if I don’t submit, right?  (More positive thinking is also something I’m working on this year.)

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Sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, but I’ll try it.

3. Write 1 flash piece OR short story.  I should probably include poems in this, but it’s been so long since I’ve written any poetry that I probably suck at it now.  That’s not negative thinking, it’s just the truth.  I’ll probably set aside some time for writing poetry when I start focusing on my revisions.  For now, I’ll stick with short stories and flash fiction.

4. Read 2 books.  I recently joined GoodReads to try to keep better track of what I’ve read throughout the year.  I’m a slow reader, so my goal is to read 24 books in 2018.  I’m currently halfway through a book I started a week ago, so I guess technically my January goal is only 1.5 books.  Is that cheating?

5. Stop dwelling on rejections and sucking and just do the damn work.  This is where the positive thinking really comes in.  I’ve been down about all the agent rejections I received last year.  After 100 rejections (or just flat out being ignored), it’s hard not to think it’s me and my suckiness.  But!  I just need to suck it up and move on.  I’ve got other projects that might interest people.  It’s time to focus on those!

6. Make time for people.  I always say that I need to talk to more people and I always fail.  But I will keep adding it to my goals until it actually happens!  I used to be so good at keeping in touch with people back when Yahoo chatrooms were a thing.  I don’t know what happened to that me.

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This is not wrong.

7. Turn 32.  Yup, I’m a January baby.  In about 9 days, I’ll be turning 32.  I’m old.  But I’m okay with that.

That’s my plan for January.  What about you?  Do you have any goals for this month?  What about goals for the new year?  Feel free to share them here or on my social media pages!