Two New Book Reviews and What the GRE Doesn’t Measure

All, thank you for your support recently that enabled me to become a book reviewer! I’ve definitely “caught the fire,” so-to-speak, and I’ve reviewed two books and am expecting three more in genres I don’t usually read!

You can read the book reviews here (Prelude for a Lord and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn); I am thrilled to say they were both excellent selections I’d highly recommend to anyone who enjoys high quality Christian love stories set in past times and beautiful places. Essentially I submit the link to the review on my blog and on Goodreads.com, then I’m able to request a new book! Living life from book to book seems grand to me.

It was a welcome challenge to read these two in the midst of grueling preparations to take the GRE in anticipation of graduate school. For me, reading is an escape and respite from the rigors of the chores at work and home. Even better than a mere vacation or break, these stories let me apply what I’ve read, imagined and experienced so that I can write better.

Reading did help me to prepare for the GRE; even the GRE study book I used stated that the best way to build a strong vocabulary is through reading, not endless repetition of flashcards. However, these stories brought to light the fact that the GRE tests on such narrow principles that it cannot be a good predictor for success in life or even in college. These heroines didn’t survive by dint of their ability to calculate a mysterious angle in a parallelogram nor filling in the blank of a sentence lacking an overly pretentious adjective. They survived through resourcefulness, bravery, musical skills, quickness, willingness to learn new tasks, and the ability to stay calm in fearful situations. I don’t know any standardized tests that can measure those qualities. The GRE, with its rigid set of quantitative, essay-writing, vocabulary and reading comprehension, leaves an astounding amount of other life skills completely untested. It’s important to see this test for what it is, and not any more than that.

What other skills do you think ought to be tested? How could we do it?

You’re probably asking, well, did you take the GRE yet? What’d you get? With great happiness and relief comparable to Sisyphus learning he need not roll the stone up the hill anymore, I can say that I took it yesterday and scored well enough to not take it again! Thank the Lord, whew!

At any rate, what probably seems like a rambling blog post is, in fact, my attempt to keep you up to date with the fact that I am extraordinarily happy still learning about this world of book reviewing, writing and life here in NC. Thanks and God bless you each!

Stunt Writing Update – Observations on Entertainment Habits after Week 1

Hello loved ones!

The week is up, and results are in! My self-inflicted challenge as part of the online Stunt Writing course I’m taking was to observe my entertainment habits for one week. I took diligent notes on how I felt before selecting entertainment, what I selected, how I felt during and afterwards, and how much time I spent on entertainment. My hypothesis is that I could be spending more time on productive entertainment such as creative writing or spending time with friends, rather than mind-numbing entertainment such as watching tv shows that aren’t of much merit. I tried to be scientific in my field notes, but feelings are subjective and sometimes I had to recall information from a day or two before.

Findings:

Total time spent on entertainment over the week of Feb 3 – Feb 9:      16.1 hours

Breakdown:

susie entertainment chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusions and Side Notes:

I do feel that this week was potentially more of an outlier with the number for friends and family time in person, as there were a number of social engagements planned for the week. It was great! My fiance David and I were honored to be thrown a party for our upcoming wedding by my dear aunts and uncles in SC. The time spent there catching up with friends and family passed too quickly!

I also found it perplexing whether I should count exercise as entertainment or not. Still feels like a chore. After debating with myself, I decided that it was a choice for my free time, so I did include it.

So this tells me that I’m not as bad off as I thought with watching tv too much, but I could still cut that number in half and dedicate the time to creative writing/creative projects! Let’s hope that next week’s breakdown shows more of a redistribution!

As for the total hours of entertainment – 16.1 hours out of 112 waking hours doesn’t seem so bad. It also seems reasonable when I break it down by day (16.1 hours over 7 days = 2.28 hours per day), so maybe I’m in a more normative range than I thought!

 

An observation of my week’s entertainment habits has led to this overall conclusion: more intentional entertainment choices result in greater satisfaction, sense of rest and even heightened energy.  

This past week I catalogued my entertainment choices each day after work. Options ranged from trash tv shows that required zero brain activity, to reading gripping fiction, to watching documentaries that challenged me, to creative writing, to phone calls with friends, to shopping, to dinner or hanging out with friends and new people. After reviewing my daily notes, I noticed that “lazier” entertainment choices left me unsatisfied and wanting more, sort of like empty calories for the brain. I flopped onto the couch and proceeded to watch one tv show (“Last Man Standing”), then another (“New Girl”), then another (a movie – “Prince & Me”), and afterwards only felt a dull sense of boredom and fatigue, and I had trouble even remembering what I’d watched. Seems like a pretty clear indication my brain was turning to mush rather than being strengthened. But another night I resisted the urge for “lazy” entertainment and chose to write instead on the Wren story I shared with you in another blog post. After just an hour of creative writing and a phone call with a friend left me feeling joyful, productive and excited. Plus, I noticed that the more intentional entertainment left my mind surging with energy, new words and ideas, and a “full” feeling.

To be the person I want to be – a full time novelist and engaged family member and friend – I’ve got to be intentional with my entertainment. After all, life is short, and each day counts!

I was especially excited to realize something another classmate has shared – that when you truly lose track of time while writing, you know it’s good! I experienced that as well. When my fingers were flying over the keyboard as the pages filled up with adventure and dialogue, with the occasional reach for another sip of rapidly cooling coffee, it was only after an hour or so that I looked up to see the clock blinking another hour. Surprise, laughter, relaxation – these were the fruits of my labors. I am looking forward to sharing my writing with some friends and family as potential readers/editors!

Please weigh in if you have any ideas to share on being purposeful and intentional with your free time. What works for you? Do you ever feel guilty spending too much time on entertainment such as tv? Do you think you would be surprised one way or another if you took notes on your own entertainment habits?

Nothing Like a Man Who Reads

“Exercise more.”

“Eat healthier.”

“Travel.”

 

Kudos to anyone who makes a New Year’s Resolution and wants to improve themselves. Even more kudos to anyone who keeps it!

I’m glad to share with you that my brilliant fiance, David, has made an awesome New Year’s Resolution to read TWO BOOKS A MONTH.

Man who reads books is sexyFor any working professional, that’s a significant goal! For some, the time it takes to read seems a luxury, a forbidden delight. For others, reading can be drudgery, because frankly you’d just rather sleep.

Either way, reading two books a month is a terrific goal for broadening your horizons, supporting authors (whoohoo!), improving yourself, entertaining yourself, and more. It’s not too late to give yourself a similar goal for 2014!

quote-a-man-is-known-by-the-books-he-reads-by-the-company-he-keeps-by-the-praise-he-gives-by-his-ralph-waldo-emerson-342272


 

 

There’s just nothing like a man who reads. Others have applauded this special kind of gentleman, too – enjoy this blogger’s take, called “Date a Guy Who Reads.” 

 

January’s Reads

So far, David completed the month of January with flying colors, reading the following:

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies a man who never reads lives only oneAs you can see, David went above and beyond in January and started 2014 off right.

He’s already  in the throes of reading one of his picks for February, Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath” – fodder for lots of controversy and conversation there on the real underdogs and power players!

 

 

 

As for Me

I am enjoying David sharing with me about his reading conquests immensely, and it fires up both my writer’s spirit and my soon-to-be wifely spirit, as I explore with him these new worlds and ideas. It’s a lot of fun!

As for me, reading remains a treasured treat. I love it, but a new kind of guilt seeps in that says “you could be writing right now.” I feel the urgency to write, especially as life becomes inevitably busier. However, as Stephen King and so many others say, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

And he’s right. Each time I pick up a book, now I appreciate it as a reader as well as a writer. I look to see how the author gives each character a special voice, moves plot along, leverages dialogue wisely, etc. So I keep reading both for entertainment and for writing research. Plus, I also find that it calms me down a lot as a break when I get nerve-wracked over wedding planning!

Right now I’m enjoying a book I picked up at Edward McKay‘s from the bargain bin – “Dragonfly in Amber” by Diana Gabaldon, which is a description-rich, historical romance that is pure fun! Hope to have a full review for you soon on this blog!

 

-Susie