Blogging Essentials

Every blogger is different. Some of us blog every day, others once a week, or perhaps we sit down and queue up as many posts as we can at one time (I fall into this group). No matter the blogger, we all have our own ways of doing things.

I’m primarily a book blogger. Occasionally, I’ll post about movies or fun projects I come across. But books are my biggest passion. I love readings and reviewing. I’m a different kind of blogger now than I was when I first started. Initially, I was afraid of having a controversial opinion. I rated books fairly high because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone and I hated nit-picking so I would gloss over things I didn’t like. Now, I prefer to give my honest opinion. If I don’t like a book, I’ll tell you. But I’ll also state why. I know every reader is different. And perhaps someone will like a book for the same reason I disliked it. I mention these things because these thoughts go into every book I read.

Any time I pick up a book, I’m armed with three things: pens, post-it notes, and post-it flags. I rarely write in my books or margins, but sometimes I feel the need to. The pens are primarily for the notes I make on my post-its. Sometimes I’ll write out theories I have, questions to come back to, or I’ll want to mark a specific passage.

The post-it flags are my most important blogging tool. If you want to take my approach, you can use anything you want as long as there are five different colors. I use this specific set from amazon because I can buy them in bulk and always have access to the specific colors I need: blue, red, green, purple, and yellow. I use blue to mark any quotations that stand out to me. Sometimes these quotes just sound beautiful, or they’re something I want to reflect on/come back to later. Red is for any “red flags” I come across. These red flags can be anything that stands out to you or doesn’t sit right. Usually, if I have a gut feeling that something isn’t right, I mark it. Green is for important character traits or attributes. I use these if I get characters confused or think that a character is having a defining moment. Purple is for facts/revelations that I think are pertinent to the storyline. Sometimes I’m completely off base, but usually my gut steers me in the right direction. Finally, yellow is used for any other general notes that I want to mark. Maybe there’s a scene or a description that I liked or have questions about.

After I read, I grab a notebook that has all of my quick reviews. I’ll write my first impressions of the book, what I liked or disliked, as well as a few short sentences that can help jog my memory when I’m going to finally sit down and review a book. I’d like to tell you that I have a fast turn around for reviews, but I don’t. Often times, I want to sit and think about a book before I review it. I’m an emotional reader. If I write my review as soon as I finish reading, I’ll get too caught up in my emotions and won’t give a book its fair time. This way, I can step away from the book and think about it in the back of my mind for a while.

A question I’ve been asked before and I wish I had a solid answer to is “how does your rating system work?” I use a total of five stars and will use half stars to help gauge a book. Because I reflect on books individually, I rarely ever compare books to each other. Unless it’s part of a series or maybe an author I’ve read numerous books from before. But generally, I look at each book by itself. One and two star books are simply books I would not recommend reading. The poor review will typically go beyond just not liking the book. I try to explain the reasons why I wouldn’t recommend it, from it being poorly written to there being too many loose ends or plot gaps. Three star reviews are for books that I think were okay and I would likely recommend, but didn’t sit right with me. Perhaps I didn’t like the subject area or topic involved. Four star reviews are common for me. They mean I liked the book and would recommend them to almost anyone. I try to save five star reviews for books that blew me away. Maybe it was some of the best writing I’ve come across in a while or the story was so nicely done that I will tell everyone about it. I try to remain fair, but sometimes my bias comes out.

What’s your method of blogging?

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Fashion Victim Review (Spoiler Free)

Fashion Victim by Amina Akhtar

*Spoiler Free Review*

 Fashion Victim is a fast-paced campy thriller about one woman’s experience in the fashion world and just how cut throat the industry can truly be.

Anya St. Clair is a fashion editor who is obsessed with her co-worker, Sarah Elizabeth Taft. Anya has looked up to Sarah ever since she was young. Following Sarah in magazines and news articles, Anya has wanted to be like Sarah for as long as she can remember. Now that they are both working at La Vietogether, she wants to be Sarah’s BFF, dress like Sarah, and have Sarah’s approval on every aspect of her life. Anya goes to any lengths necessary to stay in Sarah’s good graces, and does not hesitate to take out her competition along the way.

Anya and Sarah are pitted against each other for a promotion. Sarah already embodies what it means to be a “La Vie Woman”—tall, blonde, thin, and well liked. Anya has to work to lose weight under the supervision of her boss, dealing with daily weigh-ins and constant jabs at her appearance. There are also others in the office who do their best to ensure that the truth about Anya gets out. Anya will not stop at anything short of achieving her goals of becoming the perfect La Vie Woman.

Rating: 3.5/5

Fashion Victim will be published on September 11, 2018

*I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Fashion Victim is Amina Akhtar’s first novel. If you would like more information about the book or author, you can start here.

How to Pack Like a Pro

Today, I wanted to discuss traveling and packing–something most of us hate. Most of us will do it and probably leave it to the last minute. With spring break and the start of summer right around the corner, it is likely that you may be taking a trip soon. Here are some of my tips and tricks to avoid one less stressful thing when on the go.

I’m an organizer. I make a list for every trip I go on. I used to handwrite every list and became flustered because I would inevitably forget something. Finally, I started a spreadsheet! There’s a running list of everything I always need to pack, such as contact solution, a phone charger, my toiletries, etc. These items permanently remain on my list and I leave spaces for the things that change like clothes, shoes, and makeup. This has become a life savor for me. This is where I suggest you start.

Packing List.png

This is what my running spreadsheet looks like. Each color is a different section to help myself ensure that I can keep everything organized. I also recommend planning out outfits if you have no idea what to pack. This will help you make sure that you have clothes for every day, and if you know there’s a special occasion–like a wedding or fancy dinner, you can plan for that as well.

If you’re not a list maker, I understand. But there are still a few things I have learned over the years.

Step one: Pick your bags. I use a small carryon-size suitcase for clothes and a small duffle bag for my toiletries and hair stuff when driving. While flying, I make sure that my suitcase and items strictly adhere to to the TSA and airline guidelines. This will help prevent additional fees to confiscated items. Make sure to know the weight and size of your luggage, that your liquid containers comply with limits, and all other airline rules. If you are not a frequent traveler or have not been to an airport in a while, I suggest checking the TSA’s and airline’s website while packing.

Step two: Gather your belongings. Whether neatly or thrown on your bed, you have everything you need to pack in one general area. This will keep you from running around and becoming flustered while packing. This can also help you eliminate items you may not actually use on your trip. Laying everything out will make you assess whether or not you need that item and whether you’ll use or wear it on your trip.

Step three: Pack your bags. Every packed bag is like a game of Tetris. You have to find a way to fit everything into your bag. If you’re anything like me, you will overpack but at least you’ll be prepared for anything that comes your way.

Packing Tips:

  • Pack by outfit. Roll your outfits together. This will make it easier to pull out what you need for each day, but also rolling your clothes together helps to prevent wrinkles and folds.
  • Pack smart. Put socks inside shoes. For women, put your socks/underwear inside of your bras to keep their shape.
  • Wear your heaviest layers when you leave. Whether you’re flying or driving, I suggest wearing your heaviest layers. For example, if you have a bulky sweater of sweatshirt, travel in it. It’ll keep you warm while on your trip and it keeps the bulk out of your luggage.
  • Pack in layers. No matter where you’re going, the weather can be unpredictable. Use layers that are compatible with multiple outfits as well to keep the amount of clothes minimal.
  • Always keep your important documents and items on your person. Always make sure to keep your passport, ID, credit cards, cash, phone, and other valuables on you. Do not put them in your checked bags when flying and keep them within easy reach when driving. You do not want to have to dig through your luggage to find these things in a pinch.
  • Keep a change of clothes nearby. If you’re flying, put it in your carryon. Everyone’s fear is lost luggage. But sometimes, it happens. You don’t want to be stranded somewhere with only the clothes you’re wearing. Pack a small change of clothes in your carryon in case of lost luggage or spills on your trip.
  • Travel kits are your friend. Most stores have some form of travel kit-especially when it comes to toiletries. These items (more than likely) adhere to the liquid travel standards. If you’re not constrained by these, they are still convent to keep everything together and the little pouch they come in helps prevent spills in your luggage.

No matter where you’re going, use common sense while packing. And keep it minimal! You don’t need to overdo it. Try accessorizing to spruce up an outfit.

Safe travels!

The Girl Behind the Blog

I recently realized that in the past few months I have been blogging, I have yet to take a moment to introduce myself. Today, I thought it would be fun to let you get a sneak peak at who I am and what else happens in my life other than blogging.

My name is Ellie, and I’m a 26-year-old from Ohio. I love the Midwest! It’s a different place than anywhere else I’ve visited. It’s quiet, people are friendly, and it has its own pace.

I spend most of my free time reading and writing. I love young adult and new adult fiction, but occasionally I go outside of my comfort zone. Usually this happens with my Book of the Month subscription, or with books I choose from Blogging for Books. My to be read list is constantly growing! I love going to bookstores and spending hours learning about new books, and my library holds list is sizable as well. I do also have a love for learning and obtaining knowledge. My favorite subject to study and read up on is environmental justice, especially in the Appalachian region. In college, I wrote a case study about mountain top removal for a class and I have slowly learned as much as I can about the topic and how it affects environmental and societal norms.

I also enjoy writing. When I’m not writing on my blog, I work on short stories and works of fiction. I have written a few things that I am proud of, but they don’t feel perfect to me. Part of me is afraid of having someone else read my personal work, so I rarely let another set of eyes see any of it.

I’m a law school graduate who is waiting for her bar results. I know law grads warn you about going to law school. And I can tell you, that it is not an easy three years. But I did enjoy it. I met some fantastic people and colleagues who have become great friends. I also learned a lot. I am one of those people who always liked going to school and learning. This is helpful in law school because you have to re-learn everything you thought you knew. I had to learn a different way to read and write in a more succinct way and how the legal world differs from other forms of writing. If you’re not open to changing what you know, law school will not be a good fit for you.

I like to call myself an organized mess. I’m drawn to school supplies and organizational things. My desk, notes, and bookshelf look organized from afar but if you zoom in or look closer, you’ll see that it is nothing but a mess. I think I like the illusion of being put together. I can find anything I need to in my organized chaos, but I don’t think anyone else would be able to.

Everything else about me is simple. I’m a “wears her heart on her sleeve” kind of person. Sometimes it’s great because I speak my mind but I’m also prone to getting hurt when I put myself out there. Does anyone else have this problem?

I don’t see myself as a complicated person. Amongst friends I’m incredibly sarcastic. I’m not laid back, though. I always have to be on time and become annoyed if I’m running late due to someone or something beyond my control. To remedy this, I always end up early to places if it’s just me. But I would rather wait in my car than be the last person to arrive somewhere. I have my quirks: my volume is always on an odd number, I prefer dogs to people, I’d rather stay in and read than have a wild night out, I’m my most comfortable drinking wine with my best friend, I always carry a water bottle with me or I become annoyed if I can’t.

I can’t give you a run down on everything there is to know about me, but I am open. If you have any questions about my blog or writing, you can always reach out to me at elliemtesla@gmail.com.

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