Tag «seriesous tips»

SERIESous Tips: How I Read 200+ Books a Year!

Since 2014, I’ve read more than 200 books in a year…

I really struggled with a way to start this post without sounding like I was bragging because I know that the number of books people read in a year varies–whether you’re a book blogger or not. Everyone reads at a different pace; not everyone has the time; and that’s what makes it such a personal number.

I read a lot of books in a year–it even shocks me–and that’s why I want to share some tips with you on how to increase the number of titles you read in a year! You might not reach 200 but wouldn’t it be great to fit in 4 more books in a year?

Years ago, I wrote a Guide for my blog: How to Read MORE! I wrote that guide back when I was a full time student. But since then, I’ve left school behind and have a full time career (complete with shift work, a dog and a house) on my hands.

You should still check out that post though because I have recently updated it! But I also wanted to highlight the 3 main reasons why I surpass the 200 books mark every year.

#1 – Get Into Audiobooks

I’ve shared my audiobook experiences many times over the years on my blog. I didn’t have the greatest start with them but they’ve become such a staple to my reading life that I can’t help but share my joy now.

> > SERIESous Discussion: How I Fell in Love with Audiobooks

Why are audiobooks so great? The fact that you can multitask while you listen!!! You can’t do much while you read a physical novel besides eat and ignore the world around you. But with audiobooks? You can drive your car to work; walk your dog; do laundry and chores; etc.

How It Helps Me: I choose to listen to an audiobook instead of music while I’m doing my chores or driving for more than 10 minutes. (I listen to the radio when I’m at work so I get my fill of music in a day.) I always have one audiobook on the go in addition to the physical book I am reading. There’s a reason why 33% of the books I read in 2018 were audiobooks and that’s because I could complete some of my daily responsibilities while listening to them. (Plus, I had a 2 hour commute to work 5 times a week!)

> > SERIESous Tips: 5 Ways to Get Into Audiobooks

#2 – Set Deadlines

This can be interpreted to be many different things and I mean it in many different ways. Deadlines could be anything from blog tour dates, to ARC publication dates, to simply the date the book is due back at the library. But by setting a “deadline” to finish a book, you have a goal in mind and you can start to plan for it.

> > SERIESous Discussion: Why I Love Participating in Blog Tours

How It Helps Me: Approximately 40% of the books I read in a year come from the library and another 40% come from review copies. Having those due dates allows me to focus on what I need to read and when. I get more motivated to find the time to read that particular title because I have to finish it by a certain date. Even just telling myself that I want to finish a book I own by the end of the weekend reminds me to pick it up when I have the time.

#3 – Embrace Novellas

For simplicity’s sake, I classify anything under 140 ebook pages to be a novella. And did you know that they count as a book read for your Goodreads total even if it is only 20 pages long? Novellas made up approximately 8% of my total reads for 2018.

How It Helps Me: I think novellas (or short stories) are super underrated as a book form. I love novellas for a lot of reasons besides inflating my reading stats for the year. For one, they help me overcome reading slumps. For another, they don’t require as much time as a full novel; so when I’m short on reading time, the shorter book helps me feel accomplished by finishing it.

I’m not entirely sure if I will reach 200 books read this year. I haven’t been reading as much as I usually do by this point in the year. But I do know that these 3 habits have helped to keep me on track and keep my numbers consistent from month to month. So we will see what the summer brings. That’s usually when I can kick things into gear since I spend every free moment outside reading when I’m not at work.

What habits do you think contribute to your reading numbers?

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SERIESous Tips: Post Templates

I have a set way I like my posts to look.

I knew very early on when I created my blog that I liked my posts to look uniform. I didn’t want my readers to have to search for the details throughout the post or have to read a different format all the time. While my blog is a blog, I’ve always viewed it as a bit of an archive for series reviews so people can use it as a resource for all their book series needs. Which is why consistency is a huge thing for me.

Of course, over the years my blog has changed its formats. Series reviews used to be big chunks of text where I described what I liked about each installment in different paragraphs. Now, they are broken up into various component subheadings to provide more of an overview. The stats about each novel (like publishing date, author, etc) now appear at the top of the post, as does the book’s synopsis. I’ve also included new graphics along the way and updated the colours scheme.

Writing blog posts can take a long time; especially book ones!

You’ve got to include book images, synopsis and stats; and if you’re doing a blog tour, there are certain aspects you have to add as well. So how do you make sure you include everything in your posts?

Answer: Templates.

I started creating and using templates back when my blog was still on the free WordPress.com platform but I continue to use them even now that I’ve become self-hosted because they are so easy!

I know that self-hosted blogs have various plug-ins to help you blog faster–especially ones that import from sites like Goodreads–but I have a certain look I like and I just find it easier to add the details myself.

>> SERIESous Tips: My 5 Favourite WordPress Plugins

Which is why I use a Word Document to keep and create my master post templates. I do have my basic templates as a saved draft on my blog for when I don’t have access to Word, but the master copy is a Word Document. I use Word for a variety of reasons:

  1. I can create Headings that make it easy to jump to a particular template
  2. I can access the document without WiFi
  3. I can access the document anywhere via my OneDrive Cloud
  4. It keeps things in HTML format
    • There is a setting to make sure the ” ” marks are correct so be aware!
  5. It’s easy to Find and Replace things in bulk
    • Perfect for updating annually!

Here’s an example of the template I use for my standard Series Review posts:

A portion of my Book Series Review Template.

Everything is written in its HTML code so all I have to do is paste the full template into the “Text” section of the WordPress processor (I’m not sure how other blogging platforms work but that’s the HTML coding section for WordPress). It includes all the styling I want (like heading styles or if the text is italicized); image placeholders for covers; review heading images; and also includes the default internal links I use. Anything that needs to be customized to the specific post is written in CAPS so that it is easy to spot within the code or if I am looking on the “Visual” page (the post builder that shows what the HTML looks like).

Once the template it in, I just build everything accordingly!

I also use Word templates for other, everyday things I do/use on my blog including:

  1. Code for updated reviews
  2. Review Conclusions
  3. Subheadings for DNF or Nonfiction Reviews
  4. Text Disclaimers for Cross Posting on External Sites (source is author/Netgalley/etc)
  5. Disclaimers for conversions of reviews (formerly a post about first book…)
  6. Netgalley Notes to the publisher (when blog post is released; cross post to other sites)
  7. Reading Challenges

Everything is in that one Word Doc with the appropriate heading so I never have to search for it. I’ve shrunk every template to a single page to make for an easier select and copy. And while I compose my posts, I often have my template document on my second screen (I have a second monitor attached to my laptop) so that I don’t have to minimize and maximize the windows all the time. It makes it easy to move back and forth.

I also have template documents for my Series Recap pages and custom HTML codes for plug-ins that get updates and change.

Why do I love Templates?

Templates are great for a forgetful person like me. I never have to worry if I’m forgetting to add something to my Blog Tour posts (though I do use checklists in Trello as a double-check) or if my end signature is included.

It also saves me a ton of time because I don’t have to code/format everything from scratch every time. Instead, I just put the bones of my post down and fill in what needs to be filled. And by making it obvious what I need to fill in, it’s great for creating drafts that I will be finishing later on.

Do you use templates for creating your blog posts? What tips do you have to share?

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SERIESous Tips: Book Blogging When on Vacation

Finding the right balance between relaxing and being productive while on vacation isn’t always easy.

I’m a huge fan of travelling. I love exploring the world and experiencing new adventures. I’ve been very fortunate to see so many things over the last few years and I always try to go some place new every year.

I do a lot of prep before I go on a trip. Of course I do all the stuff pertinent to my trip (like packing clothes and printing itineraries) but I also get my reading and blogging habits in order as well.

>> SERIESous Tips: Picking the Perfect Travel Read!

My Philosophy:

I didn’t travel across the world (or wherever) do to things I do at home. I want to embrace everything about the place I’m travelling to and that means busy itineraries in order to see everything that I can. I travel with the philosophy that I might never return to that place and I never want to regret not doing something.

So that means I won’t be spending hours blogging or reading like I would at home. Sure, I do that stuff in my downtime or while en route to a new location while away; but I don’t plan for me to have those moments during my trip. If I do manage to get some stuff done it’s a bonus.

Basically, my blog gets neglected in the sense I’m not visiting daily while travelling but I do think about it and my content while I’m away.

Here are some of the things I do before and during my vacation to keep up with my blog’s content and reviews:

Scheduling Posts

I schedule all the posts on my blog well in advance of their posting dates. I’ve been doing this since my first year of blogging and it has paid off immensely. As I write this (February 2018), I have posts scheduled well into October 2018! (And at the time that this is published in October 2018, I have posts scheduled well into April 2019). That means I can leave my blog for a few days and not worry about posting new content on a regular basis (or getting internet access to do so). You probably didn’t even know I was away because I had been posting regularly 😉

Learn More: Scheduling Blog Posts |  How to Start Scheduling Posts

So of course, I recommend that you schedule some planned posts while away on vacation. Sure, they can be reviews but I recommend special content like tags or memes instead. This is the stuff that isn’t necessarily date specific and you can write well in advance and keep in your draft folder until you need them. It will require a bit of planning and time on your end to write some extra posts but you’ll thank yourself later when you find out you won’t have the time to hit “publish” while away.

Access to my Schedule via OneDrive

I keep track of all the book deadlines I have as well as my blog’s posting schedule in one Word Document. If anyone but me opened that document, they’d probably be confused out of their minds but it makes sense to me!

>>SERIESous Tips: Keeping Organized

OneDrive is basically a cloud for Microsoft products–it’s like DropBox or Google Drive. Now that I’m no longer in school, I don’t use it as much but I still use it for my blog. In it, I have my blogging templates, common book themes, book summaries/recaps, and my master schedule. It syncs anytime I have internet to any of my devices and I can also access it via the web. I can even access the documents offline on my phone if I need to.

My point here is that I like having my Master Book/Blog schedule handy so that I know what books to read and when. Can I start a random book or do I need to read something else for review purposes? Having that document handy wherever I go has really helped me be more productive when it comes to reading both before and during my trip.

I do have post templates saved as draft posts on the blog as well but the master/most-up-to-date file is the Word document.

Avoid Deadlines / Posting Commitments

Most of the time, you know well in advance when you are going to be on an extended vacation. Sometimes you don’t but that’s ok. My point here is make sure you don’t schedule yourself for any blog tours or promotional posts while you are away. I make sure to keep track of all tours/ARCs I’ve requested so I have a general idea of what I might be committed to reading and posting in the future.

>>SERIESous Tips: Keeping Organized — ARCS

Not only will you create pressure for yourself by creating a deadline to read something but you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle in terms of content. While most blogging tour groups provide you the necessary media and such a week in advance of a tour, some don’t! So take that into consideration before you hit request–especially if your time and/or internet connection is up in the air! You might not be able to fulfill your reviewer obligations and that may dampen future opportunities.

>>Discussion: Lessons Learned from Doing Blog Tours

Jot Down Reviews/Thoughts After Finishing a Novel

One of the biggest factors in terms of blog maintenance is my internet connection. I don’t always have one wherever I go or one readily available at all times. That means I can’t access my blog or even the Goodreads App on my phone. In the last two years, I’ve come to rely heavily on the Goodreads App to jot down some of my thoughts after finishing a novel so I have a base to create my review. But without an internet connection, I can’t really do that.

What I started doing was using my Note App on my phone and writing my thoughts there. I’d mark my start and end dates; write some common themes; note some similar reads; and write my full review. Basically, I’d do everything I normally would do in a post just without the HTML and the book’s metadata. Then, I send that to myself via email when I return home or have internet connection and copy and paste into my templates.

When I came back from my trip in February, I had 7 reviews to write. Normally this would take me hours and I would be pulling my hair out because I wouldn’t remember everything about the books I read. However, thanks to my notes, I was able to churn out reviews like a boss. All I had to do was paste in my thoughts (tweak them a little but not much) and format the post accordingly. What should have taken me a full day only took 2 hours! Amazing!

Keeping Up With Emails / Requests

I don’t get a lot of emails pertaining to my blog but I do subscribe to a lot of email lists for blog tours, book deals and author newsletters. I never realized how many until I didn’t check my Gmail account for a few days and found my inbox stuffed!

One of the nice things about Gmail is that you can separate your inbox into 4 folders that emails are automatically filtered into upon arrival. I’ve sorted mine like this:

  • Primary: Publishing contacts; request submissions on my blog; other
  • Social: commenting feeds; Bloglovin’; Hellobar updates
  • Promotions: author newsletters; book deals; giveaways; Netgalley
  • Updates: blog tour lists; review opportunity lists

I’ve found that this helps me tackle my inbox when I have to go through lots of emails. First, I glance through and delete anything that has “expired” (ex. deals for a specific day). Then I go through and swipe my way through all the emails and star anything that needs follow-up. Then I do a massive delete and work my way through the ones that need my attention.

I have a plug-in for Gmail called Boomerang which lets me pause my inbox (though I’ve never used it). I also use that plug-in to schedule emails to send out. This is especially helpful when I have some review opportunity follow-ups that require the emailed links when the post goes live.

Creating a Worklist via Trello

I’ve praised this online tool before but I wanted to share how I use it while I’m away. The great thing about Trello is that you can use it offline. I’ve got it on my phone so I can create review cards and file them accordingly offline and they will be synced when I get an internet connection. That way, I have a worklist of sorts to complete when I return and I know what I need to do for my blog.

>>SERIESous Tips: Using Trello to Keep Track of Reviews

I hope you found some of my tips and tricks helpful!

What do you do while away on vacation when it comes to reading and blogging?

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SERIESous Tips: Cross Posting Reviews

To Cross Post or Not to Cross Post, isn’t that the question?


In my early days, I used Goodreads a lot to discover new blogs to follow. That’s how I found out that book blogging was a thing actually. So I always made an effort to at least mention my blog somewhere in my review and give a link back just to get the word out once I started blogging.

But actually cross posting? Like many blogging/reviewing things, it was something I never really thought about until I started doing review copies on a regular basis. It was always “encouraged” that you posted your review on book buying sites and Goodreads in addition to your blog post to help get the word out. Makes sense right? That’s why I started to be more proactive and conscientious about it.

Does cross posting work?

I think from a publisher/author point of view it does. When buying books I think people like to see ratings and reviews before making the decision. More reviews means more people who have read and likely enjoyed the title, thereby increasing the chances that the purchaser will actually buy it. I know I glance at the reviews before deciding a book is worth the investment of my money to see if it will be enjoyable.

As a blogger, I’ll be honest and say that very (and I mean very) few of the “referrals” to my site are from Goodreads. I get more hits from search engines and blog tour participation links than anything else in the grand scheme of things. In other words: it doesn’t increase the traffic to my blog.

That being said, I still make an effort to cross post my reviews on a regular basis because I believe that the exposure (for both the book and my blog) is important. I mean those few hits linking readers to my site still got people to my site!

What Do my Cross Posted Reviews Look Like?

I think this is the biggest thing people struggle with. Do you post your full blog post? Do you just show off the highlights? Do you simply leave a link to your blog?

Given the format of my reviews (series reviews meaning multiple books generalized within separate headings), I’ve never** posted my full blog post on third party sites. It just doesn’t look nice and it doesn’t always work as an individual review. So I usually leave condensed reviews on Goodreads. Usually these reviews are just a few sentences describing my initial thoughts after reading the novel and marking the book as “finished” on Goodreads.

The other reason I do condensed reviews is because of something I read in a Goodreads 101 blog post by Brittany @ Book Bumblings. In that guide, she emphasized the idea of “repurposing” your reviews on Goodreads in an attempt to drive readers to your blog. The idea is that the shorter post will catch the attention of Goodreads users and it leaves people wanting more so they will hopefully visit your blog. Again, I don’t think this has really worked for me (if you look at my referral numbers), but I like to hope my shorter reviews and links appeal to people enough to visit my blog for more or at to least see what else I’ve reviewed.

>> I don’t know about you but I love having the reviews of my friends on Goodreads when I look up a book title. I often look at those reviews to see if it’s a book I’ll like or to see how others felt about it once I finish reading. That’s why I make an effort to post on Goodreads no matter what because I find those reviews (no matter their length) to be extremely helpful!

**The only exception to this condensed rule is for review copies. Because I’ve been asked to write a review, I try to make it as full as possible for Goodreads and book retail sites. If the book I’m reading is a sequel for a review on my site, I often post a condensed version on my own blog instead in the hopes of reducing spoilers but use the full review everywhere else.

>> Tips: How I Use Trello to Keep Track of Cross Posting Reviews

When do I Cross Post?

For a little while, I tried my hardest to cross post all my previously published blog reviews on sites. But after seeing it didn’t have a huge impact on my stats and discovering how much time it took up, I stopped with my backlisted reviews.

Now, as soon as I publish a review on my blog, I cross post it on all the sites so I don’t have to dedicate hours of time to a cross posting blitz in the future! If it’s a review copy, I cross post to all the sites on release day or the due date.

Where do I Cross Post?

When it comes to cross posting, my methods for posting my review vary depending on the site. So I thought it would be easier to break it down by website and explain what I do and why.

The only one I didn’t explain was Netgalley since that is just you submitting your review (which is the same as my Goodreads one minus the HTML portions) and the links to your cross posted reviews.


What I Cross Post: All reviews regardless of source
How I Cross-Post: Full reviews for ARCs and Owned reads; mini reviews for others & sequels; links to blog

Posting on Goodreads is a little complicated for me given the nature of my blog. You see, because my blog posts are usually one review for an entire series, I don’t often have individual reviews for each book in that series.

One way I’ve attempted to solve that problem is by writing a mini review of my thoughts after finishing every book I read. That way, I’ve got a few lines I can use as a base for sequel reviews and add my links to read the series review on my blog. For inaugural novels, I pick and choose lines from my series review and put them together for a little fuller review (without spoilers of course).

The only exception is when I review ARCs. I always write full reviews because that’s what I got the book for!

When do I Cross Post: As I submit my ARC review on Netgalley; when blog post goes live

I always follow the publishers/providers guideline for posting reviews. If they don’t want that review going live until two weeks before publication, I follow that. Otherwise, it’s as soon as my blog post goes live (or within 48 hours of it).

Riffle Reads & LibraryThing

What I Cross Post: All reviews regardless of source
How I Cross-Post: copy and paste the review’s HTML code from Goodreads review directly to site
When do I Cross Post: As I submit my ARC review on Netgalley; when Goodreads review is live

Riffle Reads is a site very much like Goodreads though it has a smaller user base and community. It doesn’t have a ton of bloggers on there yet so I make an effort to leave reviews for anything that I can so people can learn more. Thankfully, it follows the same coding scheme (for the most part; it doesn’t do images) as Goodreads so I simply copy and paste my Goodreads review when it goes live.

I do the same thing for the site LibraryThing. I just joined that this year but it’s a site similar to Goodreads and Riffle Reads. They have an Early Reviewers program that does look at your review postings so I make an effort to put my reviews there as well. I was also able to import all my Goodreads reviews when I joined the site so that helped immensely.

Amazon.com (Amazon.ca)

What I Cross Post: ARCs & Owned Kindle Titles

Amazon is a bit of a stickler for reviews. They have a pretty rigid review policy so I try to be conscientious of that when I post reviews. I know from some of the review groups I belong to that they will take down your reviews if they don’t comply with terms. So, I make it a point to only add reviews for titles I’ve received for review purposes as well as titles I’ve purchased for my Kindle in order to keep the reviews “legitimate” in Amazon’s eyes.

How I Cross-Post: copy and paste Goodreads review with unique disclaimer

Basically, I remove all the HTML from my Goodreads review (you can’t have links to your blog in an Amazon review which is what my HTML portions are) and post the text. I then add a disclaimer that multiple authors/publishers have told me to use at the bottom of my review. In case you’re curious, here is the disclaimer I use:

**I received an ARC/review copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.**

When do I Cross Post: As I submit my ARC review on Netgalley or when book is published or blog post is live

If I finish my review before the book is published I have to wait to add my Amazon review. Once the book is live, I make sure I go back and post my review. I also add my Amazon link to my Netgalley review (even if I’ve already submitted it) to show that I have actually cross-posted for the publisher as I mentioned I would in my notes upon my submission. Otherwise, I wait until my blog post is live and cross post to Amazon when I post to the other third party sites.

Kobo Books

I rarely cross post on Kobo anymore. Only if it’s a review copy and it has been requested that I do so by the provider do I make the effort. I own a lot of Kobo books so I always rate them when I’m finished but it isn’t linked with my blog so I never write full reviews for them. I find Kobo doesn’t have the easiest reviewing system for someone like me who is posting a lot and so I don’t do it.


What I Cross Post: All audiobooks provided via Audible
How I Cross-Post: copy and paste Amazon review with unique disclaimer
When do I Cross Post: when my Amazon Review is live

Audible has a great way of providing copies for review purposes. So when I review most audiobooks, I get them via Audible with a special gift code to add the book to my library for free. That way I’m able to review the copy as if I owned it. Audible also has a prompted review option (with headings you answer to) but I always do the freestyle review box and paste my Amazon review.


What I Cross Post: All reviews regardless of source; blog posts
How I Cross-Post: built in tweet option on WordPress; tweet archived-post plug-in
When do I Cross Post: new posts are published; updated series reviews; daily archive throwbacks

This isn’t something I consciously do thanks to plugins that make the whole thing automatic. That being said, you can definitely use platforms like Tweetdeck to schedule tweets for promotional purposes if you don’t have a WordPress.org blog.

Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Google Play and Other Retailers

We don’t have Barnes & Noble in Canada (we have Indigo-Chapters) so I don’t see the point in my posting there as a Canadian. As for the other retailers, I don’t use their sites so it’s not of any benefit to me unless I’ve been asked to by a publisher/ARC provider.

Do you have any tips for cross-posting reviews?

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SERIESous Tips: A List of Blog Tour & Review Opportunity Groups

Back in February I created a discussion post where I talked about the lessons I learned in the past 2 years of being a blog tour host. In it, I listed some of the tour organizers I’ve used in the past. But those are only a fraction of the groups out there and that didn’t even include groups that only provide review copies.

So I decided that I should create a comprehensive list of companies to help my fellow bloggers out. These are just some of the few I’ve stumbled upon over the years (and in most cases, I literally just stumbled on them by blog hopping or Googling). I’ve sorted them into Publishing House Catalogs, Review Opportunity Groups and Blog Tour Companies just to make it a little easier. I’ve also included some comments about my personal experiences with these companies.

**NOTE: There are no affiliate links on this page and these are in no way endorsed by the respective groups. My comments are based on my personal experiences and research. All the images link to the group’s homepage for you to bookmark or learn more about. Also, all of these distribute ARCs digitally. Some of these groups do provide physical ARCs but not all do. I didn’t include any programs/groups that focus exclusively on physical ARCs.

Publishing House Catalogs:

These are independent sites that publishing houses use to distribute eARCs to readers.

Image result for netgalley logo First To Read


I have never tried Edelweiss (it seems really complicated!). I’ve had the best intentions to check it out but never seem to find the time.

Genres: All
Formats: ?
International Availability?: ?
Limited Copies Available?: Majority but some instantly available
Blog Required? ?
Deadline: ?
(If you have these details, leave a comment below and I will update this!)



I use NetGalley though I try to limit the number of titles I get on there for my own sanity. It really is a great source for digital eARCs and the interface is very easy to navigate. The keys to Netgalley success (ie not getting declined for requests) is to check Publisher Criteria (a lot need the reviewer to have X number of followers or limit international availability) before requesting and to update your Profile on a regular basis. Also, keeping your review ratio high by completing your reviews is a HUGE aspect. Even if you didn’t finish or like the book, submit your review!

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF)
International Availability?: Yes though there are clearly label restrictions
Limited Copies Available?: Majority but some instantly available
Blog Required? Not Required
Deadline: Publishing Date or Archive Date set by publisher

>> Examples: titles I’ve read via Netgalley.


>> Check out this super helpful How-To: NetGalley and Edelweiss for Newbies post from The Book Bratz to learn how you can get started with these two sites.

First to Read

I don’t have anything to say about First to Read because it is only open to residents of the United States (and I live in Canada). But it’s an ARC system for Penguin Random House. It looks like they add books at least once a month and members are emailed when new titles are available.

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF)
International Availability?: United States Only
Limited Copies Available?: Yes (first come first serve / draw)
Blog Required? No
Deadline: ?



***Don’t forget that you can often sign up for email review notifications for your favourite publishers and/or authors as well! Check out their website (or even Twitter) to see if they have a review newsletter you can join. They often include sign-ups for ARC and Street Team recruitment a couple times a year.***

Review Opportunity Groups:

These are groups that offer ARCs/review copies of titles for the express purpose of having reviews on book-based sites. Usually it’s authors or smaller publishing houses that provide the copies with the intention of having the reviews posted by a certain date.


Review 4 Me ~

 Audiobook Jukebox

New Adult Book Club

The New Adult Book Club is a group on Goodreads that focuses on the New Adult (NA) Genre as a whole (contemporary, fantasy, etc). They have this great Read It and Review It (RiRi) program for its members. Each week, they have a limited number of copies for 2-3 NA titles and give you a deadline of 3 weeks to post the review on Goodreads (& sometimes Amazon). They also do monthly RiRi titles as well where you have until the end of the month to read the featured title (and, usually, be entered for a giveaway).

Genres: New Adult (all subgenres)
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF) (some are sent directly to Kindle only)
International Availability?: Yes
Limited Copies Available?: Yes (some exceptions)
Blog Required? No – Goodreads Account (Occasionally Amazon)
Deadline: 3 Weeks

>> Examples: titles I’ve read via the RiRi Program


Hidden Gem Books

Hidden Gems Books is a great site I only just discovered in the last year. They have ARCs for nearly every genre (romance, cookbooks, horror, etc) and you can pick and choose what genres you get notified about via email. Again, they have a limited number of copies and you have to sign up within 48 hours of the notification to be considered. They also have this great dashboard feature that helps you keep track of all the titles from them you have on the go and what are still available for request.

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF)
International Availability?: No
Limited Copies Available?: Yes
Blog Required? No – Amazon Account Only
Deadline: 7 – 14 Days (clearly specified when signing up)

>> Examples: titles I’ve read via Hidden Gems



LibraryThing is a site I’ve only just discovered this year. They have an Early Reviewers program with select publishers for its members (which is free to join). Every month they release a batch of books (with limited quantities) for review. Your odds as getting the title you’ve requested is a mixture of chance, availability, number of reviews on LibraryThing (which you can boost by importing your Goodreads ones) and other factors. They have a variety of genres available and a variety of format options (audiobooks, eBooks or paper books). Availability varies by country but it is clearly indicated in the title information and they have great sorting options so you can see only titles for your location. Reviews are expected to be posted within 90 days pending the arrival of the book. They have a great FAQ section to help you understand everything as well.

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF), physical, audiobooks
International Availability?: Yes though there are clearly label restrictions
Limited Copies Available?: Yes
Blog Required? No – LibraryThings Account
Deadline: 90 Days after receipt of copy

>> Examples: titles I’ve read via LibraryThing Early Reviewers


Audiobook Boom

Audiobook Boom is a review program for audiobooks (they also send out audiobook deals as well). Once a week (on Tuesdays), you receive an email about new audiobooks available for review from the genres you have pre-selected. In their emails, they tell you about content warnings (like violence, sex and language), length of the title and even provide you a link to listen to a sample. You then have 30 days to post a review on Audible, Amazon and/or GoodReads.

Genres: All
Formats: audiobooks (usually Audible versions)
International Availability?: Not specified
Limited Copies Available?: Yes
Blog Required? No – Audible and/or Goodreads Account
Deadline: 30 Days

>> Examples: titles I’ve read via Audiobook Boom



Booksprout has two main features that will appeal to readers. One is an app for your phone to follow your favourite authors and be notified of new release and/or book sales. Their website however has an ARC catalogue that you can browse (no email alerts for new additions so you have to check regularly yourself). You can’t sort by genres so you will find yourself scrolling through page after page. BUT, if you do end up requesting multiple copies at a time, they have great sorting features for books you’ve “promised” to review, ones that are due soon, DNF’d and completed reviews. Before you request the book for review, they give you the details of when and where to post the review (some authors only want it on Booksprout, others want it on Amazon as well) as well as note from the author about their book (or what type of reviews they are looking for like beta reviews).

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub or PDF)
International Availability?: Yes
Limited Copies Available?: Unsure
Blog Required? No – Booksprout and Amazon or others specified
Deadline: Usually two weeks or whatever is specified


Book Review Buzz

Book Review Buzz has books of all genres available for request. Some of their titles are listed on Netgalley while others are just files sent to you. I’ve never used the site but I subscribe to their weekly newsletter (which also includes a list of eBooks on sale as well so read carefully!). I couldn’t find any information about the timeframe for your review but they want you to review on Amazon and Goodreads for the most part.

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF) (some via NetGalley)
International Availability?: Yes
Limited Copies Available?: Unsure
Blog Required? No – Amazon or Goodreads
Deadline: Unsure


Review 4 Me

Review 4 Me is a review request website where authors post their books for review. The copies provided are in eBook format and in a variety of genres. I don’t know how long you have to review the titles but they do have a mailing list you can subscribe to when copies become available.

Genres: All
Formats: digital eBooks (mobi, ePub, PDF)
International Availability?: Yes
Limited Copies Available?: Unsure
Blog Required? No
Deadline: Unsure


Solid Gold Reviewer Program

Solid Gold Reviewer Program is an audiobook review program hosted at Audiobook Jukebox. They have a catalog of a variety of audiobook genres (minus erotica) that you can request titles from. They will then contact the publisher/author on your behalf. There are some international restrictions but they are clearly listed as such in the postings. Reviews need to be posted within 3 months of receiving the title and there are a few other basic guidelines to follow. They don’t have an email subscription list so you will need to check this on a regular basis and they don’t follow up with you if your request has been denied.

Genres: All (except erotica)
Formats: audiobooks
International Availability?: Yes though there are clearly label restrictions
Limited Copies Available?: Yes
Blog Required? No – GoodReads or LibraryThing otherwise
Deadline: Publishing Date or Archive Date set by publisher


Blog Tour Groups:

These are groups/companies that organize blog tours for publishers and/or authors. In addition to organizing blog tours, they also host promotional opportunities (like Blitz and Cover Reveals) and some also provide review opportunities year round.

Companies I Have Experience With:

YA Bounk Tour Button ButtonXBT  

I’ve had great experiences with all these companies in the past. Some of these groups have their own little niches. For example, YA Bound Book Tours and Chapter by Chapter mostly do Young Adult titles; Audiobookworm does audiobook tours/review opportunities. A few of these provide copies via Netgalley which can count towards your feedback ratio.

>> Examples: past blog tours I’ve hosted

Note: Some of these groups look at your blog statics (like Rock Star Book Tours) to determine who can be a host for a particular title. Signing up for a tour doesn’t mean you will automatically be accepted so just be aware of the requirements for each company (they usually ask any time you sign up for a tour or when you first subscribe to their email alerts).

Other Companies:

Jean BookNerd Pump Up Your Book Tour HostBuoni Amici Press, LLC  Goddess Fish Promotions Related image Image result for bewitching book tours   TLC Book Tours

I didn’t even know some of these companies existed until I did a Google search for blog tours while compiling this post. A lot of them have some great opportunities so be sure to check them out! I know I’ve signed up for a few 😉

Why Request a Review Copy or Join a Blog Tour?

For me, the most rewarding aspect of joining blog tours and review opportunities has been discovering new authors and titles that I might not have otherwise seen. There are so many books out there and sometimes it can be hard to find them. And now with the growing popularity of self-publishing, there are a lot of amazing titles just waiting to be discovered. I’ve also been very fortunate to have some great networking opportunities with publishers and authors arise from doing blog tours as well. All and all, I see blog tours as a win-win for everyone involved and I plan on continuing to do them in the future.

>> Always remember to disclose the fact that you received a copy in exchange for an honest review! For more information, check out this great post about FTC compliance by Briana @ Pages Unbound

Did I miss any groups or companies? Leave me a comment below and I will add them to the lists!

PS: If you can fill in any of the blanks on the review opportunity groups, please leave a comment and I will fill the information in for others to see!

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SERIESous Tips: Using Trello to Keep Track of Reviews

*I want to be clear that this post isn’t affiliated with Trello in any way, this is just my personal experience!*

I first talked about how I use Trello in 2016 during a Keeping Organized Tips Series I ran. At the time, I mostly highlighted how I use Trello to keep track of ARC Requests and only briefly mentioned my Review Board. That’s about to change here!

Back in university, a co-coordinator for an event I was running showed me Trello as a tool for keeping organized. The list-maker in me loved it and I used it a lot while organizing various things. But I never thought about using it for book blogging until I read a post by Brittany @ Book Bumblings about Trello. After that, everything just clicked and I created my own boards to keep track of things!

>> Check out Brittany’s guide here!

Trello is great for a number of reasons. First off, it’s free (there is a premium version you can buy with more features) and the options are endless for the free version. It is a very fluid web-based program. It’s super easy to move things around and has a ton of customizing features (which I’m going to highlight a little more below). It also has an app for your phone so you can use it on the go if you are so inclined.

Let me introduce my Review Board:

Every post that is created for my blog has a card on this board. I have 7 main lists I use to keep my reviews/posts organized depending on what stage they are at.

What are you looking at?

These are my lists I used to keep track of reviews and blog posts. I’ll break it down for you:

  1. To Do
    • This is my brainstorm list where I keep track of ideas for blog posts I might want to do in the future
  2. ARCs
    • This is where I create review cards for Request copies I have received
      • I’ll detail what’s on those cards below
  3. In Development
    • These are reviews/posts I am currently writing
  4. Started
    • These are reviews that are finished, they just need something else before they can be published
  5. Cross Post
    • This is where review cards go after I’ve finished writing my blog post
    • This is where I keep track of what other review sites I need to post my review to
  6. Pending Sequels
    • These are drafted series reviews that I’m holding off on posting until I’ve read all the available sequels
  7. Done
    • This is where all review and post cards go after I have completed all their requirements

As I’m sure you can predict, when I’m writing a post from my To Do list or from my ARCs list, they get put in the In Development column. After they are complete, they either get put in the Cross Post, Pending Sequels or Done columns depending on their posting requirements.

What’s On a Review Card?

An example of a review card for an ARC request

There are 4 features I use the most when it comes to creating my review cards.

  1. Labels (colour codes)
    • This is great for seeing things at a glance. I colour code all my reviews based on their source (ARC or Blog Tour), if they require a Recap, if I need to Cross Post or if I need to Update a previous review and/or stats. I also have a special colour for Promo posts like blitzes.
    • If a card gets a certain label, it usually has an accompanying checklist (see #3).
  2. Due Date
    • This is the date I plan to post on my blog, not necessarily the book’s publishing date.
    • This is super handy because you can sort lists by their due dates chronologically. I do this for posts that I have to cross post to external sites.
  3. Checklist — My FAVOURITE Feature!
    • We do a lot of repetitive things when it comes to blogging and sometimes it’s hard to remember them all.
      • See the section below for more details!
  4. Comment (not pictured)
    • I use this mostly for post cards for Tags or posts inspired by other blogs and I want to remember the source or ideas for the post

Why the Checklist Feature is the BEST!

Certain reviews require certain things. For example, when I write a series review, I need to make sure I’ve added a recap section (if applicable) to my Recap Page and put the series on my Series Sequel Spreadsheet. If it’s a review for Netgalley, I need to make sure I’ve added my review to the site as well as the links to my cross posted reviews. I even have a list for those cross posts! And the lists go on and on…

What I love about Trello is that you can create unique checklists for every card and you can see at a glance how many items you’ve completed from that list.

But the greatest thing is that you can copy checklists from other cards to your current card!

I have a card I’ve titled Master Checklist. On it, I’ve created all the checklists I use on a regular basis and when I create a new card, I import the lists from this card. If I need to make a change, I do it on this list so that a new cards going forward have this newly changed list.

Other Notable Features:

  • Assign Tasks by Team Member
    • This would be great if you have multiple blog contributors!
    • You can leave notes too for each other on the card and see what others have done.
  • Calendar
    • You can enable a calendar that will put your cards on those respective dates
      • I don’t use this feature as I use a Word Doc do keep track of my dates for everything (posts, library due dates, etc). Learn more here.
  • Tracks Activity
    • Any changes you make to a card (and when) are noted at the bottom

This way, I always know where I am when it comes to my reviews!

While I try to do a little bit of blogging each day, I don’t always get the chance to with my job. But Trello makes it easy for me to pick up where I left off and to see what I need to get done and when. It truly has become an essential tool to my blogging experience.

>> See how Carrie @ Reading is My Super Power was inspired by my other Trello post!

How to you keep track of the reviews/posts you have in the works?

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SERIESous Tips: Keeping Track of Series Sequels

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but book series are kind-of my thing.

When you dedicate your entire blog to book series reviews, you need to be a little organized when it comes to sequels. With this post, I’m going to share some of the ways I keep track of what sequels I have read, what sequels I need to read and what sequels have yet to be published.

>> Tips Post: Learn how I keep track of all my various book sources here!

Method #1 – Goodreads

Like most readers, Goodreads is my go-to for keeping track of my TBR. There are a lot of things to like about the various features of the site. For one, it’s great at listing book series or telling you if a book is a part of a series. That’s actually how I first found the site: I was looking into the sequels for a book series. Another is that it usually has the publishing dates or estimates. And you can’t forget about the shelving feature.

The shelving feature is my main way of keeping track of everything I read…and what I have yet to read. When it comes to book series, I have 3 primary shelves:

  1. “Want To Read”
    • This is the default Goodreads shelf but I’ve always used it more as a “To Read” shelf
    • These are the books that are sequels to series I’ve already started
  2. “Waiting-For”
    • These are books (standalone or series) that have yet to be published
    • While any yet to be published book is here, I use it specifically to keep track of what sequels will be published and when
  3. “Want-to-Read”
    • This is the shelf I use for any book I am interested in reading
    • For the inaugural novels in a series that I haven’t read, they get put on this shelf

I also have some shelves I use for labeling. While most highlight certain book characteristics or how excited I am to read a book, I do have a “best-of-the-series” shelf to distinguish the standout novels of a series.

Method #2 – An Excel Spreadsheet

Until last year, I had an excel spreadsheet that kept track of blog posting types for various series reviews. But that didn’t help me keep track of what sequels I actually needed to read. So I created this lovely spreadsheet to keep track of all the series I have on the go!

I created this file in Excel. Each series gets its own heading and lists all the novels in the series as well as other information. I also use formulas to give me numerical stats.

Let me break it down a bit.

This spreadsheet is divided up into headings for each “Series“. Underneath that heading, I list all the books I have read or have yet to be published (“Novels“) in the series. Once they are read, they get a strikeout or are simply deleted from the heading. I then use the “# TBR” to keep track of the unread novels in that series (more on this later). The “Post” heading is to note whether or not I have a blog review already created for that series. I don’t use the “Source” column that much unless I don’t have a way to access that particular book and I need to remember.

You might have noticed that little table titled “Total Series“. I use that to provide me with a few stats on my reading progress (the scientist in me craves it!). I use the numbers in my “# TBR” column to keep track of how many series have just one book left to go versus how many have 2+ to go.

Is it Hard to Maintain?

This spreadsheet did take me awhile to create but once I had all the information typed into it, it’s been super easy to maintain. Now when I start a new series or finish a sequel for a previously started one, I immediately update this spreadsheet (it’s even a checklist item on my Trello account so I never forget!). For titles I’ve listed as “waiting for”, I go through once a month or so and change the “w” to a “1” or whatever number it is now.

> > Tips Post: Learn how I use Trello to keep track of all my reviews on the go!

So you might be thinking: That’s a Little Extreme, Lauren!

Perhaps. But I have a lot of series on the go thanks to this blog and my need to have fresh content whenever possible. I also love making lists!

This spreadsheet has come in hand for my 2018 Reading Plan to finish more sequels. In case you don’t know, I’ve created a goal for myself to read 1 sequel novel each week for 2018. I use this spreadsheet to help me decide what series I should tackle next.

>> Check Out My 52 Sequels Challenge Progress!

Wait: I Thought this was a Tips Post?

You’re right! It is. We all have such extensive TBRs that it can be hard to keep track of everything all the time. My hope is that by sharing my methods, it’ll inspire my fellow bloggers to think about how they keep track of sequels and perhaps make some positive changes.

Plus, I’m always open to helping people out. If you have any questions about using Goodreads or Excel, let me know! I’m happy to teach you some tricks or come up with a method that works well for you!

How do you keep track of book series you have on the go?

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SERIESous Tips: 5 Ways to Get Into Audiobooks

Last July, I published a post declaring my love for audiobooks.

But it took me a long time to reach that conclusion. As I mentioned in that post, it took me 7 years to get comfortable listening to audiobooks. That’s a long time!

Audiobooks are a growing tend in the publishing industry. In 2017, audiobook sales increased by nearly 30%! That’s crazy! And I can only imagine that they are doing the same (if not better this year). I’ve noticed that a lot of my favourite authors have been releasing audio versions of their new books months before they published versions hit the shelves.

Which is why I wanted to created this post today. I know that for some, audiobooks are a daunting format to even consider reading. But I’m hoping that with some of the tips below, you are encouraged to at least try and see why audiobooks can make a great addition to your reading habits.

Below you’ll find some of the tips that I have tried and tested over the last 8 years. My previous post focuses more on my journey to find that all important first book but the tips below focus more on the actual reading experience.

1 – Start With Nonfiction

This is a tried and true method for me. Nonfiction novels are a great starting point for a number of reasons. Some of those reasons are listed in more detail for Tip #2 and Tip #3, but this biggest reason is their subject matter.

I found nonfiction audiobooks didn’t require me to listen all the time. Seems counter-intuitive I know, but what I mean is that I was able to teach myself to listen to the book but not berate myself when I missed something important. You can easily discourage yourself when you get angry for missing certain parts and in turn, it can make for a horrible listening environment and experience.

For example, celebrity memoirs are great to listen to because you don’t need to listen to every detail. You can zone in and out if you have to and not miss too much. (And you can always use the rewind button if you need to!) I found by listening to these stories, I got used to focusing on the words and putting things together as well as remembering past topics without having the ability to flip back and check the previous pages.

Consider it audiobook training if you will.

2 – Find a Narrator You’re Familiar With

I read of a lot of celebrity memoirs when I first got into audiobooks because I enjoyed the familiarity of a voice I already knew. It’s especially true with actors because you are used to hearing their voices and deliveries on TV or at the movies. With audiobooks, all you’re doing is removing the visual but your brain can do the rest and you can easily visualize it in your head.

>> Tip: Listen to an audiobook sample before taking the plunge. You can usually tell pretty quickly if you will get annoyed by the narration or not simply by listening to a couple of minutes of the production.

But a lot of actors narrate fiction novels as well. When I made the jump to fiction I first picked up Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line because it is narrated by Veronica herself, Kristen Bell. Best decision EVER! Again, I felt like I was watching an episode of Veronica Mars without the visuals and it just really allowed me to immerse myself in the narrative and world.

>> List: Here’s a list of some classic novels as audiobooks narrated by celebrities!

3 – Start With Shorter Novels

If you’re like me, you might have a shorter attention span. I don’t do so well with books that have more than 300 pages because I often find myself getting bored (I’m looking at you Throne of Glass Series). That isn’t always the case but I do get distracted easily.

After listening to a few audiobooks, I soon learned that I didn’t enjoy books that had a length greater than 11 hours. So when I’m contemplating whether or not to choose the audio verison or the print, I take into account the length of the narration.

But, if you really want to listen to the audiobook you can always…

4 – Bump Up the Delivery Speed

I rarely used this feature before I started listening to fiction novels. But once I started using it, I couldn’t stop!

Bumping up the speed can help in a variety of ways. One is that it shortens the amount of time you have to listen to the novel. This is great for novels that are just that little bit too long for my attention span. For example, when I wasn’t totally enjoying Kingdom of Ashes, I bumped of the speed to get through it a little more quickly because I did want to see the ending.

But I also use the increased speed when the dialogue seems a to be a little stifled. Again, I used the speed initially in Kingdom of Ashes to help smooth out the awkward dialogue of the narrator. I did the same thing in West as well. Both times, it increased my enjoyment of the novel as I wasn’t as annoyed or distracted by the slower delivery.

Now, by default (unless it is for review copy purposes) I listen to all audiobooks on 1.25X to help smooth out the dialogue and help me finish that little bit faster.

>> Tip: If you find that audiobooks are too fast, most audiobook applications have a 0.5X speed to slow things down!

5 –  Listen to a Previously Read Series

Finding that first audiobook to dive into can be daunting. I detail how I came to pick my first fiction novel in my post last year–it took me (at least) an hour to whittle it down to one.

Which is why I think returning to an old favourite is a great start. I’ve never done this per say but it was in my mind when I picked up the Veronica Mars series as audiobooks since I was already familiar with all the characters thanks to the show.

In a similar idea, I ended up picking up the audiobook version of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? after not being fully invested in the print version. Again, this goes back to Tips #1 & #2 but I just knew the stories Mindy tells would be much more entertaining if I heard her tell them to me in her voice. And they were!

Returning to a world or story you are already familiar with can help you get accustomed to the audio version. You can teach yourself to listen without having to worry that you will unintentionally miss something (and if you do, you already know what it is!). Familiarity in something that is new to you can be a great asset and that’s what a reread provides when it comes to audiobooks.

>> Tip: If you don’t want to pay to try out an audiobook, try you’re local library or an audiobook subscription service. Read my Service Review of Audible here!

Bonus – Listen to an Audiobook Instead of Music

When I first started listening to audiobooks 3 years ago, I started listening to them while running errands and doing chores because I was tired of listening to the music I had on my iPod. Sure, I could listen to the radio but I hate listening to commercials and music streaming services weren’t my thing. Listening to audiobooks was the equivalent of listening to the TV while it played in the other room and I quickly became engrossed in the story.

Which is why I started listening to audiobooks on my drive to work instead of the radio (which I listen to for my entire shift at work). When you drive by yourself, you can’t really spend that time reading or doing other things because you have to concentrate on your surroundings. And given the fact I was losing 2 hours commuting back and forth, I wanted to do something productive and make up for my lost reading time. Audiobooks were the answer.

Of course, there are times when audiobooks instead of music might not be the best idea. For example, I can’t listen to an audiobook and write a post for my blog at the same time (I can’t even listen to music with lyrics when I write). I don’t mind listening to books while doing cardio exercises but for some people they might need the beat of music to keep up their motivation. But the next time you reach for the playlist, why not try out an audiobook instead?

I hope you found some of those tips helpful!

Be patient as you try audiobooks. They are a very different reading experience and it’s something that takes time to get used to–especially if you are hesitant to try or go in thinking you won’t enjoy them. I had to teach myself to listen (it helps when you are driving by yourself and have nothing else to do but listen) while others can dive right in. Don’t be discouraged if that first book doesn’t work. Keep an open mind and try different things (i.e. genres) to see what works for you. 

Here are some recommendations of audiobooks I loved in the last year:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda When Dimple Met Rishi The Hate U Give Fragile Chaos Rebel Belle (Rebel Belle, #1)

Do you listen to audiobooks? Why or why not?

Any Tips?

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SERIESous Tips: Picking the Perfect Travel Reads

For me, deciding what books to bring on a trip is just as important as figuring out what clothes I’m going to pack.

While packing for my big international trip back in September (and with the holidays right around the corner), I thought it would be a great idea to share some of my strategies for selecting the titles I take with me on vacation.

Use an eReader!

Before I got my eReader, finding space for books in my suitcase was a massive undertaking. For an overpacker like myself, it was a delicate situation that required a lot of foresight and sacrifice.

I remember on one trip, I brought 3 books thinking that would be more than enough to keep me entertained. It wasn’t. We had more travel downtime than I anticipated and I found myself bored that I couldn’t read.

eReading has solved that problem for me in a big way. Not only is my eReader super easy to pack, but it lets me have 100s of books at my disposal. I never run out of books to read when I bring my eReader and that’s just fabulous!

>> Learn more about eReading!

Now my biggest dilemma is deciding whether to bring my Kobo or Kindle.

Ask Yourself: What Will Your Reading Time Look Like?

It’s a good idea to get a feel for when you might find yourself reading on your trip. Do you have a long flight or lengthy travel time? Are you doing more of a relaxing trip where you will be reading most of the day? Or do you have an action packed itinerary where reading time will be minimal? I always look at what my reading time will be in order to determine what type of books I want to read.

When I go on my more “relaxing” vacations, I tend to pick novels that I can get lost in for hours at a time. I’m talking about the books you want to read in one sitting or books that are better if you read in a shorter time frame thanks to their somewhat complicated plots. For me, these are my YA fantasies or science fiction reads. 

On the other hand, when I know that my reading time will be limited, I pick novels that I can easily pick up and carry on with when I get the chance. These are my Romance and Contemporary reads. I pick these stories because they usually have (in general) fewer characters to remember and a simpler plot line to follow. They’re easier to pick up and immerse myself into even if it has been a couple of days since I last picked it up.

Start a Book Before You Go

I actually learned this tip from my local library and it’s something I keep in mind every time I travel. While I usually have no problem starting a new book, I find sometimes on vacation that it can be hard to get myself to start that new novel. By getting myself invested in the story before I leave, I find myself compelled to finish the book while on my trip because I need to see what will happen next. Being familiar with something–especially when you might be in an unfamiliar place–can really help motivate you to pick up that novel.

Don’t Put Pressure on Yourself (If You Can)

When I go on vacation, I try not to read any request or review copies because I can never be sure what my reading time will be like. As I said above, if I know that I will have lots of reading time because of flights or days at the beach, I might pick up a review copy or two on my trip. But in most cases, I avoid anything that will cause me stress since my vacation is supposed to be relaxing and I don’t want that negatively impacting my reviews.

>> Tips: Ideas for organizing review copies and requests

>> Tips: How to Avoid the “Chore” of Reading

A Note on Keeping Up With My Blogging

Vacations are supposed to be relaxing and so I try to limit all distractions, including my blog. That’s why I schedule everything on my blog so that I don’t have to worry about posting things while away. And it’s like I never left (well, besides the fact that I don’t respond to comments right away).

>> Check out my tips to help start you scheduling your blog posts!

But since I review 98% of the books I read, I do keep notes on the books I read while on vacation. Sometimes I do have my laptop and a WiFi connection so I write up a quick draft of a review and format it once I get home. Other times, I simply type out my review in an email or as a digital note on my phone and send it to myself later once I have an internet connection. That way, I don’t have to stress myself over what my initial thoughts were once I finished the book and it’s fresh in my mind.

How do you pick the books you read for vacations? Any tips?

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SERIESous Tips: My Favourite WordPress Plugins

One of the biggest draws to being a self-hosted blog (besides the graphics freedom) was the ability to add plugins. Plugins are these great little add-ins or apps you can use to make your site easier to run and/or have really cool features. While a lot of the plugins I use are the basic foundations of keeping my site running (like Jetpack and Akismet), there are a few that make my blogging experience super efficient and save me a lot of blog maintenance time.

Below you’ll find some of my favourite plugins, what they do, what I love and what I dislike. When you click on the title, you will be taken to the Plugin homepage where you can learn more.

**These links and comments are not affiliated with the respective plugin creators/companies! It is simply my take on using the services over the last year! I found posts like this extremely helpful for finding plugins for my blog in the past and wanted to contribute in my own way.**

My Favourite WordPress.org Plugins

(in alphabetical order)


What it Does: Allows comment-ers to link-back to their most recent posts when they enter their URL when commenting.

What I Love: I totally thought you had to pay for this plugin and so it was always on the back-burner for what to add next. But it is free for a basic version with minimal features. It’s great for a blogger like me who comments back on blogs who comment on mine so I can immediately jump to their most recent post.

What I Dislike: I get a ton of spam in my comment spam folder now. Which isn’t a huge deal because it is easy to clear but it’s a little annoying.

Featured Image from URL

What it Does: Instead of uploading an image to your own site for your featured image (what appears in the blog roll page), you can use a URL from another site (like Goodreads).

What I Love: Now that my blog theme actually requires me to set a featured image for my blog roll page, I had to find a plugin that would save me time and not require me to upload a ton of cover images daily. I know that there are a lot of reasons why you should upload book covers yourself instead of using the image URL from another site but I find it tedious! Because I already add the image in my review post, it’s so easy to paste it in the side widget on my post creation page.

What I Dislike: I have noticed that the image I set as my featured doesn’t show up when I view my blog on the WordPress Reader. I’m not sure if that is just WordPress itself picking an image at random but I find my featured image varies on my out-sourcing platforms. It also doesn’t format nicely on my blog roll page once I did an update but I think I just have to play with the code a little more.

Hello Bar

What it Does: Creates a pop-up link bar on your blog.

What I Love: One of the biggest learning curves to my self-hosted blog was trying to figure out ways to make it easy for people to follow. Eventually I got a WordPress widget but when you go into the world of self-hosted, email subscribers are your main “follower” crew. But I find few people actually use emails to follow blogs, especially when you have sites like Bloglovin that create a nice feed for you to scroll through. The Hello Bar is created for email subscriptions but it does let you customize it for whatever link you like and so I choose Bloglovin! And since I started using it, I’ve noticed an increase in my Bloglovin’ followers.

What I Dislike: Not much really. It’s super customizable, they send me weekly updates on my stats (which you can unsubscribe to) and it’s FREE!

Revive Old Post

What it Does: Reposts old posts on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler, etc. with hashtags.

What I Love: I’m all for a little self-promotion on social media but I don’t want to bombard my followers with old posts every hour on the hour. I love Revive Old Post because you can set how many tweets (what I use it for) go out and how many hours between them. You can add hashtags, select what categories get sent out and more.

What I Dislike: You gotta play around with it a bit to get what you want but it’s very easy to customize.

Smooth Slider

What it Does: Creates an image slide show that can be a widget or a feature on your site.

What I Love: I originally had this on my old theme as a way to feature my recent posts on my homepage. Now, it’s a widget on my site for the same thing. I really like that I can set it up when I create the post and it lets me set a date when it will automatically expire from the slider so my most recent content is always on display. It also works really well with my Feature Image from a URL plugin which I worried about at the start as some plugins clash.

What I Dislike: I was having some issues with the expiry aspect but it just took some playing around. I also had to play around with the image sizing but the code is pretty easy to figure out.

Post Index

What it Does: Creates an archive of posts for a particular category on a page.

What I Love: I’m not sure how many people used my old post archive back in the day but it was something I did manually using both cover images and text. It was so tedious to update and one of the first plugins I looked for was an archiving one. This one does everything itself, creating a beautiful list with anchored links throughout the page.

What I Dislike: I title my posts with a “Series Review” or “Fresh Fridays”, etc heading, and in an ideal world, the plugin I use would be able to omit that and sort whatever follows the colon. I did find one that did that, but it was more of a search result listing order than an actual page with the full list of my posts.

404 Page

What it Does: Creates a “broken link” page where readers can learn why that page is unavailable.

What I Love: My old theme had the ability to create my own 404 page but my new one doesn’t. I do keep an eye on broken links but they happen. Especially when you move post scheduling dates around a lot like I do. I think it’s just a nice way to tell people what’s up and why something they want to read may not be available right away.

What I Dislike: This is super easy to use and set up so no complaints.

What plugins do you love?

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