A Guide: How I Rate Books on Goodreads

I have recently revived my Goodreads account. This decision came about when I decided to read fifty-two books this year. I have since realised that this little challenge has become an exercise whereby I practice and endeavour to improve my book reviewing. I’m not naturally very good at it but I want to become a better critic as well as a more concise and persuasive fangirl. I have, however, come across a problem upon rating books on Goodreads. Goodreads offer a five-star scale which doesn’t include half stars, much to my despair. For this reason, my ratings mostly never feel sincere or correct. So I have produced a post which helps bring together my thoughts on what makes up my personal ratings. This post essentially sets out my own guidelines that will help me decide whether a book is a three-star read or a four-star read; a four-star read or a five-star read, and so on.

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How I rate books on Goodreads

A one-star read is…

  • A struggle to read, whether it be uncomfortable, confusing, offensive or even boring.
  • A book that probably has little or no clear storyline.
  • A book with a story that features few or no characters of interest.
  • Poorly written.

A two-star read is…

  • Mostly hard to read but has moments of hope.
  • A book with an unclear storyline, but okay in parts.
  • A book with characters who sometimes but rarely show promise (in terms of development).
  • A book with a questionable style of writing.

A three-star read is…

  • A book that is probably exciting to read but maybe not my kind of book or a few of its cons seem a little more overpowering than its pros.
  • A book with a pretty clear storyline.
  • A book with characters who are complete and good but maybe unlikeable or a little boring.
  • Maybe a read that isn’t the style of writing I enjoy the most but enjoyed in this occasion.

A four-star read is…

  • A book that had me gripped, probably from the start, but, if not, most of the way through; I was sad to close the book.
  • A book with an exciting storyline that is mostly clear and succinct.
  • A book with characters I really want to find out more about; characters who develop and are brilliant whether I like their characteristics or not.
  • A read that is either my kind of book or brings me a version of a style of writing I now enjoy because of this book.

A five-star read is…

  • A book I had few conflicts with- if any. I was hooked from the start and felt devastated for hours, if not days, afterwards because I was sad the story was over.
  • A read with a storyline that is always interesting, unique and exciting to follow.
  • A book with characters I don’t want to leave behind once the book is closed for good.
  • A book that becomes an all-time favourite; the kind of book I will always recommend to others.
Sidenote: Most of my five-star ratings are likely to be more like four-point-fives; most of my lower reviews are likely to be a little harshly rated, for fear the higher rating is too high. While I will abide by my guidelines above, I wish I could clarify on Goodreads that my ratings aren’t entirely just, whatever those ratings may be, because I wish the scale provided was a little different.

What do you consider upon rating books?

~ Kat ~

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A Sunday in Guildford

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to see my uni friends FAR more often. I didn’t do very well in the last half of last year but 2018 has already seen me reunited with some of my uni favourites twice! Callum and I got the chance to visit Neetu yesterday in her hometown, Guildford. I was particularly excited about this trip as I’ve always heard wonderful things about the hilly and historic town (Who even knew there was a “d” in the town’s name?!). I was, naturally, way more excited to be greeted by Neetu as I hopped off the coach yesterday morning. And, soon enough, the excitement continued as we met Callum (“Cal” from here out… Callum doesn’t quite sit right) at the train station.

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Neetu’s itinerary

  1. Hot chocolate at Surrey Hills Coffee (SO yum)
  2. A venture through Guildford’s extensive and brilliant shopping opportunities
  3. Stroll along the river (while carrying out our very own photo shoot)
  4. Lunch at TGI Fridays
  5. A wander through Guildford’s old high street
  6. Guided tour (the tour guide, of course, being Neetu) through the castle and its unbelievably beautiful grounds
  7. A beverage at one of Guildford’s many pubs

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Why I loved Guildford

  • The many amazing backdrops Guildford provided us with meant my camera became acquainted with so many photos I’ll treasure for ever
  • The shops that sat in old and grand buildings
  • The mixture of the big businesses we all know and then small and independent businesses too
  • The “London” feel of the town but also the cosy vibes it wore as well (and it wore them wonderfully)
  • The pretty riverside
  • The unique castle and grounds
  • The fact every person we interacted with was lovely 
  • The familiar feeling inspired by my deciding it was a little like Winchester and Chichester; two of my favourite local cities

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The best memories from our day in Guildford

  • When “the three pigeons” (what Neetu endearingly named us as we passed a pub named Three Pigeons) were reunited, I expressed over-excitedly that I couldn’t wait to see the barges. Cal looked immediately amused; Neetu looked confused. Soon we laughed, realising I meant canal boats. And you can be certain that my silliness was brought up repeatedly throughout the day.
  • Upon taking a boomerang shot for Neetu, we all discovered that I cannot pout and pretend to blow a kiss. We have video evidence of this that will haunt me for ever. But that laughs (at me… definitely at me) were most certainly worth it.
  • We walked a really chilled walk alongside the river (no barges were seen, unfortunately) and giggled for far too long after Neetu ordered us to “act surprised” (meaning “act candid”, of course) for a video she was taking. “We should actually act surprised, right?” Cal, on the same page as me, uttered “yes” (translation: duh). Once Neetu panned round on us we were the visual representation of “exaggerated” as we gasped, shocked, hands over mouths. It’s a moment that words don’t do justice, but something I’ll remember for ever.
  • One of the final big giggles came from our tour around Guildford Castle. Our guide (I would rate Neetu 5/5 on Tripadvisor if she would just set up a profile, as I’ve asked) informed us of something fascinating (but not fascinating enough as what happened next became such a big part of the day that I can’t remember what she previously said). Cal uttered entirely whole-heartedly, “Gee whiz” in response to the forgotten fact. Neetu and I stopped in our tracks and turned. “Gee whiz?” I asked and regret took over Cal’s features. The rest was history.

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Why you should explore your own country

It’s days like yesterday that make me want to face palm myself. My country has so much to offer and I don’t take advantage of this nearly enough. While I love both destinations, I visit London and Brighton quite a lot throughout the year but give few other places a chance. Through visiting Neetu I got to get to know Guildford; one of England’s wonderful destinations.

I LOVE exploring what towns and cities England has to offer and, far more often than not, I’m pleased with where my adventure has taken me. A late addition to my New Year’s Resolution is most certainly to explore England more. Both Cal and I frequently found ourselves expressing how much we loved Guildford and I can’t wait to find more English treasures this year.

Ultimately I adored Guildford and look forward to visiting Neetu again. I want to shop there, have picnics there and read Alice and Wonderland by all of the Alice-inspired parts of Guildford. The best part of the day was most certainly seeing my two uni pals and, as per usual, it was tough to wave goodbye when my coach arrived in the evening. A crucial part of my self love this year must include seeing friends from afar at least once a month. It’s like therapy. For now, though, I’ll settle with the smile I’m still sporting from having such a glorious day yesterday.

~ Kat ~

How to Sleep Bett-Zzz…

In the last six months my sleep and I have been on quite the journey. After beginning to work at a restaurant in August I was reminded of what I experienced the summer before when I worked at a pub. It was less severe back then but when I would sleep I would wake up, believe I was a work and, as I like to put it, I… slept-worked. I’ve spent the last six months “pulling pints,” “cleaning tables,” “talking to my colleagues” and “welcoming guests into the restaurant (my room)” at anywhere from 12am-4am each night after work. All the while I was totally aware I was doing it.

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As funny as it is (and it IS funny), I remember checking my phone one night and I’d spent an hour “waiting to be told what to do” by a colleague. I would, naturally, wake up feeling far from rested. I’d retell the story to friends amused and entirely frustrated that my sleep was interrupted by something I couldn’t seem to control. Very recently, however, it’s eased. I sleep-work sometimes (last night’s sleep was interrupted by one of these episodes) but it’s relatively rare now. Today I want to share with you a few of the things I did in an attempt to magic my weird sleep habits away, as well as things I do now to make the most of my normally uninterrupted sleep. Here are a few things I do or benefit from when I do do to sleep better.

How to sleep better

  1. Prepare for your next day. If you’re going to the gym in the morning or waking up to go to work, have your workout or work clothes folded neatly by your bed alongside any other morning necessities. When you’re in bed, your mind will feel less clogged up with a mental list of things to do so long as you’re prepared for the day you’re waking up to.
  2. Make your bed. Maybe during the day, like I do, you chucked stuff on your bed. I totally recommend tidying away the things on your bed (not just putting them back on the floor!) and tidying your pillows and sheet. Getting into a made bed is the most exciting feeling after a day of work.
  3. Have a warm drink before bed that is, by no means, tea or coffee. Sleepy tea is always an excellent choice but warm milk or hot chocolate works brilliantly too.
  4. If applicable, mindfully take off your make up. This is a step I’ve not been best friends with for the last half a year, but it used to make such a difference at uni. Sit down with your warm drink, take off your make up and cleanse and moisturise your skin.
  5. Finish off your drink with a chapter or so in bed. Reading or writing or any wonderfully cathartic activity will soothe your mind far more than scrolling through your phone or watching a YouTube video will. Even writing a list for the next day so you don’t feel stressed is something that alleviates anything that will block a 10/10 sleep.

Have you got any sleeping tips and tricks?

~ Kat ~

Dear Stomach: Five Tips

Dear Stomach,

You and I don’t always get along too well. Even when I think I understand you better than anyone else, I’ll get on a train and you’ll complain all the way there. Or I’ll wake up to make myself some eggs and you’ll, pretty soon, tell me off. We have a love-hate relationship but I’ve not yet given up on you. I believe that if I set you and I some guidelines─provide us with some helpful tips and tricks─we could be the best of friends. I’m thinking if I follow the following pointers, you might co-operate. One thing for sure is that I’m certain you’ll let me know.

Dear Stomach

Don’t overeat

Every time I choose to eat one more this or one more that, I learn my lesson… one final more time. In fact, I learnt this lesson again last weekend when I went to eat sushi with a friend. I ate two more dishes than I really wanted to. I’m generally quite good at stopping before I’ve crossed the I HAVE OVEREATEN line, but, often in social situations, I get carried away, enjoying the food and the moment. Ultimately, however, I didn’t enjoy those last two dishes because of the ominous feeling in my stomach; even if I really wanted to try the dishes. I must listen to my body and stop when it tells me to stop. Or, as I experienced last Sunday, my stomach can become really defensive and angry with me; which, on Sunday evening, made me feel particularly uneasy as I tried to sleep.

Stay away from THOSE foods

Learn from what hurts. Although I never want my lifestyle to be restricted by labels such as “good foods” and “bad foods,” over the last few years I’ve learnt what foods put my stomach on edge. For me, it seems to be fried and battered foods, processed and high in unnatural sugary foods, dairy products like cream and, when overeaten, cheese. Small quantities of the above don’t wake up the beast inside my stomach, but as we’ve learnt from the point above, overeating them will only lead to discomfort.

Hydrate and hydrate well

Keeping hydrated is important for everyone; everyone knows this is an important lifestyle trick. My stomach generally feels more settled when I’m drinking lots of water and peppermint or green tea. Whether it’s true or not, sometimes a peppermint tea saves the day when my stomach has a tiny blip.

Oil of Peppermint

Avoid caffeine

While I’m a big fan of tea, my stomach is grateful when I’m wary of caffeine. I never overdo tea enough to regret it, but, while I love coffee, I rarely have it. And when I say “I rarely have it,” I’ll have it once a half year. Whenever I drink coffee my stomach feels like it’s been ripped to shreds. So, despite loving coffee, I must stay far, far away from it.

Keep your friends close, keep your oil of peppermint closer

I don’t often feel like I need to be saved by Holland & Barrett’s oil of peppermint capsules but when I need them, I need them. I can generally sense when they’re the best option and one capsule on that particular day does the job brilliantly. When I visited New York last year I had one a day before we headed out into the Big Apple. One of my biggest fears of visiting New York was my temperamental stomach. Holland & Barrett definitely handed me some respite for my stomach.

Be kind, stomach.

~ Kat ~

P.S. While I have a slightly irritable stomach, I’m lucky it’s just that. I find it very manageable and mostly easy to control. If you think you could be suffering with something that requires medical attention, I urge you to see your doctor immediately.

The Mustard Yellow Edit

Ever since I was a little girl, watching Winnie-the-Pooh with childishly happy eyes, I have adored the colour yellow. It was always my favourite colour. Even though I decided blue was for a little while (I really was, as my brother protested, simply copying Jordan’s favourite colour), and a little later green took its place, deep down I believe yellow has always been my favourite colour. I distinctly remember my younger self believing yellow is the happiest colour. My reason was, naturally… Because it’s the colour of Winnie-the-Pooh! Today, I’m quite the lover of all clothing and accessories that are a mustard yellow. Today I wanted to share with you my two latest mustard yellow favourites.

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The jumper

New Look: £17.99

Just before Christmas I fell in love with this jumper. I stroked its cuffed sleeves with puppy dog eyes as I stared at my boyfriend. He convinced me I shouldn’t be buying any clothes so close to Christmas, as my primary aim of the day was to finish my Christmas shopping. I reluctantly agreed this was a sensible conclusion and moved to the scarf section to buy a present for someone else. Quite simply, the jumper was on my mind all over Christmas; I’d been searching for the perfect mustard yellow jumper for some time by this point. And I’d found it! How could I be so stupid to let it go?

On Christmas Day, I opened my gift from my boss. As an envelope revealed a £20 New Look voucher, my mind went straight to my beloved jumper; the jumper with “balloon” sleeves, a high neck and a slightly cropped bottom. The New Year brought with it one mission and one mission only: Purchase My Mustard Yellow Jumper. Last week I walked into New Look, gift card in hand, my eyes excitedly darting from one item of clothing to another. And there it was. High up and one left in my size. If I was less of a cynic I might just call it fate.

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The bag

Accessorize (similar bag- in blue): £32.00 (no longer on site)

On an earlier Christmas shopping trip last year, my boyfriend picked up my mum a bag from Accessorize. I, however, was a little distracted by a laptop-sized rucksack hanging on the shelf; practically made for me. I was in love but, knowing I had money to spend on Christmas presents and Christmas presents only, I was forced to move on. I barely thought about the bag again (apart from, naturally, when passing an Accessorize) until Christmas Day when I was at Aaron’s house. I squealed as I was reunited with the bag love of my life and the bag and I have been inseparable ever since.

IMG_6220.JPGAlthough these two new favourite toys of mine complement each other a little too much (so much so most wouldn’t advise one wears them together), I am not afraid of overdoing the mustard yellow. This jumper is flattering and, despite definitely looking it, not itchy at all! I wear it as soon as it’s washed and I float around feeling like Winnie-the-Pooh all day long. It’s the only mustard yellow jumper I’m going to need for a long, long time. Now, onto fangirling about the bag. As someone who loves rucksacks and lugging along a lot of things on a daily basis, I couldn’t have found a more perfect bag. Both my boyfriend and I wondered if the bag was entirely practical… I can confirm, however, that it is. It truly is. Let me list what I pop in it in the morning before I then walk to work:

  • Laptop
  • Laptop charger
  • Phone charger
  • Purse
  • Book
  • Diary
  • Brush

And what’s more… It doesn’t hurt my back one bit! I’m really surprised myself to say it but it’s true. I walk a forty-five minute walk to work and this bag doesn’t cause me even the slightest bit of back pain!

To conclude, mustard yellow is my colour for 2018. What’s your 2018 colour?

~ Kat ~

Urban Decay Naked Heat Palette

As I’ve proven from my previous Naked palette review, I am no beauty guru. But I do know this: Urban Decay’s Naked Heat palette (£39.50) is revolutionary. The use of the word “revolutionary” definitely places my butt firmly on the palette’s hype train and I’m perfectly happy to be there. It has very comfortable seats. It may be January─therefore, in the UK, very cold─but this palette has brought summer to my eyelids, six months early. Urban Decay’s Heat palette is full of rich and, actually, really “not me” colours. And yet I think it’s overtaken my love for Urban Decay’s Naked Smoky palette. *Asks beauty gurus for forgiveness and probably gets it immediately.*

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PROS

  • Even though the palette is very centred around red kind of tones (making the colours not very “me”), I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with them. Especially as a few of them are amazingly shimmery- Lumbre, Dirty Talk, Scorched (my favourite) and Ember. I am quite the lover of sparkly clothes these days and these tones, over the Christmas period which included Christmas and New Year’s parties as well as an 18th birthday, provided for great shades to make me look a bit more extra.
  • Despite how wonderfully dramatic this palette is, it has a few nudes that I find really easy to use on an everyday basis. Chaser, Sauced and Low Blow are really good generic eyeshadows, while the others do the talking when you need.
  • While I can imagine these shades looking awesome in the summer as I sport a tan and sip cocktails from June-September (a girl can dream), I think the colours look really awesome during the winter, while I unwillingly sport my very pale skin. I definitely believe this palette stays true to the claim that it’s for all skin tones.

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CONS

  • There is a teeny tiny bit of fall out. I also, however, consider this to be one of the product’s pros, since its fall out is far less than its older sibling, the Urban Decay Naked Smoky palette.
  • There’s often a lot of blending needed when using these colours. Again, this isn’t a proper con; there needn’t always be blending too much, it depends on how you’re doing your make up and everyone needs to  blend… But, upon using this for the first time, my boyfriend said, “It looks like you’ve got a sore eye.” For me personally, I do need to blend up.

This palette is what palette dreams (definitely a thing) are made of. I love using Chaser as an every day shade whereas my party season eyelids looked something like this:

  1. Ounce all over the lids and brow bone
  2. Scorched heavily over eyelids and a little bit above the lid
  3. Ember or En Feugo in the corner of eyelid
  4. Ounce in the corner and, again, over the brown bone, blending until it no longer looks like one has a “sore eye”

Ultimately, I think this palette is going to be a really hard one to beat. Good luck Urban Decay; I’ll be waiting!

~ Kat ~

 

 

Kat’s Kitchen: My Baking Tips

One of my favourite pastimes is baking. I might not do it all too often and I admit most of my bakes do look homemade, but I love the process of measuring, stirring and baking to perfection. I love appealing to my sweet tooth with an extra layer of sugar; buttercream, as it has been since I was a young girl, being my favourite addition. It’s when I bake with my boyfriend that I realise, through baking with my mum over the years, I’ve picked up a thing or two. Aaron looks a little confused as I say something so far, to me, from profound. And then it makes sense to him. I definitely have my mum to thank for this.

birthday.jpgHere are a few baking tips and tricks I have picked up in the last twenty-one years or so.

  1. Prep your oven and your tray (or whatever tool you are using to bake!) beforehand. It saves precious time once your bake is ready for some heat.
  2. When following a recipe, don’t stray from the exact measurements. They are the measurements for a reason!
  3. Do, if you want to make something a bit different, mix and match a couple of different recipes!
  4. Using an electric whisk to mix your bake doesn’t mean you’re not a baker; sticking by your wooden spoon, though, can still be super fun.
  5. If it says stir, stir! If it says fold, fold! If it says… you get my drift!
  6. When making fairy cakes, muffins or butterfly cakes, use an ice cream scoop to transfer the mixture from your bowl to your cases. Just trust me on this one.
  7. While we’re on the subject of transferring mixture, there is always enough mixture for one more cake; for one more dollop of creamy mixture. Grab your spatula and start scraping!
  8. Do not interrupt your bake unnecessarily once it’s in the oven! This can often be the reason for a baking fail.
  9. Cool your bakes sufficiently. If your bake hasn’t failed from opening your oven door and peeking in, then it will if you rush to do the icing and plonk it on your bake. Be patient. Let your bakes cool and then add your sugary topping.
  10. Finally, if you baked it… you deserve to eat that gigantic slice!

Have you any baking tips and tricks for me?

~ Kat ~