[REVIEW] The Space Between Words by Michèle Phoenix

the space between words

The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

Synopsis

“There were seconds, when I woke, when the world felt unshrouded. Then memory returned.”

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she can think of is fleeing the site of the horror she survived. But Patrick, the steadfast friend who hasn’t left her side, urges her to reconsider her decision. Worn down by his insistence, she reluctantly agrees to follow through with the trip they’d planned before the tragedy.

“The pages found you,” Patrick whispered.

“Now you need to figure out what they’re trying to say.”

During a stop at a country flea market, Jessica finds a faded document concealed in an antique. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who lived centuries before—her faith condemned, her life endangered, her community decimated by the Huguenot persecution.

“I write for our descendants, for those who will not understand the cost of our survival.”

Determined to learn the Baillard family’s fate, Jessica retraces their flight from France to England, spurred on by a need she doesn’t understand.

Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

Review

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me an ARC of The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix for review.

(the review contains some “spoilers”, but they were VERY predictable plot points so I am not going to be hiding that part of the review.)

I actually just started reading The Space Between Words without having read too much into the synopsis (usually I think about it a lot more before I decide to pick up a book). It’s classified as general fiction on netgalley but I would probably also classify it as historical and Christian fiction.

The main storyline takes place in modern day France, but as Jessica finds a mysterious sewing box with a false bottom on it (with pages of a journal and pages from the bible inside), the story takes us back to the 17th century (the revocation of the Edict of Nantes leading to the persecution of Huguenots in France) and the story of Adeline, whose family had to flee France due to religious persecution.

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[REVIEW] The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

the sun is also a starSynopsis:

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Review:

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon is a sweet book that has been compared to the likes of John Green and Rainbow Rowell. While it is a very sweet book, I did feel like it was unrealistic to the point where the storyline felt inorganic.

To be honest, the book never really pulled me in. Daniel and Natasha were alright characters, not particularly dislikable or unrelatable, but also not particularly likable or relatable, either. They were average. I think that (and the pacing of the story itself) is the reason it took me a longer time to get into the story. I eventually did and I’m glad that I’ve read this book, but I also didn’t feel like there was anything truly ‘standout’ about it. Perhaps I’ve simply outgrown the YA genre, but I felt like a lot of the conversations between Daniel and Natasha were fairly mundane.

I will say, however, that there were a few redeeming characteristics about the book. I liked that the author included tidbits about other characters in the story. In the beginning I didn’t like it as much but as the book went on I definitely saw what the author was trying to achieve with the different interjections. I wish Yoon would’ve done even more with it though, because while some of the interjections were successful, there were others that felt pointless.

I do have qualms about the ending. [SPOILER ALERT!!!] Daniel and Natasha ending up together? Unrealistic. I wish that last bit had been taken out and the book have ended on a bittersweet note. That would’ve given the book a lot more impact, in my opinion. This is definitely what I mean by that the storyline felt inorganic–I get that this is a YA romance, and I get that it’s fiction, but I feel like the “coincidence” factor in this book was so overdone that the romance itself felt like it was forced by the author.

With all of that being said, I offer this book 3.5 stars. I think most people would enjoy it. The writing was good, the plotline was alright, the characters were fine. Honestly, the ending (and Daniel’s poetry, but that’s another topic for another time) is the only part I truly disliked about this book. There was nothing particularly ‘standout’ about this book, but there was also nothing terribly wrong with it. It’s a good, light, read for the beach or for a plane ride. If you’re looking for something with more depth and substance, this is probably not it, but if you enjoy light, fluffy reads, then by all means, this is your book.

3.5/5 stars for this book.

Purchase the book

[REVIEW] The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

51Ovdc5rx9LSynopsis:

Magic, romance, and intrigue combine in this extraordinary novel—the first in the Elemental Trilogy—for fans of Cinda Williams Chima and Kristin Cashore. Publishers Weekly called it “a wonderfully satisfying magical saga” in a starred review, and Kirkus Reviews said it “bids fair to be the next big epic fantasy success.”

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s been told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of the Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the most powerful tyrant and mage the world has ever known. This would be a suicide task for anyone, let alone a reluctant sixteen-year-old girl with no training.

Guided by his mother’s visions and committed to avenging his family, Prince Titus has sworn to protect Iolanthe even as he prepares her for their battle with the Bane. But he makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the tyrant closing in, Titus must choose between his mission—and her life.

Review:

My first disclaimer would be that fantasy is not my thing–I really only gave this book a shot because my sister really raved about it. It’s a mix of fantasy, romance, and just a hint of historical fiction (though a part of this book would take place in “real life” London in 1883, that aspect of the setting does not play a big part in the plot. It could have taken place in modern day London and wouldn’t have made much of a difference!).

My first impressions of the book was that it was alright. The back cover had compared The Burning Sky to the likes of the Harry Potter series and I must say that it’s a bit of an ambitious comparison and the book didn’t exactly live up to Harry Potter. For me, the pacing was a little bit slow and for the most part, I didn’t really find this book to be a page turner–I will admit that it was a bit of a struggle to continue to turn the pages. It wasn’t that the story wasn’t good but that it simply lacked a drive that pushes the reader forward.

I will say, however, the book is good in its own rights and that sticking through it ended up being a good decision. The author is a romance/historical romance writer and I feel like it shows in The Burning Sky in both a positive and slightly negative way–I feel like the romance between Iolanthe and Titus was done fairly well, albeit a bit cringe-worthy at times but overall, well thought out with the right mix of chemistry and tension. At the same time, the I wish there was more as far as the fantasy element was concerned. The story-telling could be tightened up a little and Thomas could have done more to drive the plot forward. It was a good story with a good plot, and in the end Thomas did deliver what the synopsis promised, but it lacks a bit of ‘oomph.’

I think one redeeming aspect of the story is that although it is a trilogy, it stands well on its own. Of course, Thomas leaves some loose threads at the end, but the main plot was definitely tied up. There is no frustrating cliffhanger ending and readers who are interested in this world can certainly continue going.

Will I? Most likely not–however that isn’t due to the plot or the writing, but my own general disinterest in reading fantasy novels. I will, however, keep an eye out for this author as there is talent and potential in her books and writing!

4/5 stars for this book.

Purchase the book

Winter Break Travels: Arabia Mountain

arabia mountain

Not going to lie, it’s been mild in Georgia.

So on the day after Christmas, my family and I (+ one of my close friends, who is practically family which is why this statement is in parentheses) drove down to Arabia Mountain on a cloudy, almost-rainy day for a hike.

Arabia mountain is a massive exposed granite field, kind of like Stone Mountain but without the controversy. The weather was honestly quite nice for the hike (hovering at around the 50s), if it had been hot, we would have had a miserable time as the mountain had little to no shade.

But, my sister did manage to find a tree… and then of course proceeded to climb it.

IMG_4757_1

Arabia mountain also featured some swell looking foliage. This particular shot took me ages to get right:

arabia mountain plants

While I was busy getting that shot, my friend had other ideas–photographic evidence of me taking photographs:

me taking pics at arabia mt

There were a lot more sweet pictures, including sister shots and a cute family portrait, but mostly, we took selfiesselfie on arabia mountain

 

and of course pretended that I was jumping off the edge of the world:

jumping at arabia mountain

It was mostly just a fun, relaxed trip. The trail wasn’t difficult: though it was uphill, it wasn’t steep, and it was only a total of about 1.2 miles. Because my friend and I were both camera nuts, we ended up spending the majority of the time taking pictures instead of hiking, which of course, made our trip much longer. Still, it was a trip that was easily fit into an afternoon. If you’re considering going to Arabia Mountain, I highly recommend it! Be sure to bring a camera and some friends along with you–the best part of going places is always the conversation.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this low key blog post–more of a photo journal than anything else. What are some of the chill places you’ve been to?

 

2016 Youtube Algorithm Change: Some Thoughts

youtube-button

The end of 2016 was a bit… tumultuous on the Youtube front, with big youtubers such as PewDiePie threatening to delete his channel when he hit 50 million subs (spoiler alert: he didn’t), complaining about the Youtube unsub glitch and the recent Youtube Algorithm change. Other big creators jumped on the bandwagon, publishing videos about how this Youtube Algorithm change is affecting their views and subscribers, citing an approximate 30%-60% loss in views.

Even after scouring the internet for various sources about this supposed youtube algorithm change, I couldn’t find official confirmation from Youtube that there was, in fact, a change. All I found was this vague update from Youtube from December 5th that more or less denied that there was an algorithm change. I then looked to youtube and various creator videos on what they thought was happening. The responses varied, most agreed that there was an algorithm change, and some creators were more positive about the change than others. Analytics don’t lie, and I do believe that creators such as PieDiePie are experiencing the decrease in views. However, Roberto Blake, in his video explaining the Youtube Algorithm changes, cited that his views had increased, almost doubled.

So, why is that? Here are some of my own thoughts after my internet search and watching/listening to videos from both sides of the “story,” as well as how creators (especially small creators like me) can potentially benefit from this change.

SEO: Title, Tag, Description

Most big youtubers fail to optimize SEO. For example, in one of PieDiePie’s recent videos, titled “Started a Fire in the Building! (Experiment Gone Wrong)“, there were only a handful of relevant tags, none of which really allow me to tell you what the video is about without having first watched it (in case you are wondering where I got this list of tags, it is a chrome extension called VidIQ that allows me to see what tags creators are using for each video):

youtube algorithm change 2016

The numbers next to the tags “pewdiepie” and “pewdie” indicate the order that this video will show up in if those terms were typed into the Youtube search bar. While ranking 1st in the searches for two of the terms is good, there are much better ways to optimize the video tags feature on Youtube.

So, what exactly is PewDiePie doing wrong? Here are just two things:

  • Failure to take advantage of the tag feature to the max–Youtube will allow you to type in 500 characters total for tags. That’s a measly 80 characters up there.
  • Using one to two word long tags instead of actual search terms. Three to four word long tags are the best, and these tags should be terms that people type into the search bar. For example, “hot glowing knife experiment,” or even, “experiments gone wrong” might actually rank higher in Youtube search than “glowing knife” alone or “experiment” alone. These tags should give me an idea of what I’m watching before I even start watching it.

Those are the two things I could see right off the bat. If you’re interested in seeing more on how to optimize your SEO, check out Roberto Blake’s video on Youtube tags and getting more views–he is very knowledgable in SEO and is practically an expert.

This “lack of tagging well” is prevalent amongst big Youtubers (especially those with more than a million subscribers)–they often use one word tags and just their username. As several of the videos I’ve watched mentioned, this Youtube Algorithm change favored videos that are tagged right–the thing is, a platform like Youtube should accurately videos to viewers based on their interests. If videos are tagged right, they have a higher chance of getting discovered by viewers because, for example, if I had searched “how to set up recording studio,” and watched a video from that search, I would subsequently be suggested videos with similar tags such as “setting up recording studio” or “recording studio set up.” Videos tagged with a random username or simply “studio” or “recording” will be less likely to be shown to me.

Another thing big creators fail to do well is optimizing their descriptions–many only put their social media links. These have a very similar impact to tags, and I now am starting to put blog-style posts (albeit, they are shorter) in my description boxes, filling it with relevant and quality information for my viewers, but making sure to repeat the “key phases” several times within. Going back to the recording studio set up example, I might have a few paragraphs in the description going along the lines of, “Hey guys, today I will be showing you guys how to set up my home recording studio. Recording studios can be pricey, but they really don’t have to be! // For my recording studio setup, I use a mxl 770 condenser mic…..” etc. Again, I highly recommend looking at Roberto Blake’s video on optimizing SEO for your youtube channel. Since starting to do it a few weeks ago, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the views of some of my popular videos, including my college admissions story and my recording studio set up videos. The latter is still growing in views by about a hundred a day–and I am not a big channel by any means, I have less than 1000 subscribers.

Times Change…

and so does audience preferences. As Tim from Video Creator mentioned in his video, audiences get bored… if you’re doing something that you’ve been doing since 2009, then it may be time to change some of that. Also, it’s never too late to reinvent yourself or your brand. Audiences might not go for 180-degree, completely drastic changes, but they do want a little something different every once in a while. So experiment… algorithm change or not, this is still what you should be doing. Keep your audience on their toes and release new and exciting content. Casey Neistat, a wildly successful vlogger, quit vlogging because he felt creatively bored and wanted to do something different. He changed up his content before his channel could ever start declining… and his channel seems unaffected by the Youtube algorithm change–they’re still garnering millions and millions of views, some doing even better than pre-Algorithm-change videos from two months ago:

View counts

Combatting the Youtube Algorithm Change

From my research and my own experiences so far, I’m unconvinced that Youtube has made a drastic change to their algorithm. After all, it’s always easier to blame an external force that you have no control over rather than reflect in yourself and think about what you could improve upon. I DO believe that Youtube needs to be more transparent about the changes they make and communicate with their creators, both big and small, about improving the platform. But just in case that the Youtube Algorithm change is a thing that’s affecting you, here’s a couple things you can do (and always should do):

  • Reinvent yourself, your content. It may not work right away. In fact, if your experience ends up being anything like mine, you may even end up losing viewers–but fear not. You will get new ones.
  • Make sure your SEO is done correctly! There are so many resources out there that can help you achieve that. And having appropriate title, description, and tags is the best thing you can do to help your videos get discovered.

I hope this article is helpful. Leave your comments/thoughts down BELOW!