I’m Married AND I’m in Fiji!

Hi lovely people who read my blog.

I am super sorry that I have been mammothly inconsistent with my blog recently – things were a little nuts planning my wedding.
But I’m married now! And I am on my honeymoon in Fiji! 

I will do a full post about the wedding and all the little tricks I did to make it super personal but until then here’s a photo from my wedding day AND a picture of me loving the dream in 33 degree heat!


The Most Epic Wedding Mash Up Of All Time

I’m super sorry I haven’t posted in ages – I will get better at it once I’m married (which is in under 2 weeks!!! What the heck!?)

Until then, I thought I’d show you what I have been working on.

This is a mash up I wrote, performed by my wonderful friends Jamie Wong, David Solley and Keziah Elisara who are ridiculously talented which includes some of my favorite ever love songs.

Have a listen, it’s actually SO awesome!

PS if you ever want the lyrics/chords etc, comment and I’ll send them through :)

Positivity in Fiction: Heidi and Pollyanna

I’ve been reflecting recently on how negativity and critique gives us a false sense of power.

We feel important, in control, or somehow better than others if we can discern the negative or the bad in a situation.

Perhaps we feel others will regard us as clever if we weigh up our opinions and come at something from a nature of talking it down or choosing to see the ugly side.

Again in fiction, a lot of the time, authors feel important, talented, worthwhile if they pick up a stone and instead of inspecting the visible surface, they display the readers the ugly underside with the gross bugs and dirt.

We become people who prove our talent and ‘depth’ by not just writing about negative or difficult issues – because doing that is actually worthwhile – but getting our hands dirty in them.

The reason this bums me out is that the world is probably dark enough already. And when you read a book that is like…

This story is about this girl who lives in this ULTRA controlling dystopian society (because we’re teaching people what they should look out for in the world politically to stop us from all turning into North Korea, apparently)

AND the girl’s family has this issue (emotional or physical)

AND their house sucks and they are super poor

AND she has to eat squirrels

AND then this bad thing happens too

AND she’ll probably have a bout of something to do with mental illness/instability/conflict with something external that seeks to control her like a bad relationship, drugs, or whatever.

The unfortunate thing is as much as I’m being pretty sarcastic here, that sounds like the plot line to the wave of books that manifested following the Hunger Games when dystopian rose into popularity.

But it isn’t just dystopian, it’s everything. Here in New Zealand, a supposed award winning book explored some pretty unsavory ideas that personally, I don’t think any fourteen year old should be dwelling on.

I mean at the end of the day does fiction have to be like this to be smart, deep, talented or worthwhile?

My answer? Probably not.

I think you can discuss or present ideas without digging deep inside of them and getting your hands filthy with the ins and outs.

To some extent as well, I think the extreme dwelling in horrible ideas and things and circumstances is a lazy author’s way of trying to generate an emotional response from their audience.

You can write about difficult subjects, but in a way that respects the subject not puts it in a frame for us all to observe and ooh and aah about because to some extent that just glorifies it.

As I lay in bed thinking about this last night I was reminded of Pollyanna and Heidi. Both were stories I found really, really emotionally touching when I was little, but I think both have a commonality of dealing with difficult subjects respectfully.

In Heidi we find the social isolation of her grandfather, dealing with subjects such as loneliness, forgiveness, jealousy, and no one rolls their eyes when it does end happily ever after.

Pollyanna suffers a level of criticism for her optimism and positivity. Yes she lives in a difficult world, and like Heidi we find her coping with loneliness and she suffers at the hand of intentional unkindness, then of course he ultimate accident where she loses the use of her legs. Again this book is ideal, but it is meaningful and beautiful, and it respects difficult subjects.

I just wanted to challenge us as authors not to opt for the easy option of slathering layer and layer of bad and sad, and mad on top of our narratives. There is already a lot of bad in the world, why perpetuate it?

Challenge yourself to actually write something meaningful, that yes, deals with difficulty, but in a way that respects the issue, rather than turning into some cheapened form of entertainment.

In my opinion at least, for my children in the future, I’d much rather they look to Heidi or Pollyanna has role models than Katniss or Bella or whatever.

We need to look at what we are building, and become good at our craft, rather than playing puppeteer with the perceptions and emotional development of young people.

Anyway, things to think about.

Book Review: A Night Divided

When I first began A Night Divided I wasn’t hugely in the mood.

I had just finished Girl Online On Tour by Zoella, so the idea of shifting into a historical fiction about the Berlin Wall wasn’t super appealing.

Regardless, I cracked open the cover and began.

Here’s the thing, this book was excellent.

A Night Divided was written by one of my favorite authors of all time, Jennifer Nielsen. She authored The False Prince, which is one of my favorite books ever, so I felt I had to read A Night Divided on principle.

I’ll paint the scene.

A Night Divided follows the story of Gerta Lowe, a young girl who lives in East Berlin in the time of the Cold War. The story begins one night with her family, when her father makes the decision to travel into the allied occupied West Berlin with one of her brothers Dominic. He goes, and it is while Gerta’s father and brother are away that the Berlin Wall is erected by the Russians. The narrative picks years later, where a substantial amount of time has passed and Gerta has heard little to no word from her father or brother in West Berlin. Then, one day, on her way to school Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform from West Berlin doing a strange dance she remembers from a childhood sign, signaling for her to do one thing.


The rest of the story follows Gerta and her brother Fritz’s decision to dig a tunnel beneath the Berlin Wall to reach their father. It is peppered with real life implications of the Berlin Wall – such as political structure of the time, the secret police, rationing, social pressure, and most unfortunately, what happens when people disobeyed the communist state.

Nielsen begins every chapter with a relevant quote to tie in the significance of the historical setting, hammering home this one point: this could happen again if we let it.

The main themes of this book are freedom – both literally (as in from a place) as well as freedom of thought.

The fact that it so honestly paints a picture of this period in time for young readers is a massive win as far as I am concerned. The Cold War is one of my favorite historical periods to study, mostly because a lot of the same principles at play then are still at play now. It is for this reason I think Nielsen has done us a favour scripting such an excellent book about such an imperative period of time.

The writing is on form – exactly what I’d expect from Nielsen anyway – Gerta’s voice is honest, and her relationship with Fritz really wonderful in depicting a brother and a sister in that kind of dire situation. There’s a lot of tension and ‘oh my gosh is it going to…’ and I devoured it in about a day and a half.

Get your hands on it, you won’t regret it!

Book Review: Girl Online – On Tour

I’ll start right off by saying, I will cry myself to sleep if the Girl Online series is a two-booker.

Around about midway through this book (which is about when I started to suspect where it was going) I started furiously googling ‘Girl Online Book 3’ and various forms of this phrase to no avail.

So my fingers are going to be permanently crossed for the next however many months until the internet deems it appropriate to answer my question.

The Girl Online Series (if I am allowed to call it that) is a narrative which follows the life of Penny Porter, a blogger/teenager who lives in the world we live in – with internet and phones and lots of social media – but she lives in it while falling in love and dating a super celebrity Noah Flynn. The first book (Girl Online) is about them getting together, and the second (Girl Online On Tour, which I am about to review) is about their relationship in the kind of world we live in. It also deals with issues like friendship, forgiveness, and anxiety.

Written by YouTube sensation, Zoella, aka: Zoe Sugg

Anyway, so given the context and type of novel that Girl Online is, I figured it an appropriate time to try a new form of review. Where I address the author, rather than you the possible reader.

So here we go.

Zoe, I’m not sure if you realize this or not, but the last two years your books have become a part of my Christmas prep.

I purchased Girl Online early December (I think??) and devoured it in 24 hours while drinking a lot of coffee which is the combination of three really excellent things for me.

Good Books + Christmas + Coffee.

I have been looking forward to Girl Online – On Tour for ages, and while I usually google reviews and spoilers like crazy this was one book and one set of characters I valued too much to want to know the ending of.

I wanted to feel it as the story unfolded rather than knowing where it was going – although I’ll admit I sort of supposed it was going to end how it did.

So what did I love about Girl Online – On Tour from here on out known as GOOT (which is not a cool sounding acronym sorry I did that!)

Firstly, the development of characters was on point. The book takes place a little while after the first novel, long enough that situations have changed – such as Elliot’s dynamic, or Penny’s new friendships etc, however not so long that it’s hard to catch up. Starting this book felt like seeing old friends again, ones that I was desperate to get updates from.

Secondly, despite the online whining of random know-it-all-reviewers and whatever, this book has a lot of authenticity. The characters are raw with their emotion, the way that you write about anxiety both respects the implications of having that kind of problem (which I have had at times) but doesn’t dig deep into the problem without offering solutions or tips to cope better with it. Penny gives young people answers about some real questions, and your characters have been painted lovely, but not perfect, which made the novel beautiful to read.

Penny is at is a difficult age – I think we can all agree on that. I think back on my teen years and while they were amazing, they were also difficult and a struggle to understand myself and who I was going to be. Zoe, the way you have written about this time of life is SO wonderful for teenage girls who may be feeling a similar way.

You encourage them that:

  • they don’t need to know exactly what they need to do for the WHOLE life as a sixteen year old
  • that they don’t need to settle for boys who are gross, treat them like rubbish and sit around waiting and pining
  • that they should have confidence in who they are, and as Leah says ‘aim higher than what you think you’re capable of’

There is enough in media today telling girls they are not enough, and that they don’t matter. You book is a reminder otherwise.

All and all, despite how torn up I was at not having the ribbon tied on the top of the present ending, I adored Girl Online On Tour. So I will continue to rave about it to everyone ever, and tell them they need to read it and that while people feel they need to seek these fancy pancy ‘sophisticated’ novels about dark and emotional things, sometimes the people who tread lightly on difficult things are better.

Zoe, you have outdone yourself, and while the internet hasn’t quite answered my questions yet… I’m holding out for a book three

Seriously though, readers, if you haven’t read the first book Girl Online, totally do. I’m twenty five years old and a month away from being married and this is totally classified as teen fiction but I think it is bad to ever say you’re above something or beyond something.

We all need a little happiness in life, and Zoe Sugg has formed hers in the shape of a book.

Girl Online – On Tour  by Zoe Sugg, I am pretty sure you can buy it everywhere.

What I’m Reading Now: Zoella and Berlin!

I have been AWFUL at posting, and I am so sorry!

Quite full on being a month out from my wedding, so I figured I’d share a little something.

It is no secret that I absolutely ADORE the writing of Jennifer Nielsen. She authored my favorite series (almost) The Ascendance Triology with the best ever male lead character (hands down!) Sage/Jaron. If you haven’t read it, DO!

It is also no secret that the book Girl Online by Zoella is one of my go-to reads. So I am pretty ecstatic that the sequel has come out and have told my fiancé this again and again.

I picked both up today – having ordered them ages ago and having them finally come into stock!!

I will totally review once I’ve finished which will likely be… probably… two days from now :P

IMG_0675 IMG_0676

Night Divided is a Berlin Wall Historical Novel about a girl who’s family is separated by the building of the Berlin Wall, I am super excited because Jennifer Nielsen is seriously skilled as a writer so YUS!

Girl Online: On Tour, picks up a few months after the first book (Girl Online) left off. Penny is no longer blogging, but she is about to go on the European Tour of her rock-star boyfriend Noah! I know some of you more ‘sophisticated’ people are rolling your eyes, but I am super excited to read this.

Anyway, stay lovely readers, and I will post soon!


Stories Which Fasten Themselves To Our Hearts

Recently, I have been reading the ‘Angels Academy’ series.

Now, I hear you ask, ‘What the heck are you doing, Jessica, reading a book written for eight to twelve year olds about time travelling angels? Are you a little too… old … for time travelling angels?’

The Answer?

Heck no!

There are different kinds of books, you see.

There are books that you read when you want a flash, bang novel for entertainment. Usually of the moment, usually something new or a book you haven’t broached before, and when they’re done you toss a shoulder and go ‘Yeah that wasn’t bad.’

Then there are those books that have somehow managed to burry themselves deep inside of your heart and fastened themselves to your memory.

It could be anything, that book you read when you went on that vacation, or that that random life experience or whatever.

I have quite a few of those. And do you know, I was thinking recently, that to write a book like that – that has fixed itself to a reader’s heard – it is a real privilege and a challenge I’d love to undertake.

The first I can recall was a series of stories called Milly Molly Mandy.

Little stories about a girl named Milly Molly Mandy who lives in a little town (which you can see the scope of in the pictures at the very front) who has adventures with her friends and family. They are feel good, cute and completely satisfying. I associate them with really lovely times sitting reading as a kid and they’re there, buried in my memories now.

Another is the Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Fernald. My mother read this book to me when I was much younger and I super associated myself with Alvin’s sister ‘the Pest’ Mum would read my brother and I a chapter a night and they remind me of those special times being read to aloud that I want to recreate with my children – when I have them.

Another story is Treasures in the Snow, a Christmas story about a girl who’s brother (after an accident as a result of a boy who was a total bully) has a disabled leg, and the girl learns to forgive the bully who did it to her brother over Christmas and with wooden carved animals. Sorry if that sounds random, but my year 6 teacher read it to our class the last Christmas before she left our school, and it conjures up the best ever pictures in my mind. Also that teacher was wonderful and has since passed away so it reminds me of her and the way she supported my writing and imagination.

Naughtiest Girl In School, is another book which has hidden itself inside of my memory. I brought it when I was twelve, in Keri Keri (north of Auckland, a town up there… for those not New Zealanders) in a tiny, tiny bookstore. I was starting at my new school that year and was a little nervous. This book helped me understand that starting a new school is hard, but it’s super fun too.

Angels Academy is another book series that has anchored itself inside me rather nostalgically. I brought one volume when I was a lot younger and read it from start to back, but then one year thought… 1) what ever happened in the rest of that series? and 2) I want to make sure my kids have this story in the future. So I proceeded to buy the entire series… only thing was that I was 22 years old…

They arrived in the mail and over a drought stricken summer in Auckland that was the VERY best ever, sitting in the sun reading what happened to these characters I’d read about when I was like thirteen outside, on the deck, with my sunglasses over the summer holidays.

It was the best.

These stories don’t try and be anything but problem + solution = happy times and to be honest, I don’t exactly them to be.

They are sweet, innocent, and lovely, and have this way of tucking themselves away inside of our hearts. As an author I’d love to be able to write a book like this.

But how?

I think there are three keys from the books that I’ve mentioned.

  1. Create endearing characters, not complicated characters. I like character development and dark sides, and difficulty as much as the next person… but with light flurry special stories, these hardships need to be light and easy and work-out-able.
  2. Settings are CRUCIAL. The cute town, the school with it’s little odds and ends of detail, the academy where the angels go to learn about time travel, it is all important. Develop settings that give you a real feeling of homeliness and belonging and you will anchor your readers.
  3. Not too big. These stories need to be quick and easy to process. At most I’d say 150 pages, if not less. Quick, easy, fun and flighty, meaning that they get to the point quickly and you don’t go on this HUGE emotional journey

Anyway there it is. My favorite endearing stories, and how to write one.

Impatient Story Ideas

This is usually what happens.

I am working on a book, writing and writing like crazy, and then usually in the middle it will become a little less easy to write, but then I press through and finish it off and then feel super good about myself.

Only, sometimes, and all the more recently because I’ve been working on a vast array of completely different story-worlds, I get this impatient little knock in the back of my mind.

I am busy, tapping away, brain storming, caught up in the momentum of the current book I am writing, and then I hear it.

Knock, knock, knock.


Usually they let themselves in. My characters I mean. I  know it sounds crazy, but there, up in my head, they find the spare key – because they know where I keep it – unlock the door and let themselves in and take a seat in the back of my head.

Okay – I say to myself – so they’re there. They’re sitting in the back of my mind, which is fine, I’ll just finish what I’m working on.

But then, they’ll tap their foot, almost willing me on, without words saying ‘hurry up… come on Jess, you’re taking a million years.’

Every so often I’ll take a look over my shoulder at them, noting that yeah, they’re still there, just as I left them when I last scripted THEIR stories, and yes they want me to pick up their narrative and write it again but I am in the middle of something.

They’ll have to wait.

‘But you don’t understand how interesting I am.’ the character will whisper, ‘My storyline is SO different than what you’re writing now, my story is really awesome you’ll love it way more than what you’re working on now.’

‘No!’ I reply, ‘wait your turn. If I stop in the middle of this book I’ll lose momentum and it will be super hard to catch up again.’

The character rolls their eyes, ‘sure. Whatever.’

So I take up tapping again, writing and writing.

‘What about a brain storm? Just think about me? About what my story could be? Make some notes in your notebook, that’s not that big a deal right?’

But I know myself and I know I’ll get distracted, and if anything I need to keep my head clear for this idea I’m writing now. It’s a big one, I need to keep everything straight, not getting distracted.

So I tell them to wait. To sit quietly, in the back of my head and just chill the heck out til I’m done!

I’m not sure if you ever wrestle with your ideas like I do.

I am working on a pretty heavy book right now, and it is requiring all of my attention. But right now, I have one character, Dare – otherwise known as Romulus – sitting in the back of my head saying, ‘HURRY UP!’ as well as a little whisper from a series I write called EQUITAS, and they’re all nagging on me to just write them for a little bit, but I know better.

It isn’t a good idea to try and write more than one book at once. You have to stay focused to what you’re currently working on.

With story writing, a story isn’t one task, it’s made up of a ZILLION! Keeping characters in line, their conflicts, growth, the setting changes, everything! The worst thing you can do is write bits and pieces of different books.

So do what I do and tell them to wait their turn!

PS: if you’re not a writer, you will think I am 100% crazy here!

Check It Out: My Bridal Shower!

No secret I’m getting married in like… a month (which I am super excited about!)

Here are some pictures from the day I thought you’d like to take a look at!

It is super important to mark life with significant events, all a part of our narrative, so here’s mine!


Doesn’t the food look amazing! Catering and Décor done by Simply Good Catering, they are amazing!!! http://www.simply-good.co.nz/ the carrot cake especially, just saying.

We had some super fun activities as well, like guessing how much nail polish I own… writing a favorite memory of me, and also making paper doll brides!


If you want the paper doll files just comment below and I am happy to email the PDFs!

And here are some pictures of my SUPER amazing dress – a sample I purchase from Little White Dress, the most stunning wedding dress designer. Yes I wore a wedding dress… but it was ADORABLE! and my shoes were amazing. Make up done by Kate Solley as well, who is FYI super lovely if you’re looking for a make up artist in the Auckland area.


It was the best fun!

I hope you enjoyed a little sneak peak into the story of my life!

X Jessica