Book Review: Close To You | Wordy Wednesday

I was in Australia literally 24 hours ago, so the fact that this post exists is nothing short of a miracle. 

And I’m so excited to be doing this review. 

A disgraced scholar running from her past and an entrepreneur chasing his future find themselves thrown together—and fall in love—on a Tolkien tour of New Zealand.

Allison Shire (yes, like where the Hobbits live) is a disgraced academic who is done with love. Her belief in “happily ever after” ended the day she discovered her husband was still married to a wife she knew nothing about. She finally finds a use for her English degree by guiding tours through the famous sites featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. By living life on the road and traveling New Zealand as a luxury tour guide, Allison manages to outrun the pain of her past she can’t face.

Jackson Gregory was on the cusp of making it big. Then suddenly his girlfriend left him—for his biggest business competitor—and took his most guarded commercial secrets with her. To make matters worse, the Iowa farm that has been in his family for generations is facing foreclosure. Determined to save his parents from financial ruin, he’ll do whatever it takes to convince his wealthy great-uncle to invest in his next scheme, which means accompanying him to the bottom of the world to spend three weeks pretending to be a die-hard Lord of the Rings fan, even though he knows nothing about the stories. The one thing that stands between him and his goal is a know-it-all tour guide who can’t stand him and pegged him as a fake the moment he walked off the plane.

When Allison leads the group through the famous sites of the Tolkien movies, she and Jackson start to see each other differently, and as they keep getting thrown together on the tour, they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither expected to fall in love again, but can they find a way beyond their regrets to take a chance on the one thing they’re not looking for?

Why am I so excited? 

IT’S SET IN NEW ZEALAND. 

IT’S A BOOK SET IN PRESENT DAY NEW ZEALAND THAT DOESN’T SUCK. 

Previously, I had only read two chapter books (ie not picture books) set in New Zealand. The first was some weird fantasy thing which was mostly set in a fictional world, so it doesn’t count. The second was a really weird book set in the 1940s or 1950s that I really did not like. So you can understand my excitement about this book. I constantly get to read books set in the US, as well as the occasional ones set in the UK, Australia, and Canada. But there are so few books set in New Zealand. 

So this book is set in New Zealand (if you haven’t figured that out already), which made it pretty great for me, since, for once in my life, I actually knew where they were talking about, and had actually been to a large number of them (the book is about a tour around New Zealand, so there’s a lot of places). Like honestly it was amazing. Everything New Zealand in this book was just amazing for me. All of the references that are normally American were instead Kiwi, and it’s so incredible to read. 

Enough fangirling about my country. Time to actually review the book. 

So this isn’t a YA, but it was still a good read. It’s a romance, and parts of it were kinda cliché, but still with an element of newness and originality. 

It’s also all about a tour of things connected to The Hobbit and LOTR. I’ve mentioned previously that I don’t like The Hobbit. Long story short, I tried to read it a couple of times, but couldn’t get into it. I’ve also never seen any of the movies, because I’m a stubborn little squid. So there were heaps of references that I didn’t understand, despite all the New Zealand references. However, I didn’t feel completely lost the entire way. I feel as though both someone familiar with the books and someone who knows nothing about them can enjoy that element of the book. In fact, it even made me want to try reading them again. 

However, this wasn’t an absolute favourite. Some of the characters and some of the choices made by characters didn’t really make sense to me. 

Despite that, this was still a great book (which may be partially because of my New Zealand bias), which I would recommend, if only to get a little more knowledge of New Zealand. If you are a romance fan like me, then this is definitely one that I’d recommend. Four stars from me. 

PEOPLE NEED TO WRITE MORE BOOKS SET IN NEW ZEALAND. PLEASE AND THANK YOU. 

Arohanui, 
Tessa Ann

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I Want To Write: Part Two | Motley Monday 

This will be brief, because I’m supposed to be studying right now. And I’m actually in Australia when you’re reading this. But anyway. 

Last Monday, I told you that I want to write, but I don’t have any current ideas. You can read that here

It seems pretty soon to be doing an update post. But there’s been a development. 

I had an idea. 

I had an idea, and it developed and grew and I’m so excited by it. For the first time since way before NaNo last year, I had an idea for a story that could turn into something. 

It’s not just amazing because the idea is something that I think I can work with. It’s amazing and exciting because it shows me that there’s potential for me to fulfill that dream. I don’t know why I got this idea around the same time as I was complaining about not having any. Maybe I just needed to express how desperately I wanted to write. 

So how did I get this idea? 

I was procrastinating, of course. Watching YouTube videos. Something in one of them sparked an idea in my brain. I wrote a couple of things down, and did some research. That research made me lose interest in my original idea, but a new one appeared in its place. A greater one, with so much potential. I’ve already started to develop it. 

And I’m so excited. 

Am I going to tell you what the idea is? Not yet. I need to let it grow a bit more first. But it is there. It exists. And I’m so happy. 

Arohanui,
Tessa Ann 

Book Review: Emmy & Oliver | Wordy Wednesday

Ahh yus I’m doing so well with posting consistently. Small victories are the greatest. 

Today is my one break in the midst of exams. Since I last posted, I’ve had three exams, and I’ve got one more tomorrow. One more paper, one more hour of work, and then I’ve finished high school completely. Weird weird weird. 

But anyway. 

I prefer the cover on my edition, but apparently it’s not common enough to be online. So I’ll settle for this one. 

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life.

She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart.

He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

I also preferred the blurb on my edition, but again, it is nowhere to be found, and I’m far too lazy to type it up. 

I’d been wanting to read this book for months. Eventually, I gave up on hoping that the library would get it, and bought it. I never used to buy books without reading them first, unless I knew that I loved the author, but in the last few months, I’ve bought quite a few that I hadn’t read before buying them. It’s worked out well so far. 

Anyway. The book. 

I adored this book. It was, as I said in my Goodreads review, “cute and funny and serious and sad and happy all at the same time, and basically everything that I’ve ever wanted in a book.” It talked about such a strange situation, and, in my opinion, dealt with it very well, while being both funny and serious. 

It was such an enjoyable book to read. There was one part that made me laugh so hard that I had to put down the book and just chuckle for a few minutes. It’s really not actually that funny, in comparison to a lot of things, but I found it (and still find it) absolutely hilarious. 

So in this bit, Emmy is talking to her dad, and the conversation goes as follows: 

“‘What?’ He smiled at me. ‘Isn’t that the slang you kids are using? The lingo? Do I sound hip?’ 

I just shook my head. ‘The only hip I hear is the sound of yours breaking.'”

It cracked me up. I don’t even know why. I’m still laughing about it. 

So, overall, this was a stellar book. I loved it. It’s a cute romance filled with humour, while also dealing with some serious issues. Uncommon issues, maybe, but that just made them more interesting to read about. I gave this book five stars. Such a wonderful book, and definitely not one that I regret buying. 

So now I can’t stop laughing. Do you guys have any jokes that aren’t even particularly funny but that make you laugh really hard? I’d love to hear some! 

Like I said on my last post, I’m going to Australia on Saturday, so I’m not sure whether or not there’ll be posts next week. We’ll see how organized I am. I’ll try. 

Arohanui, 
Tessa Ann 

I Want To Write | Motley Monday 

This week is going to be insane. I’ve got an exam today, two exams (five essays!!!) and my Girl’s Brigade breakup on Tuesday, an exam on Thursday (my last school related thing ever), youth group on Friday, and then I’m flying to Australia early Saturday morning for my brother’s graduation. 

It’s a crazy week. And it doesn’t help that I’m currently in a fair bit of pain. I got hit in the head with a gumboot, did something weird to my back (feels like an extremely painful pulled muscle), and did exercise for the first time in forever, so I’m achy all over. Fun times. 

But anyways. 

On one of my first posts of the year, I wrote down a list of goals for this year, and one of them was to write. Literally a week later, I put up this post, which basically said that, as much as I want to write, this is not my time to do so. 

But now my feelings have changed. 

It’s currently NaNoWriMo, and I attempted to participate last year, managing a grand total of 10,000 ish words. For me, that’s not bad. But that was about all I could write before I exhausted my ideas. 

I’ve always written in the past, but I’ve never managed to write something fully substantial, despite my attempts. I’ve just never come up with an idea that’s had enough substance to turn into an actual novel. 

But I want to. I so desperately want to. Being in the blogging/writing community and not actually writing anything is hard enough, but during NaNo, it’s almost painful, watching people crank out thousands of words per day. My desire to write something is so strong, but, same as it was back in January, I’ve got nothing. And it’s not a fun place to be. I’ve tried to just sit down and force some words out, but they don’t come. Even when we had to write short stories for school, I struggled, basically only managing one. In the past, I’ve been bursting with ideas, but without the desire to see them through. Now it’s reversed. I’ve got the desire, but the ideas are gone. 

In January, I was accepting of the fact that I wasn’t supposed to be writing right now, because my desire to write was barely there. Now I can’t accept it. I want to write. I want to express myself with my words. I want to tell my stories and share my experiences and ideas through my writing. I want to make people laugh and cry and be moved by what I have to say. I want to say things in a way that no one else can, because I’m me and they’re not, and no one else thinks the way that I think and feels the way that I feel. I want to change the world with my words. I want to do all these things and more by writing. 

But how am I supposed to do these things when the words won’t come? 

Books have always been a huge part of my life. I grew up on books, and I grew up with the dream to create books of my own. And, unlike the dreams that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this is one that is not going to die. It’s going to come true. It just has to. Books and writing have been too important in my life for it to not come true. 

I have the dream. I have the want. I have the desire. I have the end goal. I just don’t have the ideas to see it through, and I don’t know a solution to that problem. 

If anyone has any advice, I would appreciate it immensely. And thanks for listening to me rant. 

Arohanui, 
Tessa Ann 

The List: Update #7 (& Other Bookish Updates) 

Whoop! Two posts in a week! Look who’s getting back into things! 

Oh, before I begin, I am very excited to inform you all that I finally cleared all of my emails that had been piling up since I went to Fiji in July. At one stage, I had about 500 unread emails. Now, I’ll be reading posts as they are released, and I’ll hopefully start commenting on some. 

While this is a post about The List, I thought I’d also briefly update you on what other books I’ve been reading. I’ve finally been reading three or four different series that many people read years ago. Those are:

  • A Series Of Unfortunate Events. I read the first three ish as a kid, but I never finished them. They are pure genius. Read them. 
  • The Hunger Games. I’m only about seven years behind the trend with this one. At the moment, I’ve only read the first one, but I enjoyed it so much that I bought the entire series off Book Depository (it cost about the same for the entire series as what you pay for a single paperback over here). I’m excited to keep reading them, despite knowing everything that happens. 
  • Roald Dahl’s books. I received a 15 book box set for my birthday, and I’ve been reading through it. Of the 15, I’d previously read 7, so I’m enjoying rereading those ones, and reading some new ones. 

Right. Now The List. 

Changes to The List: No changes. Although I started reading Wuthering Heights and was bored to death. I’ll give it another go though. 

Books I’ve read: If I’ve mathed right, I should have read 24. Nope. I’ve read 5. Although technically more. We’ll get to that in a minute. 

First up: Frankenstein. A cereal company was giving away free books if you bought two packets of cereal, and this one was an option, so I snagged it. It took me a while to read, but I did enjoy it. Very mind twisting and whatnot. It was not what I was expecting. Four stars. 

Next was The Kite Runner. Absolutely brilliant. During mock exams, my school allows us to bring in books and study material for if we finish early. I brought this with me for reading after my math exam, and I got so caught up in it that I completely forgot that I was still in the exam room. After the exam, a friend asked me how I’d done, and it took me a while to remember that I’d just sat an exam, because I’d been so focused on my book. To summarize how I feel, let’s read my Goodreads review: “It was just so full of horrible things and the fact that it’s based on real events makes it so much harder to read. But it’s also beautifully hopeful.” Five stars. Read it and cry. 

Next was my omnibus copy of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking-Glass. I own three copies of this, two of which I’ve had for as long as I can remember, and yet I’d never read it. Let’s go to Goodreads again to see what I said: “I feel like Lewis Carroll pulled random words out of a hat and forced them into a story. And I love it.” Perfect summary of the book. Five stars. 

And this is where things get interesting. Harry Potter was on The List, but I’d considered it as one I’d already read, since I read the first three when I was about 10. I wasn’t going to read them this year. After talking to a youth leader about them, I decided that I may as well. I already knew most of the major plot points, since people don’t really care about spoilers anymore, so they weren’t completely new to me. But I loved them. I gave each book four stars, but they’re pretty high four stars. Close to five. I even convinced my friend to read them. 

Finally, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. I’d already read it, so it doesn’t really count, but I’m still putting it on here, since I hadn’t read it in years. A great book. Five stars. 

Favourite/least favourite: Wow. Every book got at least four stars. I’m not going to bother picking a favourite, because they’re all my favourites in different ways. What a great list of books. 

Next to read: I don’t have any grand plans. Maybe I’ll try a longer one. I haven’t actually tackled many of the huge ones. 

Les Miserables update: I read a fair chunk of this when I got my hair dyed, since I had to sit for a while. I’m currently at 14%. Definitely going to have to pick up the pace if I want to finish it by the end of the year. 

There we go! A nice loooong update post. I guess that makes up for the months with no updates. 

Arohanui, 
Tessa Ann 

Life Is Hard Sometimes | Motley Monday 

Fact: life is really hard and not fun sometimes. 

You probably already knew that. 

I mentioned last week that the past monthish has been insane, in both good and bad ways. So. Let’s talk about that. 

The good:

  • Graduation was amazing, despite being about three hours long. 
  • My older brother flew over from Australia to surprise me for grad and it was the greatest thing ever. 
  • I got all of my assignments/Queen’s Award award stuff done on time (mostly), and basically got good results for all of my assignments, so yay. 
  • The last few days of school (ever) were heaps of fun but also a little bit sad. In a good way. 
  • I ran a Girl’s Brigade event that people actually showed up to for once, which was great. 

Basically heaps was happening that was fun, but busy. 

And then there was the bad:

  • My uncle had a heart attack. He’s okayish. They thought it was small at first, but it turns out that it was actually not and actually very serious. 
  • (Very minor in comparison to everything else, but still stressful) I missed getting a signature for part of my Queen’s Award, so there was a large amount of panic for a while. It turned out fine though. 
  • About half an hour after discovering the missed signature (so when I was already insanely stressed), my younger brother collapsed and was taken to hospital. He hadn’t been well for months, but the collapsing was due to the heart condition (same one that I have). He’s fine now – he was back to normal the next day – but none of us slept well that night. I thought he’d died. 
  • One of my teachers was in hospital and missed the last few days of school. I have no idea what was wrong, since I’ve heard everything from kidney stones to cancer to a heart attack, but it was just very sad that she wasn’t there for our last few days. I’m pretty sure that she’s okay now (so my guess would be kidney stones). 
  • Thursday last week was the three year anniversary of my grandfather’s death. 
  • Literally twelve hours before this post went up, there was a massive earthquake. Biggest one I’ve ever felt, absolutely freaky, and it was over 500km away from where I live. As I’m writing this, I have no idea what it’s done to the areas closer to where it was. 

On top of all of this, my old friend depression has been creeping back in. 

It’s been hard. I’m trying to live my life and enjoy everything before I have to start working and uni, but it’s really difficult to do that at the moment. 

Life is really hard sometimes. For me, that’s right now. To be honest, I don’t know why I’m even telling you about all this. I just feel the need to get it out there. 

If you are in the same boat as me, I hope and pray that things improve for you soon. If life is going well for you, I ask that you acknowledge that, and enjoy it. Life has seasons. I’m currently in the middle of winter, but I know that spring must be around the corner, whether that means tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or even longer. And, as I quoted in my speech that I had to do twice, “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” (Les Miserables). 

Life is hard. But good times will come. I know it. 

Arohanui, 
Tessa Ann 

When Dreams Don’t Come True | Motley Monday

This past month ish has been insane, in both good ways and bad. But that’s a story for another post. Today’s post is one that I wrote in my head months ago, although, back then, I didn’t know how it would end. 

I’m a dreamer. I like to envision things and set goals and imagine how stuff should happen. I always get overly disappointed if things don’t happen the way that I imagined. 

Ever since I started at my current school, which was seven years ago, I’ve had two dreams/goals for myself. The first was to become a prefect. Prefects are the school leaders, and, at my school at least, only Year 13s are prefects. (Year 13 = last year of high school.) This was a dream that I only had one shot at. 

My second dream was to get dux. Dux is like valedictorian, in a way. It’s awarded to the student with the highest number of excellence credits from that year. My school awards it for every year level. I had seven chances to get dux. 

So these were my dreams. For seven years, I imagined what it would be like if they came true. As the years went by, I tried my best to get dux, but, due to the level of intelligence in my year level, especially in my friend group, the closest that I came in my first six attempts was runner up in Year 10. 

As last year was drawing to a close, the Year 12s were called into the school chapel one morning, as they were going to be announcing the prefects. I was so nervous. I had no idea if I was going to get it, because there were so many people who would make great prefects in my year level. 

You can probably guess, based on the title of this post, how this is going to end. 

As they read out the list of names, I could feel tears coming on. My name was not on that list. I was not a prefect. My dream was dead. 

Despite my best efforts not to, I cried. A couple of my friends had been made prefects, but only one of them came over and told me how sorry they were. She knew how much I had been wanting this. 

I then proceeded to write a depressing poem about the whole ordeal. Because that was it. My dream was dead. I wasn’t a prefect. And it sucked. 

I had one dream left. Dux. Like I said in my first post of the year, 2016 was going to be my year. I may have missed out on prefect, but I could still get dux. One more shot. 

But things didn’t go to plan. I got busy and sick and stressed and didn’t do as well as I hoped. Just after mock exams, I realized that this dream was also dead, since my friend, the same one who had comforted me despite her joy at becoming a prefect, had done much better in exams than me, although we were pretty even when it came to the school assessments.

I had two options – try for runner up, or give up. I decided to keep trying my hardest, and hope that I could get runner up. 

I decided to stick to it and do my absolute best, even when I’d already passed the year with excellence. I redid my speech. I worked hard on assignments. I was determined. 

Saturday night was graduation. Sitting on stage with my fellow graduates, I was so nervous the entire night, just waiting for them to announce dux and runner up. My group of friends is full of intelligent people, all who could have potentially gotten dux or runner up. 

But when they announced runner up dux, it wasn’t the name of any of my friends that they said. It was my name. I had done it. Well, kind of. 

Despite the fact that neither of my dreams actually came true, I’m happy. I’m glad that I didn’t get prefect, looking back, because my year was busy enough without it, and I still managed to lead the school in other ways. As for dux, I’ll always be a little bit disappointed, but I couldn’t be happier for my friend, and I know that she deserves it. She kept working hard throughout the entire year, while I continued to procrastinate. She deserves it much more than I do, and I’m so proud. 

When dreams don’t come true, it sucks. But there could be a reason for it. Maybe God knows that it wasn’t right for you at that time, or maybe you could have worked a little bit harder. Whatever the reason, you will manage to move on. You’ll make new dreams, and be happy again. It will work out in the end, despite how down you may feel about it. 

When dreams don’t come true, it’s a chance to learn and grow. Let God work through your dead dreams. 

Arohanui, 
Tessa Ann