Feature: Aspiring Author, Jessica Loftus

Today I’d like to take a break from book reviews and writerly questions to feature a fellow aspiring author, Jessica Loftus. Jessica was nice enough to beta-read my novel Chemicals Collide for me, and in return for her generosity I thought I’d feature her on my blog!

About:
Jessica has always been a small town girl with a passion for books. Now she is figuring out how to reach her dream of holding a hardback copy of her own novel. Her passion for books has taken over as she is often found deep in a library, or just about anywhere, with her nose in one or sitting at her computer writing a current work-in-progress.

The choice to become a writer isn’t an easy path, especially when she first decided it. Even now she keeps the philosophy that nothing worth having or doing is ever easy. Her favorite type of critiques are the ones that tear her work apart, but is always seeking to find that golden reader that likes her work.

Big thanks to Jessica for answering the following questions!

Writing wise, what are you working on at the moment?
Right now I’m working on my short story called Wolf-Thief (In it’s second draft stage). I’m also still in the planning stages for my first full novel titled Wolfsbane as part of my Were-Witch Series.

Do you have any advice for fellow writers?
Life is going to get in the way sometimes. My life lately has been the pure definition of that. But you can’t let life stay in the way, you have to find time to write at some point and once you find that time you will not regret it for a minute.

What are your writing goals?
My ultimate writing goal is to have a book published. Whether it be through a company or I publish it myself. I want to be able to hold my work in my hand, completely dumbfounded, and mumbling “I made this” even if no one else reads it.
Though I would love people to read it anyway…

What are you reading at the moment?
That is actually a long list of books, but the main one I’m reading at the moment is “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” by Thomas Foster. He makes literature analysis easy to understand if you haven’t done it before but still fun for people who already do it.

Who is your favourite author/book and why?
My favorite book will always be Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. I read it every summer and the binding is pretty worn out now. When I read it I keep learning something knew or take it from a different perspective. A large part of the series is questioning society, and though that can be seen as stereotypical when it comes to utopian/dystopian novels it comes across well here. If anything it taught me to always ask “Why?” and that is something I feel that everyone needs to learn how to do, or more encouraged to do since many already do it at a young age.

You can find Jessica’s blog here – Dare To Dream, Live To Write

What is your favourite quote?

I am a big fan of quotes. One of my favourite things about blogging is finding a nice reading or writing related quote to post at the bottom of each article I write. I love everything about quotes. I feel like if you find the right one, it can speak to you and thousands of others.

So what are your favourite quotes?

I have two that have really stuck with me over the years. They aren’t writing or reading related, but I want to share them anyway. They are:

Writing wise, I ADORE this one! It brings me SO much comfort!

What are your favourite quotes?

Review: Better Than Perfect by Simone Elkeles

Title: Better Than Perfect
Author: Simone Elkeles
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, romance
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Links: Book Depository | GoodReads | Amazon

Blurb:

After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.

Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain–people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

Why I picked it up:

This book was sent to me from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review. But I’m a huge fan of the Perfect Chemistry series by Simone Elkeles, so I was excited for this one.

My Thoughts:

This book was cute. It has the same vibe as a Simone Elkeles’s other novels – a bad boy and a driven girl all messed up in a light and feel-good plot.

I really enjoy Simone Elkeles’s writing style. Not many authors can pull off first person, alternating POV, but Simone is really good at creating characters with distinctive voices.

Overall, I don’t have much to say about this novel. It was a short, simple read, that I read in one sitting. It kept my attention, the pace moved well, the characters were interesting… nothing to write home about, but still a lovely little contemporary romance.

My Verdict – 3 stars

Which book has been on your shelves the longest?

My bookshelves have been through some massive overhauls. I’ve gone through stages where I’ve sold every book I own (for travel reasons) only to start all over again a year or two later.

At the moment I’m committed to building my own little library, and I don’t think I’d ever sell my books again.

So today I’m wondering… which book has been on your shelves the longest? Which book has survived all your clean outs, trips to the second hand bookstore, book swaps, and garage sales?

For me, it’s Harry Potter. My books are battered and the pages are yellow, but I love my original copies.

What book have you had on your shelves the longest?

How do you measure your blog’s success?

As all of you probably know by now, I recently made the move from WordPress.com to my own domain name. I did this because I felt I’d taken my blog as far as I could on WordPress and wanted to expand it into new territory.

Now I’m searching for a new level for my blog. I’ve moved to my own domain, and I have enough visitors to receive ARCs and review copies of books from publishers (which is AWESOME!)… but what next?

What are your blogging goals?

Is meeting those goals a measure of success for you?

Or do you measure your success in other ways – stats, comments etc.

Review: After by Anna Todd

Title: After, Book One in the After Series
Author: Anna Todd
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon Schuster)
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Drama
Links: Book Depository | GoodReads | Amazon

  

Blurb:

Tessa is a good girl with a sweet, reliable boyfriend back home. She’s got direction, ambition, and a mother who’s intent on keeping her that way. But she’s barely moved into her freshman dorm when she runs into Hardin. With his tousled brown hair, cocky British accent, tattoos, and lip ring, Hardin is cute and different from what she’s used to.

But he’s also rude – to the point of cruelty, even. For all his attitude, Tessa should hate Hardin and she does — until she finds herself alone with him in his room. Something about his dark mood grabs her, and when they kiss it ignites within her a passion she’s never known before.

He’ll call her beautiful, then insist he isn’t the one for her and disappear again and again. Despite the reckless way he treats her, Tessa is compelled to dig deeper and find the real Hardin beneath all his lies. He pushes her away again and again, yet every time she pushes back, he only pulls her in deeper.

Tessa already has the perfect boyfriend. So why is she trying so hard to overcome her own hurt pride and Hardin’s prejudice about nice girls like her? Unless… could this be love?

Why I picked it up:

This book was sent to me from Simon Schuster in exchange for an honest review. But I was really intrigued by this one. It was originally a One Direction fanfiction on Wattpad with over a billion views, so I was really interested to see what all the fuss was about.

My Thoughts:

Before I even started this book, I had a general idea of what it might be like. I read a lot of fanfiction across various fandoms back in 2004/2005 and after a while, you come to realise that fanfiction in general has some defining traits. They are generally dramatic, trashy, and self-indulgent because they come from a place of fandom and obsession.

So coming into this, I knew it was going to be over the top and ridiculous. But I hoped it would cross the line from “this is bloody awful” into “this is so bad it’s awesome” territory, sort of like Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster did. And for me, it did – After was awful and amazing at the same time.

In saying that, I think this is one of those books you either love or hate. I know this because my friend Lyn hated it with a passion from above, but I have to admit… I really enjoyed it. I liked the drama – it wasn’t a book that was written trying to be “proper”. It went all out. I’m talking trashy, dramatic, romance!

I found Tessa and Hardin’s relationship really interesting. Because on the one hand, I had no idea why Tessa was letting Hardin treat her so goddamn awful, but on the other hand, I understood that he was allowing her to live and feel for the first time. It was a weird sort of relationship that I wasn’t sure I supported or not. They were just both so damaged. But as I said above, I loved the drama; they were an utter train wreck of a couple.

This one has a lot of awful reviews on GoodReads, but hey, any book that keeps me reading past midnight is a high rating for me.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a marvellous piece of literature by any means. It didn’t teach me anything new about the world or make me think about an issue in a different way. It was a pure and utter, self-indulgent, beach read, dramatic, new adult fiction.

I didn’t even know I was in the mood for it until I started reading.

My Verdict – 4 stars – Although you should read the blurb to decide for yourself, because this one might not be for you!

What books do you want to re-read?

I’m a big fan of re-reading books. I rarely give 5-star reviews, but I generally bump a 4-star review to a 5 if I enjoy the book just as much the second time around.

Last week’s topic on Broke and Bookish was to list ten books you want to re-read. I have a ton, because I’d love to re-read books I read several years back and give them a proper review on this blog. So my list looks a little like this:

1. The Darkest Power Series by Kelley Armstrong
I read these back in 2011 and remember really enjoying them. I’d love to give them another read to refresh my memory.

2. Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
This was a 5-star read for me back in 2011. I’ve read a few bullying books since then, so I’d be interested to see how I enjoy it now. Back then, I found it really original and fresh.

3. The Perfect Chemistry Series by Simone Elkeles
This is another series I remember adoring. There is a 4th book rumoured to be written, so I’d love to revisit this series.

4. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
I’m not a huge fan of high fantasy, but this one I rated highly and it sticks out in my brain as being a book I really enjoyed. Definitely deserves a re-read.

5. Various Sarah Dessen Books
I used to be such a huge Sarah Dessen fan. I haven’t read any of her work in ages, but I consumed a bunch of them when I was younger. I’d love to buy these for my bookshelf too.

6. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
I remember reading this years ago and just thinking wow, what a relevant book. Everyone needs to read this one. Definitely needs a re-read on my part.

7. Meridian by Amber Kizer
This is a book I read, loved, and then never got around to reading the rest of the series. I recently purchased the second book on sale, so I need to re-read this one.

8. Poison Study by Maria V Snyder
This is another book I remember really liking. Unsure if I ever got around to reading book three, so I’d like to give it another go.

9. The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa
I’m a big Julie Kagawa fan. I read these ages ago and would love to read them again. Each one was a four star read. I want to re-read them and then add them to my favourite series page too.

10. Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. I used to read them every year in preparation for the next in the series coming out. But I haven’t actually read them all since 2007 when the final book was released. So it’s way overdue to revisit my favourite series!

What is on your re-reading list?

Review: Atlantia by Ally Condie

Title: Atlantia
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, underwater kingdom, sirens
Links: Book Depository | GoodReads | Amazon

Blurb:

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

My Thoughts:

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of “underwater city” concepts. I’ve read a couple before and they’ve all been a little meh. And frankly, Atlantia feels similar to all the others.

Straight away I knew this book wasn’t for me, because I couldn’t connect with the main character, Rio. I couldn’t figure out who she was. All she seemed to care about was her mother, sister, and going Above. I was killing for a little bit of substance and personality from her, but I got nothing.

I also got next to nothing from the plot. It just didn’t grab me. I would have loved a little more sub-plot, but it just felt so one track minded – getting Above and swimming to earn money and some estranged relationship with a Siren aunt. There was never any plot twists to mix it up. It sort of felt like a broken record after a while. Especially since it moved so slow. Dialogue was always followed by a couple of lines of narrative to explain the dialogue. Every single thing was spelt out, I would have liked to come to my own conclusions instead of having everything explained.

Overall, the world building was nice, but this was just so… boring. I got about a quarter of the way through and then had to force myself to speed-read through the rest.

My Verdict – 1.5 stars

How do you choose the books you read?

This question has been on my mind a bit lately. Especially since my friend, Lyn is about to have her first book published in 2015. I’ve been wondering how many people will read, rate and review the book, and what will draw them to pick it up in the first place.

So what makes you pick up a book to read? Do you always read from the same genre? Always go back to the same authors? Do you wait for recommendations from trusted friends? Or do you read what is popular on GoodReads? Or maybe you pick your books off the shelf at random?

For me, at the moment, I’m reading from an extensive pile of review copies I’ve been sent. Which is odd, because I’m usually pretty picky about what I read. Now days I’m reading whatever lands in my lap, which is awesome because I’ve found some hidden gems I wouldn’t have known existed otherwise.

How do you decide to read a book?

How many books did you buy last month?

I almost forgot to post my book haul! And it’s too amazing to miss. So here’s my haul from September!

From the left, top down we have:

Atlantia by Ally Condie – Thanks to Penguin for sending me this one.
Waterfall by Lauren Kate – Thanks Random House.
After by Anna Todd – Thanks Simon Schuster.
Laurinda by Alice Pung – Thanks Black Inc Publishing
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – I bought this one
A Song For Ella Grey by David Almond – Thanks Hachette
City of Halves by Lucy Inglis – Thanks Scholastic
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – I bought this one

Nona & Me by Clare Atkins – Thanks Black Inc Publishing
A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall – I bought this one
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer – Thanks Simon Schuster
The Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes – I bought this one
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter – I bought this one
Envy by Sandra Brown – this one was given to me to read from a lady at work
The Never Hero by T Ellery Hodges – Thanks to the author for sending me this one
Immortal by JR Ward – Thanks Hachette

The Protected by Claire Zorn – Thanks to UQP | My 5 star review
Sandy Feet by Nikki Buick – Thanks UQP | My 2 star review
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Thanks Harper Collins | My 2 star review

Meanwhile, it’s day three of NanoWrimo and I haven’t even started yet… whoops. Life has been a bit crazy. But hey, life always gets in the way and there is never an ideal time for writing. So if you’re like me and have gotten off to a crappy start, don’t give up!

Did you buy many books last month?