Plot Structure–A Worksheet

With the absence of my computer over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time working on my various writing projects lately. One of those projects has been working on the plot structure/outline for one of my newer novels, The Night Parade. I’ve spent the better half of the last week researching different plot structures in an attempt to make up plot structure worksheet that will work for any of the various novels I’ve been working on, and after hours of ironing things out, I think I’ve finally gotten something reasonable to work with. So, I now present to you, my plot structure worksheet—I hope it proves useful to you. I’ve pulled the information/structure of this plot outline worksheet from multiple different sources across the internet as well as from my own experiences, so there is a lot of information contained within it, but hopefully it’s not too jumbled for anyone to use.

The basic plot structure could be used in some context for most genres with some adjustment, but assumes a simple three-act story.

NOTE: Though a lot of the questions in this worksheet are specifically geared towards the protagonist/antagonist, may of them could, and should also be asked of the other minor characters in the story—this will help you build up a believable set of events throughout your story as motivations and consequences for each character will lead to further action/reactions to drive the conflict of the story forward.

Of course, thiswork sheet doesn’t cover all genres and types of plots, and it doesn’t account for every question you will need to ask yourself as you write, but it should give you a pretty good foundation to work from, and some interesting things to think about as you discover your plot.


ACT ONE

Introductions: This is the pre-story where we introduce the main character(s) and the world in which they live. Things are relatively normal at this point and the protagonist is busy leading their everyday life. We use this time to introduce the setting for the story and to set up a snapshot of what the character was like before the story happens so that it’s clear at the end how much has changed.

  • Who/What is the protagonist?
  • Who/What are your characters? (It is important to know the kind of people they are and how they got to where they are in the story at this point in order to make their actions/reactions fit their character).
  • What is the place/time/setting of your story?
  • What is the genre?
  • What is the story theme?
  • What will be the opening visual that will draw the reader in?
  • Prior to the opening, what internal or external forces have been at work to make your characters suffer?
  • How are these internal/external forces tied to your character’s initial needs/wants/goals?
  • What does each of your characters want the most right now?
  • What does each of your characters need the most right now?
  • What are each of your character’s current goals both for the immediate and far off future?

The Big Bang: Something happens to throw everything off balance. This event should come as a surprise to the main character that shifts the story into a new direction and makes it clear that the protagonist’s life will never be the same beyond this point. The protagonist should be forced to deal with something they normally wouldn’t have to. It is at this point that the protagonist will meet the other main characters/their future allies/enemies, and possibly, any future love interests.

  • What obstacle or event will change the protagonist’s life forever?
  • What is the protagonist’s ultimate goal, and what is it they desperately want/need?
  • What does the protagonist have to do in order to achieve their goal/get what they want?
  • Why must they do this RIGHT NOW, and what are the consequences if they don’t?
  • What is the payoff if the protagonist reaches their goal?
  • Does the protagonist actively demonstrate a reluctance to change the status quo, and if so, how?
  • Does the protagonist’s refusal to change make the immediate trouble worse, and if so, how?
  • What does the protagonist hope for?
  • What does the protagonist fear?
  • Who are the protagonist’s perceived allies at this point?
  • Who are the protagonist’s perceived enemies at this point?
  • Who are the protagonist’s possible love interests at this point?

The Call to Action: The protagonist makes an action or emotionally-based plan and takes the first steps to cope with the trouble handed to them by The Big Bang. This is a spur of the moment decision based on their previously established wants/needs. It may not be realistic, but they haven’t yet changed enough to make the decision that will ultimately spur them further into the story ahead.

  • Is the call to action in conflict with what the character previously wanted, and if so, why or how?
  • How does the protagonist demonstrate that they don’t really understand the problem at hand, or the severity of the problem presented to them?
  • What makes the protagonist commit to the change ahead of them?
  • What is the main conflict of the story (The biggest challenge that thwarts the character’s main goal)?

The Trouble Gets Worse: Something happens to thwart the protagonist’s plan or make the situation more dire. The stakes get higher and the protagonist does something they wouldn’t have done/been able to do/chosen to do at the beginning of the story.

  • How does the protagonist get past this first threshold and demonstrate that a change in mindset has taken place?
  • Does crossing this first threshold thwart the protagonist’s initial wants/needs/goals, and if so, how?
  • How does crossing this first threshold raise the overall stakes for the protagonist?
  • What spurs on the protagonist’s choice of reaction to this trouble?
  • Who is the antagonist?
  • How is the antagonist introduced or foreshadowed?
  • If the antagonist is only foreshadowed, who is the main minion that appears, and are thy a reoccurring character central to the overall plot?
  • How is the main minion foreshadowed/introduced?

ACT TWO

Conflict Ahead: Act two is all about conflict. This is the character’s physical and emotional journey where they deal with obstacles and challenges, ad actively struggle towards their goal. With each chapter in act two the stakes/tension/conflict should be raised. The character should deal with bouts of hopefulness and disappointment as each obstacle in their way at first seems merely challenging and then is made increasingly more impossible to surpass. These chapters should include unexpected turns of events and reversals of fortune—lots of surprises! Here, betrayals and changes of sides will happen, as well as a definite turn into the romance subplot of the story if it is present. There should be at least three, if not more, problems/challenges in this act for the protagonist to overcome and with each resolution of challenge, another more difficult challenge is presented.

  • Problems: What might get in your character’s way? (Have at least 3)
  • What will your character do to try and get past these problems?
  • What will be the result of the character’s efforts?
  • How will the character’s plans change because of these problems?
  • How will the character change because of the outcome of these conflicts?

New Reality: The protagonist accepts (or is forced to accept) the new status quo and amasses the helpers and resources they will need to help fight in the escalating conflict ahead. They will experiment with the first changes in their character, and will learn to sacrifice or delay getting their wants.

  • Who are the protagonist’s perceived allies at this point?
  • Who are the protagonist’s actual allies at this point?
  • Who are the protagonist’s perceived enemies at this point?
  • Who are the protagonist’s actual enemies at this point?
  • Who is the protagonist’s mentor?
  • What is the antagonist’s overall goal?
  • What is the antagonist’s plan to reach their goal, and how has it changed with each new compromise or defeat?
  • What training/knowledge/experiences are needed for the protagonist to surpass the perceived challenges ahead?
  • How has the protagonist had to prove themselves in order to show that they are ready for the challenges ahead?
  • What must the protagonist do to win over each new ally?
  • What does the protagonist do to gain each new enemy?

The First Failure: The protagonist makes a plan to deal with the conflict as they understand it, but either doesn’t have sufficient understanding of the problem, or isn’t yet willing to make a large enough permanent change/sacrifice/commitment to overcome the challenge. As a result they will make things worse and narrowly escape disaster. The protagonist may feel burdened by this first major loss and will question their ability to reach their goal. This is their first disappointment where they will question their ability to reach their goals.

  • What is the protagonist’s plan to cope with the new reality and get back to their usual world?
  • How do they prepare to put their plan into action?
  • How does the antagonist’s plan thwart the protagonist’s plan?
  • What does the protagonist do in executing their plan that makes the antagonist’s job a little easier?
  • How does the antagonist take advantage of the error?
  • What does the protagonist do in response to the antagonist’s move?
  • How does the protagonist demonstrate heroic or admirable qualities in their response?(This is especially necessary if a mentor provides assistance!)

Burning Bridges: As the stakes get even higher, the protagonist shows that they have changed to o much to go back to the same environment/outlook/cubbyhole where they began the story. They knuckle down and continue training, amassing knowledge and allies, working towards the ordeal ahead.

  • How does the previous attack and subsequent failure increase the overall stakes?
  • How does the protagonist change in response to the previous attack and subsequent failure or near-miss?
  • What does the protagonist now know or understand that they didn’t know/understand before?
  • What is the next perceived challenge, and what does the protagonist plan to do to get past it?
  • Once past the next challenge, what does the protagonist do to foreshadow acceptance of the self-sacrifice that will be necessary?
  • How has the protagonist changed?
  • How has the protagonist demonstrated a greater awareness of their needs/wants/goals?
  • How does the protagonist demonstrate that they have not completely relinquished the desires with which they began the book?

A Second Chance: The second challenge is in sight, which will thrust the story in another unexpected direction. Though previously defeated, the protagonist rallies and again, the goal now seems reachable—though some fears/doubts may still be present. The protagonist will hatch a new plan which now takes the full reality of the situation into account. Now aware of the stakes, the protagonist accepts the real or potential sacrifices to come. They are pushed to the edge of their endurance, resolve, skills, and will struggle to prepare themselves for the upcoming confrontation. There is hope for the upcoming challenge.

  • What does the protagonist do to prepare themselves?
  • How does the protagonist demonstrate courage and determination?
  • Does this new resolve win them any new allies or enemies?
  • What does the protagonist do to demonstrate that they have accepted their participation in this struggle?
  • What tools is the protagonist given in reward to help in the upcoming fight?
  • How is their new resolve/knowledge tested?
  • What propels the protagonist into the test?
  • What hard choices does the protagonist have to make?
  • How does the protagonist break the rules, cross moral lines, compromise their integrity, or otherwise set themselves up for failure?
  • How does the antagonist take advantage of it?
  • What does the protagonist rely on that will fail them?
  • What does the protagonist do to temporary drive the antagonist away?
  • How does the protagonist demonstrate that they have changed?
    How does the protagonist demonstrate a greater awareness of their true needs?
  • How do we know the protagonist hasn’t completely given up on their stated goals?
  • Is there a sense of escalating action?
  • Do any characters betray the protagonist or switch sides in the conflict?
  • What spurred on this betrayal/switching of sides?
  • Is this betrayal/switching of sides genuine, or part of the antagonist’s plan to defeat the protagonist?

The Second Failure: The protagonist encounters the antagonist in “the big ordeal”, engages, and fails spectacularly and unexpectedly. (Possibly due to betrayal).

  • How does the antagonist’s plan manipulate the battle to throw more obstacles into the protagonist’s plan?
  • What shows the protagonist’s rededication to the ordeal?
  • What twist sheds light on a previously misunderstood situation (or otherwise makes the reason for the protagonist’s continual failure clear?)
  • What shortens the timeline or propels them into the battle before they are truly ready?
  • How does the antagonist take advantage of this?
  • How does the protagonist lose allies?
  • How is the protagonist injured?
  • How does the protagonist display heroism and selflessness they didn’t know they had?
  • What does the protagonist do to temporarily drive the antagonist away?
  • How have the stakes changed/increased?

Abandon All Hope: The protagonist is knocked down, wrung out, and is soon to be beyond recovery. They can’t imagine surviving this much pain or loss. What previously seemed like their darkest moment now seems minor in comparison. The protagonist is ready to give up, but they now fully understand the ultimate stakes of the obstacle keeping them from their true goal, and they now understand exactly how difficult their journey towards that goal is. The closest the protagonist will ever come to losing their love interest(s) is at the middle to end of this act.

  • What steps has the protagonist taken towards further understanding or achieving their true need?
  • What new revelations start to make them believe they can’t ultimately win?
  • What new understanding helps the protagonist understand the consequences of losing?
  • What does the protagonist realize they are losing that they cannot bear to lose?
  • What demonstrates their renewed dedication to defeating the antagonist?
  • Why do they do it?
    Does the protagonist give up on the characters who previously betrayed them, or do they try to win them back, and if so, how?
  • Does the protagonist temporarily or permanently lose a love interest, and if so, how/why?
  • If temporary, how is the situation resolved? (This resolution may come during act three).

ACT THREE

Resolution – Planning Ahead: The third act shows how the character is able to succeed or become a better person. The major loose ends of the story are tied up (though not necessarily all of them). Here we see evidence of the changes in the character that have occurred throughout the story, and the character will make their final rally towards reaching their goal.

  • Possible Ending 1: What will happen if my character gets what they want/reaches their goal?
  • Possible Ending 2: What will happen if my character doesn’t get what they want/doesn’t reach their goal?

There’s No Going Back: Finally understand the full consequences of losing, the protagonist decides they cannot live with those consequences. There is no choice but to fight on, no matter the cost. They find a new plan, a new weapon, or a new twist that will arise relating to something they’ve already done that will allow them another, probably futile crack at resolving the major obstacle. The protagonist and their team may be resigned to the sacrifice ahead.

  • What does the protagonist do that will throw away their chance at happiness in favor of pursuing their stated desire and simultaneously fulfilling the task they have accepted?
  • How does the protagonist demonstrate that they understand the magnitude of their loss, but also believe that they have no other choice?
  • Who else understands or pushes the protagonist into making that sacrifice?
  • Does that individual want the same outcome the protagonist and their allies have been fighting toward, or do they have an alternate agenda?
  • If the loss of a love interest is resolved here, how is it resolved?

The Final Showdown: The protagonist rejoins the struggle and attacks the antagonist head on in a gamble for all or nothing. They fight and only one of them will emerge victorious. The other may, possibly, live to fight another day, but their goal has been thwarted for the foreseeable future.

  • En route to the battle, does the protagonist demonstrate any character development that will improve or hinder their ability to fight the antagonist?
  • How has the protagonist changed since the beginning of the book?
  • How does the final battle tie back to something that the protagonist feared or hated in ACT ONE?
  • How do the location and the battle circle back towards the initial conflict?
  • How has the antagonist changed (if at all)?
  • What has the protagonist failed to consider in their battle preparations?
  • How does the antagonist capitalize on this?
  • What surprising revelations or twists emerge during the final battle?
  • Does the protagonist or antagonist lose anything vital to their current or past happiness, and if so, is that loss permanent?
  • If temporary, how does the protagonist or antagonist regain what they’ve lost, and is it during the hero’s return, or in a sequel?

The Hero’s Return: The vision of the new world order, either positive or negative that suggests how things will fare for the protagonist and antagonist after the battle. For any love interests of the protagonist/antagonist, this is where the final decision/outcome is made for the future of their relationship in the foreseeable future.

  • How does the protagonist reunite with their allies?
  • How do they respond
  • How does the protagonist reunite with those they left behind at the very beginning of the book?
    How do they react to the changes in the protagonist?
  • Is there more conflict to come? (a sequel).
  • Is there ultimately potential for a happy ending?
  • Did the protagonist get what they wanted?
  • Did the protagonist get what they needed?
  • Is the overall goal accomplished?
  • If not, what suggests a small hope that it can still be accomplished?
  • What has the protagonist learned?
  • What has the protagonist lost or regained at the end of the book?
  • If the protagonist won the final challenge, what did they lose along the journey to this conclusion, and how did they deal with that loss?
  • Has the protagonist/antagonist come to grips with the status of their love interest(s) during this final sequence, and if so, how?
  • What is the closing visual that will stick in the reader’s mind?

Sources:

Book Review: Blind Wolf Box Set [1-4]

 

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Title: Blind Wolf Box Set (Books 1-4)

Author: Aubrey Rose

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary, Box Set (Anthology)

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Julia has never been on a date in her life. She’s a curvy girl with no money, no education, and no way out of the town she works in as a library assistant… until Damien shows up. He’s just like the prince charming Julia always imagined would sweep her off of her feet. There are just a few things standing in the way of true happiness: he’s blind, he’s dating someone, and he’s WAY out of her league.

Oh, and he’s a werewolf.

Damien lost his eyes two years ago in a wolf battle. Ever since then, the straggler pack of disabled wolves he leads has been searching for a place to call home. One house seems like the perfect choice, but Damien realizes too late that the person who lives there is the girl he met at the library. The human girl. Damien is torn between loyalty to his pack and raw lusting desire for the girl who haunts his dreams day and night.

She’s a human. How could she be his true mate?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I received a copy of this 4-book set on NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It took me awhile to decide how I wanted to go about this review. My first inclination, as with all my reviews, was to split the box-set up into individual books and do separate reviews, as well as an all-encompassing review for the set itself. Unfortunately, after having read the series, I changed my mind. This set of books cannot be separated. They do not stand up on their own. It’s almost as if the author wrote all four books (and I use that term lightly because they’re closer to novellas) in one go as a single book, and then split it into four parts. Personally, I would categorize these books as Episodes of a greater whole. Literally from one book to the next the split between the stories occur sometimes in the middle of conversations that continue on as if there was never a break. If you happened to miss the previous book, any one of these books would be completely incomprehensible.

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty: Technically speaking, the writing in this series of books is well done. It’s clear, concise for the most part, and grammatically correct. There were no missing words, misspelled words, or incorrectly used phrases. The writing is strong and engaging, and that’s most of the reason why this set scored as high as it did. Regardless of what happened in the narrative, I was engaged by the writing, and that’s half the score of any book for me.

Plot-wise, I’ll admit, the books fell short. There were little incidences of conflict throughout the series—such as the introduction of  Trax’s pack, Mara’s possible betrayal, and the obscure leader that took over after Trax—but these bits of tension were just that, bits. There didn’t seem to be an overall arching plot to the series, or the individual books, and the points of tension seemed to be randomly thrown in to drive the stories without having any great outcome on the stories themselves. The conflicts were resolved quickly, and with little effort. There were no quests or motivations that seemed to drive the characters to develop any further than how we originally found them at the beginning of the first book (with the exception of Julia searching out her heritage). There were no great understandings reached about their morality or about other characters.

Now, if you look at Romance being the plot itself, then for the first book, I have no problem. It was your basic romance… boy meets girl, they struggle, and eventually sink into a favorable relationship. I’m okay with that, but for the next three book in the series, the romance seemed to be an ever-present point, but not strong enough to actually be considered a plot. Once the main characters sunk into their relationship, nothing really changed with the relationship. They bickered sometimes, but there was no real threat. So while I’d consider the romance theme an extension of the original book, I don’t think the books had a strong plot behind them once you removed that element.

As for the characters themselves, I had a few issues with them. When the main female lead, Julia, is first introduced, she is a weak, self-doubting character. She’s never had a real relationship, and she’s uncomfortable with her body, so going into a relationship with Damien seems like a pipe-dream to her. I liked this about her original character. However, as the books wore on, this didn’t seem to change much. Julia never seemed to get comfortable with her body image. She was continually doubting the validity of her relationship with Damien. As a character (and this is true of all the characters, not just Julia, but I’m making a point of her) she didn’t grow or gain any depth throughout the series. Julia in book 1 was remarkably like Julia in book 4 with the exception of finally learning her heritage. For all intents and purposes, she didn’t grow  as a character—and that’s something I think is necessary in any novel. As events and conversations happen to a character, they should change. These characters didn’t.

Damien in particular was a sore point for me as well. Like Julia, he didn’t change much throughout the series. Unfortunately, the person he was didn’t present a real clear picture. At times Damien was forceful and angry (even towards Julia), but for the most part, he was a rather weak character. He didn’t lead his pack of werewolves with any sense of real leadership. There was this vague notion that his pack members followed him out of loyalty, but it wasn’t loyalty earned through great deeds so much as circumstance. One wolf had a crush on him. One he’d happened upon as she was dying, another was acquired from another pack. None of them followed him because he seemed to have any real leadership quality, and throughout the books he continually steps away from pursuing the qualities that would make him a strong leader. He runs instead of fights. He doesn’t reprimand pack members when they need to be reprimanded. It’s no surprise to me that he had as much trouble leading them as he did. His control over his pack seemed almost lackadaisical.

Even when Damien got into fights with Julia, he didn’t stand up for himself. Most of the time he whined about the outcome or worried about his own inaction instead. I honestly had a hard time accepting him as an alpha male character because his character was presented for the most part, as being weak. Combine his overall presented character with the odd moments of forcefulness, and it seemed as if the author wasn’t really sure what kind of character she was trying to represent. I didn’t get a strong sense of his personality outside the fact that he reacted to each situation in the stories in a way that would bring the most drama—and this is true of almost any character within the book.

The other characters, mostly members of Damien’s pack, seemed rather 1-dimensional. The books never got far into their personalities, or even spent much time on them at all until Damien had a reason to order one of them to do something. Other than Jordan, Damien’s right hand wolf, I honestly came away from the series not knowing all that much about any of the characters. There was very little backstory given, and hardly any conversations that lead to a deeper understanding of the characters at all.

As for the sex…it was steamy. It was also a bit overblown. Julia was constantly shouting “Oh!” or “Ah!”, or talking about how big parts of Damien’s anatomy were, and there came a point where I just sat back and shook my head. Sex happened all the time in this series. Literally, and regardless of the actual storyline. It felt as if sex were being thrown into the book at regular intervals to fill space. It happened before arguments, after arguments, during arguments… even when certain individuals were injured and sex would have been ridiculously uncomfortable or inappropriate during the situation. These moments didn’t seem to serve to bring the characters together, and so it almost felt as if they were fan service in a way. With the exception of when sex actually served to cause pregnancy or cement their relationship in the first place, most of it could have been completely removed from the series with no impact on the story whatsoever.

I think out of the four books, the first was probably my favorite, and the fourth was probably the most irrelevant. Honestly, in the first several chapters of the fourth book, nothing happened. The characters sat around and discussed poetry, motherhood, and how much they didn’t enjoy college, but nothing actually happened. If I hadn’t already invested four hours into the series at that point, I’d probably have closed the book. In my opinion (and take that as you will) the main interest of the plot fell between book 1 and book 2. After that, it felt as if the series were dragging. Now, that’s not to say that all the points in the last two books weren’t good. I really enjoyed the mystery of the werewitch, the strengthening of the bond between Julia and Damien, and the pureblood werewolf subplot. I think those were excellent story points, and I really wish the author had spent more time developing them. Unfortunately, these incidences were barely explained. After four books, I still can’t explain to you who the werewitch was, why she was different than the other werewolves, or what her interest in Julia was.

I think this series had a lot of potential to be something bigger than it was, but for whatever reason, the way the overall story was split up and manipulated really hurt the series as a whole. I wish this had been one book, and that the tension points and plot points that were brought up had been delved into further. As it stands, it was a bit of a lack-luster read. Would I read it again? No, I probably wouldn’t. Would I recommend it? Honestly, probably not. It’s not that the series was horrible, but I walked away from it without any passionate feelings on it at all. It wasn’t bad enough for me to hate it, but it wasn’t good enough for me to want to continue either—and that’s why I gave this three stars (and that was rounding up). It fell right into the lower middle of the rating system for me with an “it was okay.” I think there are certainly people out there that will enjoy this series much more than I did, and I would like to take a moment to commend the author for having chosen to represent her characters the way she did. It’s not often you find a series where the main cast are as intrinsically flawed as these were. There was an overweight virgin, a blind werewolf, a gay werewolf, and some formerly-abused werewolves. I’m glad to see that not all, or even most, of the characters were perfect. It was a nice change.

Book Review: Found

 

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Title: Found [The Crescent Chronicles 3]

Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy

Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Urban

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Levi might be hot, strong, and have a cool set of wings, but it’s not enough to make up for keeping Allie in the dark.

Allie’s tired of being left with more questions than answers. She’s tired of loving a guy who refuses to level with her. Most of all, she’s tired of her life spinning out of control.

Desperate to save Jess no matter the personal cost, Allie has to face the possibility that the only one she can trust is herself.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I think out of the three books in this series, Found is possibly my favorite, though it’s hard to explain why. Like the previous books, this one followed a very similar pattern to me of what did and did not work. The technical side of the writing was well-paced and well-written. I didn’t notice any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation mistakes, and the whole book kept a pretty even, jaunty pace throughout. I didn’t feel rushed, and I didn’t feel bogged down.

Like it’s predecessors, it did lack a bit of detail. The author has this somewhat frustrating penchant for never describing the atmosphere and visual aspects of any of the locals in these books. Instead, it seems the smallest, most irrelevant things (like the dresses that at this point we know are always going to be short and red) usually hog all the descriptive detail. I’ve gotten used to it over the course of the trilogy, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my displeasure.

As for the world building: we’re still talking bare bones. The world the author has painted for us in the Crescent Chronicles is one that I feel had a lot of potential. There’s this ominous court of supernaturals and an unfathomable hierarchy of creatures and royalty that is never truly explained. I would have loved to see the world filled out a little more, because I think given some more time, the author could have made it truly spectacular, but as it stands, the supernatural aspect of these books feels almost like a side-note to the true core of this story: the characterization.

The characters of this trilogy are truly the high-point of the author’s abilities. Regardless of the sometimes sickeningly sweet dialogue between the main couple, for the most part, the characters act with a great deal of depth and believability throughout this series. They aren’t always rational, pleasant, or smart people, but they act as I’d expect any true person to act. They are fallible and likeable—and that is a great indicator of the author’s writing ability.

I really enjoyed the dynamics of the character’s relationships this time around. Unlike the first two books, I didn’t feel quite as frustrated with Allie and Levi’s relationship—though I will admit that I was a bit creeped out by the fact he knew what she was and never said anything. Seriously, can the guy not act like an ass for once? Still, I was happy to see the couple going strong, and I really enjoyed getting the chance to get to know some of the other characters better in this installment to the series.

I will say: The sex scenes didn’t get any better—and believe me, there are a ton of them in this story. It’s odd to me that the author would include so many sex scenes and yet every single one of them feels incomplete and glossed over. They aren’t steamy in the slightest, in fact, for the most part, huge sections of the scenes are skipped over. It’s as if the author leads up with the urgency for the act, goes through the motions of stripping the characters down, and then POOF, it’s the end and they’re talking about how awesome it is. I want to see the awesome! I don’t know if the author is uncomfortable with the sex scenes (which seems silly considering how many scenes there are) or if she simply isn’t good at writing them. Regardless, they certainly left something to be desired, and didn’t improve even this far into the series.

That aside, I really enjoyed the book. There was a lot more action, mystery, and thrills involved in this installment that kept me enthralled right up until the very end, and I enjoyed nearly every moment of it. It was nice to see Allie finally stepping up and showing some of that kick-ass attitude I always suspected she had, and while the ending was a little overly mushy for my tastes, I was happy with how the issue of the throne resolved itself between the three contenders.

Would I read this again? Certainly. Though I didn’t expect to, I really enjoyed the series. Would I recommend it? Without a doubt. I know I’ll be watching out for more of the author’s work. I would like to say though: If you really want to enjoy this series, you can’t expect to go into these stories thinking of this like your typical paranormal romance. If you do, you’ll be disappointed. The strength in this series lies with the characterizations of the characters, not necessarily in the world building or the sexy bits like most novels in these genre’s. I think with an open mind, it could be very easy to enjoy this series…just leave your preconceptions at the door.

Book Review: Clockwork Princess [Infernal Devices 3]

 

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Title: Clockwork Princess [The Infernal Devices 3]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Paranormal, Steampunk, Historical

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

London 1873 shape-shifter Tessa Gray 16 is engaged to Jem Carstairs 17, dying of addiction to demon drug, all bought up by evil Mortmain. The “clockwork prince” controls an army of automatons to abduct Tess, kill the Shadowhunters, and blackmail Charlotte Branwell, head of London Institute. Will and Tessa hide their love, for love of Jem.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Absolutely beautiful. The Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare is a masterfully written end to a trilogy that will remain on my keeper shelf for years to come. It seems that often these days authors are pushed to extend series well past their breaking point, adding book after book as long as there are readers to buy them. It’s a growing trend that often leads to a drawn-out meandering death for a series–and though I dearly love the characters in the Infernal Devices Trilogy, I think there could have been no better point at which to end it.

Just as with the first two books, the narrative was expertly written to be clear and fluid. I sunk into the world as if it were the only one that existed and didn’t come up for air until the last page was turned. I never felt rushed or prodded along. I never felt the need to roll my eyes, or frustrated, throw the book at a wall (as I often do with YA fiction). This series was truly beautifully written, and in my opinion, even better than Ms. Clare’s other series: The Mortal Instruments. I simply could not get enough of these books.

This addition to the series was both heartbreaking and endearing. I will admit that I nearly broke into tears near the end. It was tragic, and yet full of hope in the final pages of the book, and it felt like I were seeing old friends again as the story wound down and began to close the gaps in the both series with small tidbits and glimpses into what became of the characters. I refuse to give spoilers to this series because I want everyone to experience it as I did. I was pleasantly surprised by Tessa’s actions in the final battle with the Infernal Devices, and surprised again at how the story closed out, but endlessly grateful for the choices the author made in wrapping up the series.

I finally learned to love the secondary characters, even weak Henry and musical Bridget (I finally learned her name and remembered it!) who filled the pages with endless sonnets of tragedy and death. It’s going to be a long time before I find another series I love as much as I did this.

I would highly recommend this series to anyone who even remotely likes Cassandra Clare’s work. Even if you just vaguely enjoyed the Mortal Instruments, I think you’ll love this series. It is so much better, and so much less frustrating–and if you haven’t read her other work, pick it up anyways. It is F A N T A S T I C.

Book Review: Bluebonnet Bride

cover-bluebonnetbrideTitle: Bluebonnet Bride [Men of Stone Mountain Book 3]

Author: Caroline Clemmons

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: He’s a by-the-book Texas sheriff; she’s on the run from a murder conviction…

When a tornado provides Rosalyn with the opportunity to escape the gallows, she collects her daughter Lucy and flees. They travel far enough West that Rosalyn believes she’s gone to the ends of the earth. She hopes she and Lucy will be safe in this remote North Texas town where she embarks on a new life as a dressmaker. If only she could avoid contact with people, especially the handsome sheriff who pops up every time she turns around. She fears either she or her chatterbox daughter may slip and reveal too much.

Joel Stone has been content with his life, even if it’s not the one he’d dreamed. His younger brothers are married and living nearby, his aunts have moved to Radford Springs, and he is respected for the efficient job he does as sheriff. When he meets the new widow in town, his instant attraction staggers him. She appears uninterested, but he is determined to win her hand in marriage.

But life doesn’t turn out the way either Rosalyn or Joel plan. They overcome temporary obstacles, but what of the secret she protects? Can he save her from the gallows?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Once again, let’s start with the cover:  it’s another cut and paste job, only this time it’s super-obvious. The white background behind the model can still be found like a halo around her head. Unfortunately, she’s also a completely different model (and much older) than the one represented on the back cover…. and despite the fact that they’re supposed to be living in historical times, they both have massive amounts of makeup on. Sigh.

That being said, like the book before it, I found this one to be a bit of a mixed bag. It’s clear, easy to follow, and interesting… the plot is a good one: woman escapes from nearly being hung for a crime she didn’t commit, and finds herself fleeing to the middle of nowhere and falling in love with a member of the law who at any moment may discover her deep dark secret. It’s a good premise. Unfortunately, like the other books in the series, the characters lacked a sense of depth, and the events in the book were a little too convenient to be believable.

I think my least favorite character was probably Joel. Here’s this guy who’s a Texas sheriff, seems to have his life pretty much well in order – he takes care of his brothers, he’s good in the community, and he has a big ole house he’s working on renovating. He obviously had all his ducks in a row and was a responsible, level-headed guy. Right? Except nearly the moment he meets Rosalyn and her daughter Lucy, he’s smitten. We’re talking full-out puppy-love where he practically invites himself into her company and goes all gooey-eyed. He acted like a 40-yr-old virgin, desperate for affection. It wasn’t endearing, and it wasn’t sweet, it was roll-your-eyes “are you serious?”.

Rosalyn, on the other hand, was probably one of my favorite characters, because she looked at Joel pretty much the same way I did “Really? Back off dude.” All she wanted to do was raise her daughter in anonymity, and run her struggling dress-shop. She was a hard worker, practical, and cautious. It fit her situation, and I loved her for it.  Unfortunately, circumstances were against her, and it seemed that at every turn, something drastically awful was happening to her. It started with a hurricane that leveled the jail she was waiting in (though didn’t harm her), then the fire… that burned her dress shop and endangered her daughter’s room, but didn’t harm anyone in the family, and she was able to salvage some of her shop-equipment/materials, thereby forcing her to move in with the sheriff. Like I said, it all seemed just a little too convenient.

Also, I think the secondary characters were a bit too much like props, and too little like actual people. They all either seemed to love Rosalyn and Lucy, or they hated their guts and wanted them crushed. They showed up for brief mentions here and there, but really didn’t have much impact on the story (even when it was obvious the author was using them to drive the plot… like the angry school teacher that burned down Rosalyn’s house). I found their hatred of her to be very manufactured.  It was a convenient way to make events happen, but the attempt at tension fell flat for me.

So did I like the story? Yah. I did. It was a fun afternoon read, and while it wasn’t “great writing”, it did hold my interest, and there’s something to be said for that. Would I recommend it to other people? Maybe if they needed a book to read at the doctor’s office… but I don’t think I’d be shoving the book in their hands shouting “READ THIS!”. If you like sweet, happy-ending historical romances, then give this a try. It’s cute, and it’s a great afternoon read.

Free Fiction Friday #3

Yup, it’s that time again: Friday! Which means more free books for you to enjoy over the weekend. All of these boks are currently 100% free on Amazon, so grab them while you can. They’re all 4+ Stars in rating.

This week I’ll be sharing some YA Horror:

ImageScary Mary – Mary just wants to be left alone, but the cheerleaders, jocks, guidance counselors, and ghosts won’t stop harassing her. When a new boy starts school, he surprises Mary by befriending her. That’s a rare thing for the school freak, but her unusual abilities put a rift in their budding friendship when Mary has to tell Shy that his home is haunted and not by Casper, the friendly ghost. Mary has to get rid of the ghost, thwart the school bully, do her homework, and not get detention. Mary’s sure she can do all of that except for the last part.

 

 

 

ImageThe Deepest Cut [MacKinnon Curse 1] – Sixteen-year-old Riley Williams has been able to see ghosts since the car crash that took her mother’s life and shattered her family. Guilt-ridden over the belief that she’s somehow responsible for her mom’s death, Riley is desperate to see her mother’s elusive spirit to gain her forgiveness.

When her father moves the family to Scotland so they can all start over, Riley believes her life couldn’t get worse––that is until the ghost of nineteen-year-old Ian MacKinnon catches her purposely cutting herself. An uneasy truce quickly turns into friendship, and soon Riley’s falling hard for Ian.

Riley believes her gift could help Ian end the curse that has kept him tied to the land for centuries, but that would mean letting him go forever and she’s not sure she is strong enough to do that. As if her life wasn’t complicated enough, the spirit of the woman who killed Ian returns and she’ll stop at nothing to keep Riley from helping Ian find eternal peace.

 

ImageDarkhouse [Experiment In Terror 1] – Enter the world of the highly-acclaimed Experiment in Terror Series by visiting…the Darkhouse:

There’s always been something a bit off about Perry Palomino. Though she’s been dealing with a quarter-life crisis and post-college syndrome like any other twenty-something, she’s still not what you would call “ordinary.” For one thing, there’s her past which she likes to pretend never happened, and then there’s the fact that she sees ghosts.

Luckily for her, that all comes in handy when she stumbles across Dex Foray, an eccentric producer for an upcoming webcast on ghost hunters. Even though the show’s budget is non-existent and Dex himself is a maddening enigma, Perry is instantly drawn into a world that both threatens her life and seduces her with a sense of importance. Her uncle’s haunted lighthouse provides the perfect catalyst and backdrop for a mystery that unravels the threads of Perry’s fragile sanity and causes her to fall for a man, who, like the most dangerous of ghosts, may not be all that he seems.

 

ImageGravity [Gravity 1] – A lost friend, a new love, and a town full of secrets… One night in the town of Hell, Ariel’s best friend goes missing. Those around her believe Jenna ran away, but when Ariel is tormented by nightmares and paranormal activity, she realizes Jenna’s disappearance was part of a bigger mystery. Ariel’s obsession with haunted houses and horror movies makes her the perfect detective.

But to complicate matters, a handsome newcomer named Henry Rhodes plagues her with unwanted attention. Though he doesn’t believe in the supernatural events, she enlists his help and that of quirky nerd Theo. What is making the lights at school flicker? And why did Ariel dream of the old abandoned Dexter orphanage? When Ariel finally discovers the truth, it’s much worse than she ever feared.

 

ImageSophie’s Secret [Whispers 1] – After shedding 30 pounds of baby fat, Sophie Sinora has grown into a pretty, but insecure, teen in bloom. To make her life more complicated, Sophie can sometimes read minds.

Sophie’s BFFs, AJ and Krysta, are also ‘gifted’ with paranormal abilities. Keeping their gifts secret proves difficult, as their powers are strengthening, making them feel more and more like freaks.

When Sophie falls for Jacob, she hopes he’ll ask her out to the Freshman Formal. But when she’s forced to cheat and lie for him, she wonders how far she’ll have to go to make him like her. Add to her growing list of problems – her teacher’s suicidal thoughts, a locker bully who wants to kick her butt, the hot school flirt who won’t stop teasing her, her pregnant sister who boots Sophie out of her room, and the growing tension between Sophie and her best friends.

Sophie’s got issues. Hopefully, she can fix them in time to save her teacher’s life and her social life.

 

ImageBeautiful Demons [Peachville High Demons 1] – Harper Madison isn’t like other girls. She has extraordinary powers, but her inability to control them has gotten her kicked from so many foster homes she’s lost count. Shadowford Home is her last chance, and she hopes Peachville High will be the fresh start she needs. But when evidence ties her to the gruesome murder of a Demons cheerleader, Harper discovers this small town has a big secret.

 

 

 

 

ImageBound [Arelia LaRou 1] – Sixteen year old Arelia LaRue lives in New Orleans where the music is loud, voodoo queens inhabit every street corner, and the ghosts are alive and well. Despite her surroundings, all she wants is to help her Grand-mere Bea pay the rent and save up for college.

When her best friend Sabrina convinces her to take a well-paying summer job at the infamous Darkwood plantation, owned by the wealthy LaPlante family, Arelia agrees.

However, at Darkwood strange things start to happen, and gorgeous Lucus LaPlante insists that he needs her help. Soon, the powers that Arelia has been denying all her life, come out to play and she discovers mysteries about herself that she could have never imagined.

 

ImageBrightest Kind of Darkness [BKoD 1] – Nara Collins is an average sixteen-year-old, with one exception: every night she dreams the events of the following day. Due to an incident in her past, Nara avoids using her special gift to change fate…until she dreams a future she can’t ignore.

After Nara prevents a bombing at Blue Ridge High, her ability to see the future starts to fade, while people at school are suddenly being injured at an unusually high rate.

Grappling with her diminishing powers and the need to prevent another disaster, Nara meets Ethan Harris, a mysterious loner who seems to understand her better than anyone. Ethan and Nara forge an irresistible connection, but as their relationship heats up, so do her questions about his dark past.

 

ImageThe Medium [Emily Chambers Spirit Medium 1] – Seventeen year-old spirit medium Emily Chambers has a problem. Actually, she has several. As if seeing dead people isn’t a big enough social disadvantage, she also has to contend with an escaped demon and a handsome ghost with a secret past. And then there’s the question of her parentage. Being born an entire year after her father’s death (yes, a year) and without the pale skin of other respectable English ladies, Emily is as much a mystery as the dead boy assigned to her.

Jacob Beaufort’s spirit has been unable to crossover since his death. It might have something to do with the fact he was murdered. Or it might not. All he knows is, he has been assigned by the Otherworld’s administrators to a girl named Emily. A girl who can see and touch him. A girl who released a shape-shifting demon into the mortal realm. Together they must send the demon back before it wreaks havoc on London. It should be a simple assignment, but they soon learn there’s nothing simple when a live girl and a dead boy fall in love.

 

ImageDark Matter Heart [DMH Vampire Trilogy 1] – A new town. A new school. A new beginning. Seventeen year-old Cordell Griffin and his mother move from Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest to deal with his “allergies,” and start a healthier new life. Cor has one goal: To blend in and be invisible. Unfortunately for him, no matter how far he goes, he can’t run away from his secrets. Secrets about who he is. Secrets about why he’s sick. And secrets about why so many people he meets end up dead, drained of blood.