Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: Die For Me by Amy Plum

First up, a major thank you to Jodie over at Books For Company for sending me this when I won a contest for her blogversary. It's taken me a while to get to it, but that certainly wasn't for a lack of wanting to.

Anyway, with that said ... how many of you knew coming into this review how much I wanted to read Die For Me? I bet a few people are nodding their heads with that. Die For Me really intrigued me. I love anything to do with zombies; especially when an author creates their own system of rules. The gorgeous cover made the book pretty hard to ignore. I love books that take place in parts of the world I've never been, so the Paris setting also had my attention. And I'd heard this is a great love story. So with that said, I doubt it was a surprise to anyone that I wanted to read this.

Did it measure up, though? My expectations, my hopes, my dreams for this book were absolutely earth shattering and sky high. Well, I'll tell you this. Die For Me wasn't perfect, but it was a book that I did enjoy despite its flaws. Read on and I'll do my best to explain.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
My life had always been blissfully, wonderfully normal. But it only took one moment to change everything.

Suddenly, my sister, Georgia, and I were orphans. We put our lives into storage and moved to Paris to live with my grandparents. And I knew my shattered heart, my shattered life, would never feel normal again. Then I met Vincent.

Mysterious, sexy, and unnervingly charming, Vincent Delacroix appeared out of nowhere and swept me off my feet. Just like that, I was in danger of losing my heart all over again. But I was ready to let it happen.

Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Because Vincent is no normal human. He has a terrifying destiny, one that puts his life at risk every day. He also has enemies . . . immortal, murderous enemies who are determined to destroy him and all of his kind.

While I'm fighting to piece together the remnants of my life, can I risk putting my heart--as well as my life and my family's--in jeopardy for a chance at love?

To me, Die For Me was three things. It was a pretty decent supernatural tale about beings called Revenants. It was a story about coming to terms with loss and realizing that even when people die, you must keep living. And it was, of course, a love story. One of these things it covered exceedingly, excruciatingly well. The other two ranged, at least for me, from being 'good' to being just 'passable'. 

The lore for the Revenants and Numa is very interesting and I think that Any Plum did a fantastic job developing it and letting the reader discover it with Kate throughout the book. I was very interested in this part of the story and thought that it was all very well thought out and fairly original. I also thought that the concept of the Numa, to balance the Revenants, was interesting and relatively scary. 

With that said, I had two issues with the action plot of the book. Issue one was that I saw everything coming. In one sense this isn't terrible and it made me grin from time to time. The feeling of "Oh, yes! That is exactly what I would have had happen!" can be a very fun experience as a writer who is reading. Yet at the same time, when that happens too often it takes some of the edge away from the book. This clearly isn't something that is within Amy Plum's control, but it happened a lot more here then it normally does so I am noting it. 

My other huge issue with this aspect of the plot -- and this one really carries through all the various plot arcs, actually -- is that Kate is a very passive character. I understood that in the beginning with what happened to her and how she was trying to heal. But it happens in multiple ways in her romance with Vincent. And the way that the final conflict goes down at the end of the book was, to me at least, totally and utterly disappointing. Everything I hope *not* to see in a paranormal book marketed to teenage girls. There is so much that I could say about this aspect of Die For Me because it really bothered me, but for the sake of spoilers I'm just going to leave it at that. Bad, bad, bad. I hope that the 'gift' Kate gets at the end of the book in the jewelry box gets put to *very good use* in the next book, because her "actions" in this book were pretty much non-existent. 

While I did not get as strong a world building vibe in regard to Paris from this as I did for it in Anna and the French Kiss (or for India in Tiger's Curse for that matter) I still think that the level of description and detail were solid and that they did enhance my enjoyment of what was going on, rather then bogging it down. Overall, Die For Me was a quick and light read and aside from one part of the novel, where Kate is trying to figure out something about Vincent (and does a few dumb things where I wanted to hurl the book...) I pretty much couldn't put it down despite any personal or ethical quarrels I might have now that I've finished it. 

The Characters: 

Kate was a likable character and narrator for the most part, but as I said above she had a tendency to be either very passive about things, or to decide things that could easily go under the "too stupid to live" label. (And I don't use that one lightly or liberally and anyone who reads my reviews regularly can vouch for that...) There is a lot about Kate and Vincent ... from their relationship, to his interest in her, to their 'connection' that is not made fully clear throughout the book, which made it hard for me to relate to or root for her at various points in the story. I either didn't understand her reasoning, felt that her reaction to a situation was unbelievable, or felt that she was wasting her time and energy.

That leads to my next problem. I did not feel that Vincent was a consistent character. There are a few saving graces here ... namely that the book is written in first person from one POV which makes a character with a situation like his hard to write that way, and the fact that he is suppose to be so much older and have been through the things that he has. Still, it does not take away the fact that as a romantic lead he rang hollow for me. I couldn't connect with him. I didn't want to be with him (which isn't a good sign) but even more critically important I wavered continually about whether I wanted Kate to be with him. That's a kiss of death. 

The rest of the characters were alright, although I must say that I felt there were possibly a couple more Revenants then necessary, to the point where Jules, Ambrose, Gerrard, Vincent and Charles all started to blend together. (Yes, I mean that exactly as I wrote it...) Looking at the book as a whole I can *now* see why they were all there. But still ... while reading it felt like a bit of character overload.

I thought that Georgia and Kate's grandparents were alright, but aside from Mamie letting her have a sleep over at Vincent's and what seemed a hint that her grandfather knew something that I either misread or that was never elaborated on their involvement didn't seem overly deep. (Always a shame -- I like family involvement in YA.) 

The Romance: 

I did not understand what was compelling Kate and Vincent to be together. I can see on Kate's end that she thinks he's hot. But that by itself isn't enough. His behavior toward her is erratic enough in the beginning that I couldn't understand how there ended up being a middle or an end. As the relationship continues she goes through many ups and downs with what she discovers about him and how she feels about being close to people after her parents' deaths. (I will say that this part was well done.) 

As for Vincent, it's never clear to the reader what he sees in Kate, who seems very bookish and quiet and tame. There is clearly some type of supernatural connection between the characters as the book progresses, but so far as book one of this series is concerned we never get to see what it is -- and thus, more importantly, what it's role on the romance is. Does Vincent like Kate, or is he drawn to something about or within her that is beyond her control? The fact that we never figure this out and the relationship seems legitimately solid at the end of the book both puzzled me and annoyed me. If I was in Kate's shoes I would be trying to figure this out in a big way. It would really bother me.

The unfortunate truth for me, based on this, is that I was not satisfied with the romance between these two because I was never fully certain -- never felt that I was shown -- that it was true and genuine and that it came from them rather then from some external or internal force beyond their control. 

In General:

Wow. I just went back and read everything I've said and I came down on this book pretty hard. The thing is -- it's a good enough book. It's a page turner, it has some original ideas, it kept my interest. But when I come to a paranormal romance I expect two things: (1) a good love story and (2) a heroine *and* hero doing something kickass to protect or save their world. (Whether on a huge scale or a small one.) Die For Me dropped the ball on both accounts. The romance fell flat for me. As I said above, I never felt certain how these characters actually felt -- or perhaps more importantly I never felt certain that what they felt were actually their feelings. 

And I think that saying passive heroine speaks for itself. And please, if you really want to know e-mail me or something. I want to talk about that part of it so bad because Kate may be the most passive heroine (as far as how she figures into *her* story's climax) that I have ever encountered in a book I've finished. That's how strongly I feel about that. 

If you are at all interested in Die For Me, it is certainly worth a read. there is some good stuff here. But there are also some serious problems. Am I planning to read If I Die? Absolutely. I have to admit, in the name of all fairness, that both of my major issues could be addressed in a sequel and there's enough good here that I want to see if that will happen. I wish I had liked this more then I did, but the truth is the truth. Die for Me is "good" but I think it could have been much, much "better". 


5 comments:

  1. predictable and passive...hmm not sure I want both in a story. Great review! maybe a library book :)

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  2. Great review Kathy! I just finished this one 2 days ago ;) I agree with most of your review though I think I enjoyed it a bit more. I really loved the setting and the characters but I thought the romance wasn't as passionate as it was supposed to be. Glad you enjoyed it though!

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  3. I was planning on reading this book beause of the setting. I agree with Kimba88 this is probably a book I'll look for at the library !

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