ARC Review: Denton Little's Still Not Dead by Lance Rubin

review         book

Book Covertitle: Denton Little's Still Not Dead
author: Lance Rubin
pages: 352
format: Paperback
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 3.5/5 (from hated to loved) or 6.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Spindle by E.K. Johnston, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, and stuff about assassins.
You only live once—unless you’re Denton Little!

The good news: Denton Little has lived through his deathdate. Yay! The bad news: He’s being chased by the DIA (Death Investigation Agency), he can never see his family again, and he may now die any time. Huh. Cheating death isn’t quite as awesome as Denton would have thought…

Lance Rubin’s debut novel, Denton Little’s Deathdate, showed readers just how funny and poignant imminent death could be. Now in this sequel, he takes on the big questions about life. How do we cope, knowing we could die at any time? Would you save someone from dying even if they were a horrible person? Is it wrong to kiss the girl your best friend is crushing on if she’s really into you instead? What if she’s wearing bacon lip gloss?

in depth

  • After laughing my way through Denton Little's Deathdate, I was thrilled when Knopf asked if I wanted to review the sequel.  Denton Little's Still Not Dead is just as hysterical as its predecessor, with even more teenage awkwardness, even stronger plotting, and the perfect blend of poignancy and ridiculousness.  

  • Denton is alive.  He's got a virus that somehow helped him survive his pre-determined death date.  And now he's on the run from the Death Investigation Agency, who's pretty furious that he gamed the system.  Oh, and a lot of people think he actually died.  Like his family.  

  • Rubin turns this hilarious set-up into a dark comedy gem with his authentic, earnest prose.  Denton's voice shouts boldly from every page, with prose that's clever but not convoluted.  Just a paragraph gives you a clear feel for Denton's personality.  He's awkward, witty, and undeniably eighteen.  He laughs at his own jokes and thinks about sex.  He's frequently an idiot, but you can't help rooting for him anyway.  

  • He's surrounded by an equally vibrant supporting cast:  a punny, hyper best friend; a guarded girl who might or might not be his girlfriend; a friend-who's-a-girl with a gift for awkward candor; a radicalized scientist mother who vacillates between passionate and a little terrifying.  Even the bit characters are interesting, like the exaggeratedly-Russian Lars who finds humor in the mundane. 

  • In case you can't tell, it's a book that doesn't take itself too seriously.  There are coincidences and narrow escapes.  There's ridiculousness.  There's a car going the wrong way down a New York alley and somehow not getting wrecked.  But these otherwise plot holes and contrivances fit so well with the novel's over-the-top gentle satire.  Rubin has cleverly crafted a world in which death is predictable, and everything from the funeral industry to reality TV is shaped by it.  

  • For a book about death, it's remarkably funny.  However, Rubin doesn't shy away from a few notes of seriousness.  Denton questions his role in the future of deathdates.  The moral and ethical implications of saving someone else.  The trade-off between being prepared and being surprised for the bitter end.  The impending death of his best friend.  His inability to save everyone.  Rubin tackles these questions with a light overtone that pushes without becoming too dark. 

  • All in all, it's not the kind of book that's going to win awards.  But it'd make one hell of a movie.  Cinematic, preposterous, and side-splittingly funny, it rounds out the Denton duology with a decided bang.  

        in a sentence

        Cinematic, preposterous, and side-splittingly funny, Denton Little's Still Not Dead is a zingy end to a clever duology.  


        will i read this author again?  Definitely! 
        will i continue the series?  I think it's over, but let's be real. I'd read more. 

        Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


        ARC Review: Poison's Kiss by Breeana Shields

        review         book

        Book Covertitle: Poison's Kiss
        author: Breeana Shields
        pages: 304
        format: Kindle ARC
        buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
        rating: 2/5 (from hated to loved) or 3.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
        recommended for: Fans of Spindle by E.K. Johnston, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, and stuff about assassins.
        A teenage assassin kills with a single kiss until she is ordered to kill the one boy she loves. This commercial YA fantasy is romantic and addictive like-- a poison kiss-- and will thrill fans of Sarah J. Maas and Victoria Aveyard.

        Marinda has kissed dozens of boys. They all die afterward. It's a miserable life, but being a visha kanya, a poison maiden, is what she was created to do. Marinda serves the Raja by dispatching his enemies with only her lips as a weapon.

        Until now, the men she was ordered to kiss have been strangers, enemies of the kingdom. Then she receives orders to kiss Deven, a boy she knows too well to be convinced he needs to die. She begins to question who she s really working for. And that is a thread that, once pulled, will unravel more than she can afford to lose.

        This rich, surprising, and accessible debut is based in Indian folklore and delivers a story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

        in depth

        • Overall, Poison's Kiss just wasn't a win for me.  It started strong with an interesting premise and intriguing opening, but the plot dragged out, fell flat, and delved into some ridiculous territory.  By the end, I was reading it to finish it.  It wasn't painful, but I could have stopped at any time and been none the worse. 

        • This was my first exposure to visha kanyas, poison maidens who kill with touch, so that part was fascinating. I loved that it was inspired by Hindu legend--a welcome diversion from the glut of western fantasy on the market!  I loved the exploration of Marinda's ambivalence towards her work: it's necessary to safeguard her brother, but the uncertainty of her victims' guilt is maddening.  These aspects gave depth to a fantasy assassin tale. 

        • The characters themselves were solid, but not overly memorable.  Marinda reads as a typically standard fantasy heroine, Deven as the standard strong, clever love interest.  Marinda's friend and employer are much sharper and more interesting than the main characters, who fall into pretty bland heroic types.  I wanted more punch.  More personality.  Less flailing and less acting for plot convenience rather than realism.  

        • The writing was similarly solid but unremarkable.  Shields turns a number of pretty phrases and her dialogue is believable enough. However, there was nothing to catch my eye, nothing that transported me.  Mechanically sound but lacking the atmosphere that makes words into art.  

        • Mediocre writing can suffice if the plot is exciting enough, but Marinda's story lost my interest.  Reading was almost a chore by the end.  You have a good sense of what will probably happen.  Many of the twists are predictable, or so unpredictable because they don't seem to follow from any internal logic.  The final twist could have been interesting--it certainly stoked my interest a little--but it was too late.  

        • Finally, there was the matter of the world.  No outsider can compete with the lush #OwnVoices alternate-India of a Roshani Chokshi, but there's a vast gulf between Poison's Kiss and The Star-Touched Queen.  If you've read Chokshi, you can see immediately where Shields' world is lacking.  It's thin.  It's like the cardboard cutout of Aladdin with a few Indian myths draped over a generic European medieval court.  She certainly made an effort with characteristic foods and plausible names, and her research into Hindu folklore is evident, but even if her world were not India-inspired at all, it would still feel like naked scaffolding.  There aren't the hints of depth that fill out a fantasy world: the politics, food, religion, language, scenery, customs.  All the way through, I felt unmoored.  

        • All in all, it was an okay book.  I don't regret reading it.  I didn't grit my teeth through it like some monstrously painful review books.  It was fluff, mildly entertaining and quickly passed over.  Other people will undoubtedly adore the charms I missed, but this one just wasn't for me.  

        • For reviews by people who share the book's cultural heritage, Rashika and Mishma offer two differing perspectives. 

              in a sentence

              Poison's Kiss is a fantasy with a compelling premise but not enough substance to bear out the promise of the set-up.  


              will i read this author again?  Maybe, if I heard good things about her next one 
              will i continue the series?  Probably not. I'm not even curious about what happens, which is never a good sign. 

              Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


              Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books with romances that won't make you want to hurl

              top ten tuesday                lurve

              Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

              Want to help support your broke blogger so she can host more giveaways and give swankier prizes?  Click the book covers.  If you like the book and choose to purchase it from Amazon, a little bit of the proceeds goes to Sarcasm & Lemons!   

              No sugar-sap or insta-love here, my friends     

              c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten

              History is All You Left Me - Adam Silvera 

              Adam manages to make you fall in love with like FOUR different pairings between three boys--and a few extra, just to snag the heartstrings.  He makes you love a love that's impossible (and you're rooting for it, even remembering one member is dead) and then makes you love something new and hopeful. He makes you love life. 

              All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven 

              Finch and Violet are eternal OTP. Their affection grows out of shared experiences and shared understanding.  It's messy and complicated and tragically beautiful. It's real. 
              A Crown of Wishes - Roshani Chokshi 

              The chemistry between Vikram and Gauri is scalding.  There's snarky banter, genuine understanding, two people lifting each other up. And it's embedded in a mystical fantasy plot because THEY HAVE OTHER STUFF GOING ON YO. 

              Something Strange and Deadly - Susan Dennard 

              Eleanor and Daniel will live in my heart until it beats its last.  It's the perfect hate-to-friendship-to-love slow burn and it kills me every time.  Their story is embedded in a breakneck Victorian supernatural mystery that could stand without a romance, but is just that much better with this pair. 

              The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater 

              Blue and Gansey are endgame.  Period.  Partly because Gansey is my awkward nerdy soulmate and partly because they balance each other so well.  Next best ship is Adam and Ronan because they smooth out each other's edges and have each other's back. The romances unfold over time, with a lot of magic, murder, and mystery taking up the most space. 

              Howl's Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones 

              My original OTP.  Howl falls for Sophie before he even knows what she looks like.  Their love grows from familiarity, an acute knowledge of each other's faults and strengths.  A deep understanding that's stronger than instant passion.  
              The Wrath and The Dawn - Renee Ahdieh 

              Shazi and Khalid are thrown together by fate.  By a curse.  It's a gorgeous Arabian Nights retelling where the monster king isn't what he seems, and the storyspinner is even more badass than her namesake.  They're two fierce people you can't help but root for. 
              Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo 

              In case you didn't know, Bardugo's duology features a twisty heist, magic, murder, and a lot of people doing brutal things to each other.  Within it are Kaz and Inej, the dark gutter prince and the guarded wraith.  Their love is difficult and fraught and so worth it.  Plus Jesper and Wylan and Nina and Matthias because SERIOUSLY THEY ALL ROCK. 
              The Winner's Curse - Marie Rutkowski 

              Kestrel and Arin spend more of these books apart than together, because they're caught up in struggles that are larger than their two lives.  Games of politics and freedom and war.  Through it all, through pain and gritted teeth, they come to know and understand each other. 

              *Note: Problematic issues with Arin being a slave in Kestrel's household, be forewarned. 
              The Girl from Everywhere - Heidi Heilig 

              Nix and Kash are ridiculously swoony but not in a gross way. They've been friends for ages. Kash is monstrously flirty. But most of the time, they're off time traveling and foiling evil plots, so the romance ekes out slowly and sweetly. 

              Your turn!  What books have romances that aren't too gushy and sappy?  Unless you like that kind of thing.