Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Book review: The Devil in the Wide City by Justin Alcala

Disclaimer: I received an advanced digital copy of this book from the author, who is a friend of mine, in a exchange of a honest feedback.




Paperback310 pages
Expected publication: May 26th 2016 by Zharmae Publishing Press
Cover Image taken with permission from the author's Twitter

Summary from Goodreads:
The Devil in the Wide City is an absurdist fictional novel which follows Ned, the most unlucky fallen angel in hell as he tries to earn his way back to Earth after starting "The Great Chicago Fire". Through a series of fortunate events, Ned gets a second chance to return to Chicago after he's charged with finding a missing devil. Unfortunately, it's been more than a century since Ned has been on the surface, and a lot seems to have changed. As he begins to rub elbows with other supernatural beings, including Catherine O'Leary, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, John Dillinger, and more, he learns that his task might not be as easy as he thought, especially after he meets Chelsea, an occult bookstore owner who is as feisty as she is beautiful and smart

My Thoughts:

Back when I was a teenager, I spent weekends upon weekends upon weekends sitting with my friends in dark movie theaters (and draining my weekly allowance as soon as it was handed out, but teenaged Nath's financial-planning skill is a topic for another day).

A few handful of times, I would sit back and lazily sip on my bubble tea, wondering when the hero and heroine of the long-drawn romance on the screen would finally kiss. Sometimes I would laugh at the hilarious misfortune of some fictional doofuses; some other times, I would perch at the edge of my seat and prayed in secret, hoping that we would still have Cruise (or Diesel or Cage) after that epic-fall-out-of-the-speeding-car-and-into-the-abyss. Most of the time, though, I would curl up in silence and shut my eyes, relying on the creaking and creepy music and screams for cues to open my eyes and peek.

A hint of romance. Splashes of comedy. Lots of action. Generous servings of horror.

Those were my teenage years -- and those are The Devil in the Wide City.

I had known that this book was being brewed for months (perks of knowing the awesome author and his awesome fairy queen), and I'd known all along what the main plot was about -- but I'd never expected that the story would be delivered the way it did. When I heard 'Devil' and 'fallen angel' and 'supernatural', I had the picture of a foreboding-music-and-creaking-doors horror in mind. Not one of adrenaline-on-steroid explosions and swordfights and gang turf-wars and supervillains with egos the size of Lake Michigan.

And clearly, not one of a joke-after-joke-after-pun-after-ouch-that-must-hurt-after-holy-serious-what-did-he-think-the-monster-looked-like-s.

A major part of the book's refreshing formula is the point of view it is told from. Our first-person narrator and protagonist Nedonius (or simply Ned) is a de -- okay, fallen angel, and seeing Hell and ghosts from his eyes makes a big difference. We get to start the story in his home of Hell, where Ned is another-ordinary-employee and everything is a poorly appropriated version of earth (yes, cultural appropriation is not just a human issue :P), and quickly move to a modern day Chicago where Ned's mission is. Showing his natural tendency/talent of chatting up girls ('lust') and corrupting humans ('gluttony', other deadly sins) from the very first moment on earth, Ned quickly gains two nerdy college students as minions, and a quirky human love interest, Chelsea. When Ned gets down to work and begins tracing the fellow fallen angel he is supposed to find, however, we begin seeing the detective/superhero side that he has -- and more of the ghosts and supernaturals of the story, which all fill roles typically given to human heroes instead of the default screamers-and-bloodthirsty-murderers horror movies often relegate them to. Without the goosebumps and clenching stomaches that human-narrators get when they see ghosts, these supernatural beings become just the people next door, sometimes weird and annoying but mostly nothing to run away from. I find that I enjoy this approach immensely, as it allows me to see richly imagined horror creatures without all the spooky drama, and actually appreciate what they look like/the story behind them instead of tuning them out because I don't want to dream about it later.

Plot-wise, Devil in Wide City is a blend of a rom-com and a superhero story, with most of the rom-coms embedded in the first half of the book and the superhero in the later part. While Ned's attraction to Chelsea feels instant and overly physical at first (Ned is an embodiment of 'lust', after all), Chelsea's well-rounded and assertive personality brings a new dimension to what could have headed down the beaten superhero-and-damsel track. I like how Chelsea is able to mentally parry with Ned and fight in her own ways (even against supernatural beings with supernatural powers), and how her combination of strengths and weak moments make her a unique and multi-dimensional character. As the plot pivots from the rom-com to the superhero (I won't go in depth how we switch from finding a fallen angel to defeating supervillain, because -- spoilers), Chelsea proves herself a valuable and active ally in Ned's fight against the Dictator Warlock who rules Chicago's supernatural side. While Ned's superheroic power and arc feels overpowering at times (guy is pretty self-absorbed, after all, he is a fallen angel who embodies deadly sins), Chelsea and the other allies have their own chances to shine. I find the plot satisfactory and fresh for the most part, easily imagined and well-grounded thanks to the use of present-Chicago landmarks as settings.

In terms of style, Devil in Wide City is sharp and often sarcastic like its narrator Ned, but not tiresomely so. Whilst there are parts of the action sequences that could have been more 'Ned' than 'neutral' and terms that could have been '19th century' (when Ned was last in Chicago) instead of 'current', the style and tone do not betray the heart of the story, and I find the book a pleasant read overall. There are parts of the books in which I have issues with Ned's voice (since he is, well, a really strongly-eyeroll-inducing embodiment of 'lust'), but I understand that it is part of the narrator's character/flaw, and at some point it becomes a comic relief at Ned's expense instead of an 'ugh' moment.

Overall, I give Devil in Wide City a 4.2 out of 5, and I'd recommend the book to adults (18+ due to Ned's well, nature and the relevance of the character arc) who'd like to see bits and pieces of every genre and wildly imagined creatures in one book. While this book is more awesome when you have seen/known Chicago yourself, the important places are described richly enough to imagine -- and a little image search on your favorite search engine will help taking the atmosphere up one level.

Happy reading!

PS: Beware of hell hounds ;)

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award




Well, hello (again) world. It's been a while since we meet in this space. While you go round and round in all your bookish awesomeness, I have been... *drumroll*.... up to my elbows in writing. Yes, as in novel writing. More exactly, YA Science Fiction novel writing. As of today, I have completed the 2014 NaNoWriMo challenge, written three other discarded partial drafts of the same story, and finished a draft of the final version at 86,000 words. As sweet a moment as this is for me, I don't really want to talk too much about it yet. The work is in its early days, and even now, I can already see where and how it can be improved (and no, I have no perfectionism problem. I totally didn't sit down and cry two days after finishing a manuscript because it wasn't even a third as good as my favorite books.)

So, anyway. Back to the main post topic, before I rant on about my long list of edits and my freak outs.

Basically, whilst I am terrible at this blogging thing (not gonna lie here -- this is something I've got to work on), I have the awesomest of bookish friends. One of them, the amazing and talented Sofia of Loving The Language of Literacy, nominated me for Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. Thank you so much for this, Cousin! Without further ado, here are my answers to Sofia's ten questions:

1. Favorite Genre of Music and Artist in that Genre?
Ugh, hard question. I listen to a lot of stuff of no particular genre (in four different languages, two of which I don’t understand), and my taste changes approximately once a month. I’ve always loved musicals though, and I have a soft spot for Lea Salonga and Idina Menzel. They have amazing voices. Oh, and I really really love Utada Hikaru’s unique take on JPop.

2. First Book Read in 2015?
This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. The themes and character relationships remind me of some of my all-time favorite books, but the writing is stellar and the story resonates with me, so five stars it is.

3. Physical Books or eBooks?
Physical Books. There’s something comforting and pleasant about the act of flipping through pages and hearing them rustling in the deep silence of your transfixed mind.

4. How much do you love reading?
If you are to lock me in a library and tell me that reading is the only thing I am allowed to do for the rest of my life, then I will still die a happy woman.

5. Who is your favorite author PERSONALITY wise? Maybe you hate their novel, but love their jokes on Twitter.
Alright, so my answer is based on Twitter. Alex London has a fabulous personality. He is always kind, interesting, respectful to his fans and audience, and friendly to other writers, doesn’t matter how successful they are. Sara Raasch is probably the sweetest person ever when it comes to fans, always retweeting, replying, favoriting — in general so lovely. And I am always excited for posts/articles/updates/videos by Marie Lu.
(PS: I do not, at all, hate their novels :))

6. Favorite Bloggers/BookTubers. Share the love.
Sofia of Loving The Language of Literacy, Tina of The Book Landers, and LilaJune of LilaJunesBookSaloon. We have similar taste in books, and I trust their opinions and verdicts above anyone else’s (and obviously I'm biased, because they are my uber Twitter discussion buddies, but seriously, you deserve to know this ladies' awesomeness).

7. Will you pay hardcover retail prices for books?
Yes, if I like the book. This is where my 'fun' budget of the month goes to, usually. I generally visit bookstores and do this once or twice a month (just did it on Sunday).

8. Do you DNF books?
Yup. This happened every four or five books. Sometimes I just lost interest (pacing was too slow, plot lacked tension), but some other times I would put something down because I had major issues with it (boring/un-engaging writing, spineless main characters who didn’t get better over time, theme/message too dubious/outdated/misleading for readers, abusive/imbalanced romance glorified as ‘true love’). Sounds picky, but I truly am.

9. What does your bookshelf look like?
A mumbo-jumbo. I don’t have ways of organizing books on the shelf, since it is more of a ‘museum’ of what I have read. I have sort of a system, though. I have a big shelf and a smaller one, and the books which are 5 stars for me are given honored spots in the smaller one (currently it’s occupied by all of Marie Lu’s work, Sara Raasch’s Snow Like Ashes, and Amie Kaufman&Meagan Spooner’s Starbound Trilogy)

10. Where did you get your blog design? (This is purely for selfish reasons because I'm on the market for a new design)

My blog has no design (it is basic and dead *hangs head in shame*) . It is a blogger template which I adjusted here and there. If anything, I should ask Sofia for advice :P.

I am going to break one of the award rules and not tag anyone here. But I am going to post 10 bookish questions here, and invite all willing readers to answer any of them.

1. What was the first book you remembered reading?
2. What was the funniest book-related moment you've had in your life?
3. What is your biggest cliche pet peeve in your preferred reading genre?
4. Are you a reader/writer, or strictly a reader? (If you are one at all)
5. What does reading mean to you?
6. One book scene which has never left your mind since you first read it?
7. What will be the first thing you try to find in a book/story?
8. Special reading rituals?
9. How do you sort/schedule your TBR pile? (I am terrible at this, I just read what I feel like reading.)
10. Say you had to write a 10,000 words 'thank you for your book(s)' letter to one author only. Who would you write to?

That's it for tonight folks. Have a stellar time there!


Sunday, 14 September 2014

ARC Review: Consumed by Justin Alcala


Author: Justin Alcala
Publication Date: September 11, 2014
Published by: Zharmae Press

I received the e-ARC/Media Kit from the publisher for the blog tour.

Goodreads Synopsis:


Sergeant Nathaniel Brannick is trapped in Victorian London during a period of disease, crime, and insatiable vices. One night, Brannick returns from work to find an eerie messenger in his flat who warns him of dark things to come. 

When his next case involves a victim who suffered from consumption, he uncovers clues that lead him to believe the messenger's warning. Despite his incredulity, he can’t help but wonder if the practical man he once was has been altered by an investigation encompassed in the paranormal. That is, until he meets the witch hunters, and everything takes a turn for the worse.

Nath's Thoughts:


One of the beauties of knowingly reading outside your genre is that you get to experience the story with no expectation/presumption. I had that exact experience when I read 'Consumed', walking into the threshold its mesmerizing, terrifying Victorian horror world with little idea of what was going to happen and what I would be subconsciously looking for. It was a pleasant experience overall, something I am grateful for -- something I might do again in the future, for a limited set of genres ('genre' as in 'what is actually in this book', not as in 'what age group this book is targeted for').

Consumed was -- to me -- the story of a broken, lost man's journey back to a meaningful, purposeful life. Granted, that journey involved a murder mystery to solve, vampire hunters and their targets swarming parts of London, an addiction to opium, and a shady work partner. But putting back together pieces of a broken life is the essence of Nathaniel Brannick's emotional journey -- this was what I saw him doing between the lines of the action. Each event in the book was a wake-up call for him, and with each screw-ups and near-misses he was forced to see what he had been doing to himself and his life. 

Of course, this doesn't mean the action and the twists within the plot weren't great. Consumed was so quick-paced, and throughout the wild ride, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time trying to guess what would happen next -- and most of the time I would guess the wrong thing! Every scene, character, and setting in this book lived and breathed horror. Even in the lightest moments, I could still feel a lingering sense of terror, of a dark shadow lurking in the background. I had a hard time trusting every new character, to the last moment their motivations were explained. And even after the last page, the question of whether Nathan had chosen the right allies still lingered in my head. Who were crazy, and who were not? To what extent did everyone tell Nathan the truth? I must say I was quite delighted to know that a sequel is a possibility. Nathan's story simply couldn't end where it did in Consumed!

Character-wise, Consumed has a lineup of interesting, quirky characters. Whilst some of them did fill archetypal roles, they didn't feel archetypal -- talk about Davis, the womanizing/overeating detective partner; the witch-hunter siblings Vasile and Vasilica Ivanescu (the latter delighted me a lot -- a fighter female in historical fiction :D); Nathan's lively, not-quite-the-shrinking-violet-proper-lady late wife Catherine; the cat appropriately called 'Hades'; a lot of others. And, of course, one just can't leave out Nathaniel Brannick. A brilliant detective with flaws and heartbreak, a distinct way of speaking (I found his sarcasm endearing), and a honest voice. Nathan's voice was one of the things I adored about Consumed. It was era-appropriate in terms of grammar and vocabulary choice, but it didn't feel faked and I didn't have to strain to read it (as I sometimes had to do some other historical fiction work, as they tried really hard to emulate classics).

Overall, Consumed was an enjoyable haunted-house-roller-coaster ride in a foreign theme park for me. Apart from a few paragraphs of chunky dialogue/exposition towards the conclusion, I liked everything that I read. Whilst this book didn't shatter my world the way some other books did in the past, I would still recommend it to older teenagers and adults who are keen to read an action-packed, distinct historical horror. I think 'Consumed' won't disappoint.

Rating: 4.0 out of 5


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Blog Tour and Interview: Consumed by Justin Alcala


Nath's Quick Note:

Alright, so I am finally joining a blog tour as a stop... and I'm branching out of my usual reading genre, and venturing into historical fantasy horror. I basically got in touch with the author, Justin Alcala, through Twitter (kind of long story short, but that's the essence), and for a long time I've been entertained and impressed by his witty tweets about horror and writing. I am not done reading yet, thus the review will follow sometime soon -- but I can assure you all that I'm loving what I read so far! It is one fast-paced, intriguing, horror-filled mystery, which (in Nath's opiu... err, opinion!) will be relatable and enjoyable for readers mid/late teens upwards.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

ARC Review: How To Be Manly by Maureen O'Leary-Wanket




Title: How To Be Manly
Author: Maureen O'Leary Wanket
Publisher: Giant Squid Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 198 pages (PDF ARC)
Publication Date: September 16th, 2014


When Rachel from Giant Squid Books contacted me about this book, I must admit I hesitated. I don't usually read contemporary, and I was afraid I would not be able to compose a good review. After a bit of deliberation, I decided to bite the bullet and take the challenge of reading and reviewing 'How To Be Manly'. And, my, I must say that I don't regret my decision.

Theme/Plot/Storyline

At heart, 'How To Be Manly' is a light-hearted, yet meaningful and touching coming-of-age tale. It revolves around the life of Matthew Sullivan, a heavyset sixteen year old boy who enjoys food (his cake-baker grandma's homemade cake and cooking, especially), has exactly two close friends -- one a boy with shyness/social issues and another one a bad boy by the town's standard, is failing his Math class, and has a crush on his 'friend' Cassie. Throughout a beautifully woven string of 'ordinary' (by a high-fantasy and dystopia lover standard, that is!) events [SPOILER] including a disastrous end of schoolyear party, a fateful trip to a yard-sale in which Matty meets his saviour in the form of an old copy of a book, a football camp, a horrible act done by Matty's irresponsible-immature-absent father to the family, and the mistakes Matty made in his quest to save the family he knows , Maureen O'Leary-Wanket takes us readers on Matty's bumpy ride to (young) adulthood. Whilst Matty's story seems so familiar to me (in my reader life and in my life as a person), I still found myself quite enchanted by his journey. O'Leary-Wanket knows how to write a page-turner which captures your attention to the end despite the light, warm vibe. I finished this book in one single sitting (about two hours), and enjoyed every moment I spent with it. It began and end in such good points that I found myself smiling for Matty and his journey to be Manly (yes, that is a capital M, and there is a reason for it).

Characters


'How To Be Manly' has a relatively small cast, although I guess it is just the right size for a contemporary. The star of the story is, of course, Matty. He locked my attention from get go, his problems with weight, family, and unrequited crush. From the start, we are exposed to the flaws of his character; his reluctance to exercise, his general passive nature (which will change throughout the story), his (normal) occasional laziness, and his denial of several obvious things. But we are also made aware of his potential, and of the support network he has in his grandmother and the townfolks. I was delighted to see Matty's transformations through the page, to see him finally seeing things clearly, being proactive, and finding a love/first relationship he can cherish. Matty is no superhuman and not an intense dystopia hero with dark past. But he goes through his own journey of self discovery, and thus is a hero in his own right -- a relatable one.


Whilst we don't get to see much of the supporting cast (apart from grandma, who is an admirable force on her own right), I got a strong sense of how they influence Matty's journey. His sick grandfather, his grandmother who is trying her best to help others and hold her own, his absent father who is an absolute egoist (and 'egoist' is a mild word, mind you), his elderly neighbor, his two best friends, his crush Cassie, the coach's family... everyone. There is a saying that 'it takes a whole village to raise a child', and we get to see how true this saying is in 'How To Be Manly'. It is Matty who wants a change, yes -- but it is others who help him making it happen. Overall, I like the supporting cast and their roles in the story. It's also worth noting that even though some of them are there to drive the plot, they feel well fleshed-out, not just a cookie cutter/placeholder.

Style


'How To Be Manly' was written in Matty's 1st person boyish (or should I say 'manly'?) voice. It is straight forward and easy to read, simple yet honest. Overall I like the writing style.


Conclusion


'How To Be Manly' was a good, satisfying light read. While it has some general elements of coming-of-age contemporary, it is a distinct book on its own, and is highly relatable. The characters are realistic and vivid, and whilst the romance is a little cliched and predictable (I predicted the outcome by the end of chapter one), I was happy with how it turned out.



Rating: 3.8 out of 5

Friday, 11 July 2014

Book Review: The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1, Marie Rutkoski)

From Goodreads

I first heard about this book on Twitter, right around its release date. Several bloggers I follow had been involved in the promotional blitz, and I saw a lot of tweets floating there. Back then, I was pretty overloaded with TBRs and stories to try and pick it up on the day it was released, but I did keep it in mind, somewhere.

Fast forward to July 2014, I was stopping by the YA floor of the city bookstore to pick up another book. Naturally I did take a look around after picking up that other book -- and almost straight away bumped into this one. And just then, I felt the urge to pick it up, something I can't explain. Thus I brought a copy along to the cashier, paid for it, and straight away started reading.

... and I was pretty much occupied, for the next one or two days. Not because I was totally in love, but because I was kind of curious/mysteriously addicted for reasons I couldn't pinpoint.

The Winner's Curse got its title from the concept of pyrrhic victory, in which you burn on your way to win something. Set in the fictional country of Herran, during its occupation by the Valorians, The Winner's Curse revolves around the life of Kestrel, daughter of a Valorian general. In this story, Kestrel gets her taste of pyrrhic victory when she bids a lot for -- and wins -- a slave which she is intrigued with. The victory soon burns hotter, as the slave, Arin, proves himself to be something else; a person who both intrigues and frustrates Kestrel. The two evolves into star-crossed lovers, then into something else altogether, then into something else. Whilst the book is heavy on romance (sometimes to the point of dragging the plot and drowning the action, the world, and the political drama), the theme of pyrrhic victory remains strong until the end, as the characters continue to sacrifice things they hold dear to achieve something else which looks good at the moment. Despite my mixed feeling about the pacing and parts of the plot, I think the overarching plot has done a good job keeping with the theme, right to the bittersweet, uncertain conclusion. If you enjoy romance, I'm sure you'll quite enjoy the storyline -- it's just not 100% for me, seeing that I don't enjoy pure romances.

In my opinion, both Kestrel and Arin are likeable enough. Kestrel, with her talent for tactic and strategy and her desire to be true to herself, is an example of 'quiet strength' type characters done well. Even when she's subtle, even when she loves her piano, even when she only know basic fighting to defend herself, even when she fights her father every day because he wants her to join the army, she knows where exactly her power lies -- her brain and her keen eyes. Arin, on the other hand, is one of those rebel boys type I've always liked. Compared to many others I've met, he is (understandably) gloomier, more serious, more vengeful, and much better at acting -- but his strength relies on his pride and determination. He is the one with a bigger growth throughout the book, despite being the secondary narrator (the primary privilege belongs to Kestrel). These two are a very interesting, diverse duo. Whilst the main romance storyline isn't entirely new and unique, Kestrel and Arin and their societies add new dimensions to the 'star-crossed'. Both characters remain strong and true until the end, and they grow through their feelings for each other and their experiences through the book. They might be in love, but they remain realistic and focus on what they truly want in life. Whilst I'd at times wished we would see more personalities in the other characters (especially Kestrel's many high-society friends who blurred after a few chapters), I am happy to have met Kestrel and Arin, and am curious to see what would become of them in the next books, especially as individuals. I hope they will continue to grow and be more comfortable in their awesome skins.

Now, I'm going to do what I normally don't -- and talk about the cover. Among the YA and adult covers I've seen, this is perhaps one of my least favourite. I think it is a pretty cover, and I do appreciate the designers for their work with that amazing dress -- but I find the concept untrue to the story and to Kestrel's character. Despite her gentle, tactile nature, Kestrel is not a damsel-in-distress. She fights her own duels and trains with the guard captain on an at least weekly basis. Whilst Kestrel does wear dresses, I feel that the cover doesn't encompass who she essentially is. She looks like a princess there, not like a general's daughter who wishes to live life in her own terms. I wish the cover had captured more of her strong, analytical side and portrayed her as the quiet strength that she is.

Overall my feelings about this book is a little bit mixed. I liked it when I read it, and I thought it had good points. It matched my expectations, and I had moments when it filled me with emotions (one of it had something to do with a library and a book, and another with hair and braids). But it doesn't really stand out among the fantasies (and romance-fantasies) that I've read before. I will most probably pick up and read the sequels, though, to figure out what happens after the end of the first book and to see more of the world and the minor characters.


Overall rating: 3.8 out of 5

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Book Review: Guardian (Proxy #2, Alex London)




Image taken from goodreads. Do hover your cursor over the blacked-out phrases, if you have read both Proxy and Guardian or do not mind spoilers ;).

Alex London's Proxy is one of the few books I've ever loved that much. It was shocking and amazing, heartwarming and heartbreaking. I found myself immersed in the debt and in the injustice, in the characters' journeys and in the amazing plot -- which involves a zoo and a canyon. When I closed my hardcover copy, nursing a broken heart and basking in the warmth of hope and friendship, I knew I would -- without doubt -- read Guardian. The only thing standing between me and this interesting sequel, back then, was the fact that it hadn't yet been published.

A couple of months later, Guardian was published. My friend Commander LilaJune (check out her review here) and I got our hands on it within the first few days of publication. We got completely hooked, and finished it in one day (well, she finished it first, and I stayed up all night reading to catch up because I have a severe case of 'fear of missing out'). Tons (alright, exaggeration alert) of Twitter DM-s were sent, and thoughts and feels were discussed -- and we agreed on a fact I think is important:

... Whilst Proxy is a breakneck thriller, Guardian is a romance (I think Sofia, who first introduced me to Proxy, kind of agreed with this, too).

Yes, there is still action (lots of them, to be exact). Yes, there are deaths, cruel plot twists, moments of self realizations and self doubts, and all the things present in Proxy (although, compared to what happened in Proxy, what happens in Guardian feels mild). But the heart of the story itself was the budding romance between our beloved former-whipping-boy-turned-'messiah' Syd, and the main newcomer in the book, the terrifying, glitched (oh, don't you just love it when authors develop their own slangs for their books? ;)), yet somehow sweet bodyguard Liam.

Liam is a bodyguard boy with mysterious past, one metal hand, perpetually wet 'puppy' eyes, insane killer instinct, and a somewhat-glitched devotion to his responsibility, Yovel (who was known by Syd, and would rather be called Syd). Liam has a Yovel tattoo on his chest (which will come in handy in a sticky situation later ;)), and  spends a lot of time running after/having hots for/thinking about his Yovel. While at first this idol-crush looks a little silly and a little scary, it gradually evolves to a substantial, healthy attraction/affection as Liam learns more about the person under that 'Yovel' label. Although romance is not usually my main genre, I found myself enthralled by the Guardian romance, captivated by Liam's development and inner struggles; Syd's anguish and desire to keep his sense of self; and the sweet thing they share together. I think I would safely say that Guardian is high up on my 'romance' favourite list.

Like other well-done protagonists are, Liam and Syd don't exist in a vacuum. There are other characters, ones which help them most of the time, and ones which serve as antagonists. Among those characters is Marie, a recurring character from Proxy who brings along with her the topics of idealism versus reality, and family. And among the antagonists is a six-year-old gang lord (don't ask me why!!!) who highlights problems with the society and the delusion/thirst for power, as well as provides a comic relief in an otherwise very-much-screwed-up situation. Some characters die; some others stay on. Whilst there is no clear resolution of the fates of all the characters who remained alive at the end of the Guardian (after the adventures and the cruel big twist which started in Proxy), I would say almost everyone learns their different lessons throughout the book. They are forced to examine their stances and beliefs, with the collapse of their society and the looming threat before them. They are forced to work together. They are forced to start anew. And they make a network of beautiful stories, that the lack of absolute resolution did not at all bother me.

There are several questions I still had, after I flipped that last page and turned my e-reader off. What had actually happened to Liam before the book -- before he was a soldier for the rebellion movement. What was the main antagonist's story, and what drove him to do all the things he did (there were serious moments where I questioned his choices and motivations, especially towards the plot climax). What was the thing London actually wanted to achieve with his conflict arc and the cruel, twisty resolution. What would be the future of the world. But until clarified by Alex London, all of those are mysteries -- mysteries I'll let be for the time being, as I remember this book as one of my favourite romance reads.

Although... well... really... a third book or a Liam-novella won't really hurt ;).

Final rating: 4 Stars.