A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about seven titles I was 99.99% sure I’d love. I was excited to see the results of my five star predictions, but even so, it’s taken me ages to get to these novels. I’m awful at getting to a fixed TBR, and that’s really hindered my journey through this particular list, too.
Even so, I’ve gotten through four of the seven books, and these are the ones I’m reviewing today. Originally, I was going to review all seven books together, but this post is already overly long, so the other three will come later. The others are all chunky fantasy or dystopian novels, and I’m pretty certain I’ll have a lot to say about them, so they absolutely wouldn’t fit into this post.
Crier’s War by Nina Varela
After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.
Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.
Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.
Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.
Crier’s War has everything I could want in a novel: wonderfully complex and flawed characters, an exciting plot, and a slow-burn, enemies to lovers romance. After seeing all the praise for the novel I knew I’d adore it, and y’all, I was right.
It’s a cliché thing to say, but I was captivated from the get go; I loved the world building, the plot, and I fell in love with both protagonists. I could write pages about how wonderful Ayla and Crier are, but I think the main thing, my favorite thing about them is how realistic they are. Nina Varela allows these girls to be angry and confused and naive, while showing us how smart and strong they are.
“One cannot create something from nothing. Because she was created for and bound to the queen, Kiera required the queen’s blood to survive.”
Oh, and the romance! I knew it would be good, but y’all, it was an absolute delight. I think how fast and how much I cared about Ayla and Crier’s relationship comes down to how much I loved both of them as individuals from the start. But even besides that, the tension and the attraction between the two was palpable. This is how you do a slow-burn, enemies to lovers romance.
I cannot think of one (1) bad thing about this novel!? Everything was simply perfect. So, obviously, it’s a five star read, and one of my favorite books of 2020.
King of Crows by Libba Bray
After the horrifying explosion that claimed one of their own, the Diviners find themselves wanted by the US government, and on the brink of war with the King of Crows.
While Memphis and Isaiah run for their lives from the mysterious Shadow Men, Isaiah receives a startling vision of a girl, Sarah Beth Olson, who could shift the balance in their struggle for peace. Sarah Beth says she knows how to stop the King of Crows-but, she will need the Diviners’ help to do it.
Elsewhere, Jericho has returned after his escape from Jake Marlowe’s estate, where he has learned the shocking truth behind the King of Crow’s plans. Now, the Diviners must travel to Bountiful, Nebraska, in hopes of joining forces with Sarah Beth and to stop the King of Crows and his army of the dead forever.
But as rumors of towns becoming ghost towns and the dead developing unprecedented powers begin to surface, all hope seems to be lost.
I don’t want to say that King of Crows was a disappointment… but it kind of was. 😭 It wasn’t awful by any means, but it could have been so, so, SO much better than it was! The main issue is that it was way too long, with long stretches of time where absolutely nothing significant happened. I adore these characters, but that doesn’t mean that I was fully okay watching them do nothing for about half the book. Hate to say this, but I was bored at a few points, and a tiny voice inside me kept asking, “is this really what you’ve been waiting for?”
That being said, I enjoyed loads about this book, and The Diviners still remains one of my favorite series. I adore the characters, their relationships, and the over-arching plot of the series so darn much, and I would 1000% recommend reading it, even though the final novel is not up to par with the rest.
Being biased as hell – I mean, it’s a favorite of mine, don’t hate on me! – I rated King of Crows four stars, but it’s closer to a three, if I’m being honest. If you want to know more about my feelings regarding the series, I recommend reading my in-depth, spoiler-free review of it by clicking here.
A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh
On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.
That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.
Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.
It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.
I went into A Madness of Sunshine full of confidence, because I adore Nalini Singh. Okay, I didn’t *love* the two contemporary romances I’ve read by her, but Psy-Changeling is one of the best series I’ve ever read, and Guild Hunter is pretty great as well. Was I disappointed in this one? Heck no!
I flew through A Madness of Sunshine – even though I’ve been trying to fix my sleep schedule (I’m always trying to do that, lol), I ended up staying up well past 3 am, because I needed to know how it would all end. It’s a small town mystery where literally everyone is suspicious at one point or another, and I kept changing my opinion on who would be the killer for much of the novel. So even though I did, ultimately, guess the main twists before they were properly revealed, I felt like the build-up was nice enough that I didn’t mind that at all.
Is this book perfect? No, not really. Some of the characters could have been better flashed out or more unique, but nonetheless, I enjoyed the heck out of it*. I loved the mystery, the setting, and the romance, so all considered, my first star prediction for this was correct.
*I’d been in quarantine for around 50 days when I read this, I was not going to nitpick something that brought me joy. *shrugs*
Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer
When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.
Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.
When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…
This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?
After finishing A Madness of Sunshine I was on a row, and wanted to finish all my five star predictions fast. That… did not happen, but I was able to finish Call It What You Want, which turned out to be my favorite novel of April. This book, you all, this book is so beautiful, emotional and just ASKWKSAJK… it’s special and it stole my heart.
Similarly to the two other Contemporaries I’ve read by Kemmerer, the strongest part of Call It What You Want is its protagonists. They are fleshed out and complex, and they deserve a massive hug. Maegan and Rob are both reluctant to open up, but circumstances keep throwing them together until their resolve starts to thaw. I loved their tentative friendship and adored their romance – it was wholesome and cute, and I’m pretty sure that they are one of my favorite couples this year.
The supporting cast was also incredible and they added a lot of depth to the novel. It was a delight to see Maegan and her sister getting closer together throughout the story, and the friendships were also so well-handled. My favorite was probably Rob’s friendship with Owen, which they were building so carefully, but I also loved seeing Rob’s complicated relationship with his ex-best friend, and Maegan’s conflict with her own best friend.
Call It What You Want lives up to the hype, no question about it. I adored every moment of this novel, and I’m hoping Kemmerer will publish more Contemporaries in the future. (I know she has fantasies out, but I just don’t care about those? Sorry.)
I’m very pleasantly surprised by the results! I mean, yes, I expected to love all these books, but to not have any disappointing titles out of four books? That’s kind of incredible, even if King of Crows could have been better. This kind of makes me wonder what would happen if I only read books I’m so sure I’ll love. Although, to be fair, I was sure of three out of these four novels because I already loved their authors.
As for my ranking, my favorite was Crier’s War, closely followed by Call It What You Want, after which comes A Madness of Sunshine, and finally, King of Crows. I’m excited for the other three novels, and have high, high hopes for them.
How accurate are your own predictions usually? What things do you base your predictions on? (E.g. genre, reviews, author etc.) Have you ever done an experiment like this? I’d love to see it or hear about it! Have you read any of these novels?