Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2021

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2021.

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1. The Song Book of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon. Publishes March 16, 2021.

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2. Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson. Publishes March 23, 2021.

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3.  Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne. Publishes April 13, 2021.

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4. Where Secrets Lie by Eva V. Gibson. Publishes April 20, 2021.

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5. Sunkissed by Kasies West. Publishes May 4, 2021.

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6. Find You First by Linwood Barclay. Publishes May 4, 2021.

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7. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. Publishes May 11, 2021.

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8. The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren. Publishes May 18, 2021.

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9. The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary. Publishes June 1, 2021.

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10. Anne of Manhattan by Brina Starler. Publishes June 1, 2021.

What new releases are you looking forward to in the first half of 2021?

2020 End of Year Survey

This survey was originally developed by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page-Turner. I maybe got rid of over half the questions – the original is long!

**2020 READING STATS**

Number Of Books You Read: 143*
*As of 12/29/20, it’s likely to go up by one or two before the end of the year

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Best Books You Read In 2020?

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Beach Read by Emily Henry and The Heir Affair (The Royal We #2) by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

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Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I just have to give up on reading horror novels. I never appreciate them.

 Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

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The F List by Alessandra Torre. I went into this with no expectations and it became one of my favorite books of the year.

 Favorite new author you discovered in 2020?

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I loved The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

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I don’t read much historical fiction anymore, but I loved Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon.

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2020?

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Fallen Crest Forever by Tijan. I think this cover is just so cute and romantic.

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2020 to finally read? 

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Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer (originally released in 2015).

Favorite Book You Read in 2020 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

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No Way Out by Cara Hunter

Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

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The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren. I know a lot of people didn’t love this, but I really enjoyed it!

Hidden Gem Of The Year?

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I thought A Path to Redeeming Love was a very good devotional and recommend it if you’re looking for one!

Most Unique Book You Read In 2020?

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Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

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One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2020 But Will Be A Priority in 2021?

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. I bought a hard copy of this when it first came out and still haven’t read it.

Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2021?

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People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. Beach Read was one of my favorites of 2020 so I have high expectations for Henry’s next book.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Winter 2020-2021 TBR

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is: Books On My Winter 2020-2021 TBR. I’m going with a mix of anticipated releases, ARCs I currently have copies have, and KU books I mean to read before my subscription expires.

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1. Marrying Mr. Darcy (Love Manor #2) by Kate O’Keeffe.

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2. Varsity Rulebreaker (Varsity #3) by Ginger Scott.

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3. You Love Me (You #3) by Caroline Kepnes.

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4. The Newlyweds by Arianne Richmonde.

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5. The Love Proof by Madeleine Henry.

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6.  A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses #4) by Sarah J. Maas.

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7. Nate by Tijan.

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8. The Song Book of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon.

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9. The Minders by John Marrs.

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10. A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams

What books are on your Winter TBR?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Should be Adapted into Netflix Shows/Movies

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is: Books that Should be Adapted into Netflix Shows/Movies.

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1. The Simple Wild series by K.A. Tucker

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2. The Royal We series by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.

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3. Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

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4. Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

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5. The F List by Alessandra Torres

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6. The Beartown series by Fredrik Backman

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7. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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8. Making Faces by Amy Harmon

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9. When it’s Real by Erin Watt

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10.  This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

What books would you like to see adapted on Netflix?

Books I’ve Read with the Highest Average Ratings on Goodreads

Last week I took a look at the lowest average rated books on my Read shelf on Goodreads and compared them to my own reviews. This week I decided to take a look at the books from my Read shelf with the highest average rating. I usually disagree with hype, so I’m actually really surprised that I rated most of these highly, as well.

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1.  A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas
Goodreads Rating: 4.64 Stars
My Rating:  3.5 Stars

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2. Awaken by Priscilla Shirer
Goodreads Rating: 4.62 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

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3. An Echo in the Darkness (Mark of the Lion #2) by Francine Rivers
Goodreads Rating: 4.62 Stars
My Rating: 3 Stars

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4. Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo
Goodreads Rating: 4.6 Stars
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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5. Fallen Crest Forever (Fallen Crest High #7) by Tijan
Goodreads Rating: 4.58
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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6. A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion #1) by Francine Rivers
Goodreads Rating: 4.56 Stars
My Rating: 5 Stars
(*Note this is one of the few books I rated 5 stars from my pre-blogging days)

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7.  Gemina (Illuminae #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Goodreads Rating: 4.51 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

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8. The Crushing Depths (Coastal Guardians #2) by Dani Pettrey
Goodreads Rating: 4.50 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

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9. Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon
Goodreads Rating: 4.50 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

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10. Oblivion (Lux #1.5) by Jennifer L Armentrout
Goodreads Rating: 4.50 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

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11. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Goodreads Rating: 4.50 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

Memorial Day Reading Recommendation

Happy Memorial Day! I hope you take a moment during your reasonably sized, social distancing appropriate cook outs to remember the men and women who are the reason for this holiday.  If your plans have had to shift due to the current state of the world, it’s always a good time to pick up a book! Allow me to suggest one of my favorite books that highlights a military man who returns home after losing several of his friends in the line of duty:

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Making Faces by Amy Harmon. You can see my review HERE.

Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have . . . until he wasn’t beautiful anymore. Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

Review: Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In this epic and haunting love story set on the Oregon Trail, a family and their unlikely protector find their way through peril, uncertainty, and loss.

The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.

But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.

When a horrific tragedy strikes, decimating Naomi’s family and separating her from John, the promises they made are all they have left. Ripped apart, they can’t turn back, they can’t go on, and they can’t let go. Both will have to make terrible sacrifices to find each other, save each other, and eventually…make peace with who they are.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Where the Lost Wander will be published on April 28, 2020. 

While I used to read a lot of it, Historical Fiction hasn’t been my genre of choice for awhile. That made me a little hesitant going into Where the Lost Wander, but Amy Harmon’s beautiful writing definitely made me a fan again.

I may be dating myself here, but who remembers playing Oregon Trail as a kid? Where you cheered if your wagon made it across a river without capsizing or losing an oxen and you hoped the character named after you wouldn’t die from dysentery. It was a fun, supposedly educational game, but it wasn’t more than that. This book made those aspects of the game we laughed at feel real and horrifying. How easily sickness could spread through a group and kill multiple people. How if a wagon capsized while crossing water, everything a family owned could be lost. Harmon does an excellent job of painting a vivid picture of what life on the trail looked like.

That said, the story felt extremely slow paced, as it focused mostly on the day-to-day tasks on the trail or with a Native American tribe. Don’t get me wrong, I was deeply invested in the characters and their journey. Harmon’s writing is just as beautiful as it always is and that kept me reading. It just took me a little longer to read this book than I would expect for a book this size. The pace was slow and not a lot really happened for much of it, but I think it’s a testament to Harmon that those things didn’t really lessen my enjoyment of the story.

The story is told through dual POVs of Naomi and John and I thought it was used very effectively. I absolutely loved John. I found Naomi a little frustrating at times, but I did like her overall, as well as her family. I liked Chief Washakie and his friendship with John. And, of course, I really shipped the romance between John and Naomi. It wouldn’t be any Amy Harmon book without an epic romance and she definitely delivered.

Overall, I enjoyed Where the Lost Wander. Though it was a little slower paced than I like, I really loved the characters and the writing. I am impressed by how much research Harmon did for this book and how she really made the Oregon trail come alive. I definitely recommend this one to fans of Historical Fiction.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Reviewing the Unreviewed: February 2020

I read a lot of books that I don’t end up reviewing for whatever reason. Some because I wasn’t impressed. Some because I didn’t have the time. Some I just wasn’t feeling it on whatever particular day I finished. Reviewing the Unreviewed is my monthly post where I share my few thoughts on all the books I didn’t formally review.

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Carpool (Milford College #1) by Noelle Adams. Read January 31-February 2. 3.5 Stars. 

Jennifer frustrated me sometimes, but I did ship her and Marcus. I liked the small town setting and would’ve liked to have seen even more of that. Overall, this was a cute romance. I got it as a free e-book deal and I’m not sure if it’s still available for free, but definitely worth checking into if you’re a Romance reader.

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Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning. Read February 4-6. 3.5 Stars. 

This had a few issues, but it was cute. I liked Liv’s family and how close she was with her brother. I liked how quickly the football team accepted her, even if it felt a little unrealistic. I thought the romance with Liv and Grey was pretty adorable, too.

There were some things that didn’t really work for me, though. I thought Liv picked up football way too quickly. We’re basically supposed to believe that she’s never played before, but she has a savant level spiral and is a good athlete and it takes her no time at all to be basically their best player. There’s also obviously a big dramatic moment with the romance and I thought it was resolved a little too easily. I read the part where things are supposed to be explained and afterwards I honestly had to re-read it because there was nothing in it that seemed worthy of a resolution to me. There were a few other nitpicky things here and there, but overall this was enjoyable.

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Anti-Stepbrother by Tijan. Read February 14-15. 4 Stars. 

I loved this so much! It wasn’t at all what I was expecting, it ended up being much more. Summer was pretty quirky, which doesn’t always work for me, but I found her likable. I thought most of the characters were pretty likable and the angst and drama were on the low side, which was nice. I absolutely adored Caden and Summer together. It was kind of an enemies-to-friends-to-more story and I was here for it. I loved their friendship and it was kind of a slow burn to them getting together. I appreciated the “fade to black” love scenes. It really focused more on their relationship and feelings and it was so sweet and I just loved it. I’ve been disappointed by a lot of books lately, but this one totally broke me out of my slump.

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Ryan’s Bed by Tijan. Read February 15-16. 3 Stars. 

I had a hard time getting into this one. It was a pretty depressing read, mostly exploring grief. I think there were some very realistic emotions, but I wish that more attention would have been drawn to how Mackenzie’s coping methods were pretty unhealthy. And even though I liked the relationship between her and Ryan, I couldn’t help feeling like Ryan kind of took advantage of her.

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A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. Read February 16-18. 3 Stars. 

I thought this was ok, but not anything special. I’m kind of bummed I wasted one of YA BOTM credits on it. I liked Pip and Ravi, though Pip’s behavior did annoy me sometimes. There were several things I rolled my eyes at, but for the most part I thought the evolution of the mystery was pretty well done. It felt a little too long, though, and I lost interest well before the end of the book. And there were a couple scenes that felt completely lifted from tv shows I’ve watched.

*****DNF*****

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My Best Friend’s Royal Wedding by Romy Sommer. DNF-ed at 15%. Just couldn’t get into this one.

*****Books with Future Reviews Scheduled*****

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Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel – 2 Stars

The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben – 4 Stars

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson – 4 Stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Turned my Cold, Black Heart to Mush

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is a “Love freebie”. I decided to go to with Books that Turned my Black Heart to Mush. I don’t generally consider myself a “romantic” person, but there are some books that have such shippable, cute romance that it makes my cold, black heart melt a little.

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1. Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata

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2. From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata

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3. Making Faces by Amy Harmon

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4. The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

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5.  Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne

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6. On the Fence by Kasie West

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7. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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8. Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg

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9. Just One of the Groomsmen by Cindi Madsen

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10.  When It’s Real by Erin Watt

Review: The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From ​the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.

Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

The First Girl Child will be available August 20, 2019. 

I hardly know where to begin with this review. I’m going with a trusty list.

*The the book is set in a fantasy world within a Norse mythology framework. I will show my ignorance on the subject and admit I thought Thor was just a comic book character. But he and Loki and several others are mentioned throughout this story, though they aren’t main characters or anything.

*I found the synopsis just a little misleading. While Bayr and Alba are definitely main characters, they feel like supporting characters until the last quarter of the book. The story follows them from birth to adulthood, with much of book taking place while they are still children. I don’t want to diminish their importance, but I just expected for them to play much bigger roles. Dagmar and Ghost felt a lot more like lead characters and they aren’t even mentioned in the synopsis.

*There is some fabulous character development. Harmon takes her time telling the story and really focuses in on the characters and she did a good job of it. I definitely felt a connection to many of them. I loved sweet Bayr and tragic, tragic Dagmar.

*Though there was great characterization, I felt like it was a little at the expense of the pace. Though I was enjoying the story, I felt like it took me a lot longer to get through the book than it normally would a book of a similar size. Harmon’s writing is as beautiful as ever, but it also felt a little exhausting at times. I felt like it could have been edited down a bit more.

*I liked the slight parallel between Bayr and Moses from the Bible. Speaking of the Bible, though, it is mentioned that a leader from Saylok’s past spent some time among Christians and liked them so much he decided to make Jesus one of the gods they worship in Saylok. Which kind of defies the point of Christianity.

Overall, I enjoyed The First Girl Child. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but that turned out to be ok. Though it was a little longer and slower than it needed to be, I loved the characters a lot, especially Dagmar and Bayr. I think fans of Harmon’s other fantasy novels will really enjoy this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars