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on 29 April 2011
I picked this book up because it was free at the time and I thought it sounded quite interesting. Within a few pages I was totally hooked.

The story revolves around the life of a New Zealand farm girl at the end of the 19th century. Amy has a good life until a new stepmother arrives and turns her family's life upside down. Amy's story is not an easy one to read and there were times when I wanted to get into the book and give her a good talking to. The detail within the story is fantastic and the author's writing style is descriptive and easy to read.

This book is the first in a trilogy and if you enjoy this one you will definitely be buying the next two as they literally carry on from each other (to the point that I wonder if they were originally one big book).

If you like a good family saga then this would be a good choice for you.
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on 2 August 2011
I LOVED this book! Shayne Parkinson has done a fantastic job of painting a picture of the life of a 19th century New Zealand farm girl. I found myself absolutely enchanted with the comings and goings of Amy's family within minutes of starting to read this book.
It's effectively a historical family saga, so there are highs, lows, surprises, romances, betrayals and more. Added to all of this, there are interesting insights into farm life at that time, something that I knew little about. The character of Amy is very easy to engage with. She seems perfect at first, but is ultimately as flawed as any teenage girl trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between girl and woman. All the characters are very clearly portrayed, even the very minor ones. So much so, that I can picture them all in my mind and towards the end, I started to feel that I actually knew and understood them.
I sympathised with Amy, laughed at Lizzie her cousin, loved to hate Susannah her step-mother, felt exasperated with Jack her father and found myself whizzing through what is quite a long book, at an amazing rate because I was so engrossed in the plot.

I can't recommend this highly enough. There are very few stories of this type around and even fewer that are so well-written. I'm so glad to see that there are 3 more books in the series for me to read. I'm looking forward to all of them!

Kindle edition: very well-formatted, no errors or problems that I could see :)
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on 27 January 2012
This is the first of four books (currently) about the same families living in the rural Bay of Plenty in newly colonized New Zealand. Parkinson is already working on the fifth, set during the first world war. I bought it as I've just returned from NZ, and the book was free to download. I've since gone on to purchase the other three books for about £2 each and am enjoying the series, although have not been blown away. While definite value for money I wouldn't have spent much more on them.
Parkinson has a lovely way of writing, especially conversations between characters. They are realistic and not rushed. I'd say that 85% of the books are made up of 'talking', which is easy to read, but hardly constitutes a great writer.
The main characters are well-developed, not always likeable and varying enough to maintain interest. But crikey there are some cliches. You've got the 'strong' female protagonist, the irritating but likeable friend, the slightly dim but dependable love interest, the 'nasty' love interest, and the evil step-mother (yes really). As you move into the later books the list increases. You can also see all of the plot 'twists' coming a mile off. In the fourth book I predicted a later scene almost word for word.
Although the writing itself doesn't feel rushed, the pace is far too quick, with entire years passing by in about 10 pages. The couples have so many children its difficult to keep track of who belongs to who, and as time rushes by so quickly you get no clear image of the characters. The prose, of which there is not a lot, can be rather boring sometimes and I've found myself skim-reading some parts.
BUT there is something about these books that keeps me reading, often well into the night. Despite the obvious flaws, they are intensely readable. The emotion is what draws you in, with some moments being extremely well-handled and intensely moving. Some of the descriptions of what Amy goes through are surprisingly graphic in terms of violence and sheer unpleasantness. Some parts left me feeling physically sick.
There is some sexual content in all the books, although its never added just for the sake of it, and is sometimes racy but never explicit.
Overall an enjoyable series, but with a good editor it could have been great. If anything it's nice to learn a bit about the social history of NZ, even though the majority of places in the books are fictional. Parkinson's done her research, but needs to work on her writing style if she's to win a large fan-base. It is her first novel however, so kudos for that, I know I couldn't do any better!
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Where oh where do I start with this review, I just can't bring myself to say I loved it, there were just too many upsetting and disturbing events but I was truly moved by reading this book and just couldn't put it down. The writing was excellent - descriptive; I had no difficulty conjuring up the environment and it moved at a good pace. I never felt as though the author was `padding it out' making it a compelling read for me, reading way way way into the early hours of the morning.

It was an absolute roller coaster of emotions all the way through this novel - anger; just at the sheer injustice of so many events and peoples actions - sad; for Amy, so loving and trusting and filled with integrity, which yes was to be admired but at times lead to her being taken serious advantage of and shouldering both blame and consequences of other peoples actions. And made me a little down at times; how much sorrow can one person take?

This is where I depart from the opinions of so many other reviewers in that, having just finished this book, I won't be rushing to download the author's next book JUST YET. Yes, I know I will download it eventually, but at the moment I'm left feeling too raw. Of course this is why this is such a good book, the characters were so well-crafted they were believable. Also, the story does finish abruptly leaving me wondering if the sequel was written at the same time?

Yes I do highly recommend both this book and the author, but do suggest caution if you're already feeling down or a little depressed and especially if you've experienced problems with child birth at any time. It's not a feel good read; well certainly not in this particular book of the saga but excellent regardless.
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on 10 February 2012
I suspect that I'm revealing too much of my feminine side when I say that I really enjoyed this book. It isn't my usual read; it's a gentle-paced, family saga that describes the growing to maturity of a young girl in a remote farming community in 19th century New Zealand. The descriptions of the local fauna and flora are just sufficient to create realism, although I was briefly confused by the mention of a rifleman in the undergrowth - until I realised that a rifleman is a small bird and not a sniper.
Occasionally, in the early chapters, I asked myself why I was reading it, but the book sucked me in and I couldn't stop. For me it was a page-turner, not because it was action-packed and I was desperate to find what happened next, but because the writing is so smooth that it simply carried me along. The characters are lovingly drawn. The formatting is flawless and I didn't spot a single typo - which is depressingly unusual in a self-published ebook.
Now it's on to the next one in the series.
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on 10 April 2012
This book had me pushed into a corner - no escape - reading till the small hours - the portrayal of the times and the place were brilliant, I loved it! I became truly devastated by the way the plot went and really felt depressed by it - and yet you cannot let go and feel compelled to read on - I have just downloaded the next three in the series - I need to know it got better in her life!

I really recommend this book - even if the price changes to £5 from being free I would recommend this book - a wonderful read and I am off now to start book 2!!!
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on 18 April 2012
I was attracted to this novel simply by the fact that it was set in a completely different location - New Zealand. The lead character, Amy, made me feel sorry for her and then want to give her a telling off for being so silly, proving (for me) that the author had crafted a rounded character. The other characters were well crafted and gave you a definite feel of how hard the times were living out in the bush. Very enjoyable and I will definitely buy the next book in the series
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on 12 November 2011
and I am already looking at downloading the next book in the series (as soon as I can work out which one it is). Whilst I love reading a variety of genres (from sci-fi to classics), this is probably only the second or third saga I have ever read (the first being Forsythe Saga). Like all the other reviewers I downloaded the book because it was free, and I was hooked after the first couple of pages. The characters are well developped (especially Amy, her step-mother Susannah and the voice of wisdom and common sense, Lizzie). I could not help but love the main character, Amy, and I could not put down the book until I found out what happened to her. A great but emotional reading - after all you can't expect life on a farm in 19th century New Zealand to be easy for a young girl.
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on 7 June 2013
I thought this book looked quite a good read when browsing for something for my Kindle. I was surprised how good it was. Was struggling to put it down.

Characters are full of depth. Two characters, in particular, are spiteful, unkind and manipulative to such an extent I found it quite upsetting! Amy's cousin, Lizzie, I found so likeable that she made the manipulative characters more bearable.

Poor Amy! I was longing for someone to be kind to her! I agree with another reader's review that this is not a read if you are feeling a bit down. The story is not a cheerful read but I am hoping that things get better for Amy when I read the follow on books.

Interesting descriptions of farming, countryside and wildlife in New Zealand along with everyday domestic life of the time.

Although a criticism would be that it is rather too full of negative experiences I had to give it a 'five star' rating as I was just captured by the story and just longing to know what would happen.

I would recommend this if you are warned that the storyline for Amy is very unfair.
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on 28 May 2013
I could not read this book all the way through it was too difficult and so miserable I'm not saying that it isn't well written just not my cup of tea there enough misery in real life so I prefer happy endings
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