Okay, it's been a while since my last post but it's not because I haven't been reading... I've just been reading one of the best book series that I've encountered in such a long time!!!!
I've never heard of the author, Shayne Parkinson, but I downloaded the first book of the series as a free book for my kindle on Amazon. Well, I was hooked. I had to download the next three books as I finished them. Wow... these books have just about left me speechless! But I have to try to find a way to tell you about them!
The first book, Sentence to Marriage, starts this legacy series (or is it epic? Oh, I don't know, you fill in the blanks as you please) with two best friends and cousins. Amy and Lizzie. Amy is 12 years old and Lizzie is 14. The story starts as you would imagine it being like on a farm in the late 1800. It really didn't make a difference to me at this point that the story just happens to take place in New Zealand. There were just a few adjustments that I had to make in my reading on the meaning of certain words, but that wasn't difficult. :-) :-)
So, going back to Amy and Lizzy... these two girls with different types of homes. Lizzie's home life is very typical with loving parents and three brothers. Amy on the other hand was raised by her grandmother from the age of 3 when her mother passed away. But at the point where the story beings, she had been taking care of her father and two brothers for 6 months after the passing of her grandmother.
I don't really want to rehash the whole story for you, but it was so much fun on getting to know the characters and living the stories through the eyes of these little girls. Lizzie, who seems to be fairly bossy at home with her brothers, falls for a boy that is so shy and speaks so little that Lizzy almost takes over and plans out how she's going to get him to fall in love with her. It was so cute to read the story about how Lizzie and Frank fall in love. I can imagine Lizzie's constant talking... making up for everything that Frank didn't speak in the past plus anything that he wouldn't speak in the future. But that's okay, he loves that part about her. If it were not for her strength and ability to take over and make plans into action, there would have been no way that they wouldn't have achieved as much as they did. The first book concentrates on their friendship and eventually their courtship and marriage. I kind of imagine Frank having almost the personality like one of my favorite characters from Anne of Green Gables, Matthew. Both being shy and not the type to talk much, but enchanted by these two girls that are very much the opposite of themselves to the 10th degree. :-) I suppose that both characters didn't say all that much because Anne and Lizzie had the ability to talk without having to breath (and somehow still stay alive) but also because I suppose they used all of that talking as white background noise to an extent to help them think. :-)
Amy's story on the other hand was rather difficult for me to read. No, it wasn't difficult to read because it was hard or to graphic or anything, but it made me keep crying so much that the tears kept me from reading until they went away! The story line is very sad for Amy in this book after she had been terribly wronged. First by her stepmother, then by the boy that she thought she was going to marry. Susannah, Amy's stepmother, puts Cinderella's stepmother to shame in my opinion. Not only is she all hoity-toity and thinks herself as so much better than Amy, her brothers and the rest of her family, but she's really nasty about it too. She didn't like doing anything around the house and was always complaining about one thing or another as excuses to not do anything. Amy, being the type of person that only wanted to try to please her stepmother for her father's sake, would bring her tea in the morning so she wouldn't have to get out of bed at the crack of dawn like everyone else.
Susannah invites her brother to stay the summer when Amy was 15. Jimmy, Susannah's brother, took notice of tiny little Amy and starts paying attention to her... and it goes a little too far. Needless to really get much into what else happened, Amy ends up pregnant with an unwanted baby, no father or husband, because the jerky Jimmy ran away too far to chase him down for a shotgun wedding. Susannah in her own cruel way of helping, arranges to have Amy go into the city to stay for the last part of her pregnancy and put the baby up for adoption after the baby was born. I don't want to say too much because it will just get my crying all over again for her, but this part of the book is really emotional. At this point I was so attached to Amy and her emotions that I almost felt everything that she did. I can't say that I could imagine her pain because I've never given up a baby for adoption, but being a mom myself, I know that I would have never been able to do what Amy did, even if it was the best thing for the baby.
I'm not going to go into the other books quite yet because I want to talk about what I liked about this writer and the stories....
The two main plots, Lizzie's and Amy's, are not the only ones that the stories revolve around. The writer lets you peek into some of the other family members heads as well. For example, one of my all time favorite characters was Amy's brother John. He was such a minor character but so lovable that I couldn't help myself. Yeah, I tend to do that. My favorite characters are usually the really minor ones... but going back to John and his wife Sophie. Oh, they were really cute. Sophie had an older sister that their mom was trying to get John to take notice of and it was almost assumed that when he asked their father, that he would ask for the older sister's hand. But here is what made me love John so much, he actually asked to marry the younger sister, Sophie, because he found out who was doing most of the cooking all that time that he was invited for tea and lunch! Now, I'm sure that the cooking was not the only reason that John fell in love with Sophie, because much like himself, Sophie was not the type of person to say all that much around people. You have a match here of two similar personalities that actually worked and I really enjoyed reading about them. You all know that I'm not much of a writer myself; actually, I know that my own writing is atrocious, but I can't really express without using my dreaded cliche phrases on how 'cute' and 'adorable' this couple's story line was to me. :-)
Amy and Lizzie's stories go in such different directions in this series that they are like night and day. But the constants that I really liked was that Amy and Lizzie stayed so close. When Lizzie was forced to stay home because of her pregnancy (remember, late 1800's here - pregnant women that were showing were not allowed to go out in public) but she was worried about Amy, she would send Frank to go and check up on her. This was a rather endearing twist in the story because apparently Frank was sent to check up on Amy so often that they become good friends. Of course, Frank also appreciated that Amy worried so much over Lizzie as well... risking the wrath of her husband's anger in order to help take care of Lizzie and her family when Lizzie got really sick. Frank and Lizzie saw first hand what Amy suffered when her husband got mad (you'll have to read the second book, Mud and Gold, to find out). :-) :-)
I like reading historical fiction, one of the first books of this genre that I picked up in jr. high was Gone with the Wind. Of course, that was not a really good example of a good historical fiction story. Later I discovered John Jakes and his North and South series and really fell in love with this type of story-telling. It is interesting to me because you have some real life history going on in the back ground, but you get the human aspect in there as well. I love history, but not the facts or the wars and statistics, I like the human element of history. What was a typical life like? How much education was given to children that worked on farms versus the city? I think growing up watching Little House on the Prairie then reading the books peeked my curiosity about all of that. I love to talk history with anyone willing to talk to me, but I can't give you dates or facts or how many soldiers died or who was the commanding officer. But I can tell you what I typical day may have been like for a woman that lived on a pre-Civil War plantation in South Carolina or about a family that goes out into the frontier with hopes of a better life may have endured on their journey. I enjoy the human aspect of history and novels like this, and thanks to the research that most author's work on to make their stories as accurate as possible, I can put names, faces and personalities to some of the people that may have lives in that time period.
There was another book that I finished reading, I think it was last month, but I'm not sure if I blogged about it. It was the first book of a series called the Refiner's Fire series by Lynn Austin. The first book, Candle in the Darkness, was especially interesting to me because it was the first time that I read anything from the point of view of an abolitionist - especially one who's family still owned slaves. I'm sure that historically speaking, that not everything in the books I choose to read is really historically accurate, but it's still fun to read. Like I said, it brings humanity to history. There are only so many pictures and dry history books with statistics that one can digest without getting bored. It's like opening a peep hole into the past. I know that certain movies try to do this, but you can only do so much with a camera and special effects. You can't get into someones head as easily as you can with a book.
Okay, enough babble here, let me give you the names of the books in this series:
Promises to Keep series by Shayne Parkinson
-Sentence of Marriage
-Mud and Gold
-Settling the Account
-A Second Chance
I believe that you can only get these books for Kindle on Amazon.com, but I'm sure that there are still ways to get the actual book if you like. I found a site for her too. I hope I did the link correct.... though I'm not sure exactly how it will work. Click on the title of the blog? Oh, I don't know... here, I'll just have to take it off speech recognition and type it in for you:
Please feel free to email me if you've read this series! I'm dying to talk to someone about it! :-) :-)