I have been doing a lot of reading, and I haven't done a book review for awhile so I'll catch up by reviewing a series I recently read. These are books in the 'Blue Sky Hill' series by Lisa Wingate. I was attracted to these books by the beautiful cover art! Blue Sky Hill is a fictional neighborhood in Texas; I think it was supposed to be Dallas. Like many urban areas, it was once a stable, well-kept neighborhood that is now in decline. Just up the hill is a redeveloped area; very much a financial opposite.
Before I start reviewing the books, I want to point out that, while I felt compelled to read them in order, I know see there was no reason to stress about that. Though you will meet some of the characters again in one of the other books, the stories stand alone. It's kind of like meeting a new friend. They have a past story, and you may learn it as you get to know them better, but it is not crucial to knowing them now.
The first book in the series is 'A Month of Summer'. This is the story of Rebecca Macklin, a successful lawyer married to another lawyer and she is beginning to feel distant. She grew up the product of a 'broken home' when her father left her and her mother for another woman and her young son. Though her father originally tried to include her with his new family, Rebecca resented him and felt he treated his stepson better than her. She refused to be part of his life and her mother encouraged this attitude. One day many years later, Rebecca receives a phone call from the police informing her that her father, who know is in the early stages of Alzheimers, has been wandering the streets. Her stepmother is hospitalized recovering from a stroke. Her stepbrother, Teddy, is now a mentally challenged adult, and the caretaker has disappeared. It is left to Rebecca to fly down and pick up the pieces, and of course, she resents it.
When she gets there, she find the house in disrepair, the finances a mess, and she needs to learn to communicate with Teddy to learn more about the situation. She must also visit the hospital to learn what she can from her stepmother, Hannah Beth, and to arrange for her continued care during recovery. In the process she learns a lot about her father, about Hannah Beth, and herself. What she learns changes her life and the story is very interesting. I give this one 4 stars!
The second book in the series is 'The Summer Kitchen'. This story is about SandraKaye Darden and Cass Blue. Sandra Kaye is the mother of 2 nearly grown boys and the wife of a successful doctor. She grew up in a dysfunctional family, but had a very supportive aunt and uncle and spent a lot of time in the little pink house that 'Uncle Poppy' built in the Blue Sky Hill neighborhood. Uncle Poppy was recently murdered, and SandaKay's family is reeling. Her oldest (adopted) son blames himself for not being there to prevent the murder and has taken off for parts unknown. Her younger son, a senior in HS, is trying to 'be' the older son and not handling it well. She and her husband each blame the other for the son taking off. She 'escapes' by spending time in Uncle Poppy's house getting it ready for sale.
In the process, SandraKaye meets Cass Blue. Cass is a 12-going-on-20 year old girl who lives with her 17 year old brother who poses as early 20s. There mother has recently died and they are on the run, escaping from a potentially abusive stepfather. They are barely surviving day to day, and living in a run down apartment building, when they take in a stripper and her very young daughter, who are also on the run from an abusive boyfriend.
As the story develops, SandraKaye meets Cass Blue and many other residents of the apartment complex, and sees how they are scrounging for food from dumpsters. She returns with a bag of peanut butter sandwiches. This is life changing for SandraKay. There are also minor appearance by some of the characters from 'A Month of Summer. Once you start reading, this book is hard to put down. I gave this book 4-stars also.
The third book in the series is 'Beyond Summer'. As in 'The Summer Kitchen' you will run across some of the previous characters. Knowing their previous story is not necessary to enjoy or understand this one, but if you've read the others, it is kind of fun to 'meet up' with them.
This book centers around three characters. Tam Lambert is the typical 'spoiled rich girl' living in a big house and enjoying tennis lessons, nice clothes, and fancy cars. She is the daughter of a former NFL star quarterback who is now the spokesperson for 'Householders', a local company that buys old houses. Her parents have divorced and her mother is doing mission work in Central America. Her father has remarried a young 'trophy' wife and they have 4 children, preshool and younger. A crazy aunt also lives them. Dad is caught up in a scandal, when the owner of the parent company of Householders is accused of a Ponzi scheme. The Lambert house is foreclosed and Dad escapes out of the country. Tam, her stepmother and aunt, and her youngs siblings are forced to move into a householders home in a neighborhood they previously would have been afraid to drive through!
Shasta is a young Choctaw woman with 2 young boys and another baby on the way. She and her husband have moved to the area so he can pursue his career as a PD member. They are seduced into buying a Householders home that is across the street from the one Tam and family move into. Shasta is the 'black sheep' of her family and is not yet ready to let her mother and brother know she has bought the house. They were opposed to her leaving the area and would have an 'I told you so' attitude, feeling she made another mistake when she bought a run-down house.
Sesay is an old woman; a 'boat people' refugee, though she doesn't know where she came from. As a young child, she lived a good life in her home country, until one day the soldiers came and took her father away as she and her mother ran for their lives. She ended up with her grandfather, who eventually put her on the boat. She landed in Miami and 'worked' for 'him' who was always threatening to call the police, who would 'put her back on the boat and send her away' if she didn't obey him. She has been running from 'him' for many years.
This is the story of how these three women meet and cope with difficult circumstances. I enjoyed this book, but I have to say that it was not quite as good as the first two. It is still worth reading if you enjoyed the first two, but I only gave it 3 stars.
There is a fourth book in the series due out in July of this year. This book is titled 'Dandelion Summer'. You can read the first chapter of any of these books at Lisa Wingate's web site here. To read reviews on Goodreads, just click on the titles in the review.