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review 2019-11-18 17:41
Disappointing Look at Where Some Characters Are Four Years Later
The Summer Guests - Mary Alice Monroe

So if this book had just been a follow-up to the Beach House series it would have worked much better. Instead Monroe takes on horses in this one and a bunch of characters that either didn't make an impression on me, or ones that I ended up not caring for. My favorite parts of this book was a look into Cara Rutledge's life since the last book in the Beach House series. That said, I am still disappointed we didn't hear more about her brother, nephew, etc. in this one. Instead we hear about her, her daughter, and the new man she's been seeing since the last book "Beach House Reunion."

 

"The Summer Guests" follows a motley crew of people who live in Tyron, North Carolina who take in hurricane evacuees. The book follows Moira Phillips (who has rescue dogs), her two parents whose names escape me at the moment, Javier Angel de la Cruz (who is an equestrian rider and former/current Olympian) who is in a relationship with Hannah McLain (who is starting her own make-up line). And then there is Gerda Klug and her daughter Elise who are horse breeders. Mixed up in this is also Beach House favorite, Cara Rutledge. Cara, David, and some of the other Isle of Palms residents leave their homes to get away from a hurricane and end up staying with the Phillips at their horse farm. While there, secrets are revealed (dun dun dun dun dun). 

 

The parts dealing with Cara and her adopted daughter and new love interest was great. We also get peeks at Heather and hew now husband. Even though parts of the book feels samey (remember the first book in the series dealt with a hurricane as well) this feels a bit different since Cara now feels firmly rooted and doesn't want her home to be destroyed. I think if Monroe had kept the book focused on Cara and changes in her life that would have worked best. Instead the book jumps around to other characters and we are given the time/date and estimated landfall of the hurricane it feels like every few pages.

 

The other characters were a wash for me. I was interested in the character of Hannah and felt annoyed by how her story-line turned out. I disliked Javier and Gerda intensely. Why this got marketed as a romance is baffling. 

 

The writing in this book was all over the place for me. It felt like three stories forced fit into one. The parts dealing with Cara and her fear of the hurricane and the damage it could potentially do to her mother's old cottage, now her home, was palpable. I also loved the scene of her and her boyfriend David in the eye of the hurricane.

 

Other than that the rest of the book wasn't great. I don't like romance reads where there is cheating and I felt turned off by most of the other story-lines due to that.

 

The flow wasn't great either. It just felt like an actual physical change kept happening to my brain every time we leap back from Cara's story to the other characters in this book. 

 

Not too much to say about the setting. I can still picture the fabled Beach House in my head, but everything else was kind of blah to me.


The ending was a mess. It was a great resolution for Cara, but everyone else, that was a hard no. I don't even know what to say about it except it read as unfinished to me. 

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review 2019-03-25 17:32
Not Needed for Series
Beach House Memories - Mary Alice Monroe

Spoilers for those who have not read Beach House #1 and Swimming Lessons otherwise known as Beach House #2).

 

I ultimately felt bored and slightly letdown by the third book in the series. I honestly considered just passing it up since I am not a fan of reading about affairs in romance novels. Between that and how Lovie honestly seemed to ignore her two kids for her "romance" I wasn't feeling the plot at all. And when Monroe showed how and why Lovie ended up staying in her marriage I maybe went bah. 

 

So "Beach House Memories" has a present day setting with Lovie and her daughter Caretta (Cara) who are at the beach house. Lovie knows she has cancer and her days with her daughter are numbered. From there Monroe has her reliving her memories from 1974 when she had an affair with a biologist who was in South Carolina reporting on the turtle nests there. 


So for me I found Lovie to be a weak character. We are shown as readers that she realizes her husband is cheating on her. Taking her mother in law's advice to ignore it (who does that?) she eventually realizes she is sick of her husband and her living different lives. She is hoping that their annual summer trip to the beach house that was left to her will bring them closer together.

 

Readers already know that this is a lost cause based on book #1 in the series. So for me I was just beyond bored to read about things. We get to see how Lovie's mother didn't really care to help her. And we see how the long standing family housekeeper was there to support the children and Lovie. And we get to see the man we have heard about for so long, Stratton Rutledge who seems even meaner and less appealing than possible. 

 

Lovie and her "relationship" with Russell Bennett was boring. I didn't see any chemistry, but read a lot of justification for why she was doing what she was doing. The hypocrisy of the whole thing after she rails at her husband for cheating on her just made me roll my eyes.


Things got worse for me as we get to read about characters we have known and loved who in this younger setting are warning Lovie about the trouble she could be bringing upon herself.


I honestly didn't get why Lovie stayed after an explosive incident. We had heard about things from the other books, but this book was long justification that didn't fit.


Other characters are not developed that well as I said already. We get younger versions of Cara and her brother. And most of the book we don't really get to see Lovie mothering her kids. She gets obsessed with spending time with Russell and that's all she wrote. The house and the beach don't have the same appeal as they did in the first and later books.


The writing was up and down. I thought that Lovie sounded ridiculous at times. This book takes place in 1974 and characters were running around saying how disgusting they found "bra burning" and "women's liberation." Didn't that all happen in the late 1960s through the 1970s? I know that the bra burning incident that most people talk about is the one at the Miss America's Pageant in 1968. For Lovie to act surprised by things that are going on in the U.S. makes me think she had her head in the sand and never read a paper.

 

The flow was awful. I was happy to get to the end. There were no surprises there though Monroe interjects some magical realism that honestly didn't fit what came before. 

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text 2019-03-23 17:12
Reading progress update: I've read 100 out of 100 pages.
Beach House Memories - Mary Alice Monroe

Found myself bored. We knew about Lovie’s affair from the other books. It wasn’t that interesting to read about. And her staying with her abusive husband made me cringe. He beat her and even cracked ribs and I’m just astounded that they stayed in their marriage. We know the father messed with the kids lives from other books, so you realize that she made the wrong decision. Glad I read to complete the series, but definitely didn’t like this one much.

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review 2019-03-08 14:22
Not the Best Monroe Book I Have Read
Skyward - Mary Alice Monroe

Honestly this one didn't work when you focused on the adult characters. There was also a wise old black man helping out the white people around him and that didn't sit that well with me either. I think the biggest issue is that Harris was selfish about everything and Ella should have stayed professional. The characters of Elijah, Brady, and Clarice are the only parts of the book I enjoyed reading about. Monroe backed off on incorporating Brady into more of the story and I wish she had. Clarice and Brady's friendship ended up feeling unfinished too. 

 

"Skyward" is about Harris Henderson (that name) who runs a bird sanctuary in the Lowcountry in South Carolina. He devotes mos of his energy to the sanctuary while trying to parent his 5 year old daughter Marion. When Marion falls ill and is diagnosed with Type I diabetes, Harris realizes she needs to hire a caregiver for his daughter to ensure she gets her insulin shots. He ends up hiring Ella Majors who after being a long time pediatric nurse in Vermont is ready to do something new.


I didn't like Harris. I get that he was doing a great job, but after hiring Ella he pretty much demands a lot of things of her that I thought were unfair. And he also forbid her from talking about Marion's mother Fannie. That ended up becoming moot though when Fannie returns wanting to make her and Harris's marriage work. Oh did I not mention that Harris is married and starts up a romance with Ella? Yeah, that happened. I maybe mumbled how very Jane Eyre of him especially with the ending too. I guess for me I didn't see what was so great about Harris. He lives only a couple hundred feet from the bird sanctuary but asks like he has so much to do he can't spare any time for his daughter. When they end up losing a nurse for some time due to a family emergency he asks Ella to step in and she's of course (rightfully) says she's there to take care of Marion, not birds. But of course she ends up doing it because Ella has zero backbone.


Onto Ella. Eh. Monroe wrote her as pretty pathetic in my mind. Ella goes on about knowing she's not pretty and she on her 35th birthday resigned herself to being alone forever, with no husband and children and pretty much acted as if there was nothing more to her life.

 

 Image result for get a grip gif


Ella instantly finds herself attracted to Harris though she's there to actually work. Most of the book is her blushing anytime Harris does something nice and she runs around beating herself up for thinking about Harris romantically. I felt skeeved out about the whole working for the guy and then her getting talked into also working at a bird sanctuary. I seriously felt for Marion because the whole book is pretty much her father and her caregiver making her second or third to birds.

 

The other adult characters in the story were pretty boring except for Elijah. We get Harris's estranged wife back in the mix and Monroe had the chance to turn the book into something else but then swerved and did what I call a romance clean-up.

Monroe has written about the Gullah's that live in South Carolina in her other books before. This time it bugged me though because Elijah is just used to give out wisdom to characters like Harris and Brady. We hear his backstory via Clarice and I wish that we actually had him deciding to tell his story to someone to make him more developed.

 

Brady was a hard luck character who was doing what he could to keep his family together and not get his father in trouble. I liked the character and wondered why Monroe didn't write a sequel to Skyward that would feature him. I liked the idea of him and Clarice being friends. I did feel bad though that Monroe had Clarice arguing nothing could happen between them and it was implied it was because he was white and she was black. This book was published in 2003 though so I went back and forth about that being an issue in this time and place. 

 

The writing was just okay. I am used to Monroe making me feel as if I am in the book due to how she writes. This time I wasn't feeling it. I was interested in the research she obviously did about raptors (eagles, falcons, etc.). And she also includes little bits about them before each chapter heading. I also got a kick out of the rooster in this story. Yes, I was more invested in the animals than the actual plot.


The flow was off through the whole book though. There just seemed to be a lot of things left unsaid and we jump around a lot from Harris, Ella, and then Brady in certain sections. I don't know if the book had been tighter just focusing on Harris and Ella. However, I loved the parts with Brady. 

 

The setting of the Lowcountry always seems magical in most of Monroe's books. This time it didn't feel that way to me as I finished this.

The ending was...just think of Jane Eyre. I didn't even know what to say about it. 

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text 2019-03-07 18:55
Reading progress update: I've read 30%.
Skyward - Mary Alice Monroe

Was in the mood for some Mary Alice Monroe. I haven't read this before. It reads as a bit old fashioned at times, but so far still enjoyable.

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