memoir

Book Review: The Nuns of Lemon Tree House by Melanie Mole & Robert Brooks

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I was introduced to author Melanie Mole in 2017 when I read one of her earlier books which talked about embracing the simple life. In the book, she also covered a small part of her interest in joining a convent, but it is in her latest book, The Nuns of Lemon Tree House, co-written with Robert Brooks, where Melanie explores the entire experience. Although it would never be the life for me (I love the silence and can be obedient, but I think I might miss a few things like tv, foods, liquor, et al…), reading about someone else’s days in a life that often seems to embrace so many of the things to keep us healthy and relaxed is quite intriguing.

The first thing I’d convey about this book is that even with the simplicity of having very little events, it is warm, inviting, and full of action. But that’s kinda the point, isn’t it? A half-day’s walk around the convent just exploring the architecture or floor plan while not highly eventful does offer significant experience and commentary about life. Asking questions, thinking about change, or finding connections between your own life and those living within the convent’s walls induces tons of moments I enjoyed reading about. The authors’ descriptions of everything are in very fine details, conjuring up full images of what Melanie saw during her days with the nuns. It’s vivid and bright even when the room she’s meeting with one of the nuns is dark and gloomy (until she opens her eyes to what’s really present).

nuns

The next thing I found charming about the book was Melanie’s own voice and tone. She laughs at herself and finds humor even in the negative experiences. Fully acknowledging she will have issues with the ‘vow of silence’ helps set the stage for many moments where readers hear her ask question or speak to a nun only to realize she’s not supposed to… after a few, I felt myself reaching out to stop her — it brought levity to the topics and helped us connect with the narrator, Melanie herself, as how many of us would truly remember to keep our mouths closed! But it was when she began talking to herself out loud in the hallways as she explored the buildings and grounds where I realized she’s actually quite savvy at embracing the virtues of the order in her own way. And it helps lead to the answers she’s been searching for.

The journey is one that provided opportunity to learn — both for Melanie and for readers. Slowing down to ask questions (even silently in your own head), to wonder how the nuns function together with little words being said, or to understand how sometimes doing nothing can be more tiring than doing something… all these theories pop into your head. I enjoyed this break from my normal reading style and genre, but I also enjoyed learning about someone else’s life and thoughts. It’s important to breathe in other opinions and experiences, and what better way than by reading a memoir / autobiography of a few weeks in someone’s life.

Kudos to both authors (I’m curious how’d they co-write this… interesting approach), but I also wonder whether Melanie provided a copy to the nuns for future guests in the convent? Life can be a giant circle sometimes and wouldn’t this be a way to connect the past and present together for all visitors and those interested in learning about becoming a nun… And so, you are probably asking yourself whether she became a nun after this experience. Well, here’s what happened… oh, wait, I don’t believe in spoilers for other people. Experience it yourself and go read the book. I’m confident the ending will be quite a fun surprise!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Watching the Daisies by Brigid P. Gallagher

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I began following a blog entitled Watching the Daisies earlier this year shared by Brigid P. Gallagher and discovered she’d also written a book, Watching the Daisies: Life Lessons on the Importance of Slow, a few years ago. I purchased Ms. Gallagher’s holistic memoir last month and dropped it into my reading queue this week. It came at a great time and helped provide a few clear reminders we should all remember when things get too complex or tough.

Life can be difficult, especially when we encounter illness, pain, and death. It can also be wonderful when we meet new friends, fall in love, or share our days with family. Ms. Gallagher covers it all in this ~50 year memoir of many key events that occurred in her life. One of the biggest impacts I felt from reading her personal insights and history is an acute awareness of how lucky many of us are to have little to no physical pain or be raised by two loving parents who hadn’t died young. The author spent lots of time in hospitals, surgeries and doctors trying to diagnose symptoms that ultimately took a rather long time to discover. Along the path, Gallagher shares her home remedies for dealing with the pain, both mental and physical, as her career develops and she travels throughout the world studying and learning about different medicines, approaches and healing powers. I enjoyed reading about the path she took and felt sadness and happiness with each of her own ups and downs.

From losing family members she loved, to moving back and forth from Ireland and Scotland, to adopting and saying goodbye to many pets, Gallagher shares all the occasions in life that help craft who we are as people. We can face our obstacles with our head held high or sneak away letting no one help us. Gallagher teaches us about medicinal, herbal and other holistic healing options, teases us with trips we want to take in the future, and offers ideas to explore in our own lives on how to be happier and healthier. I next saw the bravery in this woman for not only living through many of the ordeals she’s experienced but in sharing them with readers like me who may have little or no knowledge about the difficulties of a disease or the unknown forces impacting our bodies.

The book is an easy-read with memoir moments, teaching opportunities, and whimsical thoughts. Some hit home for me, others were just a laugh or a nod of my head in acknowledgement of what the author’s been through. In the end, it’s the kind of book where you have a few hours to breathe the same air as someone else, learning how she would deal with all the curves and fun being thrown at her. Stepping out of my own shoes is always a good thing as it helps provide perspective and alternative opinions and ideas. Kudos to Gallagher for sharing such a wonderful life journey with us… I can only hope she’ll share the second half of her life sometime in the future as it sounds like she’s got a lot more planned as accomplishments.
daisy

If you enjoyed this review and think the author and/or book are for you, definitely check our Brigid’s blog as her insight and voice are a wonderful addition each week. You can find life lessons on the importance of slow and a whole lot more @ Watching the Daisies.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Private War of Corporal Henson by E. Michael Helms

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Before I get into my review, I wanted to share with everyone that this author is a blogger many of us have interacted with before. He shares writing advice. He is very supportive of other writers. He shares, tweets and re-blogs content to help market books, posts and thoughts from other people. He’s a solid guy and I’m privileged to be part of his online life… that said, I chose to read his book without him even bringing it up. And my review is completely free and clear of impacts from knowing him. He’s genuine and I thank him for the opportunity to read his work and about parts of his life. If you’re interested in reading more about him, check out his blog and other books. He’s also written a mystery series I can’t wait to get my hands on! But that will be another review later this summer… let’s get to the review on the first book of his I’ve read…

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After noticing the author’s name mentioned a few times on various blogs, then seeing some reviews of his books, I downloaded a copy of The Private War of Corporal Henson by E.Michael Helms. I didn’t realize until I started reading the introduction that this is a follow-up to his first book about life in Vietnam, but I don’t think you need to read them in order, as it’s a bit of a mix: fiction and a semi-autobiographical memoir of his experiences during the war and adjusting to life afterward. I’m not a frequent non-fiction reader, and when I do, war isn’t usually the topic I’d want to learn about; however, I had a good feeling about this author’s work from seeing his blog and social media posts, so I chanced it. I’m glad I did and would give this 4.5 stars. Great work, Mr. Helms.

The novel takes place in the mid 1980s about 20 years after the Vietnam War has ended. Nathan Henson is struggling to live a full life without the past continually haunting him. He’s encouraged to meet up with other veterans and forms a group of guys who support one another through the days and nights. Nathan considers dating again, though he’s somewhat avoided it the last two decades. He and his friends decide how to balance the need for medicinal support, alcohol to calm the nerves, and truthful conversations that bring up a lot of pain. Consider it a coming-of-age journey thirty years later than normal, but that’s meant in a very supportive and honorable way. Nathan, like so many other soldiers, have to figure out how to re-formulate who they are in a world that is no longer the same both personally and globally.

I fully admit I was worried about the flashback scenes. It’s not that I can’t handle the violence or gore, actually rather than opposite — I like reading and seeing it when I know it’s fiction. But emotionally, it’s hard to accept this was a reality for many people in the past and even today. What Nathan endured, as well as his friends, and all the people we probably know in real life, including the author, is horrific… and when I see it in a movie or read about it in a book, it’s too much to handle without taking on some of the pain. So I tend to avoid these types of literature or flicks, but Helms provides the right balance of horror, humor, pain, survival, and support to make reading his story much easier than I’d expected. Whether it’s the right place or not, I feel an intense need to say thank you to the author as well as others in his similar position, for all the energy, effort and time they put into protecting people around the world and in my own country. Thank you, Mr. Helms for both your service and this book.

Nathan as a character is great. He’s well-depicted with both charm and old-school anger / attitude that toes the line of being raw and real, but also frustrating and compelling. I’ve never been thru anything like this, so I’ve no right to judge anyone’s behaviors… yet reading this story opens my eyes to how and why people act or react the way they do. You’re changed coming out of war. And Nathan and his friends deserve the right to take whatever time is needed to figure out their post-war life. It seems simple on the outside… you meet a girl, you fall in love and everything goes away. But that’s not how it is — and Helms’ descriptions, detailed emotions, thorough examples and witty commentary help make that plainly clear to someone on the far outside of the experience. Only a strong writer and someone who’s experienced these events could pull off that task. Kudos to him for making me believe what’s happened in the story and for awakening me to a different reality.

Helms shares a good balance of camaraderie between all the men in the group who meet regularly to discuss their experiences. Each has an opportunity to reflect back on what happened and how they are dealing with it. Sometimes things go well. Sometimes they do not. Each character is vivid. Nathan although not the leader of the group feels like it because he’s sort of narrating the story (not really, but that’s how it seems). He’s a solid guy, and when he has to cancel plans to support a friend, or debates loaning money to one, or we learn about medicine being sold on the side… you understand the bond these men share. You feel the pain when they reveal their stories and what happened to each of them. Who lost a limb and how did they deal with it? Who can’t allow himself to get close to anyone post war? Who has children but no job and can’t support his family? All the things that happen in reality are covered in this story, and as a reader, your heart aches for them.

That said, I also want to kick their ass a few times. Men talk. Sometimes it ‘vulgar’ but that’s the truth and how it happens especially in the 1980s. Helms provides a little of this side of life, too. He doesn’t hold back, but that’s a good thing. It elicited a bit of anger from me, just as it would from someone doing those things in real life around me. He’s got the dialect and voice down. The setting felt very 1980s to me. All good things in a memoir and a piece of fiction.

I’m not gonna lie and say it’s an easy book to get through. War is difficult. The savagery that happens to people in the army or navy is horrendous. You will hear those stories. You will need to put the book down for a few minutes to let it sink in and then somehow flush out of your system before you take on a new story of pain. But it’s well-written, balanced with positivity and humor, and forces you to accept some harsh (that word doesn’t truly do it justice) experiences many people in today’s world aren’t familiar with. Kudos to Helms for successfully pushing me out of my comfort zone on this one.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Review: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Book Review


Harriet Ann Jacob’s work was similar to Frederick Douglass’ narrative in that both of the pieces read so quickly and easily. I very much enjoyed Jacob’s piece. The language seemed so real and almost as though Harriet, or Linda, was telling the story to me herself. I understood the work very easily also probably because I had previously read Douglass’ piece which showed the life of a slave who was beaten viciously at times. Jacobs, who experienced a very different type of slavery was more mentally abused than physically abused. She was a strong woman who I admired very much. I thought she made a few mistakes in her life, but she was a role model for all the other slaves.
Jacob’s work has shown the awful side of life like Douglass had, but Jacobs story was aimed more towards a white women’s audience (from the Intro…). Either way, she has shown the struggle of a woman who wants to free her children, and so she is also fighting for herself. She wants to free herself from the burdens of Mr. Flint. Jacobs work definitely is a strong model for women who are fighting to free themselves from the wrongs of society. She is a good representative of, at the same time, a woman from the mid 19th century who s trying to escape. She may not have suffered them same persecutions as every other slave, but she still suffered.
It flowed so smoothly and really gained an interest from the readers. It hit home for some people and for others it just tugged on their heart strings some more. I think that it is very important for people to read this piece of literature because it gives a representation of a different side or type of American life. It is a part of our culture (back then) and a part of our history. Overall, I really liked this work and would recommend it to anyone.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Book Review

FYI, I wrote this 15 years ago while in college… copying over some old reviews now!

I first read the biographical introduction about Frederick Douglass and learned many new things. I knew he wrote a few autobiographies, but I never knew that he spanned them over 40 years of writing and that he lived for close to 80 years. I then read both the preface by Garrison and the letter to Douglass. They were excellent introductions to the narrative by Frederick Douglass. They set the mood and get you ready to experience a whole new set of emotions when you read Douglass’ Life of an American Slave, etc. It really prepares you for the glory in the words and language. You realize how much Douglass meant to the enslaved people. It also gives you an overwhelming sense of sullen melancholy. You almost can’t believe that something like “this” happened to Douglass. It is very powerful and emotional.
Douglass’ work definitely is effective. It moves the reader deeply. All I can say about book 1 is that I was utterly repulsed by what I read. How any person could do that to another human being because their skin is a different color is absolutely hideous. I was so angry that I wanted to just scream out profanities to the slaveholders. Douglass’ memory and description is so vivid. I could see the apple red blood drip to the floor almost like it was an IV at times when he whipped her so much there was hardly any blood left. I wonder though if this was an exaggeration. Garrison claims that it isn’t, but it is so vile and disgusting that it can’t be real. Can it? In Book 2, at least we learn that the slaves are treated a little better at times. They go for a walk to the Great Farm House if they are a representative which gives them some time to themselves without the fear of a whipping. They sing songs and have a little bit of fun at least: although Frederick says that they never had any real joy with it, not tears of joy or happiness. I was so upset by this. No joy and forced to go through all that they did. It is horrible. Also, the rations they received were so minute. I wonder how they ever survived.
In Book 3… The garden that was near the plantation was nice. It would give the slaves something to look at, except that it also tempted them to steal some fruit and vegetables, which would result in severe punishing. And all of this so far, happened when Frederick was still just a child. I often thought that it was just a game to see how many times they could whip a slave or get him/her to do wrong. It was almost as if they purposely set them up using spies, etc. To try and catch them in the act. I think that is incredibly inhumane and awful. If I have this many feelings about the narrative so far, it just shoes how great an author Douglass is. He is able to capture attention and make you yell out in angst against the evil masters and overseers. By the end of Book 6, we learn that Douglass has learned how to read and write. He has also learned what an abolitionist is. He begins to see more out into real life, rather than the life of a slave. He has been through several new masters, some good and some bad. Also, during this time, he tells the readers that it is better off to be dead than to be a black slave in 19th century America.
In later books we learn that it is especially horrible when you have been treated nicely as a slave and then you go to a plantation where they treat you despicably. Douglass is extremely effective at showing his audience this. Douglass also tells how he was shipped all over the place whenever his masters died or got tired of him. I see how it becomes a game again. I also see that maybe the slaves could be compared to the life of a nomad who has no one common place to stay.

Not an easy one to read, but important to understand how bad the situation was. Hearing about it or knowing of it is one thing. Reading specifics is entirely another.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: The life, history, and travels, of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh (George Copway), a young Indian chief of the O

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The life, history, and travels, of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh (George Copway), a young Indian chief of the OBook Review
2.5 out of 5 stars to The Life, History, and Travels of Kah-GE-Ga-Gah-Bowh, George Copway: A Young Indian Chief of the Ojebwa Nation, a Convert to the Christian Faith, written in the 1860s by George Copway.

George Copway is a very interesting man. The biographical information made him sound very intriguing and very nostalgic. He writes about Indian culture and how Americans relate to the Indians in the early to mid 1800s. His work The Life of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh was about some person’s life as a Native American and what he went through with his family. The three chapters which represent the entire work failed to draw me in. I enjoyed his descriptions and the whole entanglement with the bear in chapter three, but otherwise, the family squabbles made me not want to read the rest of the work. There is hardly any action in the stories, either – It is more like description. Copway’s work very much reminds me of James Fenimore Cooper’s work. They are both very nature-oriented and descriptive, but there is no real meat to sink your teeth into.
I saw how it was romantic and fits into some of the other works from the time period though. Perhaps, most of the work in the time period is very fluffy and made up of superficial description and detail rather than risky adventure stories like The Adventures of Huck Finn, etc. Copway’s piece really seemed plain, despite the multitude of detail and description in it. It could have been written more like a diary or journal entries rather than a dry history of someone’s life. I agree the language was beautiful and vivid and imaginative, but there was nothing standing behind it yelling out “Action, action… I am present here.” I also liked the part about the different tribes and how they couldn’t marry within the same one because it would be incestuous. It didn’t matter anyway because the Eagle tribe and the Crane tribe were connected because of this and that, etc. It started to really get into characterization and it did especially with the whole father/son vs. bear conflict, but on the whole, it was more language-based than plot-based, so it didn’t particularly appeal to me.



About Me


For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews