nuns

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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Review: And Then There Were Nuns

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And Then There Were Nuns
And Then There Were Nuns by Kylie Logan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars to Kylie Logan‘s And Then There Were Nuns, her fourth installment in the League of “Literary Ladies mystery” series. When one of your all-time favorite stories is Agatha Christie‘s And Then There Were None, you feel compelled to read any books that appear to follow in its footsteps, especially if they are part of an existing mystery series you already enjoy reading, hence why I selected this one earlier in the week. While it followed the original storyline, and had its own new interpretations, I found a few too many parts in need of work. It kicked off with a great premise and a few deaths but then disappeared into a poorly formulaic distraction — still worth a read if you’re a fan of the author and the series, but not an ideal introduction for someone new to the series. Let’s dive into the specifics…


Story

Bea runs an historic inn on Ohio’s South Bass Island near the Great Lakes and the Canadian border having moved there after escaping a stalker when she lived in New York City. She belongs to a reading group with several friends who often help one another with their various businesses and relationships, this time Chandra’s persistent attempts to deliberately annoy them. This month, they’re reading a non-mystery book when Bea is asked to help a friend provide meals for a group of ten nuns who are staying in another converted mansion. When her friend is called out of town, Bea takes the lead to ensure the nuns have everything they need while on their retreat, but soon finds one of them dead on the beach from a whack to the head. When another one dies, Bea and her friends start to see the resemblance to Christie’s classic mystery novel and reluctantly determine they’re back on another case.

Hank, the police sheriff Bea initially disliked, soon recruits her to be the lead for him on the investigation given it’s a small town and she already has a connection to the nuns. Bea manages the care for the guests at her own inn, deals with her friends’ problems and attempts to investigate the case of the disappearing and dying nuns. In the end, she avoids being killed in an accident meant for someone else and narrowly misses being shot by the murderer; however, she solves the case and the criminal is carted off to prison with little lasting impacts. Throw in a few guests on a genealogy quest and a bird-watching hunt, and you’ve got all sorts of kooky characters this time.

For a fun side story, Levi, the man she has flirted with in the last three books, wakes up in her bed in this fourth installment, leading us to believe something happened in between to push them into accepting their growing attraction to one another. But it doesn’t last when each reveals the secret reason why they had been holding off from dabbling in the relationship waters. At least we’re finally getting to connect the spoiler bread crumbs that were dropped along the way in the earlier books.


Strengths

1. The setup for the story kicked off with an intriguing plot. Ten nuns invited to a retreat by a leader who suddenly can’t show up himself. The caretaker of the mansion also is mysteriously called out of town and needs Bea to help watch over the nuns. The nuns claim not to know one another but soon start revealing some have interesting connections to each other. Reader love this stuff. It provides lots of guesswork and a myriad of options to develop a complex story.

2. We finally understand the chemistry and concerns with a Bea and Levi match up. Getting some of the backstory was helpful, but it was also brilliant to only provide some explanations to understand why they both came to the island. We still have the mystery of what happened to each of them prior to arriving which I suspect will come out in a future books.

3. The character of Hank is growing on me. He’s not so gruff anymore and he’s becoming more real. I was frustrated with him in the earlier books given his on again / off again relationship with Chandra and dismissal of Bea and the girls.


Suggestions

1. The plot devolved near the end. (SPOILER ALERT) I understand the backdrop is Bea’s bed and breakfast, but the murderer can’t always be the mysterious guy staying at the Inn. It undermines Bea’s intelligence if she never picks up on it until the end, and it sets up too repetitive of a storyline. The author needs to find a way to better use the people who stay at the Inn and who already live on the island.

2. The story stopped following Christie’s plot a third of the way through the book. I know you can’t kill off more than two or three of the ten characters without reality stepping in to have police surround the remaining nuns 24/7, but when one of the nuns is not really who she says she is, you can’t abandon the entire plot line to cater to a story that is completely different. It was still a good story, and provided many laughs and drama, but I felt like it was a bit disconnected.


Final Thoughts

I was a little disappointed in the plot of this book, perhaps because it didn’t live up to the real Christie story or perhaps because sometimes not every book in a series can be top notch. I’m hoping it bounces back in the next installment because I really like the characters and the setting for the series. I’d still encourage readers to read this book if they’re committed to the series as many good things happen to evolve the characters and add complexity, but if you focus on the plot too much, you may not love it.

View all my reviews