Inspirational / Spiritual
by Shelby Spear
Idea: Shelby Spear and Lisa Leshaw craft an inspiring and intimate collection of psalms and conversations directed at mothers and which explore complex emotional stages relating to motherhood.
Prose: The authors communicate with readers in a clear, genuine prose style. The psalms in this work are smoothly integrated into the broader discussion of raising children and the myriad emotions accompanying the experience.
Originality: Spear and Leshaw’s project is unique in its vision and approach to spirituality and self-help. The marriage of two distinct voices offers a memorable reading experience.
Character/Execution: Readers will find a comforting and supportive handbook in How Are You Feeling, Momma? Mothers feeling isolated in their emotional states will value this heartfelt contribution.
Blurb: An original, helpful, and inspiring book...a must for moms--and parents--everywhere.
by Beverly Lanzetta
Idea: Lanzetta has provided readers with a very thorough book on how to transform one's life into a more simple, spiritual one. The advice, exercises, and extensive bibliography are all useful. She says that intended readers may be the "many disillusioned with organized religions,” and her book aims to provide a resolution to this.
Prose/Style: Academic in quality, the text is readable and largely fascinating, even for those who may not consider themselves "religious."
Originality: This text feels quite original and far-reaching. The references and bibliography are expansive and are a testament to the author’s depth of research and investment in the subject.
Character Development/Execution: The content is broad, layered, and rich. Lanzetta provides a dynamic blend of intriguing historical content and practical exercises for readers seeking peace, centering, and greater spiritual awareness.
by Dan Assisi
Idea: The author’s idea of basing this inspirational book on Paul's journey to Damascus is an effective one. The work’s emphasis on achieving meaningful change will be welcomed by readers seeking personal empowerment.
Prose/Style: Assisi is a relaxed, smooth writer, with a friendly tone and appropriately-placed humor. His clear, expressive writing demonstrates his talents in motivational speaking.
Originality: While much of the advice Assisi provides—including urging readers to embrace change and achieve greater self-awareness—is familiar, he uniquely utilizes Apostle/Prophet Paul as the impetus for the guidance he offers.
Character Development/Execution: The book is well organized, outlining seven lessons from Paul's journey. The biographical sections on Paul and his travels are often fascinating, especially to readers unfamiliar with the Christian bible.
by Autumn Toelle-Jackson
Idea: The idea of writing about loss - and reaching readers with similar losses - is unique and appreciated. While it has certainly been done before, this book brings a positive and reflective viewpoint that will resonate with readers.
Prose/Style: While the prose isn’t memorable, it is well crafted, well organized and has few, if any, errors. The memoir reads somewhat journalistically.
Originality: Many people write about various losses of their loved ones. However, this narrator has more losses than many, and she seems to cope more effectively than most. Writing the book seems to have helped heal her from these terrible and numerous tragedies, and will likely help others grappling with grief.
Character/Execution: The book is also well structured, and the narrator displays little self-pity. Each time a death occurs, she actively struggles to overcome her grief and finds many ways to do so. Both her husbands are drawn in detail, but she remains the central developed character.
by Aura Camacho-Maas
Idea: Camacho-Maas's childhood/adult lives and her social and mystical passions are intriguing and set the stage for a distinct narrative about her impressive life. Several important plot points only get a few sentences and resolve quite quickly, lacking a strong emotional resonance. The plot goes from Aura's abusive childhood to her work and spiritual awakening a bit too fast, without the needed segues to craft a cohesive story. This memoir is compelling in parts, but seems disjointed as a whole.
Prose/Style: Camacho-Maas writes with emotion and eloquence; her writing is especially impressive. Her abuse as a child and her mental health struggles are simply put, yet harrowing. The prose about mysticism and Spirit is powerful and articulate, too. The only part that seems out of place is the discussion of her nonprofit work. Here, imagery tells a story as opposed to the prose, which tells more than shows.
Originality: Camacho-Maas's journeys through her childhood, the natural world, and the mystical are intriguing to read about, yet a lack of cohesion in the middle of the memoir threatens to make readers lose interest in her ultimately uplifting story.
Character Development/Execution: Aura's personality is strong, passionate, and compelling. While she does create full characterizations of her mother and father, the lack of details about her husband and her siblings seems like a miss and lessens the emotional core of her growth as a spiritual person.
by Meg Nocero
Idea: Nocero's collection of mantras is upbeat, encouraging, and extensive. A lack of information about when and how to apply them somewhat prohibits readers from using them to their full potential.
Prose/Style: Nocero's prose is conversational, optimistic, and easy-to-understand. The inclusion of additional content to the mantras adds a personal touch. At times, though, the mantras can become repetitive in terms of theme and message..
Originality: The mantras are positive, insightful, healing, and expansive. Nocero's drive to help inspire others with optimistic lessons and concepts is powerful, yet at times the messages can grow repetitive and somewhat scattered.
Character Development/Execution: Nocero's love for her readers and her yearning to help them shines through, as does her own success with her teachings. Her optimistic and giving personality is evident in the additional notes interspersed throughout the mantras.
by Christine Brandon
Plot: The life of Diana, the protagonist of this wrenching biography, offers readers an urgent story of a woman discovering that, after a lifetime of abuse and deprivation, she deserves "to be human at last." Moving and haunted, this story of a hardscrabble German childhood during the war, abuse suffered in a convent and in her first marriage, and the liberating power of divorce and eventual romance is told with power and feeling, despite the text's rawness and the author's disregard for scenecraft or other niceties of commercial narrative storytelling. The book's title belies its contents, as there's little discussion in this straightforward account of a life of "False Heroes," and the "prelude" and much of its first chapter, which find Diana reluctant to look back on her life, are conceptually muddled. The book's shape and power don't reveal themselves until the narrator faces the hard truths of Diana's childhood.
Prose/Style: False Heroes boasts frank, direct, compelling prose digging deep into Diana's trauma and healing, often in extraordinary lines. The level of disclosure is high, and potent emotion pulses through the book. The lack of scenes or (especially in the early chapters) strong narrative structure diminishes the potential of narrative momentum. The occasional suggestions that the author is in fact Diana, despite the third-person perspective, at times seem coy and at times create unnecessary distance and confusion.
Originality: Diana's life of deprivation, emigration, and courageous independence is unique but also touched with universal themes and lessons. The book's most singular ideas, such as a German immigrant's feelings of guilt about her heritage, would have benefitted from a more thorough examination.
Character Development/Execution: While indisputably powerful, and certain to elicit tears from the patient reader, False Heroes suffers from uncertain thematic presentation and a lack of narrative technique. Still, it's a vital contribution to the history of American lives. The story and life it reveals are rich and affecting.
by Patrick Paul Garlinger
Idea: Garlinger's thesis is that true spiritual transcendence comes through rejecting concepts of identity and individuality in favor of a more collective approach to being. The work is highly philosophical and requires readers to fully give of themselves to the groundbreaking ideas being presented.
Prose: As a channeled text, the prose is not conveyed through a single perspective--the author's or anyone else's. Instead the text would seem to be spoken through collective voices that espouse the ideals of living in service of greater unity and compassion. Readers desiring more concrete self-help guidance may be turned off by the conceptual framework, while others will delight in it.
Originality: A World Without Identity makes the bold suggestion that the autonomy so many individuals seek, can in fact be a detriment to personal growth and collective progress. The most freeing and productive path forward, the book posits, is through rejecting old structures and systems that reinforce separation, hierarchies, and self-serving goals. References to present day identity politics and divisions offer context and timeliness.
Character/Execution: A World Without Identity offers a highly immersive reading experience. Readers who are actively seeking a paradigm shift or a dramatic restructuring of their worldview, will welcome the lessons of this intrepid text.
by David Lacopo
Plot: This is an intriguing inspirational work that will likely appeal to a niche audience, likely those already familiar with and committed to the ideas presented. For invested readers, the author offers a wide-ranging focus with an enriching collection of tools and exercises relating to the study of Tarot (which the author presents as a versatile and valuable resource for higher understanding), meditation, numerology, and more.
Prose/Style: The author is a clear and well-structured writer. The book might benefit from the paring down of charts and photographs, but the worksheets in the appendix will likely prove abundantly useful for individuals seeking to put the wisdom offered to practice.
Originality: While the topics the author addresses are frequently explored in the metaphysical realm, this book gathers many spiritual tools into one text, making the book a solid choice for those seeking guidance in a number of areas of self-growth and consciousness-raising.
Character Development/Execution: Readers will find a trusted companion and mentor in the author as they navigate the myriad topics presented.
by Kate Vogt
Idea: Our Inherited Wisdom is a sweet, inspiring collection of quiet meditations, affirmations, and reflections designed to aid readers in becoming centered, better connected to nature, and at peace with themselves.
Prose: The author writes well, and she has chosen lovely, small poems to accompany each section of her book, including those by Rumi, Galway Kinnell, and Shakespeare.
Originality: While not entirely original, this hopeful book offers a valuable invitation to readers to reflect, be mindful, and revere the natural world.
Character/Execution: This book is well organized, uncluttered, and accessible to all readers.
by Robert DeVinck
Idea: The idea of becoming a more grateful person that DeVinck perpetuates here, of becoming "good, not great," and of being empathetic, is valuable. DeVinck encourages readers to live in the present moment and believes that the answers to what matters lie within us.
Prose/Style: The author is an eloquent and talented writer who has clearly done extensive research.
Originality: Although expressed articulately, some of the ideas presented here are not entirely new. Still, many of the quest stories are inspiring and will strongly appeal to readers seeking solace.
Character Development/Execution: The reader truly gets to know the author on a personal level and several of the people whose lives and struggles he delineates.
by Dorcas Massanga Germaine
Idea: In its preface, Dorcas Massanga Germaine's The Heart of God announces that the manuscript is a "transcription on the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit" and that the pages that follow represent the direct thoughts of "the LORD" as divinely sent through the vessel of the author. Evaluation of such a book of course depends upon the faith or credence any individual reader has in Germaine's claim to be writing on behalf of God. With that caveat, it must be acknowledged that a book in which God updates and clarifies the biblical texts for contemporary life is a welcome idea, and this particular volume is in tone, approach, and language appropriate to the conceit.
Prose/Style: The language in The Heart of God is in an appropriate biblical English. The voice is authoritative, demanding, repetitive, and baldly declarative, but also contemporary in the way it would be channeled through a present-day scribe. Outside of the acknowledgements, author Germaine includes no text in her own voice; instead, the book is dense with the word of the God that she is presenting, in long paragraphs riddled with comma splices. Her approach is explained by one of the countless divine exhortations she reports: "Analyze nothing and write only." This God declares, and so Germaine does, informing readers that her God remains the same jealous demanding God of the Old Testament, hostile to homosexuality and organized religion, and allowing Black people to suffer because their ancestors worshipped Baal. The book would benefit greatly from heavy copyediting.
Originality: Setting down the commands of a divine being is one of the oldest forms of writing. What's most unique here are the subjects that this God expounds upon, as solicited by Germaine; many of this God's pronouncements seem to come from questions she has asked – questions not explicitly spelled out in the text. So, God discusses questions like why in the West, Jesus has so often been painted as white, what repentance should actually entail, the history of the Vili tribe, and why God considers "organized religion" a "blasphemy."
Character/Execution: This score, naturally, would be much higher for any reader who is persuaded that Germaine has channeled the creator of the universe. The book's typographical errors and frequent incoherence limit its power. That said, believers may find wisdom and guidance in many passages.
by Bob Krech
Idea: In this moving account of a tiny infant’s premature birth and first challenging weeks of life, a family is sustained by their Catholic faith.
Prose: The prose is simple, but effective. Bob Krech's descriptions of his daughter, who was born weighing less than a pound, and of the struggle for survival that ensued, are vividly realistic.
Originality: Many of the details of this incredibly tiny infant’s early weeks of life are deeply touching. The wholehearted teamwork of the family and medical staff is inspiring, although not every reader will relate to the passages touching on the author's religious experiences. The book strikes many notes that will be familiar to readers of Marie Killilea’s ‘Karen.’
Character/Execution: The story follows a dual trajectory; the growth of the infant Faith, and the growth of her father’s faith in God as his daughter’s seemingly miraculous clinging to life and ultimate blossoming into a healthy, happy girl and young woman occur. The Afterword, as written by the adult Faith, reveals her to be a charming, intelligent young woman with a mind of her own and a deep love for her father and family.