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Inspirational / Spiritual

  • 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 Lanzetta provides a dynamic blend of intriguing historical content and practical exercises for readers seeking peace, centering, and greater spiritual awareness.

  • 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.

  • False Heroes: Held Hostage by Heritage

    by Christine Brandon

    Rating: 7.25

    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.

  • A World Without Identity: The Sacred Task of Uniting Humanity

    by Patrick Paul Garlinger

    Rating: 7.25

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.