Inspirational / Spiritual
by Meg Nocero
Idea: Nocero presents a moving story of grief, spiritual growth, and the quest for personal wholeness following loss.
Prose: The prose is solidly crafted, clearly conveying the author's experiences in a manner that is relatable and inspiring.
Originality: Books of healing and transformation are familiar, but Nocero is a capable storyteller in touch with her complex emotions and eager to share her journey.
Character/Execution: The author writes with painful honesty about the pain she suffers. Readers will admire the strength she displays throughout her process of recovery.
by John Eddy
Plot: For readers familiar with stories regarding addiction to various substances, this one feels specifically unique. Eddy has lived a life like no other, and that really shines through his writing.
Prose/Style: John Eddy is a gifted writer—his characters come to life, the stories are sewn together seamlessly, and readers will be on the edge of their seats the entire time. His prose, is eloquent, honest, and approachable.
Originality: The idea of an addict sobering up, finding God, and the like is a tried and true trope, but Eddy makes it uniquely his and this does not detract from the story.
Character Development/Execution: Eddy himself really comes to life as a figure here, as do a few of his other characters. Readers will get to know Eddy inside and out, but may not personally get to know the rest of the characters all too well, which could be developed a bit further so the reader can gain insights into their own agendas.
by Alan Corcoran
Plot/Idea: This memoir about running 35 marathons in 35 days around the coast of Ireland is full of heart, humor, and determination, which makes it a compelling and inspiring read. It is also a story of family and about the power of dedication and positivity.
Prose: Corcoran’s prose is strong and charming, with humor and sincerity shining through, making it very readable. While it focuses on the language and world of running, it is also accessible to those who are not runners.
Originality: This is a unique story in how candid it is about the doubts and setbacks of this sport, but also in its distinct humor which provides levity. It is also honest about the challenges of deciding to do a charity run on one’s own, but it is ultimately an encouraging and hopeful narrative.
Character Development/Execution: Overall this was a well-organized and well-written memoir that is easy to follow and engaging. This inspirational story of impossible distances, sheer determination, and love of family will be enjoyed by runners of all kinds, from the weekend jogger to the seasoned marathoner.
by Valerie Ann Larson Haynes
Plot/Idea: Haynes’s idea is clear from the start of her work, and she promotes a well-defined, expository concept throughout. She covers her premise remarkably well, with little deviation from the purpose of the guide.
Prose: Haynes writes fluently, with vivid examples that will draw in her target audience. Her prose is direct and readable – alternating between academic and inspirational in all the right places.
Originality: Creative Provinces is built around an extraordinarily creative idea, and Haynes delivers a wealth of innovative examples that will enthrall her audience.
Character Development/Execution: Haynes structures her guide meticulously and follows through on her promises. There are a handful of sections that veer slightly off-topic, but she expertly melds these into a detailed and engaging work that will leave readers enlightened, with a solid grasp of how to implement her concept.
by Dennis Regan
Plot/Idea: Regan's thoughtful series of essays regarding his ideas about modern life and its intermingling with Catholicism is a welcome book for any practicing Catholic who is willing to look into their faith with an open mind. Progressive readers will find his book delightful and likely on board with their own beliefs, while more conservative readers may find themselves challenged in their thinking, which seems to be Regan's intention.
Prose: The eloquent banter within Regan's book is flamboyant and enjoyable, funny at times, humbling, and insightful. Even for readers without an attachment to Catholicism, his book is not threatening, and is a joyful experience that is not too filled with biblical reference for it to be difficult to consume.
Originality: Regan has not avoided the difficult topics, starting one of his earliest chapters with his thoughts on homosexuality, and then quickly moving onto masturbation soon afterward. These are important topics to broach for the religious and non-religious alike, and a very well-educated priest with a good head on his shoulders offering an intelligent, unbiased opinion on these subjects is unique. Often these matters are met with a fire-and-brimstone attitude, but Regan approaches them more delicately, with forgiveness and mercy. This inherent gentleness throughout the book is what makes it so unique and comforting to read.
Character Development/Execution: The book is nicely formatted and clearly put together. Occasionally there are a large amount of italics and strangely used parentheses, which for some may be distracting. Otherwise the book is clearly and simply laid out, and the ideas are concisely refined so that they are clear without being overstated.
by Justin Stoney
Plot/Idea: Sing Like Never Before is a fun, positive guide for singers and voice instructors that covers everything from breathing and posture, to vocal health and how to put your soul into your art.
Prose: Stoney's clear explanations and clever acronyms steadily enhance the readability of the text, and smart metaphors and cute descriptions make the work enjoyable and entertaining.
Originality: Sing Like Never Before is novel in its joint focus on both the joy and the physical aspects of singing. Stoney actively dispels common myths, regarding things like breathing from the diaphragm, as well as taking the time to offer valuable general life advice that's applicable beyond the music field.
Character Development/Execution: Stoney expertly breaks down the different aspects of the book before executing the concepts throughout the work. While the book does make religious references, the text should still appeal to non-believing music teachers and practitioners. Overall, the book is more successful when offering practical advice, as opposed to factual content, which is a balance that Stoney largely maintains.
Blurb: An expert-approved, illustrated instruction manual about singing, Justin Stoney's Sing Like Never Before is a handy, charming, and indispensable guide for musicians and their educators.
by Thanh Nguyen-Ba
Plot/Idea: The author poses big, esoteric questions about the universe and humankind's role in it, offering up hypotheses in response in this theoretical treatise. While the topic is interesting and the theories put forth are worth pondering, the author could give more context as to the goal of the work. The book would also benefit from a foreword or introduction to give the reader context.
Prose: The author is a clear and concise writer who is able to put forth ideas in a confident and detailed manner. This is a high-level written project, and the style is appropriate for this type of work.
Originality: This is a very original work which puts forth the author's individual perspective on the subject matter.
Character Development/Execution: Devoid of traditional "characters," the focus here is on Humankind with a capital H and the Universe. Both are vast topics and impossible to "know," but the author does an effective job putting forth an informed hypothesis on the future.
by Naomi Brickel
Plot/Idea: In a profound and emotionally devastating memoir, Brickel reflects on the loss of her 15-year-old son. Despite some extraneous material that may interfere with the smoothness of the reading experience, this work is effective and well-executed.
Prose: The book is a heartbreaking account of the author's loss of her young son and her journey through grief. Brickel does a fantastic job of pulling the reader into her panicked search for her son, which ultimately and sadly ends in tragedy.
Originality: This work is particularly unique in its use of hashtags, poetry, and social media posts, which add texture to the narrative and allow it to feel very much of the moment.
Character Development/Execution: The author's book is a painful, creative, and poignant narrative about loss, grief, and grappling with the wholly unexpected.
by Beverly Lanzetta
Plot: Readers in search of daily devotions for the deeply devout or those looking for a spiritually uplifting message will find plenty of divulgence on these pages. Creating them for the seasons and starting during December when the daylight is dim will help many who need a positive message in these times. Lanzetta's soothing words will help the reader to slow down and breathe.
Prose/Style: As this book is beautifully written, it is as if Lanzetta’s pen is enhanced by her spirituality. Her fluid writing delivers an uplifting message in small daily doses. These testaments of spirituality deliver a powerful message.
Originality: Daily devotions are common and necessary for a peaceful soul; however, these come from a variety of places and are written in various formats: poems, published and unpublished works of the author, lectures, prayers, and meditations. The quiet solitude that Lanzetta provides across each page is refreshing and meaningful.
Character Development/Execution: Lanzetta’s words have the ability to change the reader’s perspective. Each message is short and well-executed. Taking the reader through the seasons on a daily basis allows for a different perspective snd literary journey.
by Elizabeth Radcliffe
Idea: The author presents an appealing, broadly applicable esoteric world concept with enough exercises and examples to begin using her ideas, in a loving and relatable style independent of specific religious ideas. Some concepts, like that of Trickster’s influence in our lives, are well worked out, but others--such as how Guides work--are much more vague in their presentation.
Prose: Ideas proceed in an organized fashion from theory to practice, and concepts are explicitly explained and easy to understand. The tone is moderately personal, so that the reader feels smoothly in conversation with the author, and her honesty about her level of authority gives a sense of peer more than guru. Exercises feel a bit bland and could use more appealing formatting.
Originality: This particular formulation of the common concepts of being in relationship with the Universe by getting out of its way and looking for signs in order to heal soul-level wounds feels unique. The strong deep dive into the Trickster concept and its connection to the process of breaking old patterns gives a fresh spin. The author’s clarity in giving credit to her specific influences makes it easy to see where her own experience-based ideas extend from previous work.Character/Execution: The structure of the book, starting with definitions and a toolbox for basic energy work before moving into the shift in understanding the world, makes sense. The value of demonstrative stories is limited by being drawn almost exclusively from the author’s own life. The author avoids diving into more specific spiritual traditions, even in a comparative way, which creates a sense of vagueness that may allow her more valuable insights to be dismissed.Blurb: This work shares personal gnosis about our personal Soulwork and the relationship between us, the Universe, the spirit of Trickster, and our Guides in a well organized, approachable format.
by Karla J. Noland
Plot/Idea: Noland’s overall intentions are initially ambiguous, although they become more straightforward as the work progresses. Readers may be left uncertain as to the writing’s purpose, leaving it feeling somewhere between a memoir and self-help guide.
Prose: Noland writes eloquently, particularly in some of the more emotionally painful sections. Her prose is direct and accessible, with expressive metaphors sprinkled throughout.
Originality: Noland’s work is unique in its combination of memoir and focus on personal growth, but beyond those characteristics it stays within the parameters of the expected.
Character Development/Execution: Noland struggles with missing structure in the beginning, but this improves as the work progresses. Eventually she shares concrete steps for readers to utilize, alongside integral information that will be advantageous for relevant audiences.
by Martha Kinney
Plot/Idea: This guide uses examples from religious text to empower the user to improve their outlook on life, and while currently cohesive, it could improve through creating a stronger connection with the reader.
Prose: This guide is well-written, with an even flow. Some paragraphs grow repetitive and might be fine-tuned to become more succinct.
Originality: The author uses examples of more obscure Biblical figures to inspire and teach the reader.
Character Development/Execution: This guide is organized and focused on the author’s main vision, but certain paragraph formatting could be altered to improve readability.
Angel in the Kitchen 2: A Second Helping of Wit & Wisdom Inspired by Food, Cooking, Kitchen Tools and Appliances!by Tom English and Wilma Espaillat English
Plot/Idea: The authors promote an idea that is initially entertaining but quickly requires clarification; despite attempts to circle back to the guide’s premise, readers may find the concept inconsistent and overreaching.
Prose: The authors interject humor throughout this guide, which is a welcome respite from some of the more stilted writing. The work’s style will be relatable and user-friendly for much of its intended audience.
Originality: Angel in the Kitchen 2 delivers plenty of innovative conceptualizations and creative metaphors that help it stand out. The authors’ tongue-in-cheek writing style and unorthodox descriptions lend this work serious originality.
Character Development/Execution: The authors follow through on much of what they promise, but some of the information presents as more fanciful than realistic. Readers might wonder at the organization of the guide, but in general they will be able to follow the authors’ intent.
by Gary Panzer
Plot/Idea: The intended audience is clear from the start, and Panzer's principles are beneficial for targeted readers. He lays down his work’s structure quickly, with a straightforward presentation.
Prose: Panzer’s informal prose supports his style of advising like-minded readers. He writes candidly, which will be useful to most audiences, but some of the text is too chatty, distracting from more serious topics.
Originality: Panzer’s work generally sticks to the routine, but the distinctive metaphor forming the basis of his guiding ideas is innovative.
Character Development/Execution: The author succinctly delivers on his promises, in clearly defined writing that is easy to understand. However, some readers will be wishing for more in-depth concept exploration as well as concrete steps for successful implementation.
by Deborah Cole
Idea: The foundation of Cole's text compares her experiences in herding to her spiritual journey within Christianity.
Prose: At times, Cole's writing feels repetitive. The presentation includes a brief insight followed by scripture. Regardless, the insights provide small moments of well-crafted clarity.
Originality: The concept of this book is unique in its approach to understanding spirituality. This volume may strike a strong chord with those who identify with Christian teachings.
Character/Execution: Cole does a fine job of sharing glimpses into her life experiences and spiritual journey in this work.
by Joyce Jones
Plot: While the author’s words are inspirational, inform the reader, and the theme is consistent, the beginnings of this guide/journal are very repetitive and the chapters blend into one another instead of being more distinct.
Prose/Style: The author is very descriptive and cohesively incorporates quotes from the Bible as well as the popular self-help book The Secret. The first two chapters are filled with paragraphs asking only questions, which can be distracting for the reader and are redundant as they are used again in the journaling portion of the guide.
Originality: This guide relies heavily on scriptures from the Bible as well as components from other well-known self-help books. The author does implement quotes from various popular songs and their own opinions as well, that do add a personal touch.
Character Development/Execution: The written portion of this guide could benefit from being condensed and restructured. The journal portion is more organized and should be more of the main focus for the reader.