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Inspirational / Spiritual

  • 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.

  • Free And Holy Where You Are

    by Dennis Regan

    Rating: 7.75

    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.

  • Sacred Seasons: A Year of Meditations

    by Beverly Lanzetta

    Rating: 7.50

    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.

  • Soulwork

    by Elizabeth Radcliffe

    Rating: 7.25

    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.
  • The Day My Heart Turned Blue

    by Karla J. Noland

    Rating: 6.75

    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. 

  • What Is In Your Hand?

    by Martha Kinney

    Rating: 6.50

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Plot: This analysis of the album Tommy by The Who attempts to double as a lens to look at the experience of children with special needs in the education system, but it does not succeed in forming a cohesive argument from this concept. This book leans heavily into the biographies of members of The Who, which causes the critique of the education to be overshadowed.

    Prose/Style: The writing style is accessible, but has a tendency to get a little too informal which causes some awkward, stilted moments. Its most puzzling feature is the 200-plus footnotes, which are not organized as well as they could be. Many of them could be included in the main text.

    Originality: This project is definitely a highly unique mix of professional anecdotes, rock history, and personal memoir, but all of these pieces don’t quite fit together. The most compelling portions of the book are the memoir portions, and the book would have been much stronger if they were highlighted throughout the book instead of placed at the end.

    Character Development/Execution: Overall this book is uneven and tends to go off into tangents, and so it requires a strong central argument to pull the various ideas together. It also needs more effective organization to alleviate the confusing moments and aid in creating a more cohesive book.

  • Stations of the Risen Christ

    by Frank Heelan

    Rating: 5.25

    Plot/Idea: Heelan proposes a helpful concept that will resonate with its intended audience. He presents biblical verses and interpretations succinctly and efficiently.

    Prose: Heelan’s prose is both emphatic and lyrical with pleasantly evocative descriptions. At times, he attempts to elevate the text by using a style that instead comes across as too ornate and overwrought.

    Originality: Stations of the Risen Christ will meet the expectations of readers looking for basic biblical inspiration.

    Character Development/Execution: Heelan’s execution is simple and concise. He is to-the-point in his instruction,  but some readers may feel there is something missing from his writing, as he rarely ventures beyond summarizing or paraphrasing the religious text he introduces.

  • The Strength of the Nation

    by Luisa Mirella Plancher

    Rating: 4.50

    Plot/Idea: Plancher writes with fervor, but her concepts are somewhat jumbled and ambiguous. The central theme becomes unclear early in the text, and supporting sections are challenging to identify.

    Prose: Plancher’s prose is clunky, with several instances of stilted conversation and awkward transitions. Her relaxed style is incompatible with the text’s more elevated concepts.

    Originality: The Strength of the Nation boasts a novel theme with unusual delivery, and Plancher’s methods of exploring her main ideas lend the work an atypical flair.

    Character Development/Execution: Plancher gets bogged down in her narrative and loses sight of the work’s main goals. Readers may find it difficult to distinguish actionable steps from speculation, and the author's leading premise quickly gets lost.

  • The Journey Through Tribulation

    by Mikah

    Rating: 4.25

    Plot: This book may be hard to understand and follow for readers, who will find a smattering of predictions regarding the end of the world, with a combination of perplexing numerology, biblical quotes, and prophecies made by the author himself.

    Prose/Style: Appropriately, as the work is "co-authored with the Holy Spirit," the prose is reminiscent of the New Testament, which may appeal to biblical scholars.

    Originality: Readers may find much of the end-times prophecy to be familiar and not especially illuminating. A more detailed look at numerology and other less-explored concepts may spark interest.

    Character Development/Execution: Mikah has composed a passionate, but somewhat baffling treatise regarding the end-times and the seeking of salvation. Despite its forceful ideas, the book is ultimately difficult to discern.

  • Plot/Idea: This spiritual guidebook requires more structure and organization, as its messages and advice are inevitably lost in some of this confusion. It also does not properly incorporate or flesh out its thesis.

    Prose: The writing style is choppy and stilted, which makes the overall flow of this book uneven. The book would benefit from cleaner prose to really allow the ideas to shine through.

    Originality: This book touches on some very interesting ideas, but it does not expand on them enough to make them truly unique.

    Character Development/Execution: The overall execution of this book is patchy, and a clear structure is needed to really make it a compelling project that will keep readers invested.