While some topics become unfocused, this manual’s overall spiritual message remains uplifting.




A semiautobiographical guide explores more enlightened living.

In this extensive work, Jones (God Is the Biggest Joker of All, 2002) begins by explaining how she was once a very busy and stressed real estate broker. She put in 60-hour work weeks while raising a family and yet she still sensed something was missing. She also felt unhealthy. With a great deal of inspiration from a study group for the book A Course in Miracles, the author set about dedicating her life to spiritual pursuits. It is the fruits of such devotion that have fueled the contents of this manual. A wide range of what can best be described as New Age material is covered, from chakras and past life therapy to the cleansing power of something called the Purple Transformational Flame of St. Germaine. And while messages abound about love and harmony and treating all things on the planet with respect, a great deal of the guide examines an individual’s intention. The author argues that it is essential to eliminate negative attitudes because readers are free (and have the skills) to shape the world as they see fit. Everyone has the ability to tap into the immense energy of the divine and, as the title of the volume suggests, a great key to life is owning the power you are born with. It is a heartfelt message that permeates the account even as certain points meander. Subjects such as diets specific to blood types and the idea that after individuals die they meet with a council of 12 to review their lives receive brief and flickering attention. At more than 700 pages, the book is long; sticking more thoroughly to the main, personal message might have made for a more potent read. Readers can find praises for the work of a writer like Masaru Emoto in many places but Jones’ firsthand account of harnessing her own power can only be discovered in these pages. Nevertheless, readers are likely to appreciate that the author is enthusiastic about every point she makes. Her greatest goal is to encourage others, and her drive never wavers.  

While some topics become unfocused, this manual’s overall spiritual message remains uplifting.

Pub Date: May 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5043-9944-9

Page Count: 754

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2019

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.


The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.


A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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