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Amy Senk "Read it, Loved it" RSS Feed (Orange County, CA, USA)
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Fear the Worst: A Novel
Fear the Worst: A Novel
by Linwood Barclay
Edition: Hardcover
106 used & new from $0.01

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but Not Stunning, June 2, 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a perfectly fine book. Interesting enough, thrilling enough, mysterious enough. But there is something that just doesn't hold everything tautly enough to make it truly great.

The story tells about a girl who vanishes after her dad drops her off for work. Then it turns out she never actually had the job she claimed. Other lies are exposed, as the narrator tries to unravel the mystery that was his daughter's life.

The plot is entertaining; the writing fairly good; and the characters fairly well-developed. But by the end, the book took on a comic book quality, with a lot of violence and outlandish scenarios. It was a relief to have the book end; instead of being gripping and tense, it just felt like a movie with too many car crash scenes -- a brash, overdone adventure.

Not sorry I read it. Made a good summer read. But it's not up there with mysteries and thrillers that I adore, like those by Lawrence Block, Kate Atkinson, John Sandford and others.


Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal
Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal
by Julie Metz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.99
181 used & new from $0.01

9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written, But Flawed, June 2, 2009
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Perfection is a beautifully written memoir from a woman who loses her husband of 16 years and then must deal with startling revelations that alter her view of her marriage and her life. The spare but elegant writing captures so much emotion and tension, from the moment of hearing the thud from the other room and finding her dying spouse to the emails she sees later that reveal his betrayals.

The problem with the book is that the last half is really monotonous -- like listening to a dear friend go over and over the same complaints, the same anger. You care, and it's important to Metz, but after awhile it's just minutiae and you've had enough. I'm very glad that Metz found a way to figure out her anger, find dates, make a move, etc. But really? I didn't need a description of every new boyfriend, what they did on dates, whether they had sex, and so on. Even her anger at a friend who slept with her husband seemed to be overly explored. This book needed to be concluded more quickly with more of an overview of her life post-discovering the betrayal. I found myself actually wishing it was a fictional account so something suspenseful and interesting might happen. Instead, it became navel-gazing and dull.

Metz is a great writer, and her story is interesting. Personally, I have a friend who was widowed suddenly at the same age, and I myself nearly lost my husband to cancer a few years ago. So the idea of what if they died and you discovered something terrible, that's a very interesting hook for a story to me. But what started out as terrifically engaging was dull, and no matter how great you are at writing the words, the story has to be there to make a book truly great.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 12, 2009 12:43 PM PDT


Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace
Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace
by Ayelet Waldman
Edition: Hardcover
110 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Applause-Worthy, Cringe-Worthy Account of Modern Motherhood, May 23, 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a tricky book, partly so on-target and profound that I wanted to quote lengthy passages to anyone who would listen. The first several chapters were fantastic, discussing how mothers set themselves up for failure by falling for the notion that fictional moms are our role models. And how by embracing a rebellious bad mother attitude, where you "snarl at the mention of Dora the Explorer..and shrug at the orange Cheetos dust smeared across our children's mouths...", we really end up revealing how much we buy into the good mother/bad mother labels.

Those labels are so ingrained in modern American moms that we even look at mentally ill women, women who *murder* their kids, as bad mothers, because that lets us feel that we ourselves aren't *that* bad. As Waldman discusses these issues, I'm sold. I love her insight and opinions, and even when she seems a little derivative of Anne Lamott's famous mothering essays, I still enjoy her viewpoint.

Yet as the book goes on, sections were embarrassing, overly personal and even incongruous. Do I want to hear about her experiences at a political rally that had nothing really to do with her mothering? Do I need to know about how she loves sex, or that she snooped into parent's bedside tables when she was a teen-aged babysitter? There were times when I was reading this book when I glad the author was not a friend. Would you ever get a word in edgewise?

This book isn't for every mother. Waldman is a Berkeley liberal, she embraces her super openminded lifestyle and her own neurosis. I happen to see eye to eye with her politically, and I love a little self deprecation when a mother is writing a book aimed at other mothers, and how hard we are on ourselves. But this book ultimately seems a little meandering, and I would have enjoyed it more as a long magazine piece as opposed to a 200-plus page book.

Not sorry to have read it, not sure I'm a big fan.


Change the World for Ten Bucks: small actions x lots of people = big change
Change the World for Ten Bucks: small actions x lots of people = big change
by We Are What We Do
Edition: Paperback
80 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bring Your Own Shopping Bags, Yawn. Shop Locally, Yawn..., April 25, 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a book filled with Very Nice Suggestions, like don't throw your gum in the street and hug someone. But nothing here was new, in spite of the clever touches (two pages stuck together by fake gum to illustrate that particular point.)

As every other reviewer has mentioned, the "Take a Bath" item was way too sexual for this book to be for kids. And to be honest, I thought from the cover that it was a kids book.

I'm not really sure who this is for. Someone who has been hiding under a rock and missed the greening of America over the past year, perhaps. I wouldn't buy it....and that might save a tree!


The Truth about Truman School
The Truth about Truman School
by Dori Hillestad Butler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.99
83 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Look at Cyber Bullying, April 25, 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book tells the story of two best friends who start an online guerilla newspaper about their middle school, and how their attempt to be honest and open to all ends up causing a lot of pain.

The story is compelling, told from multiple perspectives, and it raises interesting questions about ethics, cyber bullying, honesty and friendships. It's well written and feels real.

However. Part of the cyber bullying has to do with falsely calling one character a lesbian, and this element of the story gets a lot of play. If this is a touchy issue in your household, you might want to know that the "lezzie" comments really fly here.

Also, the book seemed to screech to a halt. I could have done with a less abrupt ending.


Seventh Generation Auto Dish Pacs, Free & Clear, 15-Count Packages (Pack of 12)
Seventh Generation Auto Dish Pacs, Free & Clear, 15-Count Packages (Pack of 12)

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clean Dishes, And I Feel Good About Being Green, April 19, 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'd always felt that the convenience of pre-measured dishwashing detergent packs were outweighed by the packaging and waste, and expense. Seventh Generation concentrated backs, however, are even greener than the detergent I'd been using.

But would they get my dishes clean?

I had a normal load, including one plate with some melted cheese scraps that I purposely left in as a test. I loaded the packet into the machine, closed the lid and started it up. A few hours later, I held my breath as I opened the door to see what I had. Would green be tough enough? Or would I find some funky film, or gross residue, or just not very clean silverware?

I am happy to report that my dishes had never been cleaner, ever. I love Seventh Generation and will definitely be buying it in the future unless the costs are too high. My dishes were sparkling, even the cheese plate. And the interior of the dishwasher itself was shining. Even the plastic storage containers that usually are soaking wet when they come out of the wash were dryer than usual. I was impressed.

The one weird thing was that your hands need to be dry when handling the packets; I assume because they dissolve so easily in the wash. For me, when I'm doing the dishes and starting the wash, my hands are usually soaked. This isn't a major problem and it didn't seem to affect the wash cycle, but be careful and try to keep the packs dry.


The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child
The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child
by Donalyn Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.87
206 used & new from $7.72

15 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reading Book Aimed At Educators, Not Parents, April 7, 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Teaching children not only to be better readers, but to be book lovers, is a noble goal, and The Book Whisperer describes a teacher's successes in clearly written style

However, the book doesn't seem aimed at parents as much as teachers, with much of the book and work taking place in a classroom setting. I'd recommend this book to an educator over a parent, although anyone who loves reading and wants to instill that love in a child might consider checking out The Book Whisperer.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 23, 2009 2:39 PM PDT


It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita
It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita
by Heather B. Armstrong
Edition: Hardcover
118 used & new from $0.01

28 of 51 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable, April 7, 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Many women apparently adore the Mommy blogger who calls herself Dooce, and while I never really understood the appeal of her blog, I thought I would read this book and better understand the draw.

I could not finish even two chapters of this nonsense. Heather B. Armstrong is a self-indulgent writer who obviously has no experience working with a professional editor, or in self-editing to hone her stream-of-conscious, rambling style into a story that is worth telling. (And to be fair, if her story is about the laid-bare facts of how humbling pregnancy can be, Vicki Iovine did it more than a decade ago with her really nicely done series "Girlfriends Guide to Pregnancy." )

The monotonous stream of worthless information -- she has been constipated since she was a baby, for example, and once sent her boyfriend to a gay neighborhood drugstore for an enema kit -- is that of a precocious creature who was never told she was NOT FUNNY and it was getting annoying.

I expected this book to be terrible, but I thought I would secretly enjoy reading it and being snarky. However, I couldn't justify wasting my time on it. The writing and story are so horrible, that I honestly wonder if the entire Dooce phenomenon is fake, and that her huge numbers of fans are from cooked-books and a clever publicist.

Do not buy this book. Let's stop insulting ourselves with bad bloggers and painful memoirs from bad bloggers. Life is too short.


Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen
Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, and What Really Goes on in the Kitchen
by Dalia Jurgensen
Edition: Hardcover
105 used & new from $0.01

26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Slight Variation on The Same-Old Chef Memoir, March 7, 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I love cooking, books about cooking, chef's autobiographies, television shows about kitchens and cooks. If it's chef-restaurant related, even if it's not top-quality, I'll likely give it a chance and enjoy it on some level.

Spiced, the story of a New York pastry chef's rise from student to hugely successful, seemed a book right up my alley. Not only was the book going to take on the perspective of a woman in the kitchen, but it also was going to focus on desserts. Women and desserts famously don't get a lot of foodie respect. What would Dalia Jurgensen have to say for herself?

Well, honestly, nothing too surprising. The book seemed to cover a lot of the same ground of the hard work and burn marks that were covered better in books like Heat, or those by Michael Ruhlman. And guess what? Restaurant kitchens are full of sexism and hostility toward women.

The best part of the book was discovering how she learned the art of pastry and dessert making at Nobu,
and then built on that knowledge until she was able to create her own dessert menus that earned her national acclaim at restaurants she helped open.

The worst part of the book was the sexual talk that didn't seem to add to the story and seemed out of place.
Dalia had a lesbian affair with a waitress? So what? Another chef talked in graphic terms about his previous evening? Allrighty then. I am not sure why the out-of-the-blue sex talk bugged me, but I think it's because they didn't seem to add to the story and therefore struck a weirdly false note.

Maybe this isn't the best chef memoir ever. But certainly, if you have the food fascination that I have, you'll enjoy enough of the book to make it a worthwhile read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2010 1:49 PM PST


Dreams from the Monster Factory: A Tale of Prison, Redemption, and One Woman's Fight to Restore Justice to All
Dreams from the Monster Factory: A Tale of Prison, Redemption, and One Woman's Fight to Restore Justice to All
by Sunny Schwartz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.00
72 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough, Passionate, Inspiring Story from a Woman who Understands Prisoners, March 6, 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Can violent prisoners change? And what kind of person spends her career seeking empowerment not only for victims but also for the criminals themselves?

Sunny Schwartz spent decades working with some of the most violent offenders in the San Francisco system, and her book takes a look at the gray areas of our concepts of justice. Violent offenders must pay, but can they be helped? Is society better served when we punish, harshly, or when we try to understand why and how the violence began? As Schwartz tells her story, she also tells about her innovative RSVP program that reduced recidivism. But this isn't a manual for prison administrators. It's a book that looks at redemption and forgiveness and accountability.

The memoir style works well, because Schwartz is a force to behold, clearly born to do this work. From her early childhood stories of rebellion (she once lied to her family and found herself checking out first-hand, from her bike, the scene of a famous mass murder) and misery (remedial course work, bullying victim) to her successes in the San Francisco criminal justice system, Schwartz doesn't waste time on purposeless, indulgent memories, either victorious or otherwise. Her story is loaded with detail and anecdote, but none is a throwaway. It's important that she stood up to her high school principal, and that she was the only student to stand up to a bullying law professor. Those details help understand why someone would invest a career in standing up not only for victims, but for violent offenders as well. Her references to her religion and sexual orientation all help the reader understand how she thinks, who she is, and why all this works.

Memoirs are tricky things, especially when they tackle social issues like homelessness or drug addiction. But in Dreams From the Monster Factory, Schwartz strikes the rare perfect balance of personal history and the issue of violence and rehabilitation.


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