On My Bookshelf: Collateral by Ellen Hopkins


Collateral Have you ever started a book and struggled?  Not because you didn’t like it but because it was just too much?

I don’t have this happen often but it is happening now with this book.  I am reading Collateral on my nook by Ellen Hopkins.  At first I was confused because it’s written in free-form poetry and I wasn’t expecting that.  I thought that it was the prologue and then the rest of the book would be a regular fiction novel.  After about chapter three (it’s a 600 page book) I looked on Good Reads and realized that this is Hopkins method of writing.  So no big deal, I adjusted my thought process and continued reading.


Well I am now on about page 250 and I just had to put the book down last night.  I have no real connection to American soldiers–I know very few people who have been to Iraq or who are even military or military families.  This story is about a non-military girl who falls in love with a Marine and their relationship.  I know based on the blurbs that she starts up with a non-military person at some point in the book but so far, she’s just met that other person.

I’m not sure what it is that’s hitting me about this book.  My only real background with military is the fact that in Israel, where I lived for four years, everyone is required to serve.  I received an exemption from the military based on the fact that I was injured in a bombing but everyone I know who lives there still did serve and I know that some of them have been through some horrific things during their time.

Perhaps my struggle with this book is how close to terrorism it is.  Although there is no terrorist attack happening in the book, we do hear about Cole, the boyfriend’s, experiences in Iraq.

I’m not sure what it is about this book but it is having a profound effect on me and even though I really want to plow through and finish reading it because it is so well written, I’m having to take a breather from it.

Has that happened to you?  What books have caused you to need some space away?

Books ‘n’ Bloggers Swap


I was so excited to be a part of my second swap!  It was just as fun as the first!  I was paired with Dawn from Born to Fly.

The rules were to send three books.

1.  A Book You Love

2.  A Book You Haven’t Read

3.  A Book Your Partner Wants

Here’s a look at the books I received:

Books 'n' Bloggers Swap


Books 'n' Bloggers Swap   Books 'n' Bloggers Swap

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella.  This was the book that Dawn wanted to read but hasn’t yet.

From the back:

Becky Bloomwood has what most young women only dream of: a flat in London’s trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the seasons’s must-haves.  The only trouble is, she can’t actually afford it–not any of it.  Her job writing at Successful Saving magazine not only bores her to tears, it doesn’t pay much at all.  Still, how can she resist that perfect pair of shoes?  Or the divine silk blouse in the window of that ultra-trendy boutique? But lately Becky’s been chased by dismal letters from Visa and the Endwich Bank–letters with large red sums she can’t bear to read–and they’re getting ever harder to ignore.  She tries cutting back; she even tries making more money.  But none of her efforts succeeds.  Her only consolation is to buy her self something. . . just a little something. . . Finally a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life–and the lives of those around her–forever.

I’ve been a huge fan of Sophie Kinsella for a long long time and this was a great one!

Books 'n' Bloggers Swap  Books 'n' Bloggers Swap

A book I’ve (Dawn’s) read: The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy.

From the Back:

On January 15, 1947, the torture-ravished body of a beautiful, young woman is found in a Los Angeles vacant lot.  The victim makes headlines as the Black Dahlia-and so begins the greatest manhunt in California history.

Caught up in the investigation are Bucky Bleichert and Lee Blanchard: Warrants Squad cops, friends and rivals in love with the same woman.  But both are obsessed with the Dahlia–driven by dark needs to know everything about her past, to capture her killer, to possess the woman even in death.  Their quest will take them on a hellish journey through the underbelly of postwar Hollywood, to the core of the dead girl’s twisted life, past the extremes of their own psyches–into a region of total madness.

I have heard of this book/movie but haven’t read it so I’m super excited to read this, probably next month by the pool in Vegas!

Books 'n' Bloggers Swap

A book on my wish list: The Little Bride by Anna Solomon.

From the back:

When sixteen-year-old Minna Losk journeys from Odessa to America as a mail-order bride, she dreams of a young, wealthy husband; a handsome town house; and freedom from physical labor and pogroms.  But her husband, Max, turns out to be twice her age, rigidly Orthodox, and living in a one-room sod hut in South Dakota with his two teenage sons.  The country is desolate, the work treacherous.  Most troubling, Minna finds herself increasingly attracted to her older stepson.  As a brutal winter closes in, the family’s limits are tested, and Minna, drawing on strengths she barely knows she has, is forced to confront her despair, as well as her desire.

I’m not sure where I first read about this book but it sounded fascinating and I’m super excited to read this one.

Thanks, Dawn, for the awesome books!  I’m super excited to have some good summer reading ahead!  To see what I sent Dawn, take a look over on her blog, Born to Fly!


A Visit to the Tenement Museum


One of my goals living in New York has been to do the New York activities. Well it’s kind of taken me leaving to get to some of them. One of the ones that has been high up on my list has been to go to the Tenement Museum. The concept behind the Tenement Museum is really cool, in the late 80’s, two women wanted to create a museum to the immigrant experience that centered around the Lower East Side starting in the 1800’s (as early as 1830s & 40s). They fell upon 97 Orchard Street. 97 Orchard Street had been a tenement house, in fact one of the earlier built ones, in the 1860’s but in the 1940’s when housing laws were getting more strict, the owner couldn’t afford to fireproof the building and so just sealed the upper floors shut. It stayed that way for forty some years and now has been made into a museum.

For a great book about the building, there is a book called 97 Orchard that tells the story through the edible history of the family-a great book that I completely recommend. The book talks about the families from different countries and religions based on the foods that they ate but also gave a good description of life in the tenement.

My roommate and I went on a tour entitled Sweatshop Workers. The tour centered around two Jewish families from the turn of the 20th century, the Levin’s and the Rogarshevsky’s that both lived in the building. The Levin’s lived in the building and the husband also ran a sweatshop in his front room and main room, employing three other people. The Levins ultimately moved to Williamsburg where Mr. Levin ended up working in the garment industry outside of the home. We got to see a sweet picture of his three daughters at the wedding of one of their grandchildren in the 70’s.


The front room of the Levin’s house where dresses were put together.


The Levin’s main room with the stove.

The other family’s apartment that we saw were the Rogarshevskys. They had the same size apartment but lived in the tenement slightly later than the Levins. They also had six children living there. I cannot even imagine how eight people lived in three rooms. The older two girls worked in a factory as did the father. The father was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1916 and passed way in 1918. Mrs. Rogarshevsky was actually quite brilliant and used her skill as a master housekeeper to become the superintendent of the building and was actually permitted to live there long after everyone else had been evicted.


A Tenement Apartment that had not been replicated.

The entire neighborhood has existed as somewhat of an entry point for new Americans and the streets have even represented that.

Allen Street, Avenue of the Immigrants

There are still remnants of the large Jewish community that remained throughout the Lower East Side and we walked near some of them but ultimately were curtailed by the massive rainstorms.

A Synagogue Economy Candy

97 Orchard Street “97 Orchard Street-built in 1863-64 by Lucas Glockner, a German-born tailor, 97 Orchard Street is typical of the earliest form of tenement house constructed in New York. For millions of immigrants from scores of nations, this tenement and others like it was a place of first settlement in America. We salute them as our urban pioneers on the municipal frontier.

This is the first tenement to be individually listed on the National Register of Historical Places by the United States Department of the Interior. September, 1992.”

My family’s immigration story is a bit different, my mother’s family immigrated directly prior to and following WWII and lived in Upstate New York, Lockport, near Buffalo before moving to California. I’m not sure if my father’s family lived in the Lower East Side at all but my dad’s grandfather definitely came in the right time period-landing at Ellis Island in 1906. My dad’s mother’s family came earlier and unfortunately I haven’t been able to discover much about her family although I would really love to.

It’s interesting to think how our family histories play such an important part in where we end up today and I wish I knew more about certain pieces of my family history. Regardless, the Tenement Museum offers quality tours and quality historical documentation on a huge piece of the American Immigration experience.

On My Bookshelf: The Promise of Stardust

The_Promise_of_StardustReading is one of my passions-ever since I was a little girl, I always escaped into the world of fiction.  Since it is such an important part of my life and because I started blogging about books, I decided I would bring over my book review from my first blog over a little at a time.

I received this book from Librarything.com’s early reviewers.  Over the years, I’ve actually received some very good books through this.  The only thing you have to do after receiving the book is to post a review on their site and anywhere else you may write reviews.  They require that the reviews be a certain length but don’t look at content necessarily.

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley is a phenomenal novel, and echoing many of the other reviewers, amazing that this is Ms. Sibley’s first novel.  The novel tells the story of a couple who has known each other their entire lives–families are completely intertwined–who are desperate to have a child. Sadly, Elle, the wife, has an accident and is declared brain dead.  Her husband, a surgeon, then discovers that she is pregnant.  The novel then tells the struggle Matt goes through, against his own mother, Elle’s former boyfriend, and society to keep Elle alive long enough to deliver the baby.

One of things that was interesting to me in this novel was the choice of professions that characters in the novel had and how that played in the choices that they made.  Elle was an astronaut and had created a living will when she went into space (which is where the interplay of her ex-boyfriend comes in-he was the one she had given her living will to), Matt is a neurosurgeon who is unable to save his wife from her brain injury.  Matt’s mother is a neo-natal nurse who is pushing for Elle to be taken off machines because of Elle’s own mother’s struggle with, and ultimate death, from cancer.  His mother was also given a copy of a living will from when Elle’s mother died.

This book was extremely well written, full of twists and multiple times I had to put the book down as I was on the subway and didn’t want to cry!