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14-year-old Arnold Spirit, aka Junior, is an awkward looking kid born who spends his time drawing cartoons as an escape from his impoverished life on a Spokane Indian reservation in Wellpinit, WA.  He also hangs out with his appropriately named friend Rowdy who's always ready to beat up someone or something. Arnold's life really turns into a big question mark when he decides to enroll in a wealthy, white school in Reardon. He's in a tug-of-war with his new identity and his old one individually and as part of a tribe.

This is such a funny and entertaining read but, it's also quite educational as I feel I got a real glimpse into life on a modern Indian reservation. I was well aware of he alcoholism that plagues a number of the Indian community, but Alexie's narrative brought a sensibility to it. The sheer level of poverty is also a tough pill to swallow when one considers the grave impact of settlement in the U.S. on American Indians. But, again, Alexie makes it all bearable with the cartoons that provide much of the insight on Junior's life. Junior's quirky persona while coping with  life and  pursuing a permanent way off the rez through education provides a hopeful and uplifting tale for young people.

 
 
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Lena Spencer is a woman who seems to have it all. A successful husband who's up for yet another promotion to become CEO, two children, and just about every material good anyone could want. The truth is, however, that Lena and Randall's marriage is at a crossroads and her two children are far from perfect. Lena can no longer pretend she's satisfied with being the wife and mother who gave up her own dreams to support those of her husband. Her husband gives her an ultimatum that sends Lena on a journey of self discovery in France to attend the concert of Tina Turner whose autobiography, I, Tina, is a catalyst for the story that unfolds.

I was hoping that Searching For Tina Turner would at least be an entertaining read but it didn't deliver. The first problem is that it reads like two Terry McMillan novels combined: Waiting to Exhale meets How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Unoriginality is just a turnoff. Another issue was the lengthy portion about the main character's time in France  that read more like a travel guide than narrative or prose. Luckett was descriptive to a fault about the sites and naming every single rue to which the characters ventured. Characterization was weak. The two adult children seemed to almost serve no purpose other than to hang around whining. Meanwhile, the focus on race and class was trivial and stereotypical. At only 299 pages, this novel is too long and seems to be written for a very limited audience of which I never could identify. Searching For Tina Turner left me searching for why I read this book.

 
 
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Lone survivor of a tragedy that leaves her motherless and an only child. Biracial. "The new girl".  All of these describe young Rachel Morse as she is sent to live with the black grandmother she doesn't know in Portland, OR. The kids at her new school and most others around her all but force her to identify as black and this is new territory for Rachel. Race and skin color have never factored into her existence as her Danish mother and black father did not harp on them while living in Germany.

Rachel deals with the issue of racial identity as a subtext to the circumstances surrounding what leads to her mother and siblings' deaths. The fragmented pieces she recalls are supplemented by journal entries of her mother, Nella, her mother's former boss, Lauronne, and the boy who witnessed Rachel's tragedy, Brick. The near obsession with her need to identify as black seems extraneous as Rachel does not struggle so much with this as do those around her.  Meanwhile, her grandmother refuses to acknowledge her Danish mother thereby ignoring that she's of mixed race. I became enthralled with Rachel as she grew into a teenager who tried to remain true to her own identity simply as her mother's daughter and the naivete that came along with adoring a mother whose actions were disturbingly tragic.

Durrow's use of language and plot is what really makes this novel fresh and engaging. Characterization could have been a bit more developed but what we do get are real and unpretentious people that many readers will recognize. In spite of a hazy conclusion, I still adore this book and the writer. Heidi Durrow's The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is not a perfect piece of literature but, it is courageous and poetic.

 
 
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It's that time again! Time to read hard.core. 24 hours. Nothing but books. I don't know how often I'll update but I look forward to all the fun. First book up is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Let's do it...
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Hour Six Update
Man the time sure does fly! I finished my first book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and it was great. I will post a review in the coming days for this one. I just started a MG (I think) book called Bird by Angela Johnson. I'm bought it for my son at a library sale recently so I'm doing a preview reading. I'm 30 pages into that. The Mr. and the kid started me off distracted with all of their questions as they tried to get out of my hair for awhile. Now I'm kinda in a groove. Gonna grab some a cheese and tomato sandwich then might hit the Free Step on my Wii Fit Plus and read simultaneously. Yeah, I'm kinda weird...
Pages read: 260
Time spent reading: 5 hours
Books completed: 1
Food consumed: 1 bagel w/ strawberry cream cheese and water

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Hour 12 Update
So, I actually did a half hour of Free Step aerobics on the Wii while reading. My second book, Bird, was okay. It was not the performance Angela Johnson delivered with First Part Last. I'm now just over the halfway mark with Heidi Durrow's The Girl Who Fell From the Sky and really enjoying it. I knew I'd like this book. Honestly, I woulda been pissed if it hadn't delivered as I expected. Before my little workout I did handle some lunch and that's about it. I'm kinda staying away from challenges this time and it seems to have me at a better pace.

Pages read since last update: 248
Time spent read since last update: 5 hours 40 mins
Books completed since last update: 1
Total pages read: 508
Total time reading: 10 hours 40 minutes
Total books completed: 2
Food consumed: Tomato and sharp cheddar cheese sandwich (toasted), plain chips, pomegranate and cranberry juice, chocolate chip cookie

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Hour 17 Update
Just readin' and eatin' and readin' and eatin'. This means that once I regain consciousness sometime tomorrow, I'll be hitting the Wii Fit pretty hardcore. Anyway, I've finished my third book since last update. A review of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky definitely to come soon. Loved.it! I also started Searching For Tina Turner. I just don't know about this one...

Pages read since last update: 138
Time spent reading since last update: 4 hours 3 minutes
Books completed since last update: 1
Total pages read: 646
Total time reading: 14 hours and 43 minutes
Total books completed: 3
Food consumed: I just finished some Pop Secret Homestyle and a coke and the rest I've blocked from my memory as it's too shameful to say. Oh yeah, I do remember some kinda gourmet crackers and monterey jack cheese.

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Hour 24 Update
I'm done. I finished my 4th and final book. Searching For Tina Turner was...meh. Oh I will be reviewing this one too and it's not gonna be pretty. My reading got super slow the last 4 hours and I didn't have a page number goal but am kinda bummed I just missed 1000 pages. There's always September. It's 6:20 a.m. 40 minutes shy of 24 hours. Once again, I read HARD.CORE. :P

Pages read since last update: 278
Time spent reading since last update: 6 hours 15 minutes
Books completed since last update: 1
Total pages read: 924
Total time reading: 20 hours 58 minutes
Total books read: 4
Food consumed: just lots of water

 
 
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For those participating in the African Diaspora Reading Challenge, this is where you can link to your second quarter (April-June) reviews. If you don't have a blog, you can add reviews to LibraryThing as it permalinks each member's review. This is how we'll format links: enter link title as your blog name (book title), i.e. BrownGirl BookSpeak (The Wife of His Youth).

Challenge Sign Up
Book Suggestions
First Quarter Reviews
My Reviews
 
 
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A Wish After Midnight is one of the first selections for the Amazon Encore program that re-introduces previously self published books to hopefully reach a wider audience.  This is a worthy selection. It's very rare to find a self published, debut novel with such depth, wisdom, and maturity and A Wish After Midnight is definitely a gem.

This YA fiction novel is a first person narrative of Genna, a 20th century teen just trying to survive and make it out of her impoverished Brooklyn life and into a better one as a psychiatrist.  She's the youngest of three and seems to be the only one with her head on straight while her mother struggles to support them. She's like any other teenage girl who's not one of the "pretty girls" but very smart and often teased because she chooses to focus on her studies and not the streets and boys. Genna spends a great deal of time at a local botanical garden which houses a fountain filled with numerous penny wishes including many of her own. One day, a wish goes awry and she finds herself in 1863 Brooklyn in the midst of the Civil War and an infamous New York draft riot. She quickly adapts to her new life in a time where the ink is barely dry on the Emancipation Proclamation taking care of the child of a doctor and his wife who support the abolitionist cause. Genna also finds herself in a bit of a love triangle when she finds herself the affection of a mixed race dockworker and realizes the guy of her blossoming romance from her own time has somehow been sent back in time as well.

Zetta Elliott is a great storyteller. She really captured the hardships of being a teen in modern times with all of the nonsense they deal with and those who instigate it. She also sheds light on the history of race relations with regard to the disparaging treatment the Irish suffered that was just as bad if not often worse than blacks. I loved her portrayal of Genna as it is so realistic. Her life is rough but it didn't come across as sensationalized like the media and other novels often portray.  Genna also possesses a wisdom that's very admirable for a teenager in her situation which is why she doesn't flounder under the weight of her odd teleportation to over a century back in time. 

The ending left my brow furled, but in a good way. Elliott has left the door wide open for Genna's story to continue and I'm cheering her on. I heartily await the sequel to A Wish After Midnight.

Challenges:
POC Reading
African Diaspora