Review: Free Style by Linda Nieves-Powell

As I mentioned in this review, I have been blessed with many books from publishers and authors, so many that I can’t read them fast enough.  My wonderful book club friend, Elaine, was kind enough to read and review three of them for me.  Here is her 2nd review for Books on the Brain:

Free Style, a debut novel by Linda Nieves-Powell, is the story of 35 year old Idalis Rivera, a Latina mom of a 6 year old boy and newly separated from her husband, Manny.  Idalis is struggling with her life, trying to figure out what will make her happy.  Her best friend, Selenis, is also miserable, as a stay-at-home mom with three children, an aging mother who lives with her, and a husband who spends his time at home with computer porn.  Idalis is constantly wishing for her carefree life in the past, when she and Selenis lived in the Bronx, and danced “Free Style” (which is dancing alone) at Club 90.  

Idalis whines and cries through most of the book, mostly about Manny.  She is a weak, indecisive character, who believes status quo is the easiest way to get through life.  She searches for happiness in the past, by going back find her old friends at Club 90, and she struggles with whether to return with Manny or to start dating another man.  Idalis’ mother is constantly meddling to try to get her and Manny back together, not because that is what is best for her daughter, but because her generation/culture believes that divorce is not an option.  When life throws Idalis even more challenges towards the end of the book, with a health crisis, and her advertising job, where they seem to be “using” her as the only Latina employee (besides the janitor) to impress a Latino client, she decides it is time to step up and take a stand. 

Free Style is a fun, light, fast read, with all the vitality and energy of Idalis herself.  Although it is not a funny story, Idalis is certainly a comic narrator – when she is not arguing or crying.  At times, the many, many scenes with Idalis and Manny fighting become tedious and repetitive…just like any couple’s arguments, it seems like they always seem to be rehashing the same issues.  Powell (or Idalis, since she is the narrator) is more crude than I typically like to read…a variety of swear words are used loosely, and descriptions of body parts and sexual acts are comically blunt.   But, if you are not bothered by the language, you are in the mood for some mommy soul searching, and you would like to see the world through one Latina woman’s eyes, than you may enjoy this novel.  

Blogger Bio:  Elaine Legere is a stay-at-home mommy and part-time marketing consultant, after years of working for Disney, Palm (aka Palm Pilot), Los Angeles Times, and Details Magazine.  She received her BA at UCLA in English Literature and an MBA from University of Colorado. She is an avid reader, loves movies, and all things outdoors.

You can check out the author’s website HERE

Review: The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page

The Book Gods have been kind to me.  Recently I received a package from the Avon Trade division of Harper Collins containing not one but two books for my review.  I was tempted to add them to my ever growing stack, knowing it might be weeks before I got around to them, but instead passed one of those books and a couple others from the review stack to Elaine, a friend in my book club.  This girl is a reading machine!  Within a few days time she’d read the three books I’d given her and reviewed them for me.  Here is her first review for Books on the Brain:

The Space Between Before and After by Jean Reynolds Page is about a slightly dysfunctional family and their three-day visit in a small rural town in Texas.  Holli/Hollyanne, divorced and living in NY, believes that her aging grandmother who raised her is loosing her grip on reality.  Holli decides to go to her childhood home in Thaxton, TX, to check up on Grandma Raine to make sure she is all right.  Around the same time, she hears that her twenty-year-old son, Connor, who had recently run away from college with his girlfriend and moved into a trailer behind Grandma Raine’s house in Thaxton, may also be facing a crisis of his own, with his girlfriend in the hospital.  As a result, all the family descends upon Thaxton to solve these problems and, consequently, create more family drama than Holli initially expected. 

This three-day trip becomes the setting for some critical life decisions, secrets revealed, reflections into love, faith and loss, and flashbacks into Holli’s own troubled childhood.   The drama in the Texas home, the majority of the book, reminded me of a stage play, with lots of one-on-one conversations rotating between the various characters.  This part of the novel seemed to drag on a bit after the major conflicts are introduced.  In contrast, Holli’s flashbacks to her childhood and relationships with her father and stepmother, I believe, were interesting and heartbreaking.  Coincidentally or not, many of the tragedies of Holli’s life happen in concert with events in space.  I am still trying to figure out if there is any deeper symbolism in the space theme (the emptiness, the danger of traveling into the “heavens”, etc.), but I felt like it was more of a literary “gimmick” to tie the events together, more than anything else.  Also, it seemed as though every character had a secret to reveal and there seemed to be a few too many parallel tragedies in the story to be realistic, although maybe some families are simply that unlucky. 

The novel is extremely well written, albeit slightly long.  Minor criticisms aside, the book is a very enjoyable read and I would recommend it to someone interested in family drama. 

Blogger Bio:  Elaine Legere is stay-at-home mommy and part-time marketing consultant, after years of working for Disney, Palm (aka Palm Pilot), Los Angeles Times, and Details Magazine.  She received her BA at UCLA in English Literature and an MBA from University of Colorado. She is an avid reader, loves movies, and all things outdoors.