Please Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from Irish Banana Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinions in my review in any way.
When I first heard about this blog tour, I read the description of The Cat King Of Havana, I got really excited. Cuba, salsa dancing, cat videos? I was hooked. I was charged with creating a playlist for this delightful book. I must say that I had an easy time of it, as author Tom Crosshill mentions classic salsa tunes in nearly every page (thank you, Spotify). If you look this up on Spotify, it is called:
The Cat King Of Havana Playlist
There are 22 songs in all. I would highly recommend playing this as you read the story as music plays a central role in this book. Or play this at your next gathering to get the party started! The music is infectious.
It all starts out with a boy doing what boys often do, trying to impress a girl. Rick sees Ana in a dance studio when a band he is in is playing for the class. She is a one of the Salsa dancing instructors. He has two-left feet. But he decides to take the plunge and start lessons. The two become friends when Rick asks Ana to perform with him in a school show. When Ana can't deal with her alcoholic dad coming back into her life, Rick suggests they both spend the summer in Cuba to learn more about Salsa dance. This is possible because Rick has family there.
What I liked:Setting:
Cuba is one of those places we Americans don't know much about. It is mysterious and brings to mind the JFK era of glamor and gangsters. The reality seems to be quite different, with people struggling to put food on the table, but trying to live despite these problems. The author captures this duality. This is a paradise and a prison.
I loved that there were many characters to be interested in, not just Rick and Ana. There were the many Cuban family members of Rick who each must decide what they are willing to compromise in order to survive in Cuba. Rick and Ana also meet an tough dance instructor who sometimes stays sober enough to teach the pair. This is infuriating to Ana as she wants to stay away from any reminder of her boozy father back home.
Rick and Ana are a wonderful pair. Both are in Cuba for different reasons, but also must work through what it means to be just friends. Can that happen, or will someone get hurt?
As I said before, this book has a soundtrack, and it is glorious. I started playing the playlist I created in the car and my teen daughter actually loved it. Who would guess that the sounds of Salsa would be so infectious? I think as you fall in love with the music, so too will you fall head over heels for this book.
What I enjoyed most about this story is that, like Cuba, there is more to what's happening than meets the eye. Of course there is dancing, and the common dilemma of unrequited love. But there is also conflict based on doing what you want versus what the consequences could be for your family. This is a very real issue in a repressive country. It's something that Rick, as our American observer, hasn't needed to think about until now. He learns through his newly discovered family that there are many ways to take a stand, not all of them obvious.
What I Didn't Like:This book was perfection. I didn't like that it ended!
Release Date: September 6th, 2016
Source: Irish Banana Blog Tours (Thank you Hannah)
Format: ARC E-book
Recommendation: This is a complex book that explores what it means to put your family first. This is a very special book.
About Tom Crosshill:
Tom Crosshill's fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award. His stories have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. In 2009, he won the Writers Of The Future contest. After some years spent in Oregon and new York, he currently lives in his native Latvia. In the past, he has operated a nuclear reactor, translated books and workd in a zinc mine, among other things.
Tom's young adult novel "The Cat King Of Havana" is forthcoming from Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) in 2016
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