Tag Archives: Cuba

No Way Home by Carlos Acosta

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Reason for Reading:
  • I’ve been reading stories about ballet dancers since I was a little girl.  I couldn’t resist another one.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Carlos Acosta, the Cuban dancer considered to be one of the world’s greatest performers, fearlessly depicts his journey from adolescent troublemaker to international superstar in his captivating memoir, No Way Home.

Carlos was just another kid from the slums of Havana; the youngest son of a truck driver and a housewife, he ditched school with his friends and dreamed of becoming Cuba’s best soccer player. Exasperated by his son’s delinquent behavior, Carlos’s father enrolled him in ballet school, subjecting him to grueling days that started at five thirty in the morning and ended long after sunset.

The path from student to star was not an easy one. Even as he won dance competitions and wowed critics around the world, Carlos was homesick for Cuba, crippled by loneliness and self-doubt. As he traveled the world, Carlos struggled to overcome popular stereotypes and misconceptions; to maintain a relationship with his family; and, most of all, to find a place he could call home.

My Review:

I’ve always had a thing for the underdog.  I mean, honestly, who hasn’t at one point or another in their lives?  I put this book on my TBR list a few years ago, and only recently did the notification pop up that it was available in my library (granted, I wasn’t looking too hard when I was in GA, but I digress…).

I’m really torn on this book, because I really, desperately, want to admire what Carlos Acosta, and his family, sacrificed for him to achieve his status in the world today.  I think what makes it hard to fully admire this is because the hard work is so downplayed in this memoir, and instead, the delinquency, the disrespect for his parents, the disregard for the world of ballet is brought to the forefront, cheapening the effect of what could have been a very, very powerful story.

So, rather than focus on the work, on detailing the hours of sweat, speaking of the performances and the struggles within the world of ballet, Carlos Acosta instead, focuses solely on the struggles in his outer world.  Now, granted, they were struggles no one should have to deal with.  His family frequently was in need of food, and Cuba is definitely not a paradise on earth.  His descriptions of his hometown, and the nature surrounding it were lush and I felt like I could envision what he was trying to paint for me … but then he would move back to these, semi-dramatic moments that just distracted from the story.

The other issue I had with the story is the massive rise of ego – from virtually nothing at the beginning until I felt like I was being choked with it at the end.  That could be his youth (he was only 25 at the time of this memoir), but it left me with a distaste for the person he’d become.

I’d only recommend this book if you are a fan, or a ballet enthusiast.  Otherwise, pass this memoir by and go read his Wikipedia entry.

Don’t just take my word for it! Check out what these bloggers say!

Book Addiction

Nomad Reader

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • Sometimes I just want to read something a bit out of the norm for me.

Summary from Goodreads:

Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarité — known as Tété — is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood is one of brutality and fear, Tété finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.

When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, it’s with powdered wigs in his baggage and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his father’s plantation, Saint-Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy. It will be eight years before he brings home a bride — but marriage, too, proves more difficult than he imagined. And Valmorain remains dependent on the services of his teenaged slave.

Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of the intertwined lives of Tété and Valmorain, and of one woman’s determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been battered, and to forge her own identity in the cruellest of circumstances.


My Review:

I’m not unfamiliar with sweeping sagas or stories of slaves – but I am unfamiliar with many of the events that were taking place around the time period of this story.  I’m not sure what made me interested in picking it up, but whatever it was.. I’m glad it did.

Island Beneath the Sea was the perfect book at the perfect time.  I didn’t feel like reading something off my bookshelf, or something of the genre’s I’m most comfortable in and I wanted something with depth, substance and grit to it and I got that in this book.  I found Isabel Allende’s writing to be musical and the story flowed in such an easy manner I always felt compelled to pick it back up, but never felt as if it was holding me in its grip either.

Tete and the surrounding cast of characters were filled with life, character and easily inspired sympathy.  I found myself cheering her on and completely absorbed in her life, which was even further aided by the switching from third-person to Tete’s point of view.

For historical novel fans, this is a book that is definitely out of the norm for the genre, but one that is just as fascinating, even though it doesn’t involve famous names or royalty.

About the Author

Isabel Allende’s website: http://www.isabelallende.com/.

For more reviews on Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende, please follow the book tour.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from TLC Book Tours. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”