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Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love Paperback – Dec 9 1999

3.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Paperback, Dec 9 1999
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99 by Wayne Gretzky 99 by Wayne Gretzky

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (Dec 9 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060955457
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060955458
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 399 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,382,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Inspired by their heroes Xavier Cugat and Desi Arnaz, brothers Cesar and Nestor Castillo come to New York City from Cuba in 1949 with designs on becoming mambo stars. Eventually they do--performing with Arnaz on "I Love Lucy" in 1955 and recording 78s with their own band, the Mambo Kings. In his second novel, Hijuelos traces the lives of the flashy, guitar-strumming Cesar and the timid, lovelorn Nestor as they cruise the East Coast club circuit in a flamingo-pink bus. Enriching the story are the brothers' friends and family members--all driven by their own private dreams. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Frazee (Roller Coaster) kicks off a hilarious how-to with these trenchant questions: "Is sitting there on your bottom getting boring? Has lying around all the time become entirely unacceptable?" It's a pep talk for those ready to leave crawling behind (and for those who may need a refresher). Her exemplar is an authentically determined Everybaby of indeterminate sex, sporting an enormous polka-dotted diaper, with two dots for eyes and a single curlicue of hair. As the little one tentatively moves towards ambulatory independence, Frazee offers advice ranging from tongue-in-cheek tips (a chair is good to pull up on; a potted cactus is not) to wry Zen wisdom ("Feel the sway, but don't let it tip you over") to cheekily upbeat encouragement (it's okay to cry after the first fall; then check to see "if your diaper is weighing you down.... Fix whatever you can before you start over"). The book is as handsome as it is funny, with page after page of elegantly drafted spot illustrations (one sly visual aside portrays the living room layout as a forbidding, garishly yellow terrain). Of course, much of the humor will fly right by the nine- to 18-month-old crowd, but Frazee has a bigger audience in mind: eager, anxious parents—both expectant and newly anointed—and impatient older siblings. She'll have no trouble winning them over. All ages. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is one of those instances in which I actually liked the movie better than the book. However, that's not a bad thing because I thought the movie was pretty good. As I read the book all I could think of was how perfectly Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas were cast as the brothers. Being that I saw the movie first, it was difficult not to envision the actors moving through the pages.
The book was a little bit more depressing, as the movie doesn't follow the elder brother all the way through his descent. I especially enjoyed the culture, the characters, and sharing the dreams of the main characters as well as the many interesting people the brothers meet. My only complaint, and it's a big one, was the plot is pretty thin. Since the ending is foreshadowed early, the book moves in almost real time. Feeling Ceasar's pain for three hundred pages is a little heavy, although it haunted me long after I put the book down. Maybe a few more years of "Mamboing" and definitely, a better history of Maria.
It makes me want to re-rent the movie.
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Format: Paperback
This was an excellent read, if not sold simply because of the vivid colourful Latino descriptions of the people, the persusaive sense of the fire of Latin America, and of course, the constant, often coarse, sex scenes.
It was such a bittersweet book, such an undercurrence of sadness and loss. It was essentially, a lament to old age and wasted youth. The detail is incredible, the emotions very real. It effectively captures the horrible sinking inevitability of death.
Hijelo's characters are wild, if not dislikable. This is perhaps the finest point of the piece; the characters are utterly human and terribly flawed.
Cesor's incredible libedo is at the forefront of the work, and there is a sense of humidity, sweat and the smells of sex that pervade the work. Hijelo should be admired for being able to conjuer up such senses. I found it a sensual read, however I disagree with many who describe the sex as sensual. It seemed very coarse, but this is not a criticism, it served its coarse purposes.
The only criticism I have is the distracting nature of many of the sex scenes. The sheer amount of them seemed somewhat unnecessary, however, they began to fade once Cesar aged.
Over all, innovative and superb.
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Format: Paperback
"The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love" is a book that has really made me ask myself who and what I want to be as a person. This book is about two young latino brothers, Cesar and Nestor Castillo who have come from Cuba to the United States to persue a dream of playing their Mambo music and to entertain people. This book does a great job of showing the ups and downs of the brothers personal lives and the their lives as musicans. The book does a fair job describing the the Castillo family as a whole. You just Don't hear much about Cesar and Nestors immediate family down in Cuba, which I thought was somewhat disappointing because I really think this could have answered a lot of questions that I asked myself through this book, like why was Nestor so hung up on one girl or why sex is so important to Cesar. This book was very decriptive in many of the sexual encounters the brother had espescially Cesar's. Through out this book the question of family and what it means to the brothers is somthing that I asked myself. Wether it was boyfriend and girlfriend, mother and father, or parents and childeren, I have had mixed feelings on how family members had been treated. Thinking about the lives the brothers lead of drinking, womeninzing, and having horrific diets I would have to say, besides the "I love Lucy Show" their lives have been disappointing. Cesar never learns the true meaning of love and respect throughout his life. The words weak and helpless desribe Cesar Castillo perfectly.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book when it first came out in paperback (I believe that was in 1990), and when I took it to the counter to pay for it, the young woman said, with a look of awe on her face, "Oh, what a wonderful book." I couldn't agree more with that bookstore clerk. This is the first book I read by Hijuelos, and as soon as I finished it, I went and got Hijuelos's first novel, "Our House in the Last World," and loved it every bit as much as "Mambo Kings." I've read Hijuelos's three novels that followed "Mambo Kings," and while they were all OK (this is a talented writer) they were not as good as his first two.
Oh, I almost forgot. About a year after I read "Mambo Kings," I lent it to a woman -- a very bright woman -- but, unlike me, she's just not much of a reader. She also loved this book.
I'm a female. The two aforementioned people are females. Unlike many of the previous reviewers, not one of us was one iota offended by the book's sexuality. Everything in the book rang true, and that's what counts.
My tastes change. I'm not so sure I would love this book now as much as I did about a dozen years ago. But that doesn't matter --my memory of how much I loved it back then is all that matters.
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Format: Paperback
It's not unreasonable to have high expectations of a Pulitzer Prize winning novel. It's also seldom that the movie is better than the book, so it's doubly disappointing that Oscar Hijuelos' much lauded "The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (MKPSOL)" should prove to be such a shallow, shabby and one dimensional affair. The novel's premise hold much promise - tale of two Cuban brothers who work at a meat packing plant by day but transform into gilded musicians in a band by night - but the execution is surprisingly amateurish. Characterisation is poor - both Cesar and Nestor seem like caricatures (the extrovert/hunk and the introvert/dreamer) rather than rounded or believable characters. We never truly understand their psyche but then we don't really care because we can't relate to them anyway. The graphic sex scenes that litter the novel keep repeating every three pages or so. They are not an affront to good taste - we are not prudes - but cheapen the reading experience. The plot also suffers from a lack of dramatic momentum. The storyline stalls some place midway, becomes quickly boring and repetitive and degenerates into a one note samba. Hijuelos' prose may be straightforward, easy on the eyes, easy on the brains but curiously flat and pulp fiction like. Only the Desi Arnaz episode manages to lift MKPSOL from its low aim by showing the funny side to the American psyche - always ready to be star struck. MKPSOL makes for a light entertaining (albeit over long) read but it hasn't remotely the literary qualities worthy of its Pulitzer Prize winning status. I can't imagine it surviving as serious literature for the ages. If you want to read a good book by a Cuban or similar writer, go for either Christina Garcia or Julia Alvarez.
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