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2019 TOB Shortlist Books > The House of Broken Angels

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This is my early favorite, and it's received raves from several group members. What did you think of it?


message 2: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 457 comments This was just so good. I really felt as though I'd been dropped into the middle of this enormous family. That giant party was chaotic, but Urrea is such a good writer that it only felt like it was all veering out of control.


message 3: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1087 comments Completely agree, Alison. The audiobook, narrated by Urrea himself, is especially enjoyable.


message 4: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments Alison wrote: "This was just so good. I really felt as though I'd been dropped into the middle of this enormous family. That giant party was chaotic, but Urrea is such a good writer that it only felt like it was ..."

Alison you're exactly right about the feeling this novel evokes. I wonder if whether a given reader likes this book has to do with whether they like the feeling of being at a giant party.


message 5: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1087 comments Great question, Lark, but for me, the answer is no. I’m a major party wuss and loved the novel.


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 26, 2018 12:08PM) (new)

Parties are torture for me, and I loved this novel. The party scenes were my least favorite part, but I especially connected with the one-to-one intimate moments between family members. The pain, joy, struggle, tension, and love that is universal resonated strongly for me. I usually do not enjoy family life novels, but Urrea's focus on individual relationships made this one a standout.


message 7: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 642 comments I hate parties and loved this book, especially the part where Little Angel crawled into bed with Big Angel. Having met Luis and knowing he is Little Angel made me appreciate it all the more.


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 580 comments Jan wrote: "Great question, Lark, but for me, the answer is no. I’m a major party wuss and loved the novel."

Me too - I guess it's no surprise that there are a lot of us introverts here. I'm good for about 15 minutes at a party, then I'm exhausted and want to be alone with a book and a dog or two. I liked reading about the big party that is the De La Cruz family, but glad I'm not part of one like that.


message 9: by Sarah (last edited Dec 26, 2018 02:23PM) (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments Just started. I love this line about the Crown Vic that Little Angel rents "The car was vast and pillowy. Little Angel felt like he was driving a square acre of 1979."


message 10: by Bretnie (new)

Bretnie | 475 comments I liked it ok, but definitely didn't love it and I'm not sure why. I couldn't get into the characters and the plot. Maybe just not the right book for me at the time that I read it earlier this year.


message 11: by Lola (new)

Lola | 118 comments I adored this book. I went to a book event with the author and he is just a delight. After he read an excerpt, I knew I needed to listen to at least part on audio and that was amazing as well. I recommended it to two Mexican-American male friends, both of whom are about the same age as Little Angel and both were moved to tears with how much the book reminded them of their own families. One picked up The Hummingbird's Daughter after Angels declared it his favorite book ever. It brought me so much joy to turn people on to this book/author this year.


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

Janet wrote: "I hate parties and loved this book, especially the part where Little Angel crawled into bed with Big Angel. Having met Luis and knowing he is Little Angel made me appreciate it all the more."

Oh, I love that!


message 13: by lark (last edited Dec 26, 2018 05:41PM) (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments I'm pretty sure there would have been better time this year and probably even a better day of the week to have picked up this novel, when I would have totally loved it.

I didn't have enough patience for it when I did read it, though, and even though every part of it charmed me, somehow it never gripped me.

One problem I had was that there are a lot of people to keep track of. (Even writing that last sentence I'm reminded of the scene in Amadeus when Emperor Joseph II tells Mozart: "There are simply too many notes!")


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 580 comments Sarah wrote: "Just started. I love this line about the Crown Vic that Little Angel rents "The car was vast and pillowy. Little Angel felt like he was driving a square acre of 1979.""

There are so many gems like this :)


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 580 comments Lark wrote: "I'm pretty sure there would have been better time this year and probably even a better day of the week to have picked up this novel, when I would have totally loved it.

I didn't have enough patien..."


Lark, I know you've been barrelling through the long/short list, plus you've been more drawn to womens' stories and perspectives, and this is a very very male book. Maybe the combination of the two makes the timing especially bad?

I've been reading at a barrelling speed too (not all ToB related) for the last few weeks, but I've been tossing in some lighter reads (ex: The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, Record of a Spaceborn Few) so I'll have more patience for the deeper dives.


message 16: by lark (last edited Dec 26, 2018 06:55PM) (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments Nadine wrote: "Lark, I know you've been barrelling through the long/short list, plus you've been more drawn to womens' stories and perspectives, and this is a very very male book. Maybe the combination of the two makes the timing especially bad? ..."

yes! the 'very very male book' issue tipped it over into the 'not for me just now' category. Which is very different from the 'not for me at any time' category, though. Because the scene building is excellent and the emotional ties throughout are so well done.

I like the way the book jacket calls Urrea a great 'storyteller' in a few spots--which is a different quality from 'great writer' and I think it's apt. Also I think I need a shelf for 'try this again in a few months.'


message 17: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments Has anyone here read The Devil's Highway: A True Story? I recognize Urrea's tone from that book, which is very male-sounding. Not quite sure how to describe it. Sort of tough, with short, brusque sentences. But there's also a softness in the way he tells the story (in Devil's Highway) of a group of people trying to cross the border from Mexico into the US. That book is nonfiction, but I see in the novel a similar brusqueness-meets-gentleness that appeals to me. Maybe it's personified in Little Angel's character...I don't know because I'm not very far in the book. But I get what Lark is saying, and I also see why people love it. I'll check in again when I'm farther along.


message 18: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 642 comments Sarah wrote: "Has anyone here read The Devil's Highway: A True Story? I recognize Urrea's tone from that book, which is very male-sounding. Not quite sure how to describe it. Sort of tough, with sho..."

That's kinda funny because Luis is not macho at all....perhaps it's not maleness but bravado that you hear. Listening to him recite or read can be pure poetry. But I haven't read Devil's Highway yet...i need to make it a priority.


message 19: by Karin (new)

Karin (8littlepaws) | 97 comments Lark wrote: "I'm pretty sure there would have been better time this year and probably even a better day of the week to have picked up this novel, when I would have totally loved it.

I didn't have enough patien..."


I could have written this. I had such a hard time keeping track of everyone, plus the fact that as noted it is a very masculine novel (I really don't like reading passages where men are admiring female figures, and I feel like that was present here IIRC) that I just deeply struggled with getting into this book. But I feel had I read it at a time in my life when I did have more focus and attention to dedicate to it I would have liked it a whole lot more.


message 20: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments I think part of the problem with this book, for me at least, is the ever-shifting p.o.v. We are seeing this world through so many characters' eyes, and yet the language never changes, or the tone or the mood. So it feels sort of like one long unspooling narrative that goes from here to there (from person to person) and that can get tiresome, even though it's a great story.


message 21: by Mindy (new)

Mindy Jones (mindyrecycles) | 64 comments I loved it, but really could have used a family tree.


message 22: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments Mindy wrote: "I loved it, but really could have used a family tree."

yes!


message 23: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Janet in answer to your comment. The part I did not like was the drug dealer coming for revenge at the party. I understand that this enabled Big Angel to follow in the footsteps of his father and save the day by standing in front of his son, and let Yndio come back into the family. I just would have rather seen a more realistic reconciliation with Yndio. I did not find the parts with the drug dealer realistic. Apart from this it was a five star read for me.


message 24: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1687 comments Would have loved to have Little Angel’s “family tree” notebook recreated at the beginning or end.


message 25: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Amy wrote: "Would have loved to have Little Angel’s “family tree” notebook recreated at the beginning or end."

Yes indeed. I think it needed it.


message 26: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments From the LA Times interview--it seems he purposefully left out any kind of family tree:

Urrea reveled in creating an environment where the reader wasn't permitted to slot characters into simple roles. To that end, he also declined to include a family tree in the book. "I tried to be as generous as possible to give people enough markers that you could get to know somebody," he says. "But I thought also, thinking politically, 'Here's a bunch of people you don't know. Make a little effort.'"

Here is the whole interview:

https://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-j...


message 27: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 06, 2019 12:12AM) (new)

"Urrea reveled in creating an environment where the reader wasn't permitted to slot characters into simple roles....' Here's a bunch of people you don't know. Make a little effort.'

I like that! It felt right to me that I occasionally lost track of names and how people were connected to each other. That happens in a large, extended family. Thanks for sharing the interview, Lark.


message 28: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 457 comments Tina wrote: " It felt right to me that I occasionally lost track of names and how people were connected to each other. That happens in a large, extended family...."

That was my experience, too. It was like being thrown into a big family and having to just figure it out with occasional asides from the person who brought you, which may or may not clarify things.

A family tree would be convenient, but it would also solidify characters into specific roles and knowing how different people slotted into the family right from the beginning would take something away from the story.


message 29: by Nadine in California (last edited Jan 06, 2019 07:37AM) (new)

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 580 comments Alison wrote: "A family tree would be convenient, but it would also solidify characters into specific roles and knowing how different people slotted into the family right from the beginning would take something away from the story. "

Exactly my thoughts. For me, a family tree would have reduced it to a kind of tableau family drama - well done, but not nearly so immersive and almost interactive. I found nearly all the characters so alive and distinct that keeping track of who's who got easier and easier. My only disappointment was Ysidro (view spoiler)


message 30: by Carmel (new)

Carmel Hanes | 130 comments Lark wrote: "From the LA Times interview--it seems he purposefully left out any kind of family tree:

Urrea reveled in creating an environment where the reader wasn't permitted to slot characters into simple ro..."


Thanks, Lark. That context makes it seem more possible... that the confused chaos might have an underlying purpose and be manageable.


message 31: by Ehrrin (new)

Ehrrin | 114 comments I loved this book (and the author's reading for the audiobook is fantastic. The voice of the Satanic Hispanic is worth the price of admission.) You can hear his deep love of the characters (reminded me of Neil Gaiman's reading in that way.)

I desperately wanted a family tree, but I really loved this explanation of why there isn't one.

I saw Urrea lecture, and as noted by others, he is a delight! I think I remember him saying that the inspiration for the novel is the scene where Little Angel gets in bed with Big Angel. It is based on a true story with he and his brother.

Loved, loved, loved it. ❤️ One of my favorites of the year.


message 32: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments I just finished reading House of Broken Angels for the second time, and wow. I would love to see this one win.


message 33: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1687 comments Ehrrin wrote: "I loved this book (and the author's reading for the audiobook is fantastic. The voice of the Satanic Hispanic is worth the price of admission.) You can hear his deep love of the characters (reminde..."

Satanic Hispanic was awesome! I need to look up how it's written in the text because I can't imagine how he would have conveyed the glory that was the glottal growl of this voice! Definitely a book improved by the audio, as envisioned by the author!


message 34: by Neale (last edited Jan 11, 2019 12:29AM) (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments I have never listened to an audio book, but all the favourable talk of them in this group makes me want to try one. Especially if the narrator is good.


message 35: by Noa (last edited Jan 11, 2019 03:29AM) (new)

Noa (nsing) | 18 comments Tina wrote: "This is my early favorite, and it's received raves from several group members. What did you think of it?"

Loved it. Don't like parties and had glanced at some of the posts prior to reading, so I was aware of the chaotic party section, but ended up liking it.... a small part of me wishes that I was part of a large family gathering like that, but knows that if I was would be so exhausted at the end. I definitely plan on reading The Hummingbird's Daughter.


message 36: by Karin (new)

Karin (8littlepaws) | 97 comments Collin wrote: "I have never listened to an audio book, but all the favourable talk of them in this group makes me want to try one. Especially if the narrator is good."

Do you listen to podcasts at all? If you don't I might recommend you start there--or with an essay collection or short story collection, so you have clear stopping points. Also I encourage you to play around with the playback speed, as I find if I listen to a book at too slow a speed, I space out. For me it took time to build up to the ability to listen to a novel via audio.


message 37: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments Following up on Karin's suggestion I recommend the New Yorker Fiction podcast and NPR's Selected Shorts podcast--wonderful short stories, wonderfully read.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/t...

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/s...


message 38: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Thanks Karin and Lark, both great suggestions. I will give it a go.


message 39: by lark (last edited Jan 11, 2019 10:39AM) (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments Collin wrote: "Thanks Karin and Lark, both great suggestions. I will give it a go."

The first New Yorker podcast ever recorded is the magnificent short-short story "Reunion" by John Cheever, read by Richard Ford. I go back to it frequently. I would start there! Have fun!

https://www.newyorker.com/podcast/fic...


message 40: by Nadine in California (last edited Jan 11, 2019 07:07PM) (new)

Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 580 comments Collin wrote: "I have never listened to an audio book, but all the favourable talk of them in this group makes me want to try one. Especially if the narrator is good."

I never miss an opportunity to sing the praises of Levar Burton Reads. His love of books is so stong, it just shines out in his narration. He reads short stories, so it's a good way to test the audio waters. The last few I listened to really blew me away: Ursula LeGuin's "Flyers of Gy", Nisi Shawl's "Black Betty", Rebecca Roanhorse's "Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience - TM", and Octavia Butler's "Childfinder". Many stories are speculative fiction, but not all, by any means. Trust me, when the going gets rough, let Levar Burton read to you and you'll feel better.


message 41: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1087 comments @Collin, another fun way to increase your ability to concentrate while listening is to start with books you’ve already read and enjoyed...like House of Broken Angels. Or Harry Potter, which is gorgeously narrated by Jim Dale for American audiences. I understand Stephan Fry does a great narration for British listeners.


message 42: by Neale (new)

Neale  (collincollinsbookblogcom) | 122 comments Thanks Nadine and Jan. All of these suggestions are wonderful and I will eventually get around to them all. I am going to start with Lark's link and go from there. Once again thanks for all these suggestions. :)


message 43: by Katie (new)

Katie | 127 comments I came to see if anyone else listened and I’m so glad so many loved it! My library happened to have it and the audio added so much! I’m often skeptical of author narrators because narrating is different talent (I didn’t find it worked so great for The Mars Room) but in this case it was just perfect! And since I don’t speak Spanish it enhances everything so much. I just really loved this book it is far and away my favorite so far!


message 44: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments Katie wrote: "I came to see if anyone else listened and I’m so glad so many loved it! My library happened to have it and the audio added so much! I’m often skeptical of author narrators because narrating is diff..."

It makes me happy Katie to see so many other people respond to this novel. It has so much heart. Especially after the coldness of last year's winner, Fever Dream, I'd love to see House of Broken Angels do well in the contest. (I loved Fever Dream too but never saw it as more than a terrific horror story).


message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Lark, I'm sorry to report that House of Broken Angels is my favorite, which almost ensures it won't take the rooster.


message 46: by lark (new)

lark benobi (larkbenobi) | 116 comments Tina wrote: "Lark, I'm sorry to report that House of Broken Angels is my favorite, which almost ensures it won't take the rooster."

I feel it has long odds too, because it requires attention, and a willingness to care about small things. It's so understated. It's my favorite too.


message 47: by Rachelnyc (new)

Rachelnyc | 61 comments I still have several to go, including a couple of #1 seeds but this is definitely my favorite so far. I too was thinking a visual of Little Angel's family tree would have been helpful but I love Urrea's response in the linked article. I was more than happy to sit back and put in the effort to recall where someone fit into the family when I got a bit confused.

Now I want to hear the author's Satanic Hispanic voice! I would have liked some more of that character as well as Yndio but overall I just really loved everything about this novel. Everyone felt so real and it was so easy to visualize the interactions throughout.


message 48: by Lola (last edited Jan 19, 2019 06:18PM) (new)

Lola | 118 comments Amy wrote: "Would have loved to have Little Angel’s “family tree” notebook recreated at the beginning or end."

I made a tree (in last year's ToB Field Notes notebook-how meta ;)) but didn't really refer to it-I think writing down the names and connections helped it all sink into my brain.


Nadine in California (nadinekc) | 580 comments Rachelnyc wrote: "Now I want to hear the author's Satanic Hispanic voice! I would have liked some more of that character as well as Yndio but overall I just really loved everything about this novel. Everyone felt so real and it was so easy to visualize the interactions throughout. ..."

Yes, I wanted more of Yndio too. I haven't read any other Urrea, so I don't know if he revisits characters, but I hope so.


message 50: by Lauren (last edited Feb 11, 2019 01:58PM) (new)

Lauren Oertel | 880 comments Ok, after reading the article my four-star rating is getting closer to five stars now. It fell short of being a perfect book for me mainly because I couldn't always keep track of the characters, but the explanation of that makes sense, and it's fair to make us work a little. ;)

My favorite thing about this book was the Spanglish, which brought me back to my years growing up in northern CA, where I was surrounded by a lot of Mexican/Latinx culture. The frequent use of "nalgas" made me chuckle, and reminded me of some of the Latin rap music I used to listen to, like Calle 13 (I recommend "La Vuelta al Mundo" if anyone wants to check them out - beautiful song!). I also really liked the inclusion of the gang stuff, since it was unfortunately a fairly relevant part of growing up where I did, and now as an adult I'm very interested in getting a better understanding of where gangs come from (the history of the MS-13 is a great example). I found the gang confrontation part of the party to actually be fairly realistic, based on what I had been around growing up.

I'm definitely glad I listened to the audio version, although I had some bad timing in that the Satanic Hispanic parts would always pop up as I was drifting off to sleep and they would jolt me awake, haha. It was a great addition to the story overall though.

I read "The Devils Highway" over a decade ago, so I don't remember too much about it, but that I thought it was very good at the time. I look forward to exploring more of Urrea's books now.

Oh and I thought it was funny that my partner also has a Minerva and Mary Lou in his family... maybe those are more common Mexican names than I realized?


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