The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
A big, messy novel about a Mexican American family coming together to celebrate and to mourn. Big Angel de la Cruz, ill with cancer, wants one last birthday party, and then his mother America dies at 100. Angel’s younger half brother, Little Angel, a literature professor in Seattle, reluctantly shows up, and the brothers resolve some issues and relive memories of their father Antonio, a motorcycle cop. Set on the southern border of California, the family doesn’t worry too much about legal status, as their history goes back before California was a state. Exuberant, intimate, funny, sad, and occasionally violent, the story of the de la Cruz family makes compelling reading. Big Angel’s wife Perla and her two sisters also tell their stories, and there is cake, a surprise mariachi band, and even a party crasher with a gun. Inspired by events in the Naperville author’s family, this is a moving and memorable story.
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
Georgia Ford comes home to her family’s Sonoma Valley vineyard the week before her wedding, needing time to think but finding secrets and chaos. Two marriages are in trouble, and her parents are selling the vineyard. Georgia, a real estate lawyer, has just found out that her British fiance Ben has a daughter. It’s not clear when Ben meant to share that news with Georgia, even though they are moving to London right after their wedding. The Fords’ last harvest festival is just around the corner, and Georgia and her brothers struggle to reconnect while the reader learns through flashbacks the history of the family vineyard. I think the number of problems and secrets affecting the Ford family is much too high, but the characters feel real and the vineyard setting is well drawn. More of a family drama than a romantic comedy, this novel may become a movie. I think readers of books by Robyn Carr about the Lacoumette family, The Promise and New Hope, would enjoy this book.
Robyn Carr’s Virgin River is a fictional village set in northern California, but it feels real. The bestselling, award-winning, romance series is up to 19 titles, with another coming out in November. I have read three books scattered throughout the series and expect I’ll read more: Shelter Mountain, Paradise Valley, and Harvest Moon. I’ve had to replace most of the books for the library’s collection as they have worn out. What makes these books so appealing? The cozy small town setting, romances that continue on throughout the series, plots that don’t wrap up neatly in a single book, characters that continue to change and grow, and heal. I would describe them as romances that readers of cozy mystery series might enjoy. The people who come to Virgin River tend to have medical or military backgrounds, and many are wounded in body or soul, and have come to Virgin River to start over. Here, they find friends, new jobs, hang out at the bar, and often get married and have babies, then welcome other members of their family to town. For lots more about the series and characters, visit the author’s website. The Virgin River books are:
2. Shelter Mountain
3. Whispering Rock
4. A Virgin River Christmas
5. Second Chance Pass
6. Temptation Ridge
7. Paradise Valley
8. Forbidden Falls
9. Angel’s Peak
10. Moonlight Road
12. Wild Man Creek
13. Harvest Moon
14. Bring Me Home for Christmas
15. Hidden Summit
16. Redwood Bend
17. Sunrise Point
There are also two novellas in That Holiday Feeling and Midnight Kiss.