Wednesday, August 15, 2012

TLC Book Review - So L.A.

So L.A. by Bridget Hoida
Lettered Press, 2012

Format - oversized paperback
Source - the publisher via TLC Book Tours
**FTC Discolosure - I received a complimentary copy of So L.A. from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a review.  However, the opinions and comments below are all my own and made without bias.

Why?  I have 3 daughters so the very real pressure on women to fit an ideal image is a serious issue to me. Those pressures exacerbated by the L.A. lifestyle was indeed something I wanted to know more about.  

What Now?  I'm happy to pass this one along to another blogger friend who would like to read it.  Just let me know in the comments that you are interested and leave your blog address as well as email so I'll be able to contact you should you win :)
Bridget Hoida has also generously donated another copy of So L.A. to another Peppermint Ph.D. reader so next Friday, August 24, I'll choose two winners :)

Golden Lines

But contrary to the advice of seismologists, L.A. is virtually made of glass, its reflective surfaces sweeping and expansive, and so Junah was with me everywhere I went.

Puck and a drink or two is how I get through parties.

Jameson up, I said, looking at his salty hair and wondering if my instinct to push it out of his eyes meant I was ready to be a mom.  And a tall glass of gin with a straw and some ice so it looks like a Sprite.

Unlike Puck I didn't mind being from a dusty place that sold Hydraulic Harvesters instead of Maseratis.  In fact, I missed it in a way that made my teeth ache.  But like him I slid on pair after pair of designer sunglasses and hid my origins well.  Not because I was afraid someone would call me out, but rather because I was afraid they'd ask me in.

Dean was a family man.  One of the good guys.  What the hell was he doing giving drunken tongue to a woman other than his wife on reality television?

What I meant was, if I worked at home, if I set up shop in one, three, seven of the bedrooms inside the house, I would actually have to work because there might actually be the possibility of Ricky or Immelda or the guy who does the bills suddenly walking in on me and expecting to see art, work, product, something other than a bedraggled girl, still in her pajamas, drinking gin with a straw and playing with rhinestones.

No, Magdalena, you already left and last time I checked, son trumped brother so take that to your shrink and smoke it.

When we first moved to L.A. my favorite thing to say was, That's so L.A.  I used it to describe just about everything from fake boobs to traffic.  Then I got implants and started to drive.

And yet, here's the thing: sitting silently next to Quentin felt all right.  It was comfortable even.  I had all sorts of things I could say, like: where are you from? or What do you do when the sadness gets so heavy you think it will crush you? or Ever killed anybody? but for the first time in a long time I didn't feel the need to say anything.  And it felt good.  To sit.  And drink.

Standing in front of the Guadalupe Wedding Chapel I waited for a cab, and when it arrived it wasn't yellow.  It was green with a billboard for Viagra on the roof.
Why isn't anything like the movies?

Seriously, I snatched my keys from his outstretched hand.  I am just barely holding on here and you think a weekend with Mom and her bottle, watching Dad barbecue his dinner in the shed, is going to snap me back to reality?

We could have bought bikes and gotten inked and revved our engines, together.  But instead I was left.  In a hotel room.  Alone.  

Had I been there, had I not driven back to the ranch to work on water, you could have trusted me when I told you Junah didn't fall from anything, but as you know I left him and down he went.  

He was the most level headed, until...
He was the safest climber they had ever met, until...
He was a badass soloer until...
...he fell to his death.
Until he fell to his death.

...Los Angeles, beneath the pixie dust and beyond the Sunset strip, is really nothing more than a desert where the water is scarce and we're all thirsty.


Magdalena de la Cruz and her husband Ricky have made their fortune in bottled water and are living in L.A. among the filthy rich and famous.  Trips to the wax studio, power lunches, Pilates, gin, and business fill Magdalena's days until her brother Junah is killed in a climbing accident that Magdalana feels responsible for.  Magdalena literally crawls under her bed for days and from there, her life begins to spiral out of control...retreating further and further within herself and physically re-constructing the outside.  

What I Liked

The chapter structure - from one paragraph to 3 pages, the chapters are very short and sometimes just seem to be a stream of consciousness...always from Magdalena's point of view but jumping around in time as she explains her predicament and how she became a woman fighting within a woman.  Magdalena's story is a complex one that would have been overwhelming I think without Hoida's smart style in getting us inside Magdalena's head.

The complications woven throughout the plot...death, grieving, self image, the other woman, plastic surgery, therapy, marriage, fidelity/infidelity, sexuality, money, dysfunctional families, name it; it's here.  While this complex of a plot could be cumbersome, it isn't in So L.A.  Hoida never brings it all back into a neat little package because it can't be one...but she gives the reader enough information and enough insight to at least think about what the reader would do in Magdalena's shoes.  So L.A. is so full of complications that I'm still thinking about it and trying out ideas as I get ready to post this review.  

Puck - we'd all be lucky to have a true friend like Puck.  Someone who believes in you no matter what and accepts you just the way you are...freaky drama included.

Quentin - I won't say too much about this character to keep from spoilers...but he's a good guy.  Besides the obvious (and you'll find that out when you get to that part), I think he really wants to help Magdalena...but unlike everyone else around her, Quentin realizes that she must want to help herself first.     

What I Didn't Like

No quotation marks - I'm an English teacher but this isn't just a mechanical issue for me.  I really did have to re-read portions to make sure of who was saying what sometimes.  

Magdalena - pulling the seams out of Ricky's clothes when she gets mad?  about things she's just made up in her head???...there are times when Magdalena seems like nothing more than a spoiled brat.  Reading about her sometimes was like watching a horror movie...everybody in the theatre knows what's going to happen when the young heroine decides to check into the old abandoned Bates Motel.  I wanted to scream at Magdalena more than once and say, "You dummy...THINK about this decision for a minute or two!!  Don't go THERE!!"  But Magdalena goes there anyway.  It's as if sometimes she's trying to make things just as bad as they can possibly be.

Ricky - I'm sorry...I really feel guilty for this...but I didn't like him.  How in the world he put up with Magdalena for so long, I'll never understand.  He's caught up in the L.A. lifestyle even more so than she is...and maybe that's how he does it.  But, I just couldn't see it.

Overall Recommendation

So L.A. is an intense look at the "power" of reinvention in a culture that values the outside of a person more than the inside...a Stepford Wives kind of culture that is L.A. as described by Hoida.  How can someone deal with real life in a world that is so make believe??  So L.A. is not a happy story by any stretch of the imagination...but neither is the issue of  stripping self image from individuals based on what others deem any situation but especially not in Magdalena's.  What complicates this story even more  is that Magdalena de la Cruz seems to choose a fabricated way of life in order to retreat into herself and protect herself from her grief...letting the outside world see a "costume" of sorts instead of who she truly is...possibly even a psychic protective measure after the trauma of Junah's death and her perceived role in the accident.
Deep stuff this is.
The language and a few graphic sex scenes/fantasies would keep me from recommending this to doesn't bother me and I never felt that any of the scenes or language were gratuitous; I was shocked from time to time, but I think that was the point.  The rawness helps the reader see and even feel how deeply Magdalena is falling into her own trap.

Other stops on the TLC Book Tour

Thursday, July 5th: CBS Los Angeles – LA’s Summer Reading Guide
Monday, August 13th: The 3R’s Blog
Wednesday, August 15th: Peppermint Ph.D.
Thursday, August 16th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, August 20th: Kritter’s Ramblings
Wednesday, August 22nd: Sweet Southern Home
Thursday, August 23rd: Book Chatter
Monday, August 27th: Reviews by Molly
Tuesday, August 28th: Travel Spot
Wednesday, August 29th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, August 30th: A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, September 4th: A Bookish Affair
Thursday, September 6th: Bookish Whimsy
Friday, September 7th: In the Next Room
Monday, September 10th: Colloquium
Tuesday, September 11th: Oh! Paper Pages
Wednesday, September 12th: Conceptual Reception
Thursday, September 13th: Seaside Book Nook


  1. This is a complex book that doesn't want to look like it is--and I think in that respect, it reflects both its protagonist and its setting. I liked Quentin too, but had rather mixed feelings about Puck.

    I think you did a good job nailing down a book that's tough to nail down--great review!

  2. This does sound rather interesting, and rather different, both in style and content. I would love to read this one, if it's still up for grabs, or to be submitted in the giveaway. I think there is a lot to be curious about with this book. Terrific review!

    1. You bet, Heather...I've got my copy to pass along and the publisher is also giving a copy! This was a very different first look it seems as if it's a chick-lit beachy read, but it is anything but that. I can't even imagine reading this one in the sun with a cocktail nearby :p Too much thought power needed for that ;)

  3. This sounds intriguing but I'm not sure I would be crazy about it. Brilliant, thorough review!

    1. Thanks very much :) It definitely is a complex story (and I'm not really even sure if the word "story" fits...even though it is narrative. See, I'm still thinking about it ;)

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts for the tour!

    1. I enjoyed it, Heather! And, it's especially a pleasure working with authors who take such an interest in us little bloggers :)

  5. I almost signed up to be a part of this tour, and I am not quite sure now why I decided not to. I would like a chance to read it now though! Thanks for the chance.

    1. Bridget Hoida is a refreshing author...none of that same old same old formulaic stuff that seems to come across the airwaves/blogwaves. I'm reluctant to read new writers for this very reason but this one intrigued me. And, I'm so glad it did. Can't wait to see what she has for us next :)