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Arts and Entertainment

Books On Our Radar: Fictional LA

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Any Angeleno worth their salt knows this city can be both bright and happy or sinister and dark by quick turns or subtle steps or shameless spirals. There is much to celebrate about LA and much to shy away from - which makes it the ideal city-as-character in many a writer's novel. A few new books are out that feature LA and they're on our radar to check out this month.

Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature edited by Daniel A. Olivas - This collection of stories take place all over LA: from East L.A. to Malibu, Hollywood to the San Fernando Valley, Venice Beach to El Sereno. Many seasoned and up-and-coming Latino writers contributed to this anthology including Reyna Grande, Salvador Plascencia, Alex Espinoza, Michael Jaime-Becerra, Lisa Alvarez and Daniel A. Olivas. Their stories feature aggressive journalists, cement pourers, disaffected lovers, drunken folklorico dancers, successful curanderos, teenage slackers, aging artists, wrestling saints, aimless druggies, people made of paper, college students, and even a private detective in search of a presumed-dead gonzo writer. Quintessential LA...but so much more.

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey - After all the hoopla surrounding his not-so-true memoir A Million Little Pieces, we're intrigued that he spent the last two years writing a novel...about LA. The book's description is even more enticing: "James Frey lingers on a handful of LA's lost souls and captures the dramatic narrative of their lives: a bright, ambitious young Mexican-American woman who allows her future to be undone by a moment of searing humiliation; a supremely narcissistic action-movie star whose passion for the unattainable object of his affection nearly destroys him; a couple, both nineteen years old, who flee their suffocating hometown and struggle to survive on the fringes of the great city; and an aging Venice Beach alcoholic whose life is turned upside down when a meth-addled teenage girl shows up half-dead outside the restroom he calls home." Can Frey do fiction? And will his fiction do LA justice? We'll be checking it out this month.

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Girl Factory by Jim Krusoe - If ever a writer could turn LA's fro-yo culture into a disturbingly sex-laced comment on society's ills and odd whims, it is Krusoe. Publisher's Weekly's tells us just enough to pique our interest: "In the basement of a Southern California yogurt shop one hot summer night, Jonathan, a down-on-his-luck fro-yo slinger, discovers several young, beautiful naked women encased in glass and suspended lifelessly in a milky mixture. Jonathan's boss, Spinner, catches him nosing around and reveals his experiment: acidophilus, yogurt's active culture, has the uncanny ability to preserve and nourish life, he explains, and the women bobbing before Jonathan's wide eyes are making 'an investment in their future." With all fro-yo madness we've covered, we'd do ourselves a disservice by ignoring this debut novel.

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown - While much of the novel takes places in Silicon Valley, a key storyline in Brown's novel is set in Los Angeles and features a woman who "has been dumped by her newly famous actor boyfriend and left in the lurch by an investor who promised to revive her fledgling post-feminist magazine, Snatch." While it sounds like so many LA cliches, we're curious to see if Brown's first novel can go beyond it and render her LA-esque characters less-stereotype, more human.