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Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 9.26.45 AMForeWord Reviews is pleased to announce So L.A. by Bridget Hoida is a  finalists for the 2012 Book of the Year Awards. The finalists were selected from 1300 entries covering 62 categories of books from independent and academic presses. These books represent some of the best books produced by small publishing houses in 2012.
 
Foreword Reviews, BOTYA, March 11, 2013
 
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Kirkus Review
“In Bridget Hoida’s So L.A. [...] One woman juggles the five stages of grief in this novel’s cutting portrait of a marriage’s slow-motion deterioration. [...] Prone to embellishment, melodrama and laugh-out-loud set pieces, Magdalena isn’t an unreliable narrator, even though she admits to being “inconsistent.” Hoida gives her a sure and steady voice, full of caustic wit and raw emotion. With bright similes and shining epigrams, she gleefully mines Tinseltown tropes while skewering class, consumerism and body image. Revelations are punctuated with punch lines that land squarely in the gut. Although the ending is abrupt, it’s as clever as the rest of the book. Best of all, it leaves hope that readers haven’t seen the end of Magda. In this razor-sharp debut, grief and loathing beget a juicy tragicomedy.”
 -Kirkus Reviews, July 18, 2012
 

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“This is an exceptional first novel. [...] So L.A. is a little autobiographical and a lot experimental as Magdalena’s subsequent unraveling turns the city into a sometimes trite but often revealing “soul” window. Hoida’s style makes the story seamless–for instance, she avoids using quotation marks in passages of dialogue. But in the end, as in all good endings, her protagonist finds a new determination and a new dream. We leave Magdalena anticipating a successful rebuilding in her altered, but more realistic, lifestyle.”
-Jane Glenn Haas, “True Grist” Orange Coast Magazine, September 2012
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“Hoida has a very interesting way of writing. It’s both sharp and lyrical at the same time. It’s sort of hard to describe. I loved the way that the chapters were broken up. In a way, they almost feel like Magdalena is actually having a conversation with you, going back ever so often to tell you a back story or a little bit more information so you can really get what’s being said. Magdalena’s character is also very snarky and sarcastic and that definitely shines through in the writing. Bottom line: This is a gritty picture of a woman fumbling towards trying to find her place in the world.”
-Meg, “So L.A. ReviewA Bookish Affair, September 4, 2012
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“This funny, dark glimpse of La La Land hits a bull’s-eye. [...] Bridget Hoida aims to capture the crazy intensity of L.A.

culture in this debut novel, looking for humor and pathos among the startling lifestyle innovations and entertainment business clichés that La La Land is known for. [...] This is literary fiction written with verve in short, diary-like episodes. The writer sometimes seems to be trying a little too hard to hit the high notes of Southland absurdity, but she pulls off some good scenes and gets some big laughs.”

-Steven M. Thomas, “Hot Reads: Los Angeles with a Twist” OC Metro, October 2012

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“[So L.A.] is a racy, realistic, heart wrenching story about a girl from a quiet California town who made it big with her husband in Hollywood’s favorite bottled water industry. With the loss of her brother, and the move to L.A. she’s become someone she would have never expected, plastic and fake. She struggles to know who she really is, how to deal with her brother’s death( which she blames herself for) and the drastic changes in her life.”Through insanity, infidelity, and other events, she finally learns how to get a grip and come back to her sense, but all at the cost of her marriage and dignity. The ending was magical in its own little way. I won’t dare spoil it, but she definitely reclaimed herself. A true, realistic happily ever after.Life lessons at its best in this book. I really did enjoy this book, the author did a fantastic job with a refreshing and creative. There were times I was laughing, times I teared up, and times I really just wanted to reach through the pages and slap the main character around and yell ” DON’T! STOP! You’re so much better than that!” Hoida really held on to my attention,  got me so wrapped up, I had to readjust to my surroundings a few times and gather myself! I hope to see more work from this talented beauty in the near future!”
-Sky, Booknatic, February 23, 2013
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So L.A. is a gorgeous book. The narrator, Magdalena, is fascinating. On the surface she’s the perfect LA woman, but beneath it she’s got a lot of issues that the reader gets to explore. I found her back story incredibly interesting when it came to her brother, and less so with some of the other aspects like her husband and the Jennifers (I won’t explain that further so as not to spoil anything).  The best thing about So L.A. is the writing. The book is divided up into tiny sections, some are only a page long, like scenes from a movie. If it were a film, it would be a film noir, dark and sharp in its details. Magdalena isn’t the kind of girl you can relate to, and I didn’t emotionally connect to her at all, but I still found her fascinating to read about. In So L.A. Hoida provides a glimpse into another world, one that I wouldn’t want to live in but that I was happy to visit through her vivid and beautiful words. “
-Zoe, In The Next Room, September 11, 2012
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“There are a lot of extremely funny parts throughout So L.A.  The author knows her stuff about L.A.!  The book starts off in Northern California and the two locations, while completely different, are blended together and makes the story.”
-Jill, Seaside Book Nook, September 13, 2012
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“I was drawn into the [So L.A.] story by the writing style of the author which is brilliant and vivid – the author has great ability in fleshing out her characters in words. [...] A very contemporary novel with a witty, jaded and volatile narrator in Magdalena who must cope with her feeling of guilt over the death of her brother Junah, and her growing estrangement with her husband Ricky.  Magdalena wins you over with her fast-paced narrative voice, even as you shake your head over her self-destructive behavior.  Magdalena participates in the unique pageantry of the Angeleno elite (cosmetic surgery, disposable cars, alcohol on tap at all times) and yet her commentary can be derisive and self-mocking, and all this is juxtaposed by well-placed flashbacks of Magdalena’s more wholesome family life, and her life with her husband before they started a successful business.  The poignancy of Magdalena’s grief and her struggle to understand the direction of her life provide the main drama in this book.”
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“So L.A. is a book that can probably be interpreted many ways, depending on how you want to view Magdalena. For me, I saw her as a very fractured heroine and she was probably broken long before she got to L.A.

“She’s not what you’d expect her to be, but then again, none of the characters are. She’s part of a water empire, only she’s not really working at that, her husband, Ricky is. She’s busy doing nothing, or rather the nothing that are L.A. things, shopping, changing her body and face etc. On top of all of that, she’s grieving the loss of her brother who died in a rock climbing accident that was partially her fault. Magdalena’s story is told in scenes, like a script but in prose form. Its very easy to read and it can be devoured like candy in one sitting.

What draws you in his Magdalena. She’s “So L.A.” in all she does, from stalking her shrink to crashing a vintage Vette into a billboard. Readers won’t identify with her, I mean how many of us have a million dollar water empire and can afford boob jobs? But they will feel sorry for her. She wants more. She really loves her husband, even though her marriage is crumbling for reasons other than the one she suspects. She’s also a little bit crazy.

Don’t expect “chicklit” out of this book, because it really isn’t that. It is satire disguised as chicklit! A worthy read for your couch or one of the last days at the beach, unless of course you are in CA!

-Andrea Guy, “Bridget Hoida’s So L.A.” A Chick Who Reads, August 30, 2012

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So L.A. was not particularly “light and summery,” but — more importantly — was original and creative.  The protagonist, Magdalena de la Cruz, is forced to undertake a classic heroine’s journey after the death of her brother (not a spoiler — revealed almost immediately as well as on the book jacket) and decides to reinvent herself by moving from her family’s rural vineyards in Lodi, California to L.A., a city founded on reinvention. She discovers that sun-kissed L.A. is perfect for reincarnation, but not necessarily for renewal.  Much of the novel focuses on her “descent into darkness,” but the reader can’t help but root for Magdalena, even at her most despicable.

“The author is clearly familiar with the glitz and glam of L.A. and charmingly begins and ends the novel as if the novel were a script for a movie — the ending was probably my favorite.  As a former mass media teacher, I appreciated the film-inspired chapter titles and the over-the-top plot twists and resolutions.  So, while not traditional summer fare, So L.A. ends up much more satisfying and substantial — and would make a great movie, incidentally!”

-Kristen, “So L.A. ReviewBook Club Classics, August 29, 2012

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“Bridget Hoida’s So L.A.  This hard-to-put-down book proves my oft-stated point that intelligent, witty writing doesn’t have to be a drag…Nor must said writing be pretentious, dull, or just plain depress the poor reader to death. Hoida has told her tale with great attention to detail in place and setting–and I know, since I was born/raised in L.A. and spent many years there as an adult. She’s used super smart pacing, written believable characters, and included plenty of devastatingly witty insights into the current state of American culture. AND she’s done all this while striking an enviable balance between lively humor and realistic, heart-felt human tragedy.”

-Jennifer Silva Redmond, “So L.A. is So Cool!” August 24, 2012.

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” Never thought a book about the shallowness of Los Angeles could surprise me, but it did. [...] This is not chick-lit. It shares elements of what we’ve come to call chick-lit, but Magdalena is a very complex woman with real problems and although she’s wrapped herself in a protective shell, the pain she feels is woven throughout the entire novel as she goes through the five stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Reorganization, Depression & Acceptance).

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“At first, there is a lot of humor and name-dropping. Hoida sets the scene and really gives the reader a feel for L.A. Even if you’ve never stepped foot in So Cal, you’ll have a good idea of the L.A. that Mags lives in. The Beverly Hills lifestyle is in full-swing yet what makes it so appealing, is that you know right off that Mags isn’t into it. She is playing a part and between the parties and the shopping, her vulnerabilities come out in full force as evidenced by her affinity for gin and although she has some good people supporting her, none of them truly realize the severity of her depression.

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“I really liked this book. I liked it for a number of reasons but probably because it surprised the hell out of me. I didn’t expect to have a girl-crush on Magdalena but I have to tell you, I sort of did. Imagine the cuteness of Bridget Jones, the craziness of Suzanne Vale from Postcards from the Edge and the vulnerability of Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. THAT is Magdalena.

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“I also didn’t expect the story to pack such an emotional punch. Her relationship with her brother and her memories of home were really quite sweet and at times, heartbreaking. No matter how glitzy the lifestyle, loss is loss and when it comes down to it, we are all imperfect humans trying to make the best of it. I love it when a book surprises me in a good way and this one did just that.”

-Ti Reed, “So L.A. Tour & Review” Book Chatter, August 23, 2012

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“At first glance So L.A. might draw you in with its gorgeous cover. It might entice you with its chick-lit feel. However I can promise you that what is in these pages is so much more than that. A mixture of dry satirical humor, and a no-holds-barred look at the culture that is L.A., this is a story that is hard to define. What I can say, is that it is brilliant.

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“I think it’s fitting that I read this book while sitting in a 60 story sky rise in Downtown L.A. Overlooking the hub of the busiest parts of Wilshire Boulevard. This is the setting that Hoida chooses for her book, and it works wonders with Magdalena’s story. From small town girl, to big city business owner, Magdalena’s point of view is a fresh and honest take of the high society that is Beverly Hills. Her life is by no means perfect. Sure, she has the perfect shoes, the perfect house and even the perfect nose. She soon finds though, that all those things don’t add up to a happy life.

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“It’s honestly hard to like Magdalena because of how exasperating she can be sometimes. She is definitely a character that you want to save and slap in equal measures. Trying, and failing, to cope with the death of her brother is all that Magdalena does the majority of the book. However, it’s definitely true to life. She tries to fill the gap with things, with fake people, with fake smiles. All the time falling deeper and deeper into the craziness that her life has become.
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“In the end So L.A. is about hiding from oneself. About changing what is on the outside to try to compensate for what’s on the inside. I won’t say that Magdalena’s story is happy. It does show how easy it is to fall into a life that isn’t your own. About how easy it is to feel lost, but hide it from the outside world. Briget Hoida’s book may look like chick-lit at first glance, but it’s infinitely more than that. I loved it, and I think you will too.”

-Jessica, Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile, August 16, 2012

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“The construction of Bridget Hoida’s debut novel, So L.A., consciously mimics that of the art form for which the city is best known: the movies. The book’s five sections are “takes,” the chapter titles would be appropriate to a screenplay, the physical descriptions are vivid and detailed, and the acknowledgements pages are (cleverly, I thought) presented in the style of film credits. And like some movies, the tone veers abruptly from comic to dramatic, and from down-to-earth to “what planet is this?”–it’s frustrating at times, and you wonder what it might have been if it had just settled down. But it’s compulsively watchable (or in this case, readable), and there’s enough good stuff in it that you’ll be interested to see what this writer/director does next.

“Los Angeles is a city whose biggest industry is built on make-believe (and yes, that includes “reality” TV) and whose related mythology is based on self-reinvention, and Hoida’s Magdalena de la Cruz seems to be embracing it. She inhabits the glittery, status-conscious, idle-rich world that both promotes and feeds that myth–the “L.A.” that many people who know this city only from its entertainment products may think is the real thing, but that relatively few of its residents ever approach. Unlike many, Magdalena didn’t come here to act; she and her husband Ricky struck it rich in bottled water, and they moved from their home in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley to cultivate (no pun intended) this prime market. But there’s no question that during most of the time they’ve lived in Southern California, Magdalena has been acting out–transforming herself physically and behaviorally–driven by deep emotional conflicts perpetuated by the sudden death of her beloved brother two years earlier.

“The sources of Magdalena’s conflicts are gradually revealed; they’re also responsible for the novel’s frequent tonal shifts, which I confess aggravated me at times. At one point I decided Magdalena just might be an unreliable narrator–I’m not completely sure Hoida intended her to be (although there are some self-aware passages suggesting that she did), but I enjoyed the novel more once I stopped fully trusting what the character was telling me. Oddly, it made her voice more authentic to me.

“I’ve lived in the Greater Los Angeles area for a decade. It’s made me aware just how LA-centric many of the references in popular entertainment are–not just the geographical ones, either–and often caused me to wonder how those references are taken in by viewers and readers who don’t know this place. I suppose they’re what shapes the perceptions of the outside world–that is, they frame the concept of what is “so L.A.”–and I sometimes think they’re portrayed most effectively by those who bring their outsider perspective here. NorCal transplant Hoida accomplishes that, even as she furthers the myth-making.

“Bridget Hoida shows talent and promise as a novelist, but So L.A. is a bit of a misfit. It seems to want to be a lightweight, breezy beach read, but it’s got a bit too much darkness and complexity underneath for that. I found it a sometimes frustrating, deeply moving in spots, occasionally nonsensical, and consistently interesting…come to think of it, it really might be pretty L.A.

-Florinda Vasquez, The 3 R’s, August 13, 2012

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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 worthy…in 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.”

-Patti Smith, Peppermint Ph.D., August 15, 2012

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“I loved this book. Not what I expected. I honestly expected some sort of smart Melrose Place (I know-smart is a stretch) novel. This book was the complete opposite. Magdelena has lost herself. She had a brother who died from a rock climbing accident. She has never recovered. She marries, moves to LA and changes herself from the person she used to be. Body, mind and spirit. [...] Magdelena purposely causes drama in her life to escape her guilt regarding her brother’s death. Sometimes she made me laugh. Other times she irritated the hell out of me with her righteous attitude of self destructing behavior. I  feared her. She was who I fought against for so long. She is the person  it would have been easier to be at times. It was hard to  take the criticism for not looking a certain way. As I get older it’s a lot easier. Overall, Magdelena made me sad.  She made me feel for how lost she was. How unforgiving she was toward herself.  She couldn’t comprehend what she was doing was hurting others. I rarely read books twice, but this one I will definitely read again.” 5 stars.

-Lindsey English Anderson, “You Need To Read: So L.A.” Reads Reviews, August 21, 2012

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Midwest Book Review

“Los Angeles sometimes feels like it’s on a whole other planet. “So L. A.” follows successful business woman Magdalena De La Cruz as she finds the shock of moving into Los Angeles very different from elsewhere, feeling unattractive and marginalized for the first time in her life. Coping with the weight of life and reinventing herself, author Bridget Hoida presents a fun read, making “So L.A.” a strongly recommended pick for contemporary fiction collections.”

-Helen, Midwest Book Review, August 1, 2012

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ForeWord Clarion Review: Five Stars (out of Five)
“A protagonist’s soul is revealed only through the expertise of a skilled writer capable of capturing every thought, mood, and emotion. In So L.A., Bridget Hoida creates a poignant exploration of a grief-stricken artist’s mind as she learns to accept the accidental rock-climbing death of her younger brother and the gradual demise of her marriage to a wealthy businessman.

“Overwhelmed by internal conflict and bombarded by external stresses, Magdalena de la Cruz soothes her insecurities with alcohol and sedatives, while chasing the impossible dream of achieving her own physical perfection. In a candid, first-person story broken into lyrical, journal- like entries, this flawed, beautiful heroine reinvents herself in order to become a part of the Beverly Hills elite, a social circle few are privileged to enter. The expected friendships, romantic interludes, and sexual liaisons all make an appearance in this glitzy novel of thwarted expectations and opportunities.

“Without traditional dialogue set in quotation marks, this literary endeavor has nothing in common with structured commercial fiction. Every character speaks with a distinctive voice embedded within the narrative. For example: Don’t play dumb with me, Puck said, lowering his voice to a confidential whisper. You may have the rest of the Southland fooled with your designer water and celluloid veneer, he shot me a sexy little wink, but every once in a while your Valley surfaces. (italics added)

“The easygoing style and tone of a diary make the story simple to absorb, especially as it is well written: Maybe my mother was right. Maybe it was time to go home to the brown ranch I grew up in, because suddenly I wanted nothing more than to crawl under the green-gingham bedspread of my childhood and sleep. (italics added)

“Magdalena may never come across as definitive or concise, but she is a lifelike personality in this subtle portrait of a tender woman’s spirit in conflict with itself. Sheer will to live propels this traumatized individual to endure tremendous psychological pain under challenging circumstances.

“An award-winning scholar and writer, Bridget Hoida holds a doctorate in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California. So L.A. is her debut novel. (Starred Review)”

-Julia Ann Charpentier, ForeWord Clarion Review, July 17, 2012

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“We have two terrific new books for summer reading [...] Bridget Hoida’s satiric novel, So L.A., tells the story of a young girl reinventing herself in Los Angeles.”
  – Judy Gelman & Vicki Levy Krupp, “Buzzing About Books,” The BookClub CookBook, July 16, 2012

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“Today’s post from Bridget Hoida couldn’t be more beautiful, or dearer to my California-baked heart. Listen for yourself: ‘SO! L.A.: Sounding the California Story’

-JSA, editor, Sounding Out! “So L.A.: Sounding the California Story”, July 9, 2012

So L.A. is the first novel by Northern California native/Southern California transplant Bridget Hoida, and reflects her exploration of the “L.A. Woman” and the city’s particular beauty culture as an academic and literary subject. Hoida executes this ambition with flair and humor through her story of fellow SoCal transplant Magdalena de la Cruz and her attempts to transform herself into a “geographically appropriate bombshell” as she seeks an escape from her unraveling marriage and the traumatic death of her younger brother.”

-Florinda Pendley Vasquez, CBS Los Angeles, “Best of Los Angeles Summer Reading Guide,” July 5, 2012

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“San Clemente author’s first book is just ‘So L.A.‘ That’s the title of college writing instructor Bridget Hoida’s take on Los Angeles from the viewpoint of her main character, a small-town girl who mirrors many of Hoida’s experiences in tackling life in the Southern California fast lane.”

-Julia Boyle, “San Clemente author’s first book is just ‘So L.A.’” OC Register, June 25, 2012

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“Magdalena de la Cruz, the statuesque, blue-eyed, blonde, with the Hispanic surname is an embodiment of the paradox that is Los Angeles.  She’s more than just metaphor, certainly, but she’s also a metaphor for the city, for Angelino culture, for the history of California.  All of it comes together in this character who exasperates me but who I so want so save.  I find myself all too often saying that I love Southern California but that I hope I never have to live there again, and maybe that’s akin to how I feel about Magdalena.

[...] Clearly, Magdalena is not at all reliable as a narrator.  This is made clear to us even in the opening section, titled “The Story Problem,” when the passage of time is so obviously skewed.  Magdalena herself has no clear sense of how much time has passed as she bobs in the ocean.  In fact, her attempt at constructing a narrative as she experiences hypothermia reminds me of Victor Frankenstein, an infamously unreliable narrator, as he too is pulled aboard a boat an attempts the always perilous, dangerous attempt at reducing personal experience to simple narrative.  Magdalena admits her tendency towards hyperbole, towards melodrama, and we see her repeatedly manipulating others, particularly those she claims to love the most.  Given all this, we, as readers, are given the particularly challenging task of sorting out which threads of her narrative to chose to believe, which to discard, and which to take with the many grains of salt that rim our margaritas.  And I suppose that this too, both the spinning of story and the unspinning of story, is also part of L.A. but also part of the experience of being human.”

-D. Spitzer, “She’s Sooooooooo L.A.”, SpitzSpeak, June 23, 2012

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“In So L.A., Hoida offers both a satirical and sympathetic portrait of contemporary Los Angeles.”

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“In Bridget Hoida‘s So L.A., Magdalena de la Cruz trades an agrarian upbringing for aggro — ultimately phony and hollow — Hollywood social climbing. Awkward, tall and gangly as a teenager, Magdalena artificially remakes herself while constantly haunted by memories of the “real” Magdalena and the life she led in harmony with the earth and nature in Stockton and the San Joaquin Valley.”

-Tony Sauro, “Stockton to Success story: That’s So L.A.” The Record, June 19, 2012

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“Bridget is brilliant, but I can also tell you without a hint of bias that she writes about Los Angeles with an original, fresh voice you won’t want to miss. Her prose is exquisite and full of surprises.”

-PB Rippey of PB Writes, “Author Interview #1: Bridget Hoida And So L.A.” June 18, 2012

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“Bridget Hoida isn’t your stereotypical ‘valley girl.’ Even if her first novel did grow out of ‘one giant blonde joke.’ Hoida grew up in the San Joaquin — not San Fernando — Valley.

The Bear Creek High School graduate has three academic degrees, including a doctorate in California literature. She teaches college-level English, writes poetry and is experiencing full-time motherhood.

“Still, Hoida gets misty-eyed and nostalgic when recalling her youthfully idyllic days growing up — “surrounded by grape vines” — on Stockton’s then-rural Eight Mile Road.

“Her deeply devoted San Joaquin County roots are a recurring motif in So L.A., a satirical, witty, semi-sarcastic debut novel about glamour, self-image, maxi-materialism and cultural vacuousness. Hollywood-style.”

-Tony Sauro, “Stockton native’s new novel blends L.A., Valley,” The Record, June 18, 2012

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“Under St. John’s leadership, the [USC Literature & Creative Writing Ph.D.] program is producing some of the most interesting and successful writers in the country: Chris Abani, Bridget Hoida and Jennifer Kwon Dobbs to name a few.”

-Pamela Johnson,  “Versed in Matters of the Heart” March 9, 2010