January Reviews

We just finished reading new books by Lou Beach, Heather Donahue, and T. Jefferson Parker

420 Characters420 Characters
by Lou Beach
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 176 pages, $22)
“The art of Lou Beach is probably smarter than you,” Matt Groening once said. An illustrator and album cover designer, Beach traded college for a tent in a Southern California commune way back when. These vignettes, 420 characters each, began as Facebook status updates. Each is a collage of glittering words; the reader’s mind makes meaning and strange narratives around them. –Susan Salter Reynolds

Grow GirlGrow Girl
By Heather Donahue
(Gotham Books, 304 pages, $26)
When The Blair Witch Project became a surprise hit in 1999, the low-budget horror flick’s female star assumed it would lead to fame and fortune. Instead many moviegoers thought it was a documentary, not a drama, and Heather Donahue watched her career sputter and die. What’s a girl to do? For Donahue the answer was, Leave L.A., head north, and grow weed. Her memoir is a hilarious commentary on pot culture and Hollywood vapidity. –Amy Wallace 

Grow GirlThe Jaguar
by T. Jefferson Parker
(Dutton, 368 pages, $27)
The latest from the prolific mystery writer is a modern-day Scheherazade of the Valley. This rich, dark novel begins in L.A. and winds around Mexico to the Yucatán lowlands. The rock and roll wife of an L.A. sheriff’s deputy is kidnapped by the kingpin of a drug cartel and forced to write a narcocorrido, a song that will pay tribute to his greatness. Who will win her heart? The good cop, the bad cop, or the kingpin? –Susan Salter Reynolds