By Amy Brozio-Andrews

What You Wear Can Change Your Life
Trinny Woodall & Susannah Constantine
Riverhead Books

Well…maybe not change your life, but Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine (of BBC America's What Not to Wear fame and authors of a book of the same title) are definitely on to something. Firm in their belief that "You can change how you look today by learning how to show off your best assets and disguise the ones you don't like," the pair begin What You Wear Can Change Your Life by insisting women take an honest, no-holds barred look at themselves in the mirror. A complete personal inventory of genetic gifts and flaws is essential to making use of the rest of the tips in the book—the authors cover everything from what colors you should be wearing (Did you know that you can wear any color? So they say-- it's just a matter of finding the right shade) to underwear, tops, pants, shoes, jewelry, accessories, and maternity wear. Rounded out by how to organize your closet, choose the right makeup, pack a travel bag, and always look fabulous in photos, there’s something for everyone in this book.

I've read similar fashion books before, and always walked away feeling like, "Ha! What could this woman possibly know about my fashion faux pas? Look at her! She's beautiful!" Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine put their credibility on the line here; they are the only two models photographed in the book, showing off their own dos and don'ts. If they believe in their advice enough to stand there in their underwear, demonstrating in full color why I should be wearing a Wonderbra or skipping the kitten mules, then theirs is advice that I can seriously consider taking.

Each chapter opens with a brief overview of the how and why of the subject at hand, then pages and pages of photo layouts punctuate the points Woodall and Constantine have made. The close-set font and varying colors used in the opening text can be a little rough on the eyes, but this is easily overlooked in comparison to the benefit gained from knowing how to thin your wardrobe of the dresses, pants, and blouses that aren’t suitable for your body type. Good ideas abound, from hanging scarves, belts, and necklaces on pegs in your closet, keeping them in full view and more likely to be worn, to how a certain brand of concealer can hide under eye circles when thoroughly blended with foundation that’s complementary to a woman’s skin tone.

Woodall and Constantine's tone is always authoritative, and it works well for them, because by showing readers how the two of them dress to flatter their own body types, they demonstrate that they really do know what they’re talking about and they really do understand how women feel about themselves when faced with a full length mirror. The authors maintain a healthy sense of humor, which keeps the book from sounding didactic. What You Wear Can Change Your Life is a great tool for taking a realistic look how to dress, accessorize, and present your best face with confidence and style.


Sex: A Mystery
Fiona Quirina
Berkeley Prime Crime

As a "sexual surrogate," Lydia Quess was always discreet about her occupation, partially because that's just the kind of former Catholic schoolgirl she is, and partially to avoid the attention of the NYPD vice squad. She accepts referrals only from her friend, Dr. Sylvia Kahn, a Manhattan sex therapist. Unfortunately, the murder of one of her clients post-flagrante delicto brings the police directly to her door. Since Michael Linscott was stabbed with an ice pick from her apartment, in her bedroom, in her bed, Lydia is the prime suspect. Walking a fine line between assisting in the investigation and keeping her mouth shut to avoid adding prostitution charges to her possible rap sheet, Lydia decides to do a little investigating of her own.

Who could have wanted Michael dead? Perhaps his wife, having caught wind of his, er, relationship with Lydia? Maybe another client, jealous of Lydia's attention being divided among several men? As Lydia snoops around, she has no idea that Michael's murder may have been more than a crime of passion and that if she isn't careful, she might be next.

Between a client of hers that the police can't reach, legal advice from another of her clients that might actually be in his best interest, and a sudden chill in her friendship with Dr. Kahn, Lydia realizes that if she doesn't find the real killer soon, she may be the one left out in the cold.

Fiona Quirina's eighth book (she's written four mysteries and three medical thrillers under her real name) is a quick and breezy mystery. Despite Lydia's profession, Sex: A Mystery isn't graphic;Lydia, with her MBA from Harvard, former career as an executive with a large company, and luxurious taste in real estate and clothing, thinks of herself as a courtesan, not a call girl. As a character, Quirina did an excellent job with Lydia Quess; her dialogue, mannerisms, physical description, everything rings true. Juxtaposing Lydia's situation with that of a murdered prostitute through conversations with police captain Amy Liu, whom she comes to know and cautiously befriend through the captain's work on the Michael Linscott murder, Quirina adds depth to Lydia's character. The only incongruous part is the fact that she's got a priest for a roommate: Father Paddy Riordan, who ministers to New York City's homeless and gets his coffers filled by generous donations from Lydia.

The secondary characters fall a little flat. Unfortunately, the reader learns just enough about them to move the plot forward, but not really enough to establish a real connection. Quirina does a good job of building a list of possible suspects and throwing in some plot twists, keeping Lydia, and the reader, in the dark until the very end. Sex: A Mystery is a plot-driven novel, light on the characters and liberal with the snappy dialogue, best described as light mystery.


© Melt Magazine 2005