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Off the Rack: Recently Read

"Front Row" by Jerry Oppenheimer (St. Martin's Press), $24.95
Everyone knows the biggest devil in fashion is Vogue editor Anna Wintour. The media has not been kind to her reputation, immortalized in Meryl Streep's Oscar-nominated performance in "The Devil Wears Prada," and before that in the pages of the book by the same name. Apparently, Wintour hasn't been kind to anyone -- ever.

She did not cooperate with author Jerry Oppenheimer (read: return his calls), so he proceeded by talking to everyone and anyone he could for this book. Inevitably, it feels slightly icky, in that unauthorized-biography sort of way.

Former boyfriends Wintour dumped, estranged grade-school friends she stopped calling and co-workers she stepped over all speak candidly about her character and motivations. So one needs to read with a few grains of salt, perhaps with a margarita. But how much fun it is to hate Wintour! Oppenheimer must have a thing for difficult ladies; one of his previous works was a biography of Martha Stewart.

The 360-page book is only for those who care deeply about Wintour's family, early life, climb to the top, fashion sense, etc. There is nearly a whole chapter devoted to how she came to cut her hair in that signature bob (she copied someone). Nearly a quarter of the book is devoted to how she got where she is without more than a high-school education (family connections). And half the book builds to her being appointed editor of Vogue. So if you're in the mood for a little dish and you have the patience for a lot of details, pick up "Front Row." If not, rent "The Devil Wears Prada." — Carrie N. Culpepper

"The Thrifty Girl's Guide to Glamour"
by Susie Galvez (Polka Dot Press) $14.95
Local beauty expert Susie Galvez adds to her roster of beauty how-to books with this book of basics. Galvez suggests different ways to look great on the cheap, something anyone who's left the salon with a $200 bill will be happy to learn. She takes the reader through skin, hair, makeup — even fashion tips. Unfortunately,the book's unimaginative design detracts from Galvez's message. Instead of text and lines, this book should be covered with charts and illustrations.

An aesthetician, makeup artist and founder of Face Works Day Spa, Galvez has lots of expertise. Unfortunately, when tackling such broad terrain, one can't help but come off like a Seventeen magazine article at times. For example, she suggests keeping all your cosmetics in one place, like in a wicker basket. Not sure I needed a book for that. But there are other interesting tidbits. In the chapter about skin, we learn that lack of sleep can cause acne, and specifically that the skin does most of its repairs between 1 and 4 a.m. Most helpful is the at-home spa suggestions, such as the do-it-yourself facial.

Galvez also suggests particular products that she thinks work well, but inevitably she suggests her own Hello Beautiful line of products, which sounds a bit like an ad for her creams. But if you truly are confused about what style haircut will complement your heart-shaped face, or what the difference is between toner and astringent, pick up this little pink guide. It might take a couple of bucks off that next appointment. — C.N.C.

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