The Stylist by Rosie Nixon

Screenshot 2015-11-05 15.05.00Title: The Stylist

Author: Rosie Nixon

Publisher: Mira

Publication date: 11th February 2016

Synopsis

When fashion boutique worker Amber Green is mistakenly offered a job as assistant to infamous, jet-setting ‘stylist to the stars’ Mona Armstrong, she hits the ground running, helping to style some of Hollywood’s hottest (and craziest) starlets. As awards season spins into action Mona is in hot demand and Amber’s life turned upside down. Suddenly she catching the attention of two very different suitors, TV producer Rob and Hollywood bad boy rising star Liam. How will Amber keep her head? And what the hell will everyone wear?

Review

Most women, and men for that matter, whether they admit it or not, hold a fascination with the life and times of ‘celebrities’ – the glamour, the extravagance and the swapping of bed partners – there’s a reason the Mail Online’s side-bar of shame is the widest read newspaper in the world.

Witty and with an edge of genuine experience and insight into the industry – thanks to Rosie’s extensive experience working at glossy magazines like Glamour and Hello – The Stylistprovides a genuinely entertaining, and indulgent, addition to women’s commercial fiction and one where I can already see Jennifer Lawrence stepping into Amber Green’s cinematic shoes.

The Brits definitely come out on top in terms of character traits; Amber is intelligent and fun, gets drunks at the worst times after one bottle of wine often turns into two – an eventuality that is all too familiar with certain friends of mine. Her best friend Vicky is a strong supporting act and one I hope is brought into the spotlight a little more in the next book. Equally I am amused by Trey, a director, who provides some comedy gold towards the end.

Our friends across the pond don’t get off so lightly. Mona is insane, tragic and absolutely brilliant a bit like how you imagine Karl Lagerfeld to be (although he’s French and Male) but also with echoes of Eddie and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous. Mix those altogether and you’ve got Mona. Equally Beau, an up and coming actress, epitomises those celebs who hold the belief that somehow they’re above ‘normal’ people and therefore able to use, abuse and manipulate whenever they want.

Smart and addictive Rosie Nixon delivers her debut novel with panache

Rating: 7 out of 10

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Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

Screenshot 2015-07-25 10.11.01 Title: Bonjour Tristesse

Author: Françoise Sagan (translated by Irene Ash)

Publisher: Re-issue by Penguin Essentials (2011)

Pages: 112

Screenshot 2015-07-25 10.16.08Where to read: Ideally by the French Riviera but if getting there isn’t logistically possible a quiet corner of a park – I chose Battersea Park on a bench near the water fountains one sunny day and happily whiled away a very pleasant few hours reading.

Where to buy: Belgravia Bookshop – I’m not on commission I promise I just simply love everything about this bookshop -location, atmosphere and of course the titles it sells-  a real haven for book lovers.

Refreshments: I was in the park so didn’t have much at my disposal aside from my packed lunch which was an Ottolenghi recipe of chicken and couscous salad which isn’t exceptionally French. However, I did finish the final pages sat on my tiny balcony drinking a dry gin martini (with Tanqueray No’10  which was rather delightful -and perhaps more refined!

Review:

The French Riviera: home to the Beautiful People. And none are more beautiful than Cecile, a precocious seventeen-year-old, and her father Raymond, a vivacious libertine. Charming, decadent and irresponsible, the golden-skinned duo are dedicated to a life of free love, fast cars and hedonistic pleasures.

But then, one long, hot summer Raymond decides to marry, and Cecile and her lover Cyril feel compelled to take a hand in his amours, with tragic consequences. “Bonjour Tristesse” scandalized 1950s France with its portrayal of teenager terrible Cecile, a heroine who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage and responsibility to choose her own sexual freedom.

Cecile is our narrator for the heady three months of summer spent in a villa on the Riviera. Vibrant, manipulative and conflicted in her every waking thought and action she epitomizes the confusion of a woman emerging into adulthood and one whose equilibrium is upset by an outsider. Her father Raymond is a romantic and has his head turned by the swish of a skirt and a teasing smile the thought of growing old and domesticated is both appalling and appealing. I quickly fell in love with both of their characters and was drawn into the swirling vortex of their superficial lives and captivating beauty – one that caught anyone within a mile radius and swept them away so they forgot themselves and their lives before Raymond and Cecile.

Remarkable and aloof, Anne, entangles herself into their lives and attempts to adapt them to a life both decent and bourgeois. She is depicted as being acerbic and condescending but in actuality is trying to find her footing in a game that is being played with rules she doesn’t understand.

Sagan weaves these individuals lives with aplomb and the descriptions and detail of Cecile’s inner turmoil is simply stunning. A novella that will fit in your back pocket, handbag or simply your hand as you stroll off to the park I would recommend reading this to everyone -it’s a triumph and just so…French.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Vermilion Sands by J G Ballard

VermillionSandsTitle: Vermilion Sands

Author: J G. Ballard

Publisher: Vintage, Penguin Random House

Pages: 208 pages

Why did I chose to read this book? I have enjoyed previous Ballard titles and this one’s descriptive blurb piqued my interest and hinted at a completely unique reading experience.

Where to read this book: Zetta Townhouse, the grandiose design of the cocktail lounge makes the perfect reading room.

Refreshments: Cocktails, potent and strong to suit the surreal mental images that are about to be evoked – as I was reading this I became quite friendly with the Zetta’s Flintock cocktail which is gin-based and includes gunpowder tea, which involves a small explosion before you can start drinking it… naturally.

Review:

Vermilion Sands is a fully automated desert-resort designed to fulfil the most exotic whims of the idle rich, but now languishes in uneasy decay, populated only by forgotten movie queens, solitary impresarios and the remittance men of the artistic and literary world. It is a lair for beachcombers, hangers-on and malignant obsessions – a place where sensitive pigments paint portraits of their mistresses in a grotesque parody of art; where prima donna plants are programmed to sing operatic arias; where dial-a-poem computers have replaced poets; where psychosensitive houses are driven to murder by their owners’ neuroses; and where love and lust, in the hands of jewel-eyed Jezebels, pall before the stronger pull of evil.

Unexpectedly this is set out as sequence of short stories all based in the fictitious Vermilion Sands and it’s environs. Ballard’s surrealist style is at a peak as he weaves such unique and imaginative settings around fantastical characters. Mixing allegories with his archetypal mind-bending smilies you, as the reader, are dragged straight into his stunning Dali-esque worlds.

Juxtaposing familiar human beings with the outrageous, usually the deadly beautiful and alluring women of Ballard’s mind, you become familiar with extreme character traits and appearances; ‘her white hair lay in a coil over one shoulder like a nacreous serpent’ and ‘her white face, like a devious adolescent’s, more than ever resembled a surgical mask.’ The male characters are usually rather humble affairs, save for a couple, and are notoriously bewitched by these bejewelled dramatic females that slip in and out of their lives like the very sand they walk across.

Ballard’s genre is science fiction, a genre I am often quick to dismiss – as a result of not being overly fanatic about travelling by hovercraft or inhabiting Mars, stereotypical I know – however his wonderous prose and completely absurd reflections on mankind’s nature which, to a degree, offers us a cautionary tale about our descent into the future, is a force to be reckoned with and hard to dismiss.

Supporting Ballard as the godfather of sci-fi,and also perhaps conveniently, was the sales assistant at Waterstones whom I overheard, whilst I was buying my copy, say to another shopper who was perusing the science fiction that – ‘Ballard didn’t grace those shelves as he was too good for them,’ – a statement with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Vermilion Sands won’t be for everyone, it is bizarre and confusing, but if you stick with it you’ll be transported away from your current life for a few hours to inhabit another fantastical world.

Rating: 9 out of 10