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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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The Charming Quirks of Others

by Alexander McCall Smith |

REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT

NOVEL

This seventh helping in Smith’s series about Scottish philosopher Isabel Dalhousie finds the reluctant sleuth considering-investigating is too strong a word for what Isabel does-three men who are up for headmaster at a local prep school. An anonymous note has suggested a shadow in the background of one candidate, and Isabel, ever discreet, has been asked to make inquiries. Chance and deduction rather than actual detective work largely solve the mystery, but readers of the previous volumes will find the same quiet delights: Isabel’s wise musings and her interactions with the quirky circle of companions that includes her arch housekeeper, her restless niece, and her fiance, Jamie, who’s still pressuring Isabel to set a date. Not much happens, but even the quotidian becomes interesting in Smith’s deft hands.

Buzz

by Katherine Ellison |

REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

MEMOIR

After both she and her son were diagnosed with ADHD, journalist Ellison spent a year “paying attention to attention.” She had a brain scan, underwent neurofeedback and suffered through a five-day silent retreat. The result is an insightful, fast-paced, unexpectedly funny read for anyone driven to distraction by our focus-shattering modern lives-which is to say, all of us.

The False Friend

by Myla Goldberg |

REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

NOVEL

Goldberg (Bee Season) taps into a hot-button issue with this haunting novel about bullying. When Celia Durst suddenly “remembers” her role in a tragic childhood incident, she’s forced to confront past sins against her so-called pals. Suspenseful and smart, Friend is a timely take on the fraught emotional terrain of American schoolgirls.