The Charming Quirks of Others

by Alexander McCall Smith |

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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 |

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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 |

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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.

GETS LITERARY

The former Spider-Man star has roles in Howl and the upcoming 127 Hours, is studying English and film studies at Yale-and his first book of stories, about disaffected California teens, is out this month. And guess what? It's pretty good.

YOU GREW UP IN PALO ALTO. ARE THE STORIES AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL?

In a lot of ways, but the events aren't always based on actual fact. Smoking Gun shouldn't research the book and say, "James never went through this!"

THERE'S PLENTY OF SEX AND VIOLENCE-DID YOU EXPERIENCE THAT?

Yes and no. Maybe it's excessive, but I hope it creates a tone. The stories are in some ways unrelenting because the teen years can feel unrelenting. I focused on that age because I thought it would provide a vehicle for heightened emotion.

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT REVIEWS?

The elephant in the room of your question is, because I'm an actor. But I treat writing seriously; I've gone to two MFA programs for fiction. Nobody can say I'm moonlighting.

YOU READ A LOT-DID YOU READ EAT PRAY LOVE BEFORE YOU DID THE MOVIE?

I was really busy at the time. I read the part I was in.

HAVE YOUR PARENTS READ YOUR BOOK?

Ha! No. I told my mother she was not allowed to, maybe because she was there when I was a teen...She's begged me to let her read it. I guess I'll have to.

THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ

by L. Frank Baum

"In elementary school, I read all the Oz books."

THE RED PONY

by John Steinbeck

"Then I moved on to Steinbeck-The Red Pony, Cannery Row..."

AS I LAY DYING

by William Faulkner

"Writing my book, I was very inspired by As I Lay Dying."

In a new book by Elle magazine editors Joe Zee and Maggie Bullock, fashion icons share their style secrets.

LEA MICHELE

The Glee star goes with her gut. The minute she saw this Oscar de la Renta gown, which she wore to the Golden Globes, "I was like, 'I need this dress.' "

CHRISTINA HENDRICKS

She's not her Mad Men character. "[I'm] girlie. I love ruffles and flowers and all those things that you would never see Joan in."

ALICIA KEYS

"High-waisted pants, sharp jackets. Jumpsuits! I like [my look] to be strong, to have a bit of edginess. I don't like to just do the safe thing."