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The Monitor's Guide to BESTSELLERS

HARDCOVER FICTION

b = Favorable review

n = Unfavorable review

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M = Mixed review

- = Selected review

The Christian Science Monitor; The New York Times; Los Angeles Times; Selected reviews*

1) 1

3

PRIMARY COLORS, by Anonymous, Random House, $24

Scratch the surface of this novel about Southern governor Jack Stanton's campaign for president and you'll find Bill Clinton. And wife, Hillary. And a host of other political types who are cleverly fictionalized by the book's mysterious author (who denies that the characters and events are real). Deducing who's who and following the ins and outs of primaries make this an interesting read, although not an entirely satisfying one as subplots and lengthiness weigh it down. By Kim Campbell

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M

b

b

M

b

WP

2) 2

22

THE HORSE WHISPERER, by Nicholas Evans, Delacorte Press, $23.95

The storyline is formulaic, cliche laden, and noticeably influenced by ''The Bridges of Madison County.'' It depicts a strong tight- lipped Montana rancher able to see into the ''soul'' of horses, and a British-cum-New York successful magazine editor who experiences a midlife crisis when her daughter-on-horseback collides with a semi-truck. The editor finds herself in an extramarital affair with the rancher. Parental guilt about putting career first emotionally tugs throughout this soap opera. By Jim Bencivenga

n

n

n

M

-

3) 2

6

ABSOLUTE POWER, by David Baldacci, Warner, $22.95

When the trophy wife of a DC businessman is murdered after a graphic bout of rough sex, the only witness is a burglar hiding in her bedroom, and only he knows that the man behind the murder is her lover, the president of the United States. Baldacci starts off with an intriguing plot and interesting characters, but along the way the story bogs down. In the end, the resolution is predictable and the characters become cliched.

By Marianne Le Pelley

n

-

n

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b

USA

4) 7

4

THE CAT WHO SAID CHEESE, by Lilian Jackson Braun, Putnam, $23.95

This is the 18th in a series of mysteries featuring Yum Yum and Koko, two pampered Siamese cats, and their owner, Jim Qwilleran, small-town journalist and amateur sleuth. These sassy felines are supposedly endowed with ESP and provide the clues to the mysteries that occur in a small New England town. Food (and especially cheese) is the main ingredient in this delightful yarn, a good read with no profanity, sex, or drugs and little violence. By Carol Hartman

b

-

M

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-

5) 5

?

THE CELESTINE PROPHECY, by James Redfield, Warner, $17.95

Well-intended but poorly written, the plot is a cross between ''Indiana Jones'' and a self-help book. The hero is on a quest for a recently discovered Peruvian manuscript that details the progress of spirituality at the end of the 20th century. At different stages of the journey, he and his fellow searchers discover spiritual ''insights,'' nine in total. Rather than profound, the book is awash in cliches such as the need to ''become conscious of the coincidences in our lives.'' By Yvonne Zipp

n

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n

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6) 4

6

THAT CAMDEN SUMMER, by LaVyrle Spencer, Putnam, $23.95

''That Camden Summer'' is an enjoyable second-chance romance novel set in 1916 with a feminist point of view. Rebecca Jewett makes the hard decision to divorce her philandering husband and raise her three girls alone. Her forthrightness and courage make for great dialogue, but more character complexity throughout would aid the book's believability. Kudos for laughter, warmth, and strength. By Terri Theiss

b

-

M

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b

CT

7) 6

9

INTENSITY, by Dean Koontz, Knopf, $25

Chyna Shepherd's battle with Edgler Vess, the psychotic killing machine, and ultimately with herself, is a taut, nerve-tingling thriller, where the intensity of the action starts almost from P. 1 and continues to the end. The book's success rests in Koontz's ability to make his two main characters so compelling. As we learn more about their common roots in violence, their confrontation seems preordained, especially for Shepherd, who recognizes in Vess the evil that plagued her as a child. By Tom Regan

b

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b

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M

N

8) -

1

MCNALLY'S PUZZLE, by Lawrence Sanders, Putnam, $24.95

Archy McNally is back in his sixth caper, a murder-filled romp through Florida's Gold Coast. McNally is the creation of master storyteller, Lawrence Sanders. His fans won't be disappointed, although this latest effort lacks the punch of the first few episodes in McNally's career. As expected, the McNally's live-in chefs prepare sumptuous meals. Readers should be warned, however, that profanity, sexual situations, and violent passages tend to overshadow Sanders's storytelling prowess. By Tom Regan

M

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n

OS

9) -

1

AND THIS TOO SHALL PASS, by E. Lynn Harris, Doubleday, $23.95

This author's third novel, set against the world of professional football, deals with a multiplicity of personal and social issues through its African-American characters. The storytelling and characters are engaging, and its central message is one of the power of faith during crises but the material is not for everyone. Personal sexual relationships both heterosexual and homosexual are featured, as are issues such as violence against women and alcoholism. By Terri Theiss

M

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-

b

SFC

10) 8

6

IN THE BEAUTY OF THE LILIES, by John Updike, Knopf, $25.95

Updike's 17th novel is the four-generation saga of an American family, their changing fortunes, beliefs, and values. It can be read as an extended meditation on the theme of values. Updike's survey of the current century poses the implicit question: What do Americans value? Prosperity? Worldly success? Self-confidence? In many ways, the story of this particular family becomes overshadowed by the more cliched and over-rehearsed history of the changing American Zeitgeist. By Merle Rubin

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b

M

M

b

ST

11) -

2

GUILTY AS SIN, by Tami Hoag, Bantam, $21.95

A tantalizing whodunit about an attorney from a small county in Minnesota who takes on the prosecution of a popular local professor, accused of kidnapping his neighbor's eight-year-old son. To succeed, she must delicately negotiate her way through national media, her ex-lover the attorney for the defense, an outraged community, and a handsome true-crime novelist to whom she finds herself attracted. A compelling narrative that will leave readers guessing as to the outcome. By Marianne Le Pelley

b

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M

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b

AC

12) 13

2

ROGUE WARRIOR: TASK FORCE BLUE, by Robert Marcinko and John Weisman, Pocket, $23

Maybe all Navy commandos curse like sailors, but not even the charismatic Marcinko would speak like that in my grandma's house and live to tell the tale. The author, a former Navy SEAL, otherwise writes with bravado and humor in this tale of a counterterrorist expert who takes on a militia leader with political ambitions. Those who love this genre will appreciate Marcinko's feel for adrenaline, but his potty mouth is not for the faint of heart. By Scott Baldauf

M

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PW

13) 11

15

FIVE DAYS IN PARIS, by Danielle Steel, Delacorte Press, $15.95

This novella is an overall pleasant read, and an improvement over the author's previous bestseller. An American politician's lonely wife and a CEO who faces possible business ruin meet during a bomb scare at the Vendome. Interesting possibilities between them develop. The pace is uneven, and descriptions of Paris's charm and the pitfalls of celebrity become self-conscious. Better editing would help. More focus on the book's later action could have turned a nice story into an excellent one. By Terri Theiss

M

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WAVE, by Clive Cussler, Simon & Schuster, $24

Dirk Pitt is back and as suave and daring as ever. This time he must race against both the clock and the elements to stop a diamond tycoon from plunging the world into economic and ecological disaster. It is standard adventure fare, with the obligatory bad guys but no shoot-em-up scenes, Cussler's usual attention to minute detail makes for a page-turning read, and it doesn't matter if this is the first time you've met Dirk Pitt or if you've followed him on all 13 adventures. By Marianne Le Pelley

b

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M

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-

14) 10

10

THE WEB, by Jonathan Kellerman, Bantam, $23.95

A trip to a Pacific island paradise offers ample opportunity for psychologist-detective Alex Delaware to uncover murder and mayhem in this choppily written, convoluted thriller. Whodunit is less important than why in an intriguing, grisly plot that incorporates cannibalism, bizarre experiments, psychological torture, and a hint of incest. A six-inch-long tarantula named Emma proves the most likable character in a book where even the ''good guys'' may be murderers. By Yvonne Zipp

n

M

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n

BH

15) 12

9

BEHIND THE LINES, by W.E.B. Griffin, Putnam, $23.95

This novel is based on the existence of US military guerilla operations in the Philippines during World War II. It is vintage Griffin. While detailing some violent combat, the action is character based. It skillfully weaves fictional heroes with real luminaries such as Douglas MacArthur, Chester Nimitz, and Frank Knox. Its best feature is a wonderful treatment of the male military ego. Often humorous, it does contain harsh, scatological language. Women play perfunctory roles. By Terri Theiss

M

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* Washington Post; Newsday; Chicago Tribune; USA Today; Boston Herald; Detriot News; Seattle Times

MONITOR'S PICK BABA: A RETURN TO CHINA UPON MY FATHER'S SHOULDERS, by Belle Yang, Harvest, $18

'BABA,'' or Papa in Chinese, was the fourth of seven children of the House of Yang who came of age in Manchuria in the tumultuous 1930s and '40s. Led by the Great Progenitor of the Yang clan, Baba's family first sought refuge from hunger in the rich fields of northern China in the late 19th century.

His daughter, Belle, has translated his ''gift'' to her - the detailed and sensitive account of his youth in war torn China - into dramatic watercolors and poetic prose that can lead readers to suspect, with delight, that they are reading a tale in Chinese, not English.

From the distant vantage point of his new home in the United States and with the war decades behind him, Baba figuratively places Belle on his shoulders and guides her down this ''meandering, tortuous road of memory.'' She listens as the Japanese occupy Manchuria, learning to hear the bombs that fall near the family compound; she watches marauding Russians sweep through at the conclusion of World War II; and she learns with him of a new system, called communism, that promises to enable China to stand up once again - but only after the old regime is violently purged.

Belle forms a vision of the rituals surrounding marriage, birth, and death, and she becomes increasingly sensitive to the family's mystical beliefs. Her deep understanding of her father's past allows interested passersby the pleasure of listening to Baba's distinctive voice leading them on an odyssey through a China forever gone.