The Monitor's Pick:
GALILEO'S COMMANDMENT: AN ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT SCIENCE WRITING
Ed. by E. B. Bolles Freeman Publishing 485 pp., $26.95
Edmund Blair Bolles, a science writer, has gathered short excerpts from the literature of science, by authors ranging from Herodotus to Galileo, Marie Curie to Carl Sagan. His title is from the playwright Bertolt Brecht, who has Galileo say that "Science knows only one commandment: contribute to science."
The excerpts are selected on the basis of their literary interest and scientific importance. He argues that what makes these writings truly lasting is the connection they create between the mind of the author and that of the reader.
The overall impression from reading these selections is that doing science is hard, often dangerous, work. It must be noted that the selections in this volume are not primary scientific accounts; they are science journalism.
The language that most scientists (at least contemporary ones) use to communicate with one another is far too cryptic for a general audience. Still, there is a generous selection from the journals and letters of Galileo, Newton, and others.
Whether writing for themselves or for the public, these great thinkers speak with lucid and clear voices. This collection is an invaluable resource that belongs in every school library and by the armchair of the amateur historian of science.
1)SPECIAL DELIVERY, by Danielle Steel, Delacorte, $16.95
This novella from the prolific romance author has her trademark niceties but overall is unremarkable. The action considers the idea of unexpected love and some of the ancillary surprises that occur later in life. Basically a sweet little work, "Special Delivery" gets pretty darn funny near the end. Readers should be prepared for some sexually explicit subject matter. By Terri Theiss
2) Plum Island, by Nelson DeMille, Warner, $25
Suspense, love interest (no long-winded descriptions, albeit replete with sexual innuendo and profanity), great characters, and humor - a welcome touch when murder is the subject. John Corey, New York city cop and a male-chauvinist to his core, is convalescing from gunshot wounds on the far northeastern shore of Long Island. Two of his new acquaintances are found murdered and the local police chief asks him to be a consultant on the case. By Janet Moller
3)THE PARTNER, by John Grisham, Doubleday, $26.95
John Grisham's latest involves a young law partner who fakes his death in a car crash, then absconds with $90 million from his firm. This thriller-cum-morality-tale has the hard edge of a Raymond Chandler; the brilliant legal maneuvering of an Erle Stanley Gardner; the surprise ending of an O. Henry or an Agatha Christie. People pay for their deeds, and friendship counts for something. Fans and new readers won't be disappointed. By Lawrence J. Goodrich
4)FAT TUESDAY, by Sandra Brown, Warner, $24
The latest romance/thriller by this author takes readers to New Orleans where a good cop gets even with a bad lawyer. The action includes intricate plot twists and the writing is as stylish as one would expect from Brown. Unfortunately, the characters are a bit stilted and the predictable plot is ultimately unsatisfying. The book contains explicit sexual scenes as well as foul language and some violence.
By Terri Theiss
5)LONDON, by Edward Rutherford, Crown, $25.95
This Chaucerian romp follows successive generations of eight families whose destinies intertwine throughout London's history. The story line jumps abruptly from century to century, rather like watching television when someone else has the remote, skipping to a new program just when you're getting into the old one. The most intriguing character is the city itself, which molds its inhabitants even as they build it. Should be read with a map by your side. By Barbara Petzen
6)UP ISLAND, by Anne Rivers Siddons, HarperCollins, $24
Molly Redwine is the perfect wife/mother until her husband's affair wreaks havoc. Efforts to piece together her life prompt an escape to Martha's Vineyard. There she takes a job and gains newfound perspective. "Up Island" shows initial promise with telling descriptions of Atlanta's executive social circle and how divorce can disrupt one's place in it. But this tale of a woman's rebirth trips over clichs and falls flat. Disappointingly predictable. By Joanna P. Angelides
7)DECEPTION ON HIS MIND, by Elizabeth George, Bantam, $24.95
George fans will like her latest. Detective Barbara Havers misleads her supervisior into thinking she is spending a much needed vacation at the shore when in fact she is helping two of her friends solve a murder. The week involves more crime, racial prejudice, and cultural conflicts than are anyone's idea of "lazy days" on the beach. Not as dark as her previous two novels, descriptions of murder and sexual situations are explicit. But the story is compelling. By Janet Moller
8)CHASING CZANNE, by Peter Mayle, Knopf, $23
Peter Mayle's latest, "Chasing Czanne," is an improbable mix - equal parts detective thriller, farce, romance, and love letter to France. The result is a wickedly funny romp through the high-stakes world of international art that makes for perfect summer reading. Mayle's women tend to be little more than decorative, but his finest creation might just be the hilariously shallow and venal magazine editor, Camilla Jameson Porter. Take this one to the beach. By Nicole Gaouette
9)THE NOTEBOOK, by Nicholas Sparks, Warner, $16.95
"The Notebook" proves that good things come in small packages. It is all that "Love Story" wasn't. Sparks has a winning combination of style and story. It's a classic tale of love found, lost, and regained that maintains respect for the characters. Poetry and metaphoric description course through the book like the creek that runs alongside the couple's house. Prediction: It will be on this list for months, not weeks.
By Janet Moller
10)PRETEND YOU DON'T SEE HER, by Mary Higgins Clark, Simon & Schuster, $25
A murder mystery without sexually explicit scenes and dialogue that is not limited to four-letter words highlight this excellent new book. A host of characters living in Manhattan and Minneapolis are linked by a talented young actress who is killed (or some say murdered) in a wintry car wreck. The chapters become shorter as the book's tempo increases. Tense to the end, this is a page-turner's page-turner.
By Janet Moller
11)THE MAZE, by Catherine Coulter, Putnam, $19.95
The latest suspense novel by historical-romance writer Catherine Coulter features concert-pianist-turned-FBI-agent Lacey Sherlock. This radical change in career is spurred by the murder of her sister Belinda by a serial killer. Readers trail the FBI's crime apprehension unit through the streets of Boston after the suspect strikes again seven years to the day. The title implies unpredictability but readers may find this plot to be otherwise. By Leigh Montgomery
12)Power of a Woman, by Barbara Taylor Bradford, HarperCollins, $25
This rather perfunctory effort from bestselling author Bradford stars Stevie Jardine, owner of the jewelry store that caters to London's royalty. High-power career aside, she's got some mundane problems: trying to keep her job (her oldest boy thinks it's time Mommy retired), her daughter in school, and her twins on an even keel. A slow-moving plot and lack of suspense bog the book down. On the plus side: the main character's strength and generosity. By Yvonne Zipp
13)THE TENTH JUSTICE, by Brad Meltzer, William Morrow, $23
While "The Tenth Justice" is frequently witty and occasionally suspenseful, it is also too often predictable and trite. Hero Ben Addison, a law clerk at the Supreme Court (clerks are known as the tenth justice), mistakenly tells the wrong person about the outcome of a key case. His life, and the lives of his three closest friends, are thrown into chaos. Reads too much as if it was written for the screen and not the printed page - a common phenomenon these days. By Tom Regan
14)The president's daughter, by Jack Higgins, Putnam, $24.95
A fast-moving plot does little to redeem an otherwise passionless story revolving around the kidnapping of the president's illegitimate daughter by Israeli extremists. Lack of romance, interchangable characters who never display the slightest tinge of self-doubt, and convenient coincidences whenever needed to advance the plot make this tale a bland read. At least Tom Clancy's characters make a wrong guess once in a while. By James Turner
15)COLD MOUNTAIN, by Charles Frazier, Atlantic Monthly, $24
The American Civil War is the shattering force that disrupts and rearranges the lives of the characters in this richly rewarding first novel. Inman, a wounded Confederate soldier, turns his back on a war that has robbed him of any illusions about military glory. He sets off to find his way home to Ada, the woman he hoped to marry. Frazier's writing style is aptly reminiscent of the mid-19th century but not distractingly antiquated. By Merle Rubin