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A Monitor Guide to Bestsellers

By Staff / May 27, 1999


1. STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE, by Terry Brooks, Del Rey, $25 Brooks novelizes the movie script of Part 1 of the popular "Star Wars" series: a story of power struggles, epic space battles, and a young slave boy aspiring to become a Jedi knight. It takes about 100 pages for the narrative to stop sounding like a transcription and really take off. Several scenes aren't in the film, but this bonus material is the book's strength, especially the insights into Anakin (a.k.a. Darth Vader). The main weakness is that the special effects don't work as well in print. (352 pp.) By Kristen Broman-Worthington

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2. WHITE OLEANDER, by Janet Fitch, Little, Brown & Co., $24 Fitch's vivid first novel, recently chosen for Oprah's book club, comes complete with conniving characters and dramatic twists. The heroine of this strangely enticing story is 13-year-old Astrid, the daughter of a beautiful Hollywood poet in prison for poisoning one of her boyfriends. Struggling to construct her own sense of identity and morality, Astrid often acts out her dreams, not realizing their harmful outcome. The high level of romance and hope makes the book an engaging read. (384 pp.) By Rebecca J. Davis

3. CERTAIN PREY, by John Sandford, Putnam, $24.95 Sandford's latest novel pits Minnesota police detective (and software millionaire) Lucas Davenport against a wily female Mafia assassin and her new accomplice, the cagey defense attorney who hired her. What starts as a simple hit gets out of hand as loose end after loose end unravels. The book is a good ride that isn't too predictable given the constraints of the genre. Unfortunately, none of the characters is likable enough to care about. (384 pp.) By Phelippe Salazar

4. WE'LL MEET AGAIN, by Mary Higgins Clark, Simon & Schuster, $25 After six years in prison for murdering her husband, Connecticut socialite Molly Lasch still has no memory of what really happened that night. With help from an old schoolmate, now an investigative reporter, she is committed to learning the truth. It's Molly's friend who is first convinced of her innocence when she starts to investigate a string of suspicious deaths at the local hospital managed by an HMO that Molly's husband started. Clark has woven together a mystery that's fun to the end. (314 pp.) By Anne Toevs

5. THE TESTAMENT, by John Grisham, Doubleday, $27.95 After Troy Phelan throws himself from the 14th floor, the heirs of the world's 10th-richest man circle over his estate like vultures. Only one problem - the will. All the money is left to an unknown figure. Washington lawyer Nate O'Riley, who's lost just about everything to alcohol, travels the rain forests of Brazil to unravel the mystery of the missing heir and the tangles of his own tormented, faithless life. Grisham takes us through every emotion and around the world, but the book gradually loses its power. (435 pp.) By Anne Toevs

6. THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON, by Stephen King, Simon & Schuster, $16.95 Being lost in the woods can scare the tar out of you. Just ask Trisha McFarland. The sweet nine-year-old gets separated from her family on a New England hiking trip. As she wanders and slips in and out of consciousness, the only thing that keeps her going is the vision of Tom Gordon, the Red Sox closer whom she idolizes. While King's writing is visceral - and at times gruesome - the story loses steam and could use more plot twists. (224 pp.) By Lane Hartill

7. A NEW SONG, by Jan Karon, Viking, $24.95 Soon after Episcopal priest Timothy Kavanagh retires from his North Carolina mountain parish, he's called to fill in at a tiny island church. This book is about little daily happenings and relationships. Father Tim and his wife Cynthia must separate from their old friends and ways, and adjust to new ones. The priest runs into countless people who need his tender touch. What this novel about faith and restoration lacks in action and suspense it makes up for in charm. (400 pp.) By Faye Bowers