A Monitor guide to the bestsellers

1. IN THIS MOUNTAIN

Last Week: 1

Weeks on List: 3

by Jan Karon

Viking, $25.95

Available on tape

In the seventh of her series, Karon once again transports her readers to the heart of small-town Mitford, where they follow the adventures of Father Tim; his wife, Cynthia; and all the characters they've come to love. In this addition, Father Tim's humor and wisdom see him through his run-ins with technology, illness, and relationships, plus his search for Dooley Barlowe's younger siblings. Mitford fans will approve and new readers are sure to feel right "At Home in Mitford." (382 pp.) By Amy Andrews

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

Chicago Tribune: Favorable review

2. THE EMPEROR OF OCEAN PARK

Last Week: 4

Weeks on List: 2

by Stephen L. Carter

Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95

Talcott always found the politics of his conservative, black father (the Judge), which fanned the latent racism of right-wing audiences, embarrassing. But at his father's funeral, Talcott can barely reflect on this before a gangster emerges from the mist to demand Talcott tell him "the arrangements." In this weird mix of political editorials and corny cliff-hangers, a needlessly long search ensues as Talcott storms his family's past, becoming the black pawn in his father's greatest chess match. (Full Review June 13) (657 pp.) By Ron Charles

The Christian Science Monitor: Mixed review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Kirkus Review of Books: Favorable review

Newsday: Favorable review

3. THE NANNY DIARIES

Last Week: 2

Weeks on List: 14

by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus

St. Martin's, $28.95

Available on tape

What do you do when you work for a mother who knows more about Prada pumps than raising a four-year-old? You write about it, of course. This first novel, penned by two former nannies, follows the unenviable life of a college student in charge of nurturing a child of wildly dysfunctional parents. Engagingly written and hilarious in parts, the book falls short of being entirely pleasurable by overusing stereotypes and dragging out the abuse of the taken-for-granted nanny by this fictional "Mommy Dearest." (pp. 352) By Kim Campbell

The Christian Science Monitor: Mixed review

Kirkus Review of Books: Mixed review

Sydney Morning Herald: Mixed review

4. SHELTERS OF STONE

Last Week: 3

Weeks on List: 6

by Jean M. Auel

Crown, $28.95

Available on tape

Twelve years after her last book in the "Earth's Children" series, Auel delivers a two-pound, 749-page saga. This installment in the epic journey of Ayla and Jondalar begins with their arrival at Jondalar's home – the Clan of the Zelandonii. Pregnant Ayla is greeted with suspicion as an outsider with mysterious powers. Will Ayla overcome tribal strife and stay to raise her child? As Auel's readers expect, her latest is heavy on detail and generously sprinkled with scenes of prehistoric passion. (749 pp.) By Michael Cieslewicz

The Christian Science Monitor: Mixed review

Kirkus Review of Books: Mixed review

Newsday: Favorable review

5. THE BEACH HOUSE

Weeks on List: 1

by James Patterson

Little Brown, $26.95

Available on tape

Settle into your beach chair. Patterson's latest is most definitely a summer beach-day read. In this legal thriller, Jack Mullen, a Hamptons townie and aspiring lawyer, seeks to avenge the death of his free-wheeling younger brother, found dead after disappearing from a party at a tony Hamptons estate. Mullen takes on the rich and powerful in his quest for the truth. This is a quick read with lots of twists and turns and an ingeniously far-fetched finale that may leave some disappointed. (368 pp.) By Michele Babineau

The Christian Science Monitor: Mixed review

Kirkus Review of Books: Unfavorable review

San Antonio Express-News: Favorable review

6. ATONEMENT

Last Week: 5

Weeks on List: 12

by Ian McEwan

Doubleday, $26

Available on tape

In 1935, during a party to welcome her brother home from war, 13-year-old Briony, an aspiring writer, interrupts the rape of her cousin. Despite the contradictory details, Briony narrates a rock-hard conviction that smashes several lives. Through his novel, McEwan suggests we each compose our lives, enticed with the chance for revision, but that this role precludes the possibility of atonement with an Author outside ourselves. Clearly one of the best novels of the year. (448 pp.) (Full review March 14) By Ron Charles

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Charlotte Observer: Favorable review

7. JOLIE BLON'S BOUNCE

Last Week: 6

Weeks on List: 2

by James Lee Burke

Simon & Schuster, $25

Available on tape

In the latest of detective Robicheaux's crime-busting exploits in Louisiana, two young women are violently raped and murdered. Robicheaux trusts his instinct that the obvious suspect, talented musician Tee Bobby, is innocent. His investigations lead into a dark past that wraps themes of racial abuse, serial killing, mob justice, and the supernatural into a thunderous narrative. The gritty, hard-hitting scenes and sharp characterizations will make this another masterpiece among Burke fans. (352 pp.) By Tristan Jones

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Washington Post: Mixed review

8. THE WAILING WIND

Last Week: 7

Weeks on List: 5

by Tony Hillerman

HarperCollins, $25.95

Available on tape

Tony Hillerman is back on top with his latest novel, including a tight plot and a budding romance on the Navajo reservation. This is refreshing after his disappointing last effort. In this addition, the legendary Lieutenant Leaphorn again emerges from retirement to find a long-lost missing woman. Along the way, he gets tangled up in solving the FBI's case, while age brings him some fallibility and his counterpart, Jim Chee, some strength of character. A great – and surprisingly short – read. (240 pp.) By Eric C. Evarts

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Seattle Times: Favorable review

9. THE DIVE FROM CLAUSEN'S PIER

Weeks on List: 2

by Ann Packer

Alfred A. Knopf, $24

Available on tape

Carrie Bell wants to break away from her nine-year relationship with Mike and the town she's known since birth. But when Mike is hospitalized after an accident, Carrie must face not only the accusatory stares of his family and friends, but her growing desire to flee as well. The answers, in what the book jacket describes as "a riveting novel about loyalty and self-knowledge," are all too obvious, and the characters add little insight to the topic of our duty to others over our duty to ourselves. (384 pp.) By Christy Ellington

The Christian Science Monitor: Unfavorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Chicago Tribune: Favorable review

10. FIRE AND ICE

Last Week: 8

Weeks on List: 2

by Clive Cussler

Putnam, $26.95

The latest of Cussler's Kurt Austin books, set in the middle of the old Soviet Union, features Austin's NUMA group joining forces with former KGB spies to stop Russian mobster Mikhail Razov from overthrowing Czar Nicholas II. Razov's hunger for power, hatred for the "corruption" of the West, and his plan to mine "fire ice," an unstable, explosive methane, makes him a tough adversary. Although Cussler has a knack for writing action-packed adventure, this one fits the mold a bit too well. (384 pp.) By Robert Huey

The Christian Science Monitor: Unfavorable review

Kirkus Review of Books: Favorable review

11. THE SUMMONS

Last Week: 11

Weeks on List: 13

by John Grisham

Doubleday, $27.95

Available on tape

After taking a two-book break from legal thrillers, Grisham cranks the formula back up. He provides the usual greedy lawyers, as well as a protagonist looking for the truth while fearing for his life. This time, a crusty, small-town Mississippi judge dies, leaving a surprise for his law professor son: $3 million stacked neatly in the closet. Was it from gambling, bribes, or something worse? Grisham fans will race through this one quickly, but find the ending far less satisfying than those of his past works. (384 pp.) By Seth Stern

The Christian Science Monitor: Mixed review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Los Angeles Times: Favorable review

12. EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED

Last Week: 9

Weeks on List: 7

by Jonathan Safran Foer

Houghton Mifflin, $24

Available on tape

In this ambitious first novel, a young American – also named Jonathan Foer – hires a Ukrainian translator and driver to help him locate a woman who allegedly saved his grandmother from the Nazis. Weaving a modern tale of friendship with a mythical history of a shtetl , the author leaps through generations, ultimately spanning more than a century. What the story lacks in insight into the Holocaust, the author more than makes up for with a story about two friends that is both funny and touching. (275 pp.) By Samar Farah

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

The New York Times: Favorable review

Independent-London: Mixed review

13. MORTAL PREY

Last Week: 11

Weeks on List: 5

by John Sandford

Putnam, $26.95

This thriller is Sandford's 13th in the "Prey" series. The basic plot centers on a failed assassination attempt on a former mafia hitwoman, leading her to seek revenge while cops give chase. It's skillfully developed in tortuous, mind-bending twists that should keep the reader on the edge of his seat. Substance-rich detail and strikingly realistic characters add to the suspense and conspire with pellucid prose to make this a phenomenally brilliant novel. (368 pp.) By Aaron Bingham

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

Kirkus Review of Books: Favorable review

14. SIN KILLER

Last Week: 10

Weeks on List: 4

by Larry McMurtry

Simon & Schuster, $25

Available on tape

McMurtry's first of a four-volume set introduces the eccentric Berrybender family, English aristocrats adventuring in the unsettled West, forging up the Missouri River in a steamboat. This volume centers on the love between the eldest Berrybender child and an intrepid renaissance man of the Wild West. Though entertaining, the enormous cast of supporting characters is unwieldy and not differentiated enough from the Berrybenders themselves. The story contains violent scenes typical of the time period. (304 pp.) By Tonya Miller

The Christian Science Monitor: Mixed review

The New York Times: Unfavorable review

Buffalo News: Unfavorable review

15. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES

Weeks on List: 18

by Sue Monk Kidd

Viking, $24.95

Kidd's story of 14-year-old Lily Owens, living scrawny and motherless on a South Carolina peach farm in 1964, weaves fragments of memory with Lily's awareness and the brutality of her grieving father. Haunted by having accidentally killed her mother, furious at her bigoted town, and chasing the blur of her past, Lily escapes with her caretaker to a wondrous trio of black beekeeping sisters. This is a novel obsessed with the lure of memory and human warmth. (307 pp.) By Christina McCarroll

The Christian Science Monitor: Favorable review

USA Today: Favorable review

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