Skin and Ink 

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Although some readers see in black and white, pitting good against evil, the more complex and interesting books are layered with shades of gray.

So whether you choose to soak every day of the summer sun into your darkening skin or lurk in cool, shady basements to preserve your pallor, Richmond booksellers are recommening books of every shade.

Lelia Taylor of Creatures 'n Crooks Bookshoppe, Ward Tefft of Chop Suey Books, Kelly Justice of the Fountain Bookstore, Patrick Godfrey of Velocity Comics and Kyle Coble of Barnes & Noble share their secrets of the season.

-- Valley Haggard

The Tanning Bed

"Whistling in the Dark" by Lesley Kagen (Penguin, $13.95)

Kagen's debut novel takes place in 1959 in an urban neighborhood. Sally O'Malley and her little sister Troo are left to take care of themselves when mom gets sick, their stepdad is out at the bars and older sister is spending all her time necking with her new boyfriend. So the girls are on the loose, but so are a murderer and a molester. This is a sparkling novel that would be a great summer read for those who liked "The Lovely Bones" or "Water for Elephants." Book group guide included. — Kelly Justice

"Boy's Life" by Robert McCammon (Simon & Schuster, $7.99)

Cory and his friends spend the summer in small-town Alabama, 1964, solving the mysterious murder of an unknown man. Their quest leads them into the depths of the town's secrets: the gun-slinging Blacock clan; a secret assembly of men united by racial hatred; a very old woman named the Lady who hears the voices of the dead; and what seems to be a dinosaur. — Ward Tefft

Dark & Sexy Glitter Gel

"Lisey's Story" by Stephen King (Simon & Schuster, $9.99)

Readers who aren't normally fans of King would like this, in my opinion one of his best ever, and it has all the elements — mystery, dark fantasy and even romance. — Lelia Taylor

"The Raw Shark Texts" by Steven Hall (Canongate Books, $24)

This cerebral workout pits a real man against a metaphysical shark that devours memory and consciousness. You can actually feel the sulci of your brain rippling as you read it! — Kelly Justice

Baby Faces 60+ SPF

"World War Hulk" by writer Greg Pak and penciler John Romita Jr., (Marvel, $3.99)

Five-issue mini-series: Hulk smash! After being exiled off Planet Earth by the movers and shakers of the super-hero set, Hulk's life turns tragic as his newly adopted home world and pregnant-alien-queen bride are blown up by his marooned ship's nuclear reactor core. Now Hulk, commanding a motley legion of alien followers, is on his way back to Earth with revenge on his mind.

— Patrick Godfrey

"The Children of H£rin" begun by J.R.R. Tolkien and finished by his son, Christopher Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin, $26)

As a fan of Tolkien, I found his last legacy thrilling to read. In the vein of the readable "Lord of the Rings" rather than the somewhat ponderous "The Silmarillion," this is the book that Tolkien would have been proud to see. — Kyle Coble

Aloe Ice Burn Relief

"Weird Virginia" by Jeff Bahr, Troy Taylor, Loren Coleman and Mark Sceurman (Sterling, $19.95)

Bizarrely funny, this selection is in the same series as the seminal "Weird New Jersey." —Kyle Coble

"The Ultimate Book of Useless Information" by Noel Botham & The Useless Information Society (Penguin, $12.95)

This is the new edition of this wonderful collection of things you might need to know but probably don't, such as "the London Underground station, St. John's Wood, is the only station on the network that does not contain any of the letters of the word mackerel." — Lelia Taylor

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