The best new books this month chosen by us and other
independent booksellers across the country.

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick...

My Dark Vanessa

By Kate Elizabeth Russell

(William Morrow, 9780062941503, $27.99)

"In this gripping debut novel, a teenage girl falls into an affair with her English teacher, who is 30 years her senior. The voice of Vanessa, the narrator, is unparalleled in its honesty, and her emotions are fiercely conveyed with unrelenting realness. This novel is a timely and important read, sometimes difficult, but ultimately an unforgettable experience. You will be left astonished and transformed. Vanessa is formidable and so is her story; you won't be able to put down this powerhouse of a novel."
--Luisa Barbano, Oblong Books and Music, Millerton, NY

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick Author Interview

(photo: Elena Seibert)

Independent booksellers across the country have chosen My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (William Morrow) as their number-one pick for the March 2020 Indie Next List.

Russell's novel explores the psychological impact of the relationship between 15-year-old Vanessa Wye and her high school English teacher; it alternates between the relationship's start in 2002 and her life in 2017, when the #MeToo movement was reaching its peak. 

Here, we talk with Russell about how she crafted the book.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

I first read Lolita when I was 14 and completely fell in love. I'd been writing stories for as long as I could remember and Lolita was the first novel that really broke my mind open as an aspiring writer. It made me see new possibilities of language and story. But as a 14-year-old girl, I also saw the novel as a kind of reflection--of myself and the world I lived in. I began to notice all the ways the Lolita archetype was embedded into our culture, how girls like me and my friends were relentlessly sexualized, how prevalent the teenage seductress trope was in movies and pop music, how men my dad's age would joke about "countdowns" to when underage celebrities like Britney Spears turned 18. Everyone seemed to accept that it was perfectly normal for grown men to sexualize girls. I was interested in looking at how girls were meant to respond to that sexualization.

Did you begin writing this book before the #MeToo movement gained momentum in 2017?

I began working on what would become My Dark Vanessa when I was a teenager, so the writing process was very long and meandering, and over the years the novel took many different forms. During my MFA program, I experimented with writing from points of view other than Vanessa, based on feedback I received in workshops. It was over the course of my PhD program that the final version of My Dark Vanessa took shape, and in late 2017, when #MeToo came into our cultural consciousness, I was finishing up the novel's present-day plotline of another student coming forward to accuse the teacher character. It was a surreal experience to have the real world align so closely with what I was writing.

How did you create Vanessa's character?

Vanessa has always been the heart of the novel. She's a character who arrived fully formed in my mind. While writing the book, I sometimes would joke that it felt as though Vanessa created me rather than the other way around--she was just such an incredible force. Fine-tuning her was a continuous process of putting her in different situations and tweaking the circumstances of her life, but she has always been resolutely Vanessa.

Nabokov's Lolita is discussed at length in this book, and, in many ways, Vanessa's understanding of the text shapes her understanding of the relationship she has with Strane. Why did you decide to use Lolita in this way?

To a certain extent, I think you have to acknowledge Lolita if you're working with the trope of a girl becoming sexually involved with an older man, because Lolita is bigger than just a novel; it's an archetype deeply embedded into our culture. That said, Lolita is also important to me on a personal level. It helped shape me as a writer, it was my entry point into this story, it hovered over me throughout the entire writing process of My Dark Vanessa. So bringing in Lolita felt very natural in that regard.

The book's structure, which alternates between past and present, gives readers the sensation of simultaneously existing in both narratives, a significant symptom of living with trauma. Was this a conscious choice, or did it organically grow with the rest of the story?

It was by studying trauma theory--specifically how symptoms of post-traumatic stress are rendered on the page--that made me realize a straightforward, chronological narrative wouldn't work for this novel. On a psychological level, adult Vanessa is often detached from the world around her, her brain stuck in traumatic memories and dissociative states even while she goes about her mundane, daily life. Teenage Vanessa, on the other hand, is consumed by the erratic emotions brought on by sexual abuse: giddiness, disgust, annoyance, despair. Both versions of her are equally important, and I wanted to make sure the reader always had a well-rounded idea of her in their minds, not just for the sake of her character, but to show the scope of sexual abuse--how it affects someone in the moment as well as many years later.

Social isolation is another important aspect of this book. Vanessa meets Strane at a particularly vulnerable point in her life--at a boarding school where she has no peers, or even trusted adults, that she can reach out to. Did you have any particular places or recent allegations in mind when creating the circumstances of this novel? Why a boarding school?

I was absolutely influenced by the many news stories about sexual abuse at private schools that I came across while writing the novel, particularly the Boston Globe's Spotlight report published in 2016, but the decision to set the novel at a boarding school was also something of a practical one. I kept getting stuck on the question of how Vanessa's relationship with Strane would continue unfettered if she were coming home to her parents every day, and having her attend a boarding school where she didn't quite fit in socially provided an effective answer to that question.

There's also the complex relationship between Vanessa and Taylor Birch, one of Strane's other victims. Why did you decide to put them at odds with one another?

I've always been interested in "doubles" showing up in fiction. (A product, I'm sure, of having read so much Nabokov as a teen.) In that way, Taylor was conceived as Vanessa's doppelganger, and in early drafts the two characters even bore a strong physical resemblance. Their psychologies, though, were always disparate. It was important for me that Vanessa and Taylor be at odds with each other. I wanted to show the complexity of victimhood, how two women who experienced abuse at the hands of the same man can still respond to the abuse in very different ways.

The book also features full scenes in Vanessa's therapist's office, where we see her process her trauma in real time. What would you hope readers take away from these scenes?

On a craft level, I tried to use those scenes as a chance for Vanessa to reconstruct her narrative without Strane taking over. By putting Vanessa in a situation where she has to verbalize her emotions to another person--in this case her therapist, Ruby--she is forced to confront her own beliefs, which eventually leads to her defenses breaking down, a painful but necessary step towards growth. I hope readers find relief in those scenes, both for themselves and for Vanessa.

Is there any one thing you'd like readers to take away from the book as a whole?

More than anything, I hope readers come away from the novel wanting to discuss it. My dream has always been to write a novel that gets people talking. I think fiction can be such an effective catalyst for self-reflection in that way: a conversation about a novel might start out focused on the characters, but then moves into a conversation about ourselves and our own experiences.

Penguin Press: Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh

More Indie Next List Great Reads

Writers & Lovers

By Lily King

(Grove Press, 9780802148537, $27)

"Casey lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, waits tables, worries about her debt, and falls for the wrong man and the right one. She dreams, she grieves, and she worries about her health. In spite of it all, she manages to finish her novel. Lily King's assured, closely observed story is a loving portrait of Casey and the writing life. I don't think there's a single unnecessary word in the whole thing. Writers & Lovers is a joy to read, a gift from a writer at the top of her game."
--David Enyeart, Next Chapter Booksellers, St. Paul, MN

A Good Neighborhood

By Therese Anne Fowler

(St. Martin's Press, 9781250237279, $27.99)

"Therese Anne Fowler's new novel will have you examining the actions and motivations of everyone you know. Her exquisite storytelling and character development deliver an unforgettable and unpredictable story that touches on many contemporary issues, including race, wealth, control, and status. Be sure to leave yourself some time for this one--once you hit the tipping point, you won't put it down until you finish."
--Kari Erpenbach, University of Minnesota Bookstores, Minneapolis, MN

Saint X

By Alexis Schaitkin

(Celadon Books, 9781250219596, $26.99)

"A family vacation to a Caribbean island goes terribly wrong and the tragedy casts a pall over the life of Claire, who is only seven years old when this mesmerizing novel begins. We follow Claire into adulthood and along her pursuit of truth and resolution, while her life becomes increasingly affected by her obsessive search for the answers to the mystery that occurred on Saint X. You will not be able to put down this startlingly accomplished novel, and it will sneak into your dreams! I envy anyone who has it to look forward to."
--Tova Beiser, Brown University Bookstore, Providence, RI

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

In Five Years

By Rebecca Serle

(Atria Books, 9781982137441, $27)

"Rebecca Serle's In Five Years has so many of the things I want in a terrific novel: a twisty plot that leaves me guessing; radically unexpected developments; settings that I can see, smell, and taste; and probably the thing that Serle does best--an introduction to characters I'll grow to care about and shed tears with. That last one? The tear thing? In Five Years had me weeping for the last part of a coast-to-coast flight, prompting the flight attendant to hand me a drink because, she said, it looked like I needed one. I loved this book and can't wait to offer it to readers."

--Nick Petrulakis, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA
Ballantine Books: The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

Docile

By K.M. Szpara

(Tor.com, 9781250216151, $27.99)

"People will often refer to a book as one that's 'unlike anything they've ever read before,' but for maybe the first time in my reading life, I can honestly say that about K.M. Szpara's Docile. This erotic speculative science fiction novel takes place in a frighteningly plausible future where people become 'dociles'--essentially indentured slaves working off debt--and explores themes of consent, capitalism, and the abuse cycle. A visceral reading experience that will challenge, confront, titillate, and disgust, Docile feels like a book we will be talking about for decades."
--Caleb Masters, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC

Apeirogon

By Colum McCann

(Random House, 9781400069606, $28)

"This is a towering, breathtaking, sweeping work of poetic and technical brilliance. Although much of Apeirogon resides in the current and past state of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the novel demonstrates how each person, each story, in this ultimately small section of the world represents but one point of an infinitely sided shape -- how between all of us, even those locked in seemingly irreconcilable conflict, there pulses a vital connectivity, a path to understanding, forgiveness, and compassion."
--Ben Newgard, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

This Town Sleeps

By Dennis E. Staples

(Counterpoint, 9781640092846, $26)

"This Town Sleeps, set on an Ojibwe reservation in northern Minnesota, is not an elegiac or idyllic work but rather a direct, unblinking, poetic novel that draws the reader inexorably into the gray areas of the hearts of those in this story. A queer coming-of-age story bound up in a town mystery, this tale of Marion Lafournier, a young gay Ojibwe man, is a compelling debut. Dennis E. Staples is an author whose voice and storytelling will be appreciated in so many ways for years to come."

--Christine Havens, BookPeople, Austin, TX

Eight Perfect Murders

By Peter Swanson

(William Morrow, 9780062838209, $27.99)

"Malcolm Kershaw is an unassuming bookseller who once wrote a list of the eight most perfect literary murders. He is surprised when the FBI shows up at his door and explains that someone is using this list and recreating the murders. With perfect pacing and shocking twists, this is a murder mystery with a classic feel that will leave you questioning how well you can know anyone. It will also add eight more books to your to-be-read pile as you will immediately need to read all the books on the perfect murder list!"
--Carrie Deming, The Dog Eared Book, Palmyra, NY

We Ride Upon Sticks

By Quan Barry

(Pantheon, 9781524748098, $26.95)

"This is such a fun romp! It has everything you could possibly want in a book: field hockey, witches, and '80s bangs that have literally taken on a life of their own. Set in Salem in the 1980s, we follow a group of high school field hockey players as they struggle with their new dark powers and attempt to end their losing streak. One of the strangest, most satisfying books I have read in a long time!"
--Hillary Smith, Copperfield's Books, Calistoga, CA

Greenwood

By Michael Christie

(Hogarth, 9781984822000, $28)

"Trees: They provide shelter, sustenance, and sanctuary for vast numbers of creatures. They create the very air we breathe. And they are under threat. For generations, the Greenwood family lives with, destroys, fights for, and monetizes these gentle giants until their very existence is absorbed into the class system designed and upheld by the one percent. This is a sweeping arboreal saga full of blood, greed, heart, and humanity. Greenwood will fell readers worldwide."

--Bex Petterson, Bloomsbury Books, Ashland, OR

Deacon King Kong

By James McBride

(Riverhead Books, 9780735216723, $28)

"Deacon King Kong is a quintessential New York story. Set in the Brooklyn projects in 1969, a perpetually inebriated deacon called Sportcoat aims a gun at the neighborhood's main drug dealer in the public plaza and pulls the trigger. Incredibly well-constructed and hilarious at times, McBride's story entwines a number of storylines that are kickstarted by this central event. The local Italian gangster, the veteran cop, the meddling churchgoers, and the drug pushers all have their own agendas, hopes, and dreams that are affected. And though Sportcoat doesn't remember his actions and is always under the influence of gut-rot moonshine, I couldn't help but root for him as I was reading this. His delightful ineptitude and absence of clarity made this book impossible for me to put down. If you've never read McBride before, this is a great introduction."

--Stuart McCommon, Novel., Memphis, TN

Sharks in the Time of Saviors

By Kawai Strong Washburn

(MCD, 9780374272081, $27)

"Sharks in the Time of Saviors is one of the best pieces of contemporary fiction I've had the pleasure to read. The fact that the book takes place in Hawaii makes it even more special. The author provides the reader with a unique 'chicken skin' experience. The book captures contemporary Hawaii's history over the past 20+ years, including the socioeconomics of race and being Hawaiian, income disparity, housing issues, family issues, and the diaspora that affects so many families in Hawaii who are unable or unwilling to deal with the cost of living. Truly a master work of art."
--Benjamin "Buddy" Bess, Da Shop: Books & Curiosities, Honolulu, HI

Undercover Bromance

By Lyssa Kay Adams

(Berkley, 9781984806116, $16, trade paper)

"Steamy, spicy, and tender, if this book were a gourmet meal it would be worth a thousand bucks for sure. Lyssa Kay Adams has outdone herself; her sophomore novel in the Bromance Book Club collection is even better than her debut. Liv is a firecracker, taking nothing from nobody. Mack is a big softie with a heart of gold. When they team up to take down a famous and powerful chef with a history of abusing women, there is nothing these two won't risk -- including their hearts. Please read this lovely romance; you will not regret it and it will make you a better person. And if you are a man, this should be required reading -- study up, dudes."
--Sam Butler, Bright Side Bookshop, Flagstaff, AZ

Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir

By Rebecca Solnit

(Viking, 9780593083338, $26)

"Over Rebecca Solnit's 30 years of writing, readers like me have fallen in love with her seismic, world-shifting essays, and I was not disappointed by this memoir, her first longform writing in seven years. True to her form, this is a memoir not necessarily of the events of Solnit's coming of age, but rather the greater influences in her development as a feminist, an activist, and a writer in 1980's San Francisco. In these pages, Solnit describes the formation of her own powerful voice while interrogating the culture that routinely silences women through violence and disregard. By sharing these formative years, Solnit is sure to inspire and vindicate generations of women of all ages and offer much-needed encouragement to people of all genders to invest in voices long suppressed."
--Megan Bell, Underground Books, Carrollton, GA

The Animals at Lockwood Manor

By Jane Healey

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780358106401, $26)

"During WWII, Hetty Cartwright arrives at Lockwood Manor to take care of specimens from a natural history museum in London. The hosts of the large manor, the controlling Major and his anxious daughter, Lucy, welcome Hetty and the specimens but don't fully understand her. As time passes, there are ghosts, unexplained visitors, fears, and moving animals that make the job of safekeeping the animals and fossils difficult. This book is a page-turner, a thriller, a love story, and a moving story with surprises."

--Lauren Zimmerman, The Writer's Block Bookstore, Winter Park, FL

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Oona Out of Order

By Margarita Montimore

(Flatiron Books, 9781250236609, $26.99)

"Oona Lockhart has been cursed (or blessed) with a magical wrinkle in time that has her leaping forward and back through the years. Inside she is aging chronologically, but on the outside, Oona is sometimes 51, 30, or 26 years old. A life lived out of order, however, can be just as valid as a life lived forward. Surprising, bittersweet, and filled with love, Oona discovers both the wisdom of age and the spontaneity of youth. Don't miss out on what is sure to be the most enchanted reading experience of 2020."
--Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

By Erik Larson

(Crown, 9780385348713, $32)

"Erik Larson has done it again! With years of impeccable research into diaries, archives, dossiers, biographies, and official British documents, he has presented an intimate and detailed account of Winston Churchill in his first years as prime minister as he dealt with the London Blitz and his own personal and family issues. This is Churchill as few of us can imagine, in his silky pajamas entertaining major dignitaries at his weekend retreat, all the while continuing to reassure the British people during their darkest days that they have what it takes to withstand the German onslaught. The Splendid and the Vile reads like an engrossing novel, with all the fascinating details and facts that Erik Larson can provide."

--Gail Meyer, The Bookstore Plus Music & Art, Lake Placid, NY

The Girl With the Louding Voice

By Abi Daré

(Dutton, 9781524746025, $26)

"This year is overflowing with phenomenal debuts--including this one from Abi Daré. It tells the story of Adunni, a young girl in Nigeria whose dreams and ambition focus in on one thing: education. In a city where girls like her are looked down upon and considered unworthy, she comes to find that change can begin with even the smallest of voices. This story is the kind that makes you itch: you'll ache for Adunni, bristle at the people who treat her so unjustly, and yearn for her to succeed. This is a stunning, important, and fascinating first novel."
--Lindsay Howard, Lark and Owl Booksellers, Georgetown, TX

Separation Anxiety

By Laura Zigman

(Ecco, 9780062909077, $26.99)

"Told with humor, wit, and wisdom, Laura Zigman's novel explores the unexpected trials of middle age. We follow Judy Vogel, who is rebounding from the recent deaths of her parents, struggling with writer's block, juggling financial issues, coping with a failing marriage, and raising an adolescent son. When she comes across her son's old baby sling, she starts to wear the family dog as a unique form of support. This thought-provoking novel is full of heart, hope, and the strength to move forward."
--Maxwell Gregory, Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest, IL

The Bird King

By G. Willow Wilson

(Grove Press, 9780802148292, $16)

"Fatima is a concubine of the sultan of the last emirate in the Iberian Peninsula to submit to the Spanish Inquisition. When her dearest friend is singled out by the Inquisition, she flees with him and a jinn, following the trail of the elusive and mythical Bird King, who may or may not be able to grant them sanctuary. Wilson's latest novel is rich with the historical detail, lush description, and fantastical elements that we have come to know and love from her. A story of resistance, freedom, seeking, and strength, and a true fable for our times."

--Anna Eklund, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Watermen of Vanishing Tangier Island

By Earl Swift

(Dey Street Books, 9780062661401, $17.99)

"I was so impressed with this story of Tangier, an exploration of science, history, religion, and culture driven by emotionally salient commentary from people who live there today. The community is conservative both religiously and politically, but their home is being swept away by rising sea levels thanks to climate change, which is usually a politically charged topic. It was also interesting to have insight into what is likely the United States' first group of 'climate refugees'. Thoughtfully, lovingly, and intelligently done. An important read!"
--Chloe Groth, Content Bookstore, Northfield, MN

Gingerbread

By Helen Oyeyemi

(Riverhead Books, 9781594634666, $17)

"To me, any new book by Helen Oyeyemi is a cause for celebration, and Gingerbread is no exception. Harriet Lee is a mother, a daughter, a PTA-wannabe, a tutor, and a gingerbread baker. She is also Druhastranian--a refugee from a country that may (or may not) exist. No one is quite sure where Druhastana is or how to get there, but Harriet's daughter, Perdita, is determined to find out even if it kills her. While still imbued with Oyeyemi's trademark fairy tale essence, this novel is a departure into weirder, more uncanny territory. Oyeyemi, who lives in Prague, has finally given us her Czech novel, and it's perfect."

--Devon Dunn, Book Culture, New York, NY

The Hunting Party

By Lucy Foley

(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062868916, $16.99)

"Lucy Foley's The Hunting Party is a slick, streamlined murder mystery set on a remote Scottish luxury estate. A group of old friends get together for their yearly New Year's trip, but after over a decade of closeness, some of them may be near the breaking point. Foley uses the multiple-narrator approach to distort the reader's perspective and challenge their assumptions, but it doesn't feel excessive. With multiple puzzles that come together to create the bigger picture and a short timeline that adds to the claustrophobic urgency, this novel is a devilishly thrilling winter read."

--Annie Metcalf, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, MN

The Island of Sea Women

By Lisa See

(Scribner, 9781501154867, $18)

"Jeju Island is home to generations of haenyo--women who take their living from both land and sea and call the shots in their matriarchal society. Young-sook and Mi-ja are best friends in the 1930s, learning to dive with their all-female collective while their island suffers under Japanese colonialism. Lisa See follows them as they grow up under Japanese rule and into the 21st century. The Island of Sea Women is not only a story of friendship found, lost, and found again, but also a richly detailed picture of a unique culture of women in a world spinning out of control. Amazing detail and presence."
--Janet Rhodes, BookPeople of Moscow, Moscow, ID

The Light Years: A Memoir

By Chris Rush

(Picador, 9781250251190, $18)

"Rush's memoir depicts the wild, drug-filled days of his youth with such luminous prose it feels as though we're with him. That this book exists is proof that Rush makes it through every situation he encounters, and he brings such generosity to those who were alongside him that it's impossible not to care about him or his family and loved ones. The Light Years offers a perfect glimpse into the counterculture of the '60s and '70s. A perfect pick for those who lived through that time and those who wish they could."

--Katie Orphan, The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, CA

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls: A Memoir

By T Kira Madden

(Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635574760, $18)

"Madden has no limits when it comes to the ones she loves--her cool and free older friends, her Internet-famous first girlfriend, her mother, her father, and us, the fortunate readers. She accomplishes one of the great feats of a memoir: in telling the story of her life, she translates its remarkable aspects (for one, her father worked for Jordan Belfort and was, yes, a wolf of Wall Street) while making the commonplace (love for one's parents) remarkable. Her prose is a Lisa Frank- racetrack-Hawaiian shirt phantasmagoria that I couldn't get enough of. And, man, that last section--it'll knock you loose."

--Molly Moore, BookPeople, Austin, TX

My Lovely Wife

By Samantha Downing

(Berkley, 9780451491732, $16)

"It started out as a game, a series of hypothetical questions to liven up their marriage: Who could they hurt? And what could they get away with? With two kids and a mortgage, Millicent and her husband need all the excitement they can find. But soon conversation isn't enough and their dream life turns into a nightmare. Because the thing about games is there's always a winner... and a loser. Downing has written the perfect psychological thriller. Once I picked it up, I didn't stop reading until I reached the final, stunning sentence. My Lovely Wife is a wholly original and thoroughly terrifying read!"

--Lauren Peugh, Powell's Books, Portland, OR

The Priory of the Orange Tree

By Samantha Shannon

(Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635570304, $20)

"A fabulous, complex fantasy that will appeal to fans of Erika Johansen, Melissa Caruso, and George R.R. Martin, Priory has something for every fantasy lover. Shannon's story and its characters' fates revolve around the most riveting aspect of the whole book: dragons! Shannon writes with a fast-paced, engrossing voice that continues to build with every chapter. I loved this world and think readers will wholeheartedly embrace it."

--Lauren Nopenz Fairley, Curious Iguana, Frederick, MD

We Are All Good People Here

By Susan Rebecca White

(Atria Books, 9781451608922, $16.99)

"I've been reading and admiring Susan Rebecca White's novels since her 2009 debut, Bound South, and her new book is a continuation of her unmatched knack for capturing the essence of her Atlanta upbringing. Adding layers of historical context to the familiar world of her previous works, White tells a moving and thought-provoking story that spans the tumultuous final decades of the American Century. She explores race, class, privilege, and politics through a cast of very human characters ranging across the entire socioeconomic and ideological spectrum. The book bears witness to the evolution in conscience of these times as the reader experiences the evolution of this ambitious, talented writer."

--Frank Reiss, A Cappella Books, Atlanta, GA

When All Is Said

By Anne Griffin

(Picador, 9781250251336, $17)

"Dark and unflinching yet packed with heart and humanity, When All Is Said is Irish storytelling at its best. Maurice Hannigan sits in a bar on a Saturday night and toasts five people who have been important in his life and who have left him, either through death or distance. The 84-year-old widower spools out his story like tangled fishing line, raising one glass to each of his departed loved ones. It all leads up to a startling yet inevitable end to an unsettling yet satisfying story."

--Grace Harper, Mac's Backs, Cleveland Heights, OH

When You Read This

By Mary Adkins

(Harper Paperbacks, 9780062834683, $16.99)

"Death is called the final act, but for our loved ones who survive us, the show inevitably goes on. In When You Read This, Mary Adkins gives equal stage time to Iris Massey, a woman recently diagnosed with terminal cancer who begins a blog about her experiences, and those she has left behind. Grief is a unifying theme in this novel, from Iris, who struggles to come to terms with her death, to her sister, Jade, who is left rudderless without her, and even Iris' boss, Smith, who is determined to fulfill Iris' last request of having her blog published as a book. Poignant and bittersweet, When You Read This is a well-rounded blend of romance, comedy, and drama."

--Heather Herbaugh, Mitzi's Books, Rapid City, SD