The Last Winter of Dani Lancing

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P. D. VinerTitle: The Last Winter of Dani Lancing

Author: P. D. Viner. This is his first novel.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Readers: Professor Michal, at-home parent Katie, teachers Ninian and Shannon.

Summary: Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered. The killer was never found, and the case has long gone cold. Her parents, Patty and Jim, were utterly devastated, their marriage destroyed. While Jim fell apart, Patty was consumed by the unsolved case. She abandoned her journalism career and her marriage to spend every waking hour searching and plotting. She keeps contact with Tom, Dani’s childhood sweetheart, who has become a detective intent on solving murders like Dani’s. When he finds a lead that seems ironclad, he brings Patty in on it. After years of dead ends, her obsession is rekindled, and she will do anything for revenge, even become a killer herself-dragging her whole family into the nightmare once again, as lies and secrets are uncovered.

Our Take: A split decision on this tangled mystery. Most of our readers enjoyed it, though some were dissatisfied with the ending. This is a complex story that moves around in time and among characters.

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Motherhood Comes Naturally

Motherhood Comes Naturally by Jill SmoklerTitle: Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies)

Author: Jill Smokler. She is the author of a previous book of parenting essays, Confessions of a Scary Mommy and blogs at ScaryMommy.com

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Readers: Mothers Sulyn, Megan V., Katie and Reinventing Mommy.

Summary: Newly pregnant and scared out of her mind, Jill Smokler lay on her gynecologist’s examination table and was told the biggest lie she’d ever heard in her life: “Motherhood is the most natural thing in the world.”

Instead of quelling her nerves like that well intentioned nurse hoped to, Jill was instead set up for future of questioning exactly what DNA strand she was missing that made the whole motherhood experience feel less than natural to her. Wonderful? Yes. Miraculous? Of course. Worthwhile? Without a doubt. But natural? Not so much.

Our Take: A funny and candid look at real parenthood that would make a great gift for new parents. Our readers enjoy Smokler’s frankness, but warn that she may offend more sensitive readers.

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If You Could Be Mine

Title: If You Could Be Mine

Author: Sara Farizan. This is her first novel.

Genre: Young Adult, Romance

Readers: Stay-at-home moms Marina, Katie and Colleen B.; attorney Elizabeth H. and non-profit director Kimberly.

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Our Take: This debut novel shows promise and takes a unique look at a teenage romance. Some of our readers found it rewarding but others thought it didn’t live up to its premise.

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Save Yourself

Save Yourself by Kelly BraffetTitle: Save Yourself

Author: Kelly Braffet. She is the author of two previous books of small-town suspense, Josie and Jack and Last Seen Leaving.

Genre: Thriller

Readers: Stay-at-home Moms Dana, Katie and Krysta; lawyer Cait and event planner Kathy.

Summary: Patrick Cusimano is in a bad way. His father is in jail, he works the midnight shift at a grubby convenience store, and his brother’s girlfriend, Caro, has taken their friendship to an uncomfortable new level. On top of all that, he can’t quite shake the attentions of Layla Elshere, a goth teenager who befriends Patrick for reasons he doesn’t understand and doesn’t fully trust. The temptations these two women offer are pushing him to his breaking point.

Meanwhile, Layla’s little sister, Verna, is suffering through her first year of high school. She’s become a prime target for her cruel classmates, not just because of her strange name and her fundamentalist parents: Layla’s bad-girl rep proves to be too huge a shadow for Verna, so she falls in with her sister’s circle of outcasts and misfits whose world is far darker than she ever imagined.

Our Take: This is a dark book with complex and fully-formed characters. Our readers found it really captivating and compelling. Not a typical page-turner, but we got through it pretty quickly. While it may be too heavy for some book clubs, this is definitely one to consider for group discussion.

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Courting Greta

Title: Courting Greta

Author: Ramsey Hootman. This is her first novel.

Genre: Commercial Fiction

Readers: Stay-at-home moms Katie and Colleen B., professor JoLee, nonprofit director Kimberly and victim advocate MJ.

Summary: Samuel Cooke knows most women wouldn’t give him a second glance even if he were the last man on earth. He’s the cripple with the crutches, the nerdy computer genius every female past puberty feels compelled to mother. So when he leaves his lucrative career to teach programming to high schoolers, romance definitely isn’t on his radar.

Perhaps that’s why Greta Cassamajor catches him off guard. The sarcastic gym coach with zero sense of humor is no beauty – not even on the inside. But an inexplicably kind act toward Samuel makes him realize she is interesting.

Samuel is certain she won’t accept his invitation to dinner – so when she does, he’s out of his depth. All he knows is that he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her as long as he can. Pretending he’s got his class under control? Easy. Being vulnerable enough to admit why he ditched his programming career for teaching? Um, no. That would require honesty. And if there’s one thing Samuel can’t live without, it’s the lies he tells himself.

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