Author: Sandra Lee
Release Date: July 2013 Length: 225 pages Series?: no Genre: Chick Lit, Cooking Format:Paperback Source:Purchased @ Scholastic book fair Challenge: n/a
First off, this book is written by a woman who hosts several different DIY type TV shows, and throughout the book she has included recipes that correspond with the foods mentioned in the book. There are 16 recipes listed in an index at the back of the book. I fully intend to try out some of the recipes.
This book delves into the complexities of a woman’s mind, and the relationships with her mother and daughter.
Family secrets. Pride. Fear. Self-realization. And it all starts with a small, wooden recipe box that’s traveled the Atlantic from Sweden to the American midwest…and a birth certificate found tucked in the back of it.
This small, family heirloom creates doubt, havoc and leads to nearly a lifetime of running: running from everything. Until a best friend’s sad end leads to some unique wishes, statements and sentiments sent in a variety of ways.
Grace Holm-D’Angelo is fighting her past, running from it, and making some of the same mistakes with her own daughter. With the death of her best friend, she’s not splitting time between LA and her hometown, but most definitely not making any heartfelt visits to her mother. Grace carries a lot of baggage that she’s refusing to acknowledge to anyone, and as high school friend and co-worker Ken point out, she has always had a hidden agenda.
Until all that she’s trying to hide erupts like a raging volcano. When she picks her daughter up from an LA police station, she can’t keep up the ruse. Teenage Emma is sent to live with Grace’s mother, and complete her school year in little New London, which his home to a great group of folks who are all willing to help. Indeed, Grace’s high school nemesis is now doing anything she can to help out. It’s a wake up call for Grace, as is the letter she receives from her high school bestie, Leeza, after her death.
Returning to New London, Grace keeps running into hometown handyman and fireman and high school English teacher Mike, who is helping Emma in completing her schoolwork. Where there’s one, there’s three. Grace’s ex-husband, Brian, now successful with his business, comes barging back into the picture, as well as rich chocolatier Von, Leeza’s Swiss cousin, whom Grace had a brief fling with years before. Von is a flitty guy, like a butterfly: here one second, gone the next. He does things on his terms and his time. He befriends Emma in aims of getting into Grace’s good graces, but Grace quickly shuts that down due to her past, and some fears and doubts she is not yet ready to voice.
This novel comes full circle, with not only Grace’s own self-realization and growth, but also that of many of the other characters. It really made me reflect on my relationship with my mother, and hers with her mother, and the changes over the last 15 years in those relationships, the difficulties we experienced, and perhaps set ourselves up for, and the solid ground we are on today.
It is a heartwarming read, especially for mothers, sisters, daughters and best friends.
Perhaps my favorite line from the entire novel comes at the end, by none other than Von:
Our mistakes should not go without apologies.
About the Author
Sandra Lee, a multi-Emmy® and Gracie award-winner, is an internationally-acclaimed expert in all things kitchen and home. Sandra Lee has predicted and changed the trajectory of American lifestyle with her signature “smart and simple” philosophy. She empowers people of all walks of life to create memorable meals, hospitable homes, and creative crafts and shows them how to entertain for every occasion―with ease.
Sandra is the editor in chief of Sandra Lee Magazine and the host of four highly-rated culinary programs on Food Network and Cooking Channel: Restaurant Remakes, Sandra’s Money Saving Meals, Semi-Homemade Cooking and Taverns, Lounges & Clubs. Additionally, Sandra is the host of HGTV’s Sandra Lee Celebrates, a series of prime time entertaining specials.
Widely-respected for anticipating the needs of the modern homemaker and consumers, Sandra has launched several lines of home, garden, seasonal and craft products and produced a successful DIY home improvement series. Her newest kitchens, tabletops, housewares, seasonal decors and domestics collections are available exclusively in Kmart/Sears, entitled Sandra by Sandra Lee.
Genre: fiction, chicklit, romance, cultural influence
This is a very special review for me. I was contacted by a marketing/publicity representative for Diversion Books, who asked if I’d like to be part of a blog tour for a hot, new summer book. I had no idea what a blog tour even was, but I was indeed interested! I ended up signing up to do a review, have an author guest post, and author interview AND a book giveaway! I am happy and excited to be a part of this.
Meet Teresa Felicia Santana León. In New York, she’s Tracy León, a would-be artist and telemarketer who falls for an older tycoon, Bruce Babich. When Bruce’s mother sends her to Rome to find a stolen painting, Tracy assumes an alter ego, the zesty Felicia Santana. In Rome, she meets a younger artist named Mario Giordani who helps her on her quest.
Before long, she is juggling two romances and two distinct identities: Tracy, demure trophy wife wannabe in New York’s high society, and wanton, thrill-seeking Felicia in sultry Rome. Against the backdrop of these exciting cities, she follows her divided heart, even if it leads her in the wrong direction.
The secrets behind the stolen painting send her on an unforgettable journey that prompts her to re-examine her own talents and inspirations. As the pieces come together, Tracy faces a life-changing choice, one that will lead to surprising discoveries about love and her own identity.
Sounds exciting, right? I was very impressed with this debut novel based on the synopsis and had high expectations. I couldn’t wait to start reading, and I finished the book in a couple of days. I was so into this book! Let me tell you why….
Tracy Felicia Santana is a child of Texans, with big dreams of graphic design and putting her love of art to work in New York. She leaves the nest and moves to New York and gets started. She marries Diego Leon, a man in her realm of work. But Diego wants the limelight and a wife at home, not so much in the workforce. Tracy puts all her dreams and her graphic design classes out of her mind and does what Diego wants her to do. Instead of climbing the ladder in the art world, Tracy stays working in the circulation department for ArtHouse.
Through Tracy’s reminisces, if you can call them that, she makes it clear that Diego washed away her dreams and her motivation to pursue them. It’s a sad, downtrodden fact that a lot of women today face once they are involved in a new relationship or one that evolves into a hasty marriage, as Tracy’s did. She has low self-esteem and no direction for her life; she’s just going through the run-of-the-mill, day-to-day mundane routine, trying to stay afloat in pricey New York.
Since then, Diego has divorced her and married the woman he was cheating on Tracy with…and then he dies, suddenly. Somehow, Tracy and Diego’s second wife, Donna, become best friends. The antics of Diego draw them together. They reminisce about their time with Deigo, and the ending of the novel is very reflective of relationships and the past:
But only the good parts remain. Isn’t it amazing how kind your memory can be? Ultimately, you only remember the happy times.
Donna is almost a foil of Tracy: she does not hide her beauty, she is an actress and she goes after new adventures. Tracy is content to stay in her little hole in New York. She doesn’t keep in regular contact with her family or “have a life.”
One day, Tracy’s boss at ArtHouse shares some more bad news. On that crappy day, she escapes to MoMA, where the art gives her an escape and lifts her mood. There she meets toy billionaire bachelor Bruce Babich, an Australian transplant, and they hit it off.
…And then enters Sophia Babich, Bruce’s socialite mother, as soon as Bruce shows interest Tracy. She gives Tracy an ultimatum: find and return a long-ago stolen painting of Sophia that was done by the famous Henri Matisse, or no Bruce. Talk about a hard assignment!
Where is Tracy even to start? She knows virtually nothing about the painting or the woman who stole it. She sets out for the only place that is connected to the woman: Italy. Little did she know what she’d find in Rome…or who.
Tracy discovers she is another person in Rome – and embraces it. She does as she’s asked, but experiences heartbreak and turmoil along the way. She got a hard bargain, but must pay up. But the secrecy and lies of Sophia Babich come to bite Tracy in the butt. It is indeed a twisted tale, very a-la Oedipus, that leaves Tracy in a very unexpected place.
OK, I said I had high expectations for this book. Tracy is a character who I’ve seen before in real life, but she gets a new lease on life, so to speak. Instead of fully using it, she squanders it.
All the moving around forced her to become a new person each time she had to fit in with a new class.
About halfway through the book, I realized Tracy as a character was not going to really grow and develop. If she did, I would be shocked, so I think that was my biggest disappointment. As a military brat, Tracy was constantly moving and having to make new friends. She is used to taking on or creating new identities – it’s how she survived childhood and is very typical of women in new, unstable relationships. It is typical of women who have no sense of self, who latch on and become whatever it is their love source wants them to become. Indeed, Tracy finds herself in an identity crisis:
Who was she? At one time, she knew she could be anything she wanted to be. Right now, she only knew she did not want to be this person. Couldn’t she be more?
And in Rome…
She was her own creation here, despite loving Bruce and wanting to be with him. Bruce was an ocean away. This was Rome and she could be anything she wanted.
She knew she was using Mario to get over Bruce. She had lost the man she truly wanted and in exchange, Mario served as the quintessential rebound man.
The ache from losing Bruce still gave her a great deal of pain, but now she had Mario, she reminded herself, a young stud with an amazing technique in bed. He served as a rebound man, not a partner or a man for always, just someone who would give her romance and passion at a time when she needed it most.
But Rome was so good to Tracy! In Rome, Tracy comes alive, exploring the very things she loves: the arts. Her life in Rome is the antithesis of her life in New York. She is bold, daring, exciting, sensual, sexual. She is willing to take risks, and she finds a man who supports her, gives her freedom and reign to be her own person, and who promotes and encourages her freehand sketches. Reading the bits about Rome through Tracy’s eyes made her endearing, and you just can’t help but root for her to follow her passions!
Later, when everything comes to a head, as these things always do, Tracy claimed to be “a victim of circumstance.” This surprised me, since Tracy made conscious decisions, making several flights between New York and Rome. She gives insight to readers about her turmoil, leading up to the thought that she will make a definitive decision. But as things do when we humans weave our tangled webs, things did not go according to plan…and everything snowballs.
The end of the novel is tied up in neat little bows. It gives a pretty depiction of people, romance and romantic conflicts. People don’t act that way – at all! So that bothered me a bit. The only change in Tracy from beginning to end was she became more risky (hence, all the running away) and the thing I liked: she’s keeping up with her own art. Perhaps that’s a stepping stone to reclaiming herself, I hope.
I’m going to be bold and suggest that Parra is making a statement with this novel:
Be who you are.
Do what you love, what you enjoy.
Take risks, do something new.
Change your life.
And those things are very important to a full, happy life and are often overshadowed when new, unexpected things enter our lives.
Don’t diminish yourself by being two incomplete fragments when you can be one whole.
I want to share this book with certain women in my life who are like Tracy, to show them that they can be the person they were meant to be. This is a great read that gives a lot of cultural references about certain areas and aspects of Italy. Parra has infused this novel in rich Roman experiences, food, culture and art. If you want an in-house experience of Rome, but can’t afford the trip, this book gives a beautiful sneak peek to enjoy. Parra did a very good job including large amounts of Roman culture and life into this novel, and that’s not an easy thing to do. My hat’s off to you, Daniel Parra!
I received a digital copy via Smashwords in return for an honest review.
Curriculum Building Ideas:
Language Arts: Reader’s Notebook, Literary Circles, Guided Reading Groups, Writer’s Workshop, Sequencing, Plot, Character Map/Analysis, Inferences/Predictions, Connections (Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World), Graphic Organizers, Symbol and Theme, Reader’s Theatre, Reflections
Social Studies: Scale Diagram of Raker Island, Map of Raker Island, Timeline
Math: “Design the Island” – based on information provided from the book, students create floor plans, diagrams or models of Wellington Academy
This is Hickman’s debut novel, and I found it interesting that he shared how pieces of this book came to be, including the title and some of the research he did. If you are a budding writer, you may want to check it out.
They had become a stain in my memory, the letters bleeding indeterminably together. But their impact lingered.
Hickman most definitely hits the proverbial nail on the head, in so many ways in The Keeper of Dawn. Rebellion at its finest. It rips away the prestige of privileged boys and exposes what lies behind them, both in their personal lives and their school/career lives. The Raker Island lighthouse is both a symbol and a motif in this novel about four young boys sent to boarding school. I could not put this book down, and thought I’d finish it in one sitting. But life interrupted, and I had to finish in a few installments late at night which I think detracted from the momentum of the novel, and also the emotional connection between the characters and I. I’ve tried to capture all that I could in this review without spilling the beans, but let me tell you two things: Hickman’s written a stellar novel, and you won’t be disappointed! This book belongs alongside other award-winning young adult novels about coming of-age, life lessons and facing demons of the past.
Nothing stays for long. Nothing but that lighthouse.
Oh, how true this proves to be…
Sons of great men are sent to a belly-up island resort turned prep school, Wellington Academy, off the coast of Rhode Island. Rebellion is in the minds of adolescent boys, especially the flashy Governor’s angry son, Chris, who detests his father’s attitudes and tries to be everything his father is not. He acts out extremely to bring a glaring light onto Governor Forsythe.
Jacob Hawthorne, the main character, is a serious 15 year-old son of privilege. Yet he is nervous to meet his father, the “great vanisher” who continually disappears out of his life, on the celebratory parents’ day at his school. His mother professes that he’s a great man, but she’s not entirely convinced herself. Indeed, Jacob is sent to Raker Island to Wellington, the same resort island his parents honeymooned on. He’s been sent there so he won’t follow in his older brother’s footsteps, and he’s determined not to enjoy a moment of it. He yearns for his father’s approval – would even settle for acknowledgement – and has stolen a photo of his father from his mother’s wedding album. His father stands on the very same island he is now imprisoned on, and he often finds himself gazing at the photo.
Benjamin Bailey, Jacob’s roommate, is the overweight kid who’s always left out, and swears he plays fair. Although he is a pessimist – or rather, because of it – he keeps his “unfavorable opinions to himself.” However, that quickly changes when popular Chris cozies up to him for a covert mission after lights-out. It goes terribly wrong for Ben, who then avoids the boys even though they rescued him. Things continue to get horribly worse for Benjamin at Wellington, forcing him to leave. 😦
Derek Meyhew is the equivalent of Mr. Roper from Three’s Company: the nosy neighbor, always butting and barging in. In the very first chapter, he’s telling Benjamin how to do up his tie with the eerily foreshadowing comment: The secret to a proper noose is you need just enough length to hang yourself.
After a run-in with the ill-fated Chris and his sidekick Roland leaves them all with the punishment of helping the maintenance man, Max, restore the buildings and grounds, and another run-in with a group of upper-classmen and two quite accidental plays on the football field during an intramural game between halls, Jacob’s in for it. There will be no more “flying under the radar” for Jacob Hawthorne at Wellington…but a bond grows between him and the school’s maintenance man, Max, that will prove invaluable.
These boys band together for mischievous purposes at Wellington, breaking quite a few rules. The old abandoned lighthouse, rumored to be haunted, serves as a place that makes these young men face the the not-so-well hidden realities of their lives, their families, and ultimately their destinies, serves to leave the buried secrets and fears in the dark…and incites them to grander adventures. It reminds me starkly of the barn scene (The Best and Worst Days) in Looking for Alaska in such a way that both makes me happy as a reader, but sad given what I know will eventually happen.
Meanwhile, other boys are taking notice of the group, begrudgingly dubbed The Headliners, in honor of their morning ritual of pouring over the news headlines searching for news of their fathers, when one day all of their fathers make headlines: Chris looking for Governor Forsythe’s next ridiculous act for attention to get voted back into his cozy seat; Derek seeing how his father’s home security company is faring financially; Roland perusing his four-star general father’s new post-Vietnam military strategies, and Jacob catching up on the court rulings so he doesn’t hear his judge father’s decisions from someone else. The Headliners take it upon themselves to help Jake out when it comes to his arch enemy, “Loosy-Goosy” by playing a few pranks on him.
Wellington’s new “absent-minded” history professor, O’Leary, from a rival school, is much like Mr. Keating in Dead Poets Society. He invokes the students to question, to think, and he also pursues Jacob in an effort to provide some guidance and support. At their first meeting, he assures the students:
It is my job to present the facts. It is your job to decipher them. There will be no fence-sitters in my classroom. To not have an opinion is to not be informed.
A few grand schemes lead to some very unplanned and unexpected scares and injuries, separating all the boys. Long hidden secrets are revealed; all but one. Hype and the outside world is brought to the secluded island when Wellington hosts the 1980 Senatorial Debate – and things go horribly, horribly wrong, as planned by the boys. This begins the unmistakable scrutiny of both Wellington and Chris’ governor father. But as the book progresses and nears the end, you find that things are not quite as they seem with Jacob and his father, and a long-buried, painful memory is brought into the light of day in the newly renovated and serviceable Raker lighthouse.
Denial can lie very thick in a child’s heart.
But if certain events are edited, perhaps even omitted altogether, how much trust can we put in the printed word?
I had forgotten most of it, or made up lies to decive myself into believing something less hurtful than the truth.
The three quotes above are the essence of this book. We can’t talk about it – buy you can find out what I mean by reading the book. 🙂
The title of this book comes from a quote by a Coast Guard man whose grandfather was a lighthouse keeper:
They started a movement to preserve their profession. They wanted to go back to the way things were. All those years lighting the night sky, of preserving at least a glimmer of the dawn, and they didn’t know how to live without it. Something very dear had been taken from them, and they fought with everything they had to not let it go.
They were the Keepers of Dawn…just as Jacob will become.
The prologue is a bit disjointed, and it’s not clear in the divided section where he is. From vague comments, the first seems to be his initial trip to boarding school, while the second is back at his often deserted home. The fact that nothing looked recognizable to him suggests some amount of time has passed. The disjointedness of the first few chapters and the confusion in the last few will all be revealed – and explain these peculiarities (and in this case, tools) of writing.
Jacob’s memories don’t match up with the physical appearances of the present, but he is always pressing on … because of David. His parents hold his grandfather responsible for what happened to his older brother, David, and the reason behind why he left. Jacob seeks out his estranged grandfather to find out exactly what kind of hand he had in David’s leaving, and ends up forging a new-found bond that endures while he is at Wellington. It stays unchanged and keeps him grounded when everything else in his life is going one speed: hellbent.
The first chapter is noticeably jumpy from the first to second paragraphs, creating the same disjointedness as in the prologue. This appears again throughout the novel, juxtaposing the present with the past. It’s not clear why this is until it’s occurred few times. His flashbacks of the times spent with his grandfather are indeed juxtaposed in a sequence creating a parallel of his relationship with his grandfather and his experiences at Wellington: when he recounts first meeting his grandfather after all the years (and the David business), it directly follows the new start at Wellington; becoming familiar and less formal with his grandfather also follows an event of The Headliners in which it is apparent that they are indeed friends.
His grandfather is remarkable in that he has a lot of metaphors and similes about life, such as the following about bonsai trees:
*in reference to him, his son (Jake’s father), and David (and even Jake himself)….
Like most of us…they’re set in their ways. It’s taken years for their branches to grow to where you see them today. They have to be guided when they are young by wiring their trunks. Then the sunlight takes things from there. For most of them, it would be hard to change their location. The young ones could handle it, but the older ones like Julius here wouldn’t much care for it at all.
*in reference to his son’s absence from most of Jake’s life (and probably David’s too)….
Their name is a reminder that their life is in your hands….And they’ll know if you neglect them.
Being a good caretaker requires more than just performing the day-to-day chores. Perhaps most important of all, a bonsai needs to be loved.
*in reference to himself and his son, and their behavior to their sons….
I meddle too much. I either cut too far back, or trim too often. That’s the mistake of an amateur – to try and do too much. You don’t want to smother them, but it’s human nature to tamper, to try to mold them into a particular image. It’s a mistake made innocently enough, but one that can have disastrous consequences.
One of the many sad parts of this book was at the end of the chapter with the bonsai trees. Jake adopts one from his grandfather and eventually takes it home. The sight startled his own father and “sealed [his] fate to Raker Island” he was later to discover….and SO SO much more that I wish I could spill because I’m dying to gush about this book, but I don’t want to ruin it. I was saddened to see the progression of the bond between these boys (and the reasons for it), followed quickly by the disintegration of the boys’ friendship, as predicted by Mr. O’Leary in his warning to Jacob in the very beginning:
Are you part of it, Jake? Or are you caught up in it?….In adolescence, boys are clannish. Girls are intimate, but boys are more tribal. They’re like wolves – they socialize in packs. They’re loyal to those in their pack, but suspicious of outsiders. When a boy comes to boarding school, he is alone for the first time in his life. As a result, he loses his identity in the group. But it is also in the group that he truly finds himself. Forget about education, forget about the Ivy League and that six-figure job at the end of the road. A boarding school’s real mission is to give boys good tribes with good elders. If this is done properly, they will prosper and grow. But give them no tribes, and they will create their own without elders, and they will become irretrievably lost.
That’s what a scare is. A reminder that once upon a time you were hurt bad enough to be changed by it.