Catch the Sun

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The Indie Chicks were invited to join Lee Zamloch’s Virtual Book Tour by reviewing a PDF version of her new book.

Book Title:  Catch the Sun
Author: Lee Zamloch
Format Reviewed: eBook (PDF)
Published On: July 23, 2012
Length: 316 pages
Price: $2.99 on Amazon.com
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Book description, from the Author’s media kit:

Marilyn Monroe begins appearing on Amanda Grace’s patio dancing, laughing at the moon and gazing at Amanda through the glass doors. Is it possible that Marilyn, against all reason, has somehow transported herself through time and space to contemporary Los Angeles? And why does she haunt Amanda, a model whose beauty is undeniable, but whose talent is questionable?

The visitations begin when Amanda’s mother, Edith, commits suicide, an event that shakes Amanda to her foundation. For, while she has been a successful model, she has always measured herself against her mother, a well-known artist who has overcome severe obstacles. But unlike Edith and her accomplished sister, Joanne, Amanda Grace has not distinguished herself intellectually or artistically, nor even managed to marry and have children. In her eyes, she has failed to live up to her mother’s expectations. Now, with Edith’s death, she has forever lost her chance to prove herself. In her grief, she forgets to eat, sleep, or carry on with life’s simplest tasks. The final blow comes when Amanda accidentally learns she was adopted. With the loss of her family as a touchstone, her foundation crumbles, and her fragile sense of self dissolves completely.

CATCH THE SUN is a story about how an obsession with a celebrity can impact the life of an ordinary woman. It explores our endless fascination with Marilyn Monroe’s fragility, beauty and dazzling rise and fall.

My Review:

Catch the Sun is the story of Amanda Grace – a gorgeous woman who once experienced a brief taste of fame as a fashion model, but who has since fallen from the limelight.  Faced with the suicide of her terminally ill mother, being dumped by her agent, and multiple failed attempts at an acting career – she slips into a self-destructive depression and begins seeing visions of Marilyn Monroe outside her windows.  She decides to learn everything she can about Marilyn Monroe and to do everything she can to look like Marilyn Monroe, so that she can make her comeback playing Marilyn Monroe in a movie about the legendary star.

Catch the Sun moves smoothly between the past – providing us with fascinating (though, of course, fictitious) glimpses of Marilyn’s life and psyche, and the present – focusing on Amanda’s growing obsession and depression.  Much of the book is written in the present tense which, up until now, has been a major turn-off for me – but this is such a well written and polished novel that I am almost a convert.

Although this book deals with dark topics such as suicide, depression, substance abuse, and abandonment – it is a well crafted story.  The really artful thing about the book is the way the author, Lee Zamloch, weaves a tapestry of intertwining, parallel lives.  For example these include: Amanda’s own inability to separate her incredible good looks from her personal identity and Marilyn’s frustrations that no one else can separate these two in her; and Amanda’s feeling of loneliness and abandonment by her mother’s death and her neighbor’s foster-daughter, Cherry’s, sorrow at the loss of her own mother.

Despite the book’s somber topics and events, I found the story kept my interest throughout.  However, I did find that some intriguing plotlines were not pursued and that the ending was somewhat inconclusive.  Catch the Sun’s strength definitely lies in the unique and interesting character developments for all of the women in this book.

Freeways to Flip-Flops

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Book Title:  Freeways To Flip-Flops: A Family’s Year of Gutsy Living on a Tropical Island
Author: Sonia Marsh
Publisher: Gutsy Publications
Format Reviewed: eBook
Published On: Aug 5, 2012
Length: 330 pages
Price: $4.99 on Amazon.com
Genre: Non-Fiction; Travel; Essays

Book description, taken from Amazon.com:

What do you do when life in sunny Southern California starts to seem plastic, materialistic and just plain hellish? For Sonia and Duke Marsh, the answer was to sell their worldly goods and move to an unspoiled, simpler life with their three sons in Belize, Central America, a third-world country without all the comforts and distractions of life in the developed world. Sonia hopes the move will bring her shattered family back together. She feels her sons slipping away from her, and her overworked husband never has time for her or the boys.

Instead, things begin to go wrong immediately. The home they initially rented isn’t available, so the family is forced to take up residence in a primitive, bug-infested shack. Duke’s telecommuting plans prove impractical because of unreliable Internet access, and he loses his job. Middle son Alec – always a conscientious, polite, tractable child – misses his friends and has trouble adjusting. As the days turn into months, Sonia finds herself questioning the family’s decision to move on a nearly daily basis.

This is the story of one family’s search for paradise. In this memoir, Sonia chronicles a year of defeats, fears and setbacks – and also the ultimate triumph of seeing once-frayed family ties grow back stronger from shared challenges and misfortunes. For Sonia, paradise turned out not to be a place, but an appreciation of life’s simple pleasures – a close-knit family and three well-adjusted sons with a global outlook on life.

My Review:

How many of us have dreamed about moving to a tropical island paradise to spend the remainder of our days relaxing by the crystal clear water, enjoying a cool drink with a little pink umbrella sticking out of the glass, and sleeping at night with the sound of waves lapping onto the beach mere feet from our rooms?

I purchased Sonia Marsh’s book, Freeways to Flip-Flops, from Amazon when it came out in eBook format in August. I’ve been a fan of Sonia’s blog, Gutsy Living, for quite some time now and knew she was finishing a book about her family’s move to Belize, a tropical country just south of Mexico. The location has long intrigued me so I was interested in learning what Sonia discovered during her time in that country, hoping her words would help me decide whether or not it was a place I at least want to visit.

I was not disappointed with the book. Sonia relates the story of her family, warts and all, and how she and her husband decided to uproot everyone from their comfortable life in California and transplant them, hook, line, and sinker, to a small island where internet signals were hit-and-miss, food was not always in abundant supply, and tropical breezes could very quickly become hurricane-force winds, knocking out power and turning small boats upside down in a matter of minutes.

Sonia tells her story in a down-to-earth voice, sparing the reader nothing when it comes to documenting the tensions that can abound in a home with three adolescent boys, a husband and a wife, all trying to figure out their places in the world. Sometimes I felt like a voyeur, peeking in the Marsh’s window and witnessing a sibling argument, harsh words between mother and son, or a make-up hug between a husband and wife after a disagreement.

As I followed the family through their months in Belize, I realized that paradise is indeed a place inside us, a feeling of peacefulness and wholeness rather than a physical location, just as Sonia said that she realized something similar. I also realized that uprooting an entire family, including teens and pre-teens, to a foreign land is not something I would want to attempt. However my family is grown now and I’m on my own—so who knows?

If you are interested in reading about real life on a tropical island (not the travel brochure air-brushed versions of life that promoters would like us to believe exists), then I highly recommend that you add Freeways to Flip-Flops to your list of books to read.

My Rating:
Four glasses of wine—a book worth reading, whether or not you are considering a life-changing move in the foreseeable future.

E-Learning 101: it’s not as tough as it looks

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Book Title:  E-learning 101: It’s not as tough as it looks
Author: Dr. Liz Hardy
Publisher: Liz Hardy, sold by Amazon Digital Services, Inc
Format Reviewed: eBook
Published On:  June 1, 2012
Words/Length:  Approximately 65 pages, File Size: 2591 KB
Price: $0.99 US
Genre:  Self-Help, Online Learning

Book description, taken from Amazon.com:

E-learning 101 is a one-stop e-learning resource.
This e-learning e-book will cheer you on, while it shows you the ropes. It’s just like having your own personal e-learning coach.
This e-learning resource can do three things for you.
1. Save you time – by quickly explaining how everything works (it’s much faster than guessing on your own).
2. Stop you worrying – by replacing your fears with action and progress.
3. Make you more confident – by giving you step-by-step strategies for dealing with the tricky parts.
E-learning 101 can help you if you’re:
* Anxious about e-learning
* Procrastinating about getting started
* Too busy to wade through enormous books about online learning
* Keen to make progress on your e-learning course right now.
In 6 short lessons, you’ll find the solutions to your biggest e-learning questions.
And you’ll discover that e-learning’s really not as tough as it looks.

My Review:

Dr. Liz Hardy sent a request to Indie Chicks to ask if either Faye or I would review her book, E-learning 101. She mentioned that I might be a good person to review it as I have a background in adult instructional learning and design, and I agreed that it was a subject that interests me.

The book is very straightforward, written in everyday language, except for a few odd terms that adults new to online learning might not know. For example:
Learning Management System
Moodle or Blackboard (apparently they are Learning Management System platforms),
but these were the only technical terms I noticed that I thought could have benefitted from further explanation.

The book is broken down into six lessons, each with subsections and ‘take action’ tasks plus key summaries at the end of each chapter. The chapter headings are quite self-explanatory:
1. Who’s afraid of technology?
2. Too busy to study?
3. How to study when you don’t feel like it
4. Can’t it wait ‘til tomorrow?
5. When deadlines attack
6. Is there anyone out there?

One particular section in the book spoke to me, and that is Lesson 2 where the author shows how to find time in busy schedules to carve out the hours needed to study. What I noted was that her strategy would work equally well for writers struggling to find gaps in their busy lives in order to write, or painters to paint, or dreamers to dream. It is a great chapter with good all-around tips for anyone searching for ways to squeeze more time from their busy lives.

‘E-learning 101’ is a quick read that should appeal to adults returning to the world of study after possibly many years of being away. I wouldn’t say anything in the book is new or earth-shattering, but it certainly is easy to read and digest and does not ‘talk down’ to the reader.

So, if you’re an adult getting your feet wet in the online world of E-learning you could quite possibly benefit from reading this book. Although its scope is very general in nature it does have quite a few good tips and strategies to help you make the most of your new experience.

My Rating:
4 glasses of wine: a good book to start new students on their path of self-directed learning.

The Indie Chicks received a free copy of this eBook from the author to enable this review.