Book Review: Amanda by Sarah Monzon. Eye-opening, humorous, and touching all rolled into one.

Genre: Christian romantic comedy

Amazon Description:

“The devil made me do it” is a phrase that will never pass my lips. Why would it when I have Delores, my undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, to make all my decisions for me? (Yes, I named her myself since the doctors couldn’t do it for me.) A get together with friends? Delores says no. I’ll have my prescheduled daily afternoon fever and fatigue at that time.

My two biggest regrets with having Delores direct my fate? One, my family thinks my illness is all in my head. And two, I set the love of my life, Peter Reynolds, free from my anchoring tether so he could fly. I never thought I’d see him again, but five years later he’s soaring in the limelight as one of the most talked-about defensive players in professional football. Oh, and did I mention he also happens to play for the team my boss just assigned me to as a social media manager?

Meanwhile, nothing much has changed for me. Delores still bosses me around, and I’m still hopelessly in love with Peter. What’s a girl to do?

My Review:

Amanda by Sarah Monzon was a spur-of-the-moment read for me after I read about her in an online forum for Christian Fiction readers. The covers of her recent series caught my eye, of course, but the obvious talent for writing an engaging story was apparent in the first few paragraphs and caught my attention even more. 

Amanda Murphy has spent a good deal of her adult life dealing with an invisible enemy — an undiagnosed autoimmune disease she has nicknamed Dolores. Because Dolores rears her ugly head at the most inopportune times, Amanda has learned to push people away, to keep them from having to deal with Dolores the way she does.

One of the people she’s pushed away is the hunky, now NFL star Peter Reynolds. Of course, Peter wasn’t an NFL star when they first met, but now he is one of the hottest and most popular professional athletes in the country, and Amanda’s boss wants her to work with him to create a social media presence.

The only problem? Amanda hasn’t spoken to Peter since she broke up with him five years ago; since she decided she didn’t want him to have to deal with her health issues. Those issues would have held him back and he probably wouldn’t be the star he is today if he’d stayed with her. That’s her rationale at least and for someone who doesn’t deal with chronic health issues, it may seem silly and like an unrealistic plot point.

Take it from someone who deals with chronic health issues first-hand, both in my life and family members’ lives — it is not an unrealistic plot point.

Maybe one reason I was drawn to this story is that I also deal with an undiagnosed condition, which may or may not be autoimmune. I just haven’t come up with a cute name for it like Amanda has. I’d probably nickname mine Hildegard the Destroyer.

 I actually didn’t read the description of this book until I downloaded it to my Kindle, which makes the fact I chose this book in the series that much more interesting.

Like Amanda I can function in life despite the aches, weakness, brain fog, tingling in the extremities, and fatigue. Like Amanda, I have learned not to talk about a condition many doctors can’t diagnose and many in my past have suggested is “in my head.” Like Amanda, I have had friends and family walk away because they simply can’t deal with my “drama” or my “obvious cry for attention” even though I now rarely talk about the condition that knocks me down with its ever-changing symptoms from day to day. I rarely talk about it except for this review, of course. *wink*

 I could relate to Amanda not wanting her new friends to know about her condition. If they did there were a number of scenarios that could unfold. Her friends could grow weary of her using Delores as an excuse not to attend events or accomplish tasks the rest of them could. Her friends might also try to push their suggestions on her and when she didn’t accept them, simply walking about because Amanda “obviously doesn’t want to get better.” Been there, done that.

Honestly, it is hard to be friends with a person with a chronic illness. I do understand that. After the friend has made so many excuses for why they can’t go here or there or do this or that, you do feel like no longer asking them, and eventually, you not only stop asking them but also stop talking to them. Who wants to keep talking to someone who can only talk about what natural remedy they’ve tried this time to help their symptoms? The struggle is real.

A reviewer who shared her impression of this book told me she hoped that when I read it I would feel seen. I guess I could say that, yes, I did feel seen after reading this book. I could relate to a lot of it (sans the hot NFL star chasing after me) so I did feel seen but I have some family who does support me, does see me, and does support me. The people who need to read this book are the people who don’t have that support, who feel alone, lost, and are basing their worth on how bad their symptoms have flared that day and what activity it has kept them from participating in.

My grandmother was dismissed for years. She suffered in silence, crying out in agony late into the night. Doctors ignored her or gave her medicine or surgeries instead of really trying to find out what was wrong. She was most likely mocked, abandoned, and told she didn’t pray enough, rebuke Satan enough, or didn’t have the faith necessary to be healed.

Amanda is a book for the people who have faced those uphill battles, who know that the book they are reading won’t perfectly tell their story (since each story is unique) but will remind them that the world is not as cruel as it seems sometimes. That there are people who understand what they are going through. There are people who “get it.” That there are people who will do their best to understand, even if not everyone in their lives does.

One of the people who gets it, whether from personal experience or simply doing research is Sarah Monzon. Maybe she hasn’t experienced what Amanda did personally. Maybe she doesn’t know anyone who has, but if she took the time to research the trials those with autoimmune diseases go through then she is one more person who understands, one more person who will view a person with an invisible disease with compassion and not scorn.

Even one person telling people with an autoimmune disease that they aren’t alone is worth as much or even more than an entire medical community finally admitting they have tossed people like my grandmother and mom to the side because they simply have no idea how to treat them.

This is a book that is fun to read even if you can’t relate to Amanda’s challenges. It isn’t a downer or a heavy read at all, even if some of the subject matter is a heavy topic for those who deal with it. The book has funny, raw, cute, authentic, and sweet romantic moments all rolled into one quick-readable package.

Special Fiction Saturday: The Farmers’ Sons (Harvesting Hope) Chapter 10

Welcome to another edition of The Farmers’ Sons, which has been renamed Harvesting Hope for it’s novel release at the end of the summer. This is a serial fiction, which I share each Friday and ocassionally Saturday.

If you didn’t catch it yesterday, I shared Chapter 9 yesterday for Fiction Friday. To catch up with the rest of the story click HERE.

Chapter 10

Jason stared in horror at Tom’s pale face and motionless body. He reached out slowly then jerked his hand back, startled, as Tom groaned and slowly rolled to his back. Tom’s voice rose barely above a whisper as he moved his hand around to touch his own side.

“When did you Tanner’s install a train in your back pasture?”

“Tom, I’m so sorry. He almost never charges like that. Maybe once every couple years.”

Tom laughed softly then wince. “We must have really pissed him off then.”

Jason lifted Tom’s hand, saw red drops staining the ground, and swallowed hard. Old Bert had hit his mark, but Jason wasn’t sure how much damaged he’d managed to inflict.

“I’m going to call for help. Don’t move, okay?”

Tom nodded weakly. “It’s probably not as bad as it looks.” He winced again. “Or feels.”

With the phone cradled between his cheek and shoulder, Jason waited for 911 to pick up while he gently lifted Tom to get a better look at his back. Red was spreading across Tom’s shirt. Jason pulled off his own shirt and bunched it up against Tom’s back, pressing it firmly in place while he gave 911 his location. He hoped the pressure would stop the bleeding.

The dispatcher gave him directions on how Tom should lay until the ambulance arrived. “Keep him still as much as you can,” she said. “There may be broken bones or internal bleeding. The ambulance will be there soon. And keep the pressure on.”

Jason was glad to have the dispatcher on the other end of the phone because he was having a hard time remembering his training as he watched Tom close his eyes. First his dad last year, now Tom. It was a trend he didn’t welcome.

“They’ll be here soon, Tom.”

Tom nodded and grimaced.  “It hurts about as bad as that kidney stone I passed last year, but I’m okay.”

Jason did his best to cover his rising panic with a laugh. “I remember that stone. Ellie was beside herself with worry.”

Tom closed his eyes briefly. “Yeah, she thought I had cancer.”

Jason grinned. “How did you know that? I thought she only told me that.”

“I know her too well,” Tom answered. “It was written all over her face.” He shifted his arm under his head. His shirt and jeans were coated in a layer of dirt. “Don’t blame yourself for this, Jason. It wasn’t your fault.”

Jason looked down the road, willing the ambulance to come faster.

“Jason, don’t ignore me.” Tom’s voice was firm. “I’ve known you long enough to know you’re going to blame yourself. This was no one’s fault. Except ornery Old Bert’s.”

Jason was grateful when he heard the sound of a car approaching and didn’t even mind that it was his truck instead of the ambulance. At least this way he didn’t have to answer Tom.

Molly jumped from the truck and approached them quickly. The color had already drained from her face. She took on a grayish hue as she kneeled next to Tom.

“The ambulance is on the way,” Jason told her then briefed her and Alex on what had happened.

“Jason told me you took Liz to the hospital.” Tom’s voice was tinged with pain, but he was smiling. “Do we have a new resident in Spencer Valley?”

Alex shrugged. “No new baby yet. False alarm.”

Jason was glad for the chance to laugh, at least a little. “I told her she wasn’t in labor.”

Molly unhooked the flannel shirt she’d had tied around her middle and balled it into a pillow for Tom.

“You Tanners sure know how to take care of a guest.” Tom laughed then winced again.

After Tom was loaded into the ambulance a half an hour later, Jason sat back along the dirt road, his arms propped on his knees. He stared at his trembling hands, stained with Tom’s blood. Letting out a shaky breath, he closed his eyes and clenched his fists, fighting nausea and dizziness.

“I’ll head up and tell Rena,” Molly said, squeezing his shoulder. “I’ll also call Ellie.”

He nodded and looked up to see her holding a paper towel. He took it and worked at scrubbing the blood from his skin.

“Come on.” Alex held his hand out. “We’ll drop Molly off at her truck and head back to the hospital.” He smacked Jason on his bare back as he pulled him to his feet. “I’m starting to get use to the place. Let’s stop and get you a shirt first, though. We don’t need your six pack causing pandemonium among the nurses.”

ELLIE’S HAND SHOOK she opened the door to her car and stepped out into the hospital parking lot. The black asphalt was still damp from the passing thunderstorms earlier in the day.

Her legs wobbled under her and she wasn’t sure she’d make it to the emergency room entrance without collapsing. She had rushed across town from her apartment, calling Judi as she drove.

She’d tried reaching Judi on her cell three times in the last fifteen minutes. She wasn’t picking up. She tried again before walking inside the hospital.

“Judi, where are you? Pick up!”

Voice mail. Again. When Judi had said she was going to visit friends, Ellie had thought she meant locally. Maybe she’d meant her friends in the city, not the ones she’d left behind in Spencer.

The hallway leading to the emergency room was blocked by a tall white desk with a receptionist sitting at it.

The receptionist didn’t look up from her computer as Ellie approached.

“My father was being brought in my ambulance. Can you tell me if he’s here yet?”

Shoulder length, straight black hair, featuring a solitary purple streak down the left side, framed the receptionist’s face. “Name?”

“Thomas Lambert.”

Immaculate, extended hot pink fingernails clicked over the computer keys. “He’s here. Exam room three.”

“Which way?”

The woman, who could have been anywhere from 30 to 50, pushed her tongue through light pink gum and blew a bubble out and up to the height of her nose. Ellie’s gaze focused on her dark purple lipstick as the bubble popped, the gum’s remnants spreading over the woman’s lips. The receptionist shook her head and sucked the gum back in her mouth, her eyes on the computer, her index finger pointing at Ellie’s left shoulder. “You need to wait in the waiting room across the hall. I’ll let you know when you’re allowed back.”

“But it’s my —”

The woman’s finger retained it’s original position while her other hand glided over the surface of the keyboard and her gaze remained on the computer screen.

Ellie emitted a frustrated huff of air as she walked into the waiting room, sitting down in a blue plush chair with tan wooden arms. She tapped her foot impatiently against the freshly cleaned linoleum. An elderly woman sitting across from her held a purse on her lap, hugging it to her chest. Her chin rested on her chest and a soft snore whiffled from her nose.

Ten minutes passed before Ellie heard the emergency room door slide open again. She watched the door expectedly. Molly had said Rena had declined to be driven to the hospital. She was driving herself. It wasn’t her though.

Her stomach tightened at the sight of Jason and Alex standing at the front desk. She should have expected them, but her mind had been on her father’s condition not on the chance she might see her ex-boyfriend.  Ex-boyfriend. Had she just thought that? Well, he was her ex now. Wasn’t he?

She prayed to God they wouldn’t come into the waiting room.

It was one of many unanswered prayers she’d expressed lately. They walked in a few moments later, Jason’s gaze shifting away from hers quickly as he sat in a chair to her right, against the wall..

Alex sat next to her. “Any news?”

She shook her head, keeping her eyes downcast. She couldn’t help noticing spots of red on the legs of Jason’s jeans. A lump formed at the base of her throat. “No. Not yet.”

Several minutes of awkward silence followed. Alex tapped his hand on the arm of the chair and Jason leaned his elbows on his knees and stared at the floor, periodically adjusting his brown John Deere cap.

“I told him I could handle it.” Jason’s voice, barely audible, broke the silence. He didn’t look up from the waiting room floor.

Ellie folded her hands in her lap, her gaze focused on her red and blue slip on shoes.

“Well, he’s always been stubborn,” she said finally, feeling like she should say something.

Alex laughed, rubbed a hand across his unshaven jaw. “Guess it runs in the family.”

Ellie and Jason both looked at him sharply. He pushed himself up in the chair and cleared  his throat. “Too soon?”

The receptionist materialized in the doorway like a haunting visage, tapping a pen on the doorframe.

“You with Tom Lambert?”

Ellie and Jason stood, speaking in unison “Yes.”

The receptionist pointed the pen at Ellie. “You’re the daughter, right?”

Ellie nodded.

“You can come back.” The melancholic figure pointed the pen at Jason. “You can wait here. Unless you’re the son?”

Jason shook his head. He wasn’t, but he’d almost been his son-in-law. The realization seemed especially painful at the moment.

Ellie stepped around Jason, pausing when his hand touched her forearm. Lifting her eyes, she stared into glistening green eyes she’d lost herself in so many times before.

“I’m sorry.” Her lips parted to respond, but she wasn’t sure what to say. What was he apologizing for? Her dad? What had happened in college?

“I shouldn’t have let him help,” he whispered.

She swallowed hard, nodded. Part of her thought that after their break-up Jason would simply disappear from her life, her family’s life. Obviously it was an absurd thought. They lived in a small farming community, he lived down the road from her parents’ house, and they’d all known each other for years. Of course, they’d interact with each other in some way. Even in ways that would lead to physical and emotional pain.

Her voice was nearly toneless. “Okay.”

The word fell flat against what she could tell was a sincere apology. She hated it, but she didn’t have time to focus on his feelings. Her father was laying in an emergency department exam room, and she had no idea what his condition was. How Jason felt wasn’t her priority right now.

His hand slipped from her arm as she walked toward the exit of the waiting room. At the same moment she entered the hallway, her mother walked through the emergency room doors. She reached for Rena’s hands to steady herself, provide distraction from the way she’d walked away from Jason as if she didn’t believe he was actually sorry.

Somehow, at that moment, for so much more than what had happened to her dad,  sorry wasn’t enough.

Book Review: Avoiding Marriage by Karin Beery

Avoiding Marriage by Karin Beery

Publisher:  EABooks Publishing 

Description:

Two years ago, Jessica Miller made a mess of her already confusing life. Now, she’s back in Boyne Heights, and she’s determined to fix her reputation. She can’t seem to avoid the past that haunts her, but that’s the joy of small-town life—word spreads and people remember. Intent on her mission, however, she faces her past head-on, taking a job with her ex-boyfriend while avoiding her grandmother’s attempts to find her a new one.

My Review:

I was provided a complimentary copy of this book, which I appreciated because I might not have picked it up on my own. It was the first time I’d read anything by this author so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I don’t usually read a ton of light romances or novellas but apparently, I am missing out because I really enjoyed this one. In fact, I enjoyed the characters so much that my only complaint is that the book wasn’t long enough. I know there are other books with these characters, however, so I am looking forward to reading more about them in the future.

Part of me felt, at first, that the premise was a little unrealistic – the idea of a young woman going to work for her ex-boyfriend who is now married, but then I thought about all the people around me who are doing similar things. I mean I even know of an actor whose ex-wife produces movies with him. What this book reminded me was that people move on, heal, and grow in many different ways so even if I wouldn’t be comfortable with that, there are plenty of people who are and have been.

The main character’s (Jessica’s) life was very relatable to me. To some, it may have seemed she had more on her than “real” people would, in regards to her family’s situation, but in my world, families are messy. There are divorces and hurt feelings and addictions and recovering addicts, etc. I like that Karin isn’t afraid to face those issues head-on. In the midst of all of Jessica’s struggles is the chance for love and that brings lighter and sweeter moments to the story.

This is a quick read for an avid reader, which is nice because then you can move on to Ashley’s story (which occurs before this one) in Practically Married or other books by Karin.

I received a copy of Practically Married from the author. This in no way affects my review. All opinions are my own.