Monthly Reads July

Monday, August 3, 2015

We're somewhere on the road today in the middle of our CA>VA road trip, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to share my Monthly Reads from July!

July was such a hectic month that I really didn't read much at all. It took me way longer to read both of these books that it usually would, but I think I've had a pretty good excuse with all of this packing going on. That being said, I really enjoyed reading both of these books as a great way to settle down in the evenings over the past month.
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Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
I'd seen this title floating around online for a while, but once I really looked close and saw that it was by Cheryl Strayed I knew I had to read it. I absolutely loved the book and movie Wild, and if you've read it or seen it then you know why I rushed to order this book. (My friend Georgia commented to me on Goodreads that it was her favorite book ever, and when Georgia loves a book, I know I'll love a book!) Cheryl is an incredible writer; she speaks straight to your soul and makes you feel as though she's speaking directly to you. This is even more apparent (and even more the intention) in Tiny Beautiful Things.

Several years ago, Cheryl Strayed took a writing position as an anonymous advice columnist for the website The Rumpus. As "Dear Sugar," she honestly and passionately answered the desperate letters of those who wrote to her with stories of their heartbreak, grief, and fears. This collection of questions and answers is full of sadness, humor, and hope. I found myself repeatedly finishing one exchange (letter to and from Sugar) and immediately wanting to share it with someone. I wanted to Tweet, Facebook, and blog about almost all of these exchanges, anxious for everyone I could reach to join me in reading along and soaking up all of Sugar's advice and musings. In the end, I would have shared the entire book, so it was easier to just hold off and just tell you to head out to your favorite bookstore or get on Amazon and buy it for yourself, immediately. Everyone in the world can relate to at least one (and probably more) of these exchanges and definitely find love and peace in Cheryl's words. Please read this one ASAP!

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You Knew Me When by Emily Liebert
Sometimes you have a gift card to Barnes and Noble and figure you should stock up on a few new paperbacks. Sometimes you notice that you'll get free shipping if you spend $25, but your cart only has $22 in it. Sometimes you'll head over to B&N's discount page and see if you can find a $4 book that sounds interesting enough to buy that will also put you over $25 (because if you're going to spend $7 on shipping anyway, you might as well try to cross that free shipping line and get a book instead.) This is what happened to me last month and how I ended up with Liebert's book, You Knew Me When.

This book was not life-changing or insightful, extremely exciting or full of twists, but it was a simple, slow, and entertaining book. The characters were well developed and their story was interesting. The story follows two adult women who can no longer stand to be in the same room as each other, but flashes back to show a time when they used to be best friends, sisters even. As they're brought together again and forced to deal with a house they have jointly inherited, we begin to discover what drove them apart in the first place. Even though this book was not one of "my favorite books ever and the best things I've ever read," sometimes you need a light, entertaining read to help you slow down in the evenings. This was a great book to get that fix and I'm glad I found it.

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Life After Death: A Survivor's Story by Brad Fite
As I mentioned in a recent Weekly Roundup, I have known Brad's wife Aimee for almost a decade now. I watched from afar, through Facebook, as they dated, married, divorced, reunited, and had their first child, but between the lines I witnessed a struggle as Brad suffered through his various physical and emotional scars from war. This book is Brad's intimate, personal story of how he came to join the military and what happened next.

Brad was nearly torn to pieces when an IED exploded under his tank in Afghanistan, taking the life of one of his fellow soldiers and best friend. After various surgeries, rehabs, and regaining the ability to walk, Brad was lucky to be alive, but felt anything but. His PTSD was by far the most difficult part of his recovery, and continues to be so even to this day. Even after emotional struggles that lead him to extreme risk-taking, drug addiction, divorce, and suicide attempts, Brad has come out on the other side of this experience with a new look on life, love, and God.

This is an easy read length- and pace-wise, but the content is anything but easy to read. I personally would have enjoyed this story to have been written in chronological order, but Brad arranges everything in a way that approaches different facets of his experience at different points, driving home that the lessons he has learned and the giant leaps he has made in recovery outweigh the things that brought him to this point. I believe this is a wonderful and important book to read by anyone who has any family or friends in the military, as it may help them understand their soldiers better after their return home from war.