Growing up, my family always went camping during spring break. For the longest time, there was no cell phone service, no wifi, and no other way to contact my social life back home during these trips. As long as I didn’t have a boyfriend at the time, I was fine with this. Haha! It’s nice to unplug with no worries of the real world back home. When I was younger, that was the “real world” of school. (I can’t believe I ever thought high school was the real world.) As I’ve grown up, the “real world” is work, keeping up with our home, etc. That feels more real now.
Back then, not having these connections to the real world gave me a surprising amount of free time on these camping trips. I used all my extra time to hike and read. Some trips, I would read a book a day. Spring Break became the week where my fun-reading happened. Not the mandatory list of books for english or the long chapters in a biology textbook or even continuing education books for personal training - This was my week for guilty pleasure reading.
Let me start by saying I was raised to be a nerd. There was no escaping this. My parents had us going
to the Library, and checking out books before we could even read. We belonged to the program of the San Antonio Public Library, where you’d get a free t-shirt when you completed a certain amount of books each summer. Those t-shirts were the coolest, okay? If we weren’t listening to Shania Twain or Metallica on our long roadtrips, we had the Harry Potter audiobooks to listen to!
Even if that didn’t turn me into a book geek. My third - fifth grade teacher sure did! To this day she’s still, by far, my absolute favorite teacher. I mean no disrespect to the other amazing educators in my life, but she was really amazing. I was lucky enough to have her for 3 years of elementary school, and each year she encouraged and motivated our class to read more. She also had one of the coolest classroom libraries! She had to have spent tons of her own hard-earned money on those books. That library would’ve taken years to develop otherwise. Having access to great authors, even at a young age is so important. It teaches young students to have perspective and believe in adventures. Thank you for the unlimited access to Junie B Jones books!
As an adult now, I have to buy my own. Bummer! Adulting is hard. Especially when you’re a nerd and want to buy every book that draws your attention. Let me start by apologizing - I do judge a book by the cover. It’s a problem I struggle with every time I walk into a bookstore. You’ll notice the books I’m about to share with you all have beautiful covers. You’re welcome! I now withdraw my apology. With another spring break just around the corner, I want to share a few of the books I’ve read recently. My favorite feeling, while reading, is not wanting to put the book down. These four books gave me that! They’re all a little different, but are perfect for those of you who may be planning to travel soon or just have some down time at home wanting to get away.
The Vacationers by Emma Straub.
"For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school. The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go accruing to plan: Over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated. This is a story of the sides of ourselves that we choose to show and those we try to conceal, of the ways we tear each other down and build each other up again, and the bonds that ultimately hold us together. With wry humor and tremendous heart, Emma Straub delivers a richly satisfying story of family in the midst of a maelstrom of change, emerging irrevocably altered yet whole."
One of the reviews by People magazine said this book “offers all the delights of a fluffy, read-it-with-sunglasses-on-the-beach read, made substantial by the exceptional wit, insight, intelligence, and talents of it’s author.” I’m sharing this with you but it cannot be explained or review better than that! I read this at home sitting in my hammock swing Gregory surprised me with. I felt like I was there on the island of Mallorca with my toes in the sand. A very light read that you can probably wrap up in a weekend, but for me, it was a beautiful escape. If you’re not able to get away this March for a vacation or adventure, I highly recommend picking this book up.
Nobody’s Cuter Than You by Melanie Shankle.
"There are probably only a handful of times in our lives when someone walks in who will change us forever - when we find someone we can love with our whole hearts, who will challenge us and shape us and make us feel like the world is safer and brighter just because they are in it. A person who loves us for exactly who we are, yet teaches us to be better because of who they are and how they live their life. A person who will listen to our stories and hold our hands as we go through heartbreak and joy and figure out all that life throws our way. In many ways, this book is about my friendship with my best friend, Gulley, and how we've managed to sustain our friendship over the last twenty-five years. But it's more than that. It's about all the friendships we develop over a lifetime and the influence they have over who we were, who we are, and who we will become. The ones that wounded us and the ones that taught us to love better. And on a day when our jeans feel too tight, our chins have decided to embrace hormone-related acne reminiscent of our teen years, and our kids have tested the limits of our sanity, friends are the ones who will look at us and say 'Nobody's cuter than you!'"
This book holds a special place in my heart. One reason: the author lives in San Antonio. It’s always nice to support local! On a serious note, I read this book while planning my wedding, which was unusually stressful. My friends were there for me every step of the way, and I could never thank them enough for keeping me sane throughout the entire process. Shankle writes all about friendship here. This book will make you laugh and cry, while truly making you realize that your girls are priceless. The author is one of those that can tell it like it is, in ways you never thought you could. I found myself laughing and thinking “that’s so true!” multiple times throughout this book.
The Friends We Keep by Susan Mallery.
"After five years as a stay-at-home mom, Gabby Schaefer can't wait to return to work. Oh, to use the bathroom in peace! No twins clamoring at the door, no husband barging in, no stepdaughter throwing a tantrum. But when her plans are derailed by some shocking news and her husbands crushing expectations, Gabby must fight for the right to have a life of her own.
Getting pregnant is easy for Hayley Batchelor. Staying pregnant is the hard part. Her husband is worried about the expensive fertility treatments and frantic about the threat to her health. But to Hayley, a woman who was born to be a mom should risk everything to fulfill her destiny - no matter how high the cost.
Nicole Lord is still shell-shocked by a divorce that wasn't as painful as it should've been. Other than the son they share, her ex-husband left barely a ripple in her life. A great new guy tempts her to believe maybe the second time's the charm...buthow can she trust herself to recognize true love?"
This book follows three friends in their different stages and issues of normal life. This is one of those I-don’t-want-to-stop-reading books. I was sucked into the story almost immediately. The feelings that the characters feel are so relatable - Gabby, the stay-at-home mom, especially. After deciding to return to work, she finds herself with unexpected speed bumps that have her feeling like she’s being selfish and very alone. There IS a happy ending though! Maybe it’s the Disney-loving side of me, but I sure do love a happy ending. Get sucked into the real life drama this book dissects. I did, and really enjoyed it.
Don’t really have the time to get away on a vacation? Click here for all of my ideas on a weekend “staycation” that will have you frolicking back into work on Monday like you just had a week-long vacation on an island. I’ll give you a preview: it starts by picking up a good book you can escape into!
SPRING BREAK BOOK CLUB
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
"Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. 'The days are long, but the years are short,' she realized. 'Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter.' In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. In this lively and compelling account - now updated with new material by the author - Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest changes can make the biggest difference."
This one is quite different than the other books on this list. It’s more of a self-help book. I bought this while in a happiness rut. I felt my life becoming dull and sucked dry of excitement. Rubin started a happiness project, where she actively tries to improve her happiness with monthly goals. It’s genius. One of the things I’ve realized growing up is that you decide to be happy, just like you can decide to be sad or angry. I loved that she details her journey in this book, and it makes it more relatable and real. Many of her stories had me laughing because similar things were happening to me when I tried the monthly goals. I appreciated the blunt honesty of this book. You don’t have to be in a rut to get a happiness kick from this book! It’s refreshing. Going on vacation? This is the perfect time to get away and think about coming back to your real world revitalized.
Mrs. Katherine Johnson
San Antonio Native. Wife. Mother of Fur Babies. Adventure Seeker.