This is what has been going on, for those of you who'd like to know but:
A. Don't actually know me and can't call me to find out,
B. Know me and have my phone number but have been on vacation for a week (Yes, you, Bridget)
C. Know me, have my phone number, and have called me, but I haven't actually called you back yet. *This applies to pretty much everybody who calls me. I am terrible at checking my voicemail, and lately I've been Deeply Consumed, so that makes it even worse. Add to it that my "quiet" time to call people is limited, and only a few select people can stand to talk to me when everyone in the house is awake. We are not what one would call a quiet family.
Anyhow, we've actually been up to very little. I have been seized by a fit of reading lately, and the stack of library books on my nightstand rivals the Empire State Building in height. I've made it my day's work to sneak as much reading in as possible. This involves "accidentally" locking myself in the bathroom with a book, taking lengthy baths at night when the kids are asleep, instituting a "Reading Hour" in the evenings before dinner, etc. I've even been suggesting to my husband, "Don't you need to go see a movie with friends?" so that I can have several hours of complete silence to hunker down in bed with a book.
It's all very sneaky, until the weekend, when I give up the pretense and just get down to it. Sunday I spent most of the afternoon lounging in my window seat, drinking tea and eating dark chocolates, which made me feel like a very happy queen. Later that night, when Addie wandered out of bed and saw me in bed, reading while drinking cocoa and eating dark chocolate (see a pattern?), she asked if she could just sniff the wrapper. I promised her that when she least expected it, she'd find her very own red foil-wrapped chocolate on her nightstand. It was like I'd given her the Hope Diamond, she was so pleased. Even better was the next afternoon, when she woke from her nap and found it. It takes so little to make a fellow chocolate lover happy, doesn't it?
So this is what I've read recently, since people have asked:
The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin--It took me a little bit to get into it, but oh, I loved it. It does help that I have a rooster and a henhouse, and a dog, but I would've loved it regardless. It's a beautiful and terrible story, and I can't wait to read its sequel.
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, by Trenton Lee Stewart--not as good as the original, but still entertaining, and Caiden loved it. I love any book fit for children with 400+ pages, because he got his love of reading honestly, and it's hard to keep him in books.
The Midwife's Apprentice/Matilda Bone, both by Karen Cushing--The Midwife's Apprentice is a Newberry Award winner, and I found both of these books fascinating because of their focus on Medieval life. I am also very glad I didn't live then. Although recommended for kids Caiden's age (3rd grade), I'll wait to hand these over to my kids until they're at least 12 or so, I think. But I am well over 9, and I enjoyed them both.
The View from Saturday, by E.L. Konisburg--took a while to get into, then ended up loving it. Also a Newberry Award winner, also recommended on the dust jacket to ages 8-12. Definitely will save this for mid-teens, both for some content and for the significance of the storyline. It was wonderful, and I would hate for my kids to read it too early and miss the meaning.
Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis--Newberry Award winner (See a pattern?), and I loved it. I hate to use the word darling, but it was a darling story. Oddly, four of the five above stories involve orphans, so obviously I have another pattern going.
Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, by Brian Jacques--Jacques authors the wonderful Redwall series, and I wanted to read this to see if I could pass it on to Caiden, who is nearly done with the series and is in serious need of more books. I'm going to wait a few years, but this is a story he'll love, despite the fact that the main character's best friend is a black lab. (Our lab, Shadow, is decidedly not Caiden's BFF.) Another orphan story. And, even better, it's the start of another series.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Seznick--a Caldecott award winner, because it is half-words, half-pictures. This is a really clever way to write a story, and Caiden and I both read it in an afternoon, despite the fact that it's like 600 pages long--have a kid read this, and he'll be very impressed with himself. Guess what? Another orphan. Looking at it now, this makes me look like I planned it, but I just pulled books off the shelves at random. I promise.
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, by Allison Hoover Bartlett--a serious departure from everything above, this is the true story of a serial rare book thief. I saw it at the bookstore and was intrigued, and my library had it, probably to remind would-be book thieves not to steal from the library. (Did you know book thieves do that? We just generally lose books under the dresser or to Shadow. Somehow I always owe our library.) No orphans in this story, by the way.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows--I avoided this one because I generally do that when a book comes out highly praised by everybody in the world. It's like when you hear a movie is The Best Ever, you go see it, and you come home disappointed. I didn't want to be disappointed, and I wasn't. This was great--stay up way too late great. Completely written in letters, (and yes, there's an orphan), it's wonderful. I just finished it tonight, in the tub, with dark chocolate, and I think someday I'll read it again. I really, really loved it.
So now I'm on to the remaining stack, which mysteriously replenished itself this evening after a quick jaunt to the library. I'm looking at The Maytrees, by Annie Dillard, but you never know. The sequel to The Fiddler's Gun is coming out soon, and if I see at The Rabbit Room that it's for sale, I may have to temporarily suspend others in the pile until I can read that one first. I loved Fin's story in the first book. (Yes, she's an orphan. No, I don't know why half the books I read involve orphans.)
If you are still reading, then bless your heart. If you're sorry you ever asked what I was reading, then that's okay, too. Normally I don't read this much, but I do keep a journal of titles I read each year, so if you're insane about reading, feel free to ask what I read in, say, 1997, and I can point you toward more great books.