Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
Not as odd as the Newbery When You Reach Me, this is a realistic story of a boy who is going through too many changes along with the usual middleschool stink. Georges (silent s from Seurat) has moved from his childhood house to an apartment. Dad is starting a new business and Mom is working double shifts at the hospital. Then he sees a sign for Spy Club and things get a bit weird. (not time-travel weird though) This is a very good "stand strong" story. Georges overcomes so many things and there is a twist at the end that leads to a satisfying conclusion. 4th+ Very good.

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver
Old-fashioned characters and setting, but the plot is unique. Liesl has been locked in the attic by her stepmother since the death of her father. Will, the alchemist's apprentice, sees her in her window each night and longs to meet her. Liesl also has been visited by Po and Huddle, two amorphous ghosts (a boy/girl and a cat/dog) who explain what the Other Side and the Beyond are. A mistake by Will sets off a complicated chase after Will, Liesl and Po. I don't agree with the theology of this (melting back into the Universe, etc.), but it is well-written. 4th+ Very Good.

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander
National Book Award winner. Strange. In Zombay it is illegal to wear a mask and present plays. Rownie is in a house of stray children working for Graba the witch but more than anything wants to find his brother, Rowan. The goblin troupe comes through town and Rownie sees his opportunity to seek Rowan, but Graba doesn't give up her own easily. This mystery, fantasy, whatever, attempts to weave a very complicated backstory about Zombay and its inhabitants. I found it a bit confusing. Who are goblins and why are they changed? Why are pigeons so creepy? It's a good read for 4th grade. OK.

I Funny: a Middle School Story by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
I'm thinking it's more Grabentstien than Patterson, but that's just me. This is a new character, Jamie Grimm, a middleschooler in a wheelchair who loves to tell jokes. In fact, everyone thinks he should enter the Funniest Kid Comic contest. This is pretty classic Patterson stories with lots of one-liners and ba da boom jokes. Some touchy feely stuff thrown in too. OK. 4th+

Burning Blue by Paul Griffen
Nicole Castro is drop dead gorgeous--until some throws acid on half of her face. Jay Nazarro is a hacker and loner until he becomes involved in finding the person who caused so much pain to Nici. This is predominately a mystery and it reads like some of the best adult mysteries I've read. Suspense and maddening clues right to the end. There is some high school talk of sex, etc. but nothing explicit happens. Edgy, but the plot and themes of beauty, self-worth, trust and family make it a worthwhile read for mature middle schoolers. Very Good. YA for language.

13 Treasures by Michelle Harrison
Stirrings of "I remember something like this..." should have tipped me off. Read this in April of 2011. Yet not clear enough that I remembered the whole plot. Is that an indicator that it wasn't memorable to start with?? This is an OK story about a history of connections with the faerie world--mostly dark and disturbing. There are now sequels and I will probably read those. Classic lonely child in English manor house that is mostly empty except for secret passages. 4th+

Dodger by Terry Pratchett
Written in verisimilitude to Charles Dickens, Pratchett has given us a story of the tosh (he lives off of finds from the sewers) Dodger. This is a classic story about London's lower classes in Victorian England, but told with Pratchett's humor and intricate plot. Dodger meets Sweeney Todd, Charlie Dickens, and even Benjamin Disraeli. Dodger is a wondrous character. YA for lots of sexual innuendo and violence.

The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech
Of course I would read anything by Creech. This fits somewhere in the middle of my feelings for her novels. There's nothing quite as wonderful as Walk Two Moons, but this is closer to the top than some. There was at least one moving moment when "the great unexpected" was applied to adoption that was terrific. Naomi and Lizzie are foster children who are happy in their homes except for the dark clouds of their past. Blackbird Tree is a strange town with strange people including Finn who literally drops out of a tree into their lives. Alternating chapters are written in Ireland where an old woman is preparing her "revenge". Lots of allusions to crows/ravens/rooks. Very very good. 3rd+

Jump into the Sky by Shelley Pearsall
May, 1945. Levi is named this because his mother left him with a note as a baby, "I am Levin". And she did. Levi's father has left too, to join the army and become on of the Triple Nickle 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, a black paratrooper group. Their secret is that they are protecting America from incendiary Janpanese balloons. This story is about family, trust, race relations, war, and love. It's pretty good. 4th+ Very good.

Notorious Nineteen by Janet Evanovich
This was a good one. Among my favorite scenes: a nude beach apprehension with Lulu and Stephanie. Grandma, incognito, dressed in a Marilyn Monroe wig, hot pink tank top, black pilates pants and black kitten heels. "She looked like the senior version of an inflatable ...doll that needed more air." Then there is the tiki that Stephanie has to carry around. Men who are under suspicion for crimes are disappearing from a hospital and Stephanie is on the trail of one of them. Plenty of tension in so many ways. Adult.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
1968 and three sisters are finally going to spend a month with their mother who abandoned them when the baby was born. They leave their father/Big Mama's home in the Bronx for the hippie/Black Panther culture of San Francisco. This captures some of the culture of the time, and even more the feelings of the girls who are forced to get to know their mother. Not much plot, but enough character interaction to move this along. Very Good and fills a niche. 4th+

Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
Second in the Iron Fey series, Meghan is paired up again with her true love Prince Ash and her best friend (and love?) Puck to retrieve the scepter of the seasons. Lots of intrigue and confused loyalties in this one. And violence. And Passions. (unrequited as usual). If you like City of Bones et al, you would like this series. Basic conflict of the seelie and unseelie with a new tech based fey--the Iron King. And just who is Meghan Chase anyway? Very good. YA for romance and violence.

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
Companion to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Based on Chinese folk tales, but with a boy's story woven through the fantastic. Rendi has run away and finds himself in an isolated village inn where it seems everyone is suffering. The only son has run away, the neighbors are feuding, and the moon is missing. The worst for Rendi is the crying he hears every night which no one else seems to hear. The best thing about these books is their unique style. This is a different genre altogether. Absolutely folk tale in a lengthy novel form. Very good. 3rd+

The Crowfield Demon by Pat Walsh
sequel to The Crowfield Curse. Something evil is rising, literally, and the Abbey is beginning to fall. William, with his fey friends, will have to meet the challange of a fallen angel. This is moving and has some very touching moments. Set in 1348, this reminds me of the Sea of Trolls series that combined Norse/Catholic traditions. Here it's ancient magic with medieval monks. Excellent. 5th+ (pretty scary)

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
One of the rare books that I didn't want to end. Jack and Jill (incredibly complex characters) go on a series of adventures in hopes of finding what they want. In the process they come to some pretty deep wisdom about seeing themselves and being happy. This was slightly less tied to specific fairy tales by the Grimm brothers, but still links many stories by many authors. I loved the voice of the narrator who interrupts occasionally ("...and it will only cost his left hand. Think of what you most desire. Really think of it. Okay. Would you give your hand for it?" p178) The breaks are spaced enough not to interrupt the story, but do give pause for thinking. Or sometimes for apologizing..."I'm sorry. I forgot to warn you that was coming. I was too caught up in telling the story. Anyway, it's all over now." p189. This does have a LOT of blood and gore--of bad guys for the most part. But the growth of the characters is deep. Excellent--5th+