Stella Batts: a Case of the Meanies by Courtney Sheinmel
Stella's family runs a candy shop. But when mean Joshua doesn't invite her to his party held at HER shop, she battles with a response. This is a typical Junie B, Clementine, Judy Moody type story. Not a lot of silliness or naughtyness. Very gentle. Follett says 4.1 but this is definitely a beginning chapter book. Fits a niche. Good. 2nd+

The Great Cat Conspiracy by Katie Davies
part of The Great Hamster Massacre etc. Follett says 4.9 for this one but it has large print. The story is quite complex and it is 3-5 appropriate. It goes beyond the mystery and deals with a "cat woman" who may have dementia and is definitely a hoarder. But the three children connect with her. Quite thoughtful. The dad swears occasionally. The parents' voice is great. This one grew on me. 3rd+

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Glam TV Star by Rachel Renee Russell
Squeeee! I hated this!! Seriously. I suppose this is like reading princess stories for the modern girl, but she is so vapid. And the story can get a bit mean-spirited which is ironic because the villian is a mean girl. The stereotype of the karate sensei who was a lazy glutton was uncomfortable. ick.

Hollow Earth by John Barrowman and Carole E Barrowman
You know how you get caught up in the landscape of great fantasy like Harry Potter or Narnia? That just didn't happen for me this time. I can't put my finger on it, but I was never hooked and when the book ended I had none of the "When is the sequel coming!" feeling. Two children discover that they are children of an Animare (who brings drawings to life) and a Guardian (who directs the Animare with special powers). That makes them super special of course and subject to searches by extreme evildoers and the secret good guys. Not bad. OK for 4th+ Scottish landscape.

The Hangman's Revolution by Eoin Colfer
This is great writing. The plot is complicated but logical. Emotions are vivid. The concept of time travel is examined without being pedantic. There is humor. The only drawback is trying to imagine who of my middle schoolers will be able to make it through the mixed vocabulary of Victorian England and modern Britishisms. Not an easy read but a really good one. Chevie Shavano wakes up from years as a cadet in the Box facist Empire and travels back to England to stop the revolution from happening. Great side characters including King Otto and two amazonian Boxite warriors. YA for violence and maturity levels.

Eleanor and park by rainbow rowell
Verdict is still out. Maybe OK for 8th grade, but not a "book you can't miss" for me. The language in the first five pages seemed overly "mature" or immature. It actually never got any more graphic, although there were several steamy scenes. There was just enought tension in the plot line to get me to finish it. But I don't have any lingering deep feelings. Hmmm. YA.

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
Finally a book that's not super depressing with a government from hell. This is way-future with lots of transporting between planets. Earth has become the sort of garbage planet from ancient history and it's also where handicapped babies are raised because of their reaction to other planets. They are known as "apes" because of their insufficiencies. Jarra gets into a visiting University class and calls herself normal. This is a good examination of what bigotry looks like as well as the assumption of bigotry where it doesn't exist. There were times where it felt a bit like Tom Clancy--like technical writing forced into a story. And Jarra is pretty over the top with abilities. But generally good. YA for some sexual discussions.

Independent Study: book two of the Testing Series by Joelle Charbonneau
Cia Vale and Tomas are past the tests and assigned to their area of study. Cia knows she must do something to stop the Testing but what? She's now placed strategically in the Government studies at University. Who can she trust?--No one. The best parts of this are the continued physical tests and decisions made on the spot. This is pretty depressing. YA for violence