JULY
The Partner by John Grishom
Daniel Silva (Patrick Lanigan) is grabbed in a quiet town in Brazil after a huge manhunt by both the FBI and private individuals. Daniel had disappeared with 91 million dollars and that makes people mad. This was pretty active from the beginning although there was plenty of court maneuvering too. Really complicated plot involving divorce, money wiring, and a murder. The last few pages had a twist that was mildly shocking. Adult but OK for middle school.

The Summons by John Grisham
Ray and Forrest Atlee have been summoned by their father to discuss his estate. But Ray arrives to find his father has died and there is a hidden secret that Ray has no idea what to do with. Another great legal drama. Addictions (Forrest), his father's past, and hitmen. The big mystery. I loved this one right to the last page. The theme of distrust, and making choices for other people was terrific. Adult but OK for MS

The Testament by John Grisham
Obviously I'm on a Grisham binge. Just what I needed. Enough intrigue to keep my brain active but not dystopian, alien invasions, or gory slashing. Phew. This is my favorite. Troy Phelan is worth 11 Billion dollars. He's about to die (so literally) and calls his family together for the reading of the will. After they leave, things change dramatically. Following the heirs (multiple exwives and children) and most importantly Nate O'Reilly who is just out of rehab, again, who is sent to Brazil to find missing heir Rachel Lane. The trip through the Pantanel is certainly adventurous, but the moving part for me was the spiritual awareness that comes to Nate. Also the look at money and what it does to people. Loved this.

The BFG by Roald Dahl
Reread this since the movie has just come out. Short book about Sophie who finds herself kidnapped by the Big Friendly Giant who finds his fellow giants love of human-eating abhorrant. How the two of them rescue the world with a little help from the Queen of England. The language of the BFG is particularly entertaining.

Adam and Thomas by Aharon Appelfeld
A surprising small book about two boys who are left in the woods by their mothers to evade the Nazis. Very simple with beautiful language. Based on the author's own experiences in WWII. Excellent. 4th+ and good for middle school.

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger
hmmm. I usually like Angleberger's humor. This was way over the top about state testing. I don't think students will find that particularly entertaining. Teachers might. It does offer some thoughtful ideas about AI and smart computers who program themselves. Just too heavy handed. 4th+

The Client by John Grisham
Mark and his brother sneak off to have a smoke (yes they are 11 and younger) and are sucked into the suicide of a mob lawyer. There were parts where the fifth grader character didn't seem quite on point (I've known fifth graders...) but the plot is typically Grisham--complicated and twisty. I liked the combo of the smart aleck kid and his smarter aleck lawyer. again--adult but OK for middleschool.

The Brethren by John Grisham
My least favorite so far. Eventually the premise of this, blackmailing men with gay fantasies, will become socially unbelievable. The scarier part of this book was the CIA control of the presidential election and how easily they can find out anything about anyone. Creepy.

Nooks and Crannies by Jessica Lawson
Tabitha Crum is summoned to visit Windermere mansion to meet the Countess, along with five other children. This is a typical British castle murder mystery. It is fairly complicated and a tad British for our kids. But the ending is satisfactory. Good. 5th+

The Art of Secrets by James Klise
Told by multiple narrators, this is the story of a PakistaniAmerican family whose apartment is torched, the fundraiser at their school, and an art mystery. I really liked this for middle school. No sex and no violence. Respects various cultures and builds a good storyline with a great surprise ending. Very very good.

The chamber by John Grisham
In 1967 Sam Cayhall helps to bomb the law offices of a Jewish lawyer whose twin sons are killed. In 1990, young Adam Hall volunteers to work on the Cayhall case as it approached the final weeks before the gas chamber. Adam is Sam's grandson and the story is as much about Adam trying to understand his family history as it is about the efforts to stop death by gas chamber. Lots of law, again, but also some story line that is mildly threatening. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the ending and Sam's conversion was a tad too tidy. But this is a broad look at the death penalty and the various factions surrounding it.

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Stella's family lives in Bumblebee North Carolina in 1932 and the Klan has become active. What to do? Stella's father must decide whether to register to vote. Stella has fears but her current struggle is with writing for school. This has terrific descriptions and a strong feel for the depth of community among the black families. Excellent 4th+