Most of my reading is from the Cybils nominated books.
My category is Middle Grade Speculative Fiction. Thank goodness I belong to two spectacular library systems, King County (kcls) and Seattle, so I can get a lot of the books.
Esme's Wish, Elizabeth Foster. This was a great portal world fantasy. At first Esme's resistance to her father's marriage seemed childish, but her new in-laws soon proved her right. Luckily she could escape to her mother's workplace, where caring friends taught her to trust and accept trust. Oh, and to defeat an evil magician who planned to destroy the world. That.
Aru Shah and the End of Time, Roshani Chokshi. Although Aru didn't appeal to me at first (her main ambition is to join the bully group at school, instead of getting bullied by her), her adventures and her friendship with her soul-sister helped me appreciate her while I had fun watching her think and wriggle her way out of various adventures. This does a good job of catching the Percy Jackson spirit of myth-based adventures and snarky kid protagonists.
Connect the Scotts, Evan Munday. This was a fun mystery, but I found myself groping for information obviously contained in the first books (even the author wonders why I'd be here for the first time). It also relies on incredibly stupid cops with a distain for evidence. The dead kids each get their own book, so I didn't mind that most of them blurred into the background, and October's independence was a great boon.
The Second Story, Neil Patrick Harris. I read the wrong one! This is the current and eligible one. I like the five kids and enjoyed seeing more of the escape artist and a new member of her dad's old troop. The villains are farcical enough that I don't worry about anyone's safety and the tricks are good fun.
Money Jane, T. K. Riggins. Having missed the first book, I was a little fuzzy on some of the details -- are the kids in magical high school or magical college? How much was I supposed to know? Kes was a strong character, and I enjoyed watching him manage various problems with grace and gravitas, from the teasing of his fellow students to his hopeless crush to his feats of strength. I'm a bit grumpy that the book ended right before the results of the big contest were announced.
The Storm Runner, J.C. Cervantes. Sarcastic kid rounds up some buddies and battles the gods! This is a genre now, I guess. Another fun read, and I liked the boy's family and the nebulous position of his companion, whose loyalty is doubted for quite a while. It started with some tropes that annoy me -- mom announces the end of a great homeschooling year with a surprise and immediate start at a school full of bullies (and then joins the school in yelling at the boy for being bullied) but luckily he heads off to California to save the world and we move on quickly.
Dactyl Hill Squad, Daniel Jose Older. Civil War history -- with dinosaurs! Our hero discovers she is a dino-whisperer, which helps when her New York orphanage is burned down during anti-Black riots and evil conspirators kidnap many of her friends to sell as slaves. Our only concern is what giant dinosaur is left to reveal in the rest of the books?
The Darkness in Lee's Closet and the Other's Waiting There, Roy Schwartz. A mix of allegory and adventure as a girl searches for her dead father in the land she discovers while grieving him. Her new friends help her discover her own strengths and the nature of death and loss while also defeating armies and evil conformist cities.
The Dastardly Plot, Christopher Healy. In a slightly steampunk past set around an imaginary 1880's New York Worlds Fair a girl must deal with the misogyny of Edison, Bell, and other inventors as well as the evil plan of a spurned scientist. Luckily she has her mom, a new friend, and maybe some robots to help. It's got great pacing and a good sense of timing, including callbacks and repeated jokes.
The Snow Witch, Rosie Boyes. A boy and his sister find a lost relative just in time to get caught up in a 100 year old curse that may circle around to grab them as well. The narrative switches back between the original curse and the modern kids. I liked a lot of the language although the author tends to tell me how the kdis are feeling right after they have shown me.