99 Flavours of Suck….didn’t (suck, that is)

99 Flavours of Suck99 Flavours of Suck by Tania Hutley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

99 Flavours of Suck certainly describes Kane’s life. His Mum is TV’s “dog whisperer” and he’s allergic to dogs – which he has to keep secret because if the TV bosses find out his Mum’s career is OVER. He fancies Pippa, but can’t talk to her for long periods because she has just bought a new puppy and converstaion with Pippa results in Kane becoming an itchy, wheezing mess.
Alternately told by Kane and Pippa, this is an unusual story, for sure. During the filming of a segment at the home of another dog trainer, the creepy Shep Silver, Kane receives a bite on the hand that will change his life forever.
Embarrassed on national television by a quirky turn of events (that I will not spoil here), Kane struggles to live his life and hold on to his friends. There is much to like here, particularly the way that Tania Hutley has her characters consider the true nature of love and friendship. I enjoyed the last third of the novel, as Kane tries to solve his problems, more than the preceeding chapters.
I will be watching to see what Tania Hutley writes next. I liked her writing style and her “real” characters in “unreal” situations.
Ages 12 and up.

The Outcasts (Brotherband #1)

The Outcasts (Brotherband #1)The Outcasts by John Flanagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another book that far exceeded my initial expectations. I had heard from many other colleagues and friends that this was a fantastic read, so resolved to dip into it during the school holidays. What a discovery! I have not read the Ranger’s Apprentice series, so I knew John Flanagan by reputation only. It is a reputation that is well-deserved. He writes his characters really well – you really feel like to you are getting to know them as friends, and by the end of the novel I was starting to imagine how certain characters would react to different situations in the story. I was totally swept away by this book. The forming of the Heron Brotherband from a bunch of outcasts and “leftovers” had resonance for me from my school days and I immediately found myself rooting for this team of underdogs. Hal is a wonderful character, as is Stig, his best mate and I look forward to their continuing adventures as the Brotherband series moves forward.
This is a book that could be read by anyone from 10yo to 60yo. There is something in it for everyone, boys and girls alike.
Now I just have to read ALL the Ranger’s Apprentice series – sigh!
Highly recommended.  Ages 10 and up.

Caught in the Whirlpool!

The Coming of the Whirlpool (Ship Kings #1)The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this YA novel way more than I expected to. Even with Andrew McGahan’s reputation I was skeptical about going the distance with this one. Luckily, all my initial expectations were well and truly changed.
This is an assured and well-written story, with a young, brave and driven protagnoist in Dow Amber. Dow grows up on New Island in the logging community of Yellow Bank, ready to follow in his fathers footsteps and become an axeman, as is expected of him.
At the age of eleven, he becomes a man in the eyes of his village and he sets off into the forests with his father and a group of axemen to learn his trade. One day his father takes him through the forest to the edge of a cliff and Dow spies the ocean for the first time. He is completely captivated. Feelings stir in him and he feels more and more drawn to life at sea, flouting all the traditions of his society, he seeks to become a sailor. Following the revelation of a secret from Dow’s past, he resolves to leave and sets out for the port of Stromner.
Much of the novel concerns itself with Dow’s journey to the port, and his subsequent arrival and settling in at Stromner. As is my custom I will not be posting spoilers here, but I WILL say that Dow has to show the strongest of resolve and a great deal of courage to even get close to his first goal – becoming part of a ship’s crew.
Along the way he meets many characters including the mysterious Nell, a ship’s scapegoat; Mother Gale, the village wisewoman; and Nathaniel, a bitter old sea-dog who has lost the will to live.
This can be hard going at times – there is a lot of talking between the great action scenes, but never does the talking feel superfluous. Every word is there to take you further into Dow’s world and make him more interesting.
I can’t wait to read The Unquiet Ice when I am back in my library!
Recommended for 12yo and up.

Anh Do really is The Happiest Refugee

The Happiest Refugee: A MemoirThe Happiest Refugee: A Memoir by Anh Do

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this biography/autobiography. I really hope the rumours I have heard about Anh not actually writing this book turn out to be false.

This is a story not just of Anh, but of his whole family and their triumph over very difficult circumstances. The writing style is VERY easy to read and I whipped through this in a day. The stories from Anh’s childhood are poignant and fascinating – there is much self-deprication here, and gratitude.

Certainly, as I read of the terrifying ordeal Anh’s family went through on the boat getting out of Vietnam, I realised just how lucky I was to be born here in Australia. The troubled relationship with his father and, later, the wonderful reconciliation were lovely to read.

Anh comes across as a loving son and brother, and his devotion to Suzie, his wife, is palpable. They truly seem like soulmates and it is clear by the end of the book that Anh is very happy with his lot here in Australia.

I thoroughly recommend this as a light but very interesting holiday read.