Readers: February 27th: Apologies for the scattered posting that's about to come during the next week or so. University has just started and I have a lot of work to do to get on top of things (and ahead!). Thanks for your patience, as always.

Publishers: I promise I'm not abandoning the lovely review copies you've sent!
I'm getting through them and the reviews will come eventually!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: Team Human + Author Interviews

Title: Team Human
Author: Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan 
Publisher: Allen & Unwin Australia
Published: July 2nd 2012
Source: Publisher for review

Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn't mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It's up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity. On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

Team Human caught me by real surprise. After my initial hesitation at reading a vampire book that sounded heavy on the romance, I realised it was actually a parody of the paranormal insta-love that's not unusual to find in YA these days! We've all seen them before… And you know those awful books which try to be funny but fail? Well, Team Human certainly doesn't fall into that group. It had me in stitches and I was shocked by how witty Mel was! Full credit must go to the authors for providing me with such entertainment and I now know that I'll happily read more from them both in the future!

Mel Duan is the vampire-hating, rude and unsympathetic best friend of Cathy, a typical teenage girl who's fallen head over heels in love with Francis Suvarney. He's over 150 years old, silent, brooding, mysterious and chivalrous. Hmm, right... How very unique of him! Let's not forget that he's easily scandalised by the forward behaviour of modern females too! Cue the eye rolls now because Cathy and Francis get sickeningly sweet from here on out. Mel obviously feels the same, as she tries relentlessly to discourage their affections for each other but to no avail . Although Mel is overbearing at times, she has good intentions and it eventually became humorous and very justified. I love her! Brennan and Larbalestier do a wonderful job at poking fun at the over the top human/vamp relationship and were able to show us the not so ideal and glamorous side of it.

I really enjoyed the mysteries found in Team Human. The vampires in this book are traditional for the most part but there are a few fun changes that play an important part in the events that occur. As well as preventing Cathy from turning into a vampire (RISKY!), Mel's busy investigating the whereabouts of the principal's ex-husband. He supposedly ran away to be with a hot vamp but…what if that's not the case at all? Mel also thinks Francis is up to something shady, so many aspects of this book do overlap and we're left to wonder how they all relate to each other! The action amps up during the final section of the book but I found it to be too short-lived and the resolution too simple! However, it can be forgiven because of everything else that's great about the book.

During one of her stalk sessions, Mel finds herself in Francis's house and meets Kit, a human boy who was raised by vampires after being abandoned by his real parents and left for dead. His "mother" Camille is a badass cop and this trio of characters were my favourite to watch together. They had an amusing yet sweet bond with each other and the male banter…where do I start? For all that she preaches, Mel is completely oblivious to Kit's affection for her. I must have 'aww'ed a million times at his cuteness. He smiles whenever she giggles and always looks to please her. I obviously liked this pair, despite the fact that there was never really a romance shown between them in the book. Team Human doesn't focus on the romances themselves very much but the ending definitely leaves things open for interpretation! ;)

Overall, these two authors make a wonderful team and write extremely well together. I would've liked to have explored Mel and Cathy's friendship more, as well as between them and the boys, but Team Human isn't a book to take too seriously. It's hysterically funny and will put a smile on your face in the short amount of time it'll take you to fly through it! I bow down to the authors for their bottomless pit of jokes and willingness to create some seriously kooky characters, while still providing some heart-warming and more serious moments too. The book covers all the bases!

I'm giving away 5 copies of this book so hurry over to enter!

Find Sarah on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, her website and blog
Find Justine on Twitter, Goodreads and her website.
Buy Team Human from Amazon, The Book Depository, Booktopia and Barnes & Noble.

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How would you describe Team Human in two words?

Actually - and maybe this is cheating! - I think 'Team Human' fits the bill pretty well. Scott Westerfeld came up with the title, and we loved it both because it conjures up the idea of paranormal romance (Team Edward, Team Jacob, Team Damon, Team Stefan, and so on) and also immediately says something different... what about humans, and friends?

You researched a lot about other vampires before writing this book! What was the most interesting thing you came across?

Oooh, lots of things. One of my favourites is vampires turning into mist and filtering through keyholes, which is a bit of a thing in vampire mythology--it made me want to write about super-successful vampire catburglars!

I also really liked a serial from the early 1900s called Varney the Vampire, in which Varney is like an ancestral pet. 'Don't mind the vampire hanging out on the ceiling pouncing on the maidens, he comes with the family silver...' And Justine made me read a book called Sabella by Tanith Lee, in which Vampire Men Are From Mars... and Vampire Women Are Also From Mars (All Vampires Are From Mars As It Turns Out).

Is there a specific trait or vampire stereotype that you hate seeing in books or films?

I like most things about vampires, but I have to say I don't really like vampires going out in sunlight. I'll put up with it (I love the Vampire Diaries, so I'm just like 'fine, magic jewelry, as you were, vampires') but I'd feel silly going to the beach with my vampire boyfriend. 'This is ridiculous!' I'd say. 'You're meant to be a creature of the night!' Presumably, he'd be like: 'Mai tai, baby?'

Also I just feel there have to be drawbacks to vampirism, or too many people would do it. Justine and I made it so vampires can't bear exposure to sunlight... and we came up with a few other issues as well...

Would you ever date a vampire or would you be the one warning your friends away?

I might do both! All vampires are not created equal. ;) I'd have some searching questions for a friend who wanted to date a vampire, like 'Does he have a good sense of humour?' and 'No details please, but from a scale of Chihuahua to Rottweiler, how bitey is he?'

And for myself, well, it'd be a question of personality. Consider how many different vampires there are around! Count Dracula (super old, castle in disrepair, many other wives in cellar), Count von Count (muppet), Count Duckula (duck), Count Chocula (chocolate-flavoured cereal), Angel, Spike, Lestat de Lioncourt, the Cullens, the Salvatore brothers (everybody has so many issues, and nobody even has the title of 'Count' to make up for it!)

As with ordinary dudes, it's tricky finding Mr Right. Or even Mr Bite Now.

Would you ever do a collaboration like this again? What were the best and worst parts about sharing the writing of this book?

Oh, maybe, maybe. The best part was having work show up in your inbox like magic, and giggling as you read it both because it was great and because that's living the dream... it felt like that story where a shoemaker wakes up and magical elves have made a bunch of shoes for him. MAGICAL ELVES ARE WRITING MY STORY! The bad bits were when we got into fights about what to do next, but in the end that made the story better... what went in was stuff we were passionate about, and had to argue passionately for.


Team Human is a very humorous book, much more so than I actually expected. Why did you decide to do a comedic take on the story, rather than a dramatic?

I'm surprised that you're suprised. Both Sarah and I always have humour in our books and Sarah's blog is well known for being one of the funniest blogs in the history of blogging. I've even written a flat-out comedy before, How To Ditch Your Fairy. There was no way a collaboration between us was not going to be a comedy. But that said I think there are some moving and dramatic parts of the novel. We've had several reports from readers who say Team Human made them cry.

Which character was the most fun for you to write and why?

I'm not sure I can answer that. I really loved writing them all. I love Mel's snark, Cathy's romanticism and strength, Francis' stick-up-his-bum-ness, Camille's super vampire cop coolness, Kit's goofiness. I loved writing Mel's parents and siblings. That's not a character in the book who wasn't fun to write.

How did you split up the writing of Team Human? Did you write in sections, alternating chapters…randomly? The transitions were seamless!

First we would plan what was to happen in a chapter. Then one of us would write it, send it to the other, who would read and comment on what needed to be changed. We would agree on the edits and plan the next chapter. Then the person who hadn't written it would do the edits and write the next chapter. We'd go back and forth like that. Constantly rewriting each other. At this point neither of us knows exactly who wrote what.

The romance between Cathy and Francis was hilariously dramatic, resembling that of Edward and Bella's from Twilight. Was that an intentional play? ;)

We were poking a bit of fun at all over-the-top, love-at-first-sight romances. We're not saying love at first sight doesn't happen but it's rare. Whereas in paranormal romances it seems to be the most common way people fall in love which, if you think about it, is a bit absurd. We decided to run with the absurdity.

I loved how you (mostly) stayed true to the traditional vampires. Why did you decide not to put your own spin on them like so many other authors?

I am insulted by your question! :-) We thought long and hard about vampire lore and are very proud of our two major innovations which we're pretty sure our own spin. Vampires who don't laugh are pretty rare. I haven't found any examples of it. (Though I admit I could have missed it.) And I'm pretty sure zombification happening when transformation into a vampire goes wrong is original to us. (Though again do let me know if I've missed someone else introducing that to vampire lore.)

*butts in* Oh Lisa, what a poorly worded question! I guess "mostly" was a cruddy explanation. Just to clarify, yes, indeed there are some great changes made to these vampires. *clapclap* I was thinking more along the lines of "they're unchanged in terms of their coldness, aversion to sunlight and food, etc." while writing my question and that's what..was not spun. LOL.

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Idiot moment aside, I really love these two. I think they're hilarious and I'll have to make time to check out their books later on in the year! And I may have to stalk this blog of Sarah's because I can't stop laughing and it's way past midnight now.........

Hope you guys enjoyed reading this interview! Make sure you get yourself a copy of Team Human or enter my giveaway if you're eligible! Have you read it? What did you think? :)
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