Top stories this week

This week’s top stories from the Weekly Book Newsletter include:

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BOOK REVIEW: Team Human (Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan, A&U)

Individually, Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan have produced some of the wittiest, sharpest young-adult fiction on the market. Working together, they have managed to inject new life into the vampire genre—with trademark humour and sarcasm. When a handsome and brooding vampire enrols at Mel’s school, she’s a little concerned. Then her best friend Cathy falls in love with him and it is up to Mel to ensure Cathy doesn’t do something stupid—like decide to become a vampire herself. Team Human somehow manages to tackle vampirism with a delightfully serious touch, turning what has become the punchline of B-grade romances into a complex moral and ethical issue that mirrors the challenges faced by everyday teenagers. The relationships and characters are pitch-perfect, with just enough sentimentality covered by sharp humour. Kit (Mel’s love interest) is a fantastically confused and naive male lead, and his willingness to play sidekick to what has got to be one of the sassiest and bravest heroines of the young-adult genre is refreshing. With an interesting blend of vampires, zombies and some very un-ordinary teenagers, Team Human cleverly balances side-splitting humour with an exploration of what it means to be human.

Meg Whelan works at Hill of Content Bookshop in Melbourne. This review first appeared in the Junior Term 1 issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Colour of Trouble (Gerry Bobsien, Walker Books)

Fifteen-year-old Maddy has synaesthesia, which means her senses are cross-wired and she sees sounds and tastes colour. As an artist, it gives her a unique take on the world, but more than anything, she wants to be infamous. With best friend Darcy, Maddy spends her time working on new designs for their business and finding creative ways to get them into trouble and into the newspapers. But when Maddy goes too far with an elaborate hoax, she discovers that notoriety in the art world can have disastrous consequences. In her second book for girls (aged 12 and up), Gerry Bobsien brings an artist’s touch to the story about what it means to make your mark on the world. While Maddy’s synaesthesia often feels underused, the novel itself—like its spirited protagonist— lives and breathes art. As with many teenagers, art gives Maddy a connection to the world beyond her bedroom. But, unlike other similarly themed novels, Maddy isn’t a loner—rather, she’s surrounded by friends and mentors who understand, support and challenge her, giving this book a particularly welcoming feel. It’s a world that likeminded readers will want to inhabit, brought to life through Bobsien’s relaxed, engaging and down-to-earth style.

Meredith Tate is a freelance proofreader and book reviewer who has worked for a children’s publisher.  This review first appeared in the April/May issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

BOOK REVIEW: Arkie Sparkle: Treasure Hunter—Code Crimson (Petra James, Pan Macmillan)

Arkie Sparkle knows what she wants to be: a treasure hunter just like her globetrotting parents. So when her mum and dad are kidnapped, Arkie follows a cryptic ransom note halfway across the globe in their pursuit, along with her genius (and slightly annoying) best friend TJ and her dog Charlie, as well as an array of inventions and high-tech gadgets. First stop: Egypt, and Queen Nefertari’s cartouche, where Arkie will have to use all her know-how to find the first of seven treasures that the kidnappers have demanded. Arkie Sparkle introduces a bright new character who has everything that young female readers will love: intelligence, independence, tenacity, access to cool technology and an outfit for every adventure (which TJ just happens to design, in each new season’s colours). The story is peppered with fun facts and illustrated with creative, age-appropriate margin designs, which make this an even more engaging read. Something new happens on every page—from edible cookie clues to time travel. Arkie Sparkle will appeal to young female readers of mid-to-late primary age. This is the first book in a series.
Rebecca Butterworth is a freelance writer and book reviewer living in Melbourne. This review first appeared in the April/May issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

BOOK REVIEWS: The Rest is Weight (Jennifer Mills, UQP)

Australian novelist and poet Jennifer Mills’ first collection of short stories offers an evocative and thought-provoking exploration of the human condition in its rich emotional complexity. Although The Rest is Weight spans seven years of Mills’ short fiction, it has a graceful coherence of style and theme. With crisp, vivid prose, Mills inhabits the inner lives of individuals confronting their thoughts and desires in diverse circumstances: an expat in China barely tolerates a visit from his well-meaning parents; a girl in Quintana Roo, Mexico, wonders what her mother does with the mysterious tall man who visits at night; a woman drives to Adelaide to visit the sister she hasn’t spoken to for 15 years. Mills has a knack for capturing moments that define what it is to be human. At the heart of these tales is our universal search for meaning, love and belonging, and Mills illuminates these powerful themes with dry wit and lyrical expression. Mills has compared assembling these stories to crafting the perfect mix tape. It’s an apt analogy for this intriguing and elegantly crafted collection, which cements Mills’ reputation as one of Australia’s most versatile young writers.

Carody Culver is a bookseller at Black Cat Books in Brisbane, a PhD student and a freelance reviewer. This review first appeared in the April/May issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.

PANZ Book Design Awards 2012 winners

The winners of the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) Book Design Awards were announced on 5 July.

The winning titles are:

Gerard Reid Award for Best Book sponsored by Nielsen Book Services, and Scholastic New Zealand Award for Best Children’s Book


Two Little Bugs (Mark & Rowan Sommerset, Dreamboat Books), designed  by Rowan Sommerset





HarperCollins Award for Best Cover



Tupaia (Joan Druett, Random House New Zealand), designed by Saskia Nicol








Mary Egan Award for Best Typography and Random House New Zealand Award for Best Illustrated Book



Fleur (Fleur Sullivan, Canterbury University Press), designed by Alan Deare, AREA Design








Hachette New Zealand Award for Best Non-Illustrated Book



Janet Frame in Her Own Words (Janet Frame, Penguin New Zealand), designed by Anna Egan-Reid








Pearson Award for Best Educational Book



He Kōrero – Words Between Us: First Māori-Pākehā Conversations on Paper (Alison Jones & Kuni Jenkins, Huia New Zealand), designed by Sam Bunny







Also awarded was the Awa Press Young Designer of the Year Award, which was presented to Megan van Staden from Random House New Zealand. Some of Megan’s designs can be seen online here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Sex Lives of Australians: A History (Frank Bongiorno, Black Inc.)

Frank Bongiorno’s The Sex Lives of Australians: A History is an important and fascinating account of Australia’s past through the lens of sex. With the kind of minute detail and first-hand accounts that bring to life an era and its people, Bongiorno draws his reader into the tangled sexual web of our history as colonisers and colonised, gold diggers, immigrants, bushrangers, overseas troops, homosexuals, feminists, victims of disease and sexual legislators. Bongiorno’s writing style is engaging, openminded and humorous. He shows great insight into the ideologies and politics of each of the time periods he examines, from the concerns over perceived rampant sodomy during transportation, to present-day ‘left-wing intellectuals concerned about unrestrained capitalism making common cause with moral conservatives worried about widespread sexual immorality and disorder’. His sources are well chosen for their entertainment value but Bongiorno has clearly also invested a great deal of research and time into making this history so accessible. This is a fascinating, unique book that will be enjoyed by a broad range of nonfiction fans.

Kate Sunners is a social sciences student at the University of Queensland. She is also a creative writing graduate and ex-bookseller. This review first appeared in the April/May issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine. View more pre-publication reviews here.