Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan: Book review

Tender Morsels, Margo LanaganTender Morsels came to my attention a while back after I read some ruckus about nutbags trying to get it banned (or something) because it depicts bears having sex with girls. And who doesn’t want to read about bears having sex with girls? I immediately bought a copy.

But anyone reading this book for the bear sex is a) an idiot, and b) going to be disappointed. Tender Morsels is like picking up a strange rock and marvelling at its different colours as you turn it over in your hand. The dark-fairy-tale plot is spectacularly unexpected: A young woman called Liga is subjected to horrifying abuse at the hands of men, so when mysterious magical forces give her the opportunity to retreat into a custom-made fantasy world, she takes it. It’s here, in her own personal heaven, that she raises her two daughters: gentle Branza and feisty Urdda.

The women are not entirely cut off from the real world. Several men are able to worm their way into Liga’s heaven – some of them strangely transforming into bears on the way in. Eventually, as the girls mature, it becomes clear they can’t all stay in this little snow globe forever. The story is rich with subtext about how women and those around them cope with and recover from terrible crimes committed against them, and wrapped up in Lanagan’s ethereal and blossoming prose.

This is one of those books that you read and wonder how anyone could find controversial. (But then, I doubt the kind of people who clamour about “controversial” books ever bother reading them.) Tender Morsels is a story about strong, fully-realised women learning to face the world. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to any young women I know. Or young men. Or anyone.


Book review: Zombies vs Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

A book with the title Zombies vs Unicorns is pretty much guaranteed to be made of awesome, and this is indeed made of awesome: not only because of its subject matter, but also because it’s edited and written by some of the foremost members of the YA mafia.

So the premise is basically that Justine Larbalestier prefers zombies while Holly Black prefers unicorns (Team Zombie FTW, btw), and they’ve each gathered writers to their cause to prove, once and for all, that one supernatural beastie reigns supreme over the other.

I reckon Team Zombie has the edge here: there are some fantastic (in both senses of the word) stories by Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfeld, Maureen Johnson, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Carrie Ryan and Libba Bray, who writes ‘Prom Night’, perhaps the best entry in the whole book (though it’s a tight race).

That said I have newfound respect for Team Unicorn thanks to the stories of Margo Lanagan, Naomi Novik and Meg Cabot.

Unusually for a short story collection, there aren’t any stinkers in Zombies vs Unicorns – though some entries waver on the lengthy side, the majority of the twisted tales are haunting or funny or both.

Not to be forgotten is the bold, brillmazing cover art by Josh Cochran: it depicts a gory, bloody, deliciously cartoony scene of zombies and unicorns locked in a battle to the death (or the afterdeath, or whatever it’s called when you kill the living dead). It kinda reminds me of a really violent Where’s Wally scene. I’d happily buy a print and put it up on my wall. (It turns out you can buy a print at Cochran’s website. Hmm. So tempting…)

There must be a sequel. Pirates vs Robots, perhaps?