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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Out There: A Short Tale of the Weird and Wonderful is a contemporary urban fantasy short story written by Justine Avery. Mrs. Susan Anderson is quite oblivious to her surroundings as she walks up the path to her front door. She doesn’t see the flowers blooming or the tenacious cactus, smell the scents of the ocean wafting up from the coast, or notice the wildlife in plain view up on the hillside above the lavish home where she and her husband live. Her eyes, attention and fingers are all focused upon her cell phone as she strolls, her imagination held captive by the small screen and the results of her tapping fingers. When she is finally inside the door, she quickly gets into the mood for dusting and polishing and making sure that everything she sees is perfectly clean, pristine and spotless in her domestic paradise. What she cannot control, however, is the strange brown mass that has somehow appeared outside the French doors to her terrace. It glistens in the sunlight, and the smell it exudes is disgusting.
Justine Avery’s humorous urban fantasy short story, Out There: A Short Tale of the Weird and Wonderful, juxtaposes the wonders of nature with the artificial world of a self-obsessed Los Angeles housewife. I wanted to tear her cellphone away from her face so she would see the lion cubs at play on the hillside and appreciate the salty breeze making its way up from the coast, and then I wondered at her obsessive-compulsive cleaning rituals. Avery sets the scene perfectly with those first few lines, and her imaginative, gentle take on the inanities of the so-called civilized world sweeps the reader from the banal to the fantastic, almost before you know it. This is a tale that is masterfully told, and it left me smiling for a little while and wanting more.