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The Best American Short Stories 2014
The Best American Short Stories 2014
by Jennifer Egan
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.45
76 used & new from $7.45

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection of contemporary literary short fiction, October 26, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's been a while since I've read much "literary" fiction - and even longer since I've ready any literature that could be called "contemporary." Back in grad school (in the `70's), I took a seminar in contemporary short fiction, reading works by Borges and Updike and Vonnegut (all of them are now dead). This collection - the 2014 edition of THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES - was a delightful introduction to a number of contemporary writers whose names I did not know, but whose work I will definitely explore now that I've sampled them. As with any collection, you probably won't love all of the stories in this book; but I can honestly say that I liked the overwhelming majority. There are a few writers here with whom I was familiar (Ann Beattie and Joyce Carol Oates among them), but I was more impressed with T. C. Boyle, Craig Davidson, Brendan Matthews, and Karen Russell.

If there's any theme that runs through most of the stories it's the isolation and detachment experienced by twenty-first century living. Many of the characters in these stories seem lost in the banality of their lives, or in a seemingly vain struggle to hold onto some form of perfection, or meaning, or purpose. Relationships fall apart, a woman tries to make the most of a perfect spring day, a boy grows up with a toxic father and absent mother, a woman tells the story of her dead musician friend through a series of photos and videos, and another contemplates suicide in between prime-time TV and frozen dinners. But however depressing some of these stories are (and some of them definitely are depressing), there is a humanity in them that's profound and uplifting, even in subtle ways. And woven through many of the stories is a love of writing, of reading, and of language. That alone makes these stories worth reading.

Oddly enough, the one story that most moved me was a little gem by Karen Russell called "Madame Bovary's Greyhound." Russell manages to tell her story from the point of view of the little greyhound Emma Bovary's husband gives her near the beginning of Flaubert's novel. Through the greyhound, Russell explores such grand themes as love and devotion, loss and betrayal, and the ultimate confusion of a broken heart. I found the story lovely and poignant and ultimately very touching. I know I will remember this story (and it made me dig up my old dog-eared copy of MADAME BOVARY to reread Emma's conversations with her adoring pup).

At the end of this collection, editor Jennifer Egan provides brief biographies on each of the writers included, as well as their comments on their selected stories. I found these very interesting and revealing. There is also a very helpful listing of American and Canadian magazines that still publish short stories in this modern, electronic world. I just may subscribe to a few.

Overall, if you enjoy literary fiction - even if, like me, you have wandered away from it for a few too many years - this is an excellent introduction to some really good contemporary writers. I'm very glad I had the chance to read these stories.


9 Lives Lean and Tasty Dry Cat Food, 3.15-Pound, 6-Pack
9 Lives Lean and Tasty Dry Cat Food, 3.15-Pound, 6-Pack
Price: $29.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's cat food -- my cat eats it, October 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I usually buy whatever cat food is on sale -- no regular brand, no regular flavor, just whatever bag costs the least. And over the years, I've noticed no difference at all in what she will eat. If it's cat food, she eats it.

But I've never tried any cat food before that advertised itself as a weight loss product. And since my cat is a bit on the chubby side, I figured this was worth a try. It looks and smells just like all the other dry cat foods out there, so I had hope.

And yes, she gobbled this up as quickly and with as much relish as any of the other bowls of dry cat food I've dished out. This morning, after her first "Lean and Tasty" dinner, she was as anxious as ever to enjoy a breakfast of the same.

I can't attest to whether or not this product will help your cat lose weight -- it would take several months of testing to determine that, and as with any product of this sort, "results will vary." But I can say that my cat seemed to notice no difference in the taste or quality of her meals, so if you're trying to get your cat to lose a few pounds, this might very well help with that.

Would I buy this product in my local supermarket? Definitely . . . if it's on sale!


A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird)
A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird)
by Claudia Gray
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.37

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting YA sci-fi adventure . . . but too much teen-girl romance, October 22, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Claudia Gray's A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU is a YA sci-fi novel that seems to straddle two genres without ever quite getting comfortable with either. On one level, the novel is a provocative adventure about "quantum leaping" through multiverses on a desperate quest to solve a heinous murder. But on another level, it's all about teen-girl romantic angst as our heroine is torn between two potential lovers.

Seventeen-year-old Marguerite Caine is the artistic daughter of two super-scientists who have just invented a device called the Firebird that makes it possible for people to "leap" between parallel universes. But when her father is suddenly murdered - apparently by Paul Markov, one of his research assistants - Marguerite and her father's other assistant (Theo Beck) decide to use the Firebird to track down the killer and bring him to justice. This requires them to follow Paul through several universes, and each time they "leap" they face new challenges - especially once Paul begins to insist that he is not the killer they seek.

This aspect of the novel is definitely exciting, and I was quickly involved in Marguerite's devastating loss, her determination to solve the mystery, and her experiences in universes very different than her own. But a huge part of this novel centers on Marguerite's rather silly infatuation with both Theo and Paul, an infatuation which quickly becomes a real romantic triangle. Part of the problem is that Marguerite, at 17 years old, is definitely a minor, and both Paul and Theo are adults. But an even greater problem is how far Marguerite takes her romantic inclinations, including having sex while she's "borrowing" the body of another version of herself.

This sounds rather convoluted - and it is - but Gray has gone to a great deal of trouble to make the science in her novel believable. According to her theory of quantum physics, it is possible (with the Firebird) for energy to travel between parallel universes, but not matter. That means a person's consciousness can "leap" between universes, but not her body. Thus when Marguerite leaps to a new universe, she finds herself inside the body of that universe's Marguerite. And the same is true for Paul and Theo - they leap into their alternate selves. So whatever romantic shenanigans Marguerite engages in are committed with a body that is not her own - a body she has, in fact, kidnapped! It's weird and creepy and it made my skin crawl a bit.

There's more to it than that, and it's never clear what happens to the bodies these characters leap out of (for example, when Marguerite's consciousness leaps into another Marguerite in another universe, what happens to her original body? Grey suggests that the body disappears until she returns to it, but I'm not sure how or why). I got a bit tangled up in the many different versions of these characters, but that's part of what makes the story fascinating and exciting - you're never quite sure who's who, or who you can trust, or what will ultimately happen.

But the romantic element of the story is definitely less compelling. And for about 100 pages midway through the novel Marguerite finds herself stuck in an alternate version of Russia where she's a Romanov princess in a universe without technology. There's nothing at all for her to do but lust after the alternate version of Paul (he's a Russian palace guard) while she agonizes over her feelings for Theo. It slows down the story and puts all the emphasis on Marguerite's conflicting feelings about these two guys, both of whom are hot (she says), and both of whom seem to be hot for her.

Bottom line, I really liked the quantum leaping adventure story, including the mystery of what happened to Marguerite's father. But I wasn't as crazy about the romantic triangle, the teen-girl crushing, and all the "should I or shouldn't I" angst. Parents, be advised that there are references here to drug use and descriptions of sexual activity - there's nothing graphic and no inappropriate language, but the attitude toward drug use and sex may seem a bit permissive, especially considering the ages of the characters involved. I liked A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU, but I would have liked it more had the romance been toned down and the sci-fi adventure been ramped up. This is the first part of a planned trilogy, so I expect more of both in the next installment. This is an exciting and well-written novel. Just be prepared for a heavy dose of teen-girl romance.


Primula Flavor Now 2.7-Quart Pitcher with Instant Infuser, Flavor Wand and Chill Core, Cherry
Primula Flavor Now 2.7-Quart Pitcher with Instant Infuser, Flavor Wand and Chill Core, Cherry
Offered by Boston Fashion House
Price: $14.95
16 used & new from $2.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The pitcher is OK; the "infusion" system, not so much, October 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This isn't a bad pitcher. The benefits are:
1) It fits in the door of your refrigerator, thus taking up less space
2) It's easy to take apart and clean
3) It has a freezable inner core that will keep drinks chilled without ice

But the primary intention of this product is to use it to defuse flavors (from fruit, veggies, and herbs) into water or other liquids. I tried it with grapes first, just to see how easy it is to use. I sliced the grapes in half first, and then dropped them into the "infusion core," which screws into the pitcher. Then I used the "Flavor Wand" to "muddle" the grapes - this mashes them up so that their flavor can be infused into the water through a mesh screen in the core. Then I filled the pitcher with water, attached the lid, and shook the container vigorously, thoroughly blending the water with the mashed grapes. Then I waited five or six minutes (as instructed) for the infusion to happen.

Well, there was a hint of grapey flavor in the water, but not much. And the pitcher was a mess to clean. You have to remove the "infusion core," unscrew the bottom to dump out the mashed fruit, and then clean both pieces. The "Flavor Wand" (or "muddler") must also be cleaned, and I noticed that some liquid seems to have gotten inside the wand, which is impossible to get out. Apparently, the seal on the end of the wand isn't secure. This will clearly cause problems down the road.

Overall, I might use this as a pitcher, and the freezable inner core is a nice feature, especially for when you need to keep drinks cold without refrigeration. But the infuser thing is more trouble than it's worth. It's an OK pitcher. But that's about it.


DII Round Woven/Braided Placemats/Chargers, Metallic Red, Set of 6
DII Round Woven/Braided Placemats/Chargers, Metallic Red, Set of 6
Price: $23.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars These placemats are too small!, October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
These round placemats are small, thin, scratchy, and overly shiny. If you're looking for something for Christmas, the shine may not be a problem (who doesn't like a little sparkle for the holidays?), but for everyday use, the glitter seems a bit over the top.

The biggest problem, however, isn't the shine or the quality of the placemats, but rather the size. Each placemat measures 15 ˝ inches in diameter, which means a standard 10 ˝-inch dinner plate will sit on it with only two inches of room on either side. This makes it difficult to get silverware to fit next to the plate (even the pictures posted with the description show how small the placemats are - note that some of the silverware must be placed on the tablecloth, since it won't fit on the placemat). Additionally, there's no way a water or wine glass will fit on this placemat. Any placemat - especially one for special occasion use - must be big enough to hold plates, silverware, and glasses.

This is a big enough problem that I wouldn't use these, especially not for the holidays.

If you're planning a holiday luncheon, these placemats may work for you. A lunch-sized plate, silverware, and glassware should fit with minimal a problem. But if you're looking for placemats for your holiday dinner table, these are too small to do justice to the occasion.


Earth & Sky (The Earth & Sky Trilogy Book 1)
Earth & Sky (The Earth & Sky Trilogy Book 1)
by Megan Crewe
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.99
17 used & new from $5.96

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lackluster YA sci-fi adventure story, October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Megan Crewe's EARTH & SKY is a YA science fiction novel about aliens, time travel, and a race to save the planet. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a tedious slog to get through.

High school senior Skylar (or Sky) has always suffered from anxiety issues and panic attacks - it's as if the very fabric of the universe suddenly seems to come unraveled and she feels lost and terrified. This sense of "wrongness" always rights itself eventually, and she's convinced that whatever is happening to her is psychological in nature, something she can overcome by focusing on concrete things like numbers and math. But when Sky meets a strange boy named Win, she learns that there's a logical explanation for the frightening things she has seen, an explanation rooted in a centuries-old alien conquest, travel through time and space, and an alien resistance movement determined to free planet Earth from a horrible enslavement.

This all sounds really interesting, but the story is so wrapped up in its two central characters, Sky and Win, that the wider reaches of its plot get totally lost. Win comes from another planet, a planet that has been destroyed by the careless actions of its inhabitants. He's also part of a resistance movement attempting to right the wrongs done to planet Earth over the centuries. But we get little of Win's backstory, and even less of the real parameters of the resistance. The purpose of the alien conquest (which involves scientific experimentation and study) never really makes much sense, and Crewe spends little time developing this aspect of her story. Instead, the huge majority of the novel involves Sky and Win running around evading alien Enforcers and traveling through time and space to find the parts of an alien weapon that just might free the planet from alien control.

This might not be a problem if there was chemistry of any kind between Sky and Win. But there isn't. There are hints of a possible romance, but Sky seems to have more chemistry with Daniel (a guy she refers to briefly in the first chapter) than she ever does with Win. And his interest in her seems totally pragmatic - she can help him find the parts of the alien weapon. Oh, there's a kiss - Win wants to find out what it feels like to kiss an Earthling girl - but there's nothing romantic about it.

And if the romance doesn't work, the novel becomes more tedious than exciting. Sky and Win journey to 19th century Paris, Vietnam in the year 938, and 18th century Ohio, but none of it seems particularly real or believable. The same things happen over and over - Sky and Win time-travel, the Enforcers pursue them, they almost get caught, and then they do it all over again. By the third trip, it all seems rather meh.

I like time travel stories, and Crewe does a commendable job trying to make her version of time travel (which involves a "time cloth" rather than a time machine) jive with physics. I just never felt invested in either Sky or Win as characters. Since this is the first of yet another YA series (of course it is!), that's a problem. Crewe sets up the second installment at the end of this one, but I felt no inclination to pursue this story further. I might have liked this better had it been a fully developed, complete novel - as it is, it's the set-up for something that isn't interesting enough to justify multiple volumes.

If you enjoy time travel stories and don't mind a bit of repetition (and a cliff-hanger ending!), EARTH & SKY might be worth a read. But be prepared for characters that aren't particularly compelling. Bottom line, it's an OK novel.


All Good Deeds (A Lucy Kendall Thriller) (Lucy Kendall #1) (The Lucy Kendall Series)
All Good Deeds (A Lucy Kendall Thriller) (Lucy Kendall #1) (The Lucy Kendall Series)
Price: $4.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First-rate, masterful thriller, October 15, 2014
Stacy Green's ALL GOOD DEEDS is a masterful thriller with engaging characters and a deviously twisted plot that takes off at breakneck speed and never lets up. The narrator is 34-year-old Lucy Kendall, a former social worker with Child Protective Services who has spent the last eighteen months as a vigilante killer, determined to rid the world of pedophiles. The ethical and moral conflicts here are monumental, and Green pulls no punches in addressing both sides of the issue. Lucy is convinced that the justice system is flawed, allowing too many predators to escape punishment. Her personal method of delivering justice (cyanide poison) is definitely illegal - she's committing first degree murder, no matter how repugnant her victims are - but she fights hard to justify her actions as for the greater good. At the same time, it is more than possible one of her targets might actually be innocent. Vigilante justice only works if the victim is truly guilty.

We first meet Lucy in a bar where she's poised to take out her sixth victim, a creepy pedophile who got off on a legal technicality. Before she has a chance to act, however, she's approached by Chris Hale, who claims to be "in the same line of work" - as he tells Lucy, he's "the garbage man. Just taking out the trash." She's not sure she believes him, especially when he claims to be a psychopath, but she's definitely intrigued. The two of them get caught up in the investigation of a missing 9-year-old girl, who just might have been taken by one of the people Lucy has been keeping tabs on in her crusade against child abusers. Justin Beckett raped and murdered a young girl when he was eleven years old, but his record was expunged because he was prosecuted as a child. Now, a decade later, did he take little Kailey? To make matters more complicated, Justin's older brother Todd is the detective on the case, and Lucy is concerned he will not follow up on his brother's involvement. Lucy and Chris race against the clock to prove Justin is the kidnapper before it's too late.

But there's more to the story. Many of the players are keeping secrets - including Chris, Justin, and Kailey's mother. It becomes more and more difficult to tell the villains from the victims, until Lucy begins to question her own motives as a vigilante. If she kills a child abuser without remorse, what does that say about her? Is she as sociopathic as the abusers she pursues? But if she stops her crusade, she'll be letting horrible people continue preying on children, which is something she can't bring herself to do. It's a dilemma that's not easy to reconcile.

The best thing about ALL GOOD DEEDS is its characters. There are so many layers to Lucy, layers that Green reveals slowly, over the course of the novel. There are reasons she's so determined to bring child abusers to justice, and reasons she is so intent on bringing down Justin. Chris's character is equally fascinating, especially once his true identity is revealed. He claims to be a sociopath who has killed many people himself for the same reasons as Lucy. But there's something about him that makes her doubt his story - is he really a murderer without a conscience, or does he have his own layers to unravel, layers that might reveal surprising motives. Secondary characters - such as Lucy's computer assistant Kelly, police detective Todd Beckett, and creepy school janitor Brian Harrison - are equally well-drawn and convincing. This is a rich and multi-faceted cast of characters that add depth and authenticity to this harrowing story.

Bottom line, ALL GOOD DEEDS is a first-rate thriller with a fascinating protagonist. Stacy Green is planning a series of Lucy Kendall novels, which is definitely good news. There's a lot more story to tell, and lot more about Lucy I'd like to discover. I recommend ALL GOOD DEEDS to fans of fast-paced thrillers with intelligent, provocative characters and great stories. You won't be disappointed.

[Please note: I was provided a copy of this novel for review; the opinions expressed here are my own.]


My Father's Wives: A Novel
My Father's Wives: A Novel
by Mike Greenberg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Feel-good rich guy fantasy, October 15, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mike Greenberg's MY FATHER'S WIVES is a novel about the pursuit of perfection. Forty-year-old narrator Jonathan Sweetwater is living the perfect life - he's rich, he's best friends with his billionaire boss (who provides him with his own limo and driver, flies him all over the place first class, and sets up pick-up games with Michael Jordan), and he has a gorgeous wife and two adorable kids. Perfect, right? Well, when he comes home early from a business trip to find his wife in a seemingly compromising position with an unidentified man, all of Jonathan's perfection crumbles. Rather than confronting the situation, he sets out on a two-week odyssey to discover the truth - not just about his wife, but about his deceased father, a powerful five-term senator who deserted him when he was nine and had six wives before he died. It's an interesting premise, and Jonathan is a likable enough narrator, but I never quite got the connection between his non-relationship with his father and his inability to deal directly with his wife. By the end, I found myself wondering what the whole thing had really been about.

Part of the problem is the almost unbelievable affluence of Jonathan's life. He and his boss go out clubbing after work (to places where only the rich and famous can get in) and they dine at the most exclusive of restaurants. Jonathan flies first class (with caviar and Champagne), and his boss doesn't seem to mind that he's jetting off to Aspen, New York, and London in his personal odyssey - in fact, the only time his boss actually requires him to come into the office is when he wants to play basketball. Additionally, Jonathan has an extensive wine cellar - he and his wife share of bottle of pricey wine just about every evening. It's quite a blissful portrait of family life - mom and dad are sipping Estancia Pinot Noir, the kids have milk, and everyone shares a group hug. So when Jonathan becomes convinced that his wife is cheating on him, he is understandably shaken. He decides to pay a visit to each of his father's six wives, hoping a better understanding of the man who deserted him would help him better understand himself.

But his quest to visit his father's wives never quite makes sense. Jonathan seems concerned that he's either too much like his father (he calls him a "serial monogamist," since he could never commit to any woman for more than a few years but he always had to be married) or too little like him (which would suggest he could never be as popular, as charismatic, or as powerful as his father was). But if his wife really is cheating on him, it has nothing to do with either his father or his father's wives. And what little he learns from the women he visits (the wives' characters are thinly developed, and their conversations with Jonathan are fairly brief) sheds no light on whether or not his wife is cheating on him. What is revealed is that Jonathan, like his father, has been obsessed with perfection. And as one of the wives tells him, perfection isn't possible.

I enjoyed reading MY FATHER'S WIVES. Greenberg has an easygoing writing style, and the novel is both readable and engaging. I just had a little trouble identifying with super-wealthy Jonathan and his suspicions about his wife. The central mystery of the novel - is his wife cheating or isn't she? - was never really much of a mystery. And the most interesting character by far - Jonathan's deceased father - is neither fully developed nor understandable. In the end, this is a feel-good story about very rich people living a fantasy life. It just never felt real.


DII Oceanique Machine Washable 100% Cotton Chenille Pop Corn Luxury Spa Bath Rug, 17 x 24", Stone Blue
DII Oceanique Machine Washable 100% Cotton Chenille Pop Corn Luxury Spa Bath Rug, 17 x 24", Stone Blue
Price: $11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Small, uncomfortable, and inconvenient bath rug, October 8, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was hoping this bath rug would work in our guest bathroom, which is in need of a new rug. The color is perfect -- a bluish-gray hue that makes it look more expensive than it is. But unfortunately it's too small (even for my small guest bathroom), the "pop corn" surface of the rug is uncomfortable on bare feet, and the care instructions make it clear that this is not a convenient bath rug.

The size (17"x24") is considerably smaller than the old bath rug I was looking to replace (31"x21"). I wanted something that would work in front of the toilet, but would also be large enough to be useful in front of the sink. The old rug fit perfectly. This one is just too small.

Then there's the "pop corn" surface of the bath rug -- it's described as "chenille," but it's much harder than any chenille I've seen. It's not comfortable on bare feet, which means it isn't a good choice for the bathroom.

And finally, the washing instructions indicate that this rug must be washed in cold water, and it must be dried flat -- it can't be machine dried. I generally throw my bath rugs into the washing machine whenever I wash my towels, and I dry them together in my dryer. It's inconvenient to have to wash this in cold water, but it's just ridiculous to have to lay it flat to dry. Really?

Bottom line, this is an inexpensive little bath rug that looks nicer than it is. The most important aspects of any bath rug have to be comfort and convenience, and this one misses the mark on both.


Now That You're Here (Duplexity, Part I)
Now That You're Here (Duplexity, Part I)
by Amy K. Nichols
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cute YA sci-fi romance -- too bad it's the start of yet another series!, October 1, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Amy Nichols's NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE is a teen sci-fi romance novel about two fifteen-year-olds caught between parallel universes. Eevee Solomon is your typical science nerd and academic high achiever. She and BFF Warren Fletcher have hopes of winning the science fair, which they're certain will solidify their chances of getting into a top rate college. When stoner washout Danny Ogdon shows up at Eevee's house asking for help, she has no clue what's going on. But it quickly becomes clear that this Danny isn't the Danny Eevee has known for years. This Danny claims to have come from a world that sounds like something George Orwell could have dreamed up (a world where people are under constant surveillance by "Spectrum cams," where "Education Panels" make decisions about people's lives, and where "Hydro tanks" are used to reprogram those who dare to rebel). So Eevee, Warren, and Danny set out to unravel the mystery, which suggests not only that there are an unlimited number of parallel universes out there, but that "jumping" between them is actually possible. The problem is, how can Danny get back to his real world? And once he and Eevee fall for each other, how can he prevent "jumping" so he can remain with her?

This is a cute novel that works best as a romance. Nichols alternates first-person chapters between Eevee and Danny, so the reader gets insight into both of their minds. And what they think about most - after they figure out they're dealing with parallel universes - is each other. Eevee quickly sees that this Danny isn't the stoner bully his counterpart has been, and he realizes that this Eevee isn't the radical artist he kissed one afternoon at a museum in his world. It's obvious from the start that they will fall in love. It's equally obvious that theirs will be a romance plagued with conflict. The only way they can stay together is if Danny can keep himself from "jumping" back to his own universe - and that's something over which he has little control.

The biggest negative here is that this is just the first installment in a series (called "Duplexity"). What that means, of course, is that there's no resolution here, and very little plot progression. Not a whole lot happens in NOW THAT YOU'RE HERE. Danny comes to Eevee for help, Eevee convinces Warren to work with them, they try to get in touch with physics teacher Mac (who is conveniently missing for most of the novel), and Danny keeps having strange episodes where he feels like he's "jumping" back to his universe. That's about it. Well, except for the lovey-dovey stuff - Danny kisses Eevee, she kisses him back, he kisses her a few more times, they watch the stars together, he draws pictures for her, they paint graffiti together, and they worry about what might happen down the road. It's a story that spans less than three weeks.

All the time I was reading this I kept thinking that Danny's world (the Orwellian dystopia complete with Big-Brother-is Watching surveillance cams) would make for a much more interesting story. As it turns out, Nichols's second Duplexity novel will take place during the same three weeks as this one does, but in Danny's universe, starring the Danny from Eevee's world and the Eevee from Danny's. That's not a bad idea, but it does mean that readers who are yearning to find out what will happen between this Eevee and Danny will have to wait until the third installment. And that's a real bummer.

That said, it's nice to read a novel for teens with a female protagonist who's more into science and education than she is boys and gossip. Eevee is a strong female role model, even when she's mooning over Danny (her love for him seems at least partly connected to the fantastic science fiction adventure he brings into her life). The novel seems written for younger teens, since there's no inappropriate language, no sex, and no violence. Its prose is simple and straightforward, with minimal description. This should be an easy read for kids in 7th-10th grade. If you don't mind getting stuck in yet another series of books designed to make you keep shelling out your money, this isn't a bad story. Just be aware that you'll end up buying at least two more novels after this one if you want to find out what happens.


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