An entertaining fantasy presented as an ancient Indo-European Ur-myth.




Sielicki (The Double-Edged Sword of Freedom of Speech, 2012) offers a reconstructed myth based on the Slavic Jarilo folklore cycle.

Fraternal twins Yeva and Mara are born to a mysterious foreign couple on the outskirts of the Village of Falling Stars. Despite the fact that the residents harbor suspicions regarding the kids’ parents, the youngsters quickly become the darlings of the village. They are soon known for leading other local children on adventures in the nearby Forest. However, as the twins get older, their outlandish destinies become apparent: they’re favorites of the Dars, powerful beings who guide the world with their complex machinations. Saena-from-Peaks, the Giant Wolf, spirits Yeva away from his family to be tutored by Dar Vilenus and his stepdaughter, Daria Zimina. Merega-go-Between, the Giant Eagle, takes Mara, who later receives three gifts from Dar Vzor, including the Key That Opens All Doors. The fates of both twins appear to be tied up in an old story about Dar Svet, a junior Dar who stole the Heavenly Fire for his people; other Dars pursued him and caused his chariot to crash in the forest. Soon the twins must confront the legacy of the rebellious Svet. The world of this story has a fun, Tolkien-like density to it, as it features various gods, nations, shape-shifters, and talking beasts. As in many ancient myths (or pastiches of them), much is included, little is explained, and lists of minor people and places pop up every now and again: “—Look,—Fawa said to Yeva, guiding him through the Noble Oak Groves of Leshies, the Enchanted Swamps of Navi, the Aspen Highlands of Beregini, the Pine Dunes of Rusali, the Starry Steppes of Pyleviks, the Labyrinth Jungles of Gandharva, the Dreaming Deserts of Hala, and the Icy Barrens of Vilas.” The story is relatively short, and it will be enjoyable enough for mythology fans. It’s disappointing, though, that Sielicki never explains his methodology for creating this world; readers never know what’s source material, what’s borrowed, and what’s merely invented.

An entertaining fantasy presented as an ancient Indo-European Ur-myth.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2014


Page Count: 45

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2015

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.


When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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