Saturday, February 28, 2015

Fever Dream - Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

   2010; 405 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book 10 (out of 14) in the Agent Pendergast Series; Book 1 (out of 3) in the “Helen” trilogy.  Genre : Thriller; Murder-Mystery.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    For 12 long years, Special Agent Pendergast has grieved over the loss of his wife, Helen, killed in a tragic accident by a man-eating lion while they were on a safari in Africa.  Now suddenly he discovers it was instead a premeditated, cold-blooded murder.

    Obviously, Pendergast is going to find the perpetrator of the plot, and wreak vengeance and justice upon the unlucky soul.  But whoever did this went to a lot of time and trouble, to say nothing of money, to make it look like an accident.  And Helen was just a nurse.

    So beyond the question of   “Who” did it lies a more subtle and perplexing one.


What’s To Like...
    It’s been a while since I’ve read a book from this series (the previous one is reviewed here), so it was nice to meet up with the ‘old gang’ again.  Aloysius Pendergast is his usual, incisive self, and Detective Vincent D’Agosta plays an entertaining Dr. Watson to Pendergast’s Sherlock Holmes.  Constance Greene, perhaps my favorite character in the series, is back, although her actions really remain tangential to the main storyline here.  Perhaps she becomes more relevant further on in the trilogy.  The other main character is D’Agosta’s girlfriend, Laura Hayward.  Although one of the “good guys”, she resents the perils into which D’Agosta falls via his association with Pendergast.  I like it when there is tension among the protagonists.

     Fever Dream is first and foremost a Murder-Mystery, and structured more like a fast-paced Thriller than a Police Procedural.  The 12-year lag in Pendergast discovering this was a murder makes it a cold case, and those are always fascinating.  Some key players have passed away, others have disappeared.  The usual Preston & Child motif of Is it natural or is it supernatural?” is not present here, other than the continuing mystery of “Who or What is Constance Greene?”

    The storyline moves along briskly, as Pendergast finds out there were many sides of Helen that she had kept hidden from him.  The settings are primarily Africa and the swamps and Cajun regions of Louisiana and Mississippi.  There are plenty of plot twists, and the motive for killing Helen is both clever and original.  The ending ties everything up neatly, although one of the baddies eludes capture to set up the sequel.

Kewlest New Word ...
Foxed (adj.) : (of the paper in old books) discolored with brown spots.
Others : Scrofulous (adj.); Serried (adj.); Amanuensis (n.).

    “Care for another sundowner?” Pendergast asked his wife, raising the cocktail pitcher.
    “Another?” she replied with a laugh.  “Aloysius, you wouldn’t be planning an assault on my virtue, would you?”
    “The thought never entered my mind.  I was hoping perhaps we could spend the night discussing Kant’s concept of the categorical imperative.”
    “Now you see, this is exactly what my mother warned me about.  You marry a man because he’s good with a rifle, only to find he has the brains of an ocelot.”  (pg. 2)

    “And the father?  Is he still alive?”
    “He’s dead.”
    “He was precipitated into a pyroclastic flow.”
    “He was ... excuse me?”
    “It’s a geological term.  He fell into a volcano.”  (pg. 218)

 “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.”  (pg. 75, and actually from Shakespeare’s “King Lear”. )
    The quibbles are few and minor.  Pendergast waltzes into the NYPD unannounced, tells D-Agosta he needs to leave his job immediately for an unknown-but-substantial length of time, on an investigation that may well get one or both of them killed, and D’Agosta just ups and accepts.  If I were his boss, I would be less than pleased.

    Also, Maurice the butler commits a rather blatant gaffe that could’ve spelled the deaths of our heroes. I’d go as far as to call it a firing offense.

    Still, it was impressive the way Preston & Child addressed the “why go to all this trouble” issue, and if some of the action was a bit over-the-top, well it was all for a good storytelling cause.

    8½ Stars.  Fever Dream was an exciting, spellbinding read, as were all the books in this series that I’ve read so far (6 out of 14).  I am at a loss to say why I took a 6-year hiatus from a series that has always kept me entertained.  I think it will be a lot shorter time before I tackle Book 2 in this trilogy.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Wrath of the Lemming Men - Toby Frost

    2009; 320 pages.  Book 3 (out of 5) of The Chronicles of Isambard Smith.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Sci-Fi Spoof; Space Opera.  Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    The intergalactic war rages on, with the heroic British Space Empire and the M’Lak on one side, and the dastardly Ghasts and Yull on the other.  The two sides are pretty evenly matched.  A new ally in either camp would probably tip the scales of the conflict.

   Hey, how about the Vorl?  Those creepy-crawly, ghost-like beings would make good partners for the good guys.  Or excellent ectoplasmic hybridizing material for the bad guys.  There's a problem though – no one’s exactly sure where the Vorl hang out.  Ghosts are funny that way.

    But wait a minute, isn’t one of Captain Smith’s space crew half Vorl?  Why don’t we send them out on a search-and-sweet-talk mission?

    Just make sure the baddies don’t catch wind of what we’re up to.

What’s To Like...
    The Yull, introduced in the previous book in the series (reviewed here) now take the center stage.  Their legions are fearless, relentless, and almost unbeatable unless you can somehow maneuver them to the edge of a cliff, where they have this strange urge to jump into oblivion.  Rodent-like in appearance, the moniker “Lemming Men” is a natural fit.

   All of Smith’s crew – Rhianna, Polly, Suruk, and Gerald the Hamster are back, along with the other white-hats Dreckitt, “W”,and Wainscott.  The latter has a new assistant, Susan, who's someone you don’t want to square off against on the battlefield.  I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of her down the line.

    There are new worlds to visit, new critters to encounter, and lots of fighting, bloodshed, and zipping around space.  As always, humor and wit are heaped atop the action and adventure.  When’s the last time you read a sci-fi story featuring an amusement park?

    There are some neat (and sometimes obscure) cultural references as well, among them Men Without Hats’ “The Safety Dance”, the musicians Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, and a lesson on how to play the utterly incomprehensible game of Cricket.  A father is lost; a father is found.  The focus is on Suruk quite a bit, and for me, he’s the real star of the series.

    Wrath of the Lemming Men is a fun, fast-paced, easy-to-read standalone  novel, with just a smattering of adult situations and language.

Kewlest New Word...
Shufty (n.) : a quick look; a peep.  (a Britishism)
Others : Benighted (adj.)

    Suruk had been staring across the bar, watching Carveth drink.  Smith leaned over to him.  “Everything alright, Suruk?”
    “I think so.  The little woman is drinking a pint of beer through a straw.  She has powerful lungs, Mazuran; no doubt she would be well suited to playing the euphemism.”
    “You mean euphonium.”
    “I am not sure I do,” Suruk said.   (loc. 2098)

    “Now, would you care for some music to assist you in sleeping?”  Suruk pulled out a handful of records from the shelf.  “Let us see . . . Beethoven’s Ninth, Shostakovitch Moods, Stockhausen’s Greatest Melodies . . .”
    “Haven’t you got anything a bit less classical?”
    “I have Anthrax.”
    “Thanks for sharing.  What about your Minnie Ripperton records?”
    Suruk raised an eyebrow-ridge.  “You listen to war music in bed?  No wonder you are so strange.”  (loc. 3597)

Kindle Details...
    Wrath Of The Lemming-Men sells for $7.99 at Amazon.  The other four e-books in the series all sell for $4.99 apiece.  I am at a loss to say why this one costs $3 more.

“I will have vengeance, or I will have kittens!”  (loc. 3314)
    There are a couple quibbles.  The plotline felt a bit “forced”.  Before seeking out the Vorl, Smith and company first investigate an alleged smuggling-to-the-enemy operation., and lo and behold, it gives them a key clue into locating the spectral species.  I know this is space opera, but still.

    Also, the overall formula for book 3 is almost identical to that of book 2.  Fly around, visit a few new planets, get chased by the bad guys, and kick their fat stercoriums (stercoria?) in a climactic clash.  Is this all there is to this series (in which case the books can be read in any order), or is there a larger story about cosmic conquest that is proceeding with Robert Jordanesque slowness?  It would be good to know before getting too hooked on the series.

    7½ Stars.  Let’s be clear, Wrath of the Lemming Men is still an entertaining read, and well worth the time of anyone who enjoys their Science Fantasy laced with both humor and excitement.  But please tell me this is all heading somewhere.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Excavation - James Rollins

   2000; 416 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Thriller; Action-Adventure.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Professor Henry Conklin has mummy issues, especially with the one he’s recently unearthed high in the Peruvian Andes.  He’s convinced it predates the Incas, and has flown back with it to the United States to have tests run that will prove his hypothesis, leaving his student archaeologists to carry on with the excavation.

    Alas, the test results are not what the professor was hoping for – the mummy is actually a Dominican priest from the conquistador days.  But what is found inside his cranium more than compensates for the archaeological disappointment.

    Meanwhile, his crew of interns are making some amazing discoveries themselves.  Unfortunately, their finds have attracted the attention of the local thieves, who think those things are worth killing for.  And when it comes down to a fight between college students versus hardened bandits, put your money on the latter.

What’s To Like...
    The story is fast-paced with non-stop action that is at times over-the-top.  The temple travails in particular will remind you of Indiana Jones.  The combination of Archaeology, Ancient History, and Science makes it my kind of book.  The Historical Fiction portions felt quite believable and well-researched.  I particularly enjoyed the “is it natural or is it supernatural?” motif.  Preston & Child would give it four thumbs up.

    There are some kewl beasts and critters to contend with.  Anyone up for taking on the albino tarantulas?  Nah, didn’t think so.  The “native tribe” is well-crafted.  They may seem primitive, but you don’t want to get on their bad side.

    The rest of the characters are rather stereotyped, especially the professor’s student interns.  You have the black athletic jock, the glasses-wearing nerd, and the spoiled, rich-kid a**hole.  There's a pair of love interests, but both are obvious and predictable.

    There are some cusswords, but no sex or drugs or rock-&-roll.  This is a standalone novel, and AFAIK none of the characters appear in any other books by James Rollins.  Oh yeah, the (mass paperback) book cover is way kewl.

    “What now?” Maggie asked.
    Sam glanced forward and backward.  Everyone began talking at once.  Sam raised the light to get everyone’s attention.  “Stay calm!  It won’t do us any good to panic!”
    At that moment, Sam’s flashlight flickered and died.  Darkness swallowed them up, a blackness so deep it seemed as if the world had completely vanished.  Voices immediately dropped silent.
    After a long held breath, Norma spoke from the darkness.  “Okay, now can we panic?”  (pg. 155)

    Ralph stood with his head cocked, listening to the growing howls.  “Whatever we decide, we’d better hurry.”
    “Like I said before, they’re growing more confident because we aren’t doing anything,” Maggie said.  But if we began moving, taking the fire with us, that ought to spook them again.  Also, maybe this cavern is their home.  If it’s a territorial thing, by moving, showing them that we’re leaving, they may not attack.”
    “That’s a lot of maybes,” Ralph countered.  (pg. 210)

 “It is only ordinary gold.  Worthless.”  (pg. 90)
    Excavation is an early effort by James Rollins, his second published novel to be exact.  It felt a little “rough around the edges”.  Although there are an ample number of plot twists, their resolutions seemed predictable (was there ever any doubt about how Joan was going to escape?) and clich├ęd.

   This book is not part of his “Sigma Force” series, which will turn off some prospective readers.  I’ve now read four of his books – 2 featuring the Sigma Force troupe, 2 not.  I find I prefer the “non-Sigmas” by a slight margin.

    Excavation may not go down as Rollins’ masterpiece, but I didn’t find any plot holes and/or scientific/historical implausibilities.  It was an entertaining read, and sometimes that’s all you’re looking for.

    8 Stars.  Add 1 star if you prefer your Action-Adventure reads to be over-the-top.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Vine: An Urban Legend - Michael Williams

    2012; 192 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Contemporary Fiction; Drama.  Overall Rating : 5½*/10.

    Stephen Thorne has decided to stage a play.   It is an ambitious undertaking – he wants to do an ancient Greek play called The Bacchae, and to stage it in Louisville, Kentucky, which happens to be Thorne’s old stomping grounds.

    There is some competition – the nearby Baptist church is also working on putting on the play Our Town, and there are only so many people in Louisville with thespian aspirations.  But there are old acquaintances, and old flames, that Stephen can call upon to staff the cast and its understudies.

    Interestingly, some of the old Greek deities have gotten wind of Stephen’s endeavor. In particular, the nine Muses have taken a keen interest in it.  Unfortunately, when Greek gods/goddesses meddle in the affairs of humankind, it’s almost always bad news for the mortals.

What’s To Like...
    If you’re a Greek mythology buff (and I am), Vine : An Urban Legend will be a real treat.  In addition to the meddling Muses and main gods and goddesses, a bunch of minor myths are referenced, a lot of which I’d either forgotten or never heard of.

    The same applies if you’re a Greek theater buff (and I’m not).  Michael Williams deliberately patterns the story in “ancient Greek play” format, including the Muses (and later, some of Louisville’s finest riffraff) as the requisite Chorus/Narrators.  I especially liked the way V:AUL is gradually subsumed by The Bacchae – the story about a play becomes a play within a play.

    If you delight in new vocabulary words, this book will knock your socks off.  Williams is not shy about using obsolete or obscure words.  In lesser hands this could be tedious, but it works nicely here.  There is some subtle humor as well; including T. Tommy’s “Brischords” and an abductee who becomes somewhat of a PITA for his abductors.

    There are some nice contemporary cultural references.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen the I Ching play a significant role in a book; ditto for Dungeons & Dragons.  And anything that pokes fun at Our Town is a plus.   I had to sit through it once way back in High School.  It was boring as all get out.

    The characters are a pleasant lot, but not particularly memorable.  There is a very mild love triangle for those who like some romance in their readings.  Some of the language is R-Rated, but not to an excessive degree.  The ending is only so-so, but I suspect this is the way Greek plays are structured.  Pages-wise, the book is short, but I wouldn’t call it a quick read, thanks to the play-like format and the challenging vocabulary.

Kewlest New Word…
    There were a slew of high-falutin’ words in the book.  Among the best were :
    Callipygian (adj.) : Having well-shaped buttocks.
    Others : Krater (n.); Insufflation  (n.); Empurpurated (v.); Piriform (adj.); Aleatory (adj.); Anagnoritic (adj.); Marmoreal (adj.).  I never did figure out a clear-cut meaning for Empurpurated.

    “Thunder grass: dope that creeps up on you, rumbles at your horizons, then climbs the back of your neck, sending warm consolation from your jaw to your ears and occipital, displacing you and paling the light by the courtside fountain until it becomes a summons to false bravery, a walk in the park in the dead of night when a man of 63 is subject to all dangers, from muggery to buggery to drowsing satyrs to coiled dragons guarding unspeakable treasure.”  (loc. 371)

    Girls liked Jack, and there was something about him: he would stand well in the chorus, perhaps even lead it.
    You have completely forgotten, Aron replied, that the chorus is women, and even if Jack Rausch likes that kind of thing I can’t imagine our chorus leader in drag…
    To which the boys all laughed, reminding him that his was Euripides, that the women in Greek drama were played by men.  (loc. 3535)

Kindle Details...
    Vine:  An Urban Legend sells for $2.99 at Amazon.  It appears it is “this” Michael Williams’s only offering for the Kindle.

”Sometimes you eat the god. … And sometimes the god eats you. ”  (loc. 5324)
    For all its pluses, Vine: An Urban Legend has one major shortcoming – the pacing is incredibly slow.  Basically, nothing happens until the book is half over.  A brief, spoiler-free summary:

    0%-50% : Introduction of the characters.
    50%-80% : An attempted abduction, which fails miserably when the abductee comes along willingly.
    80%-90% : A mysterious disappearance, never fully resolved.
    90%-100% : Action!  Bloodshed!

   I’m guessing once again that this mimics classic Greek tragedies in general, and The Bacchae in particular.  However, the average, non-OCD reader will probably give up on the book long before the excitement commences.

    Which is a shame, since the elements of this tale : cavorting gods, challenging vocabulary, homage to Euripides, and reality blurring with myth – are an innovative, ambitious, and alluring mix.

    5½ Stars.  Add 2 stars if you are a fan of Euripides and have read The Bacchae.  I read the Wikipedia article on the play after finishing Vine, and wished I had done so beforehand.  Subtract 1 star if Greek gods and playwrights bore you to tears.   

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Chickens of Atlantis - Robert Rankin

   2013; 339 pages.  Full Title : The Chickens of Atlantis and other Foul and Filthy Fiends.  Book #4 (out of 4) in “The Japanese Devil Fish Girl” series.  New Author? : No.  Genre : British Humor; Time Travel.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Meet Darwin, the Educated Ape.  He wants to travel back to 1824 Vienna and listen to Beethoven conduct his famous Ninth Symphony at its inaugural debut.

    Meet Cameron Bell, Darwin's friend and partner in adventure.  He wants to save the world from the evil clutches of the Pearly Emperor, aka Arthur Knapton, aka a couple of other aliases.

    Our two protagonists agree that dealing with the Pearly Emperor takes top priority, and after that there will be time enough for an evening of classical music.  Thwarting Evil's plans shouldn't be too hard, since our heroes have a retrofitted Martian time-ship and can chrono-hop to any convenient time-space spot to nab the villain.

    But Arthur Knapton proves to be a slippery and crafty adversary, and has no qualms about messing with the past to change the timeline of History.  Then too, there are realms and dimensions that Darwin and Cameron can only dream about.

    Including some wherein dwell the Chickens of Atlantis.

What’s To Like...
    There’s lots of time-traveling and a passel of historical characters to meet and greet.  Our heroes travel backwards through Time, forwards, and sideways.  If you are tired of chrono-hopping stories where changing the timeline seems a no-no, then you’ll love The Chickens of Atlantis – all sorts of things get messed up along the way.

    The Robert Rankin wit and craziness is still here, along with his usual literary memes like Fangio’s bar, the lady in the straw hat, and “gi-raffes”.  There are a bunch of footnotes that Terry Pratchett would be proud of, and some kewl first-letter drawings (there's probably a word for these) at the start of each chapter.  The text jumps between 1st-person and 3rd-person POV's, with Darwin being the narrator/author throughout.

    If you’re a History buff, you’ll enjoy this story.  Winston Churchill is here, and Aleister Crowley too.  I particularly liked the way H.G. Wells was woven into the storyline.  Then there are the Martians and the Chickens, along with some other charming fictional characters.  But this isn’t one of those books that overwhelms the reader with somebody new every five pages.

    The storyline seemed more coherent than usual for a Robert Rankin tale, and that can be viewed as either a plus or a minus.  For the most part, the setting can be described as “late Victorian steampunk’, which is way kewl.  The story ends nicely, and there is even –dare I say it – a “warm” epilogue given by Darwin.  Yet amongst all the zaniness, the reader will food for thought about things like Evolution, Creation Stories, and Alternate Timelines.

    “Are you not one of the faithful?” enquired my companion.
    “I favour no particular credo,” said the barman, presenting Mr. Bell with his mug of ale.  “Rather I adhere to a syncretic world-view – that there is a little bit of truth to everything.  The rationalist within me holds to the opinion that he who claims to know everything labours under delusion, and that he who wishes to know everything would probably be better employed drinking ale and finding himself a girlfriend.  You will notice there, Mr. Bell, how I tempered wisdom with wit – to pleasing effect, I believe.”
    Mr. Bell looked towards myself and we both rolled our eyes. ( pg. 52)

    Some perhaps will say that it is “a missed opportunity”, that “the laughs were few and far between” and that it “simply petered out at the end”.  To those who would say such things, I offer my apologies.  I am sorry that my work did not please you, as I had hoped that it would.
    But also I offer this warning, that should I ever meet face to face with any of the mean-spirited blighters who would say such cruel things and still retain the strength in my right arm -
     Beware the flinging of faeces!  (pg. 339)

Kewlest New Word…
Tergiversation (n.) : 1. Evasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement.  2. Desertion of a cause, position, party, or faith.
Others : Toff (n.); Raddled (adj.)

 “It is best that we dismiss plot holes. … When dealing with time travel it is something of a free-for-all.”.  (pg. 134)
    There are some quibbles.  The titular Chickens of Atlantis, while present, don’t really play a major part in the story.  The breaking of the “fourth wall” happens a bit too frequently for me; ditto for the number of self-references by Rankin.  The author also seems to anticipate some readers feeling the wit is neither abundant nor zany enough (see the second excerpt above), but frankly, I thought the tone and content worked rather well here.

    This apparently is the fourth (and concluding) book in Rankin's series about Darwin the Educated Ape.  I wasn’t aware of this when I got the book at the library, but TCoA works just fine as a standalone novel.

    Overall, I enjoyed The Chickens of Atlantis, despite it not being quite the “typical” offering from Rankin.  Personally, I prefer authors who can “change things up” a bit and aren't afraid to let their style “evolve” from one book to the next; so this book was a treat.  And if you’re a Rankin traditionalist, this is still close enough to the tried-and–true.
    8 Stars.  Add ½ star if you read the other three books in the series in order.  Subtract ½ star if you were really looking forward to getting down with some Atlantean poultry.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

   2010; 390 pages. Book Three of the “Hunger Games” trilogy.  New Author? : No.  Genre : YA; Dystopian Thriller.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    The flames of rebellion have come to Panem!  There are uprisings in every district, except maybe the coddled District 2, and Katniss’s District 12, which was recently bombed into oblivion by the Capitol’s hovercraft.

    It would be great to have a symbol to unite the rebellion, a Mockingjay, someone to put a face on the uprising.  Maybe we should ask Katniss, who’s recuperating from her wounds suffered in the recently-completed Hunger Games.  She’s the logical choice.

    Of course, what would be even better is a martyr.  Symbols can be stubborn sometimes, but martyrs never are.  Perhaps Katniss can be persuaded to become one of those instead.

What’s To Like...
    This is the third and final book in Suzanne Collins's blockbuster trilogy.  It is unique in that there aren’t any more Hunger Games being played, but that doesn’t mean Mockingjay is any less action-packed than the first two books.  Nor any less bloodshed; lots of people get killed here, both good folks and baddies.

    The first half of the book focuses om Katniss’s efforts to grow into the role of being the Mockingjay.  Photo ops do not come naturally to her.  The second half deals with a black ops mission that Katniss finagles her way into going along on, and will assuage anyone suffering from Hunger Games withdrawal.

    The storyline is well-structured and the character-development is topnotch.  I particularly liked the way Prim was handled.  President Snow’s demise felt just a tad bit clunky, but I quibble.

    Everything builds to a tense and satisfying ending, which in turn is followed by a short epilogue which is positively superb.  The Katniss-Gale-Peeta love triangle is resolved in what I felt was a refreshing manner.  So in a nutshell, if you loved Hunger Games and Catching Fire, you will be just as thrilled with Mockingjay.  This is a mesmerizing series, to be enjoyed by YA and adult readers alike.

    This is what all of District 2, all of Panem maybe, must be seeing at the moment.  The Mockingjay at the mercy of a man with nothing to lose.
    His garbled speech is barely comprehensible.  “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t shoot you.”
    The rest of the world recedes.  There’s only me looking into the wretched eyes of the man from the Nut who asks for one reason.  Surely I should be able to come up with thousands.  But the words that make it to my lips are “I can’t.”  (pg. 215)

    “The impact ruptured your spleen.  They couldn’t repair it.”  She gives a dismissive wave of her hand.  “Don’t worry, you don’t need one.  And if you did, they’d find you one, wouldn’t they?  It’s everybody’s job to keep you alive.”
    “Is that why you hate me?” I ask.
    “Partly,” she admits.  “Jealousy is certainly involved.  I also think you’re a little hard to swallow.  With your tacky romantic drama and your defender-of-the-helpless act.  Only it isn’t an act, which makes you more unbearable.  Please feel free to take this personally.”  (pg. 220)

 “Fire is catching! … And if we burn, you burn with us!”  (pg.  100)
    There is a lot to like about this trilogy, but the one thing that stands out above all the rest (at least for me) is this : a very commonplace motif – a rebellion against a dystopian tyranny – is handled in a most non-standard way.

    Katniss may be the symbol of the revolution, but she is very definitely not its leader.  She is useful to those who lead the uprising; but she is also expendable.  President Snow may be a brutal tyrant, but those who lead the rebels aren’t choirboys either.  Katniss reminds me of the historical Joan of Arc:  a capable fighter, immensely popular with the ordinary people, but out of her league when it comes to politics.

    And that makes for a fascinating character in a gripping trilogy, fully deserving of all the praise it's been given.

    9 Stars.  Both for Mockingjay in particular and the trilogy as a whole.  For me, this was a great series, full of lots of action, lots of drama, and lots of topics – violence, poverty, suffering, sadistic entertainment, and when to rise up in revolt, to name just a few -  upon which to ponder.  This is the second trilogy I’ve finished this year already (the closing book of the other is reviewed here), which means it’s time to see what all the hoopla is about over Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy.