Saturday, September 4, 2021

brief Book Reviews from late August reading: Council of Animals; Nick McDonnell, His Only Wife; Peace Adzo Medie and Sooley; John Grisham

 

                                                   The Council of Animals; Nick McDonell

                                                           Henry Holt & Company - 2021

This slim book (just 208pp.) was the strangest of stories that I've read in a while.  It reminded me in some ways of what I remembered of Animal Farm (from decades ago).  In this story there is an event referred to as "the great calamity" where humans were pretty much extinguished from the face of the earth except for about a dozen remaining who are frightened as to what will become of them.  The event appears to have had something to do with climate change or something nuclear even but something caused by human actions or inaction.  

Left to decide the fate of the few remaining humans are "The Council of Animals" which consist of dog, cat, bear, raven, cow, horse and baboon. Since the animals feel the humans are the ones that caused the calamity, should the dozen who remain be allowed to live or should they be killed and eaten?  The manner in which the debate and finger/paw pointing goes made me smile as chaos erupted. The animal factions and their rationale was entertaining.  Yes, it's political satire but, it seems in some ways to mimic the finger-pointing that has been going on in our own politics and the divisiveness that we witness day in and day out.

I started with the short audio book (3 hours) read by the author but, the narration and sound seemed a bit annoying so I switched over to the eBook which had some cool illustrations done by Steven Tabbutt.  Although this wasn't the type of book I would normally read, I thought it had merit and was certainly thought provoking enough.

Rating - 3.5/5 stars

(Thanks go to NetGalley and Henry Holt Books for allowing me access to this book in exchange for my unbiased review.)

His Only Wife; Peace Adzo Medie
Algonquin Books - 2020

Afi is a young seamstress Ghana and after her father dies she and her mother are faced with poverty.  She is convinced by family to marry Eliken Ganyo, a wealthy man she has never met in what will be an arranged marriage. When she agrees  Eliken doesn't even show up for the wedding, there is a stand-in and the marriage happens anyways.  When Afi moves to Accra to be with her new husband she learns he is in love with another woman and there is even a child involved.  

The entire set up for this marriage was by a powerful, elder Aunty -- picture the female Godfather. Aunty's intent was to get Eiken away from the woman the family does not like.  Afi starts out with an almost child-like behavior but, it was nice seeing her mature over the course of the story and begin to grow more confident. This story started out a bit slow, but, I loved the setting, Ghana, and learning about a new culture and customs. 

Rating - 4/5 stars

(Thanks go to Algonquin Books and NetGalley for allowing me access to this book in exchange for my unbiased review.)

Sooley; John Grisham

Random House Audio - 2021

Samuel Sooleyman is a boy who loves basketball and is living in South Sudan.  He is in his last year of secondary school and gets the opportunity of a lifetime. He will join other basketball players from his country to play in a tournament in the United States.  Sooley, has led a sheltered life and has never even flown on an airplane but, this is an opportunity for the seventeen year old to be seen by scouts.  He isn't the best of the best, in fact he's the last to be chosen but, he's determined and practices every opportunity he has even when others have stopped. He improves and his determination pays off as he gets noticed.  Meanwhile back home in South Sudan, a civil war is raging, he father has been killed and his sister abducted, terrible things happen.

This is not a book just for sports lovers as I enjoyed it even more than I expected. My husband really loved it as well. It's a story about basketball and a ags to riches stories. It's also a story about a country devastated by civil war and the dreams of a better life elsewhere.  Sooley was a character to root for and I loved the way his character developed and how he transitioned into a life that was so different.  I must say that we hadn't anticipated the way the story would end (don't look for for spoilers). I do recommend this one - especially on audio.

The audio book (10 hours, 27 min) was narrated by Dion Graham who did a fantastic job. BTW: In case you have never listened to this narrator he is also narrating Colson Whitehead's new book: Harlem Shuffle which I plan to begin soon.

Rating 4.5/5 stars

(Thanks go to Penguin Random House audio for allowing me access to this book in exchange for my unbiased review.)

27 comments:

  1. His Only Wife sounds intriguing. My favorite John Grisham books have been his non-mysteries. He's very good at character development. Maybe I should read this one.

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    1. Hi Dorothy, this Grisham is fiction but I felt like it could have been based on a true story - very good.

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  2. His Only Wife intrigues me. I like reading books set in Africa.

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    1. His Only Wife was a good experience. Arranged marriages aren't all that uncommon in some countries even today.

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  3. Sooley sounds really interesting and quite different than other Grishams. I don't like to play or watch basketball but that shouldn't stop me from enjoying it. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Rita, I don't watch or play basketball - it's probable the one spot, along with hockey I have the least interest in but, this was still a good experience for me.

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  4. I was not a fan of Animal Farm so I'm not sure I want to read The Council of Animals. His Only Wife and Sooley sound good.

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    1. Sooley was so different for Grisham compared to his legal thrillers. A good and realistic story.

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  5. I have Sooley on my shelves and am always up for reading a Grisham novel. But, now that I see how much you and your husband enjoyed it, I am looking forward to it even more.

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    1. Helen Sooley was very good - such an unexpected ending though.

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  6. I can't imagine The Council of Animals as an audiobook because I enjoyed the illustrations so much. I liked this one a little more than you, I think, and seem to have it forever linked in my mind with Animal Farm now. Not sure it's really worthy of that connection, though.

    I have gotten burned out on most of what Grisham writes in recent years but Sooley really does sound good. Time to give him another chance, I think.

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    1. The Council of Animals on audio seemed like a bare bones production - the sound felt off and the author's voice wasn't working for me. I liked Grisham's early books and then stopped but, this one was very good. It was definitely more about Sooley and how he worked hard and achieved a dream but, also about the strife of civil war in his homeland.

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  7. I didn't know there was a new Grisham!

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    1. It came out in February Mary. It was a nice change from legal thrillers.

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  8. It's been years since I last read Grisham, but this one does sound appealing. I'm already on the library hold list for Harlem Shuffle, but think I'll try and get the audio, too!

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    1. Sooley was a different story, very enjoyable. Harlem Shuffle sounds good and I listened to the first chapter and was pleased.

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  9. Harlem Shuffle will be a good combo read, the same is true for Sooley - Sooley felt like NF, and well the way the story played out it could have been.

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  10. All of these sound good! I'm not much of a sports fan, but I like the idea of Sooley.

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    1. Jen - I don't love basketball either but, it was really good.

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  11. It's been ages since I've read a Grisham book and unfortunately I've never got on with his books. However, I'm really interested in His Only Wife. That sounds so interesting.

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    1. I know, I read all of his early books, then stopped and then picked up a few in between.

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  12. It's always the short book that ends up being the most bizarre and thought provoking! I was just thinking about Grisham today! I devoured The Client years and years ago but am not sure I've read any of this books since then!

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  13. Adding Sooley to my wishlist. Looks like a good one for a road trip.

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    1. It is very good even for someone who really doesn't care for basketball:)

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