Writing Check In- March 2020

10 Mar

I’ve been wanting to dedicate more time to writing. My husband had the suggestion of making a monthly feature to talk about my writing and how it’s going. It helps keep me honest(ish) and lets you all know when my masterpiece will be released to the world!

I didn’t make a lot of progress last month. I submitted to one more agency and I heard back from them late last week that they’re going to pass. So I’ve heard back from everywhere I’ve submitted to and they’ve all passed so far.

I’m trying to make a plan to move forward. I think I want to submit to ten agencies before I regroup and make some changes. I’m at five so far. So my goal for the next two months will be to submit to five more agencies. Once I’ve heard back from them all, I’ll see if I can workshop my pitch, cover letter, summary, sample pages, and anything else I’ve been asked for. Maybe I’m missing something obvious. For the record, my husband did read over it so I didn’t do this without any other eyes.

This is my last ‘calm’ month before triathlon training kicks into high gear. I know that will slow down my writing until August so these updates may become a bit shorter.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Club Reflection: What The Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha

9 Mar

I’m glad to say we had a better discussion in our book club this month than we did last time. I think we all felt a lot more vested in this book than we have in some of our fiction books. With Flint being so close to home, most of us related to something in the book as a personal experience we’d shared or known someone who’d shared it.

Hanna picked a great title for her book. She’s talking about a lack of knowledge, not being able to ‘see’ something because you don’t know to look for it. But lead is also colorless, tasteless, and odorless, so it was something the eye couldn’t see. I wondered how much of the writing (and title) were her doing and how much assistance she might have gotten from a ghostwriter.

Hanna had to be very brave to do what she did. I think she was very lucky to have her brother prepare her for the personal attacks she received. We agreed she had a good network to support her when she spoke out. We had a member describe her as ‘hyper’ because she was doing so many things at the same time. One member spent time in medical school and felt that she was typical of many doctors. To get through school, they have to balance a lot of things in their lives and learn to function at a level like Hanna. She also felt that many doctors tend to lose their empathy because they’re dealing with illness and death so often. Hanna didn’t give that impression. She also came off as rather humble. We noticed she didn’t have Dr. or MD in her author byline.

None of us were aware that DC had a similar lead crisis. We were shocked, especially that more people didn’t suffer legal consequences. It seemed appropriate that some of the players in the Flint crisis faced criminal charges. Though we were surprised the governor didn’t. Snyder was so well-liked before this crisis and took a huge fall from grace. Many of us had the impression that he was more culpable than those who were charged. Many of them were likely following orders from higher up the food chain.

Some of the facts that hit us the hardest were about the developmental future of these children. Hanna talked about the PTSD that children can have from their environment and the toxic stress that their environment can create. It was devastating to hear about the home for neglected children with 5,000 ppb levels. With all the stressors in those children’s lives, they don’t have much of a chance.

I look forward to talking about this book with my other club in a few weeks. It will be interesting to see what a different group has to say about the same text.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 4-March-2020

4 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m still enjoying Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) and am excited this is a long haul. I haven’t had a 20+ hour audiobook in a while and I’m happy this is the one. Strike and Robin make a great pair.
I’ve read a bit of White Oleander by Janet Fitch while I’m away. It’s nice to have a book on my phone to grab snippets of a story while waiting around. But mostly, it’s been good conversation with my mom and I’m loving that.
I dove into Fingersmith by Sarah Waters on the plane! No word yet on if I’ll finish it but I’ll take a sizeable bite out of it before we get back to the states.

Recently finished: Nothing this week and no reviews posted. More to come on that when I’m back home!

Reading Next: If I finish my current read before I get home, Cuando era puertorriqueña by Esmeralda Santiago will be my next read. It’s waiting for me at home and I’ll be excited to read in another language but I didn’t think I could handle it while in a foreign country. My brain has only so much space.

As a reminder, I’m out of the country on vacation. I will not be replying to comments this week in order to enjoy my vacation. I’ll check periodically to approve any new poster’s comments. All reading is suspect, this post is planned well in advance.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

On Vacation

27 Feb

I’m taking time off from my blog to enjoy my vacation. I’m traveling with my mom to Greece. We’ll be staying a few days in Athens and on two islands, Santorini and Crete. I’ll be back on Monday, March 9th.

I’m hoping to get a good chunk of reading done but we’ll see. I’ll have a WWW post go up on Wednesday but please be patient with me, I probably won’t be replying to much while I’m away.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 26-February-2020

26 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m in love with Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). I’ve liked all of the Galbraith novels so far but I think this one is the most engaging yet. Robin’s story is more involved now and I’m really invested in her marriage and how it’s affected by her job. I think this is a great layer that’s been added to the story and I can’t wait to see how it ends.
I haven’t gotten very far into White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Maybe I’ll get through some during my vacation but I’m not going to plan on it too much. I hope to be having so much fun that I don’t get to read outside of travel time! Fingers crossed.
I did get started with just a bit of Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. I hope to concentrate on this one during my travels. It’s nice and long and I think it will keep me entertained for long flights and ferry rides. I’ll be really pleased if I finish it.

Recently finished: I rushed to finish What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha on Saturday. I got the review written and posted yesterday as well. I’m so glad I’ve read this book and understand the Flint water crisis better now. I live close to Flint and it’s hard to believe something so terrible could happen an hour from where I live. It’s really eye-opening. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

I was able to review Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley on Monday. It was an okay read, nothing special for me. I think I would have gotten more out of it if I hadn’t read two other books on writing recently. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I plan to pick up Cuando era puertorriqueña by Esmeralda Santiago when I get back from Greece. I need to get started on my Spanish book for the year. I can’t believe I’ve put it off this long.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha (4/5)

25 Feb

This was selected as the Great Michigan Read for 2019-2020. Regretfully, our library just now started reading it so we missed a lot of Dr. Mona’s speaking engagements. I’m still very glad we read it, though. I finished this book on Saturday and wrote the review immediately. My book club met Monday to talk about it so I cut things close!

Cover image via Goodreads

What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Mona Hanna-Attisha

Summary from Goodreads:

Here is the inspiring story of how Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, alongside a team of researchers, parents, friends, and community leaders, discovered that the children of Flint, Michigan, were being exposed to lead in their tap water–and then battled her own government and a brutal backlash to expose that truth to the world. Paced like a scientific thriller, What the Eyes Don’t See reveals how misguided austerity policies, broken democracy, and callous bureaucratic indifference placed an entire city at risk. And at the center of the story is Dr. Mona herself–an immigrant, doctor, scientist, and mother whose family’s activist roots inspired her pursuit of justice.

What the Eyes Don’t See is a riveting account of a shameful disaster that became a tale of hope, the story of a city on the ropes that came together to fight for justice, self-determination, and the right to build a better world for their–and all of our–children.

This is a story that hits close to home for me. My parents met in Flint when they were attending General Motors Institute (now Kettering University). I visited Flint during the crisis and I’ll admit that I was ignorant of what was going on. I was visiting a friend at Kettering and stayed in the sorority house where she lived. I brushed my teeth with the water because I didn’t know. I was shocked at the number of people buying shopping carts full of bottled water because I didn’t know. My friend filled me in quickly. I’d heard about the lead in the water when the crisis had first broken but I hadn’t put together the lasting impact on the city. Just because the water source was changed back, the crisis didn’t end. It won’t end until all the pipes in the city are changed. It could be years. This book brought all of that home and punched me in the chest with it. I had tears in my eyes at the end.

Dr. Mona portrayed herself in a very relatable way. She admitted that her job as a mother to her two girls suffered while she tackled the crisis. She admitted her feelings of defeat. She shared her fears and guilt. I felt that she didn’t hold much back in her story and I really appreciated that. There was a lot of opportunity in this book for her to show herself as a fearless warrior and to brush her struggles under the rug but I don’t think she did that. I appreciated her truthfulness.

Marc Edwards was the most interesting person in the book. It seemed odd that someone from Virginia would get so involved in the Flint crisis but his jaded feelings from the D.C. Crisis made him the perfect ally for Dr. Mona and her team. I’m still intrigued by a tall conservative Republican in an animal tie taking on the government. He was a great supporter of Dr. Mona and Jenny during their research and after. I wonder how much he could have contributed if he’d lived closer to Flint.

Dr. Mona was an unlikely advocate but she was just what Flint needed. I think that all too often we don’t feel we’re the right people to stand up and say something is wrong or unfair. We don’t think we can stop something or tell people that they’ve acted wrongly. Dr. Mona struggled with those feelings and what she could do to keep her patients safe. I think her bravery is a wonderful example to anyone who doesn’t think their voice matters. Her voice was a change-maker. it wasn’t easy, but she stood up and said it and that made all the difference.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
Image via the author’s website

The ending felt a bit rushed, but I adored it. The wins that Dr. Mona and her team had were amazing and made huge differences in the lives of Flint children for years. The people who helped her were amazing partners and I felt she gave them appropriate thanks. I could feel her sense of relief that things had worked out and it helped untie a knot of tension in my chest that this book created. I knew it wouldn’t end well, but there were some things I was hoping had happened and thankfully did.

Dr. Mona’s initial struggles were hard to hear about. It was rough to know she had so many roadblocks thrown up in front of her and so many people denying a problem when one existed. There were so many people trying to tear her down and discredit her. It was a huge personal attack that she had to prepare to fight and it would have been hard for anyone to stand up to that wave.

Doing the right thing is not always easy. Miguel del Toral stood up and lost his job. Marc Edwards stood up and was knocked down as disreputable. Dr. Mona knew she’d face something similar and she did. Sometimes it’s hard to say things that are true, no matter how ridiculous that may sound. Some truths are hard to hear and sometimes you still need to say them.

Writer’s Takeaway: Dr. Mona’s honesty shone in this book. She portrayed the good and bad, ugly and beautiful, and every struggle in between. It came through on every page. She was suffering physically and emotionally from the stress of the situation and how she had to fight through it. She wants other advocates to know that it’s not always easy and sometimes, there’s suffering involved. But she shone through. There is a light, though it may be hard to see it.

An uplifting and needed story. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Post:
(Book Review) What the Eyes Don’t See… by Mona Hanna-Attisha | Fourth & Sycamore

Book Review: Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley (3/5)

24 Feb

I’ve been trying to read books on writing more often to encourage me to keep writing when I don’t want to. I think it’s working? Maybe?

Cover image via Goodreads

Wild Ink: Success Secrete to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market by Victoria Hanley

Summary from Goodreads:

What do you need to know to break in to the flourishing young adult (YA) market? With humor and a solid grounding in reality, author Victoria Hanley helps readers understand the ins and outs of the YA genre, how to stay inspired, and how to avoid common mistakes writers make in trying to reach teens. This book includes unique writing exercises to help readers find their own authentic teen voice and dozens of interviews with YA authors, blogging experts, editors, and agents to give inspiration and guidance for getting published. Chapters include writing exercises and self-editing techniques tailored to YA, along with encouraging words on dealing with self-doubt, rejection, and lack of time.

I think the ratings I give writing books are going to continue to go down the more I read. There’s only so much writing advice so these books start to seem repetitive the more I read them. The shining jewel of this book for me was the last section that included multiple interviews with YA authors, both fiction and non-fiction. Those first-hand stories were the most helpful for me to hear. While some writers had early success or fell into it, many did not. It’s hard to hear that your first novel might not sell but it’s encouraging to hear that many people had better luck with their third, which I’ve just finished writing. One of my biggest takeaways from this book was that in order to write for teens, it’s important to spend time with them and not talk down to them. I’m thinking of ways I could volunteer with teenage groups that would help me remember what I felt when I was in that age group and grappling with some of the problems my characters face.

I felt Hanley portrayed herself in a very real way. She’s not an author with huge name recognition, but she’s garnered a lot of praise and good sales of her books. She is well qualified to write a book on writing for teens. I think she consulted a lot of her peers to become even more educated on the subject and I really like the insight she was able to share. I think I sometimes have visions of J.K. Rowling levels of success but I also know that’s a pipedream. The level of success Hanley has had would be incredible and reading this made me better able to picture a more reasonable level of success to strive for.

Victoria Hanley
Image via Goodreads

The interviews at the end were very honest and I felt gave me a great summary of the book. It was especially helpful with how slowly I read it! The short interviews asked mainly the same questions from the writers but there was a huge variety of answers. It helped emphasize that writing is a different journey for every person who undertakes it and we can’t compare our successes or failures to the person next to us. We might be on different paths that end in different places but that doesn’t make our journey any less meaningful or fruitful.

I’ll be honest and say I don’t remember large parts of this book. It was very similar to the other books on writing that I’ve read recently so I didn’t absorb a lot. There was a lot about types of publishers that would have been helpful for someone who didn’t know anything about the market but which for me was really repetitive and a bit dull.

Writing for teens and writing for adults isn’t hugely different. Hanley makes a great point in this and it’s repeated in many of the interviews at the end. If you’re trying to teach a teen something, they’ll figure it out. If they’re reading for fun, they likely aren’t looking for a lecture. You shouldn’t go into a book looking to teach. Books are entertaining. Yes, they often have a message but they don’t have a thesis statement and 300 pages of supporting paragraphs like an essay would. Talk to teens like they’re adults and they’ll respect you more and maybe they’ll even listen to you.

Writer’s Takeaway: For a non-fiction title like this, it was great that Hanley was able to bring in other experts to share their knowledge. It gave the writers a quick plug for their own books and it also helped Hanley. I see no downside for either party in the arrangement. It gave her the ability to address opposing opinions and experiences she hadn’t had without contradicting herself. It helped round out the experience of writing to hear from so many other writers.

A useful book but not the best for someone who’s already read a few books on writing. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Review: Wild Ink | Advice from a Caterpillar
Disturb the Reader | bird face wendy

Off Topic Thursday: The Friend You Don’t Talk to for Ages

20 Feb

(Yes, it’s a week early. But I’ll be on vacation next week so you’re getting Off Topic Thursday a week early!)

I hope this isn’t a solitary experience because I love it so much. Does anyone else have a really good friend that you sometimes go weeks or months without talking to? For me, she’s my best friend.

When I was in high school, I met Hellen (name changed). She was a year behind me in school and we clicked immediately. She was sad when I decided to go to school out of state but we both knew it was best for me. She ended up coming to visit me during my Sophomore year for a weekend and it was one of the most memorable visits I had while in school. She got along with my friends immediately and I’d talked about them enough she felt like she knew them. She didn’t think I was crazy for going to a Spanish language mass and even joined me for a baby shower for a woman I was tutoring in English.

When I moved home, she helped me move into my first apartment. She calls my parents Mama and Papa and started a trend of my other friends doing the same. After I called my parents, she was the first person I told about my engagement. Of course, I wanted her to be my maid of honor. She was the best choice I could have made because she had high expectations for my husband and wouldn’t have joined me at the alter if she didn’t truly believe in us.

Despite being so close, we go for long stretches without talking or seeing each other. And it’s never mattered. Whenever we see each other again, we pick up right where we left off. Nothing in awkward and we’re never angry with each other for the long time that’s passed. We’re just so happy to be together, how could we be mad?

I have other friends who feel like strangers if I go more than a few weeks without talking to them. I have friends who have drifted away because we went too long without speaking and now I don’t consider them friends anymore. But Hellen will always be different. I don’t need her to reassure me that she loves me, I know she does. And she knows I’d do anything for her in a heartbeat. It’s a friendship different from any other I have and I treasure it more than anything.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 19-February-2020

19 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I haven’t had as much time as I’d like for What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha. My book club meets to talk about this on Monday and I’m not sure I’ll have it finished! I’ll have to make some more time for it this week than I normally would. It for sure is not going on vacation with me!
I started a new audiobook and, as planned, it’s Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). This picked up right where the third one left off and I’m adoring it so far. These characters are great and I’m looking forward to seeing how the tension between them can be resolved.
I had a change of heart about my ebook and decided to pick up White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I listened to the audiobook of this a while back and realized later that it was abridged. It’s been long enough that I’ve forgotten most of what I listened to and I’m ready to read the full book this time. Strap in for a long one!

Recently finished: I was close to finishing Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley! I wrapped it up during lunch on Thursday. It was an OK read, nothing great but still enjoyable. I’ll have a review for it up tomorrow. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I also finished Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard. I have a few quibbles about this one and ended up giving it Three out of Five Stars even when I really enjoyed parts of it. I posted my review yesterday so please go check it out.

I also posted my review of Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner since last week. It was a fun story, but I still had some quibbles I couldn’t look over. I ended up giving the book Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I still need to pick up Cuando era puertorriqueña by Esmeralda Santiago as a print book, but it might get put off a bit. I do plan to read it this year as my Spanish-language read, though, so I won’t forget it!
This close to my trip, I think I might grab the book I’ve decided to take with me, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. It’s a longer book, but I think it will keep me entertained for the long flights and I won’t mind leaving it behind if I finish it and want to pick up another book.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard (3/5)

18 Feb

My husband got me this book for Christmas a few years ago. I’d been enjoying a lot of books about endurance sports and this one involved ultra running and dogs. It sounded adorable. And it really was.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Finding Gobi: A Little Dog with a Very Big Heart by Dion Leonard

Summary from Goodreads:

Finding Gobi is the miraculous tale of Dion Leonard, a seasoned ultramarathon runner who crosses paths with a stray dog while competing in a 155-mile race through the Gobi Desert in China. The lovable pup, who would later earn the name Gobi, proved that what she lacked in size, she more than made up for in heart, as she went step for step with Dion over the Tian Shan Mountains, across massive sand dunes, through yurt villages and the black sands of the Gobi Desert, keeping pace with him for 77 miles.

As Dion witnessed the incredible determination and heart of this small animal, he found his own heart undergoing a change as well.  Whereas in the past these races were all about winning and being the best, his goal now was to make sure he and Gobi’s friendship continued well after the finish line.  He found himself letting Gobi sleep in his tent at night, giving her food and water out of his own limited supply, and carrying her across numerous rivers, even when he knew it would mean putting him behind in the race, or worse, prevent him from finishing at all.

Although Dion did not cross the finish line first, he felt he had won something even greater – a new outlook on life and a new friend that he planned on bringing home as soon as arrangements were made.  However, before he could take her home, Gobi went missing in the sprawling Chinese city where she was being kept. Dion, with the help of strangers and a viral outpouring of assistance on the internet, set out to track her down, and reunite forever with the amazing animal that changed his life and proved to him and the world that miracles are possible.

I feel like I need to start this review by saying I’m allergic to animal fur so I’ve never had a dog or cat. I have two turtles for a reason. I like dogs, but I’ve never owned and bonded with one. I hope that gives this some perspective. I liked parts of the book and were frustrated by other parts. I enjoyed the ultra running and the search for Gobi and the logistical nightmare of getting her home. I didn’t like the parts I felt were ‘edited.’ For example, when Dion covers the online donations and backers for the crowdsourcing effort, he’s only ever positive. I seriously doubt he liked feeling responsible to so many people and that so many people were always nice about everything. I bet some people really got on his nerves and times he wanted to go it alone so he’d get some peace. I don’t think an ultra-runner would have enjoyed talking to so many people; distance runners tend to like being alone for long periods. His media relations seemed to be very sugar-coated as well. He only says positive things and it’s hard for me to believe that it would always be that good.

I felt like everyone was shown in their best light. Dion didn’t want to say anything bad about any of the people who supported him and helped him find Gobi so every person he interacted with put their best foot forward. I think Nurali is the best example of this. She shows a bit of quick anger when Dion approaches her about his tent during the dust storm but it’s quickly brushed aside because she’s willing to help Gobi get back to Scotland. Then she takes forever to answer emails and goes dark for long periods. And Gobi disappears from her home when she’s traveling. Despite this, Dion talks about how great she was throughout everything. I thought it was a bit heavy-handed and made me feel like I was being lied to as a reader.

Lucja was my favorite person in this story. Talk about a devoted spouse! She was so supportive of Dion in his running career and in his quest for Gobi. I sometimes find it hard to say ‘yes’ to things my husband wants to do if they’re going to take us apart for a long time. She never seemed to hesitate. She always jumped into everything with both feet and I thought she was an admirable athlete as well. her relationship with Dion was very sweet and loving and I really hoped that wasn’t too contrived because I admired their relationship.

It was hard for me to relate to the emotions in this book at times. I’m not a big dog lover like Dion, though I like dogs well enough. I’ve never had a pet I was so devoted to. At times, his decisions seemed extreme to me and I couldn’t follow the logic. Risking my job to spend three months in China so I could bring a dog home with me? I wouldn’t do that; it’s just not me. That took me out of the last half of the book. Once the focus wasn’t on running, I started to lose interest.

Dion Leonard and Gobi
Image via The Times

The race was my favorite part of the book. I loved hearing about Dion’s experience in such an extreme endurance event. I have a lot of respect for athletes who complete those events and like hearing the first-hand perspective about training and racing in them. Having Gobi come into Dion’s life during such an extreme event was really special.

There wasn’t a part of this book I particularly disliked. Just because I liked the first half best doesn’t mean I disliked the second half. It was a cute story and it’s been too long since I read a memoir. It was a cute story and one that makes you believe that humans are naturally good.

The audiobook was narrated by Simon Bubb and I thought he was a good choice. Dion talks about his Australian heritage a lot so it made sense to have an Australian narrator. I felt he gave appropriate weight to emotional segments of the book and seemed to personify Dion’s serious nature well. I would have almost thought it was narrated by the author at times with how connected he seemed to Gobi’s story.

The dedication Dion had for Gobi was admirable. I think it was hard for me to relate to his attachment because I’ve never loved an animal as much as Dion loves Gobi. I do believe in a bond between man and animal and I think the instant bond Gobi and Dion had was special. When you find something that unique, you have to do whatever you can to protect it.

Writer’s Takeaway: Memoir can be hard. Sometimes there are truths that are hard to face. I think Dion struggled to be honest in this book and it was frustrating for me as the reader. I see this book more like a piece of marketing and a justification for all the donations he received than it is a true memoir. Parts of this book just didn’t sit right to me and I struggled to digest them. I think Dion might have written a very different book if he’d funded the search himself and hadn’t felt threatened by the Chinese government.

An overall enjoyable book but not what I was expecting. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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