Tag Archives: Donovan Hohn

Challenge Update, April 2020

4 May

Another weird month of complete lockdown. It’s funny how much our lives have changed and I wonder when my reading will start to feel normal and less like an escape. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in April:

The Girl in Green // Derek B. Miller (3/5)
Cuando era puertorriqueña // Esmeralda Santiago (4/5)
Pope Francis Speaks to Our Hearts (3/5)
A Mother’s Reckoning // Sue Klebold (4/5)
Moby-Duck // Donovan Hohn (5/5)
The Alice Network // Kate Quinn (4/5)
The Girl Who Took an Eye for an Eye // David Lagercrantz (3/5)

My last review will be up later this week and then I’ll be all caught up. A lot of audiobooks but that’s my norm when I’m training a lot.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

6/12
Any forward progress is good, even if it’s one step. I used A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold to the 1980-1999 time period. The majority of the book focused on Dyland Klebold’s mental state leading up to Columbine that I feel was more prominent than the time after the event.

Goodreads Challenge

21/55
Three ahead! This is the biggest cushion I’ve had in a while. I hope I can keep it up through the summer and this quarantine. I’m finding a lot of comfort in reading, especially on the weekends and I’m enjoying my books a lot so I’m optimistic about this challenge.

Book of the Month

I just adored Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn. The author’s tone kept me interested and always surprised at how far I’d come in the book. The topics were interesting, too, and covered a lot of the implications of the spill and the factors that contributed to it. It was good to read some great non-fiction.

Added to my TBR

I’m at 53 and wondering what I do when the list gets too short. I might have to take recommendations or just browse shelves? Whatever will become of me.

  • Old Baggage by Lisa Evans. This is a book club pick, swapped out for another that our moderator decided sounded too dull.
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. My husband’s friend praised this book and I’m enjoying some Mandel now so it will be fun to enjoy more of her writing later on.
  • The Ghosts of Eden Park by Karen Abbott. A friend from college was recommending non-fiction and included a 1920s gangster book on her list. How could I not add it?
  • Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati. I enjoyed the first book in this series over a year ago and I look forward to continuing with the series!

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. This is a great way to keep me accountable and to tell you about me outside the wide world of books.

  • Triathlon Age Group National Championships: I started training at least. I’m doing two workouts per day six days per week. It’s hard not being able to swim but I’ve found some other exercises to substitute that are helping build core strength. So far, this event is still on. But I’m not optimistic that it will take place. All I can do is wait and see.
  • Submit my novel: I’ll do a whole post on this tomorrow. Suffice it to say, not happening, and may have to get scratched for this year’s goals.

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for this year, it’s fun!

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!

WWW Wednesday, 29-April-2020

29 Apr

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: Forward progress! I’m reading White Oleander by Janet Fitch in print now. I have a copy on my shelves so when I was ready for a new book, I grabbed this. Much easier than trying to renew an ebook every three weeks.
I moved The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz only my phone and I’m speeding through it. I suspect I’ll be done with it next week!
I finished the fourth section of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern and I’m ready for my next Reading Buddy meeting. I hope it’s this week because I can’t wait to finish this one and write up a full review. Then we’ll have to pick another book. Oh boy, haha.
I’m glad to say I’m still moving forward with The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel. I’m enjoying the story which encourages me to pull it out and squeeze in a few pages when I can. I’m not sure how far into the book I am (trouble with my reading app) but I’d have to guess getting toward the middle. I’m excited to keep moving forward with this one.

Recently finished: I finished up Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn after posting last week. I really enjoyed this one! I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it or how I’d get through some non-fiction when escapism was really what I needed but it was enjoyable and a quick read. I posted my review on Monday and gave it a full Five out of Five Stars.
I was able to finish up The Alice Network by Kate Quinn with my increased listening time due to training. This one was pretty good but with the large number of WWII stories I’ve read in the past few years, it did seem a bit unoriginal. I’d still recommend it as a good story, but I wouldn’t say it stands out more than others. I posted my review yesterday and gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I think I need to start making plans again! For an audiobook, I’m hoping to start on The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson. This one came recommended by another blogger a while back and I do love some books about books!
For a physical book, I think I’m going to grab Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich. This was a gift many moons ago from a writer friend. I’m hoping it inspires me to do some writing and editing. I have a terrible NaNo that needs some love and quarantine should be a good time to do it, but I’ve had no motivation to try.


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: Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn (5/5)

27 Apr

The story of how I got this book makes me laugh. A friend and I were going to the Ann Arbor Book Festival Book Crawl and decided to meet up for dinner before. She’s a librarian who was planning a community reading and volunteer experience. She was going to use the book Moby-Duck to rally the community around plastic pollution, climate change, and globalization concerns. She told me about the programs she had planned as we enjoyed our Mexican food. We got to the second stop on the Book Crawl and were shocked when Donovan Hohn was one of the speakers! We got to hear him talk about his experiences in the book and my friend told him about her programming. I’ve had it on my shelves for five years. I have a personal rule of not taking signed books out of my house and quarantine seems like the perfect time to keep my books at home and read them.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn

Summary from Goodreads:

When the writer Donovan Hohn heard of the mysterious loss of thousands of bath toys at sea, he figured he would interview a few oceanographers, talk to a few beachcombers, and read up on Arctic science and geography. But questions can be like ocean currents: wade in too far, and they carry you away. Hohn’s accidental odyssey pulls him into the secretive world of shipping conglomerates, the daring work of Arctic researchers, the lunatic risks of maverick sailors, and the shadowy world of Chinese toy factories.

Moby-Duck is a journey into the heart of the sea and an adventure through science, myth, the global economy, and some of the worst weather imaginable. With each new discovery, Hohn learns of another loose thread, and with each successive chase, he comes closer to understanding where his castaway quarry comes from and where it goes. In the grand tradition of Tony Horwitz and David Quammen, Moby-Duck is a compulsively readable narrative of whimsy and curiosity.

I haven’t read a non-fiction book I enjoyed this much on a long time. Hohn’s tone is comical and the way he captures people and their mannerisms was wonderful. I loved picturing the avid beachcombers and blind oceanographer he met. He’s also very gifted at describing the science behind his writing in a way that was easy to understand. There was a map in the front of the book that I found most helpful. This is a topic I’m interested in, too, so I was all for this book and this topic.

Many times, non-fiction doesn’t focus on people and characterization much, but Hohn did a great job of it. I could picture Ebbesmeyer walking along the Alaskan coast and the mopy teenager on vacation with his parents. I’m honestly surprised Hohn hasn’t published any fiction. He has a new book coming out in June, The Inner Coast, which is also non-fiction and covers many similar topics.

Chris Pallister may have been the most interesting person in the book. He was very driven to get the coast cleaned up and saw it as a quest he needed to complete no matter the barriers. The mix with his personal life that Hohn provided was really interesting because we can see the reasons behind his drive to clean up Gore Point and I loved how by combining a personal history with a professional goal, Hohn drew a very real and full person.

I’ve tried to minimize my plastic impact on the planet so I related well to the several sections on garbage in the oceans. The beachcombers seemed to see it as treasure while those studying the convergence zones saw it as a major issue to be solved. I thought it was interesting when Hohn encountered the Waterkeeper Alliance who showed him how ineffective beach cleanups are when we look at the larger issues facing our oceans. That was eye-opening for me as well.

Donovan Hohn reading from Moby-Duck at Seva in Ann Arbor, MI.

There wasn’t a point of this book that I enjoyed most and not a part that I didn’t enjoy. I sped through it with equal rapture and attention. Separating the book into different ‘chases’ that Hohn made kept the pace up for me and I liked seeing the different places he would go to chase down answers to a single question. It reminded me a bit of The Travels of a T-Shirt by Pietra Rivoli in that sense but I enjoyed the writing in this one much more.

Our oceans are so big that small damages to them don’t seem like a big deal. Throwing one plastic wrapper over the side of a boat isn’t going to end the world. But every person thinking that and companies taking advantage of the sea end up making a large impact. If it was just one crate of bath toys, it would be fine. It’s when oil tankers and cell phone crates and garbage add to the damage that it starts to become lasting damage that we can’t overlook. Hohn makes great points about how we’ve affected our oceans and how there’s no single solution. The oceans are so deep and vast that we still don’t understand them or how we’ve damaged them. It will take years of research for us to know.

Writer’s Takeaway: Hohn’s ability to take a non-fiction topic and make me as engrossed as I normally am in a YA Fantasy novel was amazing. The way he described the people he met was a huge contributing factor. He described personality ticks, facial expressions, and life events that brought the people off the page and made them as real as my neighbors. It helped make the story seem more grounded and helped me connect with it more deeply.

I adored this book and I really recommend it. I’m sad it took me so long to read. Five 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:
Moby-Duck, by Donovan Hohn | Blogging for a Good Book
Book Review; Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn | the alfmeister
Rubber Duck Book Review: Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn | Good Morning Gloucester
Moby-Duck | Ron’s View

WWW Wednesday, 22-April-2020

22 Apr

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: My plan for White Oleander by Janet Fitch is to pick up my physical copy of it once I finish with Moby Duck. I think I’ll get through it faster this way instead of waiting for holds and losing them so often.
I got through very little of The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz but I have a plan for this as well. Once I finish The Alice Network, I’ll put it on my phone and listen to it that way. I’m not going to be in the car much so I might as well find another way to listen to it.
I’m ready for the third meeting with my Reading Buddy on The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. This one has been a great escapist read for me and I keep flying through the sections as soon as I start them. I hope we meet soon.
I’m back to focusing on The Alice Network by Kate Quinn full time as my audiobook. I began my triathlon training plan this week so I suspect I’ll start getting through audiobooks a lot faster as I spend more time running and biking. I expect this one to be finished by next week.
I’ve found ways to keep myself moving through The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel as an ebook. I’ll play a game on my phone and switch between the two so I draw out both. It’s been a good way to kill a lot of time and still move forward with my ebook.
I’m really enjoying Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn. I didn’t think I’d get so into a non-fiction read just now but this topic is really interesting to me and I’m able to sit and read it for some long periods. It’s quite good.

Recently finished: I finished up A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold as fast as I could so another member of my book club could grab a copy. I wonder how much though our organizer put into picking the timing for this book. The anniversary of the Columbine shooting was this past Monday and I posted my review on the day as well. I initially gave the book Three out of Five Stars but changed my rating to Four after I reflected on it more.

Reading Next: Yet again, no plans for something else. I’m doing double duty on all my books already, it seems overwhelming to think of what’s next. Maybe in a week, I’ll have a better perspective.


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!

WWW Wednesday, 15-April-2020

15 Apr

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: Solid hold on White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I’ve lost the hold on the ebook again. I own a physical copy of this book so I think I might visit it in that medium. The platform I’m using to get it as an ebook tends to have long wait times so I’d rather move to another platform where ebooks are more readily available.
I don’t think I’ve been alone in the car for a week so The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz is still where it was before. I’ll try to find some excuses to drive, but I don’t foresee that happening much.
I pushed my reading buddy to have our second meeting on The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern yesterday. I’m flying through this book and dragging her to keep up with me. I think we’ll get through it super fast since we’re both on lockdown right now and reading fantasy is a great way to escape reality.
I started on The Alice Network by Kate Quinn but have put it on hold because a more pressing hold came in. I was enjoying it a lot before I stopped so I hope to get back to it soon and keep moving forward.
That pressing hold was A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold on audio. My whole book club is fighting for a few copies of this one so I wanted to start it as soon as I could and start making my way through so someone else can get this copy before our meeting next month. It’s a hard book to read/listen to but also very interesting and well written. I think we’ll have a great discussion about it.
I switched my ebook to The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel. This is available on a platform that’s easier to use with my slow ebook-reading habit. I’ve just started and it’s not a long book but it will probably take me a while still.
Just to make this list longer, I started a new physical book as well. My logic is to read through my autographed books since I don’t like those leaving the house and I’m a bit homebound at the moment. I picked up Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn. I’m interested to see if I can fly through this one or if I need to switch to fiction to keep myself going for a while. Maybe I’ll switch back and forth.

Recently finished: I was able to finish Cuando era puertorriqueña by Esmeralda Santiago Friday morning. It was a great way to start off my Friday! It always feels great to finish my Spanish language read for the year. I was able to write up a review and get that posted on Monday. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I also read a short book, Pope Francis Speaks to Our Hearts. It was a collection of quotes from early in his papacy and a nice light thing to get into over Easter weekend. I gave it Three out of Five Stars and posted a review yesterday.

I also reviewed The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller last week. I’m still not sure if this book fell flat for me or if I had unrealistic expectations because of the author’s other books. Either way, I gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: With how long my current reading list is, I’m not looking ahead. It’s too daunting.


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!

Ann Arbor Book Festival Book Crawl

13 Jul

I’m lucky to live close to one of the Greatest American Cities for Writers as named by Flavorwire: Ann Arbor, MI. Home of the University of Michigan, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and birthplace of Borders, this city is super book friendly. A2 (what we Michiganders call it) was never somewhere I visited when I was younger. It was an hour drive and full of college hippies from a school I didn’t want to attend. But now, in my literary phase, I’m there a few times a month.

My librarian friend Amy asked me if I wanted to go to a book crawl that was a part of the Ann Arbor Book Festival. How many ways could I say yes? The day that worked best for us was a Thursday evening so I drove over after work and met Amy for dinner downtown. She told me about her new job at a library in a wealthy suburb and all the types of people who came to that. She told me about a program she hopes to run that’s similar to a community read, but it focuses on taking action around an environmental issue. The book she’d chosen was Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn. The book touches on water pollution among many other topics and she thought it would be a great program. I hope to participate when it comes about.

After dinner we went to the first location, Nicola’s Books. I could live forever in this bookstore and it made me really happy. There were three non-fiction writers there: Daryl Hafter (Woman and Work in Eighteenth Century France), Scott Ellsworth (The Secret Game), and Juan Cole (The New Arabs). Personally, I was most interested in Ellsworth book which focuses on racial integration in basketball. He was a very engaging speaker. We left after the event, stealing a few cookies on our way out.

Donovan Hohn reading from Moby-Duck at Seva in Ann Arbor, MI.

Donovan Hohn reading from Moby-Duck at Seva in Ann Arbor, MI.

The second stop was Seva, a local restaurant chain. We had three authors at this location: E.D.E. Bell (Spireseeker), Donovan Hohn, and Ava Chin (Eating Wildly). So if you were paying attention, you’ll notice that Hohn is the author of the Moby-Duck book Amy and I were talking about at dinner. Yeah, didn’t know that was going to happen! It was a really cool surprise. It turns out he teaches creative writing at Wayne State University (GO WARRIORS!) in Detroit. I bought a copy of his book and had it signed. It seemed like a signal from the book shelves that I needed to read this book.

The Moby-Turtle.

The Moby-Turtle.

He also had plastic turtles (relatives of the Moby Duck) that he’d collected during his research. All the authors did a reading from their book. Chin’s memoir intrigued me and if it ever comes up again, I think I would read it. She has a really cool hobby of urban foraging that blows my mind.

The final destination was at the Quarter Bistro. Amy and I got there late after talking to Hohn and seeing if he would speak at Amy’s library (a very firm probably). I was standing in the back and a woman at a table in front of me offered me the last seat at her table. It seemed like a family so reluctantly I accepted. The writers at this location were Susan Hutton, Michael Byers, and Callie McKee. Hutton is a poet which is not my forte and I can’t comment on. Byers writes short stories and I really enjoyed the selection he read. McKee is an actress and performed some performance pieces. Oh, and she was sitting right next to me! She’d invited me to sit at the table with her family who were all there to support her. It felt like sitting at the head table after crashing a wedding. I enjoyed her pieces and it reminded me of the poetry slam I went to a while ago. I thanked her for the seat after her performance.

All in all, it was a great night. I enjoyed every minute of it. I hope to participate in more days of the festival next year when my schedule will (hopefully) be more open to it. I hope you have the opportunity to participate in literary festivals and all things books near you. I love the opportunities I have.

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!