Wine to Water: Review and Giveaway

Wine to Water is the true story of Doc Hendley (pictured to the left) and his journey to help solve the water crisis.  Doc has a humble beginning as an ordinary bartender, but he has an energetic personality and love of people that soon fuels his mission to make a difference.

When Doc learns about the world’s freshwater crisis he is shocked by the severity, much as I was while reading the book.  However, while most of us would be saddened and surprised to learn the great suffering of people without water, we would stop there.  Doc is compelled to do something about it.  He begins by starting a non-profit organization, Wine to Water, and before he even knows how best to make an impact, he is raising funds through wine-tasting events and gatherings in his hometown.  To his surprise, the organization starts spreading like wildfire as friends of friends become interested in spreading the word and donating money to help the crisis.

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Review: The Bridge To Terabithia

Author: Katherine Paterson
192 pages
Genre: Children’s Fiction

Jesse Owens, 10, is the only boy among four sisters.  His older two sisters, Brenda and Ellie, are snobby and obsessed with clothes and boys.  His youngest sister, Joyce Ann, is a bratty 4-year-old who never stops crying.  May Belle, 7, worships Jesse and, though slightly annoying at times, is the only one Jesse feels comfortable around.  Still, Jesse feels a bit lonely and longs for a new friend when his new neighbor Leslie shows up. Leslie is outgoing, an atheist, and a tomboy.  She is the only girl in the 5th grade to wear pants which Jesse’s mother sniffs at.  Their friendship starts after Jesse defends her right to compete in the big race with all the boys at school and to the surprise of everyone, but most of all Jesse, she beats them all.  Leslie is most unique for her wild imagination from which she and Jesse create Terabithia, a magical land across a creek in the woods where they can escape to fantasy make-believe.  Jesse uses the power of imagination to cope with a surprise tragedy.

Overall Impression
This is a cute children’s novel and a very quick and easy read.  The story takes place in rural southwest Virginia.  The simple life of a farm family translates over to the overall story’s feel and makes for a very simple plot.  Although there is not much complexity to it Paterson’s use of perspective makes for an interesting story.  The simplicity and honesty of Jesse’s character is important as we watch his character grow as he finds his place within his family and adapts to big life changes.  It is a good coming of age story for children.  All kids can find something to relate to within it whether it is friendship, family, school bullies, loneliness, or grief.

This book is dedicated to Katherine Paterson’s son David and to Lisa Hill.  Lisa was David’s childhood best friend and served as the main inspiration for the character Leslie.  Sadly, she died as a girl by being struck by lightning on a beach.


Movie Adaptation
This book was made into a movie most recently in 2007. Here is the trailer.

Review: The Book Thief

576 pages
Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Young Adult

Death narrates this story about Liesel Meminger, a young spunky girl living outside of Munich with her foster parents during World War II.  Liesel’s foster father Hans teaches her to read slowly each night starting with The Gravedigger’s Handbook, a book Liesel stole from a graveyard.  This is the first of many books Liesel steals.  She treasures every book for its literary quality and uses her words to comfort herself and others during this tragic time.  Some of the people who care for her include her accordion-playing, cigarette-rolling step-father Hans; her foster mother Rosa, a wardrobe of a woman with an infamous temper and habit of cussing; Max, a fist-fighting Jew with a talent for story-telling; and Rudy, a boy with hair the color of lemons who is undoubtedly in love with Liesel.  Despite the games Liesel and the other children play, war is not a game and this is a very dangerous time for Germans, especially those hiding a Jew in their basement.  Even death seems to pity Liesel for all she endures.

Overall Impression
This story is incredibly compelling, especially with Death being the narrator.  Although it is classified as a ‘Young Adult’ book it doesn’t seem as though it was designed for younger readers.  The Book Thief can be enjoyed by adults and children alike.  I could hardly put this book down.  Within the first few chapters Zusak had me falling in love with the characters, especially Hans whose love for his family was unwavering.  It’s an interesting account of World War II in Germany since it focuses on those of German-descent who were caught somewhere in the middle – not hating Jews, but not being able to help them either.  It’s hard to summarize without giving too much away, but this story will stick with you.  Zusak really takes time to fully develop his characters so that they feel like real people to you and your own friends by the end.  While I thought the book was an easy read (and one that demands you don’t stop), it is very well-written and contains a lot of symbolism, metaphors, and interesting imagery for those who care to look.

A few moments with Hans
Liesel’s foster father loves her dearly, but there are a few moments in this book when he intentionally upsets her that speak to the severity of fear Germans felt during this time.  Liesel becomes upset on the street one day and says that she hates the Fuhrer.  Instead of comforting her, Hans slaps her.  This is a man who would never lay a hand on his family and would fight anyone who tried to hurt them.  He does this after having a huge internal conflict and it upsets him just as much as it upsets Liesel.  However, it is necessary.  He tells her “Don’t ever say that! […] You can say that in our house, but you can never say it on the street, at school, at the BDM, never!”  Then he makes her practice saying Heil Hitler!”  Hans is a man who hates Hitler just as much, if not more, than Liesel does, but he is forced to behave in this way to ensure Liesel’s safety and her understand the gravity of such claims.

Another similar incident occurs when Hans explicitly tells Liesel that if she tells anyone about the Jew in their basement him and Rosa will be taken away and Liesel will be taken away from them.  He threatens to burn all of her books if she spills a single word.  He continues telling her how they will be dragged away until she is sobbing, but he had to be sure that she would not breathe a word because all of their lives were on the line if she did.  I think these moments speak a lot about the atmosphere of Germany during World War II.  I can’t imagine living in such constant fear and paranoia of my family’s safety.

Memorable Quotes
“German children were on the lookout for stray coins.  German Jews kept watch for possible capture.” p. 169

“I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men.  They are not.  They’re running at me.” – Death on War, p. 175

“I do not carry a sickle or a scythe.  I only wear a hooded black robe when it’s cold.  And I don’t have those skull-like facial features you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance.  You want to know what I truly look like?  I’ll help you out.  Find yourself a mirror while I continue.” p. 307

“Five hundred souls.  I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases.  Or I’d throw them over my shoulder.  It was only the children I carried in my arms.” – Death, p. 336

“It’s probably fair to say that in all the years of Hitler’s reign, no person was able to serve the Fuhrer as loyally as me.  A human doesn’t have a heart like mine.  The human heart is a line, whereas my own is a circle, and I have the endless ability to be in the right place at the right time.  The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst.  I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.  Still, they have one thing I envy.  Humans, if nothing else, have the good sense to die.” – Death, p. 401

I am haunted by humans.” – Death, p. 550

My Final Reaction
I sobbed.  I never cry while reading books. The last 20 minutes I spent reading this book I was sobbing.  And now I can’t stop thinking about it.  I really loved it though.  It’s going on my favorite books list, that only exists in my mind, and is right up there with The Shadow of the Wind and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

10/10 (obviously)
Go out and read it already!

Year of the Griffin

A big part of my blog will be book reviews, so here is the first!

I just finished reading Year of the Griffin by Diana Wynne Jones.  A friend let me borrow her copy and said it was one of her favorite books.  Her copy didn’t have the book jacket on it, and since I hadn’t looked it up until just now to find an image, I didn’t realize it was a sequel until just now! I’m actually really excited since that means there’s another great book out there written in a similar manner.

The good news is, you obviously don’t have to read the first in the series to enjoy this book.  There’s enough background information to give you understanding and the character development is really thorough.  I love this book for its multiple dimensions.  It’s written as a children’s story, so it’s easy to follow and has a light-hearted, enjoyable fantasy plot.  However, Jones’ humor and wit is quite developed, which the older reader can enjoy.

The book follows a group of magical creatures (human, griffin, dwarf, and more) at a wizarding university.  The school has fallen apart for a number of reasons, which is a central part of the plot.  Each student also has their own problems and secrets about their past and family background.  Because of this, there are many unusual occurrences at the university, which include invasions of pirates, tiny men with swords, and royalty.

Meanwhile, each student fights an internal battle of self-discovery among all of this confusion.  While trying to discover and harness their own magical power, they must also discover who they are themselves.  As they do this, they learn a great deal about friendship, family, and love.  Furthermore, Jones’ makes clear the theme of diversity as the very different characters grow into a tight-knit family, despite their initial hesitations.

In the beginning, I found it difficult to keep all of the characters straight and remember the details, but I would prefer highly developed characters over easy-to-follow boring ones.  Nevertheless, at times Jones seems to flood the reader with information and sudden plot advances (especially since this book is aimed at children).  Still, I immensely enjoyed it and would recommend this book.  I hope to read it again at some point to gain more understanding of the subtleties.  Now that I know this book is actually a sequel, I’ll have to read the initial book as well!  Once I do, you’ll be hearing from me again.  Thanks for stopping by!