Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fundraiser A: My Fight for Freedom and Justice by Rob Blagojevich

You probably remember the sensational (and sometimes surreal) trial of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached and tried on a buffet of corruption charges in 2009.  The most scandalous charge was the alleged quid pro quo deal for the freshly vacated senate seat belonging to the new president, Barack Obama, in exchange for... well, whatever the Governor could get, according to the headlines.  A scheme guaranteed to “make Abe Lincoln roll over in his grave” according to Patrick Fitzgerald, the Federal prosecutor who apparently uncovered the biggest crime wave in Chicago since Al Capone decided to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day.

Chicago politics have long been considered a blood sport, and a scandal involving politicians is not all that surprising.  What made this scandal so enticing was that it involved Obama’s senate seat, a very colorful Governor who just couldn’t be made to feel bad, and the apparently brazen nature of the crimes.    The media had a field day.   The Governor became the target (and guest) of the late night comedians, while the prosecutors pouted and preened their way through the daily news cycles.

What this media circus fails to appreciate is that real people were involved.  Real abuses of power did occur, and not necessarily by the defendants.  Lives were shattered.  And most of those responsible have, to this day, escaped justice.

Governor Blagojevich had a co-defendant.  His brother, Robert.    Robert is a private man.  He shuns the spotlight, and so his story was overlooked, or he was confused with his brother, or the assumption was that they were equally guilty.  And the assumption of guilt is a real one for both brothers.  We like to think, we need to think, that our government does not make mistakes.   Surely, if the government brings a case to trial, they have compelling evidence that criminal wrongdoing has occurred.  And even more critically, we need to think that our Government does not abuse the almost-infinite power it holds over its citizens.  We certainly underestimate its ability (and willingness) to manufacture a case from nothing, in order to further its own agenda.  And that is exactly what happened to Rob.

A little background here:  Rob and Rod Blagojevich were brought up in Chicago, by first generation Serbian immigrants.  They were taught to work hard, to be honest, to be honorable, and to revere family.  Rob was the elder:  he followed those dictates to the letter.  He is educated, successful, and serious.  He served as a platoon leader on active duty in the army for over five years, and in the US Army Reserves for another 17 after that, retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2001.  He worked, with great success, first at a bank and later as the head of his own company for real estate investments.  He is active in his community:  he has served on the board of the Red Cross, with the YCAP program, and with Hurricane Katrina survivors.  He gave the commencement speech to the University of Tampa (his Alma Mater) in 2008. He has been married for 30 plus years to an utterly delightful, erudite and discerning woman.  They have raised a son, Alex, who is exactly the son that hard work, committed parenting and some good luck produces.  These are two people who see that their greatest accomplishments lie in what they leave the world, the example they set, and the family and friends they surround themselves with.

The relationship between Rob and Rod has been strained at times.  Rod, the younger brother, is more likely to depend on charm rather than hard work to get ahead.  Rod is ebullient, while Rob is more reserved.  Rod is comfortable wheeling and dealing in political halls.  Rob builds long term relationships.   Rod campaigns.  Rob works.   However, they are the only children of a very small family.  After their parents died, they had only each other, and their own immediate families.  And each of their parents had asked Rob to look after his brother.  They knew Rod was a bit more childish, a bit weaker.

So when Rod asked Rob to be the fundraiser for his re-election bid, telling Rob that he was “the only one (Rod) could trust”, Rob felt he should help.  Rod also told Rob that an investigation by the Federal government was behind him.  After some hesitation, Rob agreed to help his brother, but decided to limit his term in the position.  He would fundraise only until the end of the year, a four-month period.

What Rob had no way of know was that the government had not dropped the investigation.  In fact, the office of Friends of Blagojevich and Robs own calls were being taped almost from the beginning of his involvement.  And also from the beginning were the offers of bribes.  Constituents offering to fundraise for Rob in exchange for certain considerations…a road built, an appointment, and ultimately the senate seat soon to be vacated by Barack Obama.   This offer by Jessie Jackson Jr, through intermediaries, was the catalyst that led to the arrest and indictment of Governor Blagojevich and his brother.  The fact that the hundreds of hours of transcriptions only show Rob denying the “pay for play deal” were meaningless to the Federal prosecutors. 

The most chilling aspect of the book is that Rob shows what can happen when the Federal government decides that a person needs to be “proven” guilty.  Please note, I did not say that the someone is guilty.  In this case, that person is Rob Blagojevich.  Determined to build a case against the Governor, the prosecutors felt that the most expeditious way to provide evidence was to have his friends, staff and family “flip” on Rod.  They would offer reduced charges (usually on other matters), or in some cases immunity, for those who would testify to Rod’s criminality.  For example:  one trusted staffer, Chris Kelly, had a gambling problem.  This resulted in some very serious tax complications when he attempted to resolve his gambling costs with creative accounting on his tax returns.  In exchange for his testimony against Rod, his tax problems were taken care of.  The fact that he later committed suicide was not considered important by his handlers.  Three other friends of the Governor also testified against him in exchange for immunity or very light sentences on charges pending against them.  Quid pro quo (literally “this for that”) deals don’t count if it’s the government offering them.

In Rob’s case, the Federal government felt that, even though Rob was innocent (as the hours and hours and hours of tapes clearly demonstrated), his arrest and indictment would either cause Rod to confess all, or the pressure on Robert would be so great that he would agree to whatever the Feds said about Rod in order to ease his own burden.  A burden that almost anyone would do anything to set down.  In addition to facing years in prison, the case almost bankrupted Rob.  Rod's legal costs were paid for by his campaign war chest, Rob’s came out of his own pocket (although the judge could have relieved Rob of that burden).  The security he and Julie had worked a lifetime to build was completely eroded; his health was compromised; his reputation damaged; and his business undermined because of the time and attention that the trial and preparation took.  Rob lives in Nashville, TN.  He and Julie had to travel to Chicago and stay there for the months of the trial.

The judge, James B. Zagel, did his part to make Rob’s life as difficult as possible, in order to keep the pressure on Rod.  He denied Rob a separate trial.  Given Rod’s propensity for courting the media, Rob felt that he needed to distance his case from Rods.  The confusion over the two brothers (the similarity in first names was enough for most), and the length of time that the trial would take if tried together created real dangers and hardships for Rob.  His personal funds could only stretch so far.  Rob also asked the judge to allow his costs to come from the re-election funds as Rods were doing.    The judge denied both requests.  They needed the pressure to stay on.  A side note on the judge.  He was serially late for his own court.  Sometimes as much as 40 minutes.  Obviously as sign of disrespect.  Rob once calculated that cost him an extra $15, 000 in legal fees.  He paid for his attorneys to wait for the judge.  All part of the pattern of abuses of power.  Judges and prosecutors are elected or appointed.   The politics of the case did not rest solely with the politicians.

Ultimately, the first trial resulted in a hung jury.  The jury could not agree on the guilt or innocence of Rob or Rod.  Fortunately, for Rob, the government, having decided finally that his usefulness in breaking Rod was limited, dropped the charges against him for the retrial.   Importantly, for Rob, the charges having been dropped do not “declare him innocent”.  They were dismissed “without prejudice” which means the government can refile the charges at any time.  How would you like that hanging over your head?  Serves to keep you in line a bit, doesn’t it?  And having the charges dropped doesn’t mean you get the money, or the time, or your reputation back.  Nobody apologizes.  Rob quotes one statistic that is worthy of note:  96% of the cases that the Federal Government brings end in conviction.   In a just world, in a free country, we could assume that is because they do such a great job at demonstrating the guilt of the parties in question.  In fact, it is due to a war of attrition that the government will always win.  They have unlimited resources of time, funds, attorneys and “the system” itself is rigged in favor of the prosecutors.  Any defendant will ultimately break.  Their funds, their health, their ability to withstand the pressure will all fail at some point.  If we have reason to be concerned for the state of our legal system, and the abuses of our government, this is where we should begin.  The disenfranchised can attest to this disparity all too well.

 I urge everyone to read this book.  It was Rob yesterday.  It could be you tomorrow.

In the interest of full disclosure: I have the great good fortune to call Rob and Julie Blagojevich friends.  Rob and my ex-husband are very dear friends, and through him I got to know them both.  I don’t often see them now, but that certainly does not affect my deep respect and admiration for the pair, and for their son, Alex. It would be hard for me to list all their kindnesses to me and to my mother, who worked with Julie.  I have never, at any time, seen either Rob or Julie act in a way that would bring dishonor to them.  They have a code, and they live by it.  They are private, responsible, and dedicated. As well as simply delightful fun.   I know I am not alone in saying that when I heard Rob was in legal jeopardy, on attempted bribery charges, I actually laughed.  I had to assume a joke of the broadest type.  As the months went on, and the trial loomed, I knew without any doubt, that Rob would be vindicated.  Like most people I assumed that the government had made a mistake, and they would correct this mistake, once they realized what a huge error they had made.  And that of course, Robs name and property would be restored to him.   This book chills me to my core.  What it says about our real freedom, our belief in justice and fair play, and our trust in a benevolent government that protects us from the excesses of corruption is devastating.  

Fundraiser A: My Fight for Freedom and Justice by Robert Blagojevich, 2015, Northern Illinois University Press.  ISBN 978-0-87580-488-0

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I have lived a good long time...longer than I will admit to here, and I have been reading voraciously since before kindergarten.   I have read a lot of books.  Many of them have been good, and a precious few have been great.  The Scorpio Races is as good a book as I have read in many years.   It was so good, in fact, that once I finished it, I mourned for a few minutes and then promptly started re-reading it.

The story is intriguing...the Scorpio Races are races set on a small island (fictional, but it feels a lot like an Irish offshore island) between Cappaill Uisce, the water horses of Celtic folklore.  These are no Disney water horses...they eat meat, drink blood and kill.  Each other, and humans.   But the island, Thisby, and the horses are connected in ways modern man has trouble understanding.  They have ancient blood ties past remembering.   Two of the contenders in this years race are Sean Kendricks, and Puck Connelly.

Sean has been working with the Cappaill Uisce since he was a boy.  Described by the islanders as having "one foot on land, and one in the sea" he has won the races for the past four years on a stallion named Corr.  He  loves Corr deeply, and the horses in his charge love him and his magic.

Puck is an orphaned girl who is riding in the races for the first time, as the first woman to compete.  She is also riding her mundane island horse, Dove, rather than one of the Cappaill Uisce...another first.  She is hindered in her efforts by almost everyone on the island.  Everyone but Sean, who is drawn to her for reasons he cannot explain.

The two face many obstacles.  Chief among them is Mutt Malvern, the cruel son of the richest man on the island (and Sean's employer).   Another hurdle they must face is that each has desperate reasons for needing to win the race, but to do that, they must beat the person they are growing to love.  The love story is awkward and terribly sweet.

I can't really put my finger on what I find so compelling about this book.  The story is unique, and the slight tinge of magic over everything on Thisby adds a delightful air of mystery.  Its written by a YA author, which may be the reason the love story is so muted and delicious.  We don't have sex to rely on making the story interesting.  The writing must carry the story.  

And the writing is superb.  The suspense simply never lets up.  One is completely drawn in by the two immensely likable main characters, and many of the lesser characters deserve their own book:  Finn and George Holly are two I would love to read more about.  The rituals and traditions surrounding the races are unsettling, yet have the feel of ancient rhythms and rites.  Stiefvater has an unswervingly deft hand in her timing and the pace of the story feels just right.  The conclusion is a surprise, albeit one that satisfactorily resolves the dilemma of the two protagonists.

I was rather haunted by the story.  I found myself thinking a lot about the story and the characters during the first read, and even the second.  Sean,  in particular caught my imagination.  He is mysterious and magical and immensely attractive.   Again, Ms Stiefvater reveals just enough of his background to help explain him, but we never fully understand him.

I will definitely read more by the author.  I don't usually read YA novels, but this one is so exceptional that I too will make an exception.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mr. Write by Lisa Clark O'Neill

Adorable!  Mr. Write is a must for fans of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Jennifer Crusie.  Light, bright and sizzlin' hot.  The witty repartee, the great cast of characters, and a quirky romance reminds me of each, at her best.   

Sarah Barnwell has recently returned to her hometown of Sweetwater, South Carolina.  She and her childhood friend, Allie Hawbaker, are partners in  The Dust Jacket, a funky new bookstore.  Sarah knows she has to lay some ghosts and come to terms with Sweetwater and her past as the daughter of the town drunk.  Spunky and resilient, she is ready for the challenge.  What she hadn't anticipated is the spectre of an old enemy, an old crime, and the totally new issue of her annoying neighbor: Tucker Pettigrew.

Tucker, scion of the local version of Mr. Potter from It's  A Wonderful Life, has recently returned to Sweetwater as well.  He is battling grief,  the local women, and a growing attraction to the redhead next door.  As a writer, he and the bookstore owner should see eye to eye.  But these two have mysteries to solve, misunderstandings to overcome, and danger to face before they can find their version of harmony.

They are assisted in these endeavors by a likable cast of characters:  Mason, the hunky British actor who is Tucker's best friend;  Alllie: Sarah's best friend and the wounded daughter of a prominent Sweetwater family; assorted family members and friends; and a cat that deserves a book of his own.(Side note:  one of the charms of the book are the myriad ways Ms. O'Neill uses to describe the cat's could make a drinking game out of them,)

The fun in the book comes from the snappy dialogue ...particularly between the romantic leads (although Mason, and Allie's brothers have some pretty good lines).  The Southern Gothic charm of the town is a splendid setting for a series. (and that is the good news...a series this is).  I hate saying good bye to characters I've grown fond of, and I do a little happy dance when I find a new series to dive into (The next book is Admit One).

Ms. Neill's writing is fast, funny, and smart.  A typical passage:

" Of course, equally plausible, they could care less about him, and had merely been drawn to the spectacle that was Mason Armitage.
Tucker sighed.
Mason had insisted that no one in this little backwater would possible recognize a British thespian were one to bite the local citizenry on its collective ass, so Tucker had allowed him to tag along.  But now here he was, stupidly giving Mason the opportunity to take his shirt off in a semi-public forum.
Mason - poor, beleaguered creature of beauty that he was - was used to people running into walls when they got their first look at him.  He probably hadn't even noticed that there were now three individuals next door, staring. 
Well, two of them were still staring.  One of them was walking this way."

There is an inherent sweetness to the book that I find refreshing.  The characters may be wounded, but they are not jaded.  All in all, this is the perfect book for the days when you need a little sunshine, a little fun, and a lot of romance.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Secret Place by Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad Book 5)

Dublin Detective Stephen Moran was working Cold Cases and waiting for his chance at the Murder Squad when Holly MacKay walked in and handed him the clue to an unsolved murder.  The clue is a picture of 16 year old Chris Harper, who was murdered the year before.  The picture is captioned "I know who killed him" and hung on "The Secret Place", a bulletin board at the prestigious St. Kilda's girls school.  Moran recognizes this as his entree into the Murder Squad...if he plays his cards right. But that means working with the prickly Antoinette Conway: the Murder Squad outcast and the officer originally assigned to the case.  The pair have to maneuver their way through office politics, school politics, and the cliques of both St. Kilda's and the boys school of St. Colms, where Chris was a student.

Tana French's writing is  impeccable.  She adroitly captures the angsty essence of teenage girls, right down to their (slightly irritating) slang.  The girls of Holly's little gang are richly drawn and slightly magical.  There is an otherworldly element to them that adds an additional mystery-within-the-mystery.  The real "Secret Place" is the clearing where the girls meet at night and how it strengthens the powerful bonds of friendship they have formed.  The school holds secrets upon secrets, and its up to the detectives to break through the layers of deception.  I particularly like how Moran and Conway quickly identify each others strengths and use those to resolve the crime. There is a slightly manipulative feel to their handling of the case that echoes the politics, the secrets, and the ambition of everyone involved.. The class distinction between the students and the detectives is superbly drawn: the students are indifferent to it, the detectives are keenly aware.  Conway is bitter, Moran is slightly awed....initially.  Like all of French's characters, Moran has a past, and uses the present to help resolve the issues that haunt him.

Frank MacKay, the protagonist of  French's previous novel Faithful Place, plays a strong part as Holly's protective father.  He is an appealing character, and it's great to see him again, along with Holly. My sole concern with The Secret Place is that the relationship between Moran and the MacKays will be confusing for those who are reading the book as a stand alone.  For that reason, I recommend you read Faithful Place prior to reading The Secret Place.

I actually recommend all of the Dublin Murder Squad series.  I was hooked with In The Woods (as fine a piece of writing as I have seen) and my enthusiasm has not dimmed.  French is to be commended for keeping her series lyrical, fresh and mysterious.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bliss House by Laura Benedict

I had the good fortune to meet author Laura Benedict at the 2014 Southern Festival of Books.  I was so taken with her charm and easy manner that I resolved to get her book as soon as I got home.  And am I glad I did.  The perfect mood-setter for Halloween,  Bliss House is a chilling, mesmerizing read about a troubled house.   You have no idea how hard that sentence was to write without using the word "haunting".  Screw it.  It is haunting.  The house, the story, the characters.  

Rainey Adams and her daughter, Ariel are the survivors of a freak explosion that left Rainey a widow, and Ariel a very wounded half-orphan.  To help heal emotionally and physically, Rainey moves them to the old family manse in Old Gate, Virginia.  Like any creepy semi-abandoned house, the stories run rampant about murders, hauntings and strange happenings in the lovely old pile. Despite misgivings, Rainey plows ahead revamping the old place and they are soon meeting the locals.  She is concerned about Ariel, for many reasons, but the girl loves the house, and soon shows signs of healing physically.  

Unfortunately, she also shows signs of a paranormal problem.  A murder in the house leaves Rainey and Ariel vulnerable and uneasy.  As well they should be.  Not the house, nor the locals are what they seem to be.  The girls are taken under the broad and manly wing of a local contractor who, like the rest of the neighborhood, realizes that all is Not Well at Bliss House.    

I won't ruin the rest of the story, but I have to commend the author.  The characters are very sympathetic...all are wounded in one way or another, yet very believable and easy to root for.  The tension is superbly kept up right until the end...actually after the end, since we are left open for a sequel concerning the house.  Ms. Benedict has a very deft hand at keeping us spooked and curious.
I am looking forward to the next installment (please tell me it is a series!).  

Highly recommended for that Halloween read! 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Pride of the Peacock by Victoria Holt

Like many women, I grew up reading Victoria Holt (The Mistress of Mellyn, The Mask of the Enchantress, Lord of the Far Island, etc.) and I was excited to see that that Sourcebooks Casablanca was making them available again on E-Book.

The story is this:  young Jessica Clavering learns the true story of her family and birth when the mysterious old opal miner who bought the family manse befriends her.  Ben is a great character, full of stories and mischief.  When he learns he is dying, he sends for his son, Joss Madden and arranges a marriage between the pair.  Jessica agrees to the marriage as a way out of her family life, and they set out for Australia's opal fields and a home called Peacocks.  Once there, Jessica finds herself beset by danger....physical and emotional.  Will she find out what happened to the magnificent opal called The Green Flash at Sunset?  Will she discover who and what is threatening her?  And is her new husband a thief and a murderer?  In a world where only the strong survive, and morality is defined by necessity, who can she trust?

The first half of the book is filled with lively detail, and Jessica's relationship with Ben unfolds in a believable, and interesting fashion.  Ben's stories of the Australian Outback, opal mining, and his long life are fun and its easy to see why Jessica is so charmed by him.  He brings a strong defiant streak to her stuffy Victorian world, and helps her to break free from her mournful, bitter family.  She discovers that she is the product of a love story, her mother is really her grandmother, and her father supposedly deserted her mother on the eve of their wedding.  Heady stuff.

Ben's engineering of a wedding between Jessica and his natural son, Joss, also seems a logical next step.  Jessica longs to go to Australia and Joss is Ben's heir...if he marries Jessica and takes her back to Australia with him.  Joss is one of the "peacock's" of the title.  Proud, aloof, handsome, and headstrong, he is the perfect Holt hottie.  Jessica is so turned off by the stories Ben tells her about Joss,  that she is  determined their marriage be "in name only", which makes Joss even more aloof and prideful.

The descriptions of a mining town in Australia, and the home called "Peacocks" are are the inner-workings of an opal mining company.  Holt really makes the time and place come alive.  The obsessive search for and possession of opals, in particular one called The Green Flash at Sunset is the current running throughout the book, and from it springs the mystery and danger Jessica finds herself in.  She is both attracted to and deeply suspicious of Joss, and almost loses her life as a result.

What seems to be missing is a real relationship between Joss and Jessica.  Lots of sparring, lots of suspicion,  lots of misunderstandings....all pretty standard fare.  Jessica's sudden understanding of her love for Joss seems abrupt, as does his love for her.  It may be a result of this book having been written in the 1970's,  as well as the author's more delicate handling of sex, but the whole affair seemed  to lack chemistry.

I plan on re-reading other Holt novels, as well as those by Phillipa Carr, another pseudonym for the author, Eleanor Hibbert (see the sidebar).  Like Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt is a  part of cherished  memories of learning about love through books while I was too young to learn about it in real life.  She will always hold a special place in my "library of the heart" as a result.

Available as an E-Book January, 2014 from Sourcebooks Casablanca

  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (August 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385122810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385122818


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tuscan Rose by Belinda Alexandra

A baby is anonymously delivered to a convent with a tiny key the only  clue to her identity. These are just the beginnings of the mysteries that surround young Rosa Bellocchi.   As Rosa grows, she realizes that she psychically senses the origins of things.  She touches a piece of furniture and is transported to a hard wood jungle.  Or she eats a piece of bread and feels the sun and the wind on the wheat.  Or...she senses the pain and fear of the chinchilla's used to make a fur coat.   You can imagine what she goes through when she tries to eat meat.

When she is grown, Rosa is sent to  sinister Villa Scarfiotti as the governess to a family with secrets.  The Marchesa Scarfiotti is a rail-thin, meat-eating monster covered in make up.  Her husband is haunted by the loss of his sister, and longing for another woman.  Their child, Clementina, is the sad product of this unhappy couple and Rosa is determined to help this waif any way she can.  The Villa is haunted by witches, say the servants, and Rosa understands this to be true.

The Marchesa is threatened by Rosa, and when the chance arises, she schemes to have Rosa unjustly imprisoned.  Sadly, this is easily done in Mussolini dominated Italy, especially by an avowed Fascist admirer like the Marchesa.  Rosa is kept in prison for years, raped by a guard, and bears a daughter, Sibilla.    She is eventually freed after promising to stay away from the Scarfiotti family, but branded an "enemy of the state".

After her release, Rosa must fend for herself and the baby in an increasingly hostile environment.  Mussolini and his Black Shirts have changed the Italy Rosa loves with their omnipresent threat.  However, next few years are happy for her when she meets Luciano, and falls in with his family troupe of performers.  Eventually, she goes to work for Antonio Pirigi, the owner of an antiques shop she met some years before, and finds security in his world, and love with Luciano.  

But Luciano too, has a secret.  He is an active anti-fascist, as are his whole family.  Rosa, torn between love and her need to protect her baby, must make a choice.  Eventually, she knows she must leave Luciano to save Sibilla.  When Antonio proposes, she chooses a life with him.  She learns to love him, they are happy, have two more sons, and build the shop into a thriving business.

Alas,  the war that Mussolini has been steering Italy towards has finally arrived, and Rosa's life and family are torn apart by tragedy and madness.  Bravely facing the Germans, and the inevitable showdown with the Marchesa, Rosa learns the truth about herself, her past, and the woman she has become.

The author vividly brought Mussolini-Era Italy, and Florence to life.  Her description of the villa, the furniture she sells and the streets of the city are detailed, and skillfully rendered.  My only dissatisfaction with this book is that some of the decisions Rosa makes seem oversimplified, and abrupt.  For example, while in prison, Rosa waits months and months trying to get in touch with the priest from the convent, Father Marzoli, to ask for help in getting out. Once he arrived, however, she let him think she was guilty of assisting in an abortion rather than risk anyone at the convent getting in trouble.  She imagines a complicated scenario in which her favorite nun, Suor Maddalena is raped by the same prison guard who raped her.  None of this is even hinted at before and seems a bit sudden, not to mention far-fetched.  Similarly, the truth of Rosa's parentage feels a bit contrived, as does the sudden loss of her psychic gifts.  The witches of the Villa are always hovering in the background, but neither their presence, the witchcraft story line, or their assistance seems fully developed or resolved.

Having said that, I found Rosa to be a totally likable heroine whose bravery in the face of huge odds is endearing.  I really enjoyed learning more about the war in Italy and the Germans part in it, as well as the rise of Mussolini.  The point of the book is that war begins in our own hearts; that violence, even against the animals we eat, can only engender more violence, and that peace is the best thing we can bring the world.  To that end, the author succeeds admirably. 

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (April 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857208764
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857208767