Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Corporation; An Epic Story of the Cuban American Underworld By: T.J. English

This was a great book.  It struck a cord with me specifically, because growing up in a Cuban family with Cubans all around, "bolita" (illegal numbers racket)  was a normal thing we were used to seeing.  I had close family members that were "boliteros" (racketeers placing and taking bets).  This book takes place in many of the places I remember growing up around.  

The book starts out during the pre-Castro era, when Batista was the Scum Bag de'jour.  The irony, which I did not know until reading the book, was the history of Baptista and Fidel.  Batista was the president of Cuba and was corrupt and in bed with mafiosos.  He lost a bid for reelection and moved to Tampa, FL.  Later he wanted to re-take his power and ran for reelection again.  Knowing he would lose, he decided to plan a coup.  Once he had taken power again, Fidel wanted to take Batista to court because HE believed that Batista was not properly elected and as such did not recognize Batista as president.  When attempts to bring him to court failed, Fidel himself assembled a coup and took the island nation for himself.  Later being more brutal and more corrupt than Batista ever was.  

English then spins the web of criminality by Juan Miguel Battle, a Bay of Pigs "hero" and his rise and subsequent fall in a criminal enterprise between Florida, New York, New Jersey and even Internationally to Spain, Peru, and other countries. Along with family and friends who assisted Battle in his criminal enterprise.  Starting with numbers racket (which remained the staple of their incoming) and moving into murder for hire and narcotics.

The book is exceptionally researched and well written.  The one thing that bothered me a bit was the unnecessary use of Spanish words when the book was written in English.  Words like: Rata (rat), hombre (man), pronto (soon), barrio (neighborhood), La Causa (the cause),  patria (country).  These words were used when it was not necessary.  The English version would have sufficed.  Other than that, it was a book I enjoyed and plan to read other books by Mr. English regarding the Cubans in Miami.

Hardcover: 592 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (March 20, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062568965
ISBN-13: 978-0062568960

Fame: The Hijacking of Reality By Justine Bateman

I was drawn to this book because I followed Bateman years ago when I was growing up.  Her writing style is a bit strange.  It is rife with fragments and repetitions.  At many points in the book, I considered ending it and writing this book off as a loss.  However I pressed on.

Bateman covers the ups and downs of fame.  Not so much a memoir but a glimpse into what fame brings you and quite frankly takes away.  Bateman talks about her early career and her  metric
 rise to 'A List' status. The one concept she drives home is that Fame is not something you set out to get, it is actually something that is bestowed upon you or "sprayed on you"  The book shows an interesting perspective and calls out some of the fallacies we concur up when we thing of fame.

Obviously, the timeline of her "fame" is a pre-social media one and she discusses the pain of reading articles written about her.  We tend to think that actors or famous people are immune to the painful comments people make about us, but Bateman breaks it down to see the famous person's perspective.

She discusses her appearance and how the media attacked her.  Although she did not discuss it, in real life, she struggled with an eating disorder where should would binge and purge.  She eventually got help for it and was able to move past it.  She has aged as anyone would.  I do not think she is ugly today.  She is certainly not the 17 year old we grew to love when we were that age, but then none of us are.

I recommend this book.  It is a little distracting at first, but when you get the cadence of her repetition and her fragmented style, you can learn a lot about fame and people's thought process from a different perspective.

Justine in her teens and today

Justine is the sister of Jason Bateman, a famous actor himself.  Although he has continued to act, Justine has take a role behind the camera and in different aspects of "the business"

Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Akashic Books (October 2, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1617756601
ISBN-13: 978-1617756603


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure By: Julia Flynn Siler

I have always been fascinated by Hawaii and how it came to be a state.  I do not wear rose colored glasses and I understand wholeheartedly of the incorrect things we, as a nation, have done.  From the Indians (Natives), Slavery, and imperialism.  Hawaii was a pristine archipelago of eight major island.  These islands did not even know mosquitos until the "invaders" started calling Hawaii home.

Hawaii, today known more for pineapples was actually a huge sugar source.  The islands were ravaged by people looking to buy up land and grow sugar.  The Hawaiian Islands where ruled by a king and although the royal family suffered unlucky issues with their health, the final Queen, Hawaii saw was Queen Liliuokalani.  It is sad to read the acts of the US to take Hawaii from her people. 

If you read the book, Hawaii would have been taken over by either the US, Germany or Britain.  Although I am not proud of what we did, I am much happier that it was the US to Germany or Britain. 

This book covers the lives of the different rulers of Hawaii and the various "Sugar Barons" that set up shop and eventually became the downfall of the original Hawaii Monarchy and Hawaii's sovereignty. 

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of Hawaii.

Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1st Edition edition (January 3, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780802120014
ISBN-13: 978-0802120014
ASIN: 0802120016

Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Invetigation By Ken Starr

This was an interesting book.  Not salacious with sex detail but a "factual" (based on the author) timeline of the events leading up to the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton.  When this ordeal was talking place, I was at the apex of my "troubled days" and the last thing on my mind and in my orbit was politics.  I had always heard about Ken Starr and the impeachment proceeding but never really got into the details.

In this book, Starr discusses the events leading up to the impeachment proceedings.  He gives some insight into his life growing up and his career choices.  I have to admit, that the Clinton saga is an incredible tail that movies are made of.  The coincidences of missing docs, missing people, suicides etc are extraordinarily difficult to believe.

Starr covers both Clintons in this book.  Hillary's involvement in White Water and her testimony to the Grand Jury.  The book is not an attack piece either.  It seems to be an honest recollection of what the author went through.

In light of the recent (at the time of this writing) Kavanaugh kabuki theater, I have to ask myself how someone like Bill and Hillary are still viable, acceptable candidates for POTUS and still respected.  I tend to believe that you can pay someone a couple of thousand dollars to make issues go away since it would be more distraction to deal with it otherwise, however if you pay someone $800,000.00+, this is smoke, and there is certainly fire.  Close to a million dollars means that there was some serious impactful information there.

As mentioned above, if you are looking for detailed account of "slick Willy's" sexual escapades a la Fifty Shades, this is not it.

Bill and Monica during his Presidency

Kenn Starr

Bill and Monica present day

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Sentinel (September 11, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780525536130
ISBN-13: 978-0525536130
ASIN: 0525536132