Author Archives: Genyc79

The Case Against Sugar-Gary Taubes


As of July, 2017, 100 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that in 2015, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death.   My late grandmother suffered from it for many years prior to her death and my mother also deals with the disease.  In their cases, they are among the millions that have been diagnosed as having type-2.  And with the number of diabetics growing around world,  the future prognosis is grim.  More disturbingly, diabetes is just one of the several conditions that are considered to be effects of metabolic syndrome.  The link between food and health has long been established.  Food has been man’s source of energy and the key to life.  But somewhere along the way, our approach to what we eat changed dramatically and in the process we face health epidemics never before seen.

Gary Taubes appropriately named this book The Case Against Sugar.  What he has written in this book is sure to open your eyes and change the way you look at sugar which might possibly be the most common food ingredient in history.  In fact, it is so common that it is hiding in plain sight in dozens of foods we would never suspect to contain added sugar.  The first thing I should point out is that Taubes does not tell us to refrain from eating sugar nor does he tell us to consume it. He leaves that to the reader to decide.  What he does tell us is the unfiltered truth about the history of sugar and its effects on the human body.   Doctors and other health figures have told us for years that fat and salt were the culprits behind many of the illnesses we battled. But what if the real monster was there all along and ignored either unintentionally or even blatantly? Some readers may find the topic far-fetched and wonder if the sugar they put in their coffee and the sugar found in other products they consume daily are truly that bad.  Well in order to answer that question, we first have to understand how sugar came to be developed and why it has been so important to business and the food industry.  Taubes has done the leg work for us, presenting the material in an engaging format the pulls the reader in.  Additionally, he helps us understand the different types of sugars and why it is important that we know them intimately.

The story is centuries old and incredibly, without sugar, many of the empires throughout history would have had enormous difficulty existing.  In particular, the British Empire became extremely fond of the white crystals that bankrolled their imperialist machine.  Throughout history, sugar has accompanied every civilization, empire and ethnic group.  I dare to infer that its commonplace among all of these thing is precisely what made it so hard to believe for many that it could also be life threatening.  But it is exactly that which we learn but more importantly, Taubes, like a seasoned professor, explores in-depth why sugar was so important to big industry and why it was necessary to be protected.  He includes many facts that some readers may be completely unaware of.  The section on the tobacco and sugar industries should frighten every reader, especially if they are a smoker.

Diabetes is far from a modern disease. In fact, it has been in existence for centuries and its rise has been well noted and documented.   But what we see through Taubes, is that for a large portion of that time, the connection between sugar and diabetes never fully acknowledged.  If you ask any diabetic today, they will readily inform you that sugar is at the same time their worst enemy and most needed substance.    Their inability to produce enough insulin to handle rising blood sugar or inability to produce insulin at all, as in type-1 diabetics, highlights the precarious situation that exist for diabetics.   In essence, they walk a daily tight rope that could spell success or doom.

Diabetes is a focus of the book but the not the main focus and in addition to what is the silent killer, Taubes makes the case for the relationship between sugar and the conditions classified as metabolic diseases.  The connections form an intricate web and at times the reader may need to revisit a section more than once to understand the chain of events that occur in the body upon the ingestion of sugar, whether natural, refined or artificial.  Gout, cancer, hypertension, strokes and heart attacks plague millions of Americans and for years, doctors have known that what we eat does affect how we feel and age.   Inflammation has become a known factor in all of these conditions and other ailments that plague the human body.   Sugar is also known to play a role in all of these conditions. But is it safe to say that the reduction or elimination of sugar could reverse all of these illnesses?  Possibly so and incredibly,  it is believed that at least 4 in 10 forms of cancer are preventable.  I have always refrained from telling anyone what they should or should not eat.  That is a highly personal decision.  But what I can say is that I have had my own battle with sugar and dropped it from my diet well over ten years ago.  When I did, my acne disappeared, I lost weight, my digestive tract improved and I saw a marked improvement in cognitive function in addition to a surplus of energy.  However, there was a withdrawal process and I did suffer from headaches and irritability for a couple of weeks as my body readjusted to the absence of sugar and high levels of carbohydrates.   Today,  I do not even buy it, add it anything I eat or drink and also follow the mantra that if I cannot pronounce what is in a product then I do not eat it.  It may sound extreme to some but we are only given one body on this earth and it is up to us to take care of it.

This is the ugly truth about sugar, the once believed to be harmless product that our parents and grandparents gave to us without the knowledge that we have today.  The children of today are the first generation that may have a shorter lifespan than their parents.  That is unacceptable and I believe, criminal.  Our health has been sacrificed in the name of greed and mass production.  But we can fight back and take care of our lives.  And with books such as this one by Taubes, our minds are being awakened each step of the way.  If you suffer from a metabolic condition, trying to quit sugar or even curious about its dangers, this book is a must read.

ISBN-10: 0307946649
ISBN-13: 978-0307946645

Full Monster: Book Three in the Bureau 13 Saga-Nick Pollotta

20180225_161703(0)In volume two of this three-part series, Bureau 13 saved mankind for a second time as they battled a crafty villain on the USS Intrepid and New York City’s West Side Highway.  At the conclusion of the book, we were able to breathe a sigh of relief as Special Agent Ed Alvarez and his team prevailed.  However, for Bureau 13, there is no such thing as the end and they are back again as a new enemy threatens to obliterate the City of Chicago and turn the United States in a land of  werewolves.  At first, the mere mention of werewolves sounds implausible.  But we must remember that this is Bureau 13 where the impossible becomes possible on a daily basis.

Volume three begins a retired veterinarian named Joanne Abernathy hears an earth shattering sound in the distance outside her home.  She lives in a place that could be best described as the outskirts.  Curiosity sets in and the aged and seasoned doctor heads out where she discovers a wolf that appears to have been shot.   But alas, this is no ordinary shooting and this is no ordinary werewolf.  What transpires after the wolf is tended to medically is surreal but sets the stage for the rest of the book.   The team is assigned to an unexplained occurrence in a small town called Hadleyville.  The issue at hand is large numbers of corpses without hands or heads scattered about.  Jessica realizes that something is amiss and the team makes a quick exit.  But they are far from danger and following them is a team of werewolves who speak and have one goal; eliminate mankind.   This book quickly takes us to Defcon 1 .

Chicago becomes ground zero and every law enforcement agency is briefed on the imminent doom.  But this will be no ordinary battled and all hands are on deck as Alvarez and team Tuna Fish take on werewolves, run of the mill creatures and even a floating apartment building.  Pollotta pulls out all of the stops and if the first two books did not meet the standard of guilty pleasure, then this part surely will.    This is the continuing saga of Bureau 13 and the strange and lethal world in which they operate.

ISBN-10: 1554047064
ISBN-13: 978-1554047062

Hugo!: The Hugo Chavez Story from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution-Bart Jones

HugoToday, Venezuela finds itself at the brink of a migrant crisis that could very surpass that of Syria.  The mass exodus of Venezuelans to surrounding countries in Latin America has increased as social conditions have deteriorated with food shortages, absurdly inflated currency and political suppression having become daily aspects of life. Nicolás Maduro (1962-) is the sitting President of Venezuela.  His administration has come under fire both domestic and abroad for its dismal record on improving Venezuelan society.  The country’s fall from grace is one of the most confusing and astounding transformations in modern history.  The nation was once at the top of the petroleum export industry and under President Hugo Chávez (1954-2013), Venezuela re-merged as a country to be recognized.    On March 5, 2013, he died after a two-year battle with colon cancer and with his death came the end of an era in Venezuela to which the country has been unable and in some cases unwilling to return.

In the United States, Chávez was often demonized as brutal despot that ruled Venezuela with an iron fist.  Absurd stories of public shootings, censorship of the press and human rights violations were regularly broadcast in U.S. media outlets.  The anti-Chávez stance was espoused by the White House as official government policy.   Many Americans firmly believed that Chávez must go.  But how much do we really know about Hugo Chávez and his life?  Bart Jones is a reporter for Newsday and for eight years he worked in Venezuela, documenting the regime changes and spectacular rise and fall of Hugo Chávez.  He has a keen insight into Venezuelan society from a first-hand view and because of this, the book has an even more authentic feel to it.

Jones takes us back in time to 1954 in the small town of Sabaneta in the State of Barinas in west-central Venezuela as Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías enters the world.  Raised at first by his grandmother Ines, there are no inkling that the young child will grow up to rule the country.   What is clear is the high esteem in which Chávez held his grandmother for all of his life and up until her death.   As he matures into a young man and enters the military, it is here that his story begins to pick up speed.  The author goes into great detail about Chávez‘s early life, through old-fashioned research and discussions with Chávez that lasted several hours.  The portrait that begins to take shape is of a young man with a passion for baseball, history and the well-being of the country he calls home that has been plagued by corruption and poverty supplemental by a racial hierarchy.   Books become his favorite hobby and through history, Chávez becomes familiar with the man who is the Latin American equivalent of George Washington; Simón Bolívar (1783-1830).  For the rest of his life,  Chávez would inject Bolívar into nearly all of his speeches, plans and actions.   American readers who are drawn to history will appreciate the recap of the story of the late revolutionary and come to understand why he is so revered in Latin America.  For Chávez, there was no Venezuela without the spirit of Bolívar.

Latin America has been plagued by military coups and endless changes in regime.  Venezuela was no stranger to either. Chávez, the brilliant and aspiring leader, seized his opportunity on the heels of political upheaval and in contrast to what is often mistakenly repeated, catapulted to office in a free and open election.   But what is paramount is how he rose to power and that is what Jones carefully explains to us.  The man who was the outsider, achieved the impossible and during his time in office, left a mark on Venezuela that will last forever.   Not without his faults, he was a complex character and the author leaves it up to the reader to decide. And had he not died at such a young age, perhaps he would have gone on to achieve more in his later years.  I forewarn the reader that if you approach this book with anti-Chávez bias, you will not appreciate the gift contained in these pages.   In fact, Jones is no Chávez fan and does an incredible job of remaining unbiased.  He points out Chávez‘s triumphs and also his failures.  And what we can take away from what we learn is that Chávez was a human being who some believed was larger than life.  From the comfort of our homes in America, it may be hard for some of us to understand his popularity but in Latin America, hope is more powerful than we may think.  Chávez masterfully became a man of the people and his ascension to power was extremely well-played.

Similar to other biographies of great leaders, the book contains a cast of real-life characters from President George Bush (1946-), Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (1954-) and even the late Fidel Castro (1926-2016).  Chávez had never served in office before winning the presidential election but he quickly made up for his shortcomings and did change Venezuelan society.  Sadly, it seems that after his death the nation was never the same and under the current administration, is sliding deeper in anarchy with each passing week. If Chávez were alive, I am sure he would be ready to work to carry on the revolution to make Venezuela the greatest Latin American nation the world has seen.  He was brash, inspiring, shrewd and at times unrealistic but above all, he was Venezuela.  This is the incredible life story of Hugo Chávez and the nation he led.

ISBN-10: 158642145X
ISBN-13: 978-1586421458

Doomsday Exam:Book Two In The Bureau 13 Saga-Nick Pollotta

DoomsdayAuthor Nick Pollotta returns with this second installment in the trilogy of the story of Bureau 13, the secret agency within the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for the tracking and apprehension of all supernatural creatures that pose a treat to the safety of the nation.  In book one, we were introduced to Special Agent Ed Alvarez and his team of supernatural crime fighters and followed them on their mission to save mankind from complete destruction.  The book was filled with all sorts of characters, weapons that we can only dream of and battles nothing short of epic.   The team returns in this second part, tasked with another earth shattering mission to save the world as we know it.

The story begins in a research lab whose location and origin are unknown.  What we do know is that an experiment has been conducted in which the goal is create a super human that heals instantly and is primed for infantry.  The recruits are former soldiers declared dead to society.  However, they are far from deceased, retaining scattered memories of their former lives.   They are self-aware and a scuffle breaks out after a disagreement following an attempt by a test subject to turn on his human controllers.  One subject is left standing, former Lt. Col. Kensington Sanders who we come to know as Alpha.  He becomes part of Bureau 13 in ways he could have never imagined.

Life for the agents is pretty normal with plenty of ghosts, demons and other creatures to chase.  But during a routine training exercise, an alarm is sounded indicating that a breach has occurred in the main containment facility.  However, this is no ordinary breach and a call to arms is broadcast.   The battle is surreal and the subsequent investigation reveals that there is far more to the story than meets the eye.  Bureau 13 does not just have a jail break on their hands but another crime on a much larger scale.  And to solve this crime, they need all of the help they can get, including Alpha and a few other recruits that blend right into Alvarez’s squad.  And later in the book, they are even joined by a familiar face.

In book one, the action was non-stop and came from all directions.  It was a high-octane ride from start to finish.  While book two has plenty of action, there is more of a story line that builds up to the conclusion.  The team is composed of seasoned veterans having engaged in endless deadly battles but here they are also investigators.  And their methodical approach feels like a scene out of Criminal Minds.  And similar to part one,  the second part of the book takes place in New York City with the USS Intrepid playing a critical part to the book’s conclusion.  The story seems completely far-fetched but in the world of Bureau 13,  the impossible is always possible.  And Pollotta keeps this ride going as only he knows how.  Special Agent Ed Alvarez and his team are always on the job but can they save the world?

ISBN-10: 1554047056
ISBN-13: 978-1554047055

Judgment Night: Book One In The Bureau 13 Saga-Nick Pollotta

13-1Nearly all of the reviews I have written have been of books that are classified as non-fiction.  This review will be different as I have a taken a short break from the normal material to let my mind have some fun with this book that was recommended to me by a co-worker.  It is book one in a trilogy and the review for the second book will follow shortly.  The cover of the book gives the reader the indication that it is a novel of horror of the most unspeakable kind.  However, I can assure that is not the case but the book is a non-stop ride from beginning to end.  If I had to give it a definite classification, I would reply that it is a place where the Men In Black meets The Suicide Squad, Harry Potter with a touch of Fallout added.  But what exactly is the book about?  And what on earth is Bureau 13?

The story begins from a first person point of view as a battle with supernatural forces takes place.  The central character to the story is Special Agent Ed Alvarez who joins Bureau 13, a secret division of the U.S. Department of Justice tasked with tracking down and eliminating all supernatural threats to the United States.   He forms a team composed of characters of the most unusual sort and together they become Team Tuna Fish.  Alvarez is assisted by Mindy the martial arts expert who is also fluent in Japanese, Jessica the mind reader, George a former solider in the Army, Father Donahue who gives the team a religious supplementation and sorcerers Raul Horta and Richard Anderson.  Their commanding officer is Horace Gordon, Division Chief of Bureau 13 who bluntly informs the group that a large cloud has formed off the East Coast of the country in the Atlantic Ocean and threatens to unleash a fury of supernatural creatures upon the only place they have all called home.  Beneath the cloud is an island from which the nexus of the dark cloud is formed.  The group has a simple mission;  get to the island, infiltrate the encapsulate city and destroy everything that poses a threat to the survival of mankind.  However, with Team Tuna Fish, nothing is ever that simple.

Science-Fiction fans will absolutely love this book. Pollotta has a brilliant imagination. The creatures are as outrageous as the battles the team is forced to fight but the story never loses its pace and is supplemented with excellent sarcasm and quips about American society.  Some of the action takes place in and around New York City which stood out to me as a native New Yorker.  We have a joke here that nearly all disaster films and books take place in New York City for reasons only the creators know. Thankfully, my city survives here but the same cannot be said for many other things in the book. But with a legion of demonic creatures determined to erase humanity, clean and safe are not adjectives that comes to mind.  This is a war between good and evil with carnage and a near apocalypse.

From start to finish the book just keeps going and just when you think the author might slow down and take a break, another curve ball is hurled toward the reader. If you are looking for a good book that lets the imagination run wild peppered with adult humor, you will find this book to be a gem.

ISBN-10: 1554047099
ISBN-13: 978-1554047093




The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe-Donald H. Wolfe


On August 5, 1962,  newspapers around the world relayed the news of the death of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) the night before at her home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, California at the age of thirty-six.  The cause of death was listed as suicide from an overdose of the drugs Pentobarbital and chloral hydrate.  However, decades after her death, several question still remain regarding that tragic night of August 4, 1962.  What really happened that night and why was she paid a visit by then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) and his brother-in-law Peter Lawford (1923-1984)?

The image we have been given of Monroe is a drug-addicted sex symbol, starved for validation from the opposite sex and unable to cope with the rigors of Hollywood.  Her previous suicide attempts gave credence to this perpetuated image and for many, it was the ending that they expected for quite some time.   Her life reads like a tragic novel of a heroine unable to fully come to terms with herself and seeking love and affection in all of the wrong places.  However in just thirty-six years, she lived a live that some can only dream of.  At at one point in her life, she was the most desired woman in the world.  Donald H. Wolfe takes us back in time to the those final days in August, 1962 to piece together what really did happen and why.

The book opens by revisiting the night of August 4 and the pandemonium that ensued following Monroe’s death.  Immediately we learn of several disturbing facts that set the tone of the book. Wolfe does an incredible job of keeping the suspense going and the reader engaged.   And rightfully so, he not only explores her death but also provides a concise biography that sets the stage for events that took place later in her life.  Behind the facade of a starlet singing happy birthday to the President, lay a woman raised in a childhood which could best be described as tragic.  However, in order to understand Monroe’s life and her death, it is necessary to explore her beginnings which Wolfe presents to us without breaking the momentum of the book.  And I can assure you that once you start you will be hard pressed to put it down.

Although the book is about Monroe’s final days, there are many sub-stories that are told which gives us an inside view of the inner-workings of Hollywood and politics in the middle of the twentieth century.   As she moves through one circle to the next, some of the biggest names in show business, sports and politics make an appearance in her life such as   John F. Kennedy (1917-1963), Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), Clark Gable (1901-1960), J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) and Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio (1914-1999).   However, among all of the people who cross paths with her, her life takes a much darker and tragic turn through her association with the Kennedys and their associates and it is this relationship that forms the crux the remaining third of the book.  After you have finished the book, you may come to see the administration in a different light.  Today it is public knowledge that an affair did take place between Jack Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.  And if all accounts are correct, Monroe and Robert Kennedy also had their intimate moments.  The sexual content is fodder for gossips and tabloid magazines.  But what was critical was the true nature of their relationship and the many secrets Monroe possessed about the most powerful man in the country.   In fact, it is quite possible that she did have the power to bring down a presidency.   Was this the reason for the urgent visits by J. Edgar Hoover to the White House in May, 1962 and that last visit by Robert Kennedy on the day she died?  Or was this the reason for the heated arguments that took place between Monroe and Robert Kennedy in the weeks leading up to her death? And how much did she know about their association with Frank Sinatra and mobster Sam Giancana?  Certainly, many of their discussions which were likely picked up by the FBI may never be known.  Other recordings by the President are locked away in the Kennedy library.  A little over one year after Monroe’s death,  John Kennedy himself was cut down in a hail of bullets in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.  Several years later, Bobby would be gone as well, also the victim of an assassination at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California on June 5, 1968.  In death they joined a long list of political figures and stars that died during the turbulent decade of the 1960s.

Marilyn Monroe remains a sex icon decades after her death.  Young women still hang posters of her on their walls and purchase t-shirts with her image.  In death, she became a legend whose left this world far too soon.   Her life was in some ways a soap opera with affairs, fairy tale romances, political scandals, drugs, mental health issues and tragically, broken homes.  Sadly, many people in her life failed her not just on one but on several occasions.  But if there is one inspiring aspect of the story, it is her resiliency to move forward in life and command respect even in the most difficult of times.   And had her life taken a slightly different course, then perhaps she might still be alive today well into her senior years and full of knowledge about Hollywood’s golden era.  This is the story of the life and final days of Marilyn Monroe, a true Hollywood icon.

ISBN-10: 0688162886
ISBN-13: 978-0688162887

Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962-Frank Dikotter

3Previously, I reviewed Frank Dikötter’s  The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-1957 and The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976, investigative accounts into life under the rule of Chairman Mao Zedong (1893-1976).  In the first volume, Tragedy of Liberation, we learned about the transformation of China following the defeat of Chiang Kai-Shek (1887-1975) and his Kuomintang Nationalist party.  In the third volume, The Cultural Revolution, the behind the scenes political battles are put on display revealing the dysfunction that had engulfed Mao’s inner circle.   Here in Mao’s Great Famine,  Dikötter takes us back in time to the Great Leap Forward and its catastrophic failure between the years of 1958 and 1962.   I feel the need to point out that by far, this part of the trilogy was the most difficult to read. As usual, Dikötter’s writing style is to the point and very concise.  The difficult part is the material at hand.   Today we know a fair amount about the Great Leap Forward and how it failed to transform Chinese society.  The famine that ensued is known but what may not be known are the facts about what really happened behind the closed doors of China as a government struggled to move a nation forward as widespread hunger decimated its population.

If you are a reader with a sensitive stomach or easily disturbed, this may not be the book for you.  But if you are a reader that is able to digest material that is emotionally and mentally difficult to accept, then this book will be one that you can add to your reading list.  Some may wonder why a book such as this is needed.  I believe it is important because it reveals to us what many probably did not and do not know.  The details are sometimes gory and all around tragic.  At several points in the book, I wondered to myself how human beings could do the things that they did to each other.  The policy of collectivization and the labor mandated by the government devastated the country in ways from which it is still recovering.  Mao’s grip over China was relentless and his failure to first grasp the severity of the situation and his lack of action to halt the descent is mystifying and infuriating.   And considering what was known to have occurred in counties across the country, I am astounded that he was able to sleep at night with the blood of millions of Chinese on his hands.  Perhaps towards the end of his life and in closed-door meetings, he did voice concern and repulsion about what was transpiring. But if that did happen, those facts have remained secret and are locked away from public view. One day we may find out more of the truth but for now we can only assume.

In between the descriptions of famine and violence,  I did pick up a possibly unintended message in the book; we should all be grateful for the privileges and comforts in life that we have.  I personally have never had the experiences detailed by Dikötter.  And I can only imagine what life for them was like.   Through his work, I now know their stories and can see their pain but I can never say that I know their struggle.  Daily episodes of gratuitous violence, sexual assault, exhaustion, inhumane living conditions and death occurred with no reprieve.  And when people did try to make their voices heard, they were met with severe resistance by cadres unwavering in their adulation to the Chairman.  Lives were ended and others had their career ruined as the Red Guard made its presence felt throughout the country.  Those who did not succumb to violence, often had to deal with extreme hunger, disease and mental degradation.  The number of deaths that occurred is not known for sure but as we see in the book, it is believed that over 40 million Chinese people died during the Great Leap Forward. It is by far the worst case of systemic mass murder the world has ever seen and hopefully never will see again.

Today, Mao’s picture can still be found across China and his tomb in Beijing is open to the public.  But as we come to know more about the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, we will be forced to reexamine what we thought we knew about the Chairman and the legacy that lives decades after his death.  This book is a hard look at the Great Leap Forward and all of its infamy.

ISBN-10: 0802779239
ISBN-13: 978-0802779236

Assault On The Liberty: The True Story Of The Israeli Attack On An American Intelligence Ship- James M. Ennes, Jr.


On June 8, 1967, the USS Liberty was on a reconnaissance mission in the Mediterranean Sea near Sinai, Egypt.  The morning started off normally until members of the ship’s crew noticed Israeli fighter jets circling above. The process was repeated several times more before a full-scale attacked was launched upon the unsuspecting ship.   Thirty-four men perished in the attacks.  Nearly all of the survivors were severely wounded with injuries that could only be described as horrific.  The attack caused international outrage as the American and Israeli governments acted to contain the fallout from the nefarious attack.  The official statement was that the attack was a grave error committed by Israeli forces upon a ship that allegedly had no clear markings identifying it as a United States Naval vessel.  Members of the crew disputed this and some have made their voices heard in an attempt to tell what they know about that day tragic day in June, 1967.  James M. Ennes, Jr., was a member of the crew and survived the attacked with a severely broken leg and other mental and physical injuries. He was one of the lucky ones and never wavered in his conviction to tell the truth about what he remembers from that day.  Here he tells us the story from his recollections on record for the reader to digest and form an informed opinion.

The book was published in 1979, roughly about twelve years following the attack.   Mysteries of that day still remain but it is here that we have a more accurate picture of what really did happen and a possible explanation as for why it happened.   Ennes states that there are some aspects of the incident that will probably remain unknown for a long time.  But what he does reveal about the incident is shocking and confusing. Perhaps the biggest question is why would Israeli fighter planes attack a U.S. vessel clearly marked and not on a combat mission?

The story begins before the Liberty arrives near the coast of Egypt.  Orders were dispatched for the Liberty to change its position but were never received by the ship due to poor communication channels.   If the orders had been received, then maybe this book would not exist.  Ennes’ memories are very candid and show some what life is like for men on the seas, far away from home and surrounded by water on all side. The anecdotes  at the beginning of the book are entertaining and slowly we are introduced to the characters in the story.   Their mission appears to be moving along slowly until June 8, when all hell broke loose.  It is at this point in the book, where we reach Defcon 1 and the fallout is horrifying.  Readers with sensitive stomachs may find the latter part of the book highly uncomfortable to read.  The descriptions of the injuries sustained by survivors and the deaths of other crew members are told in detail giving a graphic picture of the carnage that ensued.   And what is even more appalling is the lack of support from Washington and the conflicting orders given to military personnel that sought to provide assistance to the critically injured ship and its crew.

As we make our way through the book and the attack is over, the period of recuperation and investigation comes into focus.  This is the point in the book where shock turns into anger.   Nearly all of the major political figures involved are deceased and unable to answer questions we may have.  But what did happen as Ennes shows us, is that a cover-up was initiated at the highest levels of government for reasons which eluded the crew.   Citations for bravery and reparations by the Israeli government followed but the manner in which they occurred will stun even the most hardened readers.  The lives of the surviving crew members were changed forever and few have been able to fully tell their stories without repercussions from military brass and the White House.  Even today, fifty years later, secrets remain about the motives behind the attack.   We may never know all of the details of the attack but we do have a place to start here. Ennes deserves an additional acknowledgment for being able to distinguish between the actions of the Israeli government and people of the Jewish faith.   Having survived an attack of such nature, it would have been fairly easy for him to cast all Jews as perpetrators of an unthinkable crime. But Ennes avoids the pitfall and makes it clear that the attack was carried about by Jewish people but by individuals with motives of their own.

Towards the end of the book, Ennes touches on the possible motive behind the attack.  And while there is no conclusive evidence that his belief is correct, it is a highly plausible explanation.  In time his words may prove to be true but for now, we are still saddled with a number of unanswered questions surrounding the attack.  But with this story of tragedy and perseverance, we are closer to fully understanding the events of that day.

ISBN-10: 0394505123
ISBN-13: 978-0394505121

Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James with David Ritz


There is a saying that a fine line exist between genius and insanity.   Some would argue that they are one in the same.  The greatest minds in history were possessed by those who could have been described as unorthodox to say the least.  But creativity needs a foundation, one that encourages and allows the creator to tap into all of their gifts.  Musicians tend to stick out the most when it we think about this for their industry is not only fiercely competitive but without creativity, you have no career.   Those who understand this concept and master it, go on to become great and in some cases, legendary.  When Rick James (1948-2004) died from a heart attack on August 6, 2004, a light was extinguished and a musical great was lost forever.  During his lifetime, he created a persona for himself and composed music that is still played to this day.  His hits Super Freak and Give It To Me Baby are dance classics that sound as good today as they did when they were released.  Prior to his death, he found himself in the spotlight when actor and comedian Dave Chappelle created a skit based on James’ life.  In the skit, Chappelle takes on the role of James as Charlie Murphy recalls his Hollywood stories.   In one of the skits, James remarks  “cocaine is a hell of a drug”.   It was a part of his life as was much more as can be learned in this brutally frank autobiography of one of the music industry’s most extreme characters.

But just who was James Ambrose Johnson who we came to know as Rick James?  And just how crazy was his life?  I can tell that you his life was a wild ride and once I started this book I could not put it down.   It was a miracle that he lived as long as he did.   His life was anything but boring and there is no point in the book where there is a calm moment.  His story is told with the help of David Ritz, whom some readers may recall, is the author of Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye.  The difference here is that this is James telling us his story whereas in Gaye’s case, Ritz is telling us about Marvin’s short life.  Regardless, both books are enjoyable and shocking to read but necessary in understanding the character behind the musical geniuses we came to love.  And no matter what we think about their lives, we can agree that they saw and accomplished things that many of us never will.   Tragically, both died before reaching sixty years of age.  As Rick tells it, he did not want to meet the same fate as Marvin, but ironically drugs would play a part in his demise.  And although he outlived Gay by a few decades, his lifestyle caught up to him.  The only difference is that Gaye was murdered by his father whereas Rick’s heart could not keep up.

His story is simply incredible and filled with names that we all know such as Steven Tyler, Carrie Fisher,  and gridiron great Jim Brown, among others.   And his feud with Prince is both hilarious and confusing.  Prison, the military and even assault make appearances in his recollections.  I warn readers that James holds nothing back and tells us what he went through in some gritty terms.   But as you read the book and come to know him, you will understand that it could only have been written that way.  He was not one to sugar coat things and be politically correct.  With Rick James, you either take him or leave him and fortunately for us, most of the world took him and his songs that have moved many dance floors.   This book is rough and at times he can be quite vulgar.  The incidents are shocking but the key is to remember that James and many artists. lived in a completely different world than the average person.  To be successful, it was  sometimes necessary to view the world through very different lenses.  The fast life becomes the norm with drugs, money, sex and power readily at your fingertips.  The seduction of that life is often too strong for many to resist and as James tells us himself, he could not escape his inner demons or what it is called in the book, the Me Monster.   In fact, at one point, Ray Charles flat-out states that he wrote some of his best material when he was high.   But the pull of the devil is stronger than gravity forcing the abuser to use all of their might to escape rock bottom.

I believe that it took an extraordinary amount of courage to write this book.   What I found striking is that for all of his antics, he never ceased to love his mother who figures prominently throughout his autobiography as the grounding force to Rick’s increasing erratic life. She and others would do their best to set him on the right path but in the end, he lived his life on his terms whether for better or worse.  He is long gone but left behind many great songs , interviews and television appearances.  This autobiography is a gift, allowing us to read his story as he wanted it told.  And when you have finished this book, you will understand what he meant by the glow.

ISBN-10: 1476764158
ISBN-13: 978-1476764153

Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese American Family Caught Between Two Worlds-Pamela Rotner Sakamoto

50242335The Second World War remains the most brutal conflict in history.   The number of those who perished is still up for debate and there are many secrets of the war that have been lost to history forever.  In the United States, foreign-born citizens with roots in any of the countries part of the Axis powers, found their selves under suspicion and in the case of the Japanese, placed into concentration camps.   Although not as inhumane and deadly as the camps in Germany and Poland, they resulted in the rise of resentment among Japanese-Americans toward the United States Government and the country they called home.  The dropping of the Atomic bombs further heightened the feeling of resentment and was the first and only time a nuclear weapon was used in warfare.  Survivors of the bomb attacks can still be found today, advanced in their years but tragically familiar with the barbarity of modern warfare.  Across the pacific, Japanese-American veterans of the war remember the tragedy that befell Japan, the nation to which their families trace their origins.  But what happens when half of a family is in Japan and the other half is in the United States?  Or what do you do when one son is part of the Japanese Imperial Army and the other is part of the United States Armed Forces?  And when the war is over, how do you come to terms with the effects war has had on your family and yourself?  This is the story of the Fukuhara family whose lives are the answer to those questions. Written by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto and containing snippets of interviews conducted with those relevant to the story, Midnight in Broad Daylight is a heart wrenching story of a family struggling to survive, having been affected by a war in more ways than one.

Following the death of the family patriarch, a widow is faced with the daunting challenge of raising several children on an almost non-existent budget.  Her plight is compounded by the social climate of strong prejudice against Asian-Americans.  Seeking a better quality of life, she makes the decision to relocate to her homeland of Japan where several other children reside.  There, they are briefly reunited and their situation forms the nexus for the remainder of the story as we follow Kino, her children Harry, Victory, Frank and Mary as they move through life and encounter war on a scale unlike anything ever seen before.  Harry (1925-2015) and Mary eventually move back to the United States leaving behind Kino, Victor and Frank.  Life moves along for each until December 7, 1941, the day that lives in infamy, when the Japanese air force bombed Pearl Harbor bringing the United States into the war.  From that point on, none of their lives would ever be the same again.  Harry became the most popular of the siblings, earning his induction in the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame in 1988.

The East and West still have much ground to cover in completely understanding each other.  Foreigners who move to the United States often face the challenge of enforcing native traditions on their American children.  Generational and cultural gaps are formed making the path to understanding and compromise seem as if it is completely out of reach.  But if we take the time to read the story of the Fukuhara’s, we can find solid footing allowing us to examine the fears and concerns about culture being lost.   Today, it is probably impossible for any of us to begin to understand the inner conflict a person must have had if they were Japanese during World War II.   The attacks at Pearl Harbor caught nearly all by surprise including Japanese-Americans.  But following the attack and the United States entry into the conflict, life became harder and the prejudices against Japanese far much stronger.  With hindsight we can easily find fault with government policy during that era but today we would be hard pressed to say if some of us would do otherwise. Regardless of whether you are a hawk or a dove, this story is moving and one that should be widely read.  As I made my way through the book, I found myself rooting for the Fukuhara’s, hoping that they all make it through the war and reunite with a happy ending.  This did not happen.  The book is not easy to read in some parts, in particular with regards to the concentration camps and the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  We should never fail to comprehend the level of devastation caused by the devices known as Fat Man and Little Boy.   The effects of the blast and subsequent radiation sickness are on full display and reinforces my belief that Japan’s resurrection after the war was nothing short of miraculous.

I hope that the world never experiences a conflict on the scale of World War II.  If we do, it might be the world’s final war.  As the people of Japan were preparing for the Allied invasion, I am sure that they too thought that the war would be Japan’s total demise.  For their relatives here in the United States, there was only waiting and uneasiness as news of the atomic bombs spread across the globe.  The Fukuhara’s lives are a case study of what happens to those families caught on both sides of a conflict regardless of their personal beliefs or character.  For the rest of their lives, the events of the 1940s remained with them as reminders of a dark period in world history.  If you are a student of world history and/or a World War II buff, then this book a welcomed addition.

ISBN-10: 006235194X
ISBN-13: 978-0062351944

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