Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: The Heist

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Bantam; First Edition edition (June 18, 2013)

It's a good bet to say that I am not in Janet Evanovich's target audience for her usual books.  But this is not one of her usual books as she co-writes it with Lee Goldberg, author of the Monk and Diagnosis: Murder books.

There are very few books that I can sit down and read in a full day.  The last such book was Mockingjay in the summer of 2011.  However, yesterday, I started to read this one and I could not stop turning the page.  The pacing was so great that I was finished reading a tad bit after 9 PM.

Evanovich and Goldberg have created the start of what should be a thrilling but comedic series.  Kate O'Hare is a take-charge FBI agent and former Navy SEAL.  Nicholas Fox is an international con artist that she has pursued for the last 5 years.

What happens when O'Hare finally catches him?  He gets arrested and escapes his captors.  This is where the hilarity starts to ensue.  Her bosses at the FBI are somehow convinced that it would be a great idea to team her up with the con man to help bring down other wanted the criminals.  It comes with a catch.  She can't allow him to get caught or she goes down with him.

The action is non-stop and they take us to exotic locations as Mount Athos in Greece and the islands of Indonesia.  The dialogue is fast-paced and there are plenty of Toblerone chocholate bars involved.  There's also some sexual tension between the two of them.

Rich Hedenfels writes about how the two of them wrote The Heist.  It's funny that the article mentions the book being set up like a TV pilot because I felt the same way while reading it.  I've got a feeling that the Fox and O'Hare series will be around for some time to come.

Book Review: American Jewish Films: The Search for Identity

Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: McFarland (April 22, 2013)

Larry Epstein, the author of The Haunted Smile, which tells the history of Jewish comedians in America, pens a book on searching for the Jewish identity in films.  As funny as it may sound, I had never heard of some of these movies that he writes about.

I did learn something new in the course of reading the book, the original founder of the Fox Film Corporation, William Fox, was a member of the tribe.  Due to bankruptcy, he had to sell the company in the late 1930s but of course, it lives on.  Darryl Zanuck's 20th Century Films would later aquire Fox and thus became 20th Century Fox.

In writing this book, Epstein explores various themes relating to Judaism.

In the introduction, Epstein discusses why American Jews were attracted to the movie industry be it as audience members, actors, or even the folks behind the scenes at the studios.

One of the big things that Epstein looks at is Jewish identity verses an American identity or a broader human identity.  This is one way to look at how the Jewish characters in film have evolved over time.

One cannot have a discussion about Jewish identity in films without talking about the Lower East Side or films relating to Jewish history.  Some of the topics that Epstein explores here are assimilation and acculturation, interfaith relations, Israel, marriage and family relations, the role of women, Jews and American politics, and anti-Semitism including the Holocaust.

In the end though, one cannot really define what the Jewish identity in film is but that doesn't make this book not worth its while.  There are a countless number of films mentioned.  Some might not be in print but the ones that are--there is a good bet that Netflix will have them as rentals.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Book Review: Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution

Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Viking Adult; 1 edition (April 30, 2013)

Due out in paperback this April,  Nathaniel Philbrick revisits the Battle of Bunker Hill--which was really at Breed's Hill.  Philbrick does not lack passion or insight either.  He really knows his craft here as he reconstructs the landscape in a mesmerizing narrative of the robust, messy, and blistering real origins of America.

We all know the names and events involved in the American Revolution: The Founding Fathers, Declaration of Independence, and George Washington's decade-long leadership.  What isn't told in most of the books and such on the American Revolution is just how merchants, farmers, sailers, and artisans were forced to take up arms against the Crown.

Travel back in time to a pre-Revolutionary Boston.  The city of 15,000 inhabitants are packed on an island of 1.2 square miles.  Tension quickly builds up to the climax of the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775.  It was the first major battle of the American Revolution.

When the battle went down, John Adams, Sam Adams, and John Hancock were not even close to the scene of events.  The big name here is Joseph Warren, a 33-year-old physician.  He was leading the events on the ground at the time.  It was Warren who told Paul Revere and William Dawes to sound the alarm that the British were going to Concord.

Philbrick tracks the 18 months that transpired between the Boston Tea Party and Bunker Hill.

Warner Brothers and Ben Affleck have optioned the film rights.  But a story this epic can't simply be told in two hours.  It deserves a mini-series treatment similar to that of John Adams.