On Color by David Scott Kastan with Stephen Farthing




My Review:

David Scott Kastan, a  George M. Bodman Professor of English at Yale University and Stephen Farthing, an artist and elected member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London and Emeritus Fellow of St. Edmund Hall, the University of Oxford have collaborated on this beautiful, and educational book about the history of color and how it plays out in the world through art, politics, perceptions and more.

On Color encourages us to think about what we see, what each color symbolizes  and how it makes us feel.  According to the authors, scientists believe there are more than 17 million different colors.  Red is known to be the color of roses, yet is the rose red or does it just appear to be red? In trying to understand what each individual actually sees, Kastan discusses how length, an objective property, is something that can be proven and verified by measurement, while color is perceived and can only be classified as an aspect… a vague property. 

Did you know there was no Orange before oranges came to Europe?  Van Gogh celebrated the depth of the color in his Basket With Six Oranges, while other artists utilized Orange differently.  How did Yellow become associated with asians and what does color have to do with racial identity?  Green may be a political color in Ireland but in the United States it has become the color of our environmental movement, and ecological concerns.

About 20% of people choose Green as their favorite color (I am one of those people).

For centuries, Blue has been the color of despair. Paintings from Picasso’s Blue period depict his depression.  In the 1670s Newton named the color Indigo – at the time, it was a dye to color things blue.  He also changed ROYGBIP (Purple) to ROYGBIV (Violet) and then, in the late 1800s Impressionism embraced Violet.  Controversy surrounded the use of Violet in art because it did not represent the truth, only the trick of the light.  Black is the color of funerals, the fashionable LBD (little black dress) and the color of darkness.  Is White a mixture of all colors?  Does it mean purity?

“Color doesn’t tell us what that meaning is.  We tell the color; and whatever we say it means, we make it mean…”

So much to enjoy and absorb in this insightful and sophisticated exploration of color, art and history within each chapter, along with current perceptions and discussions… 

This beautiful book wouldn’t be complete without mention of the infamous black and blue/white and gold dress that brought color discussion to the forefront and became an internet sensation!  

I highly recommend this book to history lovers, artists, and all who see in color!  The hardcover edition makes a beautiful gift!

On Color is part of the Bedside Reading program and will be complimentary for guests at the Conrad Hotel in NY later this year.



Dinner at The Center of The Earth by Nathan Englander

Dinner At The Center of the Earth

My Review:

Dinner at the Center of the Earth is a thriller and a love story, told by brilliant best selling author Nathan Englander.  A Long Island, Jewish American man is a spy for Israel, becomes a traitor, and ends up in a one man prison in the Negev desert with his guard for a dozen years.  We learn all that leads up to the imprisonment, the emotional rollercoaster he experiences with his love for his country, a beautiful relationship with a Palestinian woman and a tricky friendship with a boating companion/business partner, all challenged by the Israeli – Palestinian conflict and the violent discourse in the Middle East.

Although the spy’s actions categorizing him as a traitor were against Israel, he was only supporting the Palestinians in order to stop the cycle of violence, which ultimately would benefit the country he fought for. His decisions were well meaning in his mind and complex, but with the countries in question, once innocent people die, there is no conceding on either side for fear of seeming weak.

For much of the time the traitor is imprisoned, the Israeli leader, The General, (representing Ariel Sharon) remained in a coma, while his followers prayed for peace.  So much regret mixed with unending violence and pride perpetuate the scheming and fighting, and Englander’s characters gives us an overview of points of view from the constant and never ending battles in a region where they have what seems like a pipe dream for peace.

Dinner at The Center of The Earth is a thriller with undercover spies, a love story and secret escape routes.  This laugh out loud funny, brilliant and insightful approach makes for an absorbing and exciting read despite the gruesome realities of an ongoing and devastating war and any background knowledge of the Middle East conflict, opinions and emotions the reader may carry into it.

I highly recommend this book, especially for book clubs and people interested in Israel.  Nathan Englander is a brilliant speaker, and his life experiences have shaped his thoughts and opinions so strongly; combined with his talent for storytelling, he is an exceptional writer.  Englander wants people to be empathetic and to think of others, to just be kind.  Unfortunately, war does not have much room for empathy, and although some of the Israelis and Palestinians want to be kind and caring, there are enough decision makers and leaders who are warriors – who will not allow deaths of their people to go without retaliation, vengeance or repercussion.  He conveys his ideas on the Israeli – Palestinian war through this fictional thriller with multiple layers. He shows us that the pursuit of peace is not simple and human nature can be consumed by “an eye for an eye”, but for love, it may just be possible to set vengeance aside…and go out for dinner.

For another Israel related book you may enjoy, CLICK HERE.

Goodreads Summary

Nathan Englander

About the Author

(picked up from nathanenglander.com):  Nathan Englander’s most recent book is the novel Dinner at the Center of the Earth. He is the author of the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (advance praise here), as well as the internationally bestselling story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, and the novel The Ministry of Special Cases (all published by Knopf/Vintage). He was the 2012 recipient of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for What We Talk About. His short fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Washington Post, as well as The O. Henry Prize Stories and numerous editions of The Best American Short Stories, including 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories. Translated into twenty languages, Englander was selected as one of “20 Writers for the 21st Century” by The New Yorker, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a PEN/Malamud Award, the Bard Fiction Prize, and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts & Letters. He’s been a fellow at the Dorothy & Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and at The American Academy of Berlin. In 2012, along with the publication of his new collection, Englander’s play The Twenty-Seventh Man premiered at The Public Theater, and his translation New American Haggadah(edited by Jonathan Safran Foer) was published by Little Brown. He also co-translated Etgar Keret’s Suddenly A Knock at the Door, published by FSG. He is Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at New York University, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and daughter.

The Address by Fiona Davis plus author interview!




My Review:

Last year, author Fiona Davis published her wonderful debut, The Dollhouse, rich in history about the Barbizon Hotel in NYC. Keeping with iconic Manhattan landmarks, her fabulous new release, The Address is set in alternating timelines; in the late 1800s during the building of the Dakota, the architecturally stunning residence on the upper west side of Manhattan, Sara, a housekeeper at a fancy London hotel meets Theo, the talented NYC architect, takes a job at the newly built Dakota, and craziness ensues. Their budding relationship remains hidden from his wife and children as they bond, it turns passionate and a crime is committed. In 1985, fresh out of rehab and penniless, designer Bailey, a descendant of the wealthy Dakota architect, without genetic proof, is not in line for the healthy inheritance.  Her cousin, Melinda, set to take over the family riches, hires her to orchestrate the renovation of the building and Bailey learns of her architect relative’s murder by a crazy lady named Sara.  And so the two compelling stories come together with rich historic detail and wonderfully creative characters, revealing the secrets from inside the unique and wonderful Dakota.
I had a chance to connect with the lovely Fiona Davis and ask her a few questions about her new and successful career as an author.

What has been the high point in your writing journey from the release of The Dollhouse to now?  From your first public book talk to a People Magazine feature, you have accomplished so much in such a short time!
I have to say, the first book talk for The Dollhouse seemed so scary! It was at a library in Westport, CT and there were more people than I expected to show up for a debut author. My knees were definitely knocking. But I loved every minute of it, especially answering questions after the reading. Now I adore doing Q&As and book talks, and I think those are my high points. The readers are so knowledgeable and inquisitive and their support has been amazing.

What are you reading now and what do you recommend for the summer?

I’m currently reading Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta, and next up is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman. I’d recommend Eve Chase’s The Wildling Sisters, Jamie Brenner’s The Forever Summer as great vacation/beach reads.

Can you tell me a little about what you are working on now?

The next book is a similar structure, two times periods with a connecting mystery, set in Grand Central Terminal, and I’m having such a good time researching and writing it. I won’t give away too much, but I will say I’ve learned some really surprising things about the building that I can’t wait to share with readers.

Are you developing a “formula” or pattern you use for writing? 

I do love setting books in architectural landmarks and using dual time periods, so I definitely have a trend going on there. Once the Grand Central book is done, I’ll start thinking about other locales and possibly structures, but so far I’ve been having the time of my life. The pattern for each book, even though it’s similar, is incredibly challenging and rewarding.

I am now officially excited for the new book, I loved The Dollhouse, and I highly recommend the Fiona Davis’ new release.  With two connected stories, old New York, ornate architecture, an illicit affair, an illegitimate child, an insane asylum, and the beautiful Dakota on the upper west side, The Address is a perfect mix of history and mystery, fast pace and fun.

As seen on Goodreads:

After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head.

With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives –and lies–of the beating hearts within.


About the Author:

Fiona Davis is the author of The Dollhouse and The Address. She began her career in New York City as an actress, where she worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional theater. After getting a masters at Columbia Journalism School, she fell in love with writing, leapfrogging from editor to freelance journalist before finally settling down as an author of historical fiction. Visit her at www.fionadavis.net, facebook.com/FionaDavisAuthor/ and on Instagram and Twitter @fionajdavis.