Posts Tagged ‘violin and books’

Review of Shattered, by Kathi Baron

Shattered
By Kathi Baron
WestSide Books
ISBN: 978-1-934813-08-9
Young Adult

Shattered is the compelling story of a violin prodigy teenaged girl who runs away from home after her father shatters her beloved violin in front of her eyes. Thus, the word ‘shatter’ has a dual meaning in the novel. As Cassie learns to survive in the streets, she gradually learns the reason her father, a former violinist, behaved so explosively. While away, she meets a series of interesting—and sometimes dangerous—characters that indirectly help her grow and become a more mature and understanding human being. Cassie also searches for her elusive grandfather in an effort to learn more about her own father.

Human emotions are brought to vivid life in this first novel by talented new author Kathi Baron. Baron writes from the heart, with passion and sincerity. The prose flows beautifully and the story kept me engrossed all the way till the end. Cassie is a genuine protagonist most teenaged girls will identify with, especially young violinists. One aspect of this book that got my attention is that the descriptions of music and the violin sound very real even though the author isn’t a musician. This is a peeve of mine with violin novels: if the author isn’t familiar with the violin, the writing comes out as fake. But this didn’t happen with Shattered, so I have to congratulate the author on her research.

Shattered is a coming-of-age story. It is also about the healing power of music and the complexity of family relationships. A must read for young violinists, especially girls!

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Review of GOOD ENOUGH, by Paula Yoo

Book Description

How to make your Korean parents happy:

1. Get a perfect score on the SATs.
2. Get into HarvardYalePrinceton.
3. Don’t talk to boys.*

Patti’s parents expect nothing less than the best from their Korean-American daughter. Everything she does affects her chances of getting into an Ivy League school. So winning assistant concertmaster in her All-State violin competition and earning less than 2300 on her SATs is simply not good enough.

But Patti’s discovering that there’s more to life than the Ivy League. To start with, there’s Cute Trumpet Guy. He’s funny, he’s talented, and he looks exactly like the lead singer of Patti’s favorite band. Then, of course, there’s her love of the violin. Not to mention cool rock concerts. And anyway, what if Patti doesn’t want to go to HarvardYalePrinceton after all?

Paula Yoo scores big in her hilarious debut novel about an overachiever who longs to fit in and strives to stand out. The pressure is on!

*Boys will distract you from your studies.

My review:

GOOD ENOUGH is about a brilliant Korean-American teenaged girl who has a dilemma: should she attend an Ivy League school and pursue a career in law or medicine–as her strict and ambitious parents want her to do–or should she follow her heart and go for what she loves most, playing the violin. This last choice may not bring her much money or success, but it may bring her joy. So the novel has an universal theme: Money and status doesn’t necessarily define success and happiness.

The story begins when Patti is in her senior year of high school. She’s in the process of applying to universities and preparing for her college entrance exams, all the while trying to keep up with her demanding classes and position as the second violinist in the All-State orchestra. Her parents only add to her stress. Though it’s clear they love her, they push her to the extreme, afraid she won’t ‘make it’–and to them, the only way to ‘make it’ is to be admitted to Harvard, Yale or Princeton.

Then she becomes infatuated with a boy at school. Though she’s enough focused on her work not to be too distracted by him, their friendship sends her parents into utter panic, especially when she escapes Sunday church club to play in his rock band!

Finally Patti has to make a decision: will she live her life or the life her parents want her to live for them? Will she choose happiness over money and status?

I enjoyed reading this young adult novel so much, I finished it in two days. Not only because the protagonist is a violinist, but because of the way the author brings her to life with all her struggles and dilemmas and also because the writing is, put simply, very good.

The writing is clever, witty, yet emotional and sensitive at the same time. I laughed out loud many times. The protagonist comes across as a genuine person. I’m not not surprised, since in my previous interview with the author she mentions that the story is based on her own life growing up. Another great aspect of this book is that all references about music and violin playing are so real. When the author is a violinist herself, that makes all the difference. The prose shines with authenticity.

GOOD ENOUGH is a light, fun read–but it also has the substance of a serious work of fiction. Perhaps this is what impressed me most about this book.

Violinist of all ages will surely enjoy Patti’s story. Highly recommended!

Purchase the book HERE.

Review of Tenderwire, by Claire Kilroy

tenderwireHi all,

Though I read this novel a few years ago, I never had the chance to review it. I remember it being an intriguing, strange read about a young violinist. Though the author isn’t a violinist, I recall the writing had good ‘violinist’ insight.

You might enjoy reading some reviews on this book at Mostly Fiction, Curled Up With a Good Book, and Steph’s Book Reviews.

About the author:

Claire Kilroy was born in 1973 in Dublin, Ireland and was educated at Trinity College. Her first novel, All Summer, was the recipient of the 2004 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and was short-listed for the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. She lives in Dublin.

Happy reading!

Press Release: FourEver Friends, By Erica Miner

foreverFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2009
Carlsbad, CA

FOUREVER FRIENDS: will they become Sex and the City sirens or Desperate Housewives?

This coming of age novel transcends time to satisfy the Boomers’ yearning for the Sixties and curiosity of Generations X, Generation Jones, and Generation Y about how growing up really was back in the good old days.

Boomers lived in a time of social revolution. Young people today think of the Sixties as a bygone era, a time to be relegated to history books and their parents’ cocktail party conversations. But, there is much to learn about those outrageous days.

In her new novel, FourEver Friends, Erica Miner takes the reader back to the days when JFK gave hope to a new generation at a time when the Internet didn’t exist, when telephones were just changing from rotary dial to touch-tone, when the Jet Age was giving way to the Space Age, when cars guzzled gas, had tailfins, and two-tone paint jobs. Women’s Lib was just discovering the freedom offered by the Pill, and midnight curfews were becoming a thing of the past. Now, the Boomers are retiring. They and their offspring are a huge audience for this first in a series novel about four teenage girls set in 1960s Detroit.

The challenges facing adolescents of that era are very much the same those teens face today. The friendship of the girls portrayed in “FourEver Friends” links them not only by their keen devotion to each other but also by their shared passion for classical music. Their inner city Detroit high school is a cultural melting pot where students are judged by their intellect and talents, not by the color of their skin or religious background. Two forces compel the girls: their intense drive for perfection in performing music and the constant pull of hormonal angst.

Erica Miner followed her musical passion as a young woman and logged twenty-one years as a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera. She writes what she lived, and with an authenticity that is appealing to every reader. Whether these four friends grow up to reflect the values of “Sex and the City,” or become “Desperate Housewives” will be revealed in the next novels in the series.

Go to http://www.ericaminer.com, for excerpts, testimonials and to buy the book.

“The characters and the story reach into your heart and nestle there, staying with you long after you turn the final page.”
~ Dallas Woodburn, Author

FourEver Friends ISBN: 978-1-933449-73-9 ($15.95) Trade Paper
Author: Erica Miner
Published in 2009 by Nightengale Press

Interview with Robert Shlasko, author of Molly and the Sword

The children’s book, Molly and the Sword, tells of a young girl who, with the help of a mysterious horseman, overcomes obstacles on the road to success as a violinist. It has garnered rave mollyreviews from music and education magazines. Here to talk about the book is author Robert Shlasko.

Thanks for this interview, Robert. I understand this is your first book.

Yes, but I’ve been a writer all my working life — science, international trade, business, speeches … pretty much any sort of writing where I could make a living.

Anything for children?

Some — when my own children were young. Fiction and non-fiction. For example, my articles on chess appeared in a leading children’s magazine.

So where did the idea for Molly and the Sword come from?

It started as an incident that had happened to my mother in the first World War. I moved the story back about a century. Then, to advance the plot, I added the violin since that was the instrument my son played. Curiously, after the book came out, I met a woman who told of a similar incident that happened to her grandmother.

Art imitating life and life imitating art.

That’s what I tell the students when I read in the schools.

Do you visit schools often?

Every chance I get. I’ve read in private and public schools, at a Montessori school, at a United Nations school. In two weeks I’m returning for my third visit to an elementary school in a multi-ethnic section of Queens, New York.

What ages are the students?

I’ve read in everything from the first to the fifth grade. As you can imagine, the discussions get a lot more sophisticated in the upper grades. But each level brings its own questions and its own pleasures for me. I say the book’s for ages 7-12 – although I know that’s a big range.

Yes, I read one reviewer who even stretched that age range a bit.

Both up and down. In fact, I get letters from adults who respond to the story. A 25-year-old violinist in the Iraqi National Symphony wrote that she uses the book as a defense against stage fright. And I’ve received notes from adult men who’ve admitted to shedding tears at the emotions raised in the story. Yet there’s nothing depressing or frightening in the plot. I find it surprising that, if anything, fathers seem to react more emotionally than anyone to the story.

Yet the book is dedicated to “brave girls.”

Yes, but boys really respond to it too. One fourth-grade boy who’d come from India wrote that he would “tell my sisters to be brave like Molly.” And at another school reading, a third-grade boy handed me a piece of garnet he’d collected with his father and ran off before I could give it back. As you can imagine, the dedication to girls raises lots of discussions during my school visits.

What other subjects do the children raise in the schools?

I’m usually with a group of students for about an hour. After I’ve read, I let the children move the discussion in any direction that want. It varies widely. The major themes in the book are having confidence in yourself, how courage shows itself in many ways not just in fighting, and the idea that enemies can become friends. About that last point: I try to tie it to how they relate to schoolmates they may not get along with. And in almost every session something unexpected comes up.

Such as?

Well, at the very beginning of the book I mention that Molly’s mother was pregnant. At a Montessori school in South Carolina a young girl wanted to know what happened to the baby. I reassured her that mother and child were doing well. Whatever the questions, we manage to touch on their own writing and its importance to their futures.

So you do discuss writing per se?

Absolutely. It often comes up in the context of having confidence in yourself. I tell of writers they’ve read who had the courage to go on even after receiving one rejection after another. Of course, that applies to musicians too.

I notice you have many of the letters, from all over the world, on your website.

Yes, plus items on education, violins and music in general. In fact, this interview may push me into updating the site with fresh items sitting on my desk. Not every letter gets on the site. For example I haven’t yet posted a wonderful letter from a 10-year-old girl in Canada who ask why Molly’s violin didn’t have a chin rest like hers did.

That sounds like a good question.

Indeed. I explained that before my artist started working on the book, I checked with an expert on violins at the music department of the Metropolitan Museum of Art here in New York. He sent me an article on the invention of the chin rest in the early 1800s. So we felt comfortable leaving it out of the illustrations. This research led to more information on music history, and into women in that history, which finds its way on to the website and into my class readings.

Do you play an instrument?

Alas no — thus far! But two of my grandchildren play the violin and one plays the cello. And all play the piano.

Whether you play or not, your book is in many performing arts centers.

Fortunately yes. I dropped it off at a concert hall gift store in New York and it just spread out from there. It’s at the gift shops of Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center in Washington, the Boston Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony and so on all across the country.

How about retail outlets?

Music stores carry it and it’s available on order from the bookstores and the usual suspects – Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other websites. But as a first-time author/publisher, I made many early mistakes that hurt distribution – especially with the general bookstores.

As opposed to music bookstores?

Exactly. But as you pointed out in your terrific review, the book is not just for violinists or other musicians, it’s for all children. That’s what I aimed for when I started writing the book. And the reaction in the classrooms confirm this.

Yet limited distribution must have hurt your income.

Indeed. In fact, last year a girl asked if I arrived at her school in my limousine. I guess they all know of J.K. Rowlings. But I had to tell the class that I arrived by subway and, in fact, don’t own a car. Still, putting out the book has been a great experience – especially the interactions with schools, the music world, publishing and parents all over the world.

Do you have other writing projects in the works?

A painful question. Actually, I have a number of manuscripts: another children’s book, an adult mystery, a play and a teenage adventure story — all waiting for final editing. Again, your interview may push me into action.

Thanks for the interview and good luck with your book!

Nina’s Waltz, by Corinne Demas

Nina’s Waltz
by Corinne Demas
Illustrated by Deborah Lanino
Orchard Books
ISBN: 0-531-30281-4
Copyright 2000
Children’s picture book, 32 pages, $16.95

Author’s website: www.corinnedemas.com

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

Early one morning in the serene landscape of the countryside, Nina and her Dad take a trip to a fair, where a violin contest will take place. The prize is two hundred dollars, money they need, as they’re a poor family. Her dad, who in Nina’s eyes is the best player in the whole world, plans to play a tune he wrote especially for Nina, “Nina’s Waltz”. Once at the fair, however, a wasp stings his hand and he’s unable to play. Who will take his place? Will Nina do it? But how, when she’s petrified by the idea of playing in public?

This is a charming tale about the magic of violin music and the loving bond between father and daughter. The author, using simple yet softly lyrical prose, shows us a glimpse into a young girl’s life and her resolution not to let her dad down. This is also a story about the power of self esteem and believing in oneself. The illustrations are beautiful and even dream-like at times, bringing to life the countryside, Nina, and the ethereal magic of violin music. This would make a lovely present to any little violin player, especially a girl.

I feel sorry when books like this go out of print. Copies are still available from ‘Other sellers’ at Amazon.com.

Review of THE SAVIOR, by Eugene Drucker

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The Savior
By Eugene Drucker
Simon and Schuster
July 2007
208 pages
$23.00

Reviewed by Terez Rose

Eugene Drucker, violinist and founding member of the acclaimed Emerson Quartet, takes a heavy subject—the Holocaust—and uses his musician’s sensibilities to produce a searing, unforgettable pitch-perfect story. Gottfried Keller is a German violinist, languishing in the troubled, waning days of World War II. Unable to fight for Germany due to a weak heart, he has been conscripted into performing for convalescing soldiers in hospitals. One morning, however, he is picked up by the SS and delivered to a labor camp outside town. There, the cultured yet depraved Kommandant instructs him to present four concerts as part of an experiment: can classical music revive the spirits of a select group of nearly-dead concentration camp victims?

Keller has seen the smokestacks of the compound’s windowless brick buildings, belching out acrid smoke. “Rubber-making factory,” he and his neighbors have been told. He now sees the camp’s grey-faced, skeletal workers shuffling in the distance. Reluctantly he agrees to the Kommandant’s plan, well aware that he has few alternatives.

Drucker’s passages of describing music are nothing short of exquisite—he offers the detail and insight of a musicologist with the appealing brevity and clarity of an artist mindful of his audience. Keller first performs Paganini’s Caprice Number Nine in E Major, a virtuoso masterpiece.

“The lighthearted opening theme of the Ninth alternates with more dramatic sections in minor keys. There are fistfuls of chords, rapid scales in the high register and a passage of ricochet, a special technique in which the bow is thrown onto the string to produce a series of rebounding notes.”

Keller’s performance, however, is met with an unexpected response. There is only a grim, absolute silence until the Kommandant shouts at the inmates to clap. As the guards press closer with their guns, they begin to clap mechanically, and then won’t stop.

“He got ready to play [again], but their hands still came together with grim regularity as they stared straight ahead. He brought down his violin and looked around, not knowing what to do. Finally a guard stamped his foot, just once, and there was silence.”

Images like these—eerie and psychologically complex—are what keep this novel from being “just another Holocaust story.” The subtlety of it, the simplicity and freshness of the images are much like the music of Bach and Mozart—deceptively simple to the untrained ear, but revealing layer upon layer of complexity to those who choose to dig further.

The story is peppered with flashbacks to Keller’s days as a music student at Cologne’s prestigious Hochschule, and his relationship with fellow students Ernst (based on his own father who emigrated to the U.S. in 1938) and Marietta, both of whom are Jewish and must soon flee the country in the wake of growing persecution.

Keller’s final student days in 1935, including his developing closeness and romantic interest in Marietta, are lyrical and bittersweet. There is no easy solution for the two lovers—she begs him to audition for a newfound orchestra bound for Palestine, but his Aryan status works against him here. One solution, proposed by Marietta, is to find him forged papers that would state he was a Jew. A dangerous plan in 1935 Nazi Germany for a musician who wants to avoid trouble and simply play his music in his homeland. The reader doesn’t know whether to cheer the spirited Marietta on or to hastily push her out the door and lock it.

The novel, like life, has irony, not least of which is its title. Keller plays his music in an attempt to save both himself and his dispirited audience, which include Grete, a woman he briefly befriends. Not all his listeners, however want to be saved. Some deeply resent this attempted return of beauty and culture to their lives; they recognize the trick being played on them.

Irony appears again in Rudi, an SS camp guard, who, surprisingly, reveres classical music and Bach as deeply as Keller. The two engage in a spirited discussion over Bach’s “Saint Matthew’s Passion,” specifically the violin solo that depicts Judas trying to reject his earned thirty silver pieces. Rudi’s ambivalence over his own role is clear, particularly when he declares Judas “was just the pawn of larger forces.”

Keller cannot remain blind to what is happening, particularly after he discovers a warehouse holding thousands of pairs of shoes. “Men’s, women’s children’s. Mostly simple walking shoes, but also a sprinkling of sandals, heavy boots and house slippers. Some were in good condition, but most of them were dried out, dusty, weather-beaten, shapeless, a mute chorus of gaping mouths.” But Keller’s only choice is to continue performing, concluding with a searing rendition of Bach’s masterpiece, the Chaconne from his Partita in D Minor, with unexpected and devastating consequences for both him and his audience.

Drucker has not written a sentimental, moralistic tale. Gottfried Keller is neither perpetrator, victim, hero or dissident. He is an average German citizen, slow—or perhaps unwilling—to comprehend the full extent of the atrocities being committed, and the story’s pacing reflects this. What starts as a gently melancholy read culminates in a violent, disturbing climax (perhaps a bit too heavy-handed for such an otherwise subtly-rendered novel). Here, then, is a thought-provoking exploration of conscience, a bittersweet take on a culture that gave us both Hitler and Bach. A powerful story, a must-read for classical music and arts enthusiasts.

–Terez Rose’s stories and essays have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Literary Mama, Espresso Fiction, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and various anthologies. She has reviewed book for Mid-American Review, Peace Corps Writers, Midwest Book Review and MostlyFiction.com. An adult beginner on the violin, she maintains a violin-related blog at http://www.violinist.com/blog/terez. Visit her at www.terezrose.com.