Posts Tagged ‘violin books’

Just released in time for Christmas: The Doll Violinist!


Author: Mayra Calvani
Illustrations: Amy Cullings Moreno
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-61633-185-6; 1616331852
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-61633-186-3; 1616331860
eBook ISBN: 978-1-61633-187-0; 1616331879
For ages 3-7

Five days before Christmas, Emma is captivated by a doll in a shop window. Each day, she sneaks out of the orphanage to check if it’s been sold, but the shop owner, Madame Dubois, sends her away. Will the magic of Christmas bring Emma, Madame Dubois, and the doll violinist together?

ABC’s Children’s Picture Book Finalist!
Honorable Mention Award in the 75th Annual Writers Digest Writing Competition!

Purchase from Guardian Angel Publishing or Amazon.


Emily-Jane Hills Orford’s The Four Seasons series

Emily-Jane Hills Orford’s stories and novels reflect her national pride. Emily-Jane began her writing career writing book reviews. She is currently a regular book reviewer for and her reviews appear on many other online sites as well as book jackets. Emily-Jane teaches creative writing to young people and regularly gives presentations in local schools and senior’s residences. Other writing accomplishments include articles in the 2005 and 2010 edition of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, as well as several books, Spring (PublishAmerica 2005), Summer (Baico 2007), Autumn (Baico 2009), Ukulele Yukon (Baico 2006), Letters From Inside: The Notes and Nuggets of Margaret Marsh (Baico 2006), It Happened in Canada (Baico 2007), It Happened in Canada Book 2 (Baico, 2010), Songs of the Voyageurs (Baico, 2010), The Creative Spirit (Baico 2008), Beyond the Ordinary (Baico 2008), Beyond the Ordinary…And More (Baico 2008) and Personal Notes (Moosehide Books 2008). Emily-Jane’s book, The Whistling Bishop (Baico 2008), was named Finalist in the 2009 Indie Book Awards. This award-winning author believes in writing about Canada; but she also believes in writing about extra-ordinary people – the real people who made our country a great nation. The author may be reached by email at:; or by mail at: 11 Stradwick Ave., Nepean, Ontario K2J 2X3. Or, check her website at:


PublishAmerica: 2005
ISBN: 1-4137-7615-9
Price: $25.00 CDN plus shipping
Available: from the author:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Chapters (
Book Trailer:


In 1725, Antonio Vivaldi wrote the music for The Four Seasons. He penned a poem for each of the four seasons: Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring. Each season has its reason, its significance, its purpose, its own symbolism. Life is like the four seasons. Spring is Melanie Harris’s story. She is a talented young violinist with a valuable Grancino violin. There is a secret inside her violin, a secret only she and her mother should know; but somehow others have found out. The story follows a journey of Melanie’s growth as a musician, the people she meets, the friends she makes, the losses she suffers. Vivaldi’s music is the cornerstone of Melanie’s musical career as well as her life as she takes her instrument and her music around the world. Each stage of Melanie’s life progresses like a season of the year, a musical/poetic symbol as in Vivaldi’s music. Melanie is the music she loves best, The Four Seasons.

Baico: 2007
ISBN: 978-1-897449-02-8
Price: $22.00 CDN plus shipping
Available: from the author:
Chapters (
Book Trailer:


In 1725, Antonio Vivaldi wrote the music for The Four Seasons. He penned a poem for each of the four seasons: Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. Each season has its reason, its significance, its purpose, its own symbolism. Life is like the four seasons. Summer is but one of the seasons of the year; one of the seasons of Vivaldi’s masterpiece The Four Seasons. Summer is the story of Hope Jones, a young Gitxsan fiddler from northern British Columbia, Canada. Hope has a rare musical talent and what everyone believes is a very valuable Stradivarius violin. Is it the mysterious missing ‘Juliet’? As Hope grows and matures in her music, she learns more about her violin, the romance and mystery that surrounds it and the very dangerous family that continually threatens her in their attempts to claim it. Hope’s life follows the four seasons of Vivaldi’s music, much like life unfolds through the seasons. Summer is but one story in Vivaldi’s musical journey. Summer is the sequel to the popular novel, Spring published by PublishAmerica (2006).

Baico: 2009
ISBN: 978-1-926596-42-6
Price: $24.00 CDN plus shipping
Available: from the author:
Chapters (
Book Trailer:


Martha Kapakatoak is a young Inuit girl with a passion for music. She has a talent and an instrument that was passed down to her by her ancestors. She is a self-taught pianist because in Iqaluit, the capital city of Canada’s newest territory, Nunavut, there are no piano teachers. In fact, her piano is the only real acoustic piano in the entire community and it is sadly in need of repair and a good tuning. A square piano, the instrument was brought over to Canada’s Far North in the mid-1800s, and dragged across the tundra on a dogsled. It is the family’s most treasured heirloom, and one of the music world’s greatest unsolved mysteries. Autumn is Martha’s story, a story that takes music from the concert hall to the vacant spaces of the northern tundra. It is a story that interweaves with the other stories from The Four Seasons series and its characters. Melanie Harris, the famous violinist from Spring (PublishAmerica, 2005), the first book in The Four Seasons series, and Hope Jones, the Gitxsan fiddler-turned-classical violinist from Summer (Baico, 2008), the second book in The Four Seasons series, join Martha in an adventure of music and mystery and a race to discover the piano’s true history before someone else gets hurt. Emily-Jane Hills Orford’s Autumn is the third book in The Four Seasons series. It follows rave reviews of the first two books, which were described as having “a classic charm” (Strings May 2008) with a plot that “grows on you with its deepening chords and situations” (Writer’s Digest 2009).


The Fourth and Final book of The Four Seasons series:


“Winter”, is not Adina’s nor Alon’s story; but rather a story that haunts the next generation, Adina’s son, Joseph. The novel follows a mystery that surrounds a priceless cello, one that will inevitably lead Joseph from the spotlight as a brilliant cellist through the depths of despair as he struggles with substance abuse following a horrific accident that almost costs him his life. The mystery digs deep into Joseph’s ancestral past to reveal an unresolved tragedy from a previous century that continues to haunt the instrument and the man who plays it. This mystery will reveal facts that had gone undisclosed since the incarceration of the Jews of Paris and someone once thought lost is found again. “Winter” follows in the popular tradition of my previous three novels, “Spring”, “Summer” and “Autumn”, intertwining the characters from the earlier novels as the characters struggle to solve each other’s mysteries.


Review of The Musician’s Daughter, by Susanne Dunlap

The Musician’s daughter
By Susanne Dunlap
Young adult/historical

Music and violin enthusiasts who love mystery and adventure fiction will relish Dunlap’s latest novel, The Musician’s Daughter.

The story takes place in 18th Century Vienna and begins on Christmas Eve, as 15-year old Theresa Maria’s beloved father is brought to her home, dead. Though Maria is stunned and devastated by the event, her practical nature soon takes charge and she becomes the head of the household. Her mother isn’t able to help, as she is pregnant and dazed by her new widowhood. Theresa’s other family member is her little brother, and they need money soon if he is going to become a luthier’s apprentice, as it had been planned from the beginning. But who would hire a 15-year old viola player, anyway, in a time when musician women were frowned upon? Thus Theresa seeks the help of her father’s dear old friend, composer Franz Joseph Hayden. All along, however, Theresa is keen on investigating her father’s death. Why was her father’s dead body found near a gypsy camp? Why was his violin missing? Her instincts tell her there’s more to it than a vulgar petty crime.

Indeed, as Theresa begins working with Hayden, she begins to suspect a conspiracy, a mystery reaching the high levels of the government. Was his father a simple violinist in the orchestra of Prince Nicholas Esterhazy, as she always thought he was, or was his real job more sinister?

Music, mystery, espionage and a light touch of romance will keep readers turning the pages. Dunlap’s prose flows beautifully and I loved Theresa’s strong yet sympathetic character. She’s smart, resourceful and independent in a time where women were expected to behave just the opposite. The gypsy element adds an exotic, sensual flavor to the story. Musicians will particularly enjoy the musical descriptions. The story has an ambitious plot and I think Dunlap did a good job in tidying up all the loose ends. This is a novel to be enjoyed not only by teens but also by adults.

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Review of An Unfinished Score, by Elise Blackwell

An Unfinished Score
By Elise Blackwell
Unbridled Books
ISBN-10: 1936071665
ISBN-13: 978-1936071661
Pub date: April 2010

An Unfinished Score begins with our viola-player protagonist, Suzanne, learning about her lover’s tragic death from a radio announcement as she’s having dinner with her composer husband, Ben. Stunned, she must hide her feelings and act as if nothing is wrong. During the coming weeks, as she goes on with her daily routine, we get past snapshots of her illicit relationship with her lover, the well-known conductor Alex Elling. Suzanne keeps the secret to herself, hiding the truth even from her best friend Petra. Then one day she receives a strange call from Alex’s widow, a call that brings an unexpected twist into Suzanne’s quietly desperate life: the widow claims that Alex has left an unfinished concert for Suzanne… Is this true? Who is to finish the score? Who gets to play the concert? For what reason?

Thus begins the dark relationship between Suzanne and her dead lover’s widow, a relationship that sends Suzanne into inner turmoil and ultimately into public humiliation.

There are many positive things to say about this novel. It is obviously well researched. The world of musicians, composers, orchestras and string quartets come alive. In this respect, the author has done her homework, and classical music fans will enjoy all the references to music and facts about the ins and outs of the musical world. As a norm, it isn’t easy for a non-musician author to write convincingly about musician characters, yet the author has accomplished this with flying colors. The sentences flow beautifully and at times the prose has some great moments. There is a genuine, realistic aspect to the characters and their insipid and unpleasant lives. Also worth noting is Suzanne’s submersion into her fantasy world, the tortuous state of her mind not only because she’s lost Alex, but because she’s now left with nothing but her dull, ordinary existence.

That said, the novel does have its share of flaws. First, there are so many mentions and allusions to music and composers that the story flow drags and gets bogged down with details. Second, in spite of Suzanne’s predicament, she’s not sympathetic enough for the reader to care; in fact, none of the characters in the book are particularly likable. The novel is lacking in this important aspect, thus affecting the reader’s ability to be concerned with the outcome. Third, Alex’s widow comes out as the stereotypical ‘evil ex-wife’ and her conversations with Suzanne often sound stilted.

In spite of this, An Unfinished Score will be of special interest to musicians—especially viola and violin players—and lovers of classical music.

Interview with Gerald Elias, author of Devil’s Trill

Please welcome my special guest Gerald Elias, musician author of the mystery novel, Devil’s Trill, recently released by Minotaur. He was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions about writing and publishing. Visit his website at To read my review of Devil’s Trill, click HERE.

Thanks for the interview, Gerald. You’re a concert violinist, conductor and composer. What got you into writing?

I remember in second grade we had an assignment to write a comic strip, and I did one of a horse doing pushups for JFK’s national physical fitness program. My teacher, who seemed to be impressed with my work, asked “Is this original?” I didn’t know what the word meant, so I somberly shook my head and said, “Oh, no!” My father loved writing as an avocation and in his later years became famous for writing letters to the editor of his local newspapers. He also enjoyed writing poetry–only the kind that rhymes–so I guess writing is in my genes.

Tell us how your inspiration for Devil’s Trill came about? I understand the story was based on lessons you had developed for your violin students?

Some of the most boring stuff I had to read as a violin student were pedagogical tomes about music and the violin. I decided I wanted future generations of musicians to be able to stay awake while learning about some of the challenges thrust upon us in the music world, so while each chapter of my book was a violin lesson of sorts (it included subjects such as how to choose a violin, how to audition for an orchestra, and the esthetics of music, there was an interweaving, fictional story about a legendary Stradivarius that had been stolen from Carnegie Hall. Initially “Devil’s Trill” was called “Violin Lessons” and the story line was somewhat superficial and the main character, the blind violin teacher Daniel Jacobus, not fully developed, but as years passed the book was transformed into a full-fledged who-dunnit, maintaining those aspects of violin-playing and music necessary to move the story along.

Was the story fully plotted and outlined before you sat down to write it?

Quite the contrary. I had a general idea of where I wanted it to go, but being my first book, it was only after many rewrites that everything came together. In the meantime, more characters were added, more plot twists, and of course everytime you make a change like those, everything else that came before has to be reconciled with the new material. I’m just glad that I had a full-time job as a musician while I wrote the book, which gave me the luxury of learning as I went.

The protagonist, Jacob, is quite quirky and volatile. It is certainly a distinctive character. How did you go about creating him?

Initially he was much less so, though I always conceived him being blind. There were two reasons for his blindness. First was the notion that when lacking one sense, the other four are enhanced. This of course enabled him to hear music and perceive the world around him with greater clarity. The second reason was more metaphorical. Music, obviously, is something that is heard, yet so often in the music profession the visual takes primacy. By being blind, Jacobus had the ability to perceive the “truth” of the music in a way those with sight couldn’t. His more cantankerous qualities, however, were the result of conversations I had with friend and author, Katharine Weber, who suggested that a character like Jacobus needed to be not only multi-dimensional, but also to develop throughout the book’s course. You may notice that his crotchetiness is slightly less edgy at the story’s close.

I love the way you include bits of information about violins and violinists in the story. Was this a conscious decision? Was your purpose to educate as well as entertain the reader?

I think the mark of a good mystery writer is to welcome the reader into the author’s own special world. Whether it’s a story by Walter Mosely, Donna Leon, Dick Francis, or John LeCarre, the reader may learn a great deal about that world, but it’s not a conscious effort. I tried to write “Devil’s Trill” in such a way that even people who have never experienced the world of classical music can enjoy the story. Certainly I hope that millions of people will buy and enjoy the book, and I don’t mean to sound like a missionary, but if after reading “Devil’s Trill,” people take the opportunity to go one step farther and listen to the music discussed in it, they’ll have a far more enriching experience for having done it.

How long did it take you to write the book?

Ten long years!

How was your schedule like while working on the novel?

I began the book in 1997 in Italy while on sabbatical leave from my job with the Utah Symphony, so that year I had plenty of time. Thereafter, I did most of my writing in the morning before going to work and spent the rest of the day daydreaming for improving it.

Would you share with my readers a bit about the publishing process? How was that like? Did you find the agent searching stage easy?

When I finished the first draft of the book I knew absolutely nothing about how to get it published. Some people told me you had to have an agent. Others said the hell with the agent; go directly to the publisher. Others said self-publishing was the way to go. I ended up sending the manuscript to random agents and publishers and the response was unanimously negative. I was about to give up when one day I read “The Music Lesson” by Katharine Weber and saw on the jacket that (at that time) she was teaching at my alma mater, Yale. So I wrote her and asked if she would be kind enough to read my book. Miraculously, not only did she consent to do that, she offered wonderful constructive criticism, and between her and MJ Rose, I was connected to a wonderful agent, Simon Lipskar, at Writer’s House.

That’s not the end of the story, though, because even though Simon and I reworked the book, we still received unanimous rejections from publishers, at which point Simon, also a musician, felt he was too close to the subject matter and handed me over to his mystery specialist, Josh Getzler, now with Russell and Volkening. After further rewriting we resubmitted “Devil’s Trill” to publishers, and voila! a positive response from St. Martin’s Press. That was a nice day.

I hear you play the Devil’s Trill in your book signings. Tell us about that and what you’re doing to promote the book.

I thought it would be a novel experience (no pun intended) for readers who took the trouble to go to the book signing to get a special glimpse into the book, and I was delighted to be able to provide that. The Devil’s Trill Sonata by Giuseppe Tartini is one of several pieces I played at the book signings, and I explained how each of them played a significant role in the plot. Tartini’s sonata is given the title for the book for a very special reason. Back in the 18th century he told of how, when he woke up in the middle of the night, the devil was sitting at the foot of his bed. He gave the devil his violin who then played with such astounding virtuosity that Tartini was dumbfounded. He tried to write down what the devil had played and ended up with the Devil’s Trill Sonata, perhaps the greatest thing he ever wrote, though he felt it was inadequated compared to what the devil had played. So, whereas Tartini confronted the devil at the foot of his bed, Daniel Jacobus, 250 years later, confronts his own personal demons in the form of the diabolical Piccolino Stradivarius.

When is book II coming out?

“Danse Macabre” will be released the beginning of September 2010. It will again feature Daniel Jacobus and his friend, Nathaniel Williams, as they try to unravel the mystery of beloved violinist who, having just performed his swansong at Carnegie Hall, is brutally murdered by a young rival. Or was he?

Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?

Having devoted most of my life to being a professional musician, I feel deeply honored and blessed to have received such a positive response to my writing. There is a common thread here. Both music and literature as forms of communication can bring us together in a world where more and more barriers seem to go up daily. It is my goal to help bring us together.

Thank you and good luck with your book!

Review of Devil’s Trill, by Gerald Elias

Devil’s Trill
By Gerald Elias
Minotaur Books
ISBN: 0312541813
Copyright 2009
Hardcover, 306 words, $25.99
General Fiction

Devil’s Trill, a first-time novel written by violinist, composer and conductor Gerard Elias, is a fascinating story that explores the complex and tumultuous underworld of classical music, priceless violins and virtuoso performers.

Our protagonist, Daniel Jacobus is a blind, old, antisocial and reclusive violinist living in New England. Though he doesn’t perform anymore, his mind is incredibly sharp—something not always appreciated by his students due to his easily ignited and volatile personality.

Our story begins when Jacobus decides to attend a Grimsley Competition concert at Carnegie Hall, where the young winner is granted the opportunity to play with a precious violin—the infamous, three-quarter-size Piccollo Stradivarius. Legend has it that this violin has brought nothing but tragedy and misfortune to all who own it.

But then, after the concert, the violin is found missing and Jacobus becomes the prime suspect.

Together with the help of his bright new student, Yumi Shinagawa, and an old music partner, Jacobus sets out to discover the true thief and prove his innocence.

The story has a simple premise, but one that is brought to a higher level by the music/violin angle. As a late student of the violin, I found Elias’ writing absorbing and mesmerizing, not so much because of the mystery itself, but because of all the details, information and description that the author includes about violins and the lives of violinists.

The author often halts the flow of the story, using his protagonist Jacobus—in order to give us some new information about violins—but it’s actually these intrusions that I loved the most while reading this book. So, if anything, this is a novel that will be thoroughly enjoyed by musicians and fans of violin music.

Elias also puts a lot of effort into the plot and the mystery is well and carefully crafted. There are a lot of minor characters and sometimes keeping up with names was a little confusing, especially at the beginning. Also, I felt that at times the dialogue was unnecessarily long and strayed from the main purpose of the story. But these are just minor imperfections.

Devil’s Trill
is the first book in what is sure to become an interesting new series for mystery and music lovers. I’m already looking forward to reading book II.

Review of FourEver Friends, by former violinist Erica Miner

foreverSet in Detroit in 1960, FourEver Friends is an engrossing story for those readers interested in music and the violin. Written in first person from the point of view of the protagonist, Jessica, the story spans three years as she is admitted into a competitive, prestigious high school at the age of fourteen and later graduates at seventeen.

When the story begins, Jessica lives with her Jewish, conservative family. Though she has a nice, caring home, she’s not too open at communicating with her mother and father. She is encouraged to play the violin, but her father always reminds her to see herself and her future as a concert violinist and never as a soloist. But, from the beginning, Jessica questions the adults around her. She’s ambitious and has her own mind. Why should her father decide whether or not she should become a soloist? He’s also controlling in other ways, especially with boys, and when Jessica begins to date a German boy, more tension arises.

But for Jessica, studying music and practicing the violin come first, so it’s no surprise when she gets a full scholarship at a very competitive, prestigious high school. There, she learns how tough it is to stay on top surrounded by talented, hard-working students. She must prove herself and this isn’t easy. The stress pulls her into the vortex of anorexia, among other things. Fortunately, she has her best friends to support her.

The novel takes the reader through all the ups and downs a violin student goes through in order to excell. Jealous friends, insensitive teachers, and lack of a proper social life are just some of the things she endures. Is Jessica strong enough to survive all obstacles, or will she give up?

FourEver Friends
is partly a story about friendship but although the book cover shows four friends, I feel the story is more about two friends: Jessica and Marg. The two other characters, though they also share their love of music, stay mostly in the background and only come up once in a while. The novel can be considered ‘coming of age’ because it shows Jessica’s growth during those three years. Mostly, though, it is Jessica’s story. The book has a ‘diary’ feel to it, as it is written using mostly narration and not so much dialogue. I would also like to point out that this work is focused on characterization and not so much on plot. Very little happens plot wise, so the reader won’t find any twists and turns. It is simply a well-written first person account of what a violin student goes through in a prestigious school. I particularly loved all the references to composers and musical pieces; the novel is filled with them and this is one thing musicians or music students who read this novel will enjoy.

I recently asked the author what the inspiration for the book was and this is what she had to say:

“It’s loosely based on my teenage journals and my experiences at the real high school where the story takes place, Cass Technical High School. This school, kind of like a combination of New York’s High School of Music and Art and the Bronx High School of Science, with a plethora of other specialties added to the mix, was a unique opportunity for kids of that age to ‘specialize’ in their field of interest, and ‘major’ in a curriculum of their choice. Some of the students in the Music Curriculum went straight from high school to the Detroit Symphony; that is an example of the extraordinary level of education afforded by this school. College was almost a let-down for me after that. In four years being in that orchestra, whose conductor was my mentor, an amazing Russian man who was totally devoted to his students, we studied and/or performed all of the major symphonies and other symphonic works of the great masters: Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky – I could go on ad infinitum. It was a life-altering experience for me. Even now, whenever I hear a piece I had played there, the first thought that occurs to me is: ‘I played that at Cass Tech.’ What a wonderful foundation for my subsequent musical life! AND the three closest friends I bonded with during those years – my ‘FourEver Friends’ – well, we’re still each other’s closest friends. The book is a love letter to them, and I wanted to share our story with the world. There’s so much love there!”

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Read my INTERVIEW with the author.