Posts Tagged ‘violin’

Interview with Liesel Soley, author of Can You Be an Artist?

Liesel Soley, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and Fulbright scholar in Paris, France, is a professional violinist. Soley has performed solo recitals in the U.S. and France and was the violinist in the piano trio, Trio Viva. She has taught violin at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City and violin and viola at St. Petersburg College and the Pinellas County Center for the Arts in St.Petersburg, Florida.

Presently, Liesel Soley shares her love for music with children, as well as adults in Clearwater, Florida where she teaches violin, viola, and chamber music privately and in an after-school program at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg.

Soley has found a welcome relief from the very disciplined, intensive, and time-consuming work with the violin in her other artistic means of expression; writing, painting and drawing.

Congratulations on the publication of your children’s book, Can You Be an Artist? What got you into writing?

My first writing was when I was in Paris on a Fulbright Grant. I was struggling with the violin and life, and one day when it was very difficult to approach the violin, I just started to write some poetry with no expectations or standards to meet. This took place over a period of about two weeks. It was a kind of a relief and my morale went way up. The poems remained in my violin case for 44 years! I couldn’t quite throw them away.

Then several years ago my family requested I send them personal things I had created which resulted in putting together CDs of some of my solo violin and piano trio performances, a book of my paintings, and Yes! – those poems mentioned above along with some very short stories I wrote up about playing violin in the streets which I had been telling for years! Yes, even though I am a Juilliard graduate, I have hit the streets and had some interesting and fun experiences in the streets of New York, London, and Paris! Some of my friends look aghast at some of the things I do. I just laugh!

So, this brings me to the children’s book I just completed. During the summer some of my students disappear, going to camps and on vacation, so it was either do something creative or sit around and mope because of a lack of work.
“Can YOU Be an Artist?” came into being!

What was your inspiration for Can You Be an Artist?

Working with my violin students and seeing total transformations take place, sometimes quickly and sometimes over a period of years.The violin is extremely challenging and it takes tremendous discipline and persistence to play well. To see the confidence, the self-esteem, the growth of students developing as a result of participating in the arts is rewarding and exciting. Taking part in orchestras, recitals, and competitions can give such a sense of accomplishment to these youngsters. Although I have mostly seen this as a musician, I know that students in all the arts tend to excel in other areas as well, such as in school. Individuals who express themselves through the arts, who create, are happier and more successful. I know this with absolute certainty and wanted to express this.

What message you hope readers will get from your book?

As indicated in my authors note, one can create in many ways, “— If one truly creates beauty and quality in what one does and if this translates to others one is actively being an artist.”

Also – Dare To Follow Your Dreams! Dare To Be Yourself! Dare to Be Free!!

Tell us about what your writing process was like for this book. Did you outline it first? Did you edit it as you went along?

The structure, using the three different art forms and the three kids just popped up. I mocked it up very quickly. As I have a number of Korean students I wanted one of the kids to be Korean. Each child was very real to me. Because I was able to be Freddie, or Honey, or Bae it was easy to write their feelings, about their families etc. Using the first person for them seemed very natural.The few word changes or added took place after the writing was done as a whole.

You also illustrated the book. Give us a glimpse into the mind of the author/illustrator persona? Did you write the story first and later illustrate it?

The writing was done first although I had illustrations in mind. There was an original mock-up of the book with far fewer illustrations than in the completed published book. A number of people had commented that there were too few illustrations, too many words per page, that the colors were weak and there were not enough details for kids. I agreed, so the next summer (2010) I decided to handle the things that were not ok and complete the book.

It was very difficult for me. I added 12 more drawings and totally changed all the existing ones except for 2, and even those I had to do all over because the paper was different!

I would lie awake at night mocking up the next illustration – hardly slept for 2 months. I was excited and determined to finish within two months before the school season started. The work was intense. I mocked up the illustrations easily but when it came to the execution of the drawings in terms of enough color it drove me nuts. I would create the drawing rather quickly then invariably at a certain point I would have exactly what I wanted but not enough color and I would stop and move on to the next illustration! I did not have the certainty and courage to do full color right off! I was afraid I would mess up on those tiny little lines or dots or whatever, like with expressions on faces, and that I would have to do the whole picture over again!

O Man, I ended up going over these illustrations three times – the entire picture 3 times – each time adding another layer of color, each time in more agony than the previous time! It was awful! I was an idiot!

I am laughing at the whole experience. Not being trained in painting, drawing, or illustrating, this was more than a learning experience! It was literally painful! I was doing these drawings leaning over the dining room table with a lot of weight on my left arm and hand pressing down on the table while I meticulously (and gingerly!) proceeded to work with my right hand. A little before the end of the 2 months I felt like a cripple! I could not play the violin for over 2 weeks! Next time it is full color on the first shot!!! and with a decent set up!

What made you decide to publish your book with Book Publishers Network?

I had used a POD place for the book of my paintings and although I was very happy with the results it was a lot of keeping at it to get exactly what I wanted. For my book with the poems and short stories about playing in the streets I used Apple. It was nice – but expensive.

I wanted a publisher that had a team of experts, someone with whom I could communicate easily and someone who would get the job done quickly. Sheryn Hara with Book publishers Network had been recommended by an author/illustrator acquaintance as being very good for first time authors with plenty of experience and expertise and she really cared for her authors. She sent me samples of children’s books which I really liked. She was exactly what I wanted. She was hooked up with a fine printer so my book was completed!

Also, I wanted a wider audience for this book- not just family and friends.

What was the publishing process like?

Things moved along very well. Sometimes there would be suggestions but my needs and wants as an artist were totally respected. It was suggested I use some kind of border around the pictures and a number were shown to me but I really did not want that and that was totally accepted. I groaned when Sheryn Hara said the cover of the book which I had done needed to be jazzed up. I told her I did not want anyone else doing any of the art work. She immediately said none of the art work would be disturbed – just the background would be made more alive. I was sent a number of possibilities and love the one I chose. I find it very aesthetic and am glad my publisher pushed me in that respect.

I was glad not one word of my writing was changed. There would have been a fight if changes had been wanted. Punctuation had to be handled! No problem! Book Publishers Network is hooked up with a fine printer and the book was completed!

What is your schedule like? How do you balance your violinist, music instructor, artist, and writer personas?

At this time in my life I am primarily teaching violin, viola and chamber music, but my involvement in my other arts has increased considerably! I teach privately at my home 7 days a week and 3 afternoons in an after school program at Shorecrest . There are music teachers meetings to attend, and recitals and competitions to arrange. Add to that violin presentations and now book signings and work on PR. I also have arranged to have some of my young students perform at book stores and libraries where I have book signings. Things are busy! The short answer to your question is – I am very focused on what I am doing at any given moment, and I work hard 7 days a week. I thrive on lots of fast action!

Do you have tips for unleashing and nurturing one’s creativity?

Sure – find something you have really wanted to do and START! Be true to yourself, maintain your integrity and do not let others throw you. Go at your own pace, keep it light and have FUN! If it is not always fun -well, so what!

Are you working on another book? What’s on the horizon for you?

Not at the moment, but I have a couple in mind. I am not setting a timetable. I have a way of doing things spontaneously at the right time for me. The future looks interesting, challenging and fun. And there are definitely unknowns! I like it that way.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers?

Yes, I would love to hear from you – to know if my book has inspired you or your children or your grandchildren. Also, I would be delighted to have you visit my web site and be in communication with me.

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Latest reviews of Frederico, the Mouse Violinist

Frederico, the Mouse Violinist is an absolutely wonderful children’s picture book. Through a delightful story, the author teaches about the world’s most famous violin maker, Antonio Stradivari, along with various parts of the violin.

But, what has a mouse to do with Stradivari and violins? Well, Calvani cleverly weaved a story that has Frederico living in the home where Stradivari creates his masterpieces.

Loving the violin, the mouse wished he could play. At night while the master slept, Frederico would play among the violins and move the bow across the strings, making sweet sounds. Hearing the music and seeing Frederico’s appreciation for the violin, Stradivari created a special tiny violin for the mouse.

Adding dimension to the story are full page illustrations that are vibrant and fanciful, making Frederico, the Mouse Violinist an engaging, kids-will-love-it picture book. The book also provides information on Stradivari; a glossary for words related to the violin, such as bridge, peg, and scroll; and two activity pages. It is an enjoyable and fun tool that parents and teachers can use to introduce the violin to young children.

I happen to love the sound of the violin, cello, and other stringed instruments. My appreciation for music came from my musical family, as well as school music education programs. In 7th and 8th grades my school offered violin instruction which I happily accepted.

Research from the 1950s through to today, demonstrates the benefits music has for children and even societies. Here are some of the benefits children can reap from music education:

Increases memorization capacity
Improves reasoning capacity and comprehension
Helps children learn and/or improve time management and organizational skills
Helps develop team skills, as well as math skills
Helps improve coordination and concentration
Is a universal language and encourages self-expression

Aside from the above mentioned benefits, you never know what will spark a child’s appreciation and love for music, it could be hearing a song, seeing musicians play, or learning about various instruments and their creation.

–Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, and freelance writer. For writing and marketing information visit KarenCioffi.com, and sign up for her free newsletter: A Writer’s World. You’ll get 2 free e-books on writing and marketing in the process, and two more free e-books just for stopping by.

*****

Do you know any curious, young, music lovers? If so, introduce them to “Frederico, the Mouse Violinist.”

Mayra Calvani combines the curiosity and playfulness of Frederico the mouse with the history and genius of Antonio Stradivari, the famous violin maker, to tell a delightful story of kindness and friendship. Children will learn music vocabulary and the parts of the violin as they follow Frederico’s nightly escapades.

Curious Frederico peeked into the f-hole and looked inside the violin.
“This is the secret, magical place where sound comes out!” he squeaked.

The realistic, yet whimsical, illustrations by K. C. Snider add to the fun. The surprise ending of “Frederico the Mouse Violinist” will fill your heart with “warm fuzzies.” It may just inspire you to follow your dreams.

As a retired teacher, I would recommend this book as a fantastic way to introduce stringed instruments into the classroom. A biography of Stradivari and his accomplishments are included in the back of the book. The activity pages will reinforce the new vocabulary introduced in the book as well.

–Kathy Stemke, Education Tipster

*****

Do you have a budding violinist on your hands? Then he or she will definitely enjoy Frederico, the Mouse Violinist by Mayra Calvani.

Frederico is a little mouse with a big name. He lives in the workshop of a famous violin maker named Antonio Stradivari. During the day, the mouse watches Stradivari make his celebrated violins, but at night, Frederico explores the workshop and its wonders. But it’s the violins that capture Frederico’s attention the most. Frederico longs to play, but since he’s so little and the violin and bow are so big, playing seems an impossible task. However, the determined mouse practices night after night and when he captures the attention of the famous violin maker, the mouse violinist has a mouse-sized present in store for him!

This is an endearing tale that will introduce young readers to the classic string instrument. Not only is the tale inspirational, but it’s educational as well, introducing young virtuosos to the parts of a violin and the famous luthier, Antonio Stradivari. As Frederico learns that if you tighten a peg on a violin, the pitch will be higher and if you loosen it, the pitch will be lower, so will your own virtuoso. And just as Frederico learns that with a little passion and practice, he can play, Frederico will inspire anyone to strum their own tune to this delightful story.

–Lori Calabrese, National Children’s Book Examiner

*****

What an unexpected source of delight this picture book is. This sweet story is about a young mouse who lives in the workshop of the most famous violin maker of all. With tender wording and sensitive illustrations, we see how the master violin maker makes yet someone else’s life change as a result of his musical genius and creativity. This is storytelling at its best.

Every violin student and every violin teacher will treasure this book for its precious story about Frederico, the mouse, as he follows his dreams. Yet behind the tender story is an excellent explanation of the parts of a violin as well as a peek into the life of violin virtuoso Stradivari. The fantastic illustrations add a sense of wonder and delight to the telling, bringing the story to life.

I highly recommend this book for every child whether a violin student or not. Their heartstrings will be tugged and they will yearn to hold a violin in their hands and play it themselves. This is also a great classroom book for teachers to read to students during those young formative years when they are choosing whether or not to play an instrument.

Truly a new classic in picture books!

–Nancy I. Sanders, children’s author

*****

“Frederico, the Mouse Violinist”
Author: Mayra Calvani
Illustrator: K.C. Snider
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
http://www.guardianangelpublishing.com/
Hardcover: 978-1-61633-113-9
Paperback: 987-1-61633-114-6
EBook 13: 978-61633-125-2
Copyright 2010
Picture Book: 26 pages

Purchase from Amazon.
Purchase from Guardian Angel Publishing.

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.

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!

Book Review: Molly and the Sword, by Robert Shlasko

Molly and the Sword
By Robert Shlasko
molly1Illustrated by Donna Diamond
Jane & Street Publishers
www.janeandstreet.com
ISBN: 978-0-9745077-4-3
Hardcover, 32 pages, $15.95
Ages 7-12

Molly and the Sword is a lovely, historical picture book about a young girl violinist who has a moment of doubt as she is about to play in a grand concert hall.

The story begins with Molly as a little girl, singing in their home’s yard while her mother works in their vegetable garden. From early on, she loves music. Then something horrible comes to what used to be their peaceful village: War.

With her mother pregnant and no water to drink, their situation becomes desperate. It is then that Molly decides to do something about it. In spite of the danger, she ventures into the next village in search of water. There, she is captured by the enemy, who take her for a spy. That is, until a handsome enemy officer saves her life and grants her freedom. Thus Molly, unharmed, goes back to her family.

Time passes and the war is over. One day, Molly is captivated by a clown playing the violin in a passing circus. When her birthday arrives, her father exchanges his most valuable grandfather clock for a violin, and brings it to Molly as a gift.

It is the 19th century, when few girls had the courage to become musicians because of prejudice. But Molly loves her violin and, more than anything, she wishes to play well and become a great violinist. Day after day, she works hard at her lessons. Then a wonderful opportunity comes her way, but on the day she is to perform in a famous concert hall, her courage falters and she’s overcome with fear. Will she succeed? Will she make her family and teacher proud?

Then Molly receives a strange gift–a golden sword encrusted with jewels–and she remembers the feeling of bravery she experienced years ago. Will this give her the courage she needs to play on stage? And who is the handsome stranger sitting in the audience? Could it be the officer who once saved her life?

This is a charming picture book with a nice traditional feel to it. It is actually an illustrated chapter book, as the story is separated by very short chapters, each about 3 pages long. The prose flows like soft music, suiting well the theme and the violin element. The author puts forth an important message for all children, especially violin students, about self-esteem, courage, and the need to work hard in order to achieve our dreams. The fourteen illustrations, realistic in style and done in soft pastel colors, add to the quiet tone and complement the story beautifully. I’d especially recommend this book to music teachers and to parents of children who play the violin, to give to them as gifts. Having said that, this isn’t a book just for young violinists, but one which will make a nice addition to any home, class, or library shelf.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani

About the author: Robert Shlasko is a writer and editor whose work has taken him on assignments from Sweden to Samoa. In addition, his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in leading children’s magazines. Although he has not mastered a musical instrument (thus far!), others in his family play the violin, the cello and the piano. The author enjoys listening to them all.

About the illustrator: Donna Diamond is a graduate of the High School of Music and Art in New York City and of Boston University School of Fine and Applied Art. She has illustrated over 50 books for children and lives in New York City with her daughter.

Currently reading…

violin1

I read this book years ago, before I started playing the violin. Now that I’ve been playing for 5 years, I’m sure I’ll be able to appreciate it better. There are beautiful passages about music and violin playing in this novel. Anne Rice wanted to be a violin virtuoso when she was a child, and this desire really shows in her prose. Her descriptions of the violinist playing in the story are dark and passionate.

Look for my review coming soon!

Stradi’s Violin, by Blenda Bligh


Stradi’s Violin
by Blenda Bligh
Publish America
1-4241-9460-1
Copyright 2007
Paperback, 295 pages, $24.95

This novel spans many years and involves many characters. At its center, it’s the story of Ellen Gibson, a beautiful woman who is propelled to make the biggest mistake of her life–or so it seems–in the name of motherly love.

At the beginning of the story, during the Great Depression, Ellen finds herself cornered. Not only is she pregnant, but her husband has left her with two young children to support, there’s no food left, and the rent for her shack is three weeks overdue. To make matters worse, she’s fired from her job at a hat shop because of a rich, arrogant lady named Amanda McGowan.

A little after she’s fired, the rich lady pays her a strange visit… and it is then that Ellen receives the shocking proposal, a proposal Ellen must not turn down for her own sake as that of her children. Ellen’s decision has major consequences and affects the lives of various characters later in the story.

As the years pass, the reader follows Ellen’s and Amanda’s lives and their family relationships as well as their secret connection to one another. No women could be more opposite. While Ellen is the embodiment of kindness and resignation, Amanda is the perfect example of selfishness and greed. Later on, the plot revolves around their children as they grow to young adults and eventually become romantically involved.

Though the novel has a good premise, and the author has an enthusiasm for writing that comes through the pages, I found the novel disappointing because of several reasons.

The characters of Ellen and Amanda are stereotypical to the point of being cartoonish. No one can be so good or so evil. So in this sense, I found no complexity in the characters. Even a villain must have human characteristics at times. I also don’t understand why the author chose to make Amanda deaf, as this particular trait doesn’t play any kind of role in the plot. I kept waiting for the moment when her deafness would become somehow significant in the story, but the moment never came.

As for Ellen, all I can say is that Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind , in all her incredible goodness, at least was smart. But Ellen is so unbelievably good she falls in the ‘dumb’ category. A protagonist who is good must have character and substance to accompany this goodness.

Another aspect of the novel that broke my suspension of disbelief is that the author chooses to tell big chunks of the story instead of showing them with action and dialogue. Because of this, the novel reads like a synopsis at times. I feel the book would have been improved if the author had taken the time to flesh out these segments instead of simply relating what one character says to another without using active dialogue.

Furthermore, many of the character confrontations, especially toward the end of the book, read like a script from a soap opera–tilted and predictable, and there are abrupt switches of point of view in the same page without a double space between the paragraphs, so you find yourself suddenly realizing that you’re in another character’s mind and in a completely different setting. This was very annoying.

Finally–and this is by far the most disappointing aspect of the book–the author obviously failed to do any research about violin playing and violinists. For instance, she puts the young violinist in the story, only five years old, playing a full-size Stradivarious. The way this character is described when playing the violin is superficial and doesn’t ring true. There is no ‘feeling’ in these descriptions, those musical feelings so well described by musicians who write fiction or at least by those non-musician authors who conduct research before setting to write this type of scene.

And last, the cover of the book and the title are misleading. The novel has nothing to do with violins or violinists. Only that one secondary character mentioned is a child violinist, but violin music doesn’t play a role in the story.

In sum, Stradi’s Violin reads like a first draft and has too many technical problems for me to recommend it. Bligh’s writing flows very nicely at times and, as I said, her love for storytelling comes through. Unfortunately, these things aren’t enough to publish a book. What this novel needs is a good professional editor.

Reviewed by Mayra Calvani