Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Blogging for Books provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.


Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

No violin meant more to former child prodigy and then professional soloist Min Kym than the 1696 Stradivarius she found at age twenty-one. When, years later, thieves steal her violin from her, they essentially steal much more than a wooden instrument. Min Kym relates her story of losing her violin and finding her voice in her memoir, Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung.

This author brings not only music but also her instrument itself to life through her words, so that her violin is thoroughly personified on the page. I’ll confess that the extent of it made me uncomfortable at times, as I don’t believe I’ll ever feel so deeply for an object.

But, as a writer and a bibliophile, it’s not like I don’t get it. (I mean, you may not see me when I hug a novel I’m reading or kiss the spine of one of my own books when it’s finally in print, but know that I do get it.)

I won’t pretend that I understood all of the author’s musical language, or that I recognized all of the renowned names she mentioned–some I did, some I didn’t. I also had a little trouble following the logical flow of her thoughts, here and there.

Yet, it’s those intangible but very real somethings she taps into through music, those indescribable places where the soul takes flight… Whether one has the experience through music, literature, or dance, through culinary arts or through connecting with loved ones–even if we haven’t the words to truly do those places justice, the experiences are universal.

This memoir is a journey, one with soaring highs, desolate lows, and crucial discoveries, and it closes on a note of hope that makes the journey all the more worth it.



When a Bookworm Likes the Film Version Better

Book vs. Flim

*GASP* How could I even give a blog post a title that so borders on bookish sacrilege?

Yes, I know–bookworms all over often proclaim the unfailing superiority of books over their film versions. “The book is always better than the movie.”

Granted, when it comes to books that are later made into films, I often prefer what I read over what I watched. However, as an enthusiast who has, in recent years, been growing to love films about as much as I love books (due to my love of storytelling in general, whether literary or visual), it’s been getting easier for me to view books and films as separate works, which indeed they are.

Books and films are different works of art that have different creative requirements, and oftentimes, varied audiences. Even when a film is based on a book, a filmmaker is creating a whole new, separate work from the original author’s. While one filmmaker who’s obtained a book’s film rights may wish to make the “movie version” of that book, another filmmaker who’s obtained the film rights of a book may not be out to just make the book into a movie but to make a movie based on, but not necessarily limited by, the book’s original idea(s). Both are legitimate filmmaking approaches.

Keeping “separate works” in mind helps me not to downgrade a film merely because it’s different from the book it’s based on, so that I can judge the film for what it is: a film.

A Walk to RememberWith that said, yes, there are rare occasions when this lifelong bookworm enjoys a film more than the book it’s based on. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks was a nice read to me overall, but it didn’t have a profound, lasting impact on me like the 2002 Warner Bros. film did and does. Shane West and Mandy Moore really add compelling flesh and blood to the Landon and Jamie characters, and I usually have a tear or two during a few scenes in the movie, including the Spring Play when Jamie sings “Only Hope.” (If you happen not to have a tear when you watch the scene–of course, the rest of the movie is what gives this part more meaning.)

My Sister's Keeper

As I read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, I got a pretty immediate sense of why she’s such a popular author, and the book had me all in–right up until the end, which gave me an unpleasant “Wait a minute–huh? That’s it?” jolt, even for a reader who loves to read the unexpected. Apparently, some readers even see the ending as a cop-out from the tough questions the novel raises. I wouldn’t give it that label, but the ending is one reason I enjoyed the 2009 New Line Cinema film more than the book. Some may still see the film’s reworked ending as something of a cop-out or a tidy smooth-over for untidy life circumstances, but the film’s plot has more of a natural flow to me, particularly where the ending is concerned.

So. Are you a bookworm who’s ever liked a film better than the book it’s based on? If so, feel free to ‘fess up!


Playing by Heart by Anne Mateer


Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Playing by HeartPlaying by Heart by Anne Mateer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Numbers remained constant in a way other things did not.

So goes Lula Bowman’s thinking at the beginning of her journey in Playing by Heart, a journey where she’ll eventually have to determine what she’s built her life upon and what she–as a student, a teacher, a mathematician, a reluctant pianist and basketball coach, a woman, an individual–truly wants.

I appreciated author Anne Mateer’s choice to write the novel from two first person points of view, to let us see the story through both Lula’s and Chet Vaughn’s eyes: the eyes of two kinds of misfits who find themselves having to stand up to the plans that others would have them follow for their lives.

There’s some redundancy in characters’ reactions in the novel, such as chins either lifting or tucking toward chests, and hearts either leaping or sinking. The romance didn’t draw me in fully, perhaps because, while Lula and Chet think a lot about each other separately, the actual communication between them seems underdeveloped. Also, Chet’s sudden choice toward the end is a bit of a strange fit for his story, not quite a natural climax.

Yet, seeing how Lula must find a way to reconcile her different dimensions as a person and take a new look at her faith is a compelling reason to read this novel.


Prelude for a Lord Giveaway

Enter to win an autographed paperback copy of Prelude for a Lord by Camille Elliot!
August 25th-29th, 2014

*Giveaway entries are now closed. Winner to be announced in a separate post.
Find Prelude for a Lord on Amazon.*

Prelude for a LordBook Description
(from Goodreads)

An awkward young woman. A haunted young man. A forbidden instrument. Can the love of music bring them together…or will it tear them apart?

Bath, England—1810

At twenty-eight, Alethea Sutherton is past her prime for courtship; but social mores have never been her forté. She might be a lady, but she is first and foremost a musician.

In Regency England, however, the violin is considered an inappropriate instrument for a lady. Ostracized by society for her passion, Alethea practices in secret and waits for her chance to flee to the Continent, where she can play without scandal.

But when a thief’s interest in her violin endangers her and her family, Alethea is determined to discover the enigmatic origins of her instrument…with the help of the dark, brooding Lord Dommick.

Scarred by war, Dommick finds solace only in playing his violin. He is persuaded to help Alethea, and discovers an entirely new yearning in his soul.

Alethea finds her reluctant heart drawn to Dommick in the sweetest of duets…just as the thief’s desperation builds to a tragic crescendo…

What did I think of Prelude for a Lord? Do take a look at my review.

Simply comment (“Share your thoughts”) below on this blog post to be entered to win a copy signed by the author!

One randomly determined winner will be notified by email on Saturday, August 30th. If the winner does not respond by Monday, September 1st, a different entrant will be selected. If the winner lives outside of the US, he/she will instead receive an ebook copy of the book (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or iBooks.)

Further note to my blog readers:
If you win and enjoy the book, please feel free to pass on the word–write a review! 🙂