Book Review: Winter Sparrow by Estevan Vega

Winter Sparrow


“I’ll grow wings all by myself.”

Mary is a young artist about to enter a new chapter in her life. After years of waiting and searching, she has finally found true love. She’s also just discovered that her fiancé Joshua has inherited his father’s rundown countryside mansion. To add to the rising pressure, her wedding day is so close she can practically hear the music. All she has to do is accept what the future holds. Accept…and be happy.

But something’s missing.

As the seasons change, her doubts turn to fears, and her fears become reality. Through struggle and loss, the love she once possessed for Joshua transforms into contempt. When Mary is confronted with a magical escape, the life she has and the life she dreams of will collide, awakening a mysterious change within. But no choice comes without cost, and each one will draw her closer to the truth.

At times both beautiful and haunting, Winter Sparrow dares you to step into a world where eternity is a moment and every breath is a second chance. The fantasy begins….

My Thoughts on the Matter:

What strikes me right away, within the first couple of pages, in fact, is the elegance of the writing, how each sentence is packed with substantial information, drawing me in even before I really know what the book is about, and yet sending my mind spinning, trying to anticipate what’s coming next and excited to keep reading to see if I’m right or if I’ll be surprised.

And unfortunately, right after I jotted this down, things went south for me with this book.  I did finish it but I didn’t like it.

First, I found Mary to be a touch too neurotic, which made me think she and Joshua would not have gotten together in the first place.  Then I found Joshua a little manipulative and controlling.

I did like the middle a bit, where there seemed to be some magic at play.

And then it ended, abruptly, nastily and disjointedly.

I just can’t recommend this one, at all.

This book has been reviewed for the following Reading Challenges (and added to their respective pages).  It is owned by me, was acquired from (Kindle edition), and cost $0.00:

Monthly Key Word Challenge 2013
– 2013 Why Buy the Cow Reading Challenge
– 2013 Paranormal Reading Challenge  (Ghosts)
2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge (Romantic Suspense)

Copyright 2012-2013 All Rights Reserved.


Book Excerpts: The Queen Gene by Jennifer Coburn


The Queen Gene

” . . . “I need some time to digest everything you’ve said.”  I learned that dismissal years ago when a client said it to me.  At the time, I thought it was a polite way of letting me know that my complex concept needed time to be broken down and properly appreciated.  Now I know it’s a nice way of saying, This conversation is over. . . .”

Who knew one could learn actual life skills from a light, fun read?  I’m Definitely remembering this one.  I learned from a very wise therapist once that just because someone else wants to have a certain conversation Does Not mean that I am required to have that conversation.  This is a polite way to say “I am not having this conversation with you.”  Nice.

Copyright 2012-2013 All Rights Reserved.

Book Excerpts: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides


The Marriage Plot

” . . . What made Madeleine sit up in bed was something closer to the reason she reads books in the first place and had always loved them.  Here is a sign that she wasn’t alone.  Here was an articulation of what she had been so far mutely feeling.  In bed on a Friday night, wearing sweatpants, her hair tied back, her glasses smudged, and eating peanut butter from the jar, Madeleine was in a state of extreme solitude. . . .”

I like that idea – extreme solitude, and yet not alone.

” . . . ‘Of or related to Leonard Bankhead (American, born 1959), characterized by excessive introspection or worry.  Gloomy, depressive.  See basket case.‘ . . .
Hannaesque,” Leonard said. “Stubborn.  Given to ironclad positions.”
“Hannarian,” Madeleine said.  “Dangerous.  Not to be messed with.”
“I stand warned.” . . .

” . . . Grief was physiological, a disturbance of the blood. . . .”

Yes.  I have no insightful commentary, just yes, so yes!

” . . . A bruised ego reflected its own image. . . .”

Copyright 2012-2013 All Rights Reserved.

Book Excerpts: Tales from the Crib by Jennifer Coburn


Tales from the crib

” . . . I hated this trite platitude people shot out when they were uncomfortable with another person’s mourning. . . .”

I run into this a lot in the context of having cancer.  People say stupid things trying to get Me to be positive because They are uncomfortable.  Newsflash – My Cancer is Not about how you feel, and if I’m having a bad day with it (totally justifiable and permissible because having cancer sucks!) get over Yourself about me not being happy about having cancer.

” . . . Why was it impossible or people to accept that humans had room for completely conflicting emotions, and one did not detract from the other in the slightest?. . . .”

Now, I don’t know if this makes perfect sense to me because I’m a Gemini, or if all people feel that way sometimes, but um – duh!

” . . . I understand that when someone says, “Oh, don’t feel sad,” they really are trying to help.  But telling me not to feel what I’m already feeling is not at all helpful.”

In fact, being told that one’s reality is not true is one of the truly crazy-making things someone can do to another.

” . . . I always hated when Aunt Rita completely negated my feelings by telling me how much worse off she was at my age. . . .”

Yeah, I think this one’s related to my first quote (and reaction thereto) from this book.  It amazes me how often my experiences are discounted by people saying “someone else has it worse.”  Well, yes, I’m absolutely sure someone does.  But I wasn’t talking about them.  I was talking about me.  Really, what does someone else’s experiences have to do with my current one.  I shouldn’t be less than perfectly-ecstatic at all times because someone else is going through something You decide to judge as worse?  By that measure whoever you hold up to me doesn’t get to feel badly either because someone certainly has it worse than them.  So does one person in the whole world have the right to be less than perfectly ecstatic?  Who is that person?  Who gets to decide who that is?

Oh, and by the same token, if someone else has it ‘worse’ than me, then certainly someone else also has it better.  Hell, I can name a dozen off the top of my head.  For christ’s sake, some days I could look at Anybody who doesn’t have cancer and say they have it better than me.   So, by that token, please take Your discomfort out of my realm of being – compared to those who have it ‘better,’ I have a perfect right to be less than completely-ecstatic.

Yeah, this one instantly and pretty much completely pisses me off.

” . . . For the rest of the weekend, we quietly walked around Ann Arbor taking inventory of what was old and what was new.  What had changed and what had stayed the same.  Very few things were in just one column, least of all us. . . .”

There’s that simultaneous dichotomy again, which speaks to me so.

Copyright 2012-2013 All Rights Reserved.

Book Excerpts: Reinventing Mona by Jennifer Coburn


Reinventing Mona

” . . . I ended up having to put Hot Slut on my spam blocker, which is the electronic version of a restraining order. . . .”

Clever.  I like it!

” . . . What’s useless is sitting around wondering what might have been, because what might have been is what is.  The grass may look greener on the other side of the fence, but grass is basically grass. . . .”

Copyright 2012-2013 All Rights Reserved.

Book Excerpts: One Mountain Away by Emilie Richards

[Originally posted as a page on Sunday October 29, 2012; transferred to a standard post on Thursday, January 3, 2013]

One Mountain Away

” . . .

I’ll admit I began this journal reluctantly.  A therapist on my cancer treatment team recommended I keep one.  She told me to look back at what I’ve done, what I’ve gained, what I’ve lost.  I was supposed to find ways to say hello and ways to say goodbye.

. . .

Marriage demands a level of intimacy that permanently changes us.

. . .

… the eleventh commandment – Thou Shalt Not Be Thine Own Worst Enemy.

. . .

Optimism wasn’t the same as denial.

. . .

The way we nurture and protect our memories of people who lived before us.  The good they did?  Like those seeds of your grandmother’s, it doesn’t die.  It’s passed from person to person.  It lives on in other forms, in other places, but the essence of what it was at the beginning never changes.

. . .

Life had a way of separating people, of barging in on relationships and insisting there was no time for friendship.

. . .

She said she discovered the only way to help anybody was to walk beside them, not to judge, not to advise, but simply to be there.  She said women have always understood that offering consolation or a listening ear is what really matters, not how much money you throw at a problem — although that can help — but simply being there.”

Copyright 2012-2013 All Rights Reserved.


Book Excerpts: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

[Originally posted as a page on Thursday November 8, 2012, transferred to a standard post on Thursday January 3, 2013.]

Guernsey Cover

“. . .Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.  How delightful if that were true. . .”

Yes, it would be, wouldn’t it?  I’d like to think it actually Is true.

Book Reviews: An Introduction

[Originally posted as a page on 10/8/12; transferred to a standard post on 1/3/13.]


I happily live in an all-Apple household electronically (where possible): iPhones, iPads (both of which I’m really never without), MacBooks (of different flavors), Apple wireless equipment and a Nest thermostat (not technically an Apple product, but designed and manufactured by a former Apple employee and built with the same competent user-friendliness and design aesthetic as Apple products).  For more information on the Nest, see here.

Before iPads existed, I had a Kindle and a Nintendo DS, both of which got sold when I got my first iPad.  Since then, I’d entirely given up paper books.  With the various reading apps at my disposal, I was perfectly happy to give up the weight of multiple books, the choice of which ones, and the worry (whether traveling, which I’ve never been able to do as much as I’d like and am doing none of now, or just heading to work for the day and knowing I’ll be able to read at lunch) of finishing one book without having another to start (getting the impression “hand over the books and nobody gets hurt” yet?) – for having all my books with me at all times, and the ability to get a new one anytime, anywhere, all in a package a little more than a pound in weight that will stay on all day long.

No, this isn’t an ad for an iPad, but I do warn all you Apple haters, anti-Apple comments will not be approved.  🙂  This is my playground and I make the rules.  No, this is about me and books.  Bear with me, I’ll get there (or not if you prefer, skip ahead or bail entirely – your choice).

Anyway, I figure as long as I don’t spend the mortgage payment on books (which, so far, I’ve managed to restrain myself from doing) it’s a harmless, even a positive addiction.  Ask any English teacher.

I knew when the prospect of surgery came up, I’d be stuck at least at home, if not in bed, for a while, feeling very not myself.  It was a given.  What I had not counted on amidst significant other preparations (kitchen full of comfort food, laundry done, house tidied up, surgery specific clothing and supplies bought and packed in case of an unexpected hospital admission) was how physically weak I would actually be when I came home.  Part of that was not knowing precisely how extensive the surgery would have to be – which is a normal result of not being able to fully know until my CSurg actually got in there.  Turns out she had to remove more than any of us had planned, since the tumor turned out to be 50% bigger than multiple tests had led us all to believe and then she had to make sure she got clean margins, including part of the chest wall because of the tumor’s proximity.  All together (although a slightly more ovoid, less round shape) the amount of tissue that had to be removed is about the mass of a hockey puck.

But I digress, again…See the upcoming post “A Tornado In My Head.”

Okay, getting back on track here…I was surprised the morning after my first surgery that my iPad was too heavy to hold onto with my left (surgery) hand – at less than a pound and a half!  But holding it in my left hand actually hurt!  Luckily it was Mom to the rescue…

Now this plot detour is intentional – let’s talk about Mom.  I am as unlike my Mom as a natural-born child can be from a parent.  Most of my life I would joke that it’s a good thing that the women in this species bear the offspring, otherwise we’d wonder who my mother was.  I look like, think like, and have the same tastes as my Dad’s side of the family (there are some seriously strong genes over there).  As I’m getting older I do find a few more ways I’m like my mom (yes, yes, move along, nothing to see here); I think adding the 3 physical traits we’ve found we’re now up to a grand total of maybe 9 similarities.  That overwhelming amount of difference between us has meant that Mom and I haven’t necessarily had the relationship I was socialized to expect, or one as close as either one of us wanted it to be.  Often, Mom and I simply don’t speak each other’s language.  And yet even when I’m pissed at Mom, when our communication has broken down yet again, there is one thing I will always admire about her and be thankful for: she is a spectacularly good caretaker of someone in (even an extended) crisis.

At least with me (and from who else’s perspective can I really see this anyway?), she has a wonderful way of being very attentive, and yet unobtrusive – allowing the crisisee (a new word I just made up for fun) to rest as needed, without the pressure of having to “entertain a guest,” and yet being instantly there to make a meal, get some meds, or refill a glass of water.  Mom has a sense of the right distance to allow the crisisee to test her limits as they improve over time, but is still close enough to be a safety net if the crisisee overreaches.  It’s a hard thing to describe – I think you’ll either get what I’m trying to convey or not.  In any case, my Mom rocks!

So it was that the day after my first surgery my Mom showed up at my house with a stack of paperbacks she had already read.  They were perfect: the kind of light chick lit that would keep me occupied while my body healed some, but nothing I had to really concentrate on or remember.  In retrospect, the first surgery wasn’t too bad – went into it full strength, they only worked on one side – I was hanging out downstairs the very next day.  Not feeling great by any means but not needing to be in bed.  And awake enough to read…alot…4 books in the first 4 days.  Everyday Mom came up to hang out that week there was another book waiting for her to take home (this was before she told me to just pay them forward).  And a few days later, I could deal with the iPad for a bit to check email and Facebook, but still didn’t want to hold it for reading – too heavy.  I ended up reading paper books the whole time between the 2 surgeries (exactly 14 days apart).

So, the Sunday before surgery #2, Hubby and I were going through a similar drill as for surgery #1 – filling the fridge, making sure anything I might want to wear was clean, tidying up the house, packing a bag as insurance against an unexpected hospital admission (which worked both times, btw) and…

He floated the idea of getting me a Kindle again so that should I have the same experience with the second surgery (or worse, since the second time we were working on both sides) I could read when I was up to it with something even lighter than the paperbacks I had been holding.  So, we headed over to Best Buy and picked one up, went home and charged it up, and tucked it into the packed bag.

Let me tell you it was a godsend.  The second surgery was much harder than the first one!  Working on both sides, not just one.  I wasn’t even close to fully recovered from the first one – which was actually deliberate but also made things more difficult.  And the procedures that were done were just inherently more traumatic to the tissues than ones in the first surgery.  Let’s just say I was basically in a narcotic fog for the first two days after the surgery.  There were still short periods when I wanted to read (I read myself to sleep every night, so it was the perfect thing to do while waiting for the next dose of pain meds to kick in and send me blessedly back to dreamland), but I’m not sure I could have dealt with a book then.  Thankfully I didn’t have to.  I had my Kindle.  I could just prop it up against a pillow and use a single touch to turn pages until my eyes closed again.

No, this is also not meant to be an ad for a Kindle (but if you want one I’ll make it easy, click here).  It’s more about how Hubby takes good care of me too, and yay, I got to have my books still even though I was in considerably worse shape the second time around!

Anyhoo, both Mom and Dad (where’d you think I got it from anyway?) Always have a book with them.  Last week at one of my many appointments Mom was reading a book I said I wanted to read when she was done and I may post a review of it eventually:

The Doula

Book Excerpts: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Disaster


[Click on book cover to go to book’s page.]

. . . “It’sHebrew,” Travis said with a nervous grin.
“What does it mean?”
“It says, ‘I belong to my beloved, and my beloved is mine.'” . . .

. . . It wasn’t just me, and it wasn’t just him, it was what we were together that was the exception. . . .

. . . “I knew the second I met you that there was something about you I needed.  Turns out it wasn’t something about you at all.  It was just you.” . . .

Book Excerpts: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

The Winter Palace

[Click on book cover to go to page for this book.]

. . . Days seemed fragmented, broken into odd pieces, a plate too full, a pinching shoe, an empty chair. . . .

. . . May she always be with those who love her.
May she prosper and be safe.
I wiped tears off my cheeks.
“May God grant her all this,”  I whispered. . . .

. . . You do not reason with a flood.  You look for anything useful that might float your way. . . .

. . . I wondered if the one hour a day I now made Darya walk in high heels, with a book on her head, was enough to keep her spine straight. . . .