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Monday, March 11, 2013

Estevan Vega's Winter Sparrow - Blurb, Review, and Excerpts!

Today's post is part of Read Between the Lines book tour featuring Estevan Vega's Winter Sparrow!

Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Publisher: Stonehouse Ink
Edition/Formats Available In:  Ebook & Print

“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 fiancĂ© 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….

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Review: 5 out of 5 Stars. This is not your typical Fantasy/Romance. This isn't boy meets girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy falls in love with girl, and they lived happily ever after. This is about life and love. It isn't always pretty, it doesn't always make sense, but oh how we all long for it. This book is poetic and beautiful and haunting. Read this line!

"He was the sunrise she missed so strongly, perhaps, and she was the cloud that, in time, might eclipse him."

Or just previous to that when the author describes the scene for you with: 

"BY THE END OF SEPTEMBER, dawn resembled dark poetry. A spellbound earth sat behind the hills and clouds and dim but rising light. It was made new by irregular colors. The trees on the south end of the mansion flexed rebelliously out of the black dirt womb and created skinny branches. The shades of leaves faded."

Can you not see every shadow lit gently by the light? Does it not evoke a bit of creepy stillness that comes with early morning fall? I could practically smell this morning at their house in the country. 

Mary and Joshua are about to begin their lives together. From completely different upbringings, one being taught that we are "made to love" and the other to doubt self-worth in every aspect, you would imagine that these two overcame hurdles to fall in love. While I was reading, one of my notes said that I pitied Josh. Mary refers to herself as neurotic, but that is such a gentle word for what he is dealing with. As their lives begin, so does their downward spiral. 

The imagery and ethereal beauty of Estevan Vega's writing stuck with me. It is visceral and yet soft; strong and clear and yet confusing. The entire book was much like a dream itself, with bits and pieces coming together to evoke a response but without having total clarity of the events that got us there. You have these references to Mary's past experiences, to her father's words, but nothing is concrete. And that is why this novel works so well. If it were concrete, you wouldn't have to fill in the blanks with your own emotions and past. You wouldn't be able to step into Mary's shoes or Joshua's. This was the first book I have read by this author and I will definitely be picking up his others. 

Author Links

Read on for your excerpts!
It was Mary’s first time in the country. She’d driven through secluded parts of the state before but never like this. In her youth, she didn’t have the chance to linger anywhere long enough for the place to really get to know who she was or for her to be anything more than a passing shadow.
Her father had it set in his mind to expose his children to a diverse life and a number of experiences she now kept tucked away in some deep, dark closet of herself. In spite of his un¬usual way of loving, it was never Mary’s intent to run away like she had. But the never-looking-back part came a little too easily. I have to be free. That’s what she’d said. Thought, actually. The words were never fully conceived. She supposed they lived somewhere inside of her too, with the items she preferred to leave nameless.
She glanced down at the ring on her finger; it told her she had become a skilled actress waiting for a cue to dash onto the stage. Waiting for the crescendo of jeers to label her a phony. But she couldn’t be that. She was a bride to be, after all; “the perfect sparrow,” as Joshua called her.
Mary pulled her eyes away from the engagement ring for a minute, long enough to study Joshua’s profile. Such an ef¬fortless piece of art it was. The shadow of the evening sunlight poured in from the windshield and from the blue skies beyond, making his features seem even more magical.
She liked how the hair on his chin graced it just so she’d know it was there. Nothing fancy, nothing preten¬tious, just simple and handsome. Mary especially liked the pattern his teeth fell into. A mouth had never looked so accurately composed, and without the aid of cruel metal and overpaid professionals. It was a smile that could melt any girl’s heart.
Mary didn’t realize she had been squeezing Joshua’s hand or that cutting off his circulation would cause him to swerve unintentionally. She sank back into her seat, a little embar¬rassed, mostly thankful they didn’t crash.
“Sorry,” she eventually said in a hush.
He reached for her hand again nonetheless, after letting the blood return, and kissed it. “It’s nothing.”
That smile revisited her in the stillness of the sedan. She felt so safe here with him. So known. But it wasn’t at all like she had thought it would be. Her love for Joshua wasn’t the stuff of fairy tales or high-gloss Hollywood productions; it was deeper.
Then why did it take so long for you to say yes? her mind intruded.
She didn’t have a good enough answer. Perhaps it was because this world had left its mark on her somehow. Even though she was young, it was like a year could be a lifetime. She’d fallen behind. Joshua reminded her what it felt like to be alive. She had given up on relationships before meeting him, claiming they were nothing more than an insecure girl’s ego trip. A trip she had sworn off.
But oaths could be broken, couldn’t they? Couldn’t she mask that part of herself that believed love could never really work? She felt sure she could, and she would.


Mary was taken from the porch for a moment. Her eyes drifted to the willow tree planted on the front lawn. Its roots stretched across the dirt-and-pebble driveway and a number of other spots around its formidable trunk. At first, Mary squinted to see what was carved at the center. She walked down the porch steps to get a clearer look. Joshua didn’t notice. He was busy jangling his keys and trying to break in out of frustration because the lock now refused to budge.
As she edged closer, the carving in the willow tree became clearer. It was a solitary word no one would raise a question about. A forgettable something, really. Nothing elaborate or poetic. Just simple, scratched into the bark. It read, Once.
Who put it here? she wondered.
Just then, Mary glimpsed a shadow from the road that led to their future driveway, which she could see herself pressuring Joshua to get paved as soon as humanly possible. The shadow captured her glance when she touched the tree, felt the cut-up pieces that comprised the fragile, infant word. She swore she saw a face too with the shadow. It was a man with a soft complexion and a beard. A black hat kept his long hair neat and tucked. He had on a lengthy coat as well, and his teeth appeared yellow, glistening in the moonlight as he smiled at her from the road.
But then he was gone. Suddenly, a fog drifted in from the woods, and the chill forced her to blink. And shudder a little. She turned on the spot and saw Joshua coming closer.
She reached for his arm.
“What’s got you all jumpy?” he asked.
“It’s awful dark out here.”
“Yeah. Looks like we’ll have to get used to that,” Joshua said. “Hmm, did you notice our voices echo out here too?” Without awaiting a response, he repeated, “Echo!”
“Stop it,” she demanded.
“Because you never know who could be out this time of night.”
Tell him, Mary. Tell him what you saw. Tell him you saw
a man, well, what looked like a man, with long hair and a beard and a black hat and….
That is what you saw, isn’t it?
“I got cold all of a sudden, Joshua. I want to head back now.”
“Okay,” he said, embracing her. “Let’s get you warm.” He unlocked the car with the keyless entry device.
Mary immediately went for the passenger door and sank into her seat, fastening her belt as tight as it would go. Joshua walked slowly, however, intensifying the tension inside her.
Just tell him what you saw.
Mary shut her eyes and pictured the garden. Maybe her mind had invented the man in black. Her mind had invented things and ideas before, so it wasn’t all that strange, was it? An imagination could be a dangerous thing, a very dangerous thing, the years had taught her.
Joshua opened the driver’s side door and slipped into his seat. He started the car and backed out. Mary looked out the window as a branch scraped the front hood. She couldn’t help but feel saddened by the carving there in the heart of the wil¬low tree. In a matter of seconds, they were backing out of the driveway, leaving the property of the mansion, and heading back to the city.


Joshua hung up the phone and stared at his computer screen for a moment. Suddenly the design of a new skyscraper didn’t seem that important. Mary’s doubts were getting harder to battle, which was the reason he had extended his hours and had become selective at when they saw each other. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be with her; it was that every time he got close, hearing the quiver in her voice or seeing the slant in her eye when she murmured that she loved him, intensified the sting.
As a boy, he’d envisioned his life a little differently. Making it through high school without getting into trouble. Going to college to be one of the world’s most esteemed architects. Graduating with a fiancĂ©e who would love him as much as he’d love her. But these snapshots never told the whole story, only glimpsed it in oddly arranged photographs. They never let him in on the fact that, though these things would come, they’d come in their own time. He’d gone to school—several schools, actually—but more in search of the right woman than the right degree program. Why? Why did it matter so much with whom he spent his life? Why did it become such a burden?
“Because we’re made to love,” his father had told him when he was young. “We are made to love.” Five words he still couldn’t fathom completely. It was in him to be this way, to throw his heart and soul into a person, even if that person didn’t know what to do with it. It wasn’t some kind of calcula¬tion; it was part of who he was. Transfer student looking for love. His roommates often snickered at his lofty ideals, at his always believing that his true romance could be found.
Joshua graduated. But the soul mate he had longed for since he could remember wasn’t there to see him get his diploma, to see that he could finish something and finish it strong.
Contemplative, Joshua leaned back in his chair and loos¬ened his tie. Through the glass doors of his office, he saw his best friend, Matthew. The one who had invited him to the art gallery downtown one night after work. The one who intro¬duced him to the love of his life.
“Better late than never, right?” Matthew whispered into his ear when they both noticed Mary’s slender figure from across the room. Her art was breathtaking, but it was more than her talent which attracted him to her, he knew. She was showing off one of her pieces from the collection to an elderly couple when he invented a reason to interrupt and ask her to dinner.
Matthew had always been a good friend. Joshua was grateful to have him as one of the few people from college with whom he remained in contact. Always the wing man. The decision to hire him as an executive had been an easy one to make.
“Better late than never,” Joshua said with a sigh. Perhaps that was the lens through which he had to view Mary. Several weeks came and went before she decided to finally open up to him for real. She agreed to his dinner date, but only because of his persistence that night and because her eyes couldn’t find a justifiable reason to escape his. She agreed to more dates because he continually found excuses to run into her on his walks home from the firm. The fact that her gallery sat just a few blocks away compelled him to drop by whenever possible. But even when he proposed, she hesitated. Why was there always this hesitation?
“Women are complicated creatures, man,” Matthew had said during a game of pool after Joshua had been seeing Mary for some time, but it wasn’t anything he didn’t already know. He didn’t want average, boring love. He craved intellect and a challenge.
No, Mary’s more than just some challenge. Joshua scratched the corner of his mouth, wishing he’d never even thought that low of her. He was so sure of his love, sure that maybe she had started out as a beautiful challenge, but that she was now a lover he could not imagine being without.
A lover who just needed time to come around. Folding his arms, he prayed it was true.

By the end of September, dawn resembled dark poetry. A spellbound earth sat behind the hills and clouds and dim but rising light. It was made new by irregular colors. The trees on the south end of the mansion flexed rebelliously out of the black dirt womb and created skinny branches. The shades of leaves faded. Mary imagined mutinous veins charging up the bark of its tree—the very same wires that showed the lifeline of every leaf that would soon slip off to die—as a nearly invisible force that plagued the world. The world was so unbalanced. When would she be able to explain the mystery of death? The mystery of change? Or perhaps no clean answer existed for why things were lost. Perhaps only the fallow grounds of the earth displayed the questions with similar unfinished lines.
Mary blinked and realized the sunrise had already come, and she had missed its final movement. She turned her gaze from the strange reality of nature to her still canvas—a pale, man-made thing desperate to come alive again with a fresh soul. Her paint¬ing had no beginning and no end. Where was her inspiration?
The light reaching down from a sky with no conviction seemed like a curse. There was no common ground in her, she knew that now more than ever. Maybe there had never been. She was purgatory, if such a wretched place could be conceived while wives were left empty.
The sounds of her husband hammering in the hallway less than fifty feet away encompassed her. Every time he swung against that drywall, she felt her brain brush up against her skull, wondering if ever he’d hit it hard enough to render her unconscious.
The center of her quivered at the thought of being reunited with him. He didn’t deserve to have her. Nor did the sky, with all of its apathy and neglect. Stuck in this spot. Stuck in this house. Stuck in this body with no life. Her roots had been planted deep, with no true comprehension that these grounds would seek to contain her for eternities no dream could compose.