Author: sarabethpollock

I'm a nerd. I love SDCC, Las Vegas, writing, sports, comics, SyFy, the outdoors, The Twilight Zone, Doctor Who, Star Trek, American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, NASA and outer space, String Theory (also known as M Theory). I like to keep my nerdy options open.

Review: Gabriel’s Promise by Sylvain Reynard

Julia and Gabriel Emerson are basking in the joy of their first child, Clare. No matter how many pink flamingos adorn their yard, nothing will get in the way of their happiness in this blissful moment. However, Gabriel receives email has the potential to send shock waves through their marriage. This is Gabriel’s Promise.

Gabriel has been invited to Edinburgh as part of a prestigious lecture series, but accepting the offer means leaving his infant daughter and beloved wife back in Boston. Should Julia pack up and leave with her husband, she risks losing the academic standing she worked so hard to create. In short, it’s a mess.

Interestingly, academia has always been the Emerson family’s greatest passion and greatest foe. It brought Julianne back to Gabriel, it drove them apart and it brought them together again. Now their bond is stronger than ever before, even more so with their daughter, but the prospect of moving overseas or having to endure a long distance relationship introduces a maelstrom into their previously peaceful waters.

While Gabriel ponders his dilemma, Julia deals with complications from giving birth to Clare and she tries to keep them from her husband. Like most secrets, though, they have a tendency to implode at the worst possible moments, putting even more stress on the couple while she prepares to return to her coursework.

There’s also a mysterious threat lingering in the darkness, one that’s tied to Gabriel’s art collection on loan to the Uffizi Gallery. While the biggest honor of his professional career dangles like a carrot under Gabriel’s nose, he must find a way to put the needs of his family first.

Longtime Sylvain Reynard fans will appreciate Gabriel’s Promise because it weaves all of his books together with one silky white satin ribbon. Gabriel’s Inferno gave rise to the Gabriel Series, but Reynard didn’t stop there. In less than a decade he managed to create three distinct “worlds” that are all tied together by the city of Florence, Dante, works of art and themes of love, hope and redemption.

Without spoiling anything, Gabriel’s Promise is a book best enjoyed if you have read all of Reynard’s other books. I’ve seen other people suggest that it can be read in any order, and while that’s mostly true, I think it makes more sense if you read it last so that you can fully appreciate all of the Easter Eggs that pop up. After all, Gabriel and Julia made cameo appearances in the Florentine Series and Gabriel’s Promise fills in lots of gaps, bringing a brand new perspective to both series. 

Everything about Gabriel’s Promise is perfect. Gabriel is delightfully stubborn and occasionally obstinate, but he’s always the loving and thoughtful husband and father. Julia is a wonderful mother and she’s also quite adept at managing the demands of her PhD program while tackling motherhood and Gabriel’s, ahem, needs….

Reading Sylvain Reynard’s books is a full sensory experience that wraps itself tantalizingly around the story itself. It’s not enough to read the words and devour the story, rather the story devours the reader in the most delectable way. Reynard’s prowess with language is enjoyable in itself, but I have to think that somewhere Dante himself is smiling at Reynard’s uncanny ability to combine a love story with themes of intrigue, history, art and religion. 

My biggest problem with Gabriel’s Promise is that I want more. I read it in a day, unable to put it down. Thank goodness Gabriel’s Inferno premieres on Passionflix in March, otherwise I might be climbing the walls in earnest.

Gabriel’s Promise gets five well-deserved stars.

Review: ‘Meet Me on Love Lane’ is an absolute gem

Meet Me on Love Lane is the second book in Nina Bocci’s Hopeless Romantics series, but this charming tale is so much more than your run of the mill romantic fiction. 

There’s nothing like picking up a book without knowing what to expect, only to find yourself drawn in by the compelling story and relatable characters. I had to stop myself from devouring Meet Me on Love Lane too quickly because I really wanted to take the time to really savor every moment. (That said, I finished it in three days)

Charlotte Bishop finds herself on a bus to Hope Lake after New York becomes too hostile an environment for her. Hope Lake is where she lived until she was ten, at which point a nasty divorce pulled her away from her hometown and her mother prevented her from returning. Upon her return she discovers that Hope Lake is nothing like she remembered.

With the help of her vivacious grandmother, her father and her childhood friends, Charlotte tries to embrace the town even though she’s planning on a return to New York at the end of summer. What she didn’t count on was being courted by her father’s partner, one of the town’s doctors, or the handsome English teacher who seems familiar even though she’s not sure why. As she struggles with her past, Charlotte’s once uncertain future comes into sharp focus the longer she stays in Hope Lake…and that’s not a bad thing. 

Meet Me on Love Lane is more fiction than romance, and I think that’s an important distinction because even though love and relationships are central themes in the book, it doesn’t read like a traditional romance. Charlotte has a complicated and rather traumatic history, and even though it might seem like a summer in idyllic Hope Lake would be a soothing balm for her troubled soul, the exact opposite is actually the case. Moreover, she’s not looking for love when she arrives – in fact, the story is a testament to how love appears when you least expect it but need it the most. 

USA Today bestselling author Nina Bocci is a masterful storyteller, and she has created a wonderfully complex playground for her characters. The fictional town of Hope Lake comes to life in vivid detail, and Bocci has taken time to ensure that each character is robustly multidimensional. Charlotte is someone that is easy to relate to as she tries to move forward and put her past behind her. She’s far from perfect, and her quirks are what make it so easy to root for her to succeed, not only in love but in life. 

With a healthy mix of wit, humor and drama, Meet Me on Love Lane is an utterly enchanting and captivating story that whisks the reader to the charming town of Hope Lake. If you’re looking for something to read on the plane or if you need a good story to help you unwind at the end of a hectic day, this is the book for you.

Meet Me on Love Lane is available in stores and online. The next installment of Bocci’s Hopeless Romantics series, The Ingredients of You and Me, is due in April 2020 and is available for preorder now. 

The Foul Ball-Popcorn Incident

It’s the summer of 1999.  Freshman year of college is over.  It’s the season after the 1998 Padres went to the World Series.  Baseball fever is still burning in San Diego and voters are excited about Petco Park.  (Incidentally, I voted in favor of the Petco Park initiative in the first election I ever voted in after I turned 18)

My best friend and I decided to catch a midweek baseball game at Qualcomm because someone had tickets on the first base line that they couldn’t use.  So off we went.

The seats were great.  We were about three rows up from the field and we were right in line with Wally Joyner at first base.  My friend had a crush on catcher Ben Davis, so her attention was diverted when the pitch was thrown, the bat connected with the ball, and a pop up fly ball was sent high into the sky.

Like I said, we were given the tickets and we left for the game without any real preparation. This meant I didn’t bring any protection.  No, not that kind of protection.  I’m talking about my trusty baseball glove.  I’d never caught a foul ball before; I always went to games with my glove in hopes of catching one.

As I looked up, it became painfully obvious that the ball was going to drop straight in our seats.  Time stopped—it literally stopped—as I started to ponder my predicament.

I don’t have my glove.

That ball is coming right down at me.

She’s not going to catch the ball.  It’s up to me.

If I catch the ball barehanded, I could break my hand.  That is not good.

I don’t have my damn glove.

I can’t possibly catch it in my left hand.

Everyone is watching me.

I don’t have my f—ing glove!

I don’t have my glove, but I DO have this bucket of popcorn.  Hmm.  I wonder if this will work….

When time started working again, my friend realized what was about to happen and started to scream. As if that was going to help. Geez.

Suddenly, as I moved to position the popcorn bucket, the man behind us reached between our seats (with his glove poised ABOVE my popcorn bucket) and caught the ball.

He caught MY ball.

The moral of the story:  Never go to a baseball game without protection.  Trust me on this one.

For Sports Fans, A Night of Highs and Lows

It’s Opening Day in baseball and the National Championship game in college basketball.  For sports fans, it’s a double whammy.

As a Padres fan, I went into Opening Day with the ol’ “hope springs eternal” mantra on repeat in my head.  After all, last season the team spent a small fortune on a pool of talent, and this season we have new manager Andy Green at the helm.  Opening Day is a time of hope and optimism, and nothing says optimism like a new manager sitting on a talented team.  Tyson Ross got the start against our I-5 rival Los Angeles Dodgers, and it seems like nerves may have gotten the best of him after 7 earned runs and a slew of other not-so-good stats.  Clayton Kershaw, by contrast, left the game after 7 shutout innings.  Adding insult to injury was a solid performance from Adrian Gonzalez who, after years away from the Padres franchise, still earns a warm reception at Petco Park as the one who got away.

It was a rough night for Padres fans in San Diego, but the hope is still out there, and we have another shot for a win against the Dodgers tomorrow night.

As soon as the baseball game was over, I switched channels to the NCAA National Championship basketball game.  Admittedly I’d been flipping channels between innings, so I knew the game featuring #1 seed North Carolina and #2 seed Villanova was tight.  At one point in the second half Villanova had a double digit lead that had Michael Jordan on the edge of his seat.

With 4.7 seconds left, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit an improbable three to tie the game at 74.  Paige was recovering his footing after dodging Ryan Arcidacono’s dive.  During the timeout, Arcidacono helped wipe the floor, which is very considerate considering he’s the guy who inbounds the ball for Villanova with 4.7 seconds left.  He gets the ball across the court, where it gets passed to Kris Jenkins, who is wide open and sinks a three to win the game.

Cue the confetti.  Villanova wins 77-74, and Michael Jordan gives the world a new Crying Jordan meme to play with.

It was a night of highs and lows.  Congrats to Villanova on one of the craziest finishes in NCAA Tournament history, and good job to the Dodgers.  (Sorry, couldn’t bring myself to congratulate them…though props go out to new manager Dave Roberts because he’s a good guy)

A buzzer beating 3-pointer is much more defeating than a 15 point loss, but a loss is a loss at the end of the day.

In the case of North Carolina, I have no doubt they’ll be back at the Big Dance next year.

For the Padres, it’s a drop in the bucket.  Never mind that tonight’s loss was the largest Opening Day shutout in MLB history.  Pfft.  There are over a hundred-something games left in the season, so it’s safe to say we’ll get ‘em next time around.  Next time happens to be tomorrow.

So ends a very exciting day in the sports world.

 

Opening Day Reflections: My Own (Brief) Baseball Career

It’s Opening Day and ballparks across the nation are celebrating the return of America’s sport: Baseball.

I grew up with baseball.  My father, having two daughters, made sure that I could play baseball and throw a football, which ended up being really useful for me later in life.  I liked baseball so much that I quit Girl Scouts at the ripe age of seven so that I could focus on my baseball career.  Who needs to sit around singing songs and making snickerdoodles, anyway?

However, in 1987 my options as a girl were limited.  There were no softball teams, so during t-ball signups my dad marched me down to the Peninsula Little League and signed me up.  I was one of two girls in the entire league, and I was incredibly fortunate to end up on a team comprised of my guy friends from school.  Our coach was not only my best guy friend’s father, but he grew up with my parents, so he kept an eye out for me.

When I arrived to our first practice with a pink Rawlings glove and blue and white bows in my hair (they matched my Slices and Skills uniform, of course), there were a few laughs.  However, my best guy friend Jesse decided that if I could have a pink glove, he should have the matching blue one.  Being the coach’s son ended any further teasing about glove colors.

Not to brag, but if you’re wondering about the differences between six year old boys and girls, I can tell you that I was assigned to play first base for a reason.  I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but it had a lot to do with my ability to listen and follow directions.  I’m rather proud of that accomplishment, really.  I practiced hard and took my sport seriously.  (I think part of me was worried that if baseball didn’t work out, I’d be sent back to Girl Scouts, and that just wasn’t going to happen)

I’ll never forget the game that won me the team ball.  I don’t remember much of the game itself.  I have no idea what the score was.  I don’t even remember if I got a hit.  I remember this game because it was the game where I realized that even though I was part of the team, as a girl I’d never be treated the same as my guy teammates.

I was at first base when the kid came up to bat.  He connected with the ball and sent a grounder straight to our short stop, Johnny Rod.  Johnny’s dad was the third base coach and Johnny was the oldest and biggest guy on our team.  He always had a huge chip on his shoulder and thought he was the best at everything he did, and he had no trouble letting me know that I didn’t belong at first base, let alone on the team.  Johnny snatched up the ball and threw it in my direction.  The runner was heading toward the bag, but Johnny had thrown the ball way too high.  Summoning up every ounce of bounce in my six year old body (taking gymnastics at the same time didn’t hurt, either), I jumped up and grabbed the ball in my pink glove.  I landed and made the out in the nick of time.  My teammates cheered for me, but I wasn’t paying attention to them.  I knew full well Johnny had thrown the ball too high on purpose.  And I wasn’t the only one.  Johnny’s dad left his spot at third base in an instant and was on the field chewing his son out in front of everyone.  The game stopped until he was done, and he made Johnny shout an apology to me before we could continue.

When the game was over, I pulled my cap off and my beribboned pigtails fell to my shoulders.  “Hey, that’s a girl playing first base!” one of the kids on the opposing team yelled, pointing at me.  I guess the pink glove hadn’t tipped him off…

Coach gave me the team ball for my outstanding performance that day.  It was a great moment for me, but I knew that Johnny was really irked about the whole thing, and I knew it didn’t help that his own father was heaping praise on me.  It made things awkward from that point forward.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my days playing baseball were numbered.  There was only so far that a girl could go in the little league.  Even when I stopped playing, I enjoyed going to games with my pink glove in hopes of catching a foul ball.  (That’s a story for another day)

As I sit and watch Opening Day coverage, I like to think back about my own baseball days.  Despite my brief baseball career, I’m quite happy being a spectator all these years later.  Baseball is a special sport that holds a revered place in our nation’s heart.   Boy or girl, man or woman, young or old, it captivates us and carries us through the long summer months and gives us something to cheer for (even when your team is losing).

Welcome back, baseball.  We’ve missed you.

Harley Quinn #26

Single and Ready to Kick Some Ass: Harley Quinn #26

No one likes ending a relationship.  For Harley Quinn, she had to end two at the same time: her blossoming relationship with Mason and her previous relationship with Mason’s neighbor at Arkham, the Joker.  The strings have been cut, and Harley is finally free of the Joker.  (Something tells me he’s not going to let go so easily, though)

Now that Harley has returned home to New York, she surrounds herself with her friends as life gets back to normal.  Queenie, however, thinks that the best way to start fresh is with a new look.  When Harley awakens from her nap, she has a brand-new hairdo.  If the style looks a little familiar, it’s because we’ve seen this Harley hair on Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn.  Gone is the vibrant black and red in favor of Margot Robbie’s blonde hair with red and blue accents.  “It’s so…cinematic,” Harley breathes in delight.  Queenie also presents her with a custom made body armor jacket that features a defeated Joker behind bars with “Owned” written across the top.  It’s perfect.

Meanwhile, despite her best efforts, the mayor has been cleared of all charges.  Add to that a mysterious nemesis, and it’s another day at the office for our girl.

Harley Quinn #26, in comic shops now!

Waiting Til October: Why I’m Skipping (Postponing) The Walking Dead Season Finale

Why I’m skipping (read: postponing) the season finale of The Walking Dead.

I usually try to stay away from Twitter during big television moments that are not broadcast live.  It’s not too bad here on the West Coast given the three hour time zone gap; it’s even harder when watching Doctor Who, when I have to stay away from Twitter all day.

I’ve been pumped up about The Walking Dead’s season finale more and more as we’ve gotten closer to the big day.  I had planned to stay away from Twitter today, but like most things, I couldn’t deal with the suspense and I peeked.  After all, I’m the one in the family who opens Christmas presents because I just can’t deal with the aniticipation….  So I peeked.

But something strange happened tonight.  I’ve been home most of the day with a sinus infection, and the television has been tuned in to AMC’s The Walking Dead marathon.  The commercials were pumping me up to watch, and up until 7:30pm I’d planned to watch the finale.  And then I looked at Twitter.

It looked like the writers were pushing the action to the last few minutes of the show.  (As usual)  But then the Tweets started coming in after the end of the show, and there was a colossal sense of disappointment coming from the Internet.  There were no deaths, as had been predicted.  Someone was probably going to die by Neegan’s hands, but at the end of the episode the audience still has no idea who it was.

I’m sure the writing was solid, and I’m sure the story was compelling.  TWD writers are fantastic.  I am a fan of the show, even through the ebb and flows.  I’m not skipping the finale in protest—I’m skipping it for my own sanity!  I can wait until October, in spite of the Christmas present thing.  I know I’ll enjoy the episode much more knowing that the answer is coming up next, as opposed to watching tonight and having to wait six months to get answers.

Six.  Whole.  Months.

Yes, I definitely made the right choice….didn’t I?