November 3, 2016

Review: Ready to Roll by Suzanne Brockmann

Cover description: the black silhouette of five shirtless men stands against a sky background, with the title written in huge red letter in the middle of the cover.Petty Officer First ClassIrving “Izzy” Zanella: 
Oh, yeah. I remember BUD/S training Hell Week as clearly as yesterday. 
I went in with a barely healed broken rib—and a playlist of music, well, (in an old man voice) back then, my children, when I was but a wee tadpole, we called ’em mix tapes. (normal voice) And I made a few especially for Hell Week.
Oh, yeah. I remember reading this novella as clearly as yesterday (it was yesterday).

I went in with barely controlled expectations, because I’ve been burned by this series before and the self-published novellas have been more miss than hit, but I’ve been reading Ms. Brockmann for years, so even at $6 (did I say it was a novella?) I couldn’t resist. (smiles sheepishly at the camera)

And, yeah, you’re probably wondering what is happening with this review, so now you know how I felt reading this book. Yeah. (shrugs)

This new short-ish story--I would say it’s closer to Category-length--is, once again, set in the Troubleshooters world, a series that’s been around since 2000 or 2001, so I’m going to assume you’re familiar with it. It’s also a series I thought was over, but I guess it’s been resurrected for good and bad, and boy, there’s a lot of bad. Also, this book was part of a Kickstarter reward to finance Brockmann’s new movie, so that might explain a few things.

I’m getting a bit ahead, though, so let me go back. Basically, we have two unconnected storylines. The first one is about a new set of SEALS-in-training that are your standard sequel bait, and the other is about Ben Gillman’s unrequited crush and the redemption of the seemingly homophobic bully who beat him up in a previous novella. In the middle of it, there’s a small subplot about how Danny and Jenni, the hero and heroine of a previous book, are now new parents of a baby who won’t stop crying, which looks designed so that a parade of characters from the series will stop by to play babysitter and help out.

Oh, and then there’s Izzy, who has absolutely no reason to be in this book, but it’s somehow at the center of the first plotline narrating what’s happening, repeatedly info-dumping about how difficult it is to become a SEAL, and rendering what would be a pretty entertaining story into something unnecessarily passive, because there’s nothing better than having an intense situation narrated by an onlooker whose only reason for being there is that he’s somehow become (to some, not me) the most interesting and beloved character in the series. So when you see this advertise as an Izzy-centric story, do not expect him to do anything.

What else? Oh, yeah! As you might have noticed, every POV change opens with a paragraph or page(s) of the character commenting on something in first person. Yeah.

Petty Officer First Class (and new father)Dan Gillman: 
Hell Week? (shakes his head) Hell Week wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done. 
Although, I don’t want you to think that I’m making light of Hell Week. Because I’m not. Hell Week is… It’s a huge deal to get through it, to finish up Phase One. Of course, Phase Two sucks just about as much, but you don’t know that when you’re in Phase One.Was I proud I made it through? Absolutely. 
But I never doubted myself. I had to make it. I had no plan B. (smiles) 
In a way, it’s like taking care of Colin. Jenni and I have a baby now. And he’s not the easiest baby, that’s true, but we’re responsible for him. For his physical and emotional safety. For his well-being across the board. 
Do we wish he slept more and cried less? (laughs) Hell, yeah. But how can you fault a baby for acting like a baby? (shrugs) For me it’s simple. Sooner or later, he’ll stop crying, and sooner or later he’ll sleep.

The book is third person POV, but these intros/asides are always first person and quite random. These first person interviews (?) function as the worst type of shortcut. At one point Dan and Jenni’s baby gets sick, but instead of seeing what happens, they tell us after. It’s so inconsistent and awkward. And those parenthetical stage directions? They are all over the first person sections. (stands up) (throws Kindle at the wall) (cries because Kindle is broken) Someone who read it please tell me, is this supposed to be a documentary about Hell Week? Is that what’s going on? If so, then what about the sections from Ben’s POV or his friend’s or Jenni’s? Or the ones about parenting? What is happening?!?!

And, yeah, the yeahs. There are 96 of them, according to my Kindle search. So if you thought this review was getting annoying, imagine reading a whole book of yeahs.

On the other hand, Ben’s plot was an adorable YA-ish short story about unrequited love (not with the bully, and not even a romance). It only gets slightly over the top, but that’s to be expected. I liked everything that was going on with the new characters, and if the whole story had been more restrained, I would have come close to loving it. But there were so many cringe-worthy distractions that kept pulling me out of the story. My favorite, though, is the scene that was cut short because “it slowed things down”, but when you reach that scene in the book, there’s a paragraph-long author’s note in the middle of the page linking to the longer, baby-heavy (because this thing is also an extended baby-logue) scene. I do love it when the book I’m reading unnecessarily interrupts the book I’m reading! God forbids something as banal as editing gets in the way of fan service.

It’s a shame because Ms. Brockmann remains an engaging storyteller who creates compelling characters that pull me in and make me care. That is still true here, so I hope the next book, which will feature a hero who is introduced in this novella, will focus on the new characters instead of the old ones, who should stay far, far away enjoying their happy endings.

Grade: 2

Synopsis (even the blurb needs restraint):
Suzanne Brockmann returns to the action-packed world of her bestselling Troubleshooters series with a new novella featuring U.S. Navy SEAL Izzy Zanella, his extended family, and his kickass teammates in SEAL Team Sixteen. The only easy day is yesterday. BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training is known for being the toughest, meanest, most physically punishing program in the entire U.S. Navy, and a new crop of tadpoles have arrived in Coronado eager to prove their worth—to make it through Hell Week, and become U.S. Navy SEALs. Although Izzy prefers assignments out in the “real world,” he’s glad to be an instructor for the current BUD/S class, because it allows him to spend time at home with his wife, Eden, and her lively and lovable extended family. Eden’s sixteen-year-old brother, Ben, is dealing with a new crush and a homophobic bully in his high school, but it soon appears that things are not as they seem. Meanwhile, Eden’s other brother (and Izzy’s SEAL teammate and former frenemy) Danny Gillman and his wife Jenn have just had a baby who has colic and cries constantly. As Ben deals with the type of too-serious high school drama that could involve a body count, and Danny and Jenn juggle a new baby, lack of sleep, and postpartum blues, Izzy is intrigued by “Boat Squad John,” a misfit team of young SEAL candidates all named John, including the intriguing young Seagull, his swim buddy Timebomb, and Seagull’s nemesis Hans. Does Seagull have what it takes keep Boat Squad John still standing when the dust of BUD/S Hell Week settles or will they ring out? Set in Coronado during BUD/S training Hell Week, in Ready to Roll Brockmann introduces the SEAL officer and instructor nicknamed Grunge—Lt. Peter Greene—as she delivers what she does best: a story celebrating the U.S. Navy SEALs—and the women (and sometimes men) who wholeheartedly love and support them. (About 56,000 words or 225 pages) Note: Ready to Roll is the third installment in a trio of stories featuring Izzy Zanella that starts in Free Fall and continues in Home Fire Inferno (Burn Baby Burn).
Ready to Roll by Suzanne Brockmann
CreateSpace. October 4, 2016

8 comments:

  1. Wasn't it Izzy who was into the pregnant girl who was sister to one of the other SEALs who miscarried and it turned out there were other shenanigans etc? That was when i dropped the series and never went back to it.

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    1. Yep. Now Izzy is married to pregnant girl and is the BIL of the other SEAL who in this book has a new baby. There were LOTS of shenanigans between that book and this one, too.

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  2. Well I guess it is nice they finally got together, but when I realized she wasn't going to resolve that situation in the very next book, I had to be done.

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  3. I had much the same reaction as you did Brie (cries). Stage directions in novels needs to STOP (is amazed that stage directions in novels is a thing).

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    1. (nods) It was so distracting! But hey, we should be grateful that the whole book takes place in America, so we didn't have to deal with stage directions AND the racist, Islamophobic Fake-stan country she keeps including in her books like it's 2002.

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  4. ARGH, this sounds so aggravating!

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