“Ready to Roll” by Suzanne Brockmann

19 Apr

I first got this novella sometime in early 2017, but I was lucky enough to attend RWA National Conference in Orlando that year in July, and I snagged a signed copy at the literacy signing.

Then it languished in the TBR room¹ until January this year, when I read it for SLWendy’s TBR Challenge.

Sadly, what with one thing and another, the review was not written on time :head hanging in shame:

Ah well, in the ‘better late than never’ category, here you have it.

Warning: one of the characters lives in an abusive situation, another (minor) character is the victim of spousal abuse; there’s homophobia and general bigotry. Oh, and some cursing.

“Ready to Roll” by Suzanne Brockmann

This novella is the third in a trilogy of short-ish stories set in the Troubleshooters’ world, centered on SEAL Izzy Zanella. The three stories take place within a year of the events in Breaking the Rules, which was the last novel in the series for half a dozen years,² until Some Kind of Hero came out.

Here’s the blurb from my print copy (yes, the repetitions too):

The only easy day is yesterday. Basic Underwater Demotion/SEAL training is known for being the toughest, meanest, most physically punishing program in the entire United States Military, and a new crop of tadpoles have arrived in Coronado eager to prove their worth–to make it through Hell Week, and become US Navy SEALs.

Although Izzy prefers assignments out in the “real world,” heś 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.

As Ben deals with the type of too-serious high school drama that could involve a body count, Izzy is intrigued by “Boat Squad John,” a misfit team of young SEAL candidates all named John, including the intriguing Seagull, his swim buddy Timebomb, and Seagull’s nemesis Hans.

Does Seagull have what it takes to 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, Brockmann introduces the SEAL officer and instructor nicknamed Grunge–LT Peter Greene–as she delivers what she does best: a story celebrating the Navy SEALs–and the women (and sometimes men) who wholeheartedly love and support them.

I will come right out and say that this is one of those stories/books that you would only fully enjoy if you are already a fan of the series, the characters, and the author’s voice. Not because it’s short (these stories are shorter than Ms Brockmann’s novels, but not really short–at a full 150 pages, they are not much shorter than many category romances), and not only because it’s set within a long running series, though of course those are factors.

Because the story is part of a series with a large cast of characters, and the last in a trilogy of stories involving a subset of those characters, there is not a lot of space given to explaining relationships, levels of friendship, length and type of history between characters, etc.

What truly sets this one apart is the structure.

Ms Brockmann usually writes from what she calls “deep point of view.” As a reader, this feels as close as a writer can go without writing in first person, and it has made this author’s writing a favorite for two decades (and counting). There are usually two or three story lines running through her books; sometimes we get resolution for only one of these stories, sometimes two, but, as a rule, there’s at least one of these secondary stories/relationships carrying from one book to the next (or, more accurately, through several books).

In this book there are three different stories happening simultaneously around Izzy and his family, and they are all pretty much resolved by the last page. They are also all written in different…well, voices. No, I don’t mean… Let me ‘splain.

First off, each section is told from the point of view of a different character involved in that particular story line. Second, some of those sections are written in the traditional third person narration, while others are told by the character to the reader (totally breaking the fourth wall, as it were, up to and including stage instructions [i.e., “walks away” or “clearly choked up, can’t speak”]).

We have the sweet, yet full of very real drama, story of Ben’s crush, told mostly from his point of view, fully in third person. We have the story of Boat Squad John’s Hell Week, told to the reader by some five or six different characters. And we have a peek into the lives of new parents Dan and Jennilynn Gillman, learning to cope with a baby who will. not. sleep. (but who will cry loudly, pitifully, constantly, for hours on end).

All of which means that if you are not comfortable with more than ten characters with speaking roles, or with changing points of view, or with characters talking directly to you (which can feel a bit gimmicky at times, I grant you), this one will leave you cold.

I enjoyed it and read it in one very quick sitting (which is an immense relief, as I’ve struggled to read for going on three years), and I basically read it again pretty much on the spot…with mixed results.

Out of the three plot threads, I liked the Boat Squad John one the best; partly because the nuts and bolts about the SEALs’ training has always been one of my favorite parts of the series as a whole, but also because I was really intrigued by the character of Seagull.

I found the parts that deal with Jenn and Danny dealing with their newborn very relatable, because my own firstborn did not sleep through the night until he was almost two years old, and cried so much (and so loud) for the first four or five months of his life, that a neighbor point blank asked me what was wrong with him. (Turns out nothing was wrong with him, he just. didn’t. sleep.) I imagine that most people who’ve had children would at the very least sympathize with their struggles, if not quite enjoy them…

The story thread that didn’t really hold up well for me in re-reading it was the one involving Ben. Don’t get me wrong, it is well written, and it addresses some rather serious issues, such as bullying and domestic/spousal abuse. My problem is that, on the re-read, I couldn’t fully buy into the “adolescent love is as deep/long lasting/true as adult love.” (This is probably why I have so much trouble reading YA and so-called New Adult romances, by the way.) Obviously, this is very much a personal thing, though.

As I said above, I pretty much inhaled it the first time, but this is not one in the series that I would re-read in full; taking everything, from the narrative structure to the characterization and story itself, into account, I’m giving “Ready to Roll” 6.50 out of 10.

~* ~

¹ Yes, you read that right, TBR room. Long ago, it was my eldest offspring’s bedroom. When he went to college, it was the room my mother used when she came to stay for long visits. Now, almost every inch of the bed and tables (and a major percentage of the floor) are covered in books, book piles, totes full of books…most of which have not yet been read.

² I am not counting Do or Die here; when it came out in 2014, it was supposed to be a spin-off series, as it were, about the Sarasota Troubleshooters’ office³. I am not sure whether that idea was fully abandoned, or if it’s just been delayed for a while.

³ To no one’s surprise, my paperback copy is sitting in one of the many book piles in the TBR room, heaven help me.

10 Responses to ““Ready to Roll” by Suzanne Brockmann”

  1. KeiraSoleore 19/04/2018 at 3:11 PM #

    I have to laugh at your TBR Room. I have TBR books on various shelves. And now that I am reading on Kindle as well, I see the number of books there starting to creep up. Woe!

    • azteclady 19/04/2018 at 3:21 PM #

      I’m telling you, it would be anxiety inducing if I didn’t fully realize that I harm no one by indulging my bibliophilia ::shrug::

      • willaful 20/04/2018 at 12:00 AM #

        If I didn’t have a son, I’d probably have a TBR room. 🙂

        My niece was a real cryer too. My mother always says “she was never happy in the shape of a child.” She’s grown up delightful. Son was a super happy baby, but a miserable adolescent and teen. I don’t know which is worse.

      • azteclady 20/04/2018 at 6:43 AM #

        My mother used to say that offspring will deprive you of sleep on and off for the rest of your life; now that my own are adults, I can attest to that truth.

  2. willaful 20/04/2018 at 3:15 AM #

    I’ve realized that I’m a couple story behind in this series. I’ve been working on catching up on series, so onward!

    • azteclady 20/04/2018 at 6:34 AM #

      There is a series theme to the TBR at some point, no? 😉

  3. Bona 30/04/2018 at 1:38 AM #

    Glad to see you commenting again! Your TBR room is just awesome! I have my TBR books scattered all around my house. Anyway, I think this is the Izzy novella that I loved most. You’re right –it’s for fans only. There are many of us that can relate to Dan & Jen. Both my children did not sleep well until they were three years old. And the second one was crying all the time during her first three months. My partner usually says that we didn’t have a third child because of this. It was so exhausting!

    • azteclady 30/04/2018 at 6:41 AM #

      ::waving:: Hi, Bona!

      Yes, I envy parents whose first child is more manageable; I was traumatized myself, because while people do say you’ll lose sleep, no one says, “baby won’t sleep more than 20 minutes at a stretch, and will scream his head off if he’s not nursing…for months”

  4. willaful 08/05/2018 at 4:31 PM #

    So I’ve been catching up and am about halfway through this (audiobook.) I’m feeling a little irked about Ben deliberately outing [character.] He could’ve worked around that. But it was a tense situation, so perhaps hard to think things through.

    • azteclady 10/05/2018 at 9:12 AM #

      And, as much as we are being told that Ben is very mature and such, he’s still 16 (if I remember correctly), so not totally unexpected that he would mess up there.

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