Ready to Roll by Suzanne Brockmann

Silhouettes of five guys standing against a blue sky. (It's a really boring and ugly cover.)Why I read it:  This was a gift because I was too cheap to buy it myself (it’s expensive for a novella – really, $6 – $8 at Kobo – is just TOO MUCH).

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  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.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I’ve been a fan of Suzanne Brockmann’s novels and in particular her Troubleshooters series for years. They tend to hold up well for me on re-reads. I didn’t even get super cross about the whole Decker, Sophia, Dave and Tracy thing. So I say this in love. Please for the love of all that is good in a book, do not write stage directions in first person narratives. This is not Twitter.

Ready to Roll has, not unusually for Brockmann, many POV characters. It also has an unusual structure. Mostly at the beginning of chapters (but not exclusively) there are first person POV sections and these sections mostly drove me around the twist. They were full of stage direction. But Ready to Roll is not a play. It’s a novella.

He was close—this (holds up hand, finger and thumb less than an inch apart) close—to ringing out.

(Leans in) What’s the grinder? (laughs) The grinder is part of the BUD/S training area in Coronado.

Hell Week? (shakes his head) Hell Week wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

There were many MANY of these asides (cries) and it was both distracting (leans forward and bangs head on desk) and annoying. (As I believe I have just demonstrated.)  Please authors. Don’t ever do this. (Oh god MAKE IT STOP).

I sincerely hope that the audiobook narrator leaves those sections out because as irritating as it was to read it would be a billion times more so to hear. I’m not even exaggerating.

Also, perhaps it’s time to let Izzy Zanella go. Really, he doesn’t need to be in every book. I like Izzy – I didn’t even think he was a creeper for getting with Eden when she was barely an adult. But he’s had his time to shine. Let’s move on. Please.

And, yeah, okay. I get it. Hell Week is HARD.  (Did you see what I did there?)

There’s even a chapter where the extended version link interrupts the flow of the story because the extended version slowed things down. Um. What??

What else? But. There were parts of the story that I loved. When they weren’t in first person, I liked the story about the SEAL candidates going through Hell Week. The team dynamics, the nicknames – they were great. Sure, there were parts of the story that were told not shown and they were told (bafflingly) by Izzy or some other observer rather than someone in the action but I was able to overlook that (probably because my eyes were bleeding from the stage directions.)

One of the things Brockmann does really well is whet my appetite. There were all these bits where I was getting hints at what was to come and I was all “What? What’s happening? Tell me!” in the way I get when I’m invested in the story and I want to know what’s next. This is the good type of reader frustration for me.

And, I liked the other, unrelated story about Ben Gillman and how he helps true love blossom between two guys from school, one of whom is the bully who beat him (Ben) up in an earlier book.

There was a section with Dan and Jenni and their new baby, Colin, who has colic and cries all the time. It took me back a few years because I have so been there. It wasn’t really a coherent story as such, with a clear beginning, middle and end like the other two subplots but it didn’t bother me either.

I raced through the book and read it in two evenings when I had very little time to read. When Brockmann is on, she is on. She had a good story in her head and when the writing tics (yeah, okay, there are writing tics, you know?) (shakes head) weren’t getting in the way, I could see it and enjoy it.

I wasn’t the only one who had this reaction although you wouldn’t know that from the Goodreads rating.

As an experiment in trying something new and enhancing the book with links etc, it failed. As a story, it (mostly) worked – when I wasn’t being distracted by the experiment, aka hot mess. I was going to give the book a C but then I decided to drop it down a notch because describing Dan Gillman (ie a not-refugee, merely a tired new dad) as sporting the “refugee look” is not cool.

Grade: C-



2 comments on “Ready to Roll by Suzanne Brockmann

  1. Brie

    Izzy Zanella needs to be put out to pasture. (looks at camera, smiles) (this review makes her remember the book, cries)

    My only wish for the next book is that there are no unfinished sequel-bait* romances, because the past two books set up characters and stories and then the series didn’t continue.

    *Ha! Who am I kidding; this novella already introduces a shit-ton of sequel bait.

  2. Kaetrin

    @Brie: The sequel-bait is strong in this one (nods sagely).

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