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.

Do or Die by Suzanne Brockmann

Do or DieWhy I read it:  I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Navy SEAL Ian Dunn went rogue in a big way when he turned his talents to a lawless life of jewel heists and con jobs. Or so the world has been led to believe. In reality, the former Special Ops warrior is still fighting for good, leading a small band of freelance covert operatives who take care of high-stakes business in highly unofficial ways. That makes Ian the hands-down choice when the U.S. government must breach a heavily guarded embassy and rescue a pair of children kidnapped by their own father, a sinister foreign national willing to turn his own kids into casualties. Shockingly, Ian passes on the mission… for reasons he will not–or cannot–reveal.

But saying no is not an option. Especially not to Phoebe Kruger, Ian’s bespectacled, beautiful, and unexpectedly brash new attorney. Determined to see the abducted children set free, she not only gets Ian on board but insists on riding shotgun on his Mission: Impossible-style operation, whether he likes it or not.

Though Phoebe has a valuable knack for getting out of tight spots, there’s no denying the intensely intimate feelings growing between Ian and Phoebe as the team gears up for combat. But these are feelings they both must fight to control as they face an array of cold-blooded adversaries, including a vindictive mob boss who’s got Ian at the top of his hit list and a wealthy psychopath who loves murder as much as money. As they dodge death squads and play lethal games of deception, Ian and Phoebe will do whatever it takes to save the innocent and vanquish the guilty.

Or die trying.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I have missed Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters books. This isn’t a Troubleshooters book but it is a kind of offshoot of them.  Regular Brockmann readers will recognise Deb Erlanger and Joe (“Yashi”) Hirabayashi from the FBI and Martell Griffin from Force of Nature (he is a friend of Ric Alvarado’s).  Jules Cassidy even gets a mention or two but he didn’t actually appear on page (sadly).  It’s set in the same world where the Troubleshooters are and I gather that future books in this series may incorporate other TS characters in some way.

February Round Up

on Paper/eBook

Rule of Three by Kelly Jamieson – B  Very good m/m/f menage story where the characters actually talk about their relationship, their plans and (begin to) address potential traps which may arise.  Most of the book is spent developing the relationship and changing it from an m/f/m to an m/m/f.  As unrealistic as I gather they are (I understand from Twitter – my source of all the important information – that polyamory is mostly a couple who each (or maybe just one) have separate relationships with others – a triad is apparently kind of unusual), m/m/f are my favourite type of menage stories.  I felt there is more “equality” to the relationship where all three feel love and sexual desire for the other rather than the concept of the 2 guys “sharing” the woman.   The most unfortunately named Dag* is Chris’ best friend from college.  He has been out of town, having left after realising his unrequited love for Chris would remain so.  He believes Chris is relentlessly straight.  Even though they have shared a lot of women together, there has never been any touching of man bits.  Chris and Kassidy have been dating about a year and have just moved in together.  They are very much in love.  Kassidy develops feelings for Dag, he develops feelings for her and Chris eventually recognises his feelings for Dag.  Lordly it is a sexy book.  I devoured it in virtually one sitting.  The writing was good; Ms. Jamieson has a very entertaining style.  I would have liked more about their life together as a triad, a bit more about some of the practical difficulties and how they would deal together – this stuff was only just brought up at the very end and, while there were discussions, I wasn’t sure how it would work in practice and I wasn’t sure if Chris would actually talk more about his feelings (something he struggled with the whole book).  How would Kassidy’s parents react?  What would happen if there was some jealousy which arose?  Are interactions between 2 of the 3 okay or do all 3 have to be there?  To be fair, this was the getting together book, not the how it works book, but I can’t say I wasn’t curious.  Anyways, I enjoyed it quite a bit.
*I don’t know if it means the same thing here as in the US, but a “dag” is a bit of sheep’s dung caught up in the wool around their rear end and it’s NOT what I want to be thinking of in a sexy book. Especially a sexy book where there’s backdoor activity, if you know what I’m saying.
Hotel Pens by Geoffrey Knight – B  Very good m/m short about travel writer, Joe Jordan, who broke up with his lover some time ago and has been lonely ever since.  Because of his job, he’s always in hotels and he’s a keen collector of their pens.  While in New York for work, he meets Claude, a French ex-pat who is living at the Beacon Hotel and translating m/m romance books into French. Claude courts Joe and teaches him a thing or two about love, himself and New York by writing various messages in pen on Joe’s body in a kind of scavenger hunt.  I found the writing overall to be engaging and sensitive and I liked how as Joe rediscovered New York, he rediscovered himself also.  I was also happy that Joe had things to offer Claude and it wasn’t all one-sided.  The story was very short (56 pages) and ends in a HFN ending.  I wondered what would happen to the couple after – Joe is still a travel writer after all, but maybe there will be further stories for these two?  The author is Australian but I think he’s definitely been to New York, there is a great sense of place in the book.

Beginnings and Ends by Suzanne Brockmann

Why I read it: I’ve read and enjoyed all of the Troubleshooters books and I’m a fan of Jules and Robin so I downloaded this one as soon as it was available.

What it’s about:  (the blurb from Goodreads)  After years of playing the tormented actor, Joe Laughlin, on the hit television show Shadowland, Hollywood star Robin Chadwick Cassidy is ready for a change. Joe’s character embodies the real demons of Robin’s past—his struggle with his sexuality, his battle with alcoholism—and portraying the part has taken a heavy toll on his personal life. Robin’s husband, FBI agent Jules Cassidy, has noticed the strain and will do whatever he can to make Robin happy. And what Robin has in mind will forever transform his career, his marriage, and his family.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what the beginning and end the title speaks of is – the end of the series and an addition to the family.  I really don’t think that’s a massive spoiler.  And, it’s not that you actually see much of the latter in any event.  If the story had been more about the “beginning” and less about the “end” I think I would have enjoyed this one a lot more.  I didn’t have massive hopes.  I was never expecting an A read – the story is only 38 pages long after all.  I expected a vignette maybe – a Jules and Robin slice of life.  What I got however, was a lot of stuff about Shadowland – a fictional TV show set in a fictional world.  

I was fairly confused by the way the Shadowland portions of the story were conveyed.  Here is the opening of the story:

Shadowland, Episode 60,
“Eighth of Nine Lives”
Starring Robin Chadwick Cassidy as Joe Laughlin Los Angeles,
present day

Richie West ambushed me. The meeting is supposed to be about my contract for the next Pierce Cane movie, but I realize within seconds of walking into his office that this is about my past few weekends and the current rash of rumors. 

Academy Award nominee Joe Laughlin! Thank you for coming in!…

Brockmann, Suzanne (2012-06-01). Beginnings and Ends (Short Story) (Kindle Locations 37-41). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
At first, I thought these bits were part of the script.  But that couldn’t be right.  Then I thought “how does the viewer know what is going on in Joe Laughlin’s head?”  Then I thought, maybe it’s a voiceover.  That made sense. But the bits in italics didn’t seem to fit as voiceovers either.  Who says this?  Even in their heads?

I’m so fucking stupid. I can’t believe I actually thought Richie West was going to guide my coming out, like a Sherpa leading me to a higher plain where honesty and truth prevailed. I can’t believe that I didn’t know— instantly— that if I did come out, he would drop me like a stone. He’d be certain that I would never again open a picture in this town.

Brockmann, Suzanne (2012-06-01). Beginnings and Ends (Short Story) (Kindle Locations 96-99). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 
It didn’t help that these bits changed tense from past to present.
There are 6 “chapters” and 3 are devoted to the Shadowland episodes. On the face of it, that would suggest that equal time is devoted to both storylines.  That would be incorrect.  The Shadowland chapters are longer.  I’d say they make up at least 2/3 of the 38 page short. They are over the top dramatic and, to me, unbelievable.  I thought that I would not enjoy watching such an overwrought tv show.  I did not enjoy reading about it.  The basic storyline was Joe Laughlin coming out.  Not all that dissimilar to Robin’s own coming out in a very public manner in Force of Nature – when he kissed Jules on a boat in full view of many TV cameras.  In fact, the story seemed to me to be largely redundant.  It had already been told – except much better in the Troubleshooters series, with Jules and Robin themselves, characters I cared about.  I did not and do not care about Joe Laughlin. He is one step too removed from reality for me.
On a positive note, we did get a Jules and Robin sex scene which fans have been panting for.  There was a part of the story where Robin had inadvertently had alcohol in his mouth.  A big deal was made of it but it didn’t really go anywhere.  (I have very little experience with alcoholism.  I assume the information in the book is true.  But, such a big deal was made of it, why then did it go nowhere?).  Jules and Robin hire a surrogate and that would have been a story I would have gobbled up.  But it was just a sentence or two.
Overall, this was extremely disappointing.  The book cost $1.99.  If I had enjoyed it, I wouldn’t have minded too much, but given that I did not, I’d have to say it’s over priced.  People who bought Born To Darkness in hardback got the short free in the back of the book.

What else? So, I was disappointed.  After I read the story and unrelated to doing so, I went to my Facebook page to check on my news feed.  I don’t do much on Facebook – mainly I follow some favourite authors.  Suzanne Brockmann is one of them.

On Saturday, she posted this on her Facebook page:

BEGINNINGS AND ENDS is being totally trashed on Amazon for not having enough Jules and Robin…? If you liked it, please post an honest review. If you didn’t like it, that’s okay, too. But like the song says, “Don’t be a dick about it.”

I expected therefore that there would be many many negative reviews on Amazon based on her post.  I felt uncomfortable because I didn’t like the book either.  I wondered what being a “dick about it” meant.  I went and had a look.  There was ONE 1* review when I looked on Sunday.  There were 28 reviews in total, 18 of them were 5* – all from squeeing fangirls gushing about how wonderful the story was and many specifically referencing the 1* review in some manner – “I don’t understand the uproar here…” etc.  (Updated, there are now 30, 20 of them 5*).
I feel pretty uncomfortable about Ms. Brockmann siccing the posse onto Amazon.  I was even more so when I realised she was reacting to ONE negative review.   While I wouldn’t have said “SHAME ON YOU AND A POX ON YOUR PUBLISHER FOR SEEING THE DOLLAR SIGNS” as that reviewer did, I did agree with much of her sentiment.  It won’t surprise you to know that this review has been downvoted so much that it appears lucky last on the list.
When I finished Beginnings and Ends, the phrase that came to mind was “self indulgent”.
After reading the Facebook post and checking out the Amazon review, I feel that applies even more.

Grade:  D

Verified by MonsterInsights