Review: Jacky Ha-Ha, My Life is a Joke, by James Patterson

Published on, January 2018.

In this second installment of the Jacky Ha-Ha series, Jacky Hart leads the reader through a summer in Seaside Heights, her small town along the New Jersey coast. With carnival games, junk food, and plenty of leisure time, school is out and antics on the tourist-lined boardwalk are in!

But all great plans are put on hold when the Hart sisters learn they will have to get summer jobs to help make ends meet at home. Fortunately, Jacky quickly puts her theatrical chops to good use by drumming up business at a carnival stand, earning herself a job and quite the reputation.

Meanwhile, Ms. O’Mara, beloved theater teacher, rallies Jacky and her friends to audition for a local production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring an all-star Broadway cast. In between shifts at the carnival stand, Jacky and her friends – familiar faces from the first book in the series – attend rehearsals and prepare to be stars in the making.

As Jacky faces the bright lights of the stage, she must once again conquer her stutter, this time while navigating middle-school romance and intrigue: just why are all the boys acting so strange? What is with Ms. O’Mara’s mysterious nephew? And who is stealing from the shops along boardwalk?

Illustrations throughout the novel provide an aside to the reader, elaborating and embellishing scenes to comic effect and in keeping with Jacky’s wit, charm, and imagination.

Even with a large ensemble cast, there’s no question Jacky is the heroine of her tale. Summer-time crushes, a healthy dose of sleuthing, and plenty of laughs will keep readers turning the page to see how Jacky will get herself into – and out of – trouble all summer long.

Fumbling and progress

heartbeatsI had a guitar lesson today, and I was excited for it. The previous week, we had started out on a new song, Heartbeats, by Jose Gonzales (for some fun, check out the original version by The Knife. While YouTuber’s debate with fiery passion in the comments section, I much prefer Jose’s interpretation).

It’s fun to see what different folks do with it. Ellie Goulding also performs a cover here. The band Royal Teeth offers their own (I love that someone is finally putting the stress for “divine” on the second syllable. It makes my eye twitch every time I hear it otherwise). Another great take by Daniela Andrade x Dabin (recording-wise, this is probably my favorite) that played on Supergirl a few weeks ago. Don’t ask me why I was watching Supergirl.

Anyways, finger picking! Fun syncopation between the melody and the guitar line! The song is actually in my range!

I practiced quite a bit and felt good about it this week, but when it came time for my lesson, I fumbled all the way through it.

I was nervous and putting too much pressure on myself to get it right.

All of this makes me think about piano lessons as a kid. I don’t remember struggling the way I have with some of these guitar pieces. Call that rose-colored glasses, nostalgia, or just a symptom of getting older (new things don’t come as easily as they used to?) … It’s a funny thing.

Fact is, I’m playing more regularly than ever before, and having fun. I’m learning to be content with a work in progress, even when that work is me. I don’t have to play perfectly, and it’s not going to be — nor should it be — easy. My cramped hand agrees.

I’ll keep practicing, and I’m on the right track. As bad or weird as it can feel, sometimes fumbling is the exact appropriate place to be on the road to progress.

Refugee Crisis

I’ve been thinking a lot about the international refugee crisis, and feeling completely overwhelmed by what’s going on. I wrote a letter to my senators. Feel free to take and edit as you see fit.


Dear Senator Warren,


Given the increasing coverage of the Syrian Refugee crisis over the past week, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the seeming lack of action from the international community, as well as the magnitude of the number of lives affected by this.


What can we do? As an average American citizen, I’ve donated money, signed a petition, shared articles with friends and family, and explored volunteer opportunities around the greater Boston area with various refugee and immigration services organizations. But it feels so small, so removed from what is happening in the world. It’s not enough. It never feels like enough.


It’s Labor Day weekend. Folks here are celebrating and enjoying time with their families and friends, posting pictures on social media of grilling and sunny days spent outdoors, maybe on the water, maybe an ice-cold beer in hand. And I don’t want to diminish that or make anyone feel bad.


But it doesn’t take much searching online to find photos and articles that tell a different story and experience this weekend: one of fear, uncertainty, of people fleeing one country for an unwelcome home in another; unbearable living conditions, dehumanizing treatment, death.


I can’t shake it. I’m not sure I want to.


What does it take for us to wake up? To look around, outside our own every-day lives, and see that the United States has an opportunity to make a difference in an international crisis? And I don’t mean years from now… but today. Right now.


What can Massachusetts do? What can the United States do? How can we support humanitarian and humane treatment of our brothers and sisters around the world?


“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–Emma Lazarus, American poet; an excerpt from “The New Colossus” inscribed on the Statue of Liberty


Respectfully, and still with hope,

Greg Batcheler



Links: petition


Christian Politicians Won’t Say It, but the Bible is Clear: Let the Refugees In


The Refugee Crisis isn’t a European Problem


Syrian Containment Produced a Predictable Deluge of Refugees


Save the Children Fundraising

Fundraiser for Save the Children UK, via Young Adult author Patrick Ness