Monday, September 10, 2012

She was literally too good to be true

John A. Heldt lists Nicholas Sparks as one of his influences on his Goodreads page, something I absolutely should have checked before agreeing to review this because Sparks is listed on my review policy (put up long after I accepted this book to review and before I started reading this) as someone I avoid. That is my fault. I also should read reviews more carefully. See normally, if there's a book that I'm considering reading I'll skim reviews. I don't want too much to be given away. The skimming in this case lead me to believe a blogging buddy Deb at The Book Stop liked this book more than she did. Again, my fault.

The Mine is about Joel Smith, a college senior, who accidentally travels back in time to 1941 and ends up falling in love with one of his grandma's sorority sisters. Romance is not my thing, so a romance has to be super extra special for me to like it. Being funny helps, because I forgive a lot if something is funny. But the book isn't funny (which it isn't trying to be, so it's not a failure) and I really didn't like the characters. Especially the golden boy Joel.

About half-way through the book I started arguing with, just, everything. Every line the characters said I wanted to scream at them and be like "But that makes no sense! Are you insane? Can you even hear yourself?" And of course I end up sounding like the crazy person. I'm sure at some point the arguments I was having were out of spite because, as I said, I HATED the main character and by association, most of the other characters. Because our protagonist Joel is SO PERFECT. He's charming and handsome and smart and athletic and a natural salesman (the best Mel Carter has seen in 15 years) and he can use his future knowledge to make very specific bets on past sporting events and NO ONE thinks it's weird when he repeatedly wins every single bet*. And while he's a geology major at college (which he's awesome at) his real love is history, specifically US history right before and when the US joins WWII and isn't that convenient, he just happened to end up there?** Every person he meets loves him and/or wants to be his BFF. He was salutatorian instead of valedictorian in high school, so I suppose that's his flaw. The more the book talked about how AMAZING Joel is, the more I wanted to punch him or set him on fire every time he showed up. And given he's the main character, that happened a lot.

The other characters aren't so Gary Stu/Mary Sue-ish, but they're flat. Especially Grace, the angelic (see what he did there) woman that Joel falls in love with. There just isn't too much to her other than she's perfect and beautiful and has a sort of troubled past, but not really all that troubled (and pretty glossed over, even though the characters make a big deal about it for one second and not again). The outline for Grace was there, but not the flesh.

Because I never connected with the characters, I never connected with or believed the love story. Joel and Grace said they loved each other and that there was passion and all, but I never saw it. Grace said she was torn between Joel and her fiance (not a spoiler, the first time you see Grace she's getting engaged) but she never actually acts torn. Joel randomly says he doesn't want to mess with the past, but then forgets all about this (and any idea that maybe he wants to go back to his own time) when he actively goes after Grace.

The writing is clunky at times. You know what Heldt is going for, but it doesn't quite work. Or sometimes the logic is off. A turn-of-phrase doesn't work or the characters behave in a way that makes no sense. This does mark the first time I used the notes feature on my Kindle, because I got to the point where I had to write down the stuff I was yelling at the text. Some examples:

"He knew he would pay for eating raw fruit, and nothing but raw fruit, on an empty tank." - is this a thing? Do people get sick if they eat raw fruit on an empty stomach? (I tried Googling it and it says some people might get sick if they have an allergy or the fruit is contaminated. But the allergy is never brought up and while he is eating fruit from the garbage, he's not making the point here that eating garbage fruit will make him sick.)

"By the way, Miss Vandenberg, seeing as you're kidnapping me and all, don't you think you should tell me where we're headed?" - Dammit no! That is not how kidnappings work. The kidnappee isn't entitled to know where the kidnapper is taking them. I GET that he's joking around but the line makes no sense.

So if you DO like Sparks, you'll probably have a different reaction to this, but I don't think I was really the right audience for this. Because I'm sure there is an audience for this. If you like Sparks or other romance authors, this is probably in your alley, and you can forgive some of the problems that I had. Or you won't even notice the problems. Maybe it was just me being nitpicky because I couldn't get into the story. The time travel isn't dealt with too much.

*One character at one point goes "Gee, it's odd you are winning all these sports bets with very specific predictions" but when he goes "I guess I'm lucky" the subject isn't broached again. I thought we had something there.

**He never really exhibits this love of knowledge of the time other than knowing that a) Pearl Harbor happens, b) the US joins the war, c) many Japanese-Americans are sent to internment camps. Of course if you happened to leave pre-Pawn Stars History channel on one day, you'd have this same amount of knowledge

Title quote from location 5695. You said it, not me. She's literally too good to be true. And therefore is unbelievable.

Heldt, John A. The Mine. Amazon Digital Services, 2012. Kindle edition. The book was offered in exchange for a review.