I am a demanding reader.
Reading has been my great love since I first discovered it 40 years ago. (Yeah, I'll admit that.) I've always been drawn to good literature, even as a child -- Pippi Longstocking, James and the Giant Peach, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Where the Red Fern Grows were just a few of the books that delighted and entranced me. OK, I'll admit, I went through a Harlequin phase in high school, but I still enjoyed the likes of Steinbeck and Dickens and even a hint of Shakespeare. Add to that a course in French lit in college, and I fell in love with Les Mis, L'Etranger, and Le Petit Prince. Am I a literary snob? Perhaps.
One thing I do know is that when I buy a book to read, especially one that has been given good reviews, I have pretty high expectations. I want clarity, I want great prose, I want subtle themes, I want emotional resonance, I want a good story. Is that too much to ask?
Apparently, sometimes it is.
Here are some of my recent reads, and what I thought.
The Island of Dr. Moreau. I enjoyed this book very much. As a scientist myself (did you know I have a B.S. in zoology?), I was very interested to see how the author would try to scientifically explain the creation of these humanized animals. It was believable, based on the knowledge of the day. I'd probably give this book four stars.
The Phantom of the Opera. I'm sure I would enjoy the play more than I enjoyed the book. I did enjoy the tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, but it was a little melodramatic for my tastes. I'm sure the writing reflects the era, but I didn't love it. Three stars..
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I know I enjoyed Agatha Christie novels in high school, but I discovered that I'm not a big mystery fan anymore. It was kind of fun trying to outguess Holmes, but I didn't love it. Three stars.
Understood Betsy. I'm not a big Little House on the Prairie fan, nor did I ever get into Anne of Green Gables, but I found this book to be simply delightful. Maybe it's because I'm a mom, or maybe because I really like kids in general, I don't know. But I loved the humor in this book and the transformation of Elizabeth Ann into Betsy. Five stars.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. This book was very critically acclaimed, got excellent reviews, and people LOVED it. Me, not so much. Maybe I was terminally turned off by the opening chapter, which I thought was a bit muddy and bogged down with back story. Or maybe I was prejudiced by Amy Tan's excellent portrayal of Chinese American children's relationships with their parents. Or maybe it was just too much to ask me to believe that a crush between 12-year olds could haunt them for a lifetime. I don't know, but I was disappointed. Three stars.
I am a demanding reader.