Category Archives: challenges

Ooh! Ahh! Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a fabulous New Year’s Eve. 2011: Better known as the year I turn 30. This will be a banner year. In that vein, I am cleaning house today. No reading or lounging around or blogging. I am taking down Christmas decorations, being ruthless about my closet, and trying to make decisions about my bookshelves.

2010 was a great year. It was my first year as a book blogger, and I have really enjoyed finding others’ blogs, connecting with bloggers on Twitter and sharing in discussion right here. I hope for much, much more discussion in the year to come. I read over 100 books, and as it was my first time ever to keep track of that, I was thrilled. You may have noticed, I have no charts or graphs detailing number of pages, number of female/male authors, etcetera. I am a laidback blogger. I love seeing charts and graphs, but I’m just not that kind of gal.

Here are some other things I’ve learned about myself as a blogger: I suck at challenges. No, really. My title “My First Challenge!” is the only post. I felt so guilty. Still feel guilty. Ugh. The sad thing is, I probably actually DID finish the challenge but didn’t post about it. I don’t like memes, except this one. Readalongs are awesome. The library is mega awesome. Twitter is not evil. If there is a blogging tiff, I will know nothing about it. Romance novels aren’t all that bad. Meeting bloggers in person is fun! And last but not least, I can read anywhere.

So that’s my wrap-up. My goals for 2011 for my blog? Blog more regularly. Try to increase comment discussion for the simple reason that I love discussing the books I read. Other than that, I plan to keep it simple. What do you guys think? If there are any lurkers (those who read but don’t comment), please say hi. I’d love to meet you – and to maybe twist your arm to read a couple of my favorite books!

Happy New Year, and as always, happy reading.

jenn aka picky girl


The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky Part Four

Before delving in to Part Four, I’d like to apologize for not posting on Part Three and for not posting at all over the last (almost) two weeks. I have just felt awful, and my energy level has been at about a 1.5. I was reading, but I barely even made it into my office or near my computer. I am finally feeling a little better and actually did finish The Brothers Karamazov in correlation with other bloggers and the ever-gracious Dolce Belleza. It has truly been a pleasure to know others out there are reading and struggling with sections but also to see what sections of the book engaged other readers. I really enjoyed reading other bloggers’ notes and perspectives, so thanks to all!

After the tediousness of Part One, I wasn’t sure I’d make it through. Sure enough, the same elements that bothered me early on continued to bother me. I still say the novel was much too wordy. Parts of the narrative of the trial were painful, and as a former legal secretary I have sat through painful trials. This had to be the worst. The women were idiotic and beyond annoying. I couldn’t identify with any of their ridiculousness, and I don’t like that Dostoevsky didn’t really bother to flesh out his women and make them more believable.

However, (and that’s a whopping big ‘however’) I can honestly say I liked this story. As I mentioned in a comment in Dolce’s wrap-up, the more bloggers commented on the identity of the murderer, the more I had the inkling Dostoevsky would leave us without the satisfaction of a smoking gun killer. It was interesting that there is no finality, no neat wrap-up to this whodunnit. For an avid mystery reader, I really thought I would be more bothered by this, but I wasn’t for a couple of reasons:

  1. I really think Smerdyakov was the killer. Had Ivan not taken the money from his room, everyone would have known Smerdyakov was the killer once he hanged himself. I found him a despicable character from the beginning, more so because I think he was intelligent and yet manipulated everyone around him. I am thoroughly aware of his position and status, but I expected more of him. He could have been valiant and still prideful, but his pride goes beyond Dmitry and even Ivan. He’s intensely proud, which is ultimately what I believe leads to his suicide. He cannot survive as a pawn.
  2. It doesn’t really matter. Each character has base, vile intentions (with the exception of Alexei), and Karamazov was universally hated. Each person he came into contact with was repulsed, angered, and yes, maybe a little fascinated by him. He was so self aware. He knew he was despicable, yet he goes out of his way to continue to be so. Sadly enough, I was ready for him to die. I was so thoroughly repulsed by him, and even during Dmitry’s trial, there comes a moment when the attorneys talk about patricide and how each present wishes he/she had committed the crime. I don’t really buy into that, but I certainly think you can sympathize with Ivan and Dmitry for wanting to be rid of their father’s shadow.
  3. The ending plays out so well, showing innocence exists but for such a short amount of time, and that all are guilty and should be judged accordingly. Dmitry knows this. Ivan understands this before and during his illness. Even Alexei, sweet, innocent Alexei knows this. He even tells Dmitry that had he committed the crime, he would not want him to escape but to serve his time. Hardship is inevitable, but the form that hardship takes can be changed or maneuvered.

As Dolce mentions, I certainly see this as a love story to Alexei, the son Dostoevsky lost, as even in the ending Alexei is extremely naive, telling the boys and friends of Ilyusha:

“You know, boys,” Alyosha said, “you needn’t be afraid of life! Life is so good when you do something that is good and just.”

Dostoevsky paints a picture of his son as he will always be: sweet, innocent, and in love with life no matter what befalls him. Alexei feels things intensely as do all the brothers. This may be a very ignorant statement, but having now read a couple Russian novels, that seems to be the trademark – intense, powerful emotion tends to rule the characters, to their benefit or detriment. I think that’s why I have difficulty identifying with the characters and yet, it is this same overflow of emotion that makes the characters endearing.

Overall, I’m glad I made it through The Brothers Karamazov, and I am so grateful to Dolce for giving me the ever-so-gently kick in the pants to pick this one up from my bookshelf!

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky: Part One

Hmm. I have tried to read this book once before. Part of me, after seeing others’ editions, wonders if it isn’t simply the translation and edition (an old Bantam Classic) that I don’t like. However, I honestly don’t think that is it.

After looking at Dolce Belleza’s post over first one and checking out the other participants’ posts, I definitely see some similarities in my own reading. Yes, I do pick up on the sense of humor. But after such mind-numbing conversations about philosophy, it just hasn’t been enough to pull me through.

I am all for alternative narrators. When they work, they work well. In The Book Thief, which I just discussed yesterday, the narrator is one of the best parts of the book. That said, in this book, sometimes he is clearly present and others, he doesn’t show up for many many pages, so it’s disconcerting when he does throw his voice in:

The two brothers had been corresponding before on an important matter that concerned Dmitry more than Ivan. What it was the reader will learn at great length in good time. However, even when I learned about that matter, Ivan Karamazov remained a mystery to me and I still did not understand why he had come.

This is where I pause and groan. I really don’t like being kept out of “the know,” but I particularly cannot stand it when the narrator then goes on to discuss it at length:

It is of this brother, Alexei, that I find it the most difficult to speak in this introductory part of my narrative, although it is indispensable to do so before I bring him out onto the stage of my novel. I must write an introductory piece about him too, if only to explain a point that may strike my readers as very strange, namely, that my future hero will have to wear the cassock of a novice at his very first appearance.

It is just so darn wordy.

Basically, the three brothers – Dmitry, Ivan, and Alexei, also alternatively called, hmm, Mitya, and Aloyshi – have a strange relationship with their father. Mr. Karamazov is a despicable character, debauched and dramatic with not much thought as to his effect on others. All three have reason to hate him, but like any complicated father/son relationship, it is difficult to tell where each brother stands with his father.

I gather this between so many philosophical conversations I lose count. I’ll give you an example:

Of course, when he was in the monastery he believed entirely in miracles, but I don’t think that miracles ever confound a realist. Nor is it miracles that bring a realist to religion. If he is an unbeliever, a true realist will always find the strength and ability not to believe in a miracle, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact, he will rather disbelieve his own senses than accept that fact. Or he may concede the fact and explain it away as a natural phenomenon until then unknown. In a realist, it is not miracles that generate faith, but faith that generates miracles. Once a realist becomes a believer, however, his very realism will make him accept the existence of miracles.


All are a bit badly behaved. They are wealthy enough. They have little regard for women. I keep wanting to tell each character to suck it up.

But…. Dolce says the mystery gets interesting, and I am banking on that. I love mysteries. I also just really feel the need to finish this book. Thanks to Dolce for hosting and giving me the shove I need to add another Russian novel to my very spare list.

UPDATE: Part Two is most decidedly better than Part One. Odd. I’m actually enjoying it… maybe because there are actually a couple female characters?

My First Challenge!

Artwork by Melissa Nucera

Yes, I have agreed to a read-a-long in April for Brothers Karamazov with Dolce Belleza, but this is my first actual challenge. Carl V. at Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting this great challenge celebrating fantasy, folklore, fairy tale, and mythology, and never fear! There are different levels. My semester will only get busier, so I am sticking to The Journey level, which requires you to read at least one book from any of the above genres. I absolutely love mythology and haven’t had a chance to ready any in many moons, so I am leaning toward that, but alas – I have plenty of time to decide. The challenge runs from March 21 until June 20 and apparently, during that time Carl V. will have all sorts of treasures posted on his blog. Click away.

I’d love to hear reading suggestions in any of the categories. Are you joining in the challenge? Any other interesting challenges into which I should dip my un-pedicured toes? I’m all ears.