Nicole Reads

Nicole Reads

Consumed with wanderlust. Dreams of writing her own novel. Devours books. Fluent in Spanglish. Intersectional feminist.

Review
4 Stars
[REVIEW] Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice -  Jane Austen

I finally finished this book! YAY! My goodness, it took me forever to do so. It's as romantic as I had expected but also very difficult to keep track of all the Miss Bennetts. Lindsey Duncan's narration was delightful and she infused it with a lot of emotion.

Before reading/listening

I have tried many times to read this but I have failed each and every one. Hopefully, an audiobook will make the experience easier on me.

Review
3 Stars
[REVIEW] The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
The Story of the Lost Child: The fourth and final Neapolitan novel. - Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein
"I loved Lila. I wanted her to last. But I wanted it to be I who made her last. I thought it was my task. I was convinced that she herself, as a girl, had assigned it to me." (98%)



Actual review
Honestly, I don't even know what to think. This final book in the series was the one that to me, contained the wealth of Elena Ferrante's wisdom, and it is also the book that was quite difficult to plow through. Sometimes Ms. Ferrante fills us with so many details that I find inconsequential that it slows down the story nearly to a halt. 

Nonetheless, this book is powerful. Seeing Lenù and Lila go through a series of violent and terrible life events hits you in the gut. But Ms. Ferrante's masterful weaving pulls everything back together again, and you are brought to the beginning of the first book right as you finish the fourth.

But what is, as usual, the best part of these novels is the characterization. I know I've said this before in my review of the other three novels, but I truly have never read a more raw, honest and gripping tale of a friendship between two women. It's not black and white; it's not simplistic, it's messy and tangled in a web of loyalty and guilty desire for independence not only of each other but also their circumstance.

 

In the end, though, I feel numb. I have so many questions. 

Like, what really happened to Tina? Is she alive? Is she dead? What happened to Lila? Are she and Lenù never going to see each other again?

(show spoiler)

 

That's the thing about these novels. Though the novel (and by consequence the series) ends on a bittersweet note, you don't end up with a happy, hopeful glow. All you will have left is this overwhelming melancholy and a fierce wish that things were different in their world and ours.

After I finished reading
I don't know how to rate this just yet or even what to write for my review. I have been reading this book nonstop for 48 hours. I need a mental break to pick up my soul from the ground.

Review
3 Stars
[REVIEW] Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay - Elena Ferrante
"The solitude of women’s minds is regrettable, I said to myself, it’s a waste to be separated from each other, without procedures, without tradition." 
(72%)



TW: This book contains SEXUAL ASSAULT, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE 

I need time for my heart and my mind to recover. And to think this isn't the last book of the series. Elena Ferrante is a master storyteller. How is it that she can truly capture the good, the bad, the despicable, the intimacy of female friendships? How can she effortlessly capture the impossibility of surviving in a patriarchal society? Her tale and her words have me utterly spellbound and also terrified. 

With each passing book, I find myself loving Lila's unbreakable and fragile spirit more. I wish I had her strength, her resolve. But if I had to choose whom I resembled the most, it would have to be Lenù. Succumbing to the pressure of who we need to be, trying to leave our hometown before it swallows us whole and erases our dreams, and makes us forget who we are.

What will happen to Lila? What will happen to Lenù? I'm scared of finding out.

Review
4 Stars
[REVIEW] The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
The Story of a New Name - Elena Ferrante
"[...] she was explaining to me that I had won nothing, that in the world there is nothing to win, that her life was full of varied and foolish adventures as much as mine, and that time simply slipped away without any meaning, and it was good just to see each other every so often to hear the mad sound of the brain of one echo in the mad sound of the brain of the other." (98%)



TW: This book contains SEXUAL ASSAULT, RAPE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE 

What a rollercoaster. The thing is that these books are so intense and so emotionally exhausting, you end up feeling beside yourself when you finish. On hand you are marveled at the character development, the twists and turns of the plot, on another you are feeling so depressed and hopeless you might need to drown your sorrows into a cup of tea (or bourbon) just to feel like a human again.

This book is intense and so hard to rate. I hated it because of how desolate it made me feel. I also think it's a gripping story that ends with an effin' cliffhanger, again.

The character names are at times similar so you get confused or who is who. There are many nicknames and names to keep track of. It can make for a challenging reading experience, but a worthwhile one.

One thing is for certain, I have never read characters like the ones Ferrante writes about. Yes, they are fucking awful people but you feel for them. You identify with them, you try to reason or justify their faults, you want to believe the best in them. And when they disappoint you it feels like you're being gutted. 

I am all about happy endings but I'm seriously wondering if it's even possible that Lenù or Lila will get theirs.

Review
3 Stars
[REVIEW] Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened - Allie Brosh

Read this in a day while rebelling against my mountain of schoolwork.

I must be the exception to the rule because I did not find this funny at all. Half the time I was jarred by the lack of connection between the chapters and then I remembered this was a blog so it's not supposed to have a thread, maddening as it was. The other half of the time I was bored.

Nonetheless, I found myself relating to certain things she described particularly concerning depression. The artwork is very amusing and the parts with the dogs were my favorite.
 

Review
3 Stars
[REVIEW] My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein

TW: This book contains VIOLENCE and SEXUAL ASSAULT 

JFC WHAT A CLIFFHANGER.

My head hurts from reading this, from the feelings it has evoked, from the sadness that clings to me like a second skin because I cannot understand what has happened or why I feel that I'm aboard a train that will crash at any second.

What a strange, heart-wrenching read about what it's like to be a girl immersed in poverty and trying to claw out of it, out of the violent reality and ultimately, perhaps, failing. 

The friendship between Lila and Lenù is the best part of this confusing novel. Seeing how well Ms. Ferrante portrays the intricate, overwhelming, consuming, envious and loving reality of girl friendships has earned her a special place in my heart. I have never read a portrayal like this.

Review
3 Stars
[REVIEW] Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon

I predicted the twist from the very beginning so that really took me away from the narrative. I did not like how the end was wrapped up in a somewhat neat bow. It all seemed dismissive to me. It's hard to explain. The middle is a bit of a slog to get through. It was too easy to stop reading and do something else. This book also has a case ofinsta-love but one that I can excuse given the fact that Madeline has never been exposed to a situation like this before. 

However, the I-love-you scene was strangely anticlimactic and not very heartfelt. It read like the author had to get them to say that cause they were going to have sex in the next chapter.

(show spoiler)


That being said, I enjoyed how easy this book is to read because the chapters are so short and Ms. Yoon's prose is so breezy. I loved the little illustrations that complimented the reading experience. This is one of those books that--should you choose to read it--you should buy a physical copy. I loved that Madeline was biracial. I loved that she loves The Little Prince almost as much as I do.

Still, I can't get over that 'twist' or how that end was so... incomplete.

Review
4 Stars
[REVIEW] The Summer Palace by C.S. Pacat
The Summer Palace: A Captive Prince Short Story (Captive Prince Short Stories Book 2) - C.S. Pacat

What a lovely way to be entertained on a flight, oooh-ing and aah-ing and having a serious case of heart eyes all the while. This is the epilogue I wanted and needed after finishing the series. It can get a little bit TOO cheesy for my taste but it was just so nice to see my bbs so happy after everything that happened.

Review
3 Stars
[REVIEW] Too Late for the Festival: An American Salary Woman in Japan by Rhiannon Paine
Too Late for the Festival: An American Salary Woman in Japan - Rhiannon Paine

First book of the year! WHOOT! 

I appreciate the candor in which Ms. Paine writes. I also appreciate her honesty when it came to how difficult it was for her to adjust to life in Japan. There are just so many things to have in mind as a foreigner, so many different ways to offend or make someone uncomfortable, that unless you studied it or read about it, you wouldn't have the faintest idea of what you did wrong. I also liked that she didn't paint a rosy colored picture of her life abroad. She put her whole experience on paper. Warts and all.

That said, the book is not terribly entertaining. I found myself dropping it in favor of other things like coloring or watching something on Netflix.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a real taste of the office culture and life of a bookworm-ish foreigner in Japan. Other than that, it's highly melancholic, sad and not what I would call a fun read so you've been warned.

Review
4 Stars
[REVIEW] What Did You Eat Yesterday? #1 by Fumi Yoshinaga
What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 1[WHAT DID YOU EAT YESTERDAY V01][Paperback] - FumiYoshinaga

Aw! A good, slice-of-life manga. It's like coming home to your favorite sweater.

 

The art is so light and delicate. I've read (I think) most of Ms. Yoshinaga's work and it never disappoints. I love that there are recipes and that the characters are so relatable. Will definitely continue to slowly consume this series.

 

 

Review
3 Stars
[REVIEW] Simple Passion by Annie Ernaux
Simple Passion - Annie Ernaux, Tanya Leslie
"From September last year, I did nothing else but wait for a man: for him to call me and come round to my place."
(1%)



This book surprised me. It wasn't what I expected and to be exposed to the raw emotion and sincerity of the narrator touched me deeply. The opening of the novel gripped me and never let go until I finished it in one sitting.

I appreciated the singular focus of it: the woman and her affair with the madness of love itself. It is a bare, tender and crude retelling of her torrid love affair with the married man, A. The way she described him made you fall for him too. Her words are filled with emotion, urgency, and a certain distance as if she isn't completely sure she didn't conjure A to respond to a longing that plagued her. She wrote it all down as a way to preserve her memories as best as she could.

"The partly erased frescoes in Santa Croce moved me because of my story, which would come to resemble them one day--fading fragments in his memory and in mine."
(52%)


Contrary to the heroines of the early French literature who fought fiercely against the whims of their passions, this unnamed narrator surrendered to the infatuation that shaped her reality and her emotional state without reserve. She lives in perpetual pause waiting for her lover. She loves in secret but even so, her writing and her love are both savage, compelling and absorbing. Truly, this book blurs the line between romantic and depressing but even so, I can't stop myself from loving it.

Review
3 Stars
[REVIEW] The Lover by Marguerite Duras
The Lover - Marguerite Duras, Barbara Bray
“People ought to be told of such things. Ought to be taught that immortality is mortal, that it can die, it’s happened before and it happens still.” (90%)



The prose is so beautiful, so evocative, that I am immediately transported into the world of “The Lover”. I am glad I read the introduction, confusing as it was because it let me know two important things: 1. this novel is 'somewhat' autobiographical of the author and 2. the characters are mostly nameless.

Because it is written in the first person, you are immediately gripped by the narrator’s voice. The rawness of her emotion is palpable. The timeline isn’t clearly established, we keep jumping back and forth between different ages/memories of the narrator which can be jarring at times.

While reading about a 15-year-old engaging in a sexual relationship with a 27-year-old is deeply unsettling, because of the way the narrator tells the story, you can become confused and think of her as older than 15. I wonder if she engaged in sex as a way to combat the sadness she says she has always felt within her, a sadness that ages her young face and that is mirrored in the deep melancholy of her mother. It's truly heartbreaking.

As it is, the whole novel is accompanied by a sad, melancholic tone and it doesn't let up until you've finished the book.

Review
3 Stars
[REVIEW] The Letters of a Portuguese Nun by Mariana Alcoforado
The Portuguese Letters: Love Letters of a Nun to a French Officer - Gabriel Joseph De Lavergne Guilleragues, Mariana Alcoforado
“[…] you gave me evidence of a great passion for me. I was overjoyed at it, and I gave myself up to love you to distraction. You were not blinded as I was. Why then did you let me fall into the state in which I now am?”



The text was very hard to read at the beginning. The "f"s that were really "s"s confused me 98% of the time.

However, I immediately felt for Marianna and her plight. I was not annoyed or exasperated by her mad attachment to her unworthy lover. I believe she was a victim of love and considering that she had been living in a convent at a young age, it is sadly unsurprisingly she was taken advantage of.

She was not properly prepared by anyone on what to do when it came to falling in love and the artifices of men. Her love is genuine, honest and even manipulative once her lover disappeared from Portugal. I was moved by her lament and the sincerity of her words. To throw your life away for someone who is unworthy of you is terrible and to see Marianna come to terms with that in her own letters was heartbreaking.

Review
4 Stars
[REVIEW] The Princess of Cleves by Madame de La Fayette
The Princess of Cleves - Madame de La Fayette

God, what a heartbreaking novel. Even while I suspected where it would go, I held on to the hope that maybe it wouldn't go there. Ultimately it did and my poor heart could not take it. Move over Romeo and Juliet, the Duke of Nemours and the Princess of Clèves are the patron saints of star-crossed lovers.

 

The beginning is a chore to get through. The name dropping of the everyone in the French Court is supposed to give you a sense of place along with a cast of characters but it just ended up confusing me even more. Nonetheless, I kept reading.

 

The Princess of Clèves and the Duke of Nemours are a delight to read about it, mostly because we get to see their character evolution. Their story is nothing short of gut-wrenching; their love so true and genuine. But, by all means, this novel isn't perfect. It suffers a lot from frequent visits of the Goddess of Exposition™ which I believe take away from the main story. Sure I want some backstory on the situation but not pages upon pages upon pages of it.

Review
2 Stars
[REVIEW] Phaedra by Jean Racine
Phaedra - Jean Racine, Richard Wilbur, Igor Tulipanov

I am surprised at how easy this was to read. After reading little bits on my commute, I sat down and finished it in a day.

Shame colors Phaedra’s life and blinds her completely to any solution other than death. She is not a reasonable person at any point until the very end when she has seen the consequence of her passion. She had hoped in vain that Hippolyte would return her feelings and save her from the shroud of guilt that covered her. Ultimately, he became so disgusted by her sentiments that it made her shame grow into a monster she couldn’t control and that would be the cause for Hippolyte’s unjust demise.

I was not a fan of the false rape accusation at all. It perpetuates this bullshit that women falsely accuse men of rape out of spite. Not here for this.

Review
5 Stars
[REVIEW] Sappho by Sappho
Sappho: A New Translation - Sappho, Mary Barnard, Dudley Fitts
You may forget but

Let me tell you
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us



Beautiful, painful, evocative, sensual and lush are a few ways to describe Sappho's poetry. Even if we only have incomplete and broken fragments of her poetry, there is no absence of emotion.

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