quotes Elisquared likes

"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."— John Green



This month was a slower reading month for me, compared to January.  I read only 4 books total, but I'm blaming the fact that February is shorter than the other months (flimsy excuse, I know, I know.).

I also spanned the age bracket this month, which is always fun, reading: 1 adult book, 2 YA books, and 1 middle grade book.  I'm trying to make sure I read more widely, not just genre and content, but age group as well.  I don't know about you, but I find different things to enjoy/relate to dependent on what age group I am reading in.

The genres were pretty consistent with my favorites: contemporary, fantasy, and sci-fi--my three favorites.  If I'm having a hard time getting into reading, I definitely reach for a comfort read, which is typically sci-fi/fantasy.  Do you have a comfort genre that helps with difficult reading months?

Overall, I really enjoyed each of the books I read this month, and I recommend them for everyone to read!

 The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The first book I read this month, and it blew me away!  It felt like a warm hug, as I was reading it.  All my Goodreads review says is, "This was beautifully perfect".  And it really was.  I could live in this book, it was just so full of love, family, and the strength we have within ourselves.  A battle of injustice with a hero who is initially seen as normal/average/unremarkable; he ends up being anything but, and saves the day using his mind and his heart.

This was a 5 STAR for me.

"A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he's given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours."

If you haven't had a chance to pick this up yet, make it a priority because you won't be disappointed.  I have already ordered TJ Klune's other books because I want to devour all he has written.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

One of the challenges I've set for myself for 2021 is to read more BIPOC books, whether it be author or character (hopefully both).  I've heard really great things about Binti, so I got the ebook to check out.  It was interesting, and quick (didn't realize it was only 98 pages), but I definitely felt it was missing things.  There are more books in the series, and the premise/world-building/characters were enough to make me interested to continue.  But it wasn't quite what I thought.  Definitely going to continue to see if it becomes one of my faves.

This was a 3 STAR for me.

"Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself — but first she has to make it there, alive."

I think this is a good introduction, but wasn't as fully fleshed as I would've liked, but as there are additional books, recommend checking it out if you like sci-fi!

I had the opportunity to review this book through Rockstar Book Tours (check Jaime out; I love working with her!), and it was beautiful/adorable/impactful; a perfect middle grade introduction to love and gender identity!  Here's my full review, so please check that out to learn more.  Polonsky has a very deft hand when creating the plot and characters, making you feel what both Essie and Ollie are going through.

This was a 4 STAR for me.

"From the author of the critically acclaimed Gracefully Grayson comes a thoughtful and sensitive middle-grade novel about non-binary identity and first love, Ami Polonsky's Spin with Me.

In this elegant dual narrative, Essie is a thirteen-year-old girl feeling glum about starting a new school after her professor dad takes a temporary teaching position in a different town. She has 110 days here and can't wait for them to end. Then she meets Ollie, who is nonbinary. Ollie has beautiful blue eyes and a confident smile. Soon, Essie isn’t counting down the days until she can leave so much as she’s dreading when her time with Ollie will come to an end.

Meanwhile, Ollie is experiencing a crush of their own . . . on Essie. As Ollie struggles to balance their passion for queer advocacy with their other interests, they slowly find themselves falling for a girl whose stay is about to come to an end. Can the two unwind their merry-go-round of feelings before it's too late?"

This is such an excellent book for both adults and kids, one that can be read together as a family even!  And a great addition to the ever expanding LGBTQ+ world of middle grade books!

Into the Dark (Star Wars: The High Republic) by Claudia Gray

I am in love with this multi-media idea that Disney Lucasfilms Press is doing! The 3rd book (kind of...all the books/comics go together in a way you could technically read them in any order) of The High Republic project, I was so excited to be a part of this blog tour through Rockstar Book Tours (again, check them out)!!  Diving into a little known time period in Star Wars history, we get to learn all about the peak of The Jedi Order in the universe.  Excellent entry for veteran Star Wars author Claudia Gray, it was not only a great Star Wars book, but a great sci-fi/action book!  Check out my full review here!!

This was a 4.5 STAR for me.

"Long before the Clone Wars, the Empire, or the First Order, the Jedi lit the way for the galaxy in a golden age known as the High Republic!

Not everyone who hears the call to adventure wants to answer it....

Jedi Padawan Reath Silas loves adventure—reading about it, that is, not living it. Content to spend hours browsing the Jedi Archives on Coruscant, Reath dreams of being one of the great scholars of the Jedi Order. But Reath's master, the well-respected and virtuous Jora Malli, has other plans: she's taken a post at Starlight Beacon, the Republic's shining new outpost on the edge of known space. As her Padawan, Reath must join her, whether he likes the idea or not. (And he most definitely does not.)

So Reath reluctantly boards the ship that will take him and a few other Jedi to the dedication of Starlight Beacon, where Master Jora waits for him to start their new adventurous life on the frontier. But trouble in hyperspace leaves the ship and other nearby vessels stranded, with only an eerie abandoned space station reachable for shelter. And the secrets hidden there will not only bring Reath to a crossroads but, if left unchecked, could plunge the entire galaxy into darkness..."

This made me super hyped to jump into all The High Republic books/comics; Star Wars fan and sci-fi fans alike will really love this one!

So there you have it, all the books I read in February 2021.  Have you read any of them, and if you did, what did you think about them?  If you haven't gotten to read any, which are enticing you?  

Let me know what you read in February in the comments, and happy reading!



Authors(s): Mary H.K. Choi
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Edition: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook; 400 pgs
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source: Rockstar Book Tours
Buy: Amazon Kindle Audible
Bookshop.org - Barnes & Noble
Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tour Schedule

Week One
3/1/2021 - Westveil Publishing - Excerpt
3/1/2021 - A Dream Within A Dream - Excerpt
3/2/2021 - BookHounds YA - Spotlight
3/2/2021 - Book-Keeping - Review
3/3/2021 - Lifestyle of Me - Review
3/3/2021 - What A Nerd Girl Says - Review
3/4/2021 - Momfluenster - Spotlight
3/4/2021 - Not In Jersey - Review
3/5/2021 - Kait Plus Books - Spotlight
3/5/2021 - Trapped Inside Stories - Spotlight

Week Two
3/8/2021 - My Fictional Oasis - Review
3/8/2021 - Eli to the nth - Review
3/9/2021 - The Scribe Owl - Review
3/9/2021 - Nay's Pink Bookshelf - Review
3/10/2021 - Lala’s Book Reviews - Review
3/10/2021 - The Mind of a Book Dragon - Review
3/11/2021 - Odd and Bookish - Review
3/11/2021 - Little Red Reads - Review
3/12/2021 - Amani's Reviews - Review
3/12/2021 - michellemengsbookblog - Review

The Summary

From New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi comes a funny and emotional story about two estranged sisters switching places and committing insurance fraud to save one of their lives.

Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.

My Review

Trigger warnings: long-term eating disorder 

Yolk by Mary H. K. Choi is a both a punch to the gut and a quiet resonance exploring the layers upon layers that sisters and daughters have in relationship to each other and their families.

June and Jayne Baek grew up in San Antonio by way of Seoul, and have both landed in New York City as adults. But at this point in their lives they could be strangers.  Barely acknowledging the existence of each other until June, the eldest by 3 years, calls Jayne to her high-rise NYC apartment to rely that June is sick; really sick.  Has cancer sick.  What happens after is a journey of two sisters, who can easily hurt each other with the littlest thing, coming to together, hesitantly and with distrust, to find a love that they both so deeply want.

This books, as with all Choi books, is a character study, filled with narrative and introspection; very much what is expected, and welcomed, from one of her books.  But what I appreciated was the focus on family, specifically sisters, and how very complex that relationship is.  Told from Jayne's perspective, we see how a little sister, one who is from a Korean household with the added cultural expectations of the family dynamic, experiences life in the shadow of such a successful big sister.  But we also see how Jayne's own personal issues have translated that relationship to , perhaps, something it wasn't meant to be.  The relationship gets turned on it's head with June's announcement of her illness, and we do see Jayne taking up more of a mantel of the caregiver, but through those actions she reflects on the time June took care of her.

With a delicate hand, Choi peels the layers out to explore within the context of this tumultuous relationship.  The pacing mimics real life, with it's ebbs and flows--sometimes you meander down a quiet stream, and others you crash through harsh rapids.  But through it all is the center: June and Jayne and their love for one another.  Yolk by Mary H. K. Choi marks another homerun for the author.

Final Rating

        Depending on where I focus and how much pressure I apply to the back of my throat, I can just about blot him out. Him being Jeremy. Him who never shuts up. Him being my ex. He whose arm is clamped around the back of the café chair that belongs to another girl. She’s startlingly pretty, this one. Translucent and thin. Achingly so. She has shimmering lavender hair and wide-set, vacant eyes. Her name is Rae and when she offers her cold, large hand, I instinctively search her face for any hint of cosmetic surgery. Her lids, her lips, the tip of her nose. Her boots are Ann Demeulemeester, the ones with hundreds of yards of lace, and her ragged men’s jacket, Comme.
        “I like your boots,” I tell her, needing her to know that I know, and immediately hating myself for it. I’m so intimidated I could choke. She smiles with such indulgent kindness I feel worse. She’s not at all threatened by me.
        “I got them here,” she tells me in faultless English. I don’t ask her where there might be.
        Jeremy says I’m obsessed with other women. He might be right. Then again, someone once described Jeremy’s energy to me as human cocaine, and they were definitely right.
        “Mortifying.” He shudders, blotting his slick mouth with a black cloth napkin. Jeremy’s the only one eating a full-on meal here at Léon. A lunch of coq au vin. I draw in a deep breath of caramelized onion. All earthy, singed sugar.
        “Can you imagine failing at New York so publicly that you have to ‘move home’?” He does twitchy little scare quotes around the last bit. He does this without acknowledging that for him, moving home would be a few stops upstate on Metro-North, to a town called Tuxedo. A fact he glosses over when he calls himself a native New Yorker.
        I watch Rae, with a small scowl nestled above her nose, purposely apply a filter on her Instagram Story. It’s her empty espresso cup at an angle. I lean back in my wicker café chair and resume lurking her profile, which I can do in plain sight because I have a privacy shield.
        It’s the typical, enigmatic hot-girl dross on her main feed, scones cut out onto a marble surface dusted with flour, her in a party dress in a field. A photo of her taking a photo in a mirror with a film camera.
        In an image farther down, Rae is wearing a white blouse and a black cap and gown. Grinning. It’s a whole different energy. When I arrive at the caption, I close my eyes. I need a moment. I somehow sense the words before they fully register. She graduated from Oxford. It’s crushing that most of the caption is in Korean. She’s like me but so much better.
        My will to live leeches out of my skin and disappears into the atmosphere. I should be in class. I once calculated it, and a Monday, Wednesday, Friday course costs forty-seven dollars, not counting rent.
        Counting rent in this city, it’s exactly one zillion.
        “Yeah, hi.” Jeremy flags down a passing server. A curvy woman with a tight Afro turns to us, arms laden with a full tray of food. “Yeah, can you get me a clean glass of water?” He holds his smeared glass to the light.
        “I can,” she says through her teeth, crinkling her eyes and nodding in a way that suggests she’s garroting him in her mind.
        “That’s not our server,” I whisper when she leaves. As a restaurant kid, albeit a pan-Asian strip-mall operation that charges a quarter for to-go boxes, I cringe with my whole body. Jeremy shrugs.
        I check myself out in the strip of antique mirror behind Rae’s and Jeremy’s heads. I swear my face is wider now than it was this morning. And the waistband of my mom jeans digs into my gut flesh, stanching circulation in my lower belly and thighs. I can feel my heartbeat in my camel-toe. It’s a dull pain. A solid distraction from this experience. I wonder if they were talking about me before I arrived.
        I eye the communal french fries. Saliva pools in the back of my gums. Ketchup is my kryptonite. Especially swirled with ranch dressing, which I’ve trained myself to give up. The Raes of the world would never. Or they would and it would be quirky and wholesome.
        Her leg is the circumference of my arm.
        I smile at the room in a way I imagine would appear breezy yet bored in a film about heartbreak. I love this place. You’d never guess that a dumpy French restaurant from the seventies would be the new hotspot, but that’s the other thing Jeremy’s good for: knowing the migratory practices of various clout monsters. That and ignoring the tourists as he sweet-talks Oni the hostess into ushering us past the busy bar and into the seats in the way, way back.
        Someday I’m going to eat a meal in a New York restaurant by myself without burning with shame.

About the Author

Mary H.K. Choi is a Korean-American author, editor, television and print journalist. She is the author of young adult novels Emergency Contact (2018) and Permanent Record (2019). She is the culture correspondent on Vice News Tonight on HBO and was previously a columnist at Wired and Allure magazines as well as a freelance writer. She attended a large public high school in a suburb of San Antonio, then college at the University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in Textile and Apparel.
2 winners will win a finished copy of YOLK, US Only.


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