Blog Tour: Sidekick by Natalie Whipple (Review)


Thanks for joining me on my stop for Natalie Whipple’s SIDEKICK blog tour. Follow the tour along and find out what other reviewers have to say about this book by clicking the banner above. And in case you did not know yet, there is an exclusive blog tour extract in my previous post. Plus we have an ongoing international giveaway for this book there, too.

Summary:
Russ is a high school football player who feels like he always comes in second to his best friend, Garret. In sports. In school. With girls. Well, he's tired of it, and he gets the rather foolish idea that if he can win the heart of the new girl in town before Garret he can prove he's not just sloppy seconds.

His plan? Use his anime-obsessed sister's group, who has befriended the new girl, to get closer to her. He'd never tell the team, but he's been going to Anime Night for years and might even enjoy it. That would ruin his reputation, just like his secret love for cooking and James Taylor.

But pretending to be something you aren't catches up to you eventually, and Russ can only get away with living two lives for so long. As more than one person reveals they have something to hide, Russ must figure out what and who he really wants in his life. And more than that, he needs the courage to make it happen.

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Whipple House
Publication date: November 10, 2015
Purchase links: Amazon | Barnes &Noble | The Book Depository
Purchase a signed copy from the author HERE!


My Thoughts:
Hey, hey, hey! SIDEKICK is a book that might pull you out from a reading slump. It was an easy breezy read for me (you know how I’m really a slow-reader) but it has some pretty deep stuff.

It’s a quite refreshing point of view to read a jock main character. For me, the heart of the book lies in Russ figuring out if he’s being a fake or not. Does changing the person he is depending on who the people around him are warrant as fakery? Does being nice to everybody being phony? I get how Russ feels pretty hard not to care about how people think of them when they’re high up there the social strata and everyone seems to be looking up at him and Garret. I love how Russ mulls over on things like that and how him and Garret are not your traditional shallow jerk jocks.


The people around Russ and Garret are interesting characters, too. Keira, the freaky new hot punk girl is mysteriously seductive. The Dork Gang and its leader, Izzy the tyrannical younger sister of Russ, are a bunch of people I found so enjoyable to read. If Izzy would have me in her group, I’d want to spend lots of anime marathon nights with them.

I have a lot of other favorites in the book such as how a famous burger joint, Parker’s, is the happy place of our main character and instrumental to help him decide what to do with his life. I also enjoyed those moments between Russ and his dad. There’s this touching one where Russ wants to do good and win the game because his dad is watching. And there are lots of parts where his dad pester him about what he wants to do in the future, college applications and whatnots. Oooh, and I can’t wait for you to read this messy hilarious huge sibling war between Russ and Izzy.

I will not tell much about the romance aspect of the story because I do not want to spoil it for you. Let’s just say that oblivious-to-his-own-good-looks-and-charms-Russ had a fair share of girls and he ended up with the one I shipped him with. I am so happy about this.

This book is not only about some insecure jock wanting to surpass his cooler best friend because of a girl. It is way more than that. It’s about a boy trying to not lose his individuality to those stifling expectations of his world. It’s about a boy looking at himself assessing whether he’s being real or a fake. It’s about a boy who’s weighing in if he’ll choose reputation over friendships. It’s about a boy being uncertain of his future after all the high school drama is over. This book has a lot of real complex teenage boy reflections. There might be a lot of other books that explore the same theme as Sidekick, but this one I have enjoyed very much. It made me feel good and I turned the last page with a smile.

My Rating:

Book Excerpt + Giveaway: Sidekick by Natalie Whipple


Today is the release of Natalie Whipple's new title, Sidekick. As a treat to your bookworm heart, you may read an extract here, plus win for yourself a Kindle copy of this greasy, delicious-looking read! Massive thank you to Dianne of Oops! I Read a Book Again for organizing this release day blast.


Summary:
Russ is a high school football player who feels like he always comes in second to his best friend, Garret. In sports. In school. With girls. Well, he's tired of it, and he gets the rather foolish idea that if he can win the heart of the new girl in town before Garret he can prove he's not just sloppy seconds.

His plan? Use his anime-obsessed sister's group, who has befriended the new girl, to get closer to her. He'd never tell the team, but he's been going to Anime Night for years and might even enjoy it. That would ruin his reputation, just like his secret love for cooking and James Taylor.

But pretending to be something you aren't catches up to you eventually, and Russ can only get away with living two lives for so long. As more than one person reveals they have something to hide, Russ must figure out what and who he really wants in his life. And more than that, he needs the courage to make it happen. (Add to your Goodreads TBR here)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Whipple House
Publication date: November 10, 2015
Purchase links: Amazon | Barnes &Noble | The Book Depository
Purchase a signed copy from the author HERE!

About Natalie Whipple:
Natalie Whipple grew up in the Bay Area and relocated to Utah for high school, which was quite the culture shock for her anime-loving teen self. But the Rocky Mountains eventually won her over, and she stuck around to earn her degree in English linguistics at BYU, with a minor in editing. Natalie still lives in Utah with her husband and three kids, and keeps the local Asian market in business with all her attempts to cook.

She is the author of the TRANSPARENT series, HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW, the I'M A NINJA series, FISH OUT OF WATER, and MY LITTLE BRONY (under K.M. Hayes). In addition to that, she is on the writing team for the cRPG Torment: Tides of Numenera that should be out sometime in 2015.

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Book Extract:

He shrugs. “You hungry?”

“Always.”

“Parker’s?”

“Of course.” Parker’s Drive-In is our place, and I mean that in the manliest way possible. Old Man Parker puts bacon grease in the burger meat, so the whole place smells like a giant slab of pig fat. There’s nothing better in the world than this homage to bacon.

Parker’s is always open, so when we pull up at midnight there are still a couple of people sitting in the bright red booths. When Garret opens the door, the cashier, Buck Parker, smiles wide. He’s the oldest of the four Parker boys. The whole family works there, and most of them are proud of it. I guess I would be too if I’d won awards for Best Drive-in Food. This place is one of the few reasons anyone comes to Clovis. The other two are family and farmers markets.

I’d never tell a soul, but sometimes I wish I could work here, even for one day, just to see how they create their burger masterpieces.

“Awesome catch, Garr!” Buck says. “If you don’t make the news, I’ll be shocked.”

Garret shakes his head, using that oh-I’m-not-so-great smile all the girls fall for. “It was just a lucky catch. Russ did all the legwork.”

I shove my hands in my pockets, trying not to be annoyed at Buck for overlooking me and my eighty-nine yards running tonight. But yards run don’t matter when you aren’t the one with the ball in the end zone. At least Garret acknowledges me. I do appreciate that.

“Way to go, Russ.” Buck glances at me with an overcompensating grin. Praise means nothing when it’s forced, so I can’t bring myself to answer. “What’ll you buys have?”

We both get two bacon burgers with a side of chili fries. Garret gets Coke, but I go for Sprite because Coke tastes maybe one degree better than beer.

We dig in, and I try not to moan over the crunchy bacon goodness. At Parker’s they chop up the bacon and make a full-on patty to go on top of the hamburger. So every single bite is full of bacon, bacon-flavored hamburger, and sharp cheddar. I have no choice but to forgive Buck for overlooking me. I bow to their burger genius.

Giveaway:
One lucky bookworm will win a Kindle copy of SIDEKICK, open internationally! Enter below:


Review: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Am I Normal Yet?
by Holly Bourne

Summary:
All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

(cover image and summary lifted from Goodreads)

Series: The Spinster Club #1
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd.
Publication date:  August 1, 2015
Source/Format: I borrowed my sister's finished paperback copy.
Purchase links: Amazon | WHSmith |  Waterstones

My Thoughts:

One of the greatest things a book can do is to influence your way of thinking to stand up for something. We read mostly just to be entertained but once in a while, you stumble across that one book that not only amuses you but also opens your eyes to the wrongs of this world and compels you to somehow help to make it right. This happened to me unexpectedly after reading Am I Normal Yet? (AINY)

AINY is about Evie’s quest for a normal sixteen year-old life while recovering from OCD and general anxiety. In her recovery diary, she wrote a list of things she considers “normal at 16” like getting herself a boyfriend, making new friends and getting invited to parties and gigs. One by one, stuff got ticked off from her list but at the cost of slowly losing herself in the “normality” of things.

"There’s so much crazy stuff in the world – everything’s a mess most of the time – but people who can’t handle it are called mental and have films made about them...But what if they’re just reacting to the weirdness of the universe? Isn’t it more weird to just think everything’s okay, when it clearly isn’t?"

What charmed me initially is Evie’s beautiful mind. She compartmentalizes her thoughts to categories like good or bad or logical or not. She explains things from how she chose a certain outfit (I found this funny) to how people nowadays still don’t get mental health problems (I found this one truly INTENSE). Sometimes, she even does bullet lists and flowcharts to make her point. Clever girl.

Then enter Evie’s newfound friendship with Amber and Lottie. They go on coffee and breakfast dates, discuss boy troubles and stuff, and most importantly founded The Spinster Club. AHHH, THE SPINSTERS CLUB! I WANT IN, WHERE DO I SIGN UP?! Forgive me if I will go on gushing lengthily about this awesome, awesome feminist squad. So halfway across the book, one of the girls got fed up with how unfairly her love interest treated her. The other two girls, being the good friends that they are, comforted her with chocolate and calming words. And suddenly their conversation dived deep with how horribly women are measured up on their worth on how they are liked by men. They started to question why there are offensive words thrown at girls like ‘slut’, ‘psycho girlfriend’ or ‘spinster’. There and then, they decided to reclaim the word ‘spinster’ and turn it into something other than lonely and bitter. Thus, born The Spinsters Club!

"We can reinvent the word ‘spinster’, make it the complete opposite of what it means? Like ‘young’ and ‘independent’ and strong?"

Soon enough, membership cards with cute cat designs are dished out (gimme, gimme!), club meetings with feminist agenda and cheesy snacks are held and feminist complaint letters to proper authorities are sent. I love how because of their support for each other, they have found strong opinions against gender inequality and started acting on it, albeit in small ways. But of course, there will STILL always be random talks about boys. #friendshipgoals

Put yo fists up high if The Spinsters Club is also your kind of thing.        Photo: Disney

Speaking of boys, Evie had more than one love interest in this book. It’s pure genius how all these love interests are given their sweet moments to shine with our heroine. And there are parts with well-executed tensions of love triangles, too. While reading, I can feel myself as Evie falling for these guys, finding their faults and being disappointed, only to get reeled back in the wild roller-coaster ride called being young and all-searchy for romantic love.

Oh, one last thing. You know that somewhat awful trope in YA books where family is totally discarded out of the picture? There is gladly none of that here. We find Amber bickering with her younger brother, we have Evie’s parents being all-controlling then slowly mellow down into more-understanding and there’s an abundant display of sibling love between Evie and her younger sis, Rose. TBH, sister stories always get me (because I love my sister dearly; she lends me books!) so I may or may not have shed tears on those tender Evie-Rose moments.

This book is a witty mesh of narrative tackling themes of mental health, friendship, teen romance, family and feminism. As for me, I love especially how it amusingly introduced me to the world of feminism. It’s actually the first time that I learned about things like Manic Pixie Dream Girl, Bechdel Test, and Madonna-Whore Complex. Before I read this book, I personally did not feel extremely discriminated as a woman. Now that my eyes are peeled open, I see these tiny things where there is in fact gender inequality. UGH, don’t let me start with how I found some product in the grocery with a variant targeted for women having a higher price tag with the variant targeted for men! Or don’t let me talk about how I wrote an e-mail to that product’s Customer Care and slightly schooled them about feminism!!! AND YES, I’M ALSO STARING AT YOU MEN WHO FIND JOY IN CATCALLING and OBJECTIFYING RANDOM WOMEN! More important than these tiny things however are those big things going on in other places like banning of education or private parts mutilation just because they are girls. These atrocious big things are maybe hard to tear down instantly as they are ingrained in their belief system for a long time but I think we can help in chipping it away by first being aware that gender inequality is not a myth and then start campaigning against it. In that light, I think AM I NORMAL YET? is an excellent book for feminist beginners like me. It’s a book that delivers awareness about gender inequality and it’s also a campaign call for us to be Spinsters Club members ourselves. I hope more girls AND boys (‘coz remember Emma Watson’s rousing UN speech #HeForShe) will read this one.

My Rating: