Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wanderlust Wednesday: Books Set in Italy


Since June marks the 2-year anniversary of my big UK/European adventure, I'm feeling nostalgic...and I'm also feeling the need to read alllll the books with settings of places I love. 

For the last two weeks and again today I've been recommending books set in each of the countries I visited: England, France, and Italy. I love travelling vicariously through stories when I can't actually travel myself, and I know I'm not the only one, so I hope you'll enjoy these lists!

Last week I shared recommendations for books set in France and the week before it was books set in England. This week it's books set in Italy!

Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae ~ For me, this book is right up there with Anna and the French (which, if you know me at all, is incredibly high praise). It's fun, it made me giggle like crazy, it's swoony, and the setting is beautiful. There's this scene where Pippa either comes up from the metro or rounds the corner (I can't remember exactly - it's been three years since I read it) and sees the Colosseum for the first time and is completely awestruck. When I came up out of the metro and saw the Colesseum for the first time, I thought of her and had my own holy-shit-I-can't-believe-I'm-here moment. 

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch ~ Another giggle-and-swoon-enducing read. I loved seeing Italy through Lina's eyes. With the addition of Lina's mother's journal entries, you get a story within a story, which I loved.

The Turning Point by Marie Meyer ~ A sweet and steamy romance with a beautiful setting. This is ultimately a story about the power of love

A Place in the Sun by RS Grey ~A beautiful and romantic story set in Vernazza, Italy. I loved this funny, swoony, emotional story.

Racing the Sun by Karina Halle ~ Set in beautiful Capri, with a unique storyline, I really enjoyed this one. The romance had a lot of push and pull, but in the end I rooted for the characters, largely because things weren't easy for them, but they worked hard to stay together.

Venom (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #1) by Fiona Paul ~ If you like historical fiction, this one is set in Renaissance Venice, and is full of intrigue and romance.

The Eternal City by Paula Morris ~ I'll be honest, this isn't my favourite book (it had so much potential!), but one thing it had going for it was the beautiful descriptions of Rome.

What are some of your favourite books set in Italy? Do you have any recommendations for books set in Italy (especially Rome)?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe

Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe
Published: June 24th, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic
272 pages (ebook)
Genre: Contemporary Memoir/LGBTQ+
Acquired this book: Bought
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

An inspiring, uplifting and sympathetic story about sexuality and self-acceptance, Lucy Sutcliffe's debut memoir is a personal and moving coming out story. In 2010, at seventeen, Lucy Sutcliffe began an online friendship with Kaelyn, a young veterinary student from Michigan. Within months, they began a long distance relationship, finally meeting in the summer of 2011. Lucy's video montage of their first week spent together in Saint Kitts, which she posted to the couple's YouTube channel, was the first in a series of films documenting their long-distance relationship. Funny, tender and candid, the films attracted them a vast online following. Now, for the first time, Lucy's writing about the incredible personal journey she's been on; from never quite wanting the fairy-tale of Prince Charming to realising she was gay at the age of 14, through three years of self-denial to finally coming out to friends and family, to meeting her American girlfriend Kaelyn. 



I’m not sure how I originally discovered Girl Hearts Girl. I’m guessing I must have seen something on YouTube or maybe Instagram. I had a note for months on my whiteboard that said ‘Lucy Sutcliffe’ and when I finally looked her up, I discovered this book and thought Pride Month would be the perfect time to read it.

Girl Hearts Girl is the story of Lucy Sutcliffe growing up, figuring out she's gay, and dealing with those confusing, scary feelings. It’s about her friends, her family, and eventually her long-distance girlfriend, Kaelyn. I think the synopsis is a tad misleading - it sounds like this is ‘their’ story - how they met, fell in love, got together - and if someone picked this book up because they were a fan Lucy’s and Kaelyn’s YouTube videos, they might be disappointed to learn the first half of the book is about Lucy’s experiences growing up.

Personally, I enjoyed reading about her younger years, but then I had never heard of Lucy and Kaelyn and knew nothing about their YouTube videos. I just liked that Lucy was a regular kid - kinda weird and nerdy, and obsessed with Harry Potter, like me. I’m glad we got to see a lot of her struggles as a young teen before the romance aspect came into play because that could have easily overshadowed some of the important bits about friendship and finding acceptance at a younger age.

I also appreciated that Lucy talked openly about her anxiety and eventually seeking help. People are starting to talk more openly about mental health and we’re seeing it dealt with a bit more in fiction, but it was a nice surprise to see it in this book, and it helped me connect to Lucy even more. I felt for her in a lot of ways - worrying about fitting in, being self-conscious about being weird and different, and then struggling with the myriad of emotions surrounding realizing she likes girls. She made herself sick over thinking there was something wrong with her and worrying what people would think, and I’m sure a lot of people will be able to connect to that.

While I identified with Lucy in several ways, I had trouble connecting to the writing. The style was very simple - almost too simple. Because of the simplistic writing, this book could be read by anyone at any age, but I found myself wishing for a bit more depth. Usually in a book like this, you’d get a lot of profound realizations and poignant discoveries, and while there were a few inspirational moments, I wanted to feel more, connect more with Lucy. I also wish that because half the book was largely about her relationship with Kaelyn, that we’d seen more of their relationship. I know they were long distance for many years, but it would have been nice to see more of the emotional side of things. Also, while I get that this is a memoir and Lucy can only talk about her own personal experiences, I felt like the whole thing was a bit idealistic. She dealt with very little homophobia (which is obviously great, and I’m pleased for her) and a few times things were said by other people along the lines of no one cares anymore if you’re gay, or it doesn’t matter to people anymore, but that’s simply not true. Sure, there are plenty of wonderful, accepting people - more now than even a decade or two ago - but there’s still a lot of homophobia out there. A lot of hateful, hurtful people. I would hope that most people have the good experiences and support Lucy did, but it’s often not the case. It’s nice to see good experiences and know they’re possible; people, especially younger people who are just discovering their sexuality or deciding to come out, deserve to see the good side of things, but I think it can also be harmful and misleading to think it’s always that simple or that safe.

That being said, I did appreciate how Lucy mentioned that once she and Kaelyn started posting their videos, they got a lot of letters, including from gay teens in places where you could be jailed or even killed for being gay, and they said how inspirational the videos were and how much they helped them. Lucy does acknowledge her good fortune and privilege to have dealt very little with homophobia, and to live in a place where it’s mostly safe to be out, which was nice to see.

Overall, I enjoyed Girl Hearts Girl. It was sweet, funny, and had some touching and inspirational moments. I liked the overall message of finding the people who love you for who you are, being true to yourself, and finding the inner strength to carry on no matter what. I’d recommend this to teens and young adults, especially those who are uncertain about their sexuality or who are thinking of coming out/starting to come out/are newly out. I think many people will find comfort and inspiration in Lucy’s journey. She’s just a regular girl who goes through many of the normal pains of growing up, and for a lot of people I think it will be comforting to know they’re not alone.

Have you read Girl Hearts Girl? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you read non-fiction?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I'm honoured to be part of Simon & Schuster Canada's blog tour for The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I've been a fan of Ms Jenkins Reid since her debut novel, and she's got another winner with her latest release. 


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Series: Standalone
Published: June 13th, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
400 pages (ARC)
Genre: Women’s fiction
Acquired this book: From the publisher in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: This review contains marked spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.


Having read all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books, I know one thing for sure: when you read one of her books, you can expect the unexpected. Going into The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I knew absolutely nothing about the story. I didn’t care. From the time I finished TJR's debut, Forever, Interrupted, she’s had a spot on my auto-read list, so it didn’t really matter what her latest book was about, because I knew I’d likely devour it and love it, and I was right.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a story about love, friendship, secrets, loss, and doing whatever is necessary to survive and succeed. It takes place from the 1950s until present day, alternating between modern day, with Monique’s story, and spanning through the decades with Evelyn’s story about her humble beginnings through her success as a Hollywood star.

Evelyn was an incredibly complex character. She was deeply flawed, but she was refreshingly aware of those flaws - in fact, she’d be the first to point them out. She was ruthless at times, and she knew it. She did whatever it took to rise to the top - used people, hurt people, told lies. She was criticized for the things men often do that no one thinks twice about, and she was shameless in that. She used her body and her sex appeal to get what she wanted. She did whatever it took to get ahead, to keep her secrets, to live the life she wanted. Her strength and her vulnerability made me truly feel for her.

This story really makes you think about Hollywood and how things are handled. I loved the addition of the tabloid articles every few chapters. You’d see things from Evelyn’s perspective as they happened and then get the media’s skewed version, almost always more salacious. There’s so much speculation and out-and-out lies told about celebrities, and this book really showcased that. It was sad that Evelyn had to be careful who she trusted, but it was also fascinating how she learned to spin the press to her own advantage on many occasions. I’m not the type to believe anything in tabloids (I don’t actually read them, but I’ve made a game out of reading the ludicrous headlines in a scandalized voice while waiting in line at the grocery store - as you do), but I do see occasional celebrity gossip/news online, and it makes me wonder about some of the things I’ve read and heard about my favourite celebrities. It’ll definitely make me stop and think about certain things I hear from now on.


Before I read this book, I saw several people shelve it under LGBTQ+ on GoodReads, and I was curious. I thought maybe Evelyn had kissed a woman or even had sex with a woman, or that maybe one of her husbands was gay, hence the LGBTQ+ shelving. So I was shocked - pleasantly so - to discover Evelyn Hugo was bisexual. As a bisexual woman myself, I think the storyline was handled well, and I was impressed and pleased with how TJR captured the complexities and nuances of sexuality, and the fact it’s not black and white (as Evelyn once said Celia saw it, depending on whether she loved or hated Evelyn). It was heartbreaking and eye-opening to see how Evelyn and Celia had to hide their relationship for fear it would ruin their careers or possibly even put them in danger. I rooted for them, laughed with them, cried with them. Their relationship was tumultuous, frustrating, passionate, full of heartache and joy, and was ultimately so beautiful and meaningful. I was glad that in the end, Evelyn wanted people to know her true self and who her one true love was.


Words can’t do justice to how impressed I am with Taylor Jenkins Reid’s storytelling abilities. Once again, with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, she has blown me away. This is an emotional story with characters that leap off the pages. If you’re looking for a unique, fast-paced, compelling story with plenty of twists, I highly recommend The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.


{My review of Forever, Interrupted || My review of After I Do || My review of Maybe in Another Life || My review of One True Loves}

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you read any of Taylor Jenkins Reid's other books? If you could read a biography about any celebrity, who would it be?

Wanderlust Wednesday: Books Set in France


Since June marks the 2-year anniversary of my big UK/European adventure, I'm feeling nostalgic...and I'm also feeling the need to read alllll the books with settings of places I love. Last week, this week, and next week I'll be recommending books set in each of the countries I visited: England, France, and Italy. I love travelling vicariously through stories when I can't actually travel myself, and I know I'm not the only one, so I hope you'll enjoy these lists!

Last week I shared recommendations for books set in England, and this week it's books set in France.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins ~ One of my favourite books ever. It makes me giggly and swoony and just all around happy. I love the Parisian setting and getting to explore the city with Anna.

The Beautiful and the Cursed (The Dispossessed #1) by Page Morgan ~ Set in 1899 in Paris, this book features gargoyles - something I haven’t encountered in YA before or since reading this book. It’s got lots of action and romance, plus interesting lore about gargoyles.

The Chateau of Happily Ever Afters by Jaimie Admans ~ This book completely transported me to Normandy. I could picture myself at the chateau and living a quiet, simple life surrounded by nature, and shopping at the market every week.

Fleur de Lies (Passport to Peril #9) by Maddy Hunter ~ Each of the books in the Passport to Peril series (my favourite cozy mystery series - actually, one of my favourite series, period) is set in a different country, and Fleur de Lies is set in France. You get to see different areas of the country, and I loved it!

The Conspiracy of Us (The Conspiracy of Us #1) and Map of Fates (The Conspiracy of Us #2) by Maggie Hall ~ These books take place in a few different countries and cities, but Paris is a main setting. Having been to Paris twice, I loved reading about so many familiar places. I could picture it all with perfect clarity. These books are action packed and keep you guessing. I can’t wait for the third book, The Ends of the World.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman ~  Like the Conspiracy of Us series, this book takes place in a few different countries and cities, but Paris is an important one.

One Paris Summer by Denise Grover Swank ~ I’ll be honest, this isn’t my favourite book, but I added it to the list because of the setting (and cover) and because I like to encourage people to decide for themselves. This book is good if you’re looking for a light book with a fun setting.

What are some of your favourite books set in France? Do you have any recommendations for books set in France (especially Paris)?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Blog Tour Spotlight: The Foxe and the Hound by RS Grey

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Foxe and the Hound by RS Grey! I read this book earlier in the month and will have a review of it up soon. For now, here's a bit about the book:

When your life is a hot mess at twenty, it’s cute. At twenty-seven…well, not so much.

It’s just that my lofty dreams—making it as a real estate agent, paying rent on time, showering daily—have stayed just that: dreams. Oh, and love? I’ve decided love might be a little ambitious for me at the moment. Instead, I’ve settled for the two guys who will never leave me: Ben & Jerry.

That is, until Dr. Adam Foxe takes up residence as the town’s new vet.

With his strong jaw, easy confidence, and form-fitting scrubs, it’s not long before every housewife in Hamilton is dragging neglected tomcats in for weekly checkups.

Like everyone else, I’m intrigued. Even after I spoil my chance at a good first impression, he still offers me a proposition I can’t refuse: play his girlfriend at a family function and he’ll hire me as his real estate agent. Welcome to love in the 21st century.

It’s too bad I underestimated Adam’s irresistible charm and the undeniable attraction that burns between us. The day he pins me to the wall and silences me with a kiss, the line between reality and ruse begins to blur. Every teasing touch brings me to my knees. Every kiss promises more.
It looks like my hot mess of a life is about to get a little hotter.
Add The Foxe and the Hound on Goodreads
Buy The Foxe and the Hound now

About R.S. Grey

R.S. Grey is the USA Today bestselling author of thirteen novels, including THE FOXE & THE HOUND. She lives in Texas with her husband and two dogs, and can be found reading, binge-watching reality TV, or practicing yoga! Visit her at

Monday, June 12, 2017

Review: Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee
Series: Standalone
Published: March 14th, 2017
Publisher: Aladdin
256 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary Middle Grade/Retelling/LGBTQ
Acquired this book: Via Edelweiss in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.


I’d just like to start out by saying I am so glad this book exists. When I first heard about Star-Crossed and discovered it was LGBTQ+ Middle Grade, I was over the moon. I tried to keep my expectations in check, but I was excited, and luckily this book exceeded my expectations.

When I was twelve I was obsessed with Romeo and Juliet. The Leo DiCaprio/Claire Danes movie version had just come out and I bought myself a copy of the play to read. While I see the story’s faults as an adult, I loved it back then, so I know I would have loved this book and its many creative parallels to Shakespeare’s story. I loved the way the author took a well-known story and made it something new and fresh not only with its middle school setting, but also by having the role of Romeo be a young girl, Mattie, who was questioning her budding feelings for Juliet, or in this case, Gemma. For so many reasons, I wish I’d had this book as a tween or young teen. It would have been nice to see a character like myself, uncertain and questioning.

It’s so important to have books like this in schools and libraries, where kids can seek them out and find characters like themselves - or like their friends or family - in the pages. I appreciated how it was completely age-appropriate and dealt with other real-life issues as well as Mattie’s growth, plus - my favourite part - the realization that it’s okay to like whoever you want, whether that’s boys or girls or both. I’ve read so few books with positive bisexual rep, and the fact a Middle Grade book not only did it, but did it so well makes me incredibly happy.

Star-Crossed is a sweet, funny, touching story with a relatable and memorable main character as well as a wonderful cast of side characters. It took me back to my own middle school days of obsessive, confusing, angsty, all-consuming crushes and navigating school and friends and family life. I loved that Mattie’s bisexuality wasn’t something for her to ‘overcome’ or this big, shameful thing - it was just another part of her, albeit a confusing part as she figured things out. I’d love to see books like this as required reading for tweens and young teens, whether they’re gay, straight, or anywhere in between, and I also think it’d be a great book for teachers and parents to read. I’ve been recommending Star-Crossed a lot since I read it and I’ll continue to do so!

Have you read Star-Crossed? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you read any other Middle Grade books with LGBTQ+ characters?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Review: You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
Series: Standalone
Published: June 7th, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
248 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult/LGBTQ
Acquired this book: From the library
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is, until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other—and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.


You Know Me Well is the type of book I think a lot of people have been looking for, myself included. I’ve been desperate for more books where characters are out, happy, and just living life. I know we will always need coming-out stories and stories about queer characters struggling with their sexuality, gender, etc., but I want so many more stories about happy queer people, teens especially, who are living their lives and who get a happy ending.

And this book...holy queer characters, Batman! I think just about everyone in this book except the parents was queer. You get so used to reading books with no queer characters or maybe the gay friend/side character, so it was refreshing to see this eclectic group of queer kids.

My favourite part of this book was the friendship aspect and the idea that a stranger can see you more clearly and know you better than the people who have known you forever. With longtime friendships, people can see you the way they want to see you or the way you used to be or as what they need you to be and not who you truly are. I think this is particularly true for teens when you’re trying to figure out yourself and the world, and you’re constantly changing but some people only ever see you one way. The uncertain teen who still lives inside me connected with this story and these characters, and while Adult Me realized the story was a touch idealistic at times, it was Teen Me’s emotions that overruled and loved this story for exactly what it was: a story about friendship, love, and figuring out life. I think it was one of those ‘right time’ books for me - the type of book where if I read it at another point in my life, it might not have resonated as much, but I picked it up at the exact right time and it really struck a chord. It left me smiling, teary eyed, and completely satisfied.

You Know Me Well is beautiful and poignant in its sweetness and simplicity. If you’re looking for a quick contemporary, especially one with LGBTQ+ characters, be sure to give this one a try.

Have you read You Know Me Well? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you know what I mean by 'right book, right time'? Does that ever happen to you?
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