Note: This review is for the first three books in the series (spoiler-free)!
Portland Heat by Annabeth Albert
Served Hot: 3 of 5 stars
Baked Fresh: 3 of 5 stars
Delivered Fast: 4 of 5 stars
Series Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Since David had come into my life I’d learned a lot more about hope. It looks like ivory sheets and stacks of paint cans and two pairs of shoes next to the bed. It sounds like rustling bedcovers and murmured endearments. Hope tastes like skin and soap and victory and coffee. And I can say now with absolute certainty that hope does come in a paper cup and smells an awful lot like a vanilla latte to go. – Served Hot
This series is full of quick, sweet contemporary M/M romance novellas. Each installment features its own main couple, with their own romance, and while the other characters make an appearance, it’s only in passing. One upside of this is that the stories can basically be read in any order, and there’s no need for recap between them.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series so far. It helps that stories like this are candy for my brain – I’m a serious sucker for romance, the novellas are short enough that they progress quickly with a limited amount of drama, and they require very little mental focus on my part. I’ll definitely keep reading more from Annabeth Albert when I’m in need of a guilty pleasure read.
Recommendation: Read this if you are a fan of lighthearted M/M romance with lots of sexy times, or if you’re a pacific-northwesterner looking for a delightfully familiar setting.
Love Me Tenor by Annabeth Albert (Perfect Harmony, Book 2)
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Release Date: 2/16/2016
He cuddled into Jalen, burrowing against him until they were both under the blankets, Trevor’s head on Jalen’s chest, Jalen’s arms around him.
Not touching. Um. Yeah. That was going to work out well.
I read this in the middle of an Annabeth Albert binge, and I’m so glad I did. Set with the reality TV backdrop of a boy band competition, the writing style is conversational and the contemporary plot of singing and romance will suck you in. It’s a perfect guilty pleasure book that can be read as a standalone or as part of its companion series.
Recommendation: Read this if you love M/M contemporary romance and the goofiness of reality TV talent competitions. Oh, and LOTS of steamy adult scenes…
(This ARC was generously provided through Net Galley for an honest review.)
Treble Maker by Annabeth Albert (Perfect Harmony, Book 1)
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
The timbre of his voice was like the sea salt caramel sauce Lucas had sampled in Chicago last summer–velvety and smooth caramel, with a classic timeless flavor, but then the pow of the salt–raw, gritty, and one of a kind.
This was such a guilty pleasure read for me! The writing was so-so and there were some formatting issues with the Kindle copy, but the story was upbeat, compelling, and full of steamy, very adult scenes. Overall, I enjoyed it immensely and immediately set out to find more books by Albert.
Recommendation: Definitely read this if you’re a fan of adult M/M contemporary romance, especially if you enjoy reality TV antics and a capella!
By Meets Boy by David Levithan
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
We all need a place. I have mine–this topsy-turvy collection of friends, tunes, afterschool activities, and dreams. I want him to have a place, too. When he says, “I like it here,” I don’t want there to be a sad undertone. I want to be able to say. So stay.
This is a sweet, sad, quirky, and whimsical tale about a boy named Paul and his many friends. Being set in a world that reminds me of a carnival-mirror version of our own, it explores a lot of serious issues while wrapping them in humor and whimsy. I know some reviewers didn’t appreciate the seemingly unrealistic community of characters, but I thought they framed the story beautifully, allowing me to imagine a world, not too different from our own, in which acceptance can come a little easier.
Recommendation: Read this if you are craving a wacky, whimsical world in which the high school’s top drag queen can also be the star quarterback.
The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Love’s more than holding hands and going to dances. It’s two people who struggle to live, even when they should maybe both be dead. When maybe one of them would be better off dead.”
Andrew Brawley’s story is beautiful and tragic in so many ways, full of grief, guilt, friendship, family, and love.
Recommendation: Read this if you are looking for a somber, but deeply moving story. I also recommend a box of tissues.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
But I’m tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again.
I loved this book so much, and in ways that I find really difficult to articulate. The writing is charismatic, snarky, and just plain fun to read, and while the story is largely about Simon falling in love and coming out to the world, its themes are astonishingly universal.
And there are way too many great quotes to just include two…
I love the way you smile like you don’t realize you’re doing it. I love your perpetual bed head. I love the way you hold eye contact a moment longer than you need to. And I love your moon-gray eyes. So if you think I’m not attracted to you, Simon, you’re crazy.
Recommendation: Read this if you liked Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, because they have so many great qualities in common! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you should read Carry On, too! 😉
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am going to die kissing Simon Snow. Aleister Crowley, I’m living a charmed life. – Baz
Of all the things I was most excited about after finishing Fangirl a few weeks ago, the release of Carry On was at the top of the list. Now I have the supreme joy of reviewing it (then maybe starting it again from chapter one).
At first I wasn’t sure what to expect since Carry On takes place over the course of Simon Snow’s 8th year in magic school, with at least 7 years of back story that need to be incorporated without boring or confusing the reader. It only took me a couple of chapters to realize that this wasn’t going to be a problem – Rowell did an amazing job of quickly building the world, magic system, and relationships.
I don’t want to go too far into the plot, because discovering that is part of the story’s charm, but I do want to say a few words about the romance. I loved the dynamic between Simon and Baz. It was everything I hoped for, especially concerning Baz. I know some readers wished that there had been more romance time, but considering they begin the book as mortal enemies, it seemed completely reasonable that their relationship would need time to evolve. Besides, the romantic bits that were included were fabulous.
I’ll finish this off with one final note: you don’t need to have read or enjoyed Fangirl to read and enjoy this book. It is completely self contained – just know that it’s a bit of a parody of both Harry Potter and fanfiction.
Recommendation: If you love Harry Potter, wizard schools in general, pop culture references, British slang, Rainbow Rowell, and/or adorably quirky romances, YOU NEED TO READ THIS!