VNYL January 2018 shipping box

Unboxing: VNYL January 2018 subscription box

Hello! One move and one emergency surgery later, I’m back to spread my views across the internet. We’re starting with an unboxing and will hopefully move on to some book reviews later in the week. Today we’re taking a look at VNYL, a subscription company that mails out music on vinyl records. These days, this is how I collect the music I love. It’s nostalgic and fun and today’s LPs sound better than their predecessors. You won’t find much hissing and popping on 180 gram vinyl.

VNYL sends you three curated records based on your own personal likes and dislikes. You can link your account to your Discogs list so they know what you already own and you can also link to your Spotify account so they know what you listen to on a regular basis. If you don’t have either of those, no worries. There’s a page where you can write down your favorite and least favorite bands and genres and you can adjust it as the subscription moves forward if you find that you’re not getting what you enjoy. After all of that is logged in, you choose from a list of “vibes” so they know what mood you’re in for music that month.

VNYL January 2018 note

So, up top you’ll see the protective box the records shipped in. Inside, as always, were a sheet of paper advertising other vinyl you can buy from them, a note from my curator, and a sticker based on the vibe I chose. The note explains what they chose for you and sometimes why.

VNYL January 2018 records

This month I received the following three records: Love’s Crushing Diamond by Mutual Benefit, The Heart Speaks in Whispers by Corinne Bailey Rae and The Prince and the Duke by Republican Hair. Two of these bands were new to me, which is great. I purposely asked the company to send me music I haven’t heard of so I can expand my horizons a bit. I love discovering new tunes.

The Mutual Benefit album is relaxing and pretty. Definitely something I could work to. Republican Hair’s record is actually a special print where one side is songs from the album High and Tight and the other is songs influenced by Prince and David Bowie. It was a fun mix with a good beat. Corinne Bailey Rae was the one artist in this shipment that I’d heard of previously. I enjoyed her first album, so I was excited to try this one out. It’s a bit jazzy, a bit mellow and full of beautiful vocals.

Overall, I’d give this box 5 stars. VNYL always does an excellent job picking music I’ll like. They really take care to read through your interests and pick something along the same lines. If you don’t like to experiment with your music, you can choose to have them only send you music from artists you specifically mention or have on your Spotify list. I find it more fun to get a few surprises though.

If you’d like to order VNYL for yourself or someone you love, click here to visit their website.

5 out of 5 stars

Nocturnal Reader's Box Hell Shipping Box

Unboxing: Nocturnal Reader’s Box November 2017 ‘Hell’ Theme Subscription

With my temporary living arrangements and saving up to get a new apartment by the first of the year, I’ve had to decrease my subscription shipments to one box per month. This month, I chose Nocturnal Reader’s Box – a horror novel subscription that sends two books and assorted terrifying goodies for $35 plus shipping. The November theme was Hell and it was a lot of fun.

Nocturnal Reader's Box Hell paper padding

Above this article, you’ll see Persephone anxiously awaiting my opening of the box. She just had to get in on the pic. The box itself is printed with the company logo on top and packed with paper padding. Everything got here just fine. The paper kept it from shuffling too much.

Nocturnal Reader's Box Hell items

The first items I pulled from the box were a wall pennant, a sliding pin, a bookmark and an art print. The wall pennant is horror themed where spooky scenes abound from skeletons and an old church to a UFO and torn horror novel. It’s good sized and I plan on hanging it in my living room once we move. The pin features the bucket of pig’s blood from Stephen King’s Carrie. It slides from the bucket and spells out the name of the novel in the drips. Very cool. Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery inspired this month’s bookmark. It has a photo of a hand with stones on the front and a quote from the book on the back. Lastly, the art print presents Chris Galen’s version of Cenobite (Butterball) from Clive Barker’s Hellbound Heart and the Hellraiser films, neither of which I’ve viewed, but the print is an interesting piece of art.

Nocturnal Reader's Box Hell books

The goodies don’t stop there! Next in the box were this month’s books, a pillow cover, a beanie cap and a sample pouch of coffee. The books were The Wilderness Within by John Claude Smith – a twisty, hallucinatory journey of a story – and a book of short stories by Ronald Malfi called We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone that the company warns you not to read in the dark. Both are new releases. I read Smith’s novel the same day I got the box and will be posting the review here soon.

The pillow cover includes a quote by Shirley Jackson. I’m not real fond of the face silhouette on the front, so I’m not sure if I’ll be using it even though I like the quote. I’m still pondering. The beanie cap features the Night’s Watch from Game of Thrones. It’s double-thick, so it should be nice and warm. I admit, I’m only on season 2 of GoT, but I’m very much enjoying it. The coffee in this box was created by Coffee Shop of Horrors and it’s based on Hell House by Richard Matheson. It’s apple strudel flavor and very tasty.

I like this box. I love horror novels, but never think to pick them up for myself. This gave me two new books I hadn’t heard of to try out new authors. The items included with the books were all useable and fun.

If you’d like to try Nocturnal Reader’s Box out for yourself, click here to find their website. December’s theme is Predator and Prey and will include items or books from the following authors: William Peter Blatty, Josh Malerman, Peter Benchley, Stephen King, Joe Hill and more. The December box will also provide a t-shirt or tote bag, based on your subscription choice.

4 out of 5 stars

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

Book Review: ‘A Perilous Undertaking’ by Deanna Raybourn

On September 19, the newest Veronica Speedwell mystery was released in paperback and I just recently got around to reading it. It’s the second in a series that I love and while I think I enjoyed the first novel better than A Perilous Undertaking it was still a lot of fun with twists and turns that you don’t see coming.

Veronica once again teams up with her attractive natural-historian pal Stoker to solve a mystery. This time, her estranged aunt has hired her to solve a murder blamed on art patron Miles Ramsforth, who is due to hang in a week’s time. His mistress, Artemisia, was brutally killed and Miles cannot produce an alibi. Veronica and Stoker will search everywhere for clues, from an artists’ colony to a subterranean grotto. Can they prove Ramsforth innocent before the killer gets to them?

The Veronica Speedwell mysteries are always funny and entertaining. Things between Veronica and Stoker tend to get a bit steamy, but never quite get past the bonds of friendship, and their repartee is witty and intelligent. While I figured out the killer at the beginning of the novel, there were a few red herrings thrown in that made me question whether I was right. The characters are all multi-faceted, making it easy to heavily invest yourself in the tale. I can’t wait to read the next book.

Overall, I think the first novel was a better mystery, but this one didn’t lack for entertainment. I’m still rooting for Veronica and Stoker to get over their pasts and become an item, though their obvious love for each other creates a friendship to be envied. If you love Victorian mysteries with spunk, this series is a must-read.

4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Google Play / Kobo

Unboxing: PageHabit YA Quarterly Box October 2017 Julie Dao Subscription

Hello. I know I’ve been slow in coming back, but I’m hoping to remedy that this month. I’ve been reading more and I have two subscription reviews to show you, including this one for the PageHabit YA Quarterly box. Every quarterly book box is hosted by a different author who puts in a copy of their new release with post-it notes spread throughout, 2 other books that mean something to them plus several bookish goodies. October’s edition was put together by Julie Dao.

PageHabit Quarterly YA Box Julie Dao padding

Up top, you’ll see the box everything was shipped in. It’s just a plain brown box with their return address on the label. It doesn’t even have the company name, but it’s always padded well for shipping, as you’ll see above.

PageHabit Quarterly YA Box Julie Dao papers

On top of the cardboard shreds is a letter from the author as well as a card that gives you information on the country PageHabit is donating part of their portions to. This month it was the Democratic Republic of Congo. I love that they give back towards education and reading.

PageHabit Quarterly YA Box Julie Dao goodies

The first things I pulled out of the box were the bookish goods. There was an Albert Einstein glossy bookmark that reads, “The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the way to the library,” which is awesome. I also got a human heart keychain, a moon-shaped night light, and a morphing mug that grows cherry blossoms when you add a hot beverage. The pocket mirror you see has the cover photo from this month’s book. The other goodies tie into the story, except the bookmark.

PageHabit Quarterly YA Box Julie Dao morphing mug

Everything is excellent quality. Nothing feels cheap and it’s all useful. I put the nightlight and mug to immediate use and broke in the bookmark yesterday. The mirror will be handy for touching up makeup. The only item I probably won’t use is the keychain. I have no real interest in human anatomy. I’m currently wracking my brain to think of someone to give it to.

PageHabit Quarterly YA Box Julie Dao books

Under this month’s book-related items were the three novels Dao included. One is her new release, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns which has annotations stuck to the pages throughout the story. This is my favorite part of every box. I enjoy getting a deeper look into the author’s mind, and the signed bookplate is icing on the cake. The other two novels this month were popular YA reads. One is Legend by Marie Lu and the other is The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. Unfortunately, I already own these two novels since they are so mainstream. I’m happier when PageHabit throws in books I haven’t heard of yet. On the plus side, I haven’t read them and my other copies are both packed away in storage until my next move. Having copies I can easily get to is good and when I’m finished, I can pass them along to my niece.

Have any of you read Dao’s novel yet? It’s a re-telling of the story of Snow White’s evil queen. I’m really looking forward to it. I just need to finish a couple of books ahead of it. You can post how you feel about it down below, but no spoilers, please!

If you’re interested in joining PageHabit, there’s a few things you should know. One, they have two levels of subscriptions – monthly and quarterly. Monthly has just one book and a couple of unrelated goodies. Quarterly always has 3 books and more thoughtfully chosen gifts, but it, of course, costs more and ships less often. Both options are available for a variety of genres. Quarterly includes literary fiction, YA, and cookbooks while the monthly option adds mystery, fantasy, romance, horror, historical fiction, and science fiction to the list on top of YA and literary fiction.

Monthly boxes start at $29.99 per box plus shipping. Quarterly boxes run at $49.99 plus shipping. Both choices will give you annotated post-its and a nice bookmark and their items don’t overlap, so if you wanted both the quarterly and monthly shipment, you’d get two different books even if you pick the same genre.

The Quarterly YA box is one of my favorite subscriptions. I hope you like it too.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Harlequin Reader Service box

Unboxing: August 2017 Harlequin Reader Service Paranormal shipment

Okay. I’ve decided to post some of the subscription boxes I got back at the end of August before I took my break. They still give you a good idea of what specific subscriptions offer so you can choose whether or not to sign up. I’ll also be adding some October boxes soon.

My first August box I want to review was from Harlequin Reader Service. Did you know that Harlequin has a long-standing subscription book service for various types of romance genres? Most of their subscriptions offer just two books, but the paranormal romance box provides you with four novels. Two are always from the Nocturne imprint and the other two vary, usually from Avon, Mira or Carina Press. Most boxes also include some type of gift. When I subscribed years ago, I got a set of plastic flowered dessert dishes (one dish in each box). They’ve come in very handy time and again. This time around it was jewelry (more on that below).

Above, you’ll see how the shipment was packaged. Harlequin always ships in a plain brown box with your invoice in an envelope on top. They used to include Bonus Bucks with your bill in each shipment that you could use towards free books and merchandise. I didn’t receive any in this shipment, so I’m not sure if that’s still a thing. They did include a dollar off my bill this time, but only if I paid by mail, which I never do. I would’ve liked to have seen an option for paying online.

Harlequin Reader Service packaging materials

Inside the box, the books were packed in paper for safe travels. They got here without bending or creasing.

Harlequin Reader Service August 2017 Paranormal books

As I said before, there were four books in my shipment. The two Nocturne titles were The Witch’s Quest by Michele Hauf and Brimstone Prince by Barbara J. Hancock. I’m not always a fan of Michele Hauf, so I’m not sure how I’ll like that one. The other author is new to me, but the story involves a daemon prince who abandons Hell for his music. I love a good paranormal rock star story, so I’m more than willing to give this one a try.

The other two novels in my box were Wolves’ Triad by Lauren Dane and Wildfire by Ilona Andrews. I think Wildfire is the third in a series and it looks like a continuation of a previous story, so I may need to read the other two first. Dane’s novel is actually the second book in the Cascadia Wolves series from 2006 and it’s been renamed. This one looks like it can be read as a standalone, so I’ll probably read it before going back to the beginning novel. All four of these novels were published in 2017. The Nocturne Novels are always brand new while the other two tend to be a few months old.

Also in my shipment was a leather bracelet with one glass bead charm. With each shipment, I’ll receive a new charm for it. It fit my big wrists, but is difficult to put on without help. The bead is pretty though. I look forward to seeing what else they send.

If you’re a fan of romance novels, Harlequin is always in the running for top publisher. The fact that they break their subscriptions into genre is great. That way you don’t receive any story types that you won’t read. However, I did have an issue with them this time.

They recently changed their website and for some reason during the change, it wouldn’t let me pay online. Correction, it would look like I paid and the preauthorization would come off my credit card, but 5 days later it would fall off and I’d be left owing them again. I tried this a few times before I gave up and called them to pay. In the meantime, I missed a shipment because my payment was late. I wasn’t happy about that and customer service did nothing about it when I called. They just said it was weird my online payment didn’t work and left it at that. I was not a happy camper. I considered cancelling, but ultimately ended up keeping my subscription.

Harlequin seems to send out books once a month or so. If you’re looking for a romance subscription, they’re an affordable one. I pay around $6.50 for each book plus 50 cents shipping on each one for a grand total of $27.99. That breaks about even or comes in a bit under most other romance book subscriptions on the market. If you’d like to sign up, click here for their website. Many readers can get their first box (2 books) for free before deciding if they want to continue.

3.75 out of 5 stars (0.25 stars deducted for the customer service fiasco)

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller feature

Book Review: ‘Mask of Shadows’ by Linsey Miller

Today I’m reviewing a book that came out on August 29. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller was released by Sourcebooks Fire Publishing and is a variation on epic fantasy full of assassins and political intrigue. While I enjoyed the diversity of the characters, I felt like the story moved slowly and was at times confusing.

The story follows Sallot Leon, a gender-fluid highway robber, as they (the author refers to Sal as they) try to escape that life and take revenge on the nobles who destroyed their family and countrymen. When Sal finds a flyer to audition as a member of the Queen’s Left Hand (an elite team of assassins), they jump at the chance of furthering their plan and working for the Queen they admire. However, the competition is fierce. Sal will have to fight to the death against capable circus performers, poison specialists and trained ex-soldiers. Can they win the competition and the heart of the noble girl they meet during the trials? Can they accomplish their revenge with no one being the wiser?

While I understand the character was gender-fluid, the term they still grated at me for a singular person. The character liked to be referred to as he when dressed as a man and she when dressed as a woman, which was simpler. Since the book was told in first person perspective, they wasn’t used much in the story itself. It’s just troubling for the write-up.

The story itself moved slowly. The first 5% of the book showed us Sal as a thief, then the next 75% covered the auditions for the Queen’s Left Hand. There was some action here and there as auditioners died off, but I felt like less of the story could have been dedicated to the trials and more towards the plot of revenge. The big skirmish at the end of the book was mostly predictable and only took up around one chapter. While I understood why it happened, the book really felt like it was just a backstory for the next novel in the series, not a true story of its own.

Another problem I had with the book was that the villain characters were confusing. I consistently got some of the names mixed up throughout most of the book. Without meeting the characters right away, they were just random names that Sal had a problem with. Maybe they shouldn’t have been introduced until Sal came across them in their journey.

Overall, the story was enjoyable. I liked the romance aspect and want to know more about the nation’s queen. Sal was an interesting character and while the story was definitely slow, I enjoyed the history of it. The action seems to just be getting started, so I expect the next book will have more conflict and engagement. I’ll definitely be picking it up when it comes out.

3.75 out of 5 stars

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Google Play / Kobo

Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic

Book Review: ‘Wicked Like a Wildfire’ by Lana Popovic

Hello! I’m back. Hoping to get a few book reviews in over the next few weeks as well as one subscription box review towards the end of the month. I’m starting off with the YA novel, Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic which was released on August 15. I actually read it before taking my break, but didn’t have the time to write it up until now. I hope you found other fun things to occupy your time while I was gone and that you’re now ready to leap back into some great reads. This one was full of dark magic, impossible choices and a murder mystery. Intrigued? Read on.

Iris and Malina are twin sisters who can ‘gleam’ beauty into magical art. Iris turns flowers into incredible fractals which she turns into blown glass masterpieces and Malina can sing moods as music in multiple parts. They live with their harsh mother who wants them to hide their gifts and forbids them from falling in love. When she is attacked by an unknown assailant, her daughters must dig for the truth behind her rules and their magic. A curse plagues their family. Will it tear the girls apart forever?

I loved the world of magic that Popovic created. The girls’ powers and those of their family are unique and awe-inspiring and the ending devastated me and left me yearning for the next (and final) book in the series. The villain is both lovely and evil. I love that the girls feel a pull towards her that influences their decisions, even as they want to save their mother and themselves. It gave the story depth and excitement, especially towards the end.

The coming-of-age love stories were done beautifully. There is some non-graphic sex, so you may want to reserve this book for ages 15 and above. I like that the insta-lust couple has justification and ramifications rather than just being an instant couple. I enjoyed who the sisters fell in love with once both their eyes are opened to what’s going on.

Overall, I thought this book was very well written. The story had darkness and light, mystery and magic. If you enjoy modern-day fantasy and witches, this novel is for you. You can buy it or read about it on Goodreads at the links below.

4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Google Play / Kobo

Status Update

Hello, all. I know I haven’t been posting for a while and it doesn’t look like I will be anytime soon. Life is extremely hectic right now and I’m working extra hours. I’m not finding the time to read and my budget doesn’t currently allow for subscription boxes. I have one book review that absolutely has to be posted this month, but then I’m going to take a break for a month and try to come back fresh at the end of it. I hope you’ll all wait patiently and I promise I’ll be a much less harried woman with a little bit of time to pause. Until then…

Unboxing: The CatPack August 2017 Flower Power subscription box

I admit it. I’m a crazy cat lady. In my years on this earth, I have never gone longer than a month without having a cat to snuggle with. I love their independent streaks and their larger-than-life personalities. I even love cranky kitties. My current four-legged love, Persephone, is meaner than a junkyard dog when she’s around visitors or other animals, but the cuddles she gives me makes up for it all. We just pop her in the bedroom when we have company. It eases her anxiety and keeps her from eating the guests.

Anyway, I found a new subscription box that caters to female cat owners and their fur-babies. It’s called The CatPack. They were offering a coupon worth $15 off your first box last month, so I couldn’t resist signing up for a one-time package to try them out. You’ll see the cute box they were mailed in up above. It was a little beaten up by the time it got here, but luckily there was nothing breakable inside.

The CatPack August 2017 Flower Power kitty items

The first items I pulled from the box were for Persephone. It was a flower power theme, so there was a crocheted flower granny square catnip toy, a Cosmic Catnip plastic flower toy with catnip gel and a pretty floral handmade collar. Persephone is currently working her way off a bland food diet due to digestive issues, so I didn’t want to give her the crochet toy just yet, but she can’t get to the catnip gel in the plastic flower, so I deemed that safe to use. She loved batting it around. She didn’t get as crazy with it as she does with toys filled with real catnip, but she still had fun. We haven’t tried the collar on her yet because she’s still rocking a calming collar from our move, but it looks sturdily made and has a pretty rose design that will look great against her black fur. It also has a plastic clasp and a ring for tags.

The CatPack August 2017 Flower Power human items

Next were the items for me. Like most of the cat items, these were both handmade. One was a cute cosmetics bag with cat ears and the other was an enamel pin with a cat curled around flowers. I love them both and the pin especially looks professional. I have a laptop bag that I attach favorite pins to, which is where this one will be going. The makeup bag will be great when I just want to carry a few pieces with me.

This box has a $45.95 price tag with free shipping. I felt like there weren’t a lot of items for that price, but with everything being handmade, they have a higher value for the work that went into them. The company is just starting up and I expect they’ll get better as they go along. If you’re looking for more commercial items, there are other companies out there that cater to that more. Just have a look on Google.

If you’d like to try The CatPack, click here for more information. They have a deal on their website right now for $8 off your first box with coupon code PAMPER8. September’s theme is (did you guess?) Pamper Cat Pack. Think bath and spa items for you as well as some fun items for your kitty.

4 out of 5 stars

Unboxing: PageHabit Literary Fiction July 2017 subscription box

I was a happy previous customer of’s book box that came out every 3 months, so when I saw they now had a monthly option, I signed up as soon as I had the funds. The monthly box is a slightly smaller mailing with one book instead of 3, but it still has author annotations and some bookish goodies to go with it. I ordered both the Literary Fiction box and the YA Fiction box. Unfortunately, the YA box got lost in the mail, so they had to refund it. I was disappointed that they don’t hold onto extra boxes in case something goes wrong, but at least I got my money back. I also want to mention that email support was very unhelpful, but I got immediate service from the website’s chat function.

Anyway, you’ll see up top the box that the shipment was mailed in. It’s a basic brown box with their logo, which does the job just fine.

PageHabit Literary Fiction July 2017 packaging

Inside the box, everything was tucked in tight. Nothing was really breakable, so there were no worries there. On top of everything sat a card telling where a portion of this month’s proceeds would be donated. PageHabit sponsors the building of schools, libraries and community centers with books around the world. It’s a different country every month.

PageHabit Literary Fiction July 2017 goodies

This month’s book was The Epiphany Machine by David Burr Gerrard. It’s about a small cult that builds up around a machine that’s supposed to tattoo “personalized revelations” on its followers’ arms. In this way, they supposedly find out the truth about themselves, but there seems to be a link between the epiphanies and a sudden rash of violent crimes. I haven’t read it yet, but the story looks amazing and I love that the author has sprinkled notes on post-its throughout the book. That was my favorite part of the Quarterly box as well.

In addition to the book, I also received a letter from the author, a laminated bookmark with a quote from Aldous Huxley, a reading light and a small brown notebook that says “Field Notes.” The quote on the bookmark is one I hadn’t seen before and I love it. I put the page marker to good use immediately. I already own a rechargeable reading light with double heads, so I passed this new one on to my niece who didn’t have one. It takes batteries and gives off an ample supply of light. I haven’t done anything with the notebook yet, but I always find uses for these eventually.

While I still prefer the Quarterly box, this one is fun if you can’t wait a full three months for new books. It still has the highlights of the bigger box for a lower price. To sign up, click here to find their website. They have several genres available including literary fiction, YA fiction, mystery, fantasy, romance, horror and historical fiction. Each monthly box costs $29.99 plus $4.50 for shipping.

3.5 out of 5 stars (half a star removed for issues with customer service)