Unboxing: Fresh Fiction Box Not to Miss May 2017 subscription box

Hello, everyone! It’s 90 degrees in upstate New York today and I feel like I’m melting into the couch. What was supposed to be a work day turned into a reading day thanks to having to escape an apartment that has no water for the next 24 hours. So, I finished reading my next book for review and worked on a few others. Now that things are settling down for the night, I’ve found the time to write up my review for the May shipment of the Fresh Fiction Box Not to Miss.

If you’ve been with me a while, you know I reviewed this box last month as well. It’s first and foremost a romance novel subscription box, but they throw some other genres in as well. The owners sent me the box to review for you and have included a coupon you can use to take some money off your first month. Have a look at what was inside.

Up top is the dark pink box the books are shipped in. It really stands out when you open your mailbox and the logo is impossible to miss.

Fresh Fiction Box Not to Miss May 2017 inside

Inside, everything is tucked in tightly without padding. Because it’s mainly paperback books, they always arrive in excellent condition. On top of the books is an insert advertising possible picks for this month’s box.

Fresh Fiction Box Not to Miss May 2017 e-books

The first three items pulled from the box were cards for free e-book downloads and a sample pouch. Each month, FFB seems to throw in some kind of sample pack. This month it was caffeinated breath mints in wintergreen flavor. I haven’t tried them yet. I’m saving them for a work morning when I’m feeling drowsy. It’s an interesting idea anyway. Combat the sleepies and morning breath in one shot!

Two of the three books were contemporary romances. Lexie by Kimberly Dean is the first book in the Triple X series. The write-up doesn’t much appeal to me, so I’ll be trying to find another home for this one. Why the River Runs by JoAnna Grace sounds a bit better to me, so I’ll probably give it a try. The other e-book in the bunch was A Suitable Affair by Erica Taylor. It’s a Regency romance with a bit of mystery. Based on my favored genres, I think this will be my favorite read of the three.

Fresh Fiction Box Not to Miss May 2017 paperbacks

Next in the package were three mass market paperback books – all romances. The Lady Travelers Guide to Scoundrels & Other Gentlemen by Victoria Alexander is another historical romance that looks like fun. I was ready to write off the other two novels, but the summary on the back of Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown sounded intriguing. Even though I don’t normally like Cowboy romance, I’m going to give this one a try. However, Their Pretend Amish Courtship by Patricia Davids will be getting passed along. I’m not a fan of Amish romance novels.

Fresh Fiction Box Not to Miss May 2017 hardcover

The last two books in the box were a hardcover and a trade paperback. I’m especially excited about the hardback. The Sixth Victim by Tessa Harris is a mystery set in Jack the Ripper’s Victorian London. I love Victorian novels and this one has a paranormal twist, which makes me want to pick it up immediately. I have a couple of books ahead of it on my TBR list, but I’ll be making a point of cracking it open soon. The other novel is Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon which looks a little too vanilla for my tastes.

This subscription never ceases to surprise me with how much value it packs into each box. The eight books are worth much more than the $25.95 cost. Better yet, shipping is free. And best of all, I have a $3 off coupon for my readers. Just go to their website and enter the code BOOKLOVE at checkout. If you love contemporary romance, this is your box!

4 out of 5 stars

Unboxing: Read ‘Em and Steep Kickstarter Campaign subscription box

Hello! I’m buried up to my neck in moving boxes, but I’m trying to keep the blog alive during the packing process. I don’t want to leave my wonderful readers hanging. Besides, it’s fun to take a break with a new box or a book every so often. Moving is stressful and goodies make it less so.

Upon searching Cratejoy, I discovered a new subscription box that combines books and hot beverages. Two of my favorite things. So, I sent them a proposal and they agreed to send me a box for review. The company is actually in start-up mode. They start taking orders in July for shipments starting in August. I was lucky enough to get ahold of their Kickstarter box so you can get an idea of what kind of items they’ll be mailing out.

Up top, you’ll see the brown shipping box everything was mailed in. It had a stamp on the upper left corner with the company logo.

Read 'Em and Steep Kickstarter packaging

Inside, there was a blue Cratejoy box wrapped in bubble wrap. Almost everything arrived in one piece.

Read 'Em and Steep Kickstarter infuser

The first thing I pulled from my box was an adorable tea infuser shaped like a book. The plastic covers open to hold the rubber tea section firmly in your mug. The pages pop off easily to fill them with loose leaf tea but are solid enough to remain attached when making your beverage. If this item isn’t cute enough, the infuser came with a mini-book with ideas for literary tea parties and the relevance of tea to books.

Read 'Em and Steep Kickstarter tea

What’s a tea infuser without tea? The box came with Belle’s Bookshop Blend by Biblioblends Tea. The flavor was tasty. It’s a nice mix of rose, cherry and vanilla. Also included was a cute frosted book shaped sugar cookie from Jana Lee’s Bakeshop in Columbus, Ohio. It was delicious. The butter gave it a bit of crisp, but it wasn’t hard. You could easily bite into it. I broke it in half and shared it with Mike. We both loved it.

Read 'Em and Steep Kickstarter bookmarks

The next items in the box were enclosed in a small envelope. They are two watercolor bookmarks from Bookmarks 4 Kindness. They’re both handmade and beautiful. I love that these aren’t mass produced. It makes them more unique.

Read 'Em and Steep Kickstarter mug

Also in the package was this mug. It’s really cute, but it arrived chipped. Apparently, I’m not the only one this happened to. Luckily, the customer service for this subscription is wonderful. I let the owner know the problem and she’s on top of it. Depending on what happens with the manufacturer, I’ll either be getting a new mug or a replacement item of equal value.

Read 'Em and Steep Kickstarter book

Last, we have the main attraction. The book. Read ‘Em and Steep sends out indie literature for adults. This month the novel is The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. It looks like a sweet, literary story about the power of friendship and the love of books. I have a couple of novels ahead of it on my TBR list, but I can’t wait to read it. The book also came with a mini candle by Dio Candle Company that is supposed to smell like the bookstore from the novel. It smells a bit like vanilla and is lovely.

Overall, I loved this box. Their goal going forward is to create timely monthly themes with adult goodies. Each month they’ll send a new coffee or tea for you to try along with a great indie read. You can order a single box or sign up for a subscription. They are partnered with a charity called Room to Read which helps build schools and libraries in developing countries and ensures education for children who might otherwise be left behind, so you’re doing some good in the world as well as feeding your reading habit.

If you’d like to sign up, click here to place your order. A monthly subscription is only $34 with shipping included. A single box will cost you an additional $10. Remember, orders open up in July for shipments in August.

4.5 out of 5 stars

The Idea of You by Robinne Lee cover

Book Review: ‘The Idea of You’ by Robinne Lee

On Tuesday, St. Martin’s Press will be releasing actress and author Robinne Lee’s debut novel, The Idea of You. While heavy on the romance, the book also dives deep into how women are perceived as they age, as well as the world of celebrity, giving it a plot that you can enjoy just as much as the sex.

Solene Marchand is a 39-year-old single mother who owns an art gallery in LA. The book begins with her reluctantly taking her 13-year-old daughter to a meet and greet with her favorite boy band. While there, Solene starts a flirtation with Hayes Campbell, the 20-year-old singer-songwriter who put the band together. After Solene returns home, Hayes pursues her and begins what becomes a love affair for the ages. Can they survive the pitfalls of Hayes’s fame? Will Isabelle ever forgive her mother for sleeping with her idol? And can Solene overlook the judgment of outsiders who believe an older woman shouldn’t love a 20-year-old man?

This book was deeper than I expected it to be. It delves into fame in today’s world of social media and brings up questions about sexism and ageism for women. As someone the same age as Solene, I could relate to her and her friends’ concerns. The story flows well and gives you a look inside the worlds of art and pop music, both of which I found interesting. However, first and foremost, it was a romance novel. If you don’t like your books heavy on the sex, you’ll want to sit this one out.

The Idea of You was well written and kept me turning pages to find out what would happen next. When it was sent to me, I thought it would be a mediocre read based on my usual tastes, but I found myself truly enjoying it. If you’re a fan of contemporary romance and are looking for a twist on May-December relationships, you’re sure to find this novel appealing.

4 out of 5 stars

Unboxing: Ever After Box May 2017 ‘Badass & Beautiful’ subscription box

I’m a fan of books with strong heroines, so I was excited to hear that the Ever After Box picked ‘Badass & Beautiful’ for their May theme. As you may have seen previously on this blog, the Ever After Box is a romance subscription that mails out multiple books every month in both print and electronic format as well as several other items that fit the theme. Their theme changes monthly with contemporary and paranormal genres both being represented. This month was a rare situation where the box covered both at the same time. This is what I found inside.

Above, you’ll see the box the items arrived in. This white box with their logo is always tucked into a separate mailer for shipping.

Ever After Box May 2017 Badass & Beautiful inside

Inside, everything is tucked tightly into the box with a card on top that lists this month’s goodies. I’ve never had anything arrive broken from this service.

Ever After Box May 2017 Badass & Beautiful books

This month the subscription included five books – three print and two e-books. They were Fury’s Kiss by Nicola R. White, A Surefire Way by J. T. Brock, an autographed copy of Ruptured by Maggie Mae Gallagher, Enclave by Ann Aguirre and Fall Dark by Zoe York. They span a gamut from paranormal romance to dystopian to military romance. Each one features an independent female lead. I’m not a big fan of military stories so that one will be passed on, but the rest look great.

Ever After Box May 2017 Badass & Beautiful extras

With the books were several extras. I received an art print of a famous activist who stood up to the Nazis (I would tell you who, but I misplaced my card). Members received one of many possible prints. I also got a ‘Super Reader’ t-shirt, some girl power button pins made specifically for the box and a Wonder Woman bracelet. This month, one lucky winner received free movie passes to the Wonder Woman film as well as some additional WW bling. Sadly, it wasn’t me.

The bracelet was cute, but my wrists were too pudgy to pull it off, so it’s going to be passed along to my niece. I love the t-shirt though. The art print was inspirational, but I wish it had more of the heroine’s history written on it. The pins were awesome. I’ll be adding them to the collection on my laptop purse.

I go month-by-month with the Ever After Box. I tend to be picky about my romantic reads and there are some themes I’d rather skip. For example, next month is cowboy themed and I’m not a fan of Westerns. Skipping this subscription is as easy as clicking a button. You just put it on hold and click again when you get to a month you’ll enjoy. I do have to say, though, that this is one of my favorite boxes.

If you’d like to sign up for the Ever After Box, just follow the link to their website. They cost only $29.99 with free shipping to the US. That’s a great deal when you add up the cost of buying the books and goodies separately.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Unboxing: Mirror Book Box April 2017 ‘Rage Against the Machine’ subscription box

Always on the lookout for brand new book subscriptions that think outside the traditional YA box, I was excited when I saw Mirror Book Box among the list of services on CrateJoy. Instead of simply sending out contemporary or fantasy reads, Mirror takes things a step further. Every book they ship is rich with some sort of diversity. They comprise alternate religions, people of color or LBGT literature including gender issues. The goal of Mirror Book Box is to reflect the range of readers in today’s modern society.

While the box I received was labeled April, I received it in the beginning of May. It looks like they mail them out at the very tail end of the month. The theme this month was ‘Rage Against the Machine.’ It had nothing to do with the band and everything to do with a villain in this month’s novel. The box was full of steampunk and rebel items. You’ll see the shipping box up top. Here’s what was inside.

Mirror Book Box April 2017 Rage Against the Machine packaging

When I opened the box, the card with an itemized list of goodies was on top. Underneath, I can already see a Funko Pop so I’m excited. Everything was packed securely in white shredded cardboard.

Mirror Book Box April 2017 Rage Against the Machine jewelry

The first items I picked out of the box were steampunk inspired jewelry. One piece was a one-of-a-kind pin made of gears with a clock hand attached. The other was a necklace with a pocket watch style clock pendant. It also has a key charm on the chain and came with an extra battery which was a great thought. I can’t wait to wear both pieces.

Mirror Book Box April 2017 Rage Against the Machine bookmark

Next in the box were a laminated bookmark and a small notebook. The bookmark has a beautiful quote from A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir. It should stand up to coffee spills and won’t bend or crease over time. The notepad is inspired by Hamilton. I love the quote on the front. As a procrastinating writer, it is often literally true for me rather than just an inspirational sentiment.

Mirror Book Box April 2017 Rage Against the Machine Funko

On to the Funko Pop! I received rebel girl Rey from the Star Wars franchise. I’m not a Star Wars fanatic, but my fiancé is, so I gave her to him to put on his dresser. We don’t own a ton of Funkos, but we love the ones we have.

Mirror Book Box April 2017 Rage Against the Machine book

The last things in the box were this month’s novel and newsletter. The book this time was The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi. It’s described as a steampunk Jumanji with Middle Eastern characters. They get sucked into a mechanical board game and must fight its creator to save everyone trapped inside. It looks like a lot of fun.

I believe the newsletter is something Mirror does monthly. It lists books that celebrate diversity that have come out that month along with a short description of each one. I enjoy expanding my horizons so this is a great feature for me.

Mirror Book Box costs $34.99 per month plus shipping. The goodies that you get are worth it. From looking at photos of past boxes, they seem to consistently ship beautiful and useful items. I thoroughly enjoyed my box and plan on subscribing after my move. If you’d like to give them a try for yourself, click here to sign up.

5 out of 5 stars

My YA Reading Club April 2017 box

Unboxing: My YA Reading Club April 2017

When looking for new book clubs to join, I came across My YA Reading Club. Not only were they inexpensive, but the fact that they send two books and a movie sounded great! You simply choose between their contemporary or fantasy genres and you’re good to go. I tried them out for April and this is what I got.

Up top, you’ll see the box everything was shipped in – plain white with their logo and web address attached to the top. Simple, but easily identified.

My YA Reading Club April 2017 packaging

Inside, this month’s items were tucked into thick packing paper. They got here in good shape.

My YA Reading Club April 2017 books

So, here’s the good stuff. As mentioned above, I received two fantasy/sci-fi novels and one fantasy/sci-fi movie. The novels were Boys of Blur by N. D. Wilson and After the Red Rain by Barry Lyga (of The Amazing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl fame), Peter Facinelli and Robert DeFranco. Neither was a book I’d heard of, though I own other books by Barry Lyga so I definitely will dig into this new offering from him. I’m hoping the other holds my interest as well.

The movie in this box was Hancock starring Will Smith. I really enjoyed this film when it came out and I don’t already own it, so this is a welcome addition to my movie collection.

My YA Reading Club costs only $14.99 per month with free shipping. From what I’ve read around the internet, because they deal in discount books and movies, this company often sends both from the middle of a series. So, if you are a stickler about reading or watching in chronological order, this may not be the club for you. However, if you’re looking for a cheap way to add to your collection and you can handle a series read as a standalone, My YA Reading Club is a good deal.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Starstruck by S. E. Anderson

Book Review: ‘Starstruck’ by S. E. Anderson

Bolide Publishing Limited released S. E. Anderson’s debut comical sci-fi novel, Starstruck, on May 4. While the story was enjoyable and interesting, it felt like the author couldn’t decide between being humorous or deep.

In this novel, which is the first of a series, Sally is a sci-fi fanatic who’s failing at life until she discovers that aliens are real. She takes to the news surprisingly well and Zander the alien gives her life purpose by inviting her on the quest to find a missing ship before its owners blow the earth to smithereens. Can a woman who failed so devastatingly at being human become an asset to Earth by saving it from annihilation?

This book had fun moments. There were a lot of references to other sci-fi fandoms and the author created an interesting story line. However, while parts of the story were silly with nonsense, other parts felt like Anderson was trying to make a more meaningful point. It left the story feeling a little imbalanced.

Most of the characters were well-developed, but Zander and Blayde felt a little 2-dimensional. I realize they were aliens, but I felt like they could have used more depth. Sally, on the other hand, felt well-rounded and human.

I received this book in exchange for a review, so I’m not sure if I got an early draft, but there were a lot of missing articles such as “a” or “the.” There was also an entire chapter where a single androgynous alien was referred to as “they” which is a plural pronoun. I thought my head was going to explode. I kept thinking, “does the alien have two separately thinking and speaking heads?” Nope. Just an improperly used pronoun. I know this kind of stuff won’t bother a lot of readers, but as an English major, it gets under my skin.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad story. The plot was well thought out and characters were likable. If you enjoy sci-fi with a sense of humor, you might like this series. Just be aware that emotions tend to jump around a bit and you might have to overlook some grammatical errors.

3 out of 5 stars

Unboxing: Chapter Factory May 2017 subscription box and coupon

Always on the lookout for new book boxes, I contacted Chapter Factory and they were gracious enough to send me a box to review for you, my dear readers, as well as a coupon for free shipping on your first box. Chapter Factory is a nerdy women’s book box that sends fantasy and sci-fi novels as well as geeky themed goodies with a girly flair.

They don’t have a monthly theme, but unlike a lot of boxes, they tell you what they’re shipping ahead of time from the book right down to each individual item. For someone like me who is always fishing for spoilers, it’s perfect! And this way, you can skip any box that doesn’t appeal to you. Have a look inside the May 2017 box.

The subscription came in the box above. I love the contrast of the magenta sticker and the teal box and their logo gives an almost Steampunk vibe with the gears above the book.

Chapter Factory May 2017 packaging

When opening the box, I found it full of shredded cardboard in fun shades. It meshed well with the colors on the outside of the box and gave the shipment an element of fun.

Chapter Factory May 2017 goodies

Inside the box were this month’s book and extra goodies. The novel this time was Geekerella by Ashley Poston. It’s a Cinderella retelling with a fangirl twist that takes place with a cosplay ball backdrop. I have SO been looking forward to this book. I hope it’s as amazing as it sounds!

With the book was a galaxy Star Wars themed bath bomb which smells very sweet and is full of glitter. Awesome! There was also a pair of Book Nerd ankle socks which are too cute and a pack of rose-vanilla flavored marshmallows which just melted in my mouth. So good! I love floral flavors in foods, but my fiancé does not, so I got these all to myself. His loss!

Chapter Factory costs $34.99 per month plus shipping based on your location. The value of the included items is more than the cost of the box by $5-10. They were all quality handcrafted goods and the book is beautiful. If you’re interested in signing up for a subscription, click here for their website. You can get free shipping on your first box with the code FREESHIP.

4 out of 5 stars

Unboxing: The Incense Box April 2017 subscription box

So, I grew up in a house with hippie parents and incense was a daily thing. I’ve been lighting my own cones and sticks since I was old enough to handle matches. The smell and smoke are comforts to me when I’m having a rough day. Combine them with some mellow music and candle light and I’m in heaven. I’m always on the lookout for new scents and The Incense Box looked like a great way to sample them.

Every month, The Incense Box mails out handmade traditional incense sticks in various scents as well as Palo Santo sticks. If you pay more, you can get essential oils, candles and smudge sticks, but I ordered the straight up incense box. Above this article, you’ll see the box it shipped in. Here’s what was inside.

The Incense Box April 2017 packaging

When I opened the box, I found everything packed in shredded cardboard and the incense sticks were in bags divided by scent. There was also a coloring meditation page and a card that listed all the scents they mailed out in their various box levels. I think the card could be divided up differently to let you know exactly which box everything is found in. As it is, it’s a little confusing. They list the essential oil, extra scents and smudge sticks, etc. even if they don’t come in your box. Splitting them into separate cards might be something to consider in the future.

The Incense Box April 2017 contents

Under the coloring and inventory cards were three packs of stick incense. The scents for April were China Rain, Mango Butter and Pumpkin & Fig. China Rain had a very floral scent, like perfume. I was afraid it would be overpowering, but it really wasn’t. It was pleasant and put off a decent amount of smoke. Mango Butter smelled more like the vanilla that was mixed with the fruit scent and Pumpkin & Fig smelled of the spices that were incorporated than the fruits themselves. However, they were both yummy smelling. I’ve found fruit scents don’t always come through as strongly as you’d like them to.

The Incense Box April 2017 burner and Palo Santo sticks

Lastly, the box included an incense burner for cones and sticks, and a couple of Palo Santo sticks. This company mails a burner with every initial box, so you’ll get it in your first shipment, but not after. This one holds onto the incense well and is attractive to look at. It will get a lot of use here. I haven’t burned the sticks because I fear they’ll put off a lot of smoke like a smudge stick. Not something I can use indoors in a crowded apartment building. Maybe after we move and have more space.

The incense seems to be soaked for a satisfactory amount of time to give off good smoke and odors. Some of the sticks were cut a little rough, but I’ve found that with a lot of different brands in the past as well. The price per stick is a bit high, but it’s handmade, not commercially boxed.

If you’re looking for a way to try out new quality incense without having to leave the house, try The Incense Box for $14.99 with free shipping. You’ll get 3 packs of 20 incense sticks and 2 Palo Santo sticks in every box, which you can choose to be delivered monthly or bi-monthly.

4 out of 5 stars

Unboxing: Fandle Candle Co. April 2017 We’re All Mad Here subscription box

I am a big fan of candles with geeky scents and I recently started using wax tarts in my home as well to help cover the smell of my neighbor’s smoking (ah, the joys of apartment living – can’t wait to move!), so when I found Fandle Candle Co. online, it seemed like the perfect subscription box for me. Every month they send you a scented 9-oz. soy jar candle and a pack of soy wax tarts based on a nerdy theme. And even better? They bury a piece of jewelry that matches the theme within the candle to be released as it burns! All this for $19.99 plus $5.99 shipping.

April’s box had an Alice in Wonderland theme – We’re All Mad Here. They choose a random winner every month to win additional items that reflect that month’s theme. Some lucky subscriber won a box full of extra Alice goodies, but it wasn’t me. However, I loved my shipment. You’ll see the box up top. It was tucked with the card into a bubble mailer for extra safety. Here’s what was inside:

Fandle Candle Co. April 2017 inside box

Upon opening the box, I found that the candle was wrapped in paper padding and the box was filled with Styrofoam peanuts. The glass jar of the candle was completely intact and the wax tarts didn’t have so much as a crack in them. Great packing job. On the back of the card, the scents and this month’s partners were listed.

Fandle Candle Co. April 2017 We're All Mad Here candle and tarts

When I unwrapped the candle, it was pink with a label picture of the caterpillar from Disney’s original Alice cartoon movie. The candle was titled, “Who are You?” The card says it’s a fusion of hyacinth, lily of the valley, wild jasmine and violets with herbal and musky undertones. To me, it smelled lightly floral with an almost fruity backdrop. I was afraid from the description that it would be too heavy, but it was just right.

The wax tarts had a label with Disney’s pansies on it from the Wonderland garden. They were titled “The Golden Afternoon” and the card says they smell like fresh peaches with soft peonies. I actually expected this one to be less floral, but it was really perfumey and I didn’t get a hint of peaches anywhere. It’s great for covering up the smoke smell, but it gets overpowering fast, so I heat it at shorter intervals. After the first day, it’s faded enough to be bearable for several hours.

Fandle Candle Co. April 2017 White Rabbit ear cuff

Near the top of the candle was a foil packet. I was able to free it on my first light to my great excitement. I’ve been an Alice superfan since I read the original novel as a kid, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some Alice jewelry. When I opened it up, I found an ear cuff with a dangling version of the White Rabbit. I love him and will wear him often.

The whole experience of this box was great. The candle and wax tarts will last me a while, making my place smell great, and the anticipation of opening the jewelry was fun. If you’d like to try Fandle Candle Co. out for yourself, click here to visit their website. Their May theme is Wonder Woman, so if you’re a superhero fan, definitely check it out.

4.5 out of 5 stars