Subscription Boxes: Bookly Box

I hope that you enjoyed my previous review of Owlcrate! Today I’m going to be discussing Bookly Box, another book-based subscription box (I will be covering at least one non-book based one in the future). Here’s a picture of everything I received in the August box.

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Packaging
10/10

I love that there was a bag, which seems to be of reasonably good quality, included in the box. The box itself arrived a little dented but everything inside was in perfect condition.

Shipping
8/10

The box got here incredibly fast but I wasn’t entirely sure of when it was going to ship (although that may have just been because I was new and missed something).

Contents
(Fantasy Box)

  • The Heretic Land by Tim Lebbon
  • Two Tazo tea bags
  • Book light
  • Thumb book page holder
  • Bookmark
  • Bag
  • Card describing where this month’s donation was going

Review

This subscription box comes with access to an online community where you can discuss the books and chat with others. There is also a podcast where the moderators of the genre discussion group discuss the book, sometimes with the author. Additionally, for every subscription box sold, they donate one book to kids/teenagers/adults in less developed countries and provide you a comprehensive report of where your donation went to and how it will make a difference.

While I really liked the concept of this box (having one book be donated to charity each month), the contents left a little something to be desired. I’m a bit of a tea snob so the Tazo tea bags weren’t a huge selling point. The book light and book page holder were new additions to this month’s box and, while I haven’t used them yet, they both seem to be decent quality and as if they would be useful. Regarding the book itself, I haven’t read it yet. I can’t properly judge it but it was not one that I would have chosen for myself (which could be good or bad but it has extremely mixed reviews on Goodreads). I have extremely limited space on my bookshelves so I prefer subscription boxes that feature books more aligned with what I would choose on my own.

Overall, I believe that this subscription box would be best suited for those who like supporting the One-for-One movement (and have the budget/space on their bookshelves), those who would fully utilize the online community, and those who enjoy discovering new books. I did not end up renewing my subscription for a second month because of both space and monetary reasons but I do applaud this company for their efforts to help spread literacy.

TBR Sunday: Volume 1

Originally my plan was to start a feature on my blog that would be called TBR Tuesdays where I would feature some books that I had added to my TBR throughout the following week. However, upon further thought, I realized that Tuesdays are new release days and it would probably be best to save those for review days. Also, I’m thinking of dedicating one day a week to random musings (my hunt for certain editions, my current crochet projects, etc.) Let me know what you think!

These are not necessarily books on the top of my to-be-read (TBR) list (since I usually pick my next book based entirely on mood and my TBR is about 200+ books) but rather ones that I’ve discovered throughout the past week that I found very interesting and wanted to share. If you’ve read any of them, please share your thoughts! I got all of the book summaries from Goodreads.

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The Deathsniffer’s Assistant by Kate McIntyre

Why I added it: I finished up Burning Bright by Melissa McShane earlier this week (see the previous post for my review) and I started browsing the publisher’s catalogue since I enjoyed that one so much. I already purchased the first of Melissa McShane’s other series and am currently attempting to track down a paperback copy of Burning Bright. This is one of the publisher’s other series that really caught my eye. That summary sounds absolutely amazing! I’ve been really enjoying mysteries and thrillers lately so this one seems right up my alley.

SummaryThe Deathsniffer’s Assistant is a fantasy novel with a unique pseudo-Edwardian setting and a murder mystery twist. What’s not to love about floating castles, eccentric lady detectives, and a protagonist who judges everyone by the quality of their shoes!

After losing his parents in the Floating Castle Incident, the sensitive and mannered Chris Buckley has spent six years raising his magically talented little sister, Rosemary. They have been living on the savings that his once-wealthy family left behind. That money is drying up, and Chris finds himself with no choice but to seek out work in Darrington City as it spirals into a depression. The only employer willing to consider his empty résumé is O. Faraday, the manic Deathsniffer. Faraday’s special magical gift is a heightened intuition which is invaluable in hunting down murderers.

When a Duchess calls on Olivia to solve the mystery of her dead husband, Chris finds himself tangled in Faraday’s daily life and unable to extract himself from the macabre questions of the investigation. His involvement grows more complicated as political forces close around Rosemary. They only see her as a tool that can be used to end the depression at the cost of her freedom—or even her life.

Chris must juggle the question of who killed Viktor val Daren with the responsibility of keeping Rosemary and her magic safe from those who would use her up and toss her aside. Worst of all, he begins to learn that the national disaster that took his parents’ lives may not have been the accident it seemed.

Set in a world very similar to 1900s London, The Deathsniffer’s Assistant combines the investigative murder mystery with a tale of personal and societal redemption. It is about the relationships between broken people who clash more often than not, but manage to shape and learn from one another in spite of this. The story is told from the perspective of Christopher Buckley, young and impressionable and influenced by the prejudices of his time, as he finds himself surrounded by a cast of exceptional women whose differing characters will slowly reconstruct his understanding of strength in others—and in himself.

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Page Count: 424
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Mystery
Release Date: July 13, 2015

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For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diane Peterfreund

Why I added it: This is apparently a retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen. Austen is one of my favorite authors and, while I don’t appreciate retellings that are TOO close to the original (see:Eligible), I do appreciate ones that take the general idea (see: Ivory and Bone). This is likely one where I would get the first book at the library to test the waters, particularly because I am not familiar with the author.

Summary: It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth–an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret–one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Page Count: 407
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction (Dystopian), Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: June 12, 2012

Conspiracy of Us
The Conspiracy Of Us by Maggie Hall

Why I added it: A bookstagrammer whose recommendations I usually enjoy said this is one of her favorite series. I’m not sure if there is going to be a love-triangle (which I don’t really like), but the summary looks interesting enough that I might give this one a try at some point.

Summary: Avery West’s newfound family can shut down Prada when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. Part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle, they believe Avery is the key to an ancient prophecy. Some want to use her as a pawn. Some want her dead.

To unravel the mystery putting her life in danger, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the monuments of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul with two boys who work for the Circle—beautiful, volatile Stellan and mysterious, magnetic Jack. But as the clues expose a stunning conspiracy that might plunge the world into World War 3, she discovers that both boys are hiding secrets of their own. Now she will have to choose not only between freedom and family–but between the boy who might help her save the world, and the one she’s falling in love with.

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Page Count: 330 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Romance
Release Date: January 13, 2015

TrustNoOne
Trust No One by Paul Cleave

Why I added it: I have a weakness for psychological thrillers (as long as I read them in daylight and at home) and this one sounds amazing! I really enjoy unreliable narrators and this one seems like it would likely be that.

Summary: In the exciting new psychological thriller by the Edgar-nominated author of Joe Victim, a famous crime writer struggles to differentiate between his own reality and the frightening plot lines he’s created for the page.

Jerry Grey is known to most of the world by his crime writing pseudonym, Henry Cutter-a name that has been keeping readers at the edge of their seats for more than a decade. Recently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of forty-nine, Jerry’s crime writing days are coming to an end. His twelve books tell stories of brutal murders committed by bad men, of a world out of balance, of victims finding the darkest forms of justice. As his dementia begins to break down the wall between his life and the lives of the characters he has created, Jerry confesses his worst secret: The stories are real. He knows this because he committed the crimes. Those close to him, including the nurses at the care home where he now lives, insist that it is all in his head, that his memory is being toyed with and manipulated by his unfortunate disease. But if that were true, then why are so many bad things happening? Why are people dying?

Publisher: Atria Books
Page Count: 342 pages
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: August 4, 2015

That’s it for this week! I’m always open to discovering new books so please let me know if there are any you think I would enjoy!

Review: Burning Bright by Melissa McShane

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Overall Score: 10/10

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Release Date: August 15, 2016

Source: Received a free copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Review

This book easily made my top 5 favorite reads for 2016. The writing, the characterization, and the world-building were all exquisite. From the moment I started the book, I couldn’t put it down. I read it during my breaks at work, while in line at the post office, and pretty much everywhere else I went. The only bad thing about this book is the fact that, since it was just released, I can’t immediately pick up the sequel and continue reading about Elinor’s adventures.

When the book opens, Elinor has just discovered her powers. Through this momentous event, the author explores shifts in family dynamics and Elinor’s suitability as a bride. Setting this novel in Regency England allowed the author to explore the role of women in society during that time period, which she did in a masterful way. The book is peppered with references to Elinor’s respectability and how public perception mattered more than truth. Her life was dominated by her father until she found the determination to escape and choose a path different those those he offered her.

Elinor herself is a marvelous character. She is strong-willed, independent, and gutsy (not to mention incredibly powerful). We see her on a journey of discovery, both of herself and of her powers. What I liked the most about this book is that Elinor experiences consequences for her actions. She goes to war against the pirates, does gruesome things, and has to find a way to live with her choices. At one point, she must struggle to survive on her own and she uses her intelligence and grit to make it through.

The romance in this book was exquisitely done, as was the dialogue. As a matter of fact, both were almost Austen-esque in their execution. The banter was witty and highly engaging and the softer, quieter moments were done just as skillfully. Elinor’s immersion into the crew was handled incredibly well and the reader came to care just as much for the secondary characters as she did. Regarding her romantic love interest, the slow burn of their romance was handled perfectly. Before there was any romantic interest, they developed a very solid friendship (Although I will admit to rooting for the pair of them the entire novel). Additionally, the concept of a romance is not introduced (except for a few sleazy men who end up burned), until Elinor has decided who she will be and the path she will take.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable, engaging read. I already know that I will be buying a copy of this book and pre-ordering the entire rest of the series. I would recommend this to anybody who enjoys a strong female character, adventure, and magic.

Book summary

In 1812, Elinor Pembroke wakes to find her bedchamber in flames—and extinguishes them with a thought. At 21, she is old to manifest magical talent, but the evidence is unmistakable: she not only has the ability to start fires, but the far more powerful ability to control and extinguish them. She is an Extraordinary, and the only one in England capable of wielding fire in over one hundred years.

As an Extraordinary, she is respected and feared, but to her father, she represents power and prestige for himself. Mr. Pembroke, having spent his life studying magic, is determined to control Elinor and her talent by forcing her to marry where he chooses, a marriage that will produce even more powerful offspring. Trapped between the choices of a loveless marriage or living penniless and dependent on her parents, Elinor takes a third path: she defies tradition and society to join the Royal Navy.

Assigned to serve under Captain Miles Ramsay aboard the frigate Athena, she turns her fiery talent on England’s enemies, French privateers and vicious pirates preying on English ships in the Caribbean. At first feared by her shipmates, a growing number of victories make her truly part of Athena’s crew and bring her joy in her fire. But as her power grows and changes in unexpected ways, Elinor’s ability to control it is challenged. She may have the power to destroy her enemies utterly—but could it be at the cost of her own life?

Subscription Boxes: OwlCrate

Since I joined bookstagram, I have found myself with an incredibly long list of items that I want to purchase. My fondness for books coupled with some stress shopping that occurred while I was searching for a new job led to what can only be described as an over abundance of subscription boxes. I decided to share the contents with you all so that my little misadventures can perhaps inform your decision as to which subscription box is the best for you. I am totally willing to answer any additional questions that you may have!

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My Owlcrate has arrived! (also, I am incredibly proud of myself for keeping those succulents alive for many months)

Packaging: 10/10

Nothing has ever arrived broken or even slightly damaged. Anything fragile (like a wooden necklace) is very carefully packaged to avoid any damage. Plus the books have all arrived in perfect condition.

Shipping time: Excellent (I usually get mine two days from receiving the shipping email)

Response to Problems: I personally have not experience any problems with OwlCrate but from reading the comments on their Instagram posts, there have been some (most notably the fact that they sent out the same book as UpperCase Box a few months in a row – there was quite an uproar over this actually). It appears as if they have incredibly good customer service, however I cannot vouch for that myself.

The Unboxing

Note: This is August’s box so spoilers below if you haven’t received yours yet

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So many goodies!

August’s OwlCrate contained….

  • A miniature (aka purse-sized) decomposition book that is beautifully designed
  • Adult Coloring book + colored pencils (the fact that they included colored pencils made me very happy because of how considerate it was)
  • A Hogwarts button
  • Elanor and Park Necklace (it’s absolutely adorable)
  • A beautiful print of Harry, Hermione, and Ron
  • P.S. I Like You by Kasie West (contemporary Young adult)
  • Teaser card for next month (Darkness) and a card explaining everything that was in this month’s box

My Opinion: This is my third box and at first I was slightly wary regarding the price to value ratio but every single box has been right on the money. They usually include items that I can use in my day to day life (like that notebook is already in my purse). The books they pick are usually very good. I haven’t read this month’s yet but June’s book was My Lady Jane (5/5) and July’s book was This Savage Song (3.5/5). Additionally, one of the things I most like about this box is that they give you hints about what the book for the upcoming month is. That way, if you are a slightly obsessive pre-orderer like I am, you can cancel your pre-order (or avoid getting the book) so that you don’t end up with two copies. OwlCrate is one of the subscription boxes that will stay on my list!

 

Review: The Castle of Kings by Oliver Pötzsch

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When I got the email from NetGalley saying that I had been approved for this title, I was so excited. I immediately started reading because I adore The Hangman’s Daughter series. The characters are memorable, flawed, and relatable. The books deal with a variety of issues including public perception, the difference between social classes, and the role of women. They are deftly plotted mysteries that keep you guessing until the end.

Overall Score: 3.5/10

Genre: Historical Fiction, Medieval, Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release Date: 07/19/2016 (English edition)

Source: Received a free copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book summary

In 1524, in what is now Germany, hundreds of thousands of peasants revolted against the harsh treatment of their aristocratic overlords. Agnes is the daughter of one of these overlords, but she is not a typical sixteenth-century girl, refusing to wear dresses and spending more time with her pet falcon than potential suitors. There is only one suitor she is interested in: Mathis, a childhood friend who she can never marry due to his low birth status. But when a rogue knight attacks Agnes and Mathis shoots the knight to save her, the two are forced to go on the run together, into the midst of the raging Peasants’ War.   Over the next two years, as Agnes and Mathis travel the countryside, they are each captured by and escape from various factions of the war, participate in massive battles, make new friends both noble and peasant, and fall in love. Meanwhile, Agnes’s falcon finds a mysterious ring, and Agnes begins having strange, but seemingly meaningful dreams. Dreams that lead the two lovers to revelations about their place in the world and in the emerging German states.

Review

As I mentioned above, before I started this book, I was incredibly excited to read another work by Oliver Potzsch. His Hangman’s Daughter series is one of my favorites and I really enjoyed the The Ludwig Conspiracy. His characterization is usually top-notch, his settings so beautifully described that you can imagine yourself there, and his plots defy woven, with surprises even for the most astute of readers. Unfortunately, after reading the first half of the book, I ended up skimming through the rest because the plot had become incredibly slow.

This book was wonderfully researched and had the potential to be a well-written, beautiful piece of historical fiction. All of the components were there, they just didn’t quite fit together correctly. As with his other books, the setting was top-notch. Agnes and Mathis’ world came alive for me, I could easily picture the crumbling ruins of the castle, the slightly sinister forest, the prison pit, etc.

However, The characters themselves lacked personality, any depth, or consistency with their actions. I wasn’t able to connect with either of the protagonists, which made it difficult for me to care about what happened to them. Agnes had the potential to be a very interesting character (she’s caught up in a huge conspiracy and gets visions), but the writing didn’t allow her to achieve that potential. Additionally, Mathis was never really developed beyond his rebellious tendencies and love for Agnes. The secondary characters were a little more interesting as they had slightly more depth, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the protagonists.

I think the plot itself was interesting and intriguing. Had there been about 200 fewer pages in this book and some heavier editing, it would be an incredible work of historical fiction. As it was, I enjoyed the way that the mystery unraveled. Skimming the last half of the book, I was able to pick up on the major plot points and arrive at the ending with a fun comprehension of how the final scene had been set up.

After looking at the rave reviews of the German version, I’m not sure if the flaws in this book were the fault of the author or the translator but either way, the english edition does not live up to its potential.