Hi, I’m Malice Aforethought. Many of you know me as that ravenous monster that devours books, and if you don’t know me: I am a ravenous monster who devours books.
One problem that arises when you’re devouring and collecting books at the rate I do is that most people you know are far too intimidated to buy you books as presents. Even my devoted husband usually only buys exactly what I put on a list I give him, because I either own it or have read it or have just ordered a copy. But I do love a surprise and what can be more lovely than receiving a book?
Enter subscription boxes!
What is a subscription box? They are basically curated gift boxes you can order through various websites including Cratejoy and Etsy. Most are monthly and have many different themes and items you can select. You can get surprised by selections of tea, by snacks from other countries, by wine; hell, there is even one where you get a fantasy book and themed bath products.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Malice, if people you know can’t buy books for you, how is a stranger going to be able to select books for you? First off, I don’t have to fake a big smile for a stranger who has mailed me a box and tell them I love it while secretly wondering how much credit I’ll get for it at a book store (yes I’m a monster, see above). Second, these are professional curators (or at least side hustlers in the subscription box curation business), so they might be looking for things you can’t get just anywhere, or at least, I crossed my fingers and hoped that was the case.
I tried out three different subscription book boxes to see how I liked them. While I tried to keep my personal feelings about the books sent out of my evaluation of the service itself, I’m not going to lie, it did come into play, and I think that’s only natural that whether or not I actually liked the books was a factor in deciding if I enjoyed the service.
I signed up for three different services: Coffee and a Classic, Down the Rabbit Hole, and My Thrill Club. And here we go…
Coffee and a Classic
Here are the details, in their own words:
“We at Coffee and a Classic know that there are few things more enjoyable than to immerse yourself in a great book, so each month we carefully select a classic book, beverage and other bookish treats to inspire you.”
Price: Starter: $41.99 (Includes – A classic book • Something to sip on (coffee, tea or hot chocolate) • Two bookish items and • A bookmark) Standard: $51.99 (Includes: A classic book • Something to sip on (coffee, tea or hot chocolate) • Something to snack on • A mug • Two bookish items • A bookmark) Save 5% by prepaying 3 or 6 months Free Shipping!
My Experience: This is the first subscription box I ever saw, a few years back, and I thought it looked neat, but thought $50 was a bit steep for one book and gee, what if I already owned the one I got? I finally decided in February of this year that I wanted it, especially looking at the pictures of past boxes and being envious of the cool swag available in each one. Plus, my household’s number one talent might be accidentally breaking mugs, so a mug coming in each month would not be amiss. And…I sort of binged all the classics when I was about twenty and over a decade later, my tastes in books has changed. Old favorites have been dropped from my library in that time, and hey, classic books might take on a new luster with a reread. Time to roll the dice!
I signed up on February 1st which meant…waiting until the March book box came out, boxes shipping out on the second week of each month, and you are able to sign up for the following month’s box up until the last day of the current month. (So if I had signed up in January, I would have gotten February’s box.) I wanted one sooner and they offered two options for that: Email their customer service OR go to their Etsy shop. I opted for emailing their customer service to see if I could get a February box. The neat thing is that if you go on their website, they have a Sneak Peek option so you can see what book is coming up and decide if you want to skip it and wait another month. I saw the February box was Shakespeare’s Tragedies and knew I wanted it immediately, but I’m trying not to spoil the surprise of future boxes, though it is very tempting.
Looking back, I wished I had just opted for the Etsy shop and gotten one of the book boxes there because, I’m not going to lie, the response time was very slow. I emailed them on 2/13, the first response came on 2/20 saying they’d be happy to help me, was it okay to charge my credit card? I replied the same day. I got an email on 2/23 saying that they’d charged me, and that my box would be mailed that week. On March 3rd, I received an email confirming a box had finally been shipped to me. I will say that the emails I received were very polite and professional. The shipping was incredibly fast, especially since it came to me from across the country.
So how was the box itself? Fantastic. Truly. I’d read Shakespeare before but I don’t own a copy and it had been maybe 13 years since I’d last read it. The tea they sent was super delicious; I’m a bit of a tea snob and so was very pleased to see the actual spices amongst my tea leaves when I opened it. The cookie was delicious, and exactly the kind of thing meant for dipping. I thought the “gifts” were fun, and I’m very much looking forward to my next box.
Extra Notes: You can sign up for the service through the website I linked above, or through Cratejoy. I opted to go through their user friendly website. If you don’t want to commit to tea, coffee, or hot cocoa, there is a “Surprise Me” option. They also have a Children’s Classic subscription which looks delightful for those who are looking for reads for younger readers.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Here are the details, in their own words: “Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box is a curated monthly book service for readers who loove books that do not have happy endings. Each month we will surprise you with a paperback, a combination of 4-6 individually packaged bookish themed gifts and items directly mentioned in that month’s book. Each numbered gift is designed to be opened once you reach a specific part of the book. We added numbered removable stickers in carefully selected pages in your book, letting you know when to open your gifts.”
Price: Month to Month: $34.99 Three Month Prepay: $99.99 Six Month Prepay: $199.99 Shipping: $10.50
My Experience: I saw it advertised on Cratejoy and was intrigued. I found their website and signed up through them (but you can also sign up through Cratejoy). Oooh, books with unhappy endings. The past boxes advertised looked like things I would read (or had read) and I was very intrigued by the gifts that you open at various intervals. Seeing the pictures of the past boxes, I signed up, luckily just in time for the February box (you can sign up until the 15th of the month, I signed up on February 14th). So there was no customer service interaction per se.
I did, as an experiment, see how hard it was to cancel the service and it was super easy! I just logged into my account and hit the cancel subscription service. It does asks (optionally) if there’s anything to improve or why you were leaving, but otherwise, you just click that you want to cancel. I can’t recall how long it took to get the confirmation email, but it was definitely same day, I want to say it was maybe twenty minutes later. I re-upped immediately and that worked out fine too.
Unlike Coffee and a Classic, you don’t get an option to see exactly what book is coming up, instead, they post a series of hints. I tried googling some of the hits but came up with a completely different book then the one they sent me, which was M. L. Rio’s If We Were Villains, a book I hadn’t heard of before and honestly, not even sure I would have picked up left to my own devices, which would have been a shame! It’s a lovely, engrossing murder mystery featuring a group of theater students who live and breathe Shakespeare. (I do like the coincidence of how the book boxes matched up, lucky, lucky me.) Down the Rabbit Hole does have their own shop on their website where you can buy the current book box until it sells out, and also a few of the items from past boxes.
While the items included (you can see the picture above) weren’t as theme-y as say Coffee and a Classic, they were really lovely and high quality and they do appear in the book! Maybe that seems silly but there was something kind of fun about reading that a character was wearing wool socks and then open a box with a pair of comfy wool socks inside. It strikes me that this would be an excellent service or gift for someone who wants to get into reading, but also needs motivation to help them along. While I don’t particularly need motivation to keep reading a book, I did like receiving gifts along the way. My only complaint was that the book was so engrossing that the stickers were INTERRUPTING us.
I may one day unsubscribe (and not just as an experiment), but I would definitely keep stalking their social media to see what books they recommend as I was delighted with the selection I received.
Extra Notes: The service is tailored for older readers, with them recommending that readers be 18+. There was nothing that would have freaked me out at 15-16, but I would hesitate to send it to someone younger than that, unless they struck me as a pretty mature reader. Also, they don’t seem to really do edible gifts very often, so if you’re looking for tea or a snack like with Coffee and a Classic, you might want to look elsewhere.
My Thrill Club
The Details, in their own words: “My Thrill Club delivers the best in crime, mystery, thriller, espionage, and horror. You tell us your favorite genre and we will ship two new hardcovers right to your door. We also include surprises from time to time. New orders ship within 2 business days.”
Price: Month to Month: $18.99 3 Month Prepay: $54.00 6 Month Prepay: $102.00 Free Shipping!
My Experience: I decided to join this one via Cratejoy (there was a coupon) rather than their website. I was attracted to it because I love horror, and I thought it would be interesting to see how good their curation was, even as I gritted my teeth, sure I’d open a box to reveal King & Koontz. But hey, hardcover books, pretty nice, right? I decided because of the aforementioned coupon to get a 3 month subscription.
Now, the description says they ship in two business days…I did receive an email within 2 business days saying my package had been shipped, but as I found out, that really just meant the label was created. I received that email on a Tuesday and it wasn’t until the following Monday that Fedex confirmed they’d received the package. Pretty sneaky, sis. Reading through the reviews, I can see other people had a similar experience with the shipping and because it went through Fedex, which I honestly feel is the worst of the mailing services, it didn’t arrive until Saturday of that week. The other two boxes I subscribed to used, thank goodness, Priority Mail through USPS and came way faster than expected as a result.
But enough about mailing services! I read a ton of horror, since it’s in a tie with fantasy as my favorite genre, so I was pretty sure I was going to receive books I’d already read. But hey, those two books you can see above, not only had I never read them, I’d never even heard of them or their authors. And, just like with Down the Rabbit Hole, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have stopped for either of them in a book store, since they look very non-genre. What I enjoyed about the selection was that the curator has an open view of horror, not just going for monsters, but also psychological horror and the eerie. Nice.
This is a very bare bones service, only sending books and no gifts or treats, but that’s reflected in the price and hey, sometimes you don’t need frills. I’m not sure I will continue with this service after the three months, it will just depend on the quality of the books I receive, but so far, I am fairly impressed.
Extra Notes: You can choose between Horror, Thriller, Mystery, and Surprise Me! I am tempted to change it up at some point and switch to the Surprise Me option, just to see how the selection is in those other options. This is another one that isn’t really for children, but if you’ve got a mature teenager, I think they’d be fine.
Well, as you can probably guess from all this, I quite like these subscription box services. In addition to being a treat for yourself, they are also easy to give as gifts, and might be something to keep in mind for the future.