12.05.2016

Subscription Box Gift Guide {2016}

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.

{If you click through the affiliate links in this post, any purchase you make supports this site.}

A quick glance at the Subscription Box Directory shows that there are an overwhelming number of subscription boxes out there. Don't let this dissuade you from sending them as gifts this year to your friends, family, and co-workers! Here are my suggestions for the best subscription box gifts in five very broad categories.

Books

Book of the Month

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Book of the Month is among my favorite subscription boxes. There are five options each month and you can select one (included) or more (for an additional cost). The options are always varied. There are two deals for gift subscriptions right now:

Owl Crate

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Owl Crate is a YA book box that also sends bookish items in the box. The books are generally new releases. It gets great reviews and has a very loyal following.

Reading Bug Box 

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
The Reading Bug Box is such a treat for my kids! They adore it. It includes books and bookish items for kids, based on a profile about their interests. Filling out their interests was half the fun for my kids.
  • Save $10 your order with code MADMIL.

Food

Degustabox

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Degustabox is a mix of snacks, beverages, and pantry items, with a focus on variety. I'm recommending this one because it is so fun to open this box and see so many products inside! Check out my reviews here.
  • Through December 31, Degustabox is offering the first box for $9.99 through this link.

Hatchery

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.

Hatchery specializes in sending samples of artisan foods from all over the United States. I think they win the prize for prettiest packaging, too. The box includes a guide to the products with recipes and stories of the people who made them. It feels very personal!

Urthbox


Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
If you want to go in a healthy direction with your gift, check out UrthBox. Their snacks are organic and non-gmo. They offer different variations, too: Classic, Gluten-Free, Vegan, and Diet.

Drink

Craft Beer of the Month Club

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Craft Beer of the Month Club is just that! They send 12 craft beers in four different styles (3 of each style) once a month.
  • Get three bonus gifts and free shipping with a gift subscription through this link.

Gold Medal Wine Club

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Gold Medal Wine Club is unique because it never features bulk wines, private labels, or close outs. They feature award winning wines or wines that have been highly rated in national wine publications.

Moustache Coffee Club

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Moustache Coffee Club offers bi-weekly delivery of single-origin coffee. Plus, the packaging and name are super fun, right?

Fashion

Stitch Fix

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Stitch Fix offers personal styling services for men's, women's, petite, and maternity clothing. (Plus size is coming in Spring 2017). I completely adore Stitch Fix and highly recommend it!

Enjoy Leggings

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Leggings are all the rage these days! Enjoy Leggings sends leggings each month for only $16.95.

Geek Chic Monthly 

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Geek Chic Monthly is an offbeat pick, but the box is so darn cute and would be perfect for the geeky girl in your life.

Beauty

Birchbox

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.

Birchbox is the most popular and well known beauty subscription box. It often serves as a gateway drug for subscription box addicts, though I've only heard that second-hand, of course. Birchbox offers a box for both men and women.
  • Give a six-month subscription for $99, which is one month free.

Beauty Box Five

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Beauty Box Five sends five samples of beauty products each month. The box price starts at a very reasonable $12.

Julep Maven

Find a subscription box for anyone on your Christmas gift list with this subscription box gift guide.
Julep Maven has really improved over the years. It's not just nail polish anymore!
  • Use code BOXLOVE to get your first box free when you sign up for a three month subscription here.


12.04.2016

A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl {Book Review}

Geek Culture (and more specifically, comics culture) is its own character in A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl.
{Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an eARC of A Hundred Thousand Worlds free of charge. If you click through the affiliate links in this post, any purchase you make supports this site.}

A Hundred Thousand Worlds by Bob Proehl is not a novel that can be rushed through. It's more of the type of novel that is savored. This book tells the story of Valerie Torrey, former star of a popular sci-fi show, and her son, Alex. They are traveling across the country, stopping at Comic-Con type events along the way where she is a featured guest, on a trip to Los Angeles.

The story of Valerie and Alex would, on its own, make a perfectly lovely novel. Where Proehl hits it out of the park is in the development of the context of their travels - the world of comics, cons, and general geek culture.

As a sci-fi fan who's not into comics, I am certain I missed out on a bunch of references, but they would have been icing on the story here. There was more than enough for me to latch on to in order to get the message and to move the plot along.

The story and characters in A Hundred Thousand Worlds are lush, heartbreaking, and though provoking. So many times, I had to pause and just chew on a few sentences. Don't let the quirky cosplay and comic world setting dissuade you from picking up this novel if you're not into that scene - there is more than enough here to satisfy any reader who appreciates an artfully told story.

5/5

11.25.2016

Reflection: Stranger in the Mirror by Rachel R. Smith {Book Review}

Full of magical books, political intrigue, and prophesies, Reflection tells the story of Nerissa, who is the heir to the throne of Chiyo.
{Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an eARC of Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror free of charge. If you click through the affiliate links in this post, any purchase you make supports this site.}

Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror by Rachel R. Smith is the first in the Records of Ohanzee series. Full of magical books, political intrigue, and prophesies, Reflection tells the story of Nerissa, who is the heir to the throne of Chiyo. We meet Nerissa as she is preparing for a masquerade ball that celebrates a failed assassination attempt on the ruling family decades before. Much drama ensues.

Smith creates a true feeling of tension and her characters are three-dimensional. It took a few chapters for me to feel fully engaged in this story, mostly because I was trying to figure out the world in which it is based. I was jolted out of the story a few times by inconsistent pacing.

Part of why I selected this novel was the fact that it is self-published. I'm trying to diversify my reading in many ways, including stepping away every now and then from the world of big publishing and its appurtenant marketing blitzes. If you want to check out this novel and have access to Kindle Unlimited, it is included in your subscription!

Fair warning: this book ends with an abrupt cliffhanger, so set your expectations accordingly!

3/5

11.23.2016

Degustabox November 2016 {Subscription Box Review and Coupon Code}

Snacks, pantry items, beverages, and sweets are all included in the Degustabox!
{Many thanks to Degustbox for sending this box free of charge. If you click through the affiliate links in this post, any purchase you make supports this site.}

The Box:

Degustabox

The Cost and Coupon Code:

Degustabox is regularly $19.99 per month, with free shipping. Use code 8PICG for 50% off your first box.

What's Included:

Degustabox bills itself as a monthly food surprise box and that is an apt description! It includes 10-15 food items each month, from a wide variety of categories.

Snacks, pantry items, beverages, and sweets are all included in the Degustabox!

Degustabox Review:

One of my favorite things about Degustabox is the bounty when you open it up
!Snacks, pantry items, beverages, and sweets are all included in the Degustabox!

Here's what was included in the November 2016 box:

Snacks, pantry items, beverages, and sweets are all included in the Degustabox!
Bruce Cost Ginger Beer, $1.50 each

Sharwood's Tikka Masala, $4.99 (with recipes included)


Beanitos White Bean Chips in Hint of Lime and Nacho Cheese, $1 each

Oloves Basil and Garlic Olives, $1.49

Nib Noir Dark Chocolate in Cherry and Blueberry, $1.39 each


Torani Salted Carmel Coffee Cups, $15.01 (not on info card, so maybe was just an added bonus?)



Haribo Sour Gummy Bears, $3 (not included on info car, so maybe an extra?)

Conclusion:

Once again, Degustabox delivered a box full of stuff I will actually use! Give Degustabox a try for yourself or gift it to the foodie in your life.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch {Book Review}

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is a sci-fi thriller that will have you turning pages like crazy!
{Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an eARC of Dark Matter free of charge. If you click through the affiliate links in this post, any purchase you make supports this site.}

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is an outstanding exemplar of the sci-fi thriller genre. So many reviews are just calling it sci-fi, but I think that is misleading. This novel is incredibly fast-paced and intricate at the same time.

I don't want to give you even a short summary of this plot for fear of taking the fun out of it. Half the excitement of this book is the craziness of the plot twists and turns.

Even though it is fast paced and adrenaline fueled, there is love, joy, and desperation throughout. I had no idea how much this book would tug on my heart strings and how much I was rooting for Jason Dessen.

Did I understand all the science here? Absolutely not! But that did not distract from the story until about the last third. At that point, I had a bit of trouble suspending disbelief, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the creativity and drama.

11.19.2016

The Best of the Thanksgiving Magazine Issues 2016 {And My Menu}

Roundup of the best Thanksgiving recipes from this year's food magazines, and my menu!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas. I'm talking about the days when my mailbox is chock full of the Thanksgiving issues of food magazines. Picking out my Thanksgiving Menu is among my favorite activities, second only to that moment of sitting down at the table.

If this were a contest, the Food Network Magazine would win by a mile. I tore out just about every Thanksgiving recipe because they all sounded so crazy good. They have recipes that are a little different, but something I could completely see myself making. 

Here's the best of what I found after looking through nine food magazine. Somebody had to do it.

Roundup of the best Thanksgiving recipes from this year's food magazines!
Photo Credit: Food Network

Turkey

Ancho-Rubbed Turkey {Food Network}
Basic Gravy {Food Network}
Smoky Turkey with Apple-Cider Gravy {Every Day with Rachael Ray}
Lauren's Apple Cider Roast Turkey {All Recipes}

Roundup of the best Thanksgiving recipes from this year's food magazines!
Image Credit: Food Network

Stuffing

Italian Sausage Stuffing {Food Network}

Roundup of the best Thanksgiving recipes from this year's food magazines!
Image Credit: Food Network

Sides

Sauteed Shredded Brussels Sprouts {Food Network}
Cheesy Corn Casserole {Bon Appetit}
Absolutely Delicious Green Bean Casserole {All Recipes}
Duck Fat-Roasted Brussels Sprouts {All Recipes}

Roundup of the best Thanksgiving recipes from this year's food magazines!
Image Credit: Food Network

Potatoes

Root Vegetable Gratin {Food Network}
Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes {Food Network}
The Best Mashed Potatoes {All Recipes}
Honey and Rosemary Sweet Potatoes {All Recipes}
Sweet Potato Gratin {Real Simple}
Garlic Mashed Potatoes {Real Simple}
Mashed Potatoes, Kind of Robuchon Style {Anthony Bourdain, via Food & Wine}
Candied Sweet Potatoes with Bourbon {Anthony Bourdain via Food and Wine}


Roundup of the best Thanksgiving recipes from this year's food magazines!
Image Credit: Food Network


Cranberry Sauce

Maple Cranberry Sauce {All Recipes}
Cranberry Relish {Anthony Bourdain via Food & Wine}


Breads

Rosemary Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls {All Recipes}

Roundup of the best Thanksgiving recipes from this year's food magazines!

Desserts

Apple-Cherry Lattice Pie {Food Network}

Cocktails

Cranberry Martini {All Recipes}

Roundup of the best Thanksgiving recipes from this year's food magazines!
Image Credit: Real Simple

Leftovers

Thanksgiving Pho {Everyday with Rachael Ray}
Leftover Turkey Enchiladas {Real Simple}
Turkey Cranberry Sandwiches {BHG}
Cheesy Tots {BHG}

My Menu

Cornbread and Chorizo Stuffing {Every Day with Rachael Ray}
Classic Mashed Potatoes {Food Network}
Honey and Rosemary Sweet Potatoes {All Recipes}
Cheesy Corn Casserole {Bon Appetit}
Green Bean Casserole {Paula Deen via Food Network}
Brioche and White Rolls from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
Pomegranate Prosecco Cocktail {Garnish with Lemon}

Leftovers:
Thanksgiving Breakfast Burritos {Food 52}
Thanksgiving Leftovers Egg Rolls {Laura Fuentes}

11.11.2016

The Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin {Book Review}

Each book in the post-apocalyptic The Passage series is a nail biter, despite the fact that they average at around 600 pages.
{Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an eARC of The City of Mirrors free of charge. If you click through the affiliate links in this post, any purchase you make supports this site.}

I did not have any idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to read The Passage series by Justin Cronin. After ads for City of Mirrors all over the place grabbed my attention, I decided to dive in blind. The trilogy begins with The Passage, then moves on to The Twelve, and concludes with The City of Mirrors. It was engrossing, creative, carefully crafted, complicated, and haunting.

You may think you've seen it all in the genre of post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels, but you've never read anything like this! The US Government, in an effort to create a super-warrior, unleashes a virus that turns people into what amounts to vampires. This is an extreme oversimplification of the detailed world building and character examination that Cronin undertakes throughout the series.

The Passage was simply a shock because I had no idea how engrossing it would be. I think I'm not alone in thinking the second novel in the trilogy, The Twelve, was the weakest. But then I picked up City of Mirrors and was blown away.

The City of Mirrors was a satisfying conclusion that did justice to the time and effort invested in these characters and this story. I think this might be my favorite read from 2016, though there are a few months left to unseat it!