The Book(ish) Box Review!

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I am so behind in blogging these days. We’ve had lots of friends and family visit us this summer and I always feel guilty about reading and blogging when we have guests (I try not to be too antisocial, even though sometimes I have to escape to my room or the bathroom for a few minutes to myself).

Anyway, at long last I am going to review one of my current favorite things in the whole world: my Book(ish) Box subscription!

Now, I am not exaggerating when I say it took well over a year for me to decide on which subscription box I wanted to sign up for. My husband and I both loved the idea of receiving a goodie box in the mail each month, but neither of us knew which boxes we wanted to sign up for (well, my husband didn’t really struggle with that–I’m the indecisive one). Then, a few months ago, he signed up for The Dollar Beard Club which persuaded me to finally pick a box as well, and I found the perfect one for me: The Book(ish) Box!

Each monthly Book(ish) Box comes with a t-shirt from Appraising Pages and 3-5 bookish home, beauty, and fashion items. You can select different t-shirt styles and sizes, and they are super comfy!

When I discovered this wonderful subscription box I knew I had to sign-up right away! But alas, they were all sold out for that particular month! I am not exaggerating when I say that I was pretty devastated. My husband, being the sweet and thoughtful person he is, secretly emailed the lovely owners of Appraising Pages a long, Victorian-inspired message, asking them if they would have one more box that I could sign up for. He must have won them over with his writing skills because they kindly let me sign up, and I was overjoyed because that month’s theme was Classic novels (MY FAVORITE!).

When my first box arrived, I WAS SO EXCITED to open it. I made myself some tea (because that’s what Classic novels call for, am I right?), and I carefully fangirled over each gift in the box.

June’s Book(ish) Box – Classic Novels

Alice in Wonderland t-shirt (Appraising Pages)
Great Gatsby Notebook (Bugaboo Bear Designs)
Ampersand Ring (A Cute Geek)
Alice in Wonderland Socks (Out of Print)
Magnetic Persuasion bookmark

I wear this ampersand ring nearly every day. It’s not made of metal so it doesn’t tarnish at all, and it fits perfectly on my middle finger :) I also adore the Curiouser and Curiouser shirt and the White Rabbit socks are adorable. The Great Gatsby notebook is made from recycled paper, which is awesome! I recently misplaced the Persuasion bookmark while reading For Darkness Shows the Stars (which just so happens to be a Persuasion retelling), but I’m sure it’s in my couch somewhere!

July and August’s boxes were equally wonderful, and I will share with you some detailed pictures of the Fantasy and Fairy Tale Retelling themed goodies!

July’s Book(ish) Box – Fantasy

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J.R.R. Tolkien inspired t-shirt (Appraising Pages)
Saphira Eragon Blend Coffee (Passive Juice Motel)
Fantasy Antler Headband (Night and Day Baby)
Game of Thrones inspired bangle (The Geeky Cauldron)
The Mortal Instruments inspired crossbody tote (Fiction Tea)

I finally drank the Eragon themed coffee earlier this week when we ran out of our usual coffee. It was good! And I absolutely love the crossbody tote bag, even if I haven’t read The Mortal Instruments.

August’s Book(ish) Box – Fairy Tale Retellings

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A Court of Mist and Fury t-shirt (Appraising Pages)
Peter Pan Necklace (The Bookish Box)
Beauty and the Beast watercolor bookmar (Lexy Olivia)
Mug inspired by Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Evie Sea)
Disney post-it notes (Appraising Pages)

It’s hard to tell, but the Peter Pan necklace is a thimble with a tiny acorn and the Disney post-it notes say: “Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.” The Beauty and the Beast watercolor book mark is BEAUTIFUL!

If you’re a huge bookworm like me (which, I’m assuming you are since you’re perusing a book blog), you are probably wondering how you can sign up for your own Book(ish) Box immediately!

Here is a link to subscribe: GET A BOOK(ISH) BOX! September’s boxes don’t ship for almost another 2 weeks, and the theme is Literary Ladies (so I’m expecting at least one Hermione themed item!). Hopefully I’ll be quicker at posting a review of that box than I was with my first three boxes :)

Playing the Part (A Class of Their Own #3) by Jen Turano

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Lucetta Plum is an actress on the rise in New York City, but is forced to abandon her starring role when a fan’s interest turns threatening. Lucinda’s widowed friend, Abigail Hart, is delighted at the opportunity to meddle in Lucetta’s life and promptly whisks her away to her grandson’s estate to hide out.

Bram Haverstein may appear to simply be a somewhat eccentric gentleman of means, but a mysterious career and a secret fascination with a certain actress mean there’s much more to him than society knows.

Lucetta, who has no interest in Abigail’s matchmaking machinations, has the best intentions of remaining cordial but coolly distant to Bram. But when she can’t ignore the strange and mysterious things going on in his house, it’ll take more than good intentions to keep her from trying to discover who Bram is behind the part he plays.

Playing the Part (A Class of Their Own #3) by Jen Turano
Published March 1, 2016 by Bethany House
Format: Netgalley e-book for review; 352 pages
Historical Fiction/Christian Fiction
Also By This Author: The Ladies of Distinction series
GoodreadsAmazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Thoughts:

Playing the Part is the conclusion to Jen Turano’s A Class of Their Own series. I haven’t read the first two books, After a Fashion and In Good Company, but the author does a good job at filling new readers, like myself, in on previous plot lines that are important for Lucetta and Bram’s story.

I had previously read Gentleman of Her Dreams, a novella from Jen Turano’s Ladies of Distinction series, and I really enjoyed the humor of Turano’s writing as well as the stubbornness of the main character. I was really looking forward to experiencing that again with Playing the Part, but unfortunately my expectations must have been too high because I found myself not connecting with this novel as much as I wanted to. Lucetta is still a fierce and strong-minded heroine, and there are some funny scenes in Playing the Part, but overall I thought it was missing something to make it great.

I did enjoy the allusions to some of my favorite gothic literature. Classic gothic lit is one of my favorite genres, and it made me happy to read references to Edgar Allan Poe and Dracula (the love interest’s name is Bram, which I really loved!). Plus there’s also a dungeon and unexplained “hauntings” going on in Bram’s gothic castle, so if you’re like me you’ll probably enjoy those descriptions.

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy historical fiction.
…you’re a fan of classic gothic fiction including Edgar Allan Poe and Bram Stoker (there are several references).
….you like reading clean romances that aren’t excessively religious.

Final Musings:

Although I didn’t love Playing the Part, I did enjoy it enough that I will probably read the first two books in the series sometime. Jen Turano is a fun writer who places her characters in entertaining situations. Her novels are great picks if you need a lighthearted historical romance to read.

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

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When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
Published May 5, 2015 by HarperTeen
Format: library e-book; 344 pages
Young Adult/Contemporary Romance
Also By This Author: The Distance Between UsOn the FencePivot Point
Goodreads | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

This book is about so much more than I originally expected. Yes, the majority of the plot revolves around the idea of a fill-in boyfriend, but it’s also about losing friends and making new ones, being vulnerable, and ultimately finding yourself. I connected easily with Gia as she tries to become a better person during her senior year of high school. Like so many of us, she feels like an absolute failure before she notices any improvement.

A lot of Gia’s life is centered on her group of best friends: Claire, Laney, and “frenemy” Jules. Seeing how these girls interacted with each other and with their other classmates reminded me of some of the best and worst parts of high school. I really enjoyed the misfit characters that interrupted Gia’s perfectly planned life and changed her perspective on everything.

I enjoyed the ending of The Fill-In Boyfriend because not everything is completely resolved. Some relationships were still messy and there were some unanswered questions, which made the ending more realistic, in my opinion. Sometimes I prefer a clean, “happily ever after” ending, but honestly, those books are usually more forgettable. When novels wrap up and leave a few minor ends unresolved, I tend to hold on to the story for a while after I’ve finished it, mulling it over and analyzing how it connects to my own reality. The Fill-In Boyfriend has had me reflecting on high school and the friendships that have dissolved or endured over the years.

Read This Book If…

…you like seeing characters get caught in their mistakes (and lies) and having to make amends.
…you’ve ever been a misfit.
…you enjoy venting your feelings through fictional characters (there are a few scenes involving angry screaming and throwing rocks).
…you’re looking to read a contemporary YA romance that is surprisingly more than surface-deep.

“We rarely find a depth by looking inside of ourselves for it. Depth is found in what we can learn from the people and things around us. Everyone, everything, has a story, Gia. When you learn those stories, you learn experiences that fill you up, that expand your understanding. You add layers to your soul.”

Final Musings:

One thing Gia focuses on in The Fill-In Boyfriend is being a better person. She fails, a lot, but it reminded me that self-improvement is a life-long journey and not an over-night process. Although it makes me extremely anxious when fictional characters act like compulsive liars (seriously, I have a major problem with second-hand guilt and embarrassment), seeing how Gia reacted to the consequences of her decisions made up for that.

This book was recommended to me by a couple of friends, and even though I had previously tried reading Kasie West’s The Distance Between Us (and put it down after a quarter of the way through), I’m glad I gave The Fill-In Boyfriend a chance because it’s been one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle’s great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.

The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary’s only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. One day, with the help of two unexpected companions, she discovers a way in. Is everything in the garden dead, or can Mary bring it back to life?

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Published 1911 by Frederick A. Stokes
Format: audiobook; 331 pages
Classics/Young Adult
Also By This Author: A Little PrincessLittle Lord Fauntleroy
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

The Secret Garden is one of those novels I always assumed I had read when I was little, or I at least thought I had seen the movie. Having read the book now, however, I realize that I didn’t know the story at all!

Despite The Secret Garden being written for a younger audience, I still enjoyed it, especially the dreamy, poetic language Frances Hodgson Burnett uses. I found myself getting lost in The Secret Garden along with Mary Lennox and her friends. I connected with Mary and her friend Declan right away, but it took me a little while to start liking Colin (although I think that was purposeful).

The tone of mystery and suspense is so thick in this novel that I was constantly expecting something bad to happen. This is actually a pretty common reaction for me; while reading Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone, I thought Emily’s best friend Sloane had been kidnapped and/or murdered when really she had secretly moved.

“One of the strange things about living in the world is that now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever…”

Read This Book If…

…you’re a daydreamer/adventurer.
…you enjoy strong-minded, stubborn characters.
…you’re looking for a book that will help you temporarily escape from the real world.
…you want to rediscover a childhood classic.

“I’ve seen the spring now and I’m going to see the summer. I’m going to see everything grow here. I’m going to grow here myself.”

Final Musings:

I read this book because of it’s web series adaptation, The Misselthwaite Archives. I’m a part of an online LIW (literary-inspired web series) club. Last month we watched The Misselthwaite Archives and chatted about it and I also read the book. The web series is a lovely adaptation of The Secret Garden. Colin was changed to Callie, which worked better for the modern version, in my opinion. The cinematography is gorgeous and the theme music is appropriately captivating. The acting is also wonderful!

Villette by Charlotte Bronté

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Arguably Brontë’s most refined and deeply felt work, Villette draws on her profound loneliness following the deaths of her three siblings. Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette, flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy’s struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë’s strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.

Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Published 1853 (under Currer Bell) by Smith, Elder & Co.
Format: e-book; 432 pages
Classics/Romance/Gothic Fiction
Also By This Author: Jane EyreShirley
AmazonGoodreads
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts:

Villette took me months to finish; 10 months to be exact. It may be surprising, therefore, that I would give this book a 4-star rating, but despite feeling like a sloth trying to force my way through the majority of this novel, the last 50-60 pages made the sluggish journey completely worth it.

Villette, much like its beloved sister-novel Jane Eyre, is a gothic Victorian love story involving a persevering, deep-feeling narrator and a misunderstood, secretly caring Byronic hero. Unlike Jane Eyre, Miss Lucy Snowe is an unreliable, often unlikable narrator. I actually had a hard time desiring good things for her until the final chapters. I won’t sugar coat it; being inside her mind was annoying at times. She was judgmental and behaved bitterly towards most of her companions. Charlotte Brontë purposefully gave her an icy surname.

Honestly, I was very disinterested in Villette until the climax of the story and from that point on I was hooked. The long-awaited sentimentality that Charlotte Brontë excelled at did not disappoint. On the contrary, it was so lovely I probably would have cried if I hadn’t been reading it at work (I happily sobbed through the ending of Jane Eyre from the privacy of my bedroom).

It also helps to know that Villette borrows from real events in the author’s life. It could even be called autobiographical in many ways. If you’ve already read Villette or you don’t mind major spoilers, here’s an excellent analysis of the novel and Charlotte’s connection to Lucy Snowe.

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy classic gothic literature (think Jane EyreNorthanger Abbey, or even Edgar Allan Poe).
…you love unrequited love stories.
…you can enjoy a book even if the main character is unpleasant or hard to sympathize with.
…you love captivating conclusions (Villette will intrigue you and stay on your mind long after you finish it).

Final Musings

There was a 1970s miniseries of Villette, but alas! It has been lost. Unfortunately this is the case for numerous British miniseries from the 1970s and earlier. Frankly I think it’s horrible and I’m really upset because I would love to watch all of the literary-inspired shows!

There are also two different radio dramatizations of Villette that BBC Radio has produced, but I haven’t found a way to listen to them, yet :(

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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Marianne Dashwood wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor’s warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love—and its threatened loss—the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Published 1811 by Thomas Egerton
Format: hardcover; 357 pages
Classics/Romance
Also By This Author: EmmaMansfield ParkNorthanger Abbey
GoodreadsAmazon

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

Sense and Sensibility is the first novel by Jane Austen that I ever read. I randomly started reading it one day in 10th grade when I had some down time in class, and ever since I’ve been a Janeite. Last summer I reread Sense and Sensibility for the second or third time for Austen in August, but I got so caught up in baby shower plans and arts and crafts that I didn’t get a chance to post my review. And then this week something made me think of Alan Rickman :( which made me think about how much I love Colonel Brandon and Rickman’s portrayal of him that I decided it was finally time to talk about the book on my blog.

Besides Colonel Brandon, my absolute favorite part of Sense and Sensibility is Elinor. I know she’s not as entertaining or interesting as Marianne, but like Anne Elliot and Jane Bennet, she has qualities of selflessness and kindness that I admire and strive to incorporate into my own character, especially when I’m around people who really try my patience!

“Elinor was to be the comforter of others in her own distresses, no less than in theirs.”

Another quality of Elinor’s that I admire, that Anne Elliot also possesses; is the ability to think frugally and responsibly. In my personal life, I have a 6 month old baby and my husband and I just bought a house, so we could use some frugal thinking right now!

I have a hard time really reviewing Sense and Sensibility because there are so many good characters, plot twists, and heartfelt conversations. I could write essays on this book, but I also don’t feel that I have anything new to say about it. Except that I love Colonel Brandon! Oh wait, that’s not new, is it?

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy dry, witty humor.
…you like reading coming of age stories involving heartache.
…you’re looking for a timeless, excellently written classic to enjoy this summer.
…you love seeing close-knit family relationships in fiction.

Final Musings

Here are several Sense and Sensibility adaptations I’ve watched (and in some cases watched and rewatched):

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

mv5bnzk1mju3mdqyml5bml5banbnxkftztcwnjc1otm2mq-_v1_sx640_sy720_Not only the best Sense and Sensibility adaptation in my opinion, but it’s also one of my all-time favorite films. The acting is what really makes this film so excellent. Everyone was perfectly casted and even the annoying characters (i.e. Lucy Steele) aren’t annoying enough to deter me from enjoying the movie over and over again (this is the exact problem I have with Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins in the Pride and Prejudice miniseries). The script also holds true to the novel and the soundtrack is lovely.

sense-and-sensibility-1995-sense-and-sensibility-2580847-300-425Sense and Sensibility (2008)

This is also a wonderful adaptation, although it can’t top the Emma Thompson film version. I loved Dan Stevens as Edward Ferrars and David Morrissey plays Colonel Brandon well, too. I wish I could buy the score because the music is hauntingly beautiful, but last time I checked I couldn’t find anywhere to purchase it :(

jo36wpieprojectdashwood_1423093042_140Web Series

There are two web series adaptations, “Elinor and Marianne Take Barton” and “Project Dashwood”, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them. They both could have used better scripts and I wasn’t a fan of the acting in Project Dashwood. I would love to see a well-adapted web series of Sense and Sensibility one day. Maybe I should try to get a production together myself… (just kidding?)

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed

toptentuesdayThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is about second chances and changes of heart. Here are ten books that I’ve changed my mind about over the years, for better or for worse.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed

 

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – When I first read this novel in 9th grade I must have been going through a brooding, melancholy phase (I was; I was 14) because I really enjoyed this book. When I reread it a couple of years ago, I was baffled at how I could have ever enjoyed a book whose characters were so unlovable. I do give Emily Brontë credit for two things, however: she cultivated my love for classic lit and she wrote a story that was intriguing despite its despicable characters.

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Emma by Jane Austen – Oh, Emma Woodhouse. She’s such a spoiled brat, but I feel that I’ve matured along with her and even though I didn’t like this book as recently as 3 years ago, now I actually enjoy it. I love watching and rewatching the movie and miniseries (except for the Box Hill picnic. I always fast-forward that whole scene).

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Twilight by Stephanie Meyer – I started this series when I was a college freshman and I really enjoyed it at the time. But now it’s one of those stories I no longer feel comfortable advocating or recommending to other readers (especially teens). I know I’m probably stepping on a lot of toes by saying this, but Bella and Edward’s relationship is so unhealthy it’s dangerous. Two things I do like about Twilight, however; are Jasper (<3) and the movie soundtrack.

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Something Borrowed and Something Blue by Emily Giffin – Ok, I loved these books when I first read them back in college. Maybe I identified with Rachel’s personality. But the more I think about it now, the more absurd I find it is to sympathize with someone who has an affair with her best friend’s francé. I will admit, though, that I do like the movie. Probably because it has 3 of my favorite actors.

c6b3625ef9060e64ed4bbc8588586476Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery – It is no secret that I love this series. Anne of Green Gables is my favorite book and I reread several, if not all of the books every other year. Anne of Windy Poplars, however, has always been my least favorite and I typically skip over it. Younger me would say it’s because it was seriously lacking in Gilbert! I think if I reread it now, though, I could appreciate the Gilbert-less events more than my teenage self could.

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The Lord of the Rings series by J. R. R. Tolkien – This is a series I did not finish several years ago. I know how beloved it is, but I found it…boring. *waits to be pelted by rocks* I did read all of The Fellowship of the Ring and the first half of The Two Towers and I think that’s giving it a fair chance. Anyway, lately I’ve been having a change of heart and I’m thinking about reading The Two Towers and Return of the King sometime. Mainly it’s because I feel like a bad nerd for not having read the entire series and seen all of the movies!

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – I’ve read one novel by John Green and was not impressed. I was actually really into Paper Towns until Margo showed up and then it went seriously downhill for me. But last week a friend encouraged me to give John Green a second chance and he specifically recommended The Fault in Our Stars. I already know the story but I think I’ll try to read it sometime, anyway.

How do you feel about the books on my list?