Review – Illumicrate Box #1

Illumicrate is a new book box subscription service, mailing out four times a year, priced at £30 per box. The plan is for it to contain new releases, mostly young adult, and the first box went out in early November. It’s always really exciting to get mail, to me anyway, and especially when it’s a surprise. I haven’t signed up to a book subscription service before, though I’ve been tempted; I’m always a little unsure about whether the book is actually going to be something I’m interested in.

Well, with this box, the contents were the following:

The box itself looks gorgeous: the design is great — simple but distinctive. Everything was well packed, too. I was glad to get Wolf by Wolf — it’s a book I’ve been thinking about getting anyway, and now, well, I have it! The matching bookmark is nice, too: the design fits perfectly with the cover art, but it’s also attractive on its own.

The necklace is quite unique, made of wood with an engraved quotation from the Hunger Games series: “If we burn, you burn with us.” It looks a little odd in shape — I wouldn’t have realised what it was without the description — but I kind of like it anyway. Definitely unique. Harry Potter is not my thing, so someone else is going to get the benefit of the poster, but it’s nice enough that a fan should enjoy it. And the little mirror is cute; I don’t have much use for one, but if I did, it’d be one that talks about books.

I’m not 100% sure that Illumicrate is going to be my thing, since I’m not always a fan of popular YA, but I’m going to stay subscribed for now and see what the next box is like. I think it’s always going to be the problem with a subscription box that sometimes it just isn’t going to fit your interests. Illumicrate is beautiful and the first box was near-enough the target that I’m happy to see what’s next.

Review – LookHuman.com

For some odd reason, I have no book review scheduled for today. I imagine I moved them around at some point and missed one. To avoid doing that again, today’s post is a review of a website instead. Ever felt like you really need some gear that displays your one true fandom — books? HUMAN have gotcha covered. Here’s just one of the shirts I got from them…

Photo of me, wearing a grey sweatshirt with the text "If I can't take my book, I'm not going"

There’s a lot of other awesome designs available. Like books and puns? How about “I’ve been inside all day and I can only blame my shelf“?

The quality of the shirts is good. The raglan is a large, because it’s a junior fit; on me it’s long enough, but if you have a long torso, it might not be long enough. It’s worth taking some measurements to check. The raglan is really really cosy, and I’m more than a bit in love with it. The unisex athletic t-shirts are also pretty good: the fabric feels nice, and the print doesn’t seem prone to flaking off or degrading like some custom t-shirts I’ve had.

Not a big enough fan of books to wear it (heh) on your sleeve? How about a Pokemon exercise joke? There’s a lot of really cool designs.

Shipping-wise, I ordered my first shirt on the 17th July. It was shipped by the 20th, and with me by the 28th. Can’t say fairer than that considering it had to be printed and then come from the US!

Review – Blloon

I don’t normally review services on my blog, but since this one is an ebook subscription service, it seems pretty relevant! I came across Blloon a little while ago through another blogger. I can’t figure out who that was, but I think it was a regular visitor here, so please do let me know and I’ll give you the credit.

I’ve been looking for an ebook subscription service for a while, but it looked like the best ones were in the US or really limited when it comes to serving other countries. I do have a Scribd subscription too, because of the access to so many comics on there — finally read Lumberjanes, last week, and my recent attempt on Daredevil was through them as well. But they don’t have a lot of more recent books.Screenshot of the Blloon app

Enter Blloon! I was surprised to note as soon as I opened the app that they have some very recent and high profile releases on offer — The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, for example — and I found a fair number of books I’m interested in. To give you just an idea of my list so far, it’s got some Mercedes Lackey, Robin McKinley, Kelly Link, various non-fiction books… And I’m sure there’s plenty more to discover. There are several ways to discover new books too, with a section of highlights, some reading lists (including one to help you diversify your reading called “Not Reading White Men”!), and of course you can also browse by genre.

As for their subscription model, it’s a very flexible one. You can pay monthly for a certain number of pages (500 or 1,000 are the options at present), or you can buy packs of top-up pages. These pages roll over each month, so you don’t have to use them all up to feel like you’re getting the best of your subscription. You can also earn them by giving feedback, sharing the link, and even net 50 pages by following them on Twitter. The first 10% of every book is free, too, so you can test drive it before you ‘spend’ your pages.

So far, I haven’t spent much time actually reading on Blloon. For one thing, for a reader like me reading a 400 page book every day or two, even 1,000 pages a month could be exhausted in less than a week. For me, it’s probably going to be a supplement to my usual sources, for when I really want a book right away or it’s not available on Kobo or whatever. Still, the interface is nice: clean and simple, and you can adjust font size and the background, depending on what’s comfortable for you. My only quibble really is that it doesn’t flip orientation with my iPad, so if it’s on its stand I’m tilting my head while I’m checking for stuff on Blloon, and I couldn’t read like that (though Sarah from Blloon assures me that there’s an update this very week to fix that). More customisation options might be nice if you need to change the font, but the basic features are all there.

All in all, I definitely recommend Blloon. They’re friendly, helpful, and they have an interesting selection available including most Open Road Media reprints. It is limited to iOS in the UK, at least for the moment, but within the UK it’s easily the best option.

And, pssst. If you want to net me 200 extra pages in my ‘wallet’, sign up to Blloon using this link! Mum, that means you.