Monday, September 21, 2020

July, August, and September 2020 Book of the Month Reviews

I got a little behind on my reviews, especially for Book of the Month. In all honesty, I just got a little lazy. 

*Disclaimer: This box was purchased by See, Shop, Love!

I love Book of the Month. It's exactly what it sounds like: a monthly subscription where you can choose one of five new, hardcover titles for $14.99 per month, shipping included. You can also add on as many titles to your box as you'd like for $9.99 per book, or skip that month if nothing piques your interest.

My July selection was The Shadows by Alex North. I had received a previous title by this author from Book of the Month, The Whisper Man, and it was excellent, so I was excited to try another title from him. Unfortunately this one was not as interesting as the first book, but it was still a decent story. Here's the synopsis:

You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile--always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet--and inspired more than one copycat.

Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree--and his victim--were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and suffering from dementia, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.

It's not long before things start to go wrong. Paul learns that Detective Amanda Beck is investigating another copycat that has struck in the nearby town of Featherbank. His mother is distressed, insistent that there's something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn't just the murder.It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again...

When you receive your 12th box, you'll officially have "BFF" status, which includes the following added benefits:

  • Book of the Month tote bag (pictured above)
  • A free add-on book during your birthday month
  • A free choice of one of the Book of the Year Finalists

I really like this tote! It has an exterior book pocket that also comes in handy for holding my keys, phone, and/or wallet, and an interior zip pocket. I've been carrying it as an everyday bag and for shopping runs.

My August book selection was The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. I hadn't gotten a science fiction title for a while, and this one sounded great. I haven't read it yet, but here is the synopsis:

Multiverse travel is finally possible, but there’s just one catch: No one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive. Enter Cara, whose parallel selves happen to be exceptionally good at dying—from disease, turf wars, or vendettas they couldn’t outrun. Cara’s life has been cut short on 372 worlds in total.

On this dystopian Earth, however, Cara has survived. Identified as an outlier and therefore a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, Cara is plucked from the dirt of the wastelands. Now what once made her marginalized has finally become an unexpected source of power. She has a nice apartment on the lower levels of the wealthy and walled-off Wiley City. She works—and shamelessly flirts—with her enticing yet aloof handler, Dell, as the two women collect off-world data for the Eldridge Institute. She even occasionally leaves the city to visit her family in the wastes, though she struggles to feel at home in either place. So long as she can keep her head down and avoid trouble, Cara is on a sure path to citizenship and security.

But trouble finds Cara when one of her eight remaining doppelgängers dies under mysterious circumstances, plunging her into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and her future in ways she could have never imagined—and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.

Last up is my most recent box, for September. I chose Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. It's a thriller and I can't wait to dive into it:

Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.

They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.

Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.

Bottom Line: I was happy to achieve BFF status with Book of the Month in August, as I think the added bonuses are great value. My birthday is in December, the same month as the Book of the Year finalists announcement, so I'll get two extra books for that month!

Book of the Month is a must-have subscription for any avid reader, or anyone looking to expand their book collection.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

September 2020 Gramma in a Box Review

The September Gramma in a Box was aptly-themed with Back to School candy and cookie crafts!

*Disclaimer: This box was sent to See, Shop, Love! in exchange for an honest review.

Gramma in a Box is a monthly subscription that sends a box full of treats for you to create three candy and cookie crafts. The only items you'll have to provide are kitchen staples, like a bowl and spoon for mixing.

Here are their pricing options:

  • Monthly: $20 per month
  • Three Months: $60 every three months (automatic 10% off the monthly price)
  • Six Months: $120 every six months (automatic 10% off the monthly price)
  • 12 Months: $240 every 12 months (automatic 10% off the monthly price)

You can also try an individual box without subscribing to an auto-renewal for $22.

Shipping is free to the U.S. and taxes are included. If you want to cancel, do so by the 25th of the month. You can also try one box for $20 without a renewing subscription.

The September box featured back to school themed snacks. There's an info card that talks about the theme for the current box and the next month, as well as ingredients and possible allergens listed for each craft on the other side.

The first craft was Apple for the Teacher. The crafts are always so creative, and this one is the perfect example. I melted the chocolate discs in the microwave, then dipped each pretzel into the chocolate and covered with red sprinkles, a fondant leaf, and part of a Tootsie Roll for the stem. So cute!

The second craft was Alphabet Bites and it included the rest of the melting chocolate. I mixed in puffed cereal, cereal marshmallows, and alphabet sprinkles to create a yummy and colorful treat!

The final craft is always cookies. The cookies are pre-baked and shrink-wrapped in plastic, but it's still advised that you complete the crafts within a week of receiving the box so that they stay their freshest.

The September cookies were Back-to-School Cookies and had apple and school bus shapes. The third shape was a pencil, but also could have become a schoolhouse I think, if you wanted to decorate them that way. There were also several colorful sprinkles to add to the designs with blue, yellow, and red frosting. I mixed the blue and yellow to create a little green, too, for the leaf on the apple.

Bottom Line: Gramma in a Box is such a fun way to spend time making candies and cookies that you can share with your loved ones! The theme was perfect, as always, and all the treats were delicious.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

August 2020 Gramma in a Box Review

Gramma in a Boxis a great way to have fun and share time and snacks with your loved ones! This box has been an especially nice treat for me during COVID self-isolation began.

*Disclaimer: This box was sent to See, Shop, Love! in exchange for an honest review.

Gramma in a Box was created by Terry, who was inspired by wanting to share baked goods with her grandchildren after they moved away. The box contains cookie and candy crafts that you can easily make and share.

Here are their pricing options:

  • Monthly: $20 per month
  • Three Months: $60 every three months (automatic 10% off the monthly price)
  • Six Months: $120 every six months (automatic 10% off the monthly price)
  • 12 Months: $240 every 12 months (automatic 10% off the monthly price)

You can also try an individual box without subscribing to an auto-renewal for $22.

Shipping is free to the U.S. and taxes are included. If you want to cancel, do so by the 25th of the month. You can also try one box for $20 without a renewing subscription.

The August theme was "Under the Sea." The box always contains three crafts with enough supplies to make 15 to 20 individual treats. Everything you need is inside as far as the ingredients go, you'll just have to supply basics like a bowl and spoon for mixing.

The info card talks about the monthly theme and the opposite side lists all of the ingredients inside and any possible allergens.

The ingredients are all individually packaged. This month, unfortunately two of the frosting packets had a little tear in them so some got on some of the other ingredients, but since everything else was packaged nothing was ruined.

The first craft was Baby Shark Pops! So cute. To make them, I melted the chocolate discs in the microwave and dipped the sticks into the chocolate, put the stick into the marshmallow, and then rolled them in the graham cracker crumbs. There were enough marshmallows to make six pops, though some of mine got a little melted due to the heat during transit, so a few were smaller than the others. This didn't bother me, though. The last step was to add the Goldfish crackers on the sides.

The second craft was my favorite, the Clams with Pearls. The Gramma in a Box snacks are always so creative, and this one was extra cute! It involved using the rest of the melted chocolate to put in between two Nilla Wafer cookies, then add in the chocolate pearl and eyes on top. Some of the eyes got a little messy for me since I just used my finger to apply the chocolate, but the instructions suggested using a toothpick to make them cleaner (I didn't have any, so I improvised).

The third project is always cookies, and the August were Sea Life Cookies. There were eight cookies total, with three frosting colors and lots of different sprinkles. The cookies are pre-baked and plastic wrapped and I've never gotten them in any state other than completely fresh. It's recommended that you complete the crafts within a week of getting your box to make sure they stay fresh, though.

I liked the simple star, fish, and shell shapes because they were easier for me to frost and decorate. The cookies are a delicious butter/shortbread and are a big hit with my family.

Bottom Line: Gramma in a Box is a great value! Not only do you get to have fun creating the crafts, but being able to share them with the people you love is priceless.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Pure Planet Club Plastic-Free Lip Balm Review

I've been a fan of natural lip balms for a long time and I've tried a ton of different brands. Pure Planet Club has just launched something that I've never seen before, though: an entirely plastic-free lip balm!

*Disclaimer: This product was sent to See, Shop, Love! in exchange for an honest review.

Pure Planet Club was created after their founders learned that approximately 27,000 trees are chopped down every day to manufacture toilet paper. Their mission is to help everyday people make a difference to help prevent climate change and protect the Earth by swapping household products with Pure Planet Club options.

The company is entirely plastic-free. Plastic can take decades to thousands of years to break down, and we're all aware of how this increased pollution is detrimental to the planet. Going plastic-free helps protect wildlife, waterways, and oceans for future generations.

Pure Planet Club started with their eco-friendly toilet tissue and recently launched a line of four plastic-free lip balms! The balms are USDA certified organic, made with compostable packaging (made of 100 percent uncoated PCW paper), cruelty-free, gluten-free, and free from parabens, aluminum, and artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners.

What they do contain is she and cocoa butter, beeswax, sunflower oil, and Vitamin E, which is rich in antioxidants and helps hydrate your lips.

The lip balms are available in four flavors: Raspberry, Vanilla, Natural, and Mint. They're gentle on the environment and your lips, but also effective. I found the formula to be light and non-sticky. My lips feel hydrated for the long-term, instead of just coated with artificial ingredients the way non-natural lip balms sometimes feel.

The individual flavors do not have a very strong scent and all of the balms are not colored, so if you're looking for a strong scent, you may think these are too light. But if you're looking for an effective balm that helps the planet, this is a great option!
Bottom Line: I'm very impressed with the Pure Planet Club plastic-free lip balms. I love that the packaging is entirely recyclable. The balms themselves made my lips feel smooth and provided long-lasting moisture.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

July 2020 Gramma In a Box Review and Coupon

The July Gramma In a Box was all about patriotic treats for the 4th of July! As always, the box was full of yummy ingredients to create cookie and candy crafts.

*Disclaimer: This box was sent to See, Shop, Love! in exchange for an honest review.

Gramma In a Box lets you create delicious candy and cookie crafts from the comfort of your home that you can share with family and friends. It also makes a great gift for loved ones that you can't get to see often.

Everything you need to complete the crafts is included in the box, except for household items like a spoon and bowl for mixing. There are enough ingredients to make 15-20 individual snacks.

Here are the pricing options:
  • Monthly: $20 per month (first box is only $10)
  • Three Months: $55 every three months (save $5)
  • Six Months: $110 every six months (save $10)
  • 12 Months: $220 every 12 months (save $20)
Shipping is free to the U.S. and taxes are included. If you want to cancel, do so by the 25th of the month. You can also try one box for $20 without a renewing subscription.

There is also an informational card that introduces the theme and list all of the ingredients inside. 

The first project is Sparkler Pretzel Rods. I melted the chocolate discs in the microwave and then dipped the pretzels into the chocolate and sprinkles for a fun firecracker-like design.

The second project was Star Spangled Crispy Bites and used the rest of the melted chocolate. The puffed cereal was mixed in and spooned into the little paper holders, then I added an M&M and some sprinkles on top.

The box always contains cookie decorating, and the Patriotic Cookie Decorating was the theme for July. The cookies are pre-made and wrapped in plastic shrink wrap to keep them fresh. It's recommended that you complete the crafts within a week of receiving the box to ensure freshness.

The stars and flags shapes were easy and fun to decorate with the red, white, and blue frosting and sprinkles! They tasted even better.
Bottom Line: Gramma In a Box is a great way to pass the time and create delicious treats to share with your friends and family! I always have a good time with the box and my family loves eating up all of the treats.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Cover + Clear COVID-19 Health Box Review and Coupon

The team behind the Spiffster Tie Club subscription has created a new, timely box called Cover + Clear. The box delivers preventive health products safely to your door for an affordable price.

*Disclaimer: This box was sent to See, Shop, Love! in exchange for an honest review.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made life very different for all of us. Cover + Clear was created to ease a bit of the tension by delivering masks, sanitizers, and other preventive care products to your door.

Cover + Clear delivers KN95 masks, hand sanitizers, non-latex gloves, and safety tips. They have a few different box options:
  • Light Use: $19.95 per month for two masks, two small sanitizer bottles, four pairs of gloves, and safety tips
  • Heavy Usage: $29.95 per month for four masks one large sanitizer, two small sanitizers, eight pairs of gloves, and safety tips
You can also gift a box with the Light Use products to someone. Shipping is free for all box options within the United States. They ship internationally, but the shipping charge will depend on your location.

I received the Heavy Usage box option to review. Each product is individually packaged and easy to sanitize before use. 

The non-latex protective gloves are on the left side of the above photo, inside of their own plastic packaging. They have no natural rubber or latex proteins, so if you have allergies to those ingredients you can safely use these gloves.

Cover + Clear sends KN95 masks, which are my preferred type of mask because I find they are the easiest to breathe in. These masks have a filtering rate above 95 percent against COVID-19, the flu, pollen, and other allergens. They are disposable and made from multilayer fabric, ideal for daily use. I wore one to the store today and the straps were comfortable and the mask fit well on my face.

The large sanitizer bottle is from i belivyu, a Korean skincare brand. The packaging is entirely in hangul (Korean alphabet), but I am Korean so I immediately recognized the brand and language. For those who don't read Korean, the back of the box does include an ingredients list and this sanitizer meets the CDC and WHO standards for efficacy with 65 percent alcohol content. I'm going to keep this bottle in my car.

The box also contained two smaller bottles of sanitizer from Angie Makes Joy. There was no ingredients list on the bottles, so I checked their website and confirmed that they contain 70 percent alcohol. The bottle has a dropper applicator, so I think these are best for using at home and not on-the-go (might be a bit difficult to use a dropper while in the car, etc).
Bottom Line: I think the Cover + Clear box is a great idea. We all need protective products now, and it's not always easy to find them in stores. This subscription delivers high quality sanitizers, masks, and gloves right to your door, so you can further limit your exposure and not have to go to the store.

July 2020 Book of the Month Selections and Coupon

The July Book of the Month selections are here! You have until July 6th to choose your book this month.

*Disclaimer: Post contains referral links.

Book of the Month is $14.99 for a new, hardcover book. You can add on as many title as you want for $9.99 each. Here are the selections for July:
  • The Beauty in the Breaking by Michele Harper: the real story of an ER doctor's life
  • The Shadows by Alex North: a creepy thriller for urban-myth believers
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: a new take on Gothic suspense that displays the horrors of colonialism against a dreamy (nightmarish) backdrop.
  • Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein: a story of long-standing rivals, gymnastic routines, and inter-athlete love.
  • Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman: a nonfiction exploration of female friendship from all angles.
Which book are you choosing this month? I'm going to go with The Shadows, because I loved Alex North's previous title I got from BoTM!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

June 2020 Book of the Month Review and Coupon

I skipped the May Book of the Month and it worked out for June, since there were two books I wanted and I was able to use my rollover credit to get one of them. This month's selections were really interesting.

*Disclaimer: This box was purchased by See, Shop, Love! Post contains referral links.

Book of the Month is probably my favorite subscription and it's a must-have for book nerds. You'll get a new release hardcover for only $14.99 each month. You can choose from one of five titles and if none of them pique your interest, you can skip the month. You'll be charged, but then that credit will roll over to the next month until you choose a book (you can skip as many months in a row as you want).

You can also add on any number of titles to your box for $9.99 per book, which is an awesome deal. Since I had skipped May, I used my $14.99 credit and paid the $9.99 for the extra title.

The first book I chose was A Burning by Megha Majumdar. I say first because, if I didn't have the rollover credit, I would have chosen this book only. It's a debut novel from the author and is about three people in India whose paths cross around a terrorist attack. Here's the synopsis:
Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely—an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel with warmth and hope and humor—has the alibi that can set Jivan free, but it will cost her everything she holds dear.

Taut, symphonic, propulsive, and riveting from its opening lines, A Burning has the force of an epic while being so masterfully compressed it can be read in a single sitting. Majumdar writes with dazzling assurance at a breakneck pace on complex themes that read here as the components of a thriller: class, fate, corruption, justice, and what it feels like to face profound obstacles and yet nurture big dreams in a country spinning toward extremism. An extraordinary debut.

The second book I chose was Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. This is the fourth title from this author and the fourth time they've been featured in Book of the Month. I've read two previous titles by them and I enjoyed them. I figured this title would be a fun, more easy read to balance out the heavier themes in A Burning.

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Bottom Line: I'm excited to dive into both of these titles and was very pleased with the selections for June. I ended up getting two brand new books for only $24.98, which is still less than the price of most hardcovers in a bookstore! I love Book of the Month and look forward to checking out the new titles each month.