Book Club Guru Review by Joanne – March 2019

This is my third review for BoXession, and again Mel could not have chosen a better box for me! Cheers to Amanda at for very generously gifting me a one book/ three months subscription. Now readers, I am myself a reader. I’ve been a reader since I was a wee girl. Books were my bestest friends. I didn’t need any real life Famous Fives and Secret Sevens. My mum still talks about a time when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old and I was talking to her about the books I was reading. Books. Plural. Upon questioning me further my mammy ascertained that I was reading two book at the same time. My mammy of little faith didn’t believe me and set me a wee quiz. Of course I passed with flying colours.

Ever since then books have been my great escape and my great love. I read anything apart from sci-fi and sickly romance. When I was wee my parents had a rule that I wasn’t to read at the table, it being (of course) rather ill-mannered. I’d be so desperate for something, anything to read that I’d resort to reading the cereal boxes. I rarely leave a book unfinished, even if I’m really struggling with it. I think the only book I gave up on almost immediately was the first Game of Thrones book. Strange when you consider how much I love the TV series. I would choose books over any other form of entertainment, any day. I was in my local library so often that they erected a statue in my honour (they didn’t. They should have. Wishaw Library will never be as busy again). If I were just finishing one book, I had to cart the next one on my list with me, no matter how heavy the hardbacks were! Then Kindles came on the market. At first I was dead set against them. I liked the feel of a book, the smell of the paper, the rustling as you turn the page, the folding down of the tops of pages to mark your place. Some people would consider that to be abuse of a book, but in my defence I loved it when my books were so patently well- read and loved. Some of my old favourites, particularly Anne Rice, would be so battered and bruised that whole chunks of pages would fall out and I’d need to stickytape them back in. So I was fully prepared to hate the Kindle. Before taking the plunge my mammy lent me hers to have a wee shot of and to my surprise I loved it! No more breaking all my handbags because I was carting around so many books. No more resembling the hunchback of Notre Dame as I humped around such heavy handbags. No more having to limit my shoe allowance when going on holiday so that I could fit more books in my case. No more trying not to think about what the stains on my library book actually were. I had a library in my pocket! I’ve went through a few Kindles, my most recent one went to the big bookstore in the sky after I launched it off of a wardrobe in a fit of rage. The first thing I did the following morning was order a replacement. Praise the lord for credit cards. But there’s nothing quite like a proper book. I did however miss the light of a Kindle, so I’ll definitely need to invest in a wee clippy on light for reading.

I was very curious about Book Club Guru   I was aware of other book sub boxes on the market and some of them were quite interesting, particularly the ones that included wee extras, like tea or chocolate. I felt a teensy bit deflated when I realised that Book Club Guru did exactly what it said on the tin, it sent you books and books only. I was also somewhat dubious about the pricing and initially I thought it wasn’t good value for money. I’ll be honest, if you’re subbing on a month to month basis this isn’t the best book sub for you. But if you go for the top end of the options you’re definitely making a saving. It is cheaper than some other sub boxes on the market, if you tend towards the higher end of the options.

The website clearly states that prices start from £7.99 per book. The options are:

1 book

  • 1 month = £11.99
  • 6 months – £65.94
  • 12 months =£119.88

2 books

  • 1 month = £21.98
  • 6 months = £119.88
  • 12 months = £215.76

3 books

  • 1 month = £29.97
  • 6 months = £119.88
  • 12 months = £287.64

It’s clear that by signing up to the larger subscriptions you are in fact making a good saving. The problem is, who has £287.64 lying in a bank account to be paid out in one fell swoop? Seeing the cold hard figure would definitely give me cause to pause if I hadn’t been lucky enough to be gifted a subscription by Amanda. If you’re wanting to pay month by month you’re probably better off looking at another book sub box. If you’re a voracious reader however you may be perfectly content with paying out the full whack in a one-er, and how lovely would it be to then forget about it until three books pop through your letterbox! If I’m honest however, I probably spend around £100 a month on beauty and skincare. So looking at Book Club Guru with a calm eye, I could be tempted to subscribe.

The idea behind Book Club Guru was quite intriguing and made up for the lack of extras with the subscription, particularly when you read a lot, as I do. You log into your account and add in your favourite books. Now I will admit that, for all I’m a voracious reader, after I’ve turned (or tapped) the final page of a book, it’s gone whoosh out of my mind. I read so very much that a book must be really special to stick with me. I was worried about having a brain fart and being unable to recall a single book I’d loved. I was relieved that this stage of the process was in fact very user-friendly. You can search by title or author, and even if you could only remember a few key words in the title the results generally contained the title I was searching for. I’m an eclectic reader so to test the powers of Book Club Guru I tried to choose my most favourite books from as many genres as possible. My top favourites were The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay, Birdbox (I’ve always been partial to a dystopian novel and I loved this!) and Blade Artist by the legend that is Irvine Welsh. See below for a photie of me fangirling all over him. I added 10 books to my list and then tried to jiggle the order of the books. I wasn’t able to. This should have been the first inkling that something wasn’t quite right. I was using a mobile device. Apart from that the whole process went smoothly, even the dreaded choosing a suitable password bit. 

Once you’ve inputted your favourites Book Club Guru selects a reading list for you consisting of 10 titles (I may be wrong, it may be slightly more. No more than 20 titles). Sadly this is where it went very up the swanny for me. The instructions had specified that I could reorder this, cutely named my “virtual bookshelf”, so I duly went through it, deleting the books I had read before or didn’t fancy. To my surprise I didn’t delete very many! For all I read a lot, because I hate leaving a book unread it’s an investment of my time and there are too many books on the shelves to waste time reading something I’m nearly sure I’m going to hate. As I mentioned earlier, I was browsing on a mobile device and, try as I might, I couldn’t work out how to reorder my despatch list. There was one book in particular I was dying to get, Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, which I had borrowed from the library years ago and loved so much that I wore a black armband the day I had to return it. I was very excited to see this title in my list and wanted to make sure I would receive it! So I merrily deleted all the books preceding the Lindqvist, only to realise that I couldn’t drag and drop the titles to reorder them as promised. I later realised that if I had logged in on a laptop or desktop PC I would have been able to reorder the books there. This was a bit of a fail and I was gutted that I had deleted some really rather excellent suggestions which Book Club Guru had found for me. I checked my account a few days later but sadly my virtual bookshelf has not repopulated itself. I could add my own choices to the list, but I think this defeats the purpose of the premise behind it.

Then came the unboxing. I had done my research and was sure that there would indeed be only a book in the parcel. I was correct. However, the book came nestled in a pretty, purple and durable card envelope with little Velcro stickers. I got excited by the Velcro in my unboxing video, which you can see below! The book was brand new and I could feel my grubby little hands twitching ready to wreck it. You can watch this back by clicking play below…

All in all, apart from the failure to re-order your books when using a mobile device, I was impressed with Book Group Guru. Now it was time to put them to the test and find out if Book Club Guru really had selected a peach of a read for me. The book that was top of my list (and so which was dispatched by default as I hadn’t yet realised the glitch with the reordering) was Nina is Not Okay by Shappi Khorsandi. You may have heard of Shappi as she’s a pretty well-known comedienne. The front and back covers are emblazoned with quotes from luminaries such as Marian Keyes and words used include “funny” and “a pure marvel”. Because Shappi is a comedienne I was sure it was going to be a rib tickling read. I started reading the book on Monday, the day after my unboxing. Luckily I had just finished a book on my Kindle. To commemorate the occasion I got home from work and immediately changed into my lounging pyjamas. I cracked open the spine and began reading.

Now, for the first 50 pages or so I admit struggled a wee bit. The protagonist is a 17 year old lassie called, as you would expect, Nina. Sometimes I struggle with an adult writing through the eyes of a teenager as it can strike me as false and so doesn’t quite chime true. This sensation wasn’t helped by Nina herself. I found myself thinking “naw, a 17 year old girl wouldn’t do that”, “so what?”, “aye right”, “overreaction much”, etc.

Then, just over half way through. I won’t say any more about the plot other than Shappi has written a genuinely terrifying, thought-provoking but ultimately redemptive novel and one that should be on the required reading list for every teenager, be they boy or girl. I felt my heart breaking with each page I turned. At one point I had to set Nina aside and turn to Pet Semetary instead. I couldn’t pick her up again until the following day. I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It’s very profane and contains distressing scenes but, contrary to my initial opinion, it is most definitely true to life. Which makes it all the more frightening. Nina Is Not Okay is a bold and utterly realistic portrayal of a woman’s place in society today and there aren’t enough superlatives to do it justice. Just read it okay!

Ultimately was a bit of a mixed bag for me. If I hadn’t mucked up the virtual bookshelf I would have endorsed it with no hesitation. I was so looking forward to reading some of the books it had selected for me, until I deleted them all. Perhaps a better idea would be for the Guru to select the titles from the virtual bookshelf at random. This means the subscriber gets a wee surprise every month and remains true to the whole idea of a book group, where someone else chooses the books. I’m really looking forward to receiving my new copy of Let The Right One In, and so I would recommend this if you’re a reader who doesn’t mind spending a bit of a lump sum on their books. And hell, there’s lots of us out there!

Joanne x