Abominable Book Club Box Review

It’s not exactly a secret that I enjoy a subscription box or two. I guess it kinda brings me back to being a child and getting a mystery pic’n’mix. I love it!

But as much as I enjoy my fantasy subscription box (Fairyloot), those of you who know me know that I like the darker side of things too. If only there was a horror-based subscription box here in the UK. Well, it turns out…there is!

The Abominable Book Club box is, according to them (you’ll see why I’ve clarified that later on) “a monthly subscription box for the macabre-minded reader.” So as soon as I saw that they had opened up their subscriptions again after a brief hiatus due to COVID-19, me and a friend signed right on up!

I’ve been really excited about this box for a while, so you can imagine my agony when I saw all my friends get their boxes well before me – it was over a week since I saw the first boxes landing until I got mine! Anyway, that’s no one’s fault really – the postal system is doing its best (although I did forget to check the postal date on the label to double check!)

But anyway, on to the box!

So there are 2 versions of the box that you can get: the ‘Bare Bones’, which is the books only version, and the ‘Full Guts’ box that has extras such as locally sourced snacks and some beverages (think teabags and hot chocolate sachets).

I got the ‘Bare Bones’ box because personally I’m not sure that the ‘Full Guts’ box was going to be worth the extra money, especially because I can’t have dairy and the chances of the treats being compatible for my own personal situation were pretty slim. So Bare Bones it is!

The box – my reactions.

I’m going to get this out here right now – I was disappointed by this box. Quite immensely. Which is a shame because I was really excited for this. This was my first box from the Abominable Book Club and will probably be my last.

But why?

Ok, here’s the thing – although their website does state that books can be in the thriller/horror genre, their whole aesthetic is heavily leaning on the horror side of things. The books they choose to promote in their socials for the secret mystery book are all pulp/cult 80’s and 90’s horror titles and have the campy and amazing covers that come with those sorts of books.

(By the way, this is an aspect of the box that I really liked – I loved the idea of a new book coupled with a book dug out of a second hand store.)

But back on to the genre. Yes, they do mention thrillers on their website, but all of their promotions are so immensely horror related, as are their visuals, that if you don’t have a photographic memory you’ll forget all about the ‘thriller’ part like I did, as horror is pushed into the forefront. Hence my disappointment.

Firstly, there is no ‘box’ that the ‘Bare Bones’ box is shipped in, it’s a standard folded bit of cardboard (think like Amazon orders) which was a bit lack-lustre. Perhaps the ‘Full Guts’ box comes in an actual box, I’m not sure. But my first impressions were not good.

Opening the parcel was quite good as I immediately saw a book wrapped in brown paper, tied with twine and had a wax seal stamp of their logo. That was quite nice, but everything else was just popped in there. No fanfare.

So what’s in the box?

There was the wrapped-up mystery book (which I opened last, more on that later), the new book, a horror zine, a bookmark and a quick flyer promoting the box and the chosen book.

The new book: My first thought: Will Carver? Really? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the other book of his that I’ve read. I gave it 5 stars (you can read my review here), but…for a horror box? Nah fam, that doesn’t fly with me. But here comes the ‘thriller’ aspect of the box that is kind of hidden in the promo. I mean, I guess it kind of fits – but I’m not going to lie, the fact that this is the chosen ‘lead’ book for this box is a major disappointment. I’m excited to read the book because, like I said, I gave a previous book by this author 5 stars. But I’m not jazzed that this was the lead title in a (mostly) horror subscription box.

Anyway, what about the other book?

I loved the wrapping and aesthetics of the mystery book – the brown paper, the twine, the wax seal, the ‘blood’ stains! Yass Scream Queen! I’m here for it.

But as I picked it up I could smell it through the paper – which was…unsettling. I get that second hand books often have a subtle smell, and it’s actually quite nice at times! But this one was really overpowering and smelt a little on the…mouldy side. When I opened it the smell was way more intense – but don’t worry, there wasn’t actually any mould! The pages were actually more white than yellow too which was a nice surprise! But the smell was far too intense. I’ve since wrapped it in a sandwich bag to keep it contained and I had to wash my hands after handling it.

But the book itself? Although aesthetically pleasing to look at, and the cover is kinda leathery I find myself once again disappointed. Firstly it doesn’t have the cheesy campy cover I was hoping for and that I’d seen others had received. Such a bummer.

Secondly, I couldn’t find anything about this book as there was no info on the back – just a plain red cover, and no ISBN on the inside, no barcode, no nothing. I looked up the title on Goodreads and…a thriller. An espionage thriller in Russia. Honestly, I’m pissed at this point.

The bookmark has a flash fiction on the back of it written by one of the two people who run The Abominable Book Club, and I actually really liked that idea. It was a good little story and an excellent little idea!

The zine that was part of the box was also a welcome addition. It’s legit the only horror themed item in the whole ‘box’. I really can’t wait to get stuck in to this indie zine that’s full of (actual) horror and dark short stories! Although it’s important to note that the zine doesn’t seem to be in every month’s box – it looks like sometimes it’s exchanged for an e-book voucher. I’m really glad that I got the month with a zine because I don’t read e-books and would have been even more disappointed than I already am.

So, all in all this box has been nothing at all like I expected and I don’t know if my particular experience is the one off, or if this is normal. But I feel like I drew the short straw. I’ve spoken to a few of my friends who also received the box and the feeling of being a little bit let down seems to be mutual amongst us.

I think that the Abominable Book Club is a great idea, but in this particular month has been poorly executed. Because of my own experience (especially the mystery book) I have decided to cancel my subscription and I highly doubt that I’ll renew it any time soon. Especially as if these are the books they chose for starting back up again after a break, it just makes me think that I’ll rarely get the true ‘horror’ experience that I’m after.

Such a shame.

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