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Once Upon a Book Club Box Review + Coupon – August 2016

This post may contain referral/affiliate links. Read the full disclosure.


Once Upon a Book Club is a really unique book subscription box. Instead of just sending along books and bookish items, this monthly subscription box sends you one book and a series of individually wrapped items, each with a numbered tag that correspond to a page in the book. The idea is that as you read, you open these related gifts, which bring the story to life in a whole new way. Neat, huh?

My Subscription Addiction paid for this box. (Check out the review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)


The Subscription Box: Once Upon a Book Club

The Cost: $34.99 a month. There are also 3 month prepay ($100.99), 6 month prepay ($199.00), and 12 month prepay ($390.00) subscription options.

COUPON: Use code BOOKNERD to save 10% off your first box!

The Products: Women’s fiction with an aspirational bent, plus gifts related to the story.

Ships to: Worldwide

Check out the Book Subscription Box Directory and make sure to add Once Upon A Book Club to your subscription list or wishlist!


Unlike other subscription boxes, it’s important NOT to tear through all the gifts as soon as you open this box. I know, I know, it’s hard to resist! But trust me—the experience is worth the wait!


Once Upon a Book Club is really committed to making reading an engaging experience, not just through this box, but through connecting readers via online platforms. This card, which has a lovely quote from the featured book on the back, lists out questions about the book that will be discussed via Instagram on certain days. It’s a neat idea to hold a book club meeting on a popular social network.


The Gilded Years, A Novel by Karin Tanabe – $11.00 on Amazon (retail price: $16.00)

On to the featured book of the month! The vintage-inspired font on this velvety purple paperback book screams historical fiction. At first, I thought the book might be a Gatsby-era adventure through the glitz of the Gilded Age. While I was right about the turn-of-the-century timing, I was pleasantly surprised that the story had far more depth and power than anything I had predicted.

Here’s the book summary from Amazon:

Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.

Take note, dear reader, that due to the nature of this box, everything from here on in could be deemed a spoiler. I’ll do my best not to give too much away, but FYI!


Mini Straw Hat/Fascinator – value $10 (compared to similar items)

On page 84, the a character references buying a special hat for a special adventure. Beneath the line, there’s a little post-it note instructing you to open package number 84. The craft-paper bag, which is printed with old-timey newspaper ads, holds a small straw hat with a navy bow, which is exactly how the character’s hat was described. Between the size of the hat and the quality, it feels like it was originally suited for a doll, but hair clips have been glued to the underside of the brim, so you can use it as a fascinator. I don’t know that I ever would wear it, but it’s a cute idea. And it definitely added some magic to the reading experience!


Jeweled Gold Hand Mirror and Comb Set – Value $20? (compared to similar items)

On page 149, a character picks up a hand mirror in a flurry before she rushes out the door. Packaged in a red, velvet-lined box, this glistening set was an unexpected departure from the simplicity of the mini hat. The mirror and comb both have some weight to them, which adds an air of quality. I felt like the colors of the gems were a bit too candy-colored for me—I would’ve loved something a touch more sophisticated. Still, what a fun little treasure to receive! It never hurts to add something sparkly to my vanity…


Replica Telegram and Envelope – Value $1?

I love that this gift was less of a prop and more an artifact ripped from the pages of the story. Sure it doesn’t have any real-world application, like the other pieces did, but tearing open the envelope and reading the glossy reproduction of the telegram from the story blurred the lines between the book and reality in a clever, exciting way.


Replica Newspaper – Value $1?

Keeping with the artifacts-from-the-book theme, this next item is a replica of a newspaper story about the real-life protagonist of the novel. It came rolled up in a scroll, which made it fun to unroll and reveal. So far into the book, you forget that this is based on real-life events. This article really brought back the reality of the story.


Faux Leather Tablet Sleeve Filled with Photos and Information – Value $10? (compared to similar items)

The last gift in the box was a reddish brown, faux leather tablet sleeve, which has a pretty pink fabric flower at one end. The tablet sleeve was a nice touch, but the real treasure were the photos of the real woman who inspired the story. There was even a pamphlet from the Vassar Alumni Quarterly detailing the story of Anita Hemmings. This was such a neat way to close out this book!

Verdict: While not all of the items in the box were my style, the experience was certainly more engaging thanks to all the surprises the box had in store. The value of the items exceeded the cost of the box, but I’ll admit I wish the quality was a little higher on some of the gifts. (I couldn’t find the exact items online to determine their value, but even the comparable ones I did find felt like they were a little overpriced.) But I’ll forgive that for the effort put into the experience—especially that beautiful lilac box!

What do you think of the concept behind Once Upon a Book Club?

Written by Anna Reilly

Anna Reilly

Anna loves collecting little treasures, be they pop-culture finds, handmade mementos, or new potions to put in her makeup bag. Beauty boxes got her interested in the subscription world, but now she’s swooning for all things kawaii!
All views in this review are the opinion of the author. My Subscription Addiction will never accept payment in exchange for a review, but will accept a box at no cost to provide honest opinions on the box. This post may contain affiliate/referral links. Read the complete My Subscription Addiction disclosure.


  1. Wow, this is the most unique and fantastic way to bring a book to life for readers. Thinking of all the books that would be even more fun with this concept, harry potter, princess bride, never ending story, last unicorn….the list goes on!

  2. I have been looking for the “perfect”book subscription, I think I have just found one! I will definitely subscribe. Now, if they would creat one for tweens…my 10 year old daughter would absolutely love this. I think it would be an awesome subscription for teens and teens.

  3. I got the September box, that I ordered in August in October. There was a shipping delay, but they tried charging my card like 6 times before I ever got my first box, which I don’t like. I don’t like being charged for another month before ever getting my first box. The book looks good, but I haven’t read it yet, the “gifts” are ehhh, more homemade printed out papers and things. My “sorry for the late shipping” gift was a little bag of cracker jacks. While I love the concept and I’m thrilled with the book, $35 is a lot.

    • I think that you will love September’s box. The first gift is not what you imagine- do not want to give the surprise away. My husband is not impressed with any of my book boxes. When September’s box arrived, he noticed this one right away. He seemed very interested based on what the box alone looked liked. I showed him the book and the gifts. He actually listened to me describe this box. He wishes that there was a car box like this. So this in itself says something about the box. He was almost as thrilled with this concept as his Love With Food Box. This is totally worth the price. I will never cancel. The curation of the book and gifts are awesome. Plus they offer interaction on Instagram on listed dates. This was a superduper concept. I am really looking forward to the October box. The owner of the company is really nice, and she gets right back to you regarding issues or questions.

  4. What a neat idea!

    A long time ago I read a book called “The Law of Love” by Laura Esquival and it came with a CD that had music that was mentioned in the book. And you were supposed to listen to the particular track while reading the the book when prompted. It was a memorable reading experience.

    I could see the gifts that you come across during passages in the book as being great, as well. Now, I am thinking about books I have read where a recipient is mentioned and I wished I had the food right then and there. Oh, man, so many ways to bring a book to life.

    Really cool idea. I think with great curation (great book selections and neat bookish extras that make sense) that this book sub could be a real stand out.

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