PageHabit Literary Fiction Quarterly Review – Fall 2017
PageHabit is a new company offering reading subscription boxes for book lovers of all ages and interests. Fans of book subscription boxes will recognize this subscription as Quarterly’s Literary Fiction box—Quarterly recently acquired Bookly Box and formed PageHabit to help them go deeper with their book subscription offerings. You’ll see that this box still looks a lot like the Quarterly box (and that it features some Quarterly logos, too). But a few months more into the transition and PageHabit’s branding should fully take over. As of this review, you can still subscribe to this box via Quarterly’s site AND PageHabit‘s site.
Each box is curated by a featured author and features a newly released book, plus other books and bookish gifts and goodies to inspire you. There are also annotations from the curator to help you engage with the reading experience in a whole new way.
My Subscription Addiction paid for this box. (Check out our review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.)
The Subscription Box: PageHabit’s Literary Fiction Quarterly Box
The Cost: $49.00 per quarter + $5.00 shipping
The Products: 3 books, annotations, and several bookish gifts curated by a different author, delivered quarterly.
Ships to: the U.S.
Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!
This month’s box is curated by author Ivy Pochoda, whose book Wonder Valley is also featured in the box. Past boxes by Quarterly and PageHabit have included a special slip with the featured author’s picture and a typed-up note from that author, but this month just features a photocopy of a handwritten message from Pochoca. This version of that same concept feels more personal and specialized, though I did have a little trouble reading Pochoda’s handwriting! I’m glad I worked my way through, it though, because it gave some insight into the humanistic approach to her writing of Wonder Valley, and a peek into her own story.
In absorbing Bookly Box, Quarterly/PageHabit took over Bookly Box’s community-minded initiatives. For November, PageHabit partnered with Books for Africa and the Saclepea-Mah Development Association to bring reading materials to struggling people in Liberia. Every charitable project this company has done has always been a wonderful effort toward literacy, and this month is no exception.
They also included a bookmark in the box. Up until I received my first PageHabit box, I thought cardboard bookmarks were silly (I’m a dog-leafer, which I know is highly offensive to some folks out there!), but I’m starting to have a fondness for them now that I’ve collected a few!
Kikkerland Microfiber Cleaning Cloth – Retail Value $3.00
I got a kick out of discovering the first non-book item in this box is largely unrelated to reading! That said, I don’t wear glasses, so my first thought was to use this cleaning cloth to wipe smudges off a screen. But, it would be a great cloth to have around if you sport specs, and I love that it’s got a fun bandana design on it—for me, that means I’d be less likely to lose it.
Kikkerland Farm Animal Erasers – Retail Value $3.00
You know, growing up, I was sort of an eraser collector, which is a trait of my own that I’m just now remembering for the first time in maybe a decade! It’s definitely matured into an office supplies fanatic—I guess I just don’t have as much to erase now that most of my work is done on a computer. I’ll admit that initially, I started sorting through which kiddo in my life I could gift this adorable trio of chicken erasers to but now I’m thinking I might just keep them for myself! It’d be a great excuse to sit down and do some writing—with a pencil, at that. I owe it to myself!
Sisters of Los Angeles Pint Glass — Retail Value $15.00
This pint glass comes from a brand that makes goods celebrating all 50 states. Fitting the theme for this month’s box, this one is an ode to California. My husband and I are craft beer drinkers, but our glassware collection is extremely mishmashed with all sorts of jars mixed in, so I’m happy to welcome a real-deal pint glass into our cabinet. And, while it can be fun to rep specific breweries, I’m really into the non-branded orange screen print on this one. Of course, this glass doesn’t have to be used for beer and will often be used for a nice cold glass of water! I’m excited to have found such a functional item in my box this month.
The first book I’ll explore is the featured book of the quarter. This is a hardcover version of our curator’s novel, Wonder Valley. It’s a real snapshot of Los Angeles, taking readers through weaving storylines that give them a closer look at several notorious neighborhoods and the types of characters they might find within.
Pochoda opens her novel in the present tense, pulling readers into the scene with an accurate sense of urgency for the LA traffic scene it’s depicting. Through the opening montage, which tells of a naked runner zipping through traffic, we meet the first of our characters. Soon, Pochoda eases into a more easily digestible past tense depiction of each scene, though she maintains a terseness that, in turn, maintains a harshness I can only imagine is suited to an illustration of life in LA. I’ll confess that this style of writing doesn’t hold me the way my soul feels nourished by writing that takes its time, but I get that a nourished soul isn’t the point of this intro. I’m looking forward to reading on and finding ways to relate to the characters, as Pochoda’s preview into where they end up (Skid Row) is endlessly fascinating to me.
Book Summary on Amazon:
“Destined to be a classic L.A. novel.”—Michael Connelly
When a teen runs away from his father’s mysterious commune, he sets in motion a domino effect that will connect six characters desperate for hope and love, set across the sun-bleached canvas of Los Angeles.
From the acclaimed author of Visitation Street, a visionary portrait of contemporary Los Angeles in all its facets, from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific, from the 110 to Skid Row.
During a typically crowded morning commute, a naked runner is dodging between the stalled cars. The strange sight makes the local news and captures the imaginations of a stunning cast of misfits and lost souls.
There’s Ren, just out of juvie, who travels to LA in search of his mother. There’s Owen and James, teenage twins who live in a desert commune, where their father, a self-proclaimed healer, holds a powerful sway over his disciples. There’s Britt, who shows up at the commune harboring a dark secret. There’s Tony, a bored and unhappy lawyer who is inspired by the runner. And there’s Blake, a drifter hiding in the desert, doing his best to fight off his most violent instincts. Their lives will all intertwine and come crashing together in a shocking way, one that could only happen in this enchanting, dangerous city.
Wonder Valley is a swirling mix of angst, violence, heartache, and yearning—a masterpiece by a writer on the rise.
I would imagine most subscribers to this box can agree that the sticky note annotations by the featured author each month are an immense treat! It’s so rare to read a book (or listen to a song, absorb a painting, ponder a sculpture, etc.) with insights from the creator in mind, so the notes scattered throughout this hardback enhance the reading experience in a big way!
Next, a paperback by Lou Berney. Berney opens this story with the profile of a movie theater employee, jumping right into the shenanigans that the fellow deals with day-to-day. It’s too soon to say if this novel is going to be a tragicomedy, or if I’m just drawn to Berney’s way of incorporating humor into less-than-ideal situations (sort of as a coping mechanism, perhaps?), but I can tell already that his characters are going to be very relatable through the mundane details of their lives that are described. Shining light on ordinary activities, habits, and preferences is one of my favorite tools in writing, so I’m glad to find them here in Berney’s book.
Book Summary on Amazon:
WINNER OF THE EDGAR AWARD, THE MACAVITY AWARD, THE ANTHONY AWARD, AND THE BARRY AWARD FOR BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
NOMINATED FOR THE 2015 LA TIMES BOOK PRIZE
With the compelling narrative tension and psychological complexity of the works of Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Kate Atkinson, and Michael Connelly, Edgar Award-nominee Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone is a smart, fiercely compassionate crime story that explores the mysteries of memory and the impact of violence on survivors—and the lengths they will go to find the painful truth of the events that scarred their lives.
In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual State Fair. Neither crime was ever solved.
Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases quietly echo through survivors’ lives. A private investigator in Vegas, Wyatt’s latest inquiry takes him back to a past he’s tried to escape—and drags him deeper into the harrowing mystery of the movie house robbery that left six of his friends dead.
Like Wyatt, Julianna struggles with the past—with the day her beautiful older sister Genevieve disappeared. When Julianna discovers that one of the original suspects has resurfaced, she’ll stop at nothing to find answers.
As Wyatt’s case becomes more complicated and dangerous, and Julianna seeks answers from a ghost, their obsessive quests not only stir memories of youth and first love, but also begin to illuminate dark secrets of the past. But will their shared passion and obsession heal them, or push them closer to the edge? Even if they find the truth, will it help them understand what happened, that long and faraway gone summer? Will it set them free—or ultimately destroy them?
This is the first book I’ve ever received in a PageHabit box (or any other book box, for that matter) with an author whose name I recognize! It’s singer-songwriter, poet, novelist, and painter Leonard Cohen, and while I’m by no means familiar with Cohen’s library of music, I do know him best as a musician. While the reason Pochoda included the first paperback in this box, The Long and Faraway Gone, is less apparent, I happened to catch a Leonard Cohen quote in the opening pages of Wonder Valley, so I see why she chose this book of poems by him. She also left an annotation that said she was lucky enough to enjoy dinner with Cohen while she was writing Wonder Valley, and that she felt inspired by him. So cool!
Book Summary on Amazon:
An iconic poetry collection from American luminary Leonard Cohen, containing some of his most significant verse
Leonard Cohen wrote the poems in Book of Longing—his first book of poetry in more than twenty years after 1984’s Book of Mercy—during his five-year stay at a Zen monastery on Southern California’s Mount Baldy, and in Los Angeles, Montreal, and Mumbai. This dazzling collection is enhanced by the author’s playful and provocative drawings, which interact in exciting, unexpected ways on the page with poetry that is timeless, meditative, and often darkly humorous.
An international sensation, Book of Longing contains all the elements that have brought Cohen’s artistry with language worldwide recognition.
I myself am a poet, so I’m tickled to be sent a poetry book in my box! Not only that, I love digging into the minds of musicians I admire. This poetry book is replete with oddball illustrations that totally add dimension to the contents of the pages. I can’t wait to consume this book on an upcoming road trip!
Verdict: I’m really happy with this season’s offerings in the literary fiction department! I love that the three books offer different writing styles, subject matter, and angles, and I’m so thrilled to have three promising titles to add to my reading list (not just my list—my library!). The bookish goods that were included are also cool and clever, and I appreciate that they’re useful and not junky. I also like that there are more books that non-book items in this box, as it keeps the focus on the reading. With shipping, the box is $54.00 per quarter, and the items all added up to about $77. I’d say that’s a great value, and I’m very happy with this box!
To Wrap Up:
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? Yes, as of publication, this box was still available!
Value Breakdown: At $54 for this box, here’s what you are paying approximately per item:
- Kikkerland Microfiber Cleaning Cloth: $2.10
- Kikkerland Farm Animal Erasers: $2.10
- Sisters of Los Angeles Pint Glass: $10.52
- Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda: $18.94
- The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney: $10.52
- Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen: $9.81
What do you think of this PageHabit box?