Beautiful Darkness Box Review – November 2017
Beautiful Darkness is a quarterly subscription box for bibliophiles with a flair for mystery! The box is filled with 2-3 books and a smattering of spooky bookish goods to complement the chilling titles.
This box was sent to us for review purposes. (Check out our review process post to learn more about how we review boxes.
The Box: Beautiful Darkness
The Cost: $60 + free shipping
The Products: Each box will include 2 to 3 books, plus a few bookish items.
Ships to: U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
Keep Track of Your Subscriptions: Add this box to your subscription list or wishlist!
This info slip is the formal welcome and intro to Chapter One of the Beautiful Darkness box.
A few other info sheets are included. This one is an intro to a new True Crime Podcast, hosted by a husband and wife with four children. Must be interesting to live in that household!
Next up is a note from Tori Telfer, the author of Lady Killers (which is included in this box). It’s a fun, candid letter about her book, the artist who drew illustrations throughout it, and it even includes her personal email address at the end. Amazing!
The original slip that lists the items in this box calls this a “Graphic Print.” I suppose it’s just meant to be a displayable quote from Titus Andromedon, the fun and flamboyant character in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
Finally (as far as cards and things go), a cool and creepy black and white photo. This picture is of a foggy winter landscape. You can see faint tire tracks going across a frosty lawn and the silhouette of a man with a dog amid the fog. It’s printed on glossy photo paper, and the more a look at it, the more it gives me the chills. Love it!
Blue Q Evidence Zipper Pouch — Retail Value $6.99
My first Beautiful Darkness box came stuffed so full that this pouch practically came jumping out at me! It’s designed to look like an evidence pouch from a crime scene (umm, amazing), and it’s made from 95% recycled post-consumer material. Bonus! I can see it making a good travel toiletry bag, but it’s not super roomy, so maybe just for an overnight or weekend-long trip.
Sock It to Me Sugar Skull Knee Socks — Retail Value $12
I always stock up on tall socks as winter approaches, so I was thrilled to find a pair in my box! These black knee socks are patterned with pink roses and feature a sugar skull. It’s always fun to have a little personality hidden under the legs of your jeans, eh?
Blue Q Cute, but Psycho, but Cute Gum — Retail Value $1.79
Not only is the graphic on this little box of gum hilarious, but the gum itself is amazing. It’s so old school! The hard-shell pieces remind me of Chiclets, which were my jam as a kiddo, and the flavor is some sort of generic fruity kind of thang. The flavor doesn’t last very long, and the box doesn’t re-seal at all, so not the best for keeping in a pocket of my purse, but it’s still a fun little surprise.
Tiny Bone Voyage Sticker — Retail Value $1?
I photographed this itty-bitty sticker next to a quarter for scale. It’s made of a small piece of wood, like one you’d find at the craft store, and looks printed rather than painted. It reminds me of something you might put in a scrapbook.
Beautiful Darkness Exclusive My Favorite Murder Quote Magnet — Retail Value $3?
I have a collection of magnets piling up on the side of my fridge, so this will make a good addition. Confession: I have yet to listen to My Favorite Murder (I know, I know, I’m sorry!), but supposedly this is a quote from that podcast. It’s made of a shrinky-dink kind of plastic-y material and has a small, round, not-very-strong magnet on the back.
Darice Wood Coffin Tray — Retail Value $5.88?
This wooden tray is another craft-store-like find. The wood is unfinished, and I think it’d be cool if it were a darker stain or painted. Another wooden shape-turned-sticker in the form of a white, glittery skull is stuck on the center of the coffin, but it can easily be taken off if it’s not your style. This box arrived just after Halloween for me, so I probably won’t display it in my house, but I do have a friend who’s more of a year-round creepy decorations kind of lady, so she will be receiving this guy as a gift very soon!
Tori Telfer won me over in the preface of this paperback. She opens by acknowledging that our minds usually go to men when we think of serial killers, jumps into a brief but gripping history lesson on female serial killers, a commentary on their role in novels and storylines, and then gives a peek into the tone of the reading ahead. Which is written from a place that I took as Telfer being arguably just as impressed with these ladies for their badassery as she is spooked by their coldness. The stories themselves read with a smooth, narrative flow that almost made me alarmed at how quickly and easily I was digesting these true tales. Eek!
Book Summary on Amazon:
Inspired by author Tori Telfer’s Jezebel column “Lady Killers,” this thrilling and entertaining compendium investigates female serial killers and their crimes through the ages.
When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are ones like Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, Kate Bender? The narrative we’re comfortable with is the one where women are the victims of violent crime, not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally, overwhelmingly male that in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared in a homicide conference, “There are no female serial killers.”
Lady Killers, based on the popular online series that appeared on Jezebel and The Hairpin, disputes that claim and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Though largely forgotten by history, female serial killers such as Erzsébet Báthory, Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite for destruction.
Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different subject and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media, as well as the stereotypes and sexist clichés that inevitably surround her. The first book to examine female serial killers through a feminist lens with a witty and dryly humorous tone, Lady Killers dismisses easy explanations (she was hormonal, she did it for love, a man made her do it) and tired tropes (she was a femme fatale, a black widow, a witch), delving into the complex reality of female aggression and predation. Featuring 14 illustrations from Dame Darcy, Lady Killers is a bloodcurdling, insightful, and irresistible journey into the heart of darkness.
Okay, I have to say I went into this novel with tentativeness because of the praise from Stephen King printed on the front cover. If Stephen King was creeped out by this story, then there’s no hope for me! Still, I dove in. I’ll admit I found myself with squinty eyes and scrunched-to-the side lips after the opening paragraph. First, the male author opens by describing what a female character is wearing, which for some reason struck me as a cheap and gratuitous character profile. The fact that she is a best-selling author stands out more to me than the fact that she’s wearing a “dark blue hat to match her sensible knee-length skirt and a beige wool jacket with buttons as large as kitten heads.” Maybe it’s assigning the assessment “sensible” to the length of her skirt that bugs me. I perhaps wouldn’t have dwelt so much upon that detail if the rest of the scene-setting wasn’t peppered with additional low-hanging fruit metaphors like the slate stones underfoot wiggling “like loose baby teeth.”
All that said, I tend to be a harsh judge of books when I first pick them up, so I always vow to give them at least 50 pages before making a decision one way or the other. By the time I got to that point with A Head Full of Ghosts, I started to have a sense of the characters and really liked the narrator, Merry. I wasn’t a huge fan of the blog posts interspersed throughout the storyline—I felt they broke things up and that their writing style seemed a little forced. I can’t decide if I want to continue reading this one, but I’m definitely curious to see what the big twist might look like, so perhaps I’ll try it again sometime and see if this style of writing works for me a little better in a different context (Beach? Plane? The possibilities are endless!)
Psst—this is a paperback book.
Book Summary on Amazon:
WINNER OF THE 2015 BRAM STOKER AWARD FOR SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A NOVEL
A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends psychological suspense and supernatural horror, reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.
The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.
To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.
Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.
Now, here’s an author who’s walking the walk! Caitlin Doughty is actually a mortician, so this hardback work of nonfiction is written from first-hand experiences. My studies were in creative nonfiction writing, so this one piqued my interest the most out of the three books in my Beautiful Darkness box. True stories are just as weird as fictional ones—sometimes weirder! The introduction starts with an account from when Doughty first opened her funeral home, and it paints a picture of how she runs the show. It’s a little different than the traditional way of going about things, so already I knew there would be some gems of narratives in this book. Throughout, there are creepy-cool illustrations depicting details of the stories, which almost added an element of humor to me. Indeed, I did get the sense from Doughty’s writing style that it’s OK to find humor in the oddness of her true tales. I was fully engaged in each of the few anecdotes that I read, and I can’t wait to work my way through the rest of this book.
Book Summary on Amazon:
A New York Times and Los Angeles Times Bestseller
The best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with “dignity.”
Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for the dead. From Here to Eternity is an immersive global journey that introduces compelling, powerful rituals almost entirely unknown in America.
In rural Indonesia, she watches a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body, which has resided in the family home for two years. In La Paz, she meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette-smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and in Tokyo she encounters the Japanese kotsuage ceremony, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved-ones’ bones from cremation ashes.
With boundless curiosity and gallows humor, Doughty vividly describes decomposed bodies and investigates the world’s funerary history. She introduces deathcare innovators researching body composting and green burial, and examines how varied traditions, from Mexico’s Días de los Muertos to Zoroastrian sky burial help us see our own death customs in a new light.
Doughty contends that the American funeral industry sells a particular―and, upon close inspection, peculiar―set of “respectful” rites: bodies are whisked to a mortuary, pumped full of chemicals, and entombed in concrete. She argues that our expensive, impersonal system fosters a corrosive fear of death that hinders our ability to cope and mourn. By comparing customs, she demonstrates that mourners everywhere respond best when they help care for the deceased, and have space to participate in the process.
Exquisitely illustrated by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity is an adventure into the morbid unknown, a story about the many fascinating ways people everywhere have confronted the very human challenge of mortality.
The Verdict: I found the first-ever Beautiful Darkness box to be quite a success! The books are really cool, thoughtful selections for the introductory box, and while I didn’t love every title, all are perfectly on-theme. As for the extra gifts included in this sub? I loved some (the evidence pouch and the photograph) and felt others were a bit junky (the wooden cutout stickers and the magnet)—for me, I’d rather receive fewer items of higher quality than a whole smattering of cheap stuff, but generally this was a great mix and I can see some of the items that didn’t speak to me delighting others.
The items in this box add up to $86.59 (using the retail price for the books; less with sale prices), which surpasses the $60 cost of the box. So, while a $60 sub box might seem steep to some, you certainly receive a lot for the price tag!
To Wrap Up:
Can you still get this box if you sign up today? No, you will receive the next quarter’s box.
Value Breakdown: At $60 for this box, here’s what you are paying approximately per item:
- Blue Q Evidence Zipper Pouch: $4.84
- Sock It to Me Sugar Skull Knee Socks: $8.32
- Blue Q Cute, but Psycho, but Cute Gum: $1.24
- Tiny Bone Voyage Sticker: $0.69
- My Favorite Murder Quote Magnet: $2.08
- Darice Wood Coffin Tray: $4.07
- Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History: $11.08
- A Head Full of Ghosts: $10.39
- From Here to Eternity: $17.29
What do you think of the first Beautiful Darkness box?