Quarterly Update on Book Club Books

Covers for 2017 quarter 1 book club booksWhile I’ve shared about my Facebook book club selections, and I end up sharing what my in-person book club is reading thanks to New on the Stack posts, I haven’t been circling back and sharing what I thought of our selections, or how well they work as book club picks.

January

The Deliberate Reader book club (TDR) read Animal Vegetable Miracle and Broadened Horizons book club (BH) read Ready Player One. Both were great discussion titles (although I sadly had to miss the in-person chat on Ready Player One due to a sick kid. Advantage Facebook for that: I can work around children’s needs easier and not miss out on the discussion. So yes, I’m saying it’s a great discussion title based on reports from my friends.

Animal Vegetable Miracle was super inspiring as far as making me want to plant a garden of my own. Perhaps it’d have been better read in March, when I could move ahead on those urges, instead of January when I got all fired up, and then couldn’t actually do much of anything about it, at least in frozen Indiana. It was fascinating hearing what people across the country had to say about things such as locally-available foods and gardening opportunities. Another advantage for the virtual book club: broader geographic representation was a bonus for this title!

February

TDR read Moloka’i, and BH read The Year of Living Danishly. Moloka’i is a heart-wrenching book, but such a compelling look at another world and time. I enjoyed the book tremendously and enjoyed getting to talk about it even more. It’s a good one for a book club.

The Year of Living Danishly is much lighter in feel and style, and not a must-read. However, it actually is well-served as a discussion choice -it added quite a bit to the topic by hearing different takes on the ideas from the book, and ways we can bring some hygge into our Midwestern lives. However, I’d say that one is skippable unless you’re going to talk about it with someone.

March

TDR discussed Emma, and BH chatted about And Then There Were None while we enjoyed our annual tea party. Emma was my least-favorite discussion of the five I participated in for the first quarter, and that says much more about how good those other ones were than anything about it in particular. I think I may have liked Emma as a discussion title the most of all of Jane Austen’s books. I’m not 100% certain of that claim, but I’m leaning that way. 🙂

And Then There Were None surprised me in how discussable it was. I was concerned that it would be a bit limited to plot twists and did-you-figure-it-out questions, but it ended up being more involved than that. Since the nature of some of the questions veers into spoiler territory, I’ll leave it that if you’re looking for a mystery for a book club, two thumbs up to this classic Christie title.

All in all, I’d say these were six winners as far as discussion titles go, it just depends on your sort of book club and what type of book you’re wanting. I’d pick Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as the best option of the two nonfiction choices, and fiction it just depends on what genre or style of book you want: they’re all completely different, so it’s really hard to directly compare them.


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Introducing May’s Book Club Selection: Hannah Coulter

hannah-coulter

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

“Ignorant boys, killing each other,” is just about all Nathan Coulter would tell his wife, friends, and family about the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. Life carried on for the community of Port William, Kentucky, as some boys returned from the war and the lives of others were mourned. In her seventies, Nathan’s wife, Hannah, has time now to tell of the years since the war. In Wendell Berry’s unforgettable prose, we learn of the Coulter’s children, of the Feltners and Branches, and how survivors “live right on.”

Why Was This Title Selected

Our literary fiction pick for the year, and because I’ve been wanting to get to one of Berry’s books.

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible.

What’s Coming Up Next?

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

What’s it about? Agnieszka’s native village of Dvernik is menaced by something in the surrounding woods, protected only by the local sorcerer. Every decade he chooses a village girl to serve him. Agnieszka is about to find out what happens to those girls during their years of service.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

And a heads-up: you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Black Coffee by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie's Black Coffee - a Hercule Poirot mysteryBlack Coffee by Agatha Christie, adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne

Miss Marple is my preferred Christie character – she amuses me in a way that Poirot does not. The additional bonus with Miss Marple is the lack of Hastings in the narrative – I’m not a big fan of his bumbling.

So, Black Coffee had some strikes against it already when it came to a Christie title – it’s Poirot, and Hastings is in it. Then when I borrowed the title I discovered that it was originally a play, written by Christie, but adapted into a novel by someone else.

Unfortunately, that adaptation shows. The action is very tightly located, and there felt like an excess of directions – someone enters the room, sits here, moves there, etc. I have no doubt it works better as a play, where the limitations that felt cramped in a novel are appropriate for a theatre setting.

I don’t regret reading it by any means, and for Poirot fans or anyone wanting to be sure to read all of Christie’s works it’s a must-read. For anyone else, it’s skippable.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:

Inventor Sir Claude Amory feels a bitter taste in the mouth, when the new formula for explosive material stolen by someone in the household.

In order to quickly remedy the situation, Sir Claude locks the door and turns off the light, giving the thief a chance to return the formula without being detected. But darkness brings death and Hercule Poirot has to untangle family strife, love and suspicious visitors tangle in order to clarify the murderer and prevent disaster.


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Ultimate List of Library Hacks

This week is National Library Week, and I want to help you make the most of your library.

Every library and library system is different, so the most important tip is the first one – get to know YOUR library, and see what they have to offer.

(photo credit: Sarah Ronk)

    The Basics

  1. Dig deep into your library’s website and see what’s there – not all library systems have the same resources, and specifics will vary depending on where you live. Look for website pages like “using your library” or “services” to get the details.
  2. Know your limits – for reserves, checkouts, ILL requests.
  3. Provide your email address when you sign up for your library card – most systems will use it to send email reminders about due dates.
  4. Sign up for the library newsletters – it’s one of the best ways to stay informed as to events and programs they’re offering. Author talks, movie nights, special displays, craft programs, and language lessons have all been offered at my local library recently.
  5. Got questions? Ask the librarians – they love helping. If you don’t have time to go into the library, see if they offer phone, text, or chat support as well.
  6. Requesting Titles and Putting Materials on Hold

  7. If you don’t see something you want – ask for it! Most libraries have ways for you to suggest titles for purchase. Bonus: often you’ll be placed at the front of the line to borrow items you’ve suggested if they decide to purchase them.
  8. Place items on hold so they’re available for easy pick-up. This is especially helpful if they’re popular items you’ll never see on the shelf, but it also makes things easier if you’ve got small children who make library visits more challenging.
  9. Suspend your holds if you know you won’t be able to pick them up (say, you’re going on vacation), or if you need to balance out your requests (say, if you’ve gone on a reserving binge and don’t want ALL THE BOOKS to arrive at once). You may have options of suspending holds for anywhere from 1 to 180 days, and should be able to remove the suspension at any time.
  10. Looking for a popular title? Check into alternative formats, such as electronic copies, audio books (downloadable and CD copies), or even large print.
  11. Digital Advantages

  12. Adjust your dates – you may be able to modify checkout times for electronic items from anywhere between 3 and 21 days
  13. Your reading list is bigger than your check-out limit? Create a wishlist (or two) and make it easy to remember what you want to borrow next. Depending on the system, you may be able to have separate wishlists for digital and physical books, and may even be able to have more than one wishlist saved by the library system.
  14. Look into all the digital options offered. Possibilities include Hoopla for TV, movies, documentaries, instructional videos, or music; Freegal for music or music videos, and Flipster or Zinio for magazines. That’s in addition to options for books and audiobooks!
  15. Use the Google Chrome extension to quickly search for a book at your library. While you browse Amazon, GoodReads, or other book-focused sites, it’ll tell you immediately if a book is available at your library.
  16. More Than Just Books

  17. Think beyond books – libraries may loan physical items such as tools, kitchen equipment, board games, puzzles, toys, even art.
  18. Researching something specialized? See what databases are offered, and know that additional options may be available to use from the library itself. If you’re into genealogy, it’s common that libraries offer Heritage Quest access from your home computer, but Ancestry’s database can only be used while in the library. Other databases may have similar restrictions due to licensing agreements.
  19. Libraries often offer free or discounted rates on meeting space. Sometimes they have spaces that can be used but not reserved in advance, and other times they may have rooms you can book ahead of time, depending on your needs and their policies. Be sure to read library policies to know what’s permitted in the space and what isn’t.
  20. Most public libraries offer WiFi for free, and many also have computers to use, as well as printing capabilities (for a nominal fee).
  21. Looking to learn something? See if your library offers Mango, Lynda, Gale, or Rosetta Stone. They may also have free or low-cost tutoring, as well as classes on various topics. Tech help and tinker stations are also common if you’re considering an e-reader but need some assistance.
  22. Still Need More?

  23. Take advantage of Inter Library Loan – if your library doesn’t have a particular book and you need that specific title, see if you can get it from another library via ILL. These titles are sometimes loaned with more restriction, such as a shorter loan period and no possibility of renewing the loan, so be aware of that before you request. Libraries often have limits on how many ILL requests you can place in a time period, such as one per month. There may be a small fee for them as well (usually it’s under $5, and meant to cover postage).
  24. Want to add to your own library collection? Check out the library book sales. You can get great deals on used books and support your library at the same time.
  25. Look into getting access to other libraries in your area. You may already be a member of a library consortium, or you may be able to purchase membership to a larger library (and it may be worth it to you if they have significantly better offerings). You may also have access to local college or university libraries and their more specialized collections.

March 2017 Recap

March 2017 RecapKnock on wood, but I think the change of seasons has also brought with it a healthier family. That was ridiculously lingering and annoying and I do hope it’s gone forever.

March also had some super weird weather – some really mild days and then cold again (even a bit of snow), but I guess none of that is surprising for March in Indiana. Despite living here for over a decade I still find myself expecting March to be warmer than it reliably is. At this point, I think it’s just in my DNA and won’t be changing and I’ll always associate March with Spring Training and watching baseball outside in shorts and hoping to avoid a sunburn. 🙂

March 2017 in Stats

Books Read This Month: 12
Books Read This Year: 32

Things That Happened
  • In the Facebook book club we discussed Emma.
  • My in-person book club had our annual tea party discussed And Then There Were None.
  • H had her first softball practice, and her first rained-out softball practice. She was super disappointed about the second because “I need to practice catching because I’m not very good at it!”
  • G finished his basketball season. His team was pretty dreadful, but he did improve and he had fun with it, so that’s good enough.
  • G also had Pinewood Derby for Cub Scouts. He ended up coming in 6th place, which wasn’t too bad considering how late he was getting started on it. He ran out of time to do some of the finesse stuff that he could have otherwise. Bonus: he got to use some power tools (under supervision) so that was fun for him.
What’s Cooking
  • Cabbage. Butter-sauteed with salt and pepper and I love it.
  • I’ve been picking up take-and-bake pizza bout once a week all month, because I’ve discovered their special pricing – a large cheese, pepperoni, or sausage pizza for $5. I can’t make one for much less than that (if at all), and certainly not when I give any sort of value to my time. If I cared that much I could add extra toppings of my own on at home, but so far I haven’t cared that much.
What I’m Anticipating in April
  • Book club – A Gentleman in Moscow for my in-person book club and Dark Matter in the Facebook group.
  • Baseball begins for G, and both kids have their opening day festivities. On the same day, which is super frustrating as a parent.
  • Belt testing – G goes for recommended black belt (black belt with a red stripe down the middle), and H goes for senior blue belt (which is the last belt that attends the intermediate classes)
Books I Read in March
  1. A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear
  2. The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
  3. An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd
  4. Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith
  5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  6. The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking
  7. A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry
  8. Emma by Jane Austen
  9. Watchers of Time by Charles Todd
  10. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  11. The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch
  12. Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

New on the Stack in March 2017

Welcome to New on the Stack, where you can share the latest books you’ve added to your reading pile. I’d love for you to join us and add a link to your own post or Instagram picture sharing your books! It’s a fun way to see what others will soon be reading, and get even more ideas of books to add to my “I want to read that!” list.New on the Stack button

Yes, I know, once again I’ve borrowed an absurd number of books from the library. I had some long-awaited holds come in finally (The Hanging Tree!), plus me not being able to resist grabbing some others that were available. Some of them have already been returned unfinished, which I’ve noted in my comments about them.

Nonfiction

Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Hoping for some ideas to improve things between my oldest two.

The Revenge of Analog by David Sax
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: It sounded interesting, but I ended up letting it go back to the library without attempting to renew it. It was much drier than I was in the mood for, and I didn’t care that much about the topic.

When to Rob a Bank: …And 131 More Warped Suggestions and Well-Intended Rants by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: I was looking for an audio book to borrow via Overdrive and this one popped up as available. I’ve since discovered that apparently my phone is out of storage space and can’t download anything so I’ve listened to none of it. Whoops.

Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It by Josh Axe
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Hoped for something fairly accessible and reputible about gut health. Apparently I still couldn’t make myself care about it because I stalled out on reading it midway through chapter two.

Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: It’s the current “Big Library Read” on Overdrive, so every time I went to my library’s digital catalog, I saw the cover. I couldn’t resist.

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: I’ve been wanting to try it, as I do love travel memoirs.

Fiction

Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter by Blake Crouch
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: April’s selection for book club!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: My in-person book club’s April selection.

My Antonia by Willa Cather
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: My in-person book club’s May selection.

The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: It’s the latest in the Peter Grant series!!!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Quick speed-listen to refresh my memory on characters and events before March’s book club meeting.

A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Rereading the William Monk series.

The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next book in the Armand Gamache series.

A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next book in the Maisie Dobbs series.

Watchers of Time by Charles Todd
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next book in the Ian Rutledge series.

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next in the Bess Crawford series

Black Coffee by Agatha Christie, adapted as a novel by Charles Osborne
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next in the Hercule Poirot series

A Fearsome Doubt by Charles Todd
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next in the Ian Rutledge series

Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next in the Maisie Dobbs series

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next book in the Armand Gamache series

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Need to get moving on my book flight

Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: I don’t remember how this one ended up on my library holds list, but it did and then it appeared on my kindle when my turn arrived. 😉

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: May’s book club selection, and I’m trying to get ahead on my reading, as I’ve cut it too close with a couple of them. Except there’s some weird sort of glitch going on and it’s not letting me download it. I don’t know – I need to call the library or send in a chat request because I do know how to borrow ebooks and download them, but something isn’t working right with this one. It won’t even let me return it and try again. Technology, you’re so awesome until you aren’t. 😉

Defend and Betray by Anne Perry
How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Rereading the William Monk series.


“New on the Stack” Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share your posts or Instagram pictures about the new-to-you books you added to your reading stack last month. They can be purchases, library books, ebooks, whatever it is you’ll be reading! Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to this post – you can use the button below if you’d like, or just use a text link.

The Deliberate Reader

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person’s blog or Instagram who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting me permission to use and/or repost photographs from your linked post or Instagram. (Because on social media or in next month’s post, I hope to feature some of the books that catch my attention from this month.)

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New on Your Stack (volume 23)

Some highlights from the books from last month’s linkup:


I have mixed feelings about historical fiction that uses real people as characters in their novels. This isn’t a blanket “never do it!” but I get a little nervous about how the author does it.

All that to say, Jill (Days at Home) highlights First Impressions by Charlie Lovett and I’m interested but slightly concerned about the Jane Austen character in the secondary story line.

Maybe I’m extra tempted by it because the audible version is narrated by Jayne Entwistle, who is one of my favorites. My library has it so it’ll be easy to give it a try.


Kate (Opinionated Book Lover) and I shared one title on our TBR lists last month, but since it’s for the same book club I guess it wasn’t surpring to see Emma appear on her list. 🙂

She also let me know that the Starflight duology is complete now that Starfall has been published. I checked out the first book but quickly returned it when I realized that there was a second book. I wanted to be able to read them both close together if necessary (in other words, I didn’t want a forced long wait for the publication date to arrive.) Now I’ll let her read it and tell me if the two together are worth the reading time. I want them to be.


Stacie (Sincerely Stacie) has some really intriguing titles this month but the one I’m most interested in is A Bridge Across the Ocean. The cover is so pretty, and I do so often enjoy alternating time lines. I’m waiting to hear how she likes it.

I’m also curious to see how she likes Rules of Civility, which she added to her reading stack last month. That was such a great book and it made for such a great discussion title in book club!


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Three on a Theme: Jane Eyre

My in-person book club reads an annual “book flight,” inspired by a post at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

This year the theme voted on by our members was Jane Eyre. (I’m excited about this, as I didn’t think it would be the winner, but it was my pick).

The first book in our trio is, not surprisingly, Jane Eyre.

For a reimagining of the Jane Eyre story, we’ll also read Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye. What sort of reimagining? Well, Jane is a serial killer, so I’m guessing a pretty creative one.

The final book in our flight is the 2016 biography Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart, by Claire Harman. I’m hoping we gain a new appreciation for Brontë’s work through looking at her life and times.

I can’t wait to dive into these three, which is good because, at over 1500 pages between the three, I need to get moving on reading them before our October meeting where we’ll be discussing them. 🙂

Find Jane Eyre: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Find Jane Steele: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Find Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Introducing April’s Book Club Selection: Dark Matter

dark-matter

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Why Was This Title Selected

I wanted a thriller for the year, and one that would be super readable and accessable for those who don’t typically read that genre. Buzz I was hearing about the book led me to think this would be a compelling, thought-provoking read that would promote a great discussion!

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

If you haven’t read it yet, there’s still time for you to join us – it’s a very quick read, so you should be able to get it read and then join in on the discussion. Heads-up though that I’d stay away from the chat about it until you’ve finished the book; it’d be an easy one to spoil and you’ll miss out on a lot of the fun if you know too much about it before reading it.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible.

What’s Coming Up in May?

hannah-coulterHannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

What’s it about? An elderly farmwife looks back on her life and world.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads
(Note that you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first.)

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

My Easter Basket Plans

Surprising absolutely no one, my kids are getting books. They’re also getting items for our trip to Florida in May that they’ll need anyway.

I thought briefly about getting them sticker books for the drive but realized that giving them now means they’d probably have them used up before we leave.

For G (age 7 1/2)

The Usborne Outdoor BookThe Usborne Outdoor Book. He is all about Cub Scouts lately, and headed into summer I think he’ll have a lot of fun with the ideas in this one.

I’m also getting him light-weight pjs, and flip-flops or crocs or some sort of shoe that will work well for the pool on our upcoming vacation. I’m also looking at a Cardinals t-shirt for him, because he doesn’t know it but he’s going to a baseball game in April. Not to see the Cardinals, but I know he’ll still want to represent his team. 🙂

For H (age 5 1/2)

Fingerprint Activities BackyardFingerprint Activities Book
She loves anything arts & crafts related, and I love when she can entertain herself. We both win with this one!

She’s getting new pjs as well, plus a new bathing suit as well as pool-friendly shoes. And a dress for Easter, because I can’t resist.

For M (age 2 1/2)

Little Bear Needs GlassesLittle Bear Needs Glasses
She LOVES All Better, and this is a related title. Reusable glasses! I’m sure she’ll love it.

She doesn’t need pjs, or a bathing suit (or a dress, really), but assuming the sale hasn’t ended before I can put my order in, I’ll be getting her a new dress for Easter too. I don’t want ALL of her clothes to always be hand-me-downs. She does need pool-friendly shoes though because her sister’s old ones broke.

All of their baskets will have some candy as well, but my intent is to not have too much of that. I feel somewhat sneaky using items we’d be buying anyway (like for vacation) as basket-filler, but I don’t think they’ll complain.


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!