Friday, 8 January 2021

Mary Anne and the Memory Garden by Ann M. Martin


The Babysitters Club is a series of books about a group of girls who babysit. It was published in 1986-2000 and there are over 100 books, including spin offs of the original series and film and television adaptations. The Babysitters Club books follow the lives of the girls. They have normal issues like friendship dramas, romances, worrying about school and babysitting. There are also books which feature more sensitive or heavier themes or topics. For example, there are books on racism, ableism, dealing with medical issues such as diabetes and asthma.

This book was written in response to fans writing to Ann. Martin about how to deal with losing people and drink driving. I think Ms. Martin handles the matter sensitively in a way that will engage with young readers. 

In this book, Mary Anne grieves over her friend Amelia, who died in a car crash. Amelia’s family was driving home and hit by a drunk driver. Mary Anne becomes overwhelmed and unsure what to do. Fortunately, she goes to a therapist to help her cope. I liked how the books illustrated grief and that Mary Anne recognized that she needed more help.

The Babysitters grieve in their own way. Kristy is overwhelmed and channels her grief in starting a chapter of the organization called Students Against Drunk Drivers which is a real organization. The organization was started in 1986 but is now called Students against destructive decisions .

I have been a fan of The Babysitter’s Club since I was a child. I’ve been collecting the books and this was the first time I read this story. Reading these books makes me nostalgic. The book that I have is second hand and there is a little page there is a little questionnaire page that readers can fill out. The page had been filled out by an eleven-year-old girl named Johanna in 1996. I hope she enjoyed the book as much as I did. 

Friday, 1 January 2021

My goals for 2021

                                                    Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

1. Read all the unread books on my bookshelf.

I have about 30 books that have been collecting dust on my shelf for years. I have thought about donating them, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I keep thinking that if I do throw them out, I will miss out on learning some important or meaningful. Maybe I should mark 2021 as the final year I can hold onto them, either I read them or donate them.

2. Read new books

While I already own books that I don’t read, I’d like to add more to the pile! I buy my books from the thrift store and most are old titles. I would like to read something more recent.

3. Be positive and have fun.

I have to remind myself to stop and enjoy the moment. I am usually the one making sure everything runs smoothly.

Sunday, 27 December 2020

Carlyn Diary: December 2020



I’m at home with my family for the holidays. I haven’t been home since January because of travel restrictions. It’s been great catching up with everyone and visiting old haunts. I’ve also been stocking up on my favourite things to take back to my own place.


I’m catching up on reading the Babysitters Club. I love those books and my collection is at my parent’s house. I’m also still reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It’s a book I’ve been reading on and off for the past few years.  Next year, I want to finish up the booklist that Jon and I created back in 2011! I have three books left.


I live in a remote island for work and I don’t get to watch a lot of tv. So whenever I come back to my family home, I always try to catch up on tv. I’m currently watching Star Trek Discovery. I have been a Star Trek fan since I was a child and I’m always delighted when there’s a new series or movie.

Friday, 9 October 2020

Super Con-nerd by Oliver Phommavanh - Review by Carlyn


Super Con-nerd by Oliver Phommavanh is the sequel to Con-nerd written by the same author. The book is about twelve-year-old Connor known as Con-nerd by his friends. He’s a Chinese Australian boy who has just started high school and is obsessed with drawing.

In this book, Connor makes it into a selective high school where all the students excel academically. It is an adjustment for Connor to not be the smartest in the room and to struggle with some of the schoolwork. Connor also has to contend with a bully who competes to the be the best in every subject and constantly tells him that he does not belong in the school.

Connor finds solace in drawing his comic The Fireproof Knights. However, his mother wants him to study more so he can have a good future.

I enjoy reading this book. It made me think about when I first started high school. It was a very long time ago, but I remember what an adjustment it is from primary school. I could relate to Connor feeling sad about drifting apart from his primary school friends because they went to different high schools. Connor tries to keep in contact with them but conflicting schedules and changing interests made it difficult.

I was also reminded about bullying. I could sympathize with Connor’s feelings of isolation and self-doubt. I work in a school and I do have to deal with cases about bullying. I know how stressful it would be to have to see your bully every day. Fortunately, Connor stands up for himself and has friends who support him. I think that older children will enjoy this book. There is lots of things they could relate to and funny moments. 

Friday, 10 July 2020

Con-nerd by Oliver Phommavanh- Review by Caryln


Con-nerd is about a twelve year old Chinese Australian boy called Conner who dreams of being an artist. His mother thinks drawing is a waste of time and wants him to study to become a doctor. Connor thinks all he does is study and wants to be regular kid.

Connor is concerned about being a nerd and wants to be accepted by his peers.  His mother has a lot of control of his life, from the friends he has, to the music he listens to and what he does in his free time. I felt bad for him to have that helicopter mother. I could understand from the mother’s perspective too. She wanted what was best for her son after sacrificing to come to Australia.

I used to work in a tutoring company and Connor reminded me of those kids.  Most of my students were Chinese and their parents worked very hard to give them a good start to life. A lot of them wanted to go on to selective private schools. One of my students had an extracurricular activities almost every day. She went to tutoring two times a week, piano lessons, tennis lessons and Chinese lesson. The only day off she had was Sunday. She had moved from China with her mother to continue her education here.

Connor faces typical preteen issues, such as wanting to fit in with peers, burgeoning romantic feelings and fears about the future. I work as a teacher and this book reminded me of being a preteen. There have been times that I have been dismissive about things children face. However, I know that while something may seem small to me, it may be a big concern for a child.

I also loved the descriptions about Connor’s drawings. There are little sketches so that you can flick through the pages like a flip book. I would have liked to see more pictures but Phommavanh did a great job describing his character’s passion and talent for drawing.

I am excited that there are books that have character’s from different backgrounds. I wish that there had more books like this when I was a child. I thought this book was cute and entertaining read. I look forward to reading more of Phommavanh’s work. 

Friday, 24 April 2020

Mary Poppin by P.L Travers review by Carlyn

Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers, Mary Shepard (9780544439566) - PaperBack - Children's Fiction Classics

I have a terrible habit of starting books and not finishing them. I decided that since I had a lot more time due to the Corona Virus, that I would finish Mary Poppins by P.L Travers. It is a book that I started reading in 2018. I found it in an old box when I was doing some cleaning.

Mary Poppins by P.L Travers is a book about a magical and mysterious nanny named Mary Poppins. She is looks after Michael, Jane, John and Barbara Banks who live on 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London. Mary Poppins takes the children on adventures like going on a trip around the world using a magical compass, having tea parties on the ceiling and meeting talking animals. All the adventures are episodic and leaves you wanting more. My favourite chapters were the one about a cow who couldn’t stop dancing and John and Barbara who are babies talking to a crow.

I think one of the intriguing things about Mary Poppins is her mysterious character. She never explains the weird stuff that happens and even denies that it happened at all. The children are left not knowing what to think.

I also watched the movie for the first time and I thought it was magical. I can see why it’s a family favourite for many people. There are many more Mary Poppins books but I’m not going to go out of my way to read them. If I find one at a secondhand bookshop, I’ll give it a go.  I think this book is great for children, it would be easy for children to read by themselves or have an adult read to them.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Pride and Prejudice: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith- Review by Carlyn

Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith
Pride and Prejudice: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith is the sequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. The book is a parody of Pride and Prejudice with zombies added for fun.

The sequel picks up where the last novel ended. Elizabeth and Darcy are newly married and adjusting to living with each other. Elizabeth is discontent with being a gentleman’s wife and discarding her warrior duties for the sake of decorum. When Elizabeth and Darcy go on a leisurely stroll to discuss matters, Darcy is bitten by a zombie. Elizabeth turns to an unlikely source to help her find a cure for Darcy. She must set aside her morals to help the man she loves.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s a lot of fun. You have to embrace the ridiculous premise to enjoy it. What makes the novel entertaining is the humor. I don’t think there’s any laugh out loud moments but there’s plenty of ridiculous characters and situations that make the story entertaining. There’s always a surprise zombie attack that makes all the villagers run for their lives and the Bennet girls spring into action.

I liked how all the Bennet girls are skilled warriors. It was kinda like they were superheroes because they had to hide their fighting prowess as it would be considered unladylike for that time. While the villagers run off screaming from a zombie horde, the Bennet sisters race into action. There’s also ninjas in the story which add to the fun.

I thought the side plots with Mary and Kitty were more interesting than the main story that featured Elizabeth. It was interesting for them to go on their own adventures and love stories. I would love to read more stories where they are the main characters.

There’s a never a dull moment in this book. The blood and gore isn’t too graphic. I don’t enjoy horror unless it’s horror comedy so I found this book just right. There is a prequel to this book called Pride and Prejudice: Dawn of the Dreadful by Steve Hockensmith which will probably be more action packed as it will show the beginning of the undead plague.  

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