bookish posts

Anniversary Guest Post: Jenny from Reading the End

Believe it or not, May marks 12 years since I started blogging here at By Singing Light! To mark the occasion, I asked a couple of friends to write a guest post for me about their favorite reads from 2006. The second is from my pal Jenny who blogs at Reading the End. Somehow we only met a few years ago, but we’re clearly kindred spirits since the book she picked is one of my favorites too!

On the Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta

In the early years of (my) book blogging, books would show up in one place and then spread across the tiny book blogosphere like a wildfire. It would be like when the first season of Stranger Things came out and suddenly everyone seemed to be watching and talking about it. Melina Marchetta’s On the Jellicoe Road was one of those books. It was originally published in Australia in 2006 and then in America in 2008, right in time to catch me as a baby blogger. (I wanted to be one of the cool kids, and I was emphatically not one of the cool kids.)

Taylor was abandoned on the Jellicoe Road when she was eleven years old, and she’s been at the nearby boarding school ever since. Her only real friend is a woman called Hannah who lives near the river and writes stories about children who used to live there in the 1980s. But Hannah has disappeared, and there’s a territory war in Jellicoe, and Taylor’s forced back into proximity with the boy who betrayed her three years ago.

Here’s the thing about Melina Marchetta, and this has been consistent across every book of hers (eight of them) that I’ve read. First you start her books and you think “okay, I could be interested in this.” Then you keep reading and you think “eh, actually, the characters are undergoing rather too much suffering for no good reason, and actually maybe I will stop reading this and read something else instead.” And then — if you persist — there comes a turning point, before which you are fine and normal and going about your day as usual; and after which you are a collection of exposed emotional nerve endings who wants to organize a major nationwide rally to ensure that none of the spiky angry characters in this book ever experience another moment’s turmoil.

It is quite a trick, and I have never elsewhere encountered anything quite like it. On the Jellicoe Road was my first exposure to Melina Marchetta, and as I said, I wanted to like it, so I could fit in with the cool crowd. (NB, this was ridiculous, because book bloggers then and now are overwhelmingly lovely welcoming generous people.) Halfway through, I was leaning towards DNFing. Halfway plus a few more pages through, I was prepared to turn my house into a sanctuary for wayward boarding school escapees. This is what Melina Marchetta does to you. Often it’s the characters who seem the nastiest that turn out to be the best ones of all.

And that’s, I guess, my pitch: Read Melina Marchetta and explain how she does this, because it’s quite a trick, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It’s almost a decade since I read On the Jellicoe Road, and I’m no closer to figuring out how Melina Marchetta does the things she does. But I know that I love it.

The happiest of blogging birthdays to my friend Maureen—who has been around longer than I have and who I should have known about and made friends with way sooner than I did—and thanks for letting me come on the blog to yammer about my Australian YA crush.

Jenny blogs and podcasts at Reading the End, where she rejoices in reading the ends of books before she reads the middle and no, she cannot be talked out of reading this way.

bookish posts

Anniversary Guest Post: Katy Kramp from A Library Mama

Believe it or not, May marks 12 years since I started blogging here at By Singing Light! To mark the occasion, I asked a couple of friends to write a guest post for me about their favorite reads from 2006. The first one is Katy Kramp, who blogs at A Library Mama and is a pretty good egg. Enjoy her post!

It’s a tricky thing, tracking the history of a friendship, especially one that’s taken place almost entirely online.  I know that I know Maureen through book blogging; I don’t remember when I started following her blog, though I know that I was attracted by her also loving Tam Lin by Pamela Dean.  The first mention of Maureen on my blog is from 2014 , when I went to her city of residence for the Public Library Association Conference and met up with her for dinner.   I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve read on her recommendation at this point, and know that if she likes a book, I probably will, too (even if I haven’t yet worked up the courage to read Code Name Verity.)  You can read her guest post for my blog here:

In celebration of Maureen’s twelfth year of blogging, here are the fiction books I blogged about in 2006 that I still remember with fondness.


Bloody Jack  by L.A. Meyer. Read by Katherine Kellgren (teen) – This is the story of a young British street orphan who disguises herself as a boy and joins the Navy to escape a life of prostitution. There’s some sharp social commentary here, as well as a rollicking adventure.  The series carried on until L.A. Meyer’s death, with Jacky having increasingly far-flung and improbable adventures, meeting famous people and pretty boys all around the world. This was also the book that turned my love and I on to astonishing and tragically also recently deceased narrator Katherine Kellgren.  Her vocal range is on full display here, with accents from all over Britain and America, as well as folk songs sung with their proper tunes in different character’s voices. My love and I are both excited that our son, now a teen, is old enough to start listening to the series with us.


For Camelot’s Honor  by Sarah Zettel (adult) – This is the second of Zettel’s Paths to Camelot series, where Zettel very loosely reworks older Arthurian stories into a cohesive tale of the battle for Camelot in four books, each with a different heroine and the developing relationship with a different one of Arthur’s nephews.  This book stars Elen, the daughter of a Welsh king, and Sir Geraint. Although written for Harlequin’s Luna imprint, romance isn’t generally Zettel’s focus, so even though there is a developing relationship in each book, politics, character, and world building far outweigh the sexytimes here.  This is another series I’m due to reread.


The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall (middle grade) – Few and far between are the realistic fiction series that I keep up with, but I fell in love with the Penderwicks and their modern take on the old-fashioned large family adventure on the first reading.  In this book, four sisters, their father, and their pets travel to the summer house they’ve always rented, where they befriend a Boy, much to his mother’s disgust. I hear that the Penderwicks at Last, coming out this May, is the last in the series – but I can always hope they’re wrong.


His Majesty’s Dragon: a Novel of Temeraire  by Naomi Novik (adult) – It’s more British Navy at the height of its power, but with dragons. Really, how much more do you need to know?  I admit that I lost track of the series after about book 5, but those books have earned a place on our shelves at home. I still keep track of Novik’s writing and am very much looking forward to her new book, Spinning Silver, coming out this July.


Tintenherz by Cornelia Funke (middle grade) – 2006 was the year that a friend travelling to Germany for business was kind enough to bring me back the original version of Inkheart, which I’d read in translation.  My son was still small enough to be in my arms most of the time I was reading, and it turns out that this book has some pretty juicy vocabulary, enough to be challenging for my 10-years-out-of-Germany brain, especially since I didn’t have a free hand for a dictionary.  Funke, though, writes fantasy that’s darker and richer than a lot of middle grade fantasy. In this book, Meggie learns that her father has the power to read books to life when he reads the villain of the fantasy book they’re reading into their world. Her adventures cross back and forth between the real world and the book world.   Though Funke has written many other books, this is still my favorite of her novels. I’ve read it twice in English now, as well as the once in German, and look forward to listening to the audiobook again when my daughter is a bit older.


Thank you for the space, Maureen, and here’s to many more happy years of reading and blogging friendship!

Hooray! Thank you for sharing your favorites, Katy!