Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Independence Day! American Flag by Petr Kratochvil

Happy Fourth of July to all my US readers.

If you’re not American, have a great day anyway! And look out for #10 of my blog challenge posts tomorrow, celebrating Fourth of July week.

Blog on Fire award

Thank you to Lisa at La vie √©clectique for nominating my blog for the Blog on Fire award. Knowing that people read and appreciate my blog makes me happy and very flattered. Thank you, Lisa! ūüôā

As with all blogging awards there are a few requirements to follow for the Blog on Fire award:

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link to them in your acceptance post.

2. List a number of things about yourself.

3. Link to the same amount of blogs as the number of things you divulge in step 2.

I’ve chosen to pass the award to three of my favorite blogs and so I’ll divulge three things about myself.

1. I’ve recently become interested in dystopian fiction. I blame The Hunger Games for getting me started on that one! But I don’t like dystopia which is very fantasy-like: I like my novels to have plenty of human drama in them too.

2. I sometimes dream about opening a café with an indie bookstore attached to it in a little town in Maine.

3. I miss riding horses a lot. I used to own a horse and one of my ambitions is to own one again, when the time is right.

Two Horses by Charles Rondeau

I’ve nominated:

Lulu’s Musings — I found Lulu’s blog when I was surfing different blogs for stories of life in Maine (my spiritual home). And it’s full of lovely stories and photos.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… — when I’m not dreaming about living in Maine, I’m riding horses, chasing stray cows and exploring the North Dakota prairies (also in my dreams!) Jessie Veeder’s blog is brimming with wonderful, atmospheric photos and prose. Take a look!

Finger, Fork & Knife — I enjoy browsing food blogs for inspiration and recipes and I was delighted to discover Kate’s wonderful blog. Scrumptious recipes and photos….check it out!

Book review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles front cover — no copyright infringement intended. All rights remain with their respective owners

Image source: The Age of Miracles at Amazon.com

I was lucky to get an advanced review copy of The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and I just finished reading it. It is a striking, original début novel and it is definitely one to watch out for when it arrives in book stores next month on June 26.

I’ll give you a brief summary of the plot before I share my thoughts on this novel. The Age of Miracles is set in California….wonderful, sunny Southern California, in a quiet everyday neighborhood. But then the Slowing begins. The earth begins slowing down, meaning that the days and nights grow longer and longer until our human concept of 24 hours in a day no longer has any relevance. Julia, the protagonist, is eleven years old when this takes place but the story is narrated by Julia when she is older and looking back on the events of “the slowing”. The author, Karen Thompson Walker, thoughtfully describes the changes which take place when “the slowing” happens: changes in gravity and Circadian rhythms, the death of birds and crops. Catastrophes are woven with the story of a young girl beginning adolescence, creating a multilayered story of people going about their daily lives in a setting which feels very unreal.

This is a novel which is all about time and its power over us. Even though the government attempts to enforce the 24 hour clock, nature is ever-powerful. As this article from the website of the British newspaper, The Guardian points out, The Age of Miracles is “eerily prescient” because something like this could actually happen. When the massive earthquake struck Japan last year, it moved our planet on its axis, causing our day to shorten “by a fraction of a second”. The Age of Miracles has a quietly apocalyptic feel to it: there are no dramatic explosions, no zombies parading the streets, no extraterrestrial beings conquering the Earth. And it is this fact that makes it so believable; it’s not your typical sci-fi novel.

However, although the novel is well-written and the concept is engaging, I am disappointed by what I think is a weak ending. The book leads the reader on to wonder what will happen but then, all of a sudden, you arrive at an anti-climactic and forgettable ending. The ending is my main issue with the novel. I tend to avoid giving stars or points in my reviews but if I had to rate this on a scale of 1 – 10 I would probably give it a 5 or a 6: I enjoyed reading it and it gripped me but the ending was unsatisfying. Don’t let that dissuade you from reading it though; despite the fact that my enjoyment was somewhat negated by the ending, The Age of Miracles is a thought-provoking read and Karen Thompson Walker is a talent to watch out for. For more info and to read an extract from the book, visit the website at theageofmiraclesbook.com.

Reasons why I want to move to Maine…

Maybe the title of this post should really be ‘reasons why I want to visit Maine’. It is a state which I have never visited, but it has caught my imagination and I have a dream of living in Maine…. Oh yes, The Pine Tree State is where my mind wanders when I should be doing other things, like paperwork and chores.

The natural beauty and scenery of Maine is spectacular. The landscape varies, from mountains to rocky cliffs to wilderness to beaches. And Maine hosts 281 miles of the Appalachian trail. The northern terminus of the trail is Katahdin: the highest mountain in the state of Maine. The mountain was named by the Penobscot Indians and its name means ‘The Greatest Mountain’.

There are thirty-two state parks in Maine and one of these is Acadia National Park:

Acadia Park, Maine (public domain image)

Public domain image: A Look Through The Trees by Shari Weinsheimer.

Maine is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and water is a prominent feature in the landscape of the state — shipbuilding was an important part of the state’s economy in centuries past. There are many pretty harbours scattered around the coast as well as the iconic lighthouses which a lot of people associate with Maine.

Camden Harbor, Maine (image copyright Back Road Journal)

Photo © Karen at Back Road Journal.

I love the traditional white clapboard houses with windows looking out on the ocean.

Old clapboard house (public domain image)

Public domain image: Old House by David Wagner

And the beautiful lakes:

Long Lake, Maine – image copyright Back Road Journal

Photo © Karen at Back Road Journal.

Maine is also home to lots of wildlife and native species. Moose is the state animal:

A female moose (public domain image)

Public domain image: Female Moose by Charles Rondeau.

As well as moose, Maine is the residence of much cuter animals:

Chipmunk (image copyright Back Road Journal)

Photo © Karen at Back Road Journal.

And the state bird is the pretty songbird, the Black-capped Chickadee.

Maine’s state bird: Black-capped Chickadee (public domain image)

Public domain image from: Black-Capped Chickadee by John Witherspoon.

Chipmunks and chickadees, black bear, beaver, coyotes, lynx, seals, puffins, whitetail deer, moose… Maine is filled with nature and beauty.

The state is diverse and that appeals to me. There are quaint little towns which have a quintessentially New England flavor and then there are state parks which are rugged, wild and perfect for hiking.

“In Maine
we are glad to be part of a land
that remains so beautiful under its green skin
of woods and open fields, that is glitteringly
bordered by thousands of miles
of breaking waves, and that is lovely,
too, with an unbroken tradition
of concerns, with the kind, enduring grace
of its neighborliness.”

(Excerpt from Neighborliness by Kate Barnes. Source: Poets of Maine).

It is a very special place and I long to visit. In the mean time, I will dream.

With thanks to Karen from the wonderful blog, Back Road Journal, for giving me permission to use her photographs of Maine in this post.

9/11: 10 years on

Light

In remembrance of the victims and of those who died, in memory of the innocent people who have lost their lives in the wars across Iraq and Afghanistan. R.I.P.

“That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love… ”
Emily Dickinson

It wasn’t you, it wasn’t me,
Up there, two thousand feet above
A New York street. We’re safe and free,
A little while, to live and love,

Imagining what might have been –
The phone-call from the blazing tower,
A last farewell on the machine,
While someone sleeps another hour,

Or worse, perhaps, to say goodbye
And listen to each other’s pain,
Send helpless love across the sky,
Knowing we’ll never meet again,

Or jump together, hand in hand,
To certain death. Spared all of this
For now, how well I understand
That love is all, is all there is.  

Poem by Wendy Cope, copyright 2006. I do not own any rights to this poem. No copyright infringement is intended.

Public domain image source: Power Of Light by Nat Sakunworarat