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I want to give this book 3 and a half stars, a half extra for trying to be much bigger than it was. It's a simple story about a woman whose husband has left her and has to regroup in her old hometown, with various interludes on her mom's friends and neighbors and schoolgirls (who are supposed to be learning poetry from her). There really were no men in this book, which I thought was great, but not enough to make up for it.

Who's in charge – you or your brain?

Who's in charge – you or your brain? | Science | The Observer

I haven't written here for a while but maybe it's time I started it up again. simply because the brain that doesn't look at itself and try to figure out what it's been doing may simply be an automaton: reacting to whatever is happening.

So far life in Switzerland has been far far below my idealistic expectations of super-fulfulling job, social calendar chockful of activities and running around the mountains with a crazed grain on my face. However, it hasn't been a disaster either and it's also a change from the Netherlands. I look back on my time there and realize there were a lot of pleasant aspects to it: biking everywhere, friendly and casual work environment, wow...now I've already run out of things. Well, that's not true. I can also go on about how imminently live-able the place was with its non-emphasis on wealth, HUGE emphasis on arts and almost complete lack of homeless people.

But still, it wasn't enough for me to be happy and I think what I really need to do is try enough situations to know that happiness is not a place but knowing what is out there enough to decide on what you want to settle with. Of course this is a little unfair to my family who gets dragged around, but at the same time it's probably good for them to realize what else is out there.

Today I bought tickets to go to Vermont for 3 weeks in July, even though I'd told myself since last fall that I wasn't going--that I was going to enjoy the summer holiday destination that is Lake Geneva. I couldn't believe how happy I felt after biting the bullet and admitting I NEED Vermont for happiness.
At least that's one thing I've learned: I really do need Vermont in the summer (and maybe some day in the winter).

Okay, I'm tried now. Back to attempting to sleep.
But hopefully I'll also think about what else is needed by my brain...


Book review: Fracture by Megan Miranda

FractureFracture by Megan Miranda

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Why was this such a tedious read? I had such high hopes for the book too since I thought the idea was so cool: a girl is rescued from near-death can tell when someone is about to die.

Only nothing really ever happens with this ability to know when someone will die. The main character spends a lot of time angsting over being alive and why her best friend is acting so distant, but I kept turning pages wanting something exciting to happen. A few bits of tension are sprinkled about with a 'love interest' but it never really goes anywhere.

Finally at the very end she tries to do something with this new power of hers (like save someone) but it doesn't work. I was very much hoping she'd have to come to terms with how death (in other words fate) can't be circumvented. But instead she dithers around some more thinking about dying herself and then tries to kill her 'mysterious love interest'. I was like, Huh? Why are you doing this? Why are you not exploring how to use your power to help comfort those who are about to die?

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The Tiger's WifeThe Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really didn't get this book, despite having hopes for it since it was named one of the NY Times Best Books of the Year.
It started out promisingly enough with a young doctor traveling around Bosnia several years after the Balkan Wars delivering vaccines. She's also dealing with the death of her grandfather, whom we meet in various flashbacks. Basically the book is a whole series of flashbacks of the doctor and her grandfather interwoven with folklore. I could feel there was a lot of symbolism going on plus themes of heritage, grief and healing, but I just didn't get it, nor did I care. It's frustrating because I really wanted to like this--only I never felt invested in it. Especially strange was how the main character was a medical student during the war, supposedly seeing lots of death and pain but all her memories seem to be about people sitting in cafes or what was happening to the animals in the city zoo.
Animals in zoo=Symbolism about the Balkan people? Who knows?

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Book review: Hereafter by Tara Hudson

Hereafter (Hereafter, #1)Hereafter by Tara Hudson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was underwhelmed by this one--mostly because I thought the whole premise of the afterlife absurdly silly: where there's this bad soul working for the devil who tries to suck up other dead souls and put them in some sort of grey limbo. The ending was also really silly. Somehow the protagonist, who died when her friends got possessed by 'evil' and pushed her off a bridge, suddenly has amazing powers of destruction (she destroys said bridge). Then she goes off to 'live' with her living boyfriend as a ghost companion.

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Alzheimer's: Diet patterns may keep brain from shrinking

I research how nutrition affects brain aging--yet I get a lot of people expressing doubt that eating right makes a difference. It's nice to see a study like this provide visual evidence that good nutrition is important from age 30 on (if you want to keep your brain from shrinking!)

Living in Switzerland

I haven't posted a real entry for so long--mostly because the move to Switzerland has been such a hectic swirl of mental and physical stress.

I've been here 2 months now and I still don't know what to make of my decision to come. And what a weird decision: leaving a secure, fairly pleasant job in a town where my family was happy and doing well to gamble on a possibly better job in a country with completely different language, culture and very little security.

The sticker shock of everything here has me reeling, like how apartments with 3 bedroom are 2500 swiss francs and up, and a can of beans costs 4 francs. However, I'm also reeling from how gorgeous everything is. I look out my window of my kitchen and see vineyards, an ancient castle, beautiful old churches and the lake and mountains.
But then again, there is the isolating loneliness of a new place. I'd actually finally gotten myself a pretty satisfying social life in Vlaardingen and I gave it all up. True I did have to travel at least an hour by train to get to my social life, while now I'm about 1o minutes from Lausanne. Only now I have to go out and meet people. I did find a book club, but no writing clubs or communities are visible on the web. Oh well. There's time enough.

Anyways, something about the place must be agreeing with me since I've gained 10 lbs in the last 2 months. Maybe it's the gourmet food at work (which is sort of necessary to buy though very expensive). Oh, and also I've bought a car. So no more depending on the bike or train to get around. Sad to say I'm actually scared of driving still. Weird that I felt safer on a bike (even though I'm now driving a Volvo!)

The one thing I didn't manage to fix was my lack of access to a bath tub. My new place doesn't have one, just like our house in the Netherlands. Oh well, I guess it's not very eco-friendly anyways....


My rating: 3 stars

This was one of those plot-less, multiple viewpoint books which feels so highly literary it's hard to care what's happening. I imagine the author was trying to show us how very divergent lives intersect, like an Irish pseudo-monk and a pair of mother daughter prostitutes, or a Park Avenue society wife and a Bronx projects inhabitant.

Supposedly the big connecting factor of the novel is the real-life feat of a tightrope walker engineering a trip across the two world trade center towers, and all the excitement it generated for New York. But it took until about halfway through the book before I actually felt affinity for the random set of characters who either got to watch the tightrope walker or heard about it later. Still, McCann is a beautiful writer and there were so devastatingly affecting scenes, like the funeral of one of the characters.
It does make one appreciate how our small actions might be affecting the fortunes of others, or how our misfortune makes another person's life better or more redeeming.

book review: Hourglass by Myra McEntire

I really wanted to like this one since it had such a cool premise, but it was so overly wordy and I never believed in any of the characters. They honestly felt like cardboard characters, some of their dialogue was so stilted. But other people like it so maybe it's just not my cup of tea (Rose Red, another time travel YA, was awesome!)