A bookish and two non-bookish challenges for the new year

It’s the time of year to start a challenge or two. I came across a few that I just couldn’t resist!


#Fitreaders is a challenge for all readers (and everyone else, really) who like to get more active. I think there are quite a few Fitbit users, like me, who will keep track of their activity via their fitbit step counter.

I want to get “back on track” and walk at least 7,000 steps per day. I did this last year, but after the summer I didn’t keep track so well, and the couch-potato mode started to wake up again. So, I’ll walk 7,000 steps per day, every day, for five days per week, and a couch-potato-5,000 steps for the other two days (that’s still a walk!). link to challenge



Cut Out Processed Food in 14 weeks! This challenge is about, well, what it says! It’s fourteen weeks in which every week something else is tackled, e.g., eating more fruit and veg, cutting out sugar, wholegrain only, etc. The good thing is that you can do each of these for just one week and then revert back to what your normally do, and tackle the next issue. Or you can do this cumulatively, and add each new mini-challenge to the previous one. I’ll just go for a simple week-by-week challenge, but who knows? I may be inspired to keep some new habits going for longer than just a week. link to challenge



Finally, a Dutch challenge, Ik Lees Nederlands [I read Dutch] in which we’re challenged to read more books from our own country. This is a challenge that I started a few years ago and now it’s hosted by a different blog every year. I’m pledging to read 20 books by Dutch or Flemish authors this year. link to challenge

How many challenges are you doing this year?


Book Review: Out of the Woods by Lynn Darling

Out of the Woods by Lynn DarlingOut of the Woods: What it is about

From the publishers: “When her college-bound daughter leaves home, Lynn Darling, widowed over a decade earlier, finds herself alone—and utterly lost, with no idea of what she wants or even who she is. Searching for answers, she leaves New York for the solitary woods of Vermont. Removed from the familiar, cocooned in the natural world, her only companions a new dog and a compass, she hopes to develop a sense of direction—both in the woods and in her life.

Hiking unmapped trails, Darling meditates on the milestones of her past; as she adapts to her new surroundings, she uses the knowledge she’s gained to chart her future. And when an unexpected setback nearly derails her newfound balance, she is able to draw upon her newfound skills to find her bearings and stay the course.“

Out of the Woods: What I thought

This book begins with the author moving into an isolated cottage in the woods. At the end of the book, she’s moved out again. In the time in between, she’s a bit lost. She has been a widow for years and her daughter has gone to college. To start over again, she moves to the cottage that is at the end of a dirt track. She plans to work here (she’s a journalist and writer) and make a life for herself.

Things are not going well, she’s lonely and literally gets lost in the woods. She fights back by following a map reading course that also gives her insight to guide the rest of her life back to normality.

The narration felt a bit distant. I never connected with the author. The reader learns a bit of her past, but generally, she remains a stranger who is lost in the woods. I admired her nerve for living so isolated and trying to cope on her own in a whole new situation. It was interesting to read about her navigation lessons and her mother’s mental degradation that is a small part of the story, too.

Even though I never got to know the narrator, I still thought this was an interesting memoir about a middle-aged woman trying to get her feet back on the ground.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (good)

Number of pages: 272

First published: 2014

I got this: from the publisher, Harper, for review

Genre: non-fiction, memoir

Book Review: The Sugar Detox by Brooke Alpert and Patricia Farris

The Sugar Detox by Brooke Alpert and Patricia FarrisThe Sugar Detox: What it is about

The publisher says: “Sugar is the new controlled substance. The average American consumes up to 31 pounds of sugar a year, and a diet high in sugar can cause diabetes, obesity, and many other health crises. Our excess intake of sugar, from the white stuff on the table to the high-fructose corn syrup hidden in packaged foods, is not only making us sick, it’s making us fat and aging our skin.

Now, nutritionist Brooke Alpert and dermatologist Patricia Farris team up in this revolutionary program that helps get the sugar out of your diet to recapture youthful skin and good health. Designed to limit the amount of extra blood sugar, slim your waistline, increase your energy levels, and improve your skin, this combined approach to nutrition and skin care will make you feel—and look—better than you ever have before. The secret? A three-day detox plan to get the sugar out of your system and get you on the path to eating and living the healthiest way possible.

The Sugar Detox: What I thought

I have a problem with this book, and that’s all my own fault. This is not a book for me. Why I chose to review it is beyond me. Detox? No way! Sounds scary and even dangerous. How can it be healthy to starve yourself? I would never buy a book on detoxing and I think I asked to review it because of the Sugar part of the title. I expected a book warning me about the dangers of sugar (this book does that, actually) and telling me how those big bad food companies keep me addicted to sugar. But a diet book is not something I expected. As I said, my fault, because it says Detox on the cover clearly enough.

Anyway, had this been a book for me, then I think I would have praised it into the skies – well, except for one thing, which I will mention later. The book is clear about why you might want to reduce your sugar intake. It even says so in the subtitle: Lose Weight, Feel Great, and Look Years Younger. Now, don’t we all? It describes really well, in understandable technical terms, why sugar is bad for us, why it’s bad for our health, our weight, our skin, etc. Then it’s time for a 3-day detox in which you get to eat a total of about the same number of calories as I consume in snacks per hour. After this, there is a 4-week plan to slowly add some foods with natural sugars back into your diet, after which you should feel great and should have lost weight. There are also recipes in the back of the book.

I think if I wasn’t so dubious about detoxes and if I didn’t have a family that needs food too, I might try it, just for fun and to see if it really does what it says on the cover. Yes, I could involve my family and get them on the meal plan. But hey, the book promises me that I will feel irritable with head aches for those first few days – I couldn’t handle the wrath of my family at the same time. So, they would have to keep poisoning themselves with sugars while I go detox. Nah, it’s not going to happen.

What I didn’t like about the book, what I didn’t get, I should say, is the connection with skin care. The dermatology part of the book was more or less redundant in my eyes. So yes, less sugar means better skin, fine. Do I need more skin care information than that? Well, not me, maybe you?

I think if you’re single and feel you could lose some weight and feel healthier in general, go ahead. Absolutely a good book for you!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars (OK to good)

Number of pages: 188

First published: 2014

I got this: from the publisher, via Netgalley, for review (ebook)

Genre: non-fiction, dieting

Quick Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson WalkerRating: 4/5
Number of pages: 256 (my Dutch edition)
First published: 2012
Genre: science fiction, apocalypse
I got this book: from the library (Dutch edition: Wij waren hier).

I love books in which the world is no longer as we know it (post-apocalyptic or dystopian novels). In The Age of Miracles, the reader is present when the changes start: the rotation of the earth is slowing down, with as a result that the days become longer. First only about an hour is added to the day, but slowly but surely, the days become extremely long, up to 60 hours or more.

Julia is a twelve-year old who lives with her parents and has a secret crush on a boy from school, Seth Moreno. The story is told by an older Julia, looking back on her youth. The slowing of the earth has all kinds of effects. For instance, crops won’t grow because they spend too long in the sun (longer days) or too long in the dark (longer nights). Some people become ill with a new illness, related to the changing situation.

The main effect is, that most people follow the government’s instruction and continue living a 24-hour schedule. This schedule is no longer related to the rotation of the earth, so in the middle of the night it can be completely light, whereas on another day, it can be dark, or nearly dawn. A dissident group of people want to live by the “real time” day and try to stay awake while it is light, sleeping when it is dark. Soon, they are being discriminated against by the majority.

The book explores the further effects on the lives of people as the earth’s rotation slows more and more. I found this all very believable, although I was surprised how well society seemed to continue as before. Julia gets a little closer to her heart-throb Seth, but there wasn’t too much of a plot to the story.

The story ends in the “current” time, but the reader doesn’t get a good insight in what the situation is then, how the living conditions have changed compared to the time before the slowing. I loved reading the story until I got to the end and felt a little cheated. What now?

I very much liked the way this book explored a “What if” situation that no one could put right again. They had to adapt to the situation as well as they could. Only the ending was unsatisfactory to me, because the reader still doesn’t know what will happen to humanity according to the scenario in the book.

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