Tag Archives: book review

Book Review: I Know This Much is True

28 Jun

Yesterday I seriously felt like I had climbed Mt. Everest after I read this book. Finally!!!!


The reason I picked up this 900 page monster was because of the author, Wally Lamb. I read two amazing books of his called She’s Come Undone and The Hour I First Believed.

She's Come Undone

The Hour I First Believed

You should read them, they’re good.

He’s an amazing author who has the ability to write so realistically it’s like you have stepped inside the narrator’s head. He also does a hefty amount of research regarding the topics in his books which results in simple, realistic details that make his books believable.

I’ll have a real problem with a book that’s not believable. It’s the main thing that makes me put a book down….like “This could never happen; this is stupid”. But this writer crafts every detail so meticulously and methodically that what results are realistic and emotional stories about individuals, and the ordinary (or extraordinary) circumstances that surround their lives.

Anyways- so I Know This Much is True……the book starts off with a startling turn of events in which the narrator and main character’s schizophrenic identical twin saws off his arm in a public library as an act of religious and political radicalism.

You’d think that was the climax, however Lamb then proceeds to take us on an emotional and personal journey with Dominick (the narrator) as he navigates the aftermath of his twin’s actions and deals with his own dramatic and problematic life.

Through flashbacks and climbing inside Dominick’s thoughts, Lamb weaves a tale of personal reflection as Dominick struggles to determine his true identity.

It really sounds like nothing special- like I said- a character going through ordinary (yet some dramatic twists and turns) life. But what makes this special, as mentioned before, is the writing. So realistic and meticulous.

That being said, it is 900 pages. So if you have a lot of time to kill and are on summer vacation like me, you should add it or another one of his books into your summer reading list. I highly suggest She’s Come Undone.

Have you ever read Wally Lamb’s books? What is your favorite? What should I read next???????

How to change your mindset and become happier

8 Apr

Book Review: Psycho-Cybernetics




The title sounds weird- but this book was borderline life changing. It was also published in 1960, so there’s no new information here. The book is written by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a former plastic surgeon, and covers revelations and brain based researched strategies about mindset, achieving goals and de-stressing your life.

I tend to be (I like to say “used to be!”) a worry-wart and a negative nancy so this book had some great advice. If you find  yourself miserable, stressed out and not happy with your current state of life you should definitely get this book.

I could go on and on forever about the revelations in this book, but I wanted to share the main ideas I got from it.

1. It doesn’t matter what actually happens.

The first part of the book explains Dr. Maltz’s plastic surgery background and how he noticed that after he changed people’s faces, their self perception changed, therefore they started acting differently and becoming happier. He started to wonder if he could change people’s self perception without even doing actual surgery.

It’s kind of interesting if you think about it, but what happens or the truth of what is actually happening does not matter so much as what your reaction to what is happening matters. Confused yet?

The book used the example of a hiker walking down a trail. He *thinks* he sees a bear so his nervous system reacts. His heart starts beating, he starts sweating and becomes afraid. Your body reacts to what it *thinks* is happening whether or not it is actually happening. If the *bear* actually was a dog, his body would have the same reaction.

“You act, feel, not according to what things are really like, but according to the image your mind holds about what they are like” (pg 34).

You can use this tool in order to become happier. If you lose your job, naturally you will become upset about it. But your life and emotions aren’t affected by the fact that you lost your job, they’re affected by how you react to it. If you choose to feel sorry for yourself and wallow in self pity you will be miserable. If you change your reaction (use it as a chance to try something you’ve always wanted to do, or work at your goals harder), you will change how you feel about it.

The same scenario/mindset can be used for virtually any mundane “problem” or thing that stresses us out on a regular basis, and even large stressors like job loss.

2. Imagine yourself successful



You have probably heard that positive thinking will help you achieve goals. This is only partly true, according to Dr. Maltz. It takes more than just positive thinking to achieve your goals. You can’t sit on the couch eating ho-hos and think “I want to be thin” and have it happen.

Dr. Maltz explains that every human has a built in “success mechanism”. Our brains are hard-wired to achieve goals and we just need to steer them in the right direction. If you picture yourself successful, or achieving the goal you want to achieve, and know all the possible steps that need to happen, your brain will automatically adjust and keep you working towards that goal.

The keyword is working. To achieve your goals you must know the actual steps needed to be taken and be actively working towards them every day. Once you are actively working towards your goals consciously, you will ultimately be successful.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others



Many of us don’t take steps to achieve our goals because of fear of failure. Maybe we see a professional blogger and say “I could never be as good as them because of X, Y and Z.”  One thing I’ve learned is to not worry about anyone else when working towards my goals. For instance, I don’t like factors like other blogs or setbacks stop me from achieving my goal of having a bigger blog.

“..because we think, feel and assume we should measure up to some other person’s norm, we feel miserable and second-rate and conclude that there is something wrong with us” (pg. 56).

Fear of not being as good as other people may hold us back from taking steps to achieve our goals. It doesn’t matter what anyone else does because you are you. You are unique, and there’s no reason why you should ever compare yourself to anyone else or try to do things exactly like someone else.

This can also apply to us comparing our food choices with that of other bloggers. You are unique, therefore there is absolutely no reason why you should be comparing what YOU eat to someone else’s plate then feeling guilty/inadequate/not good enough.


My Happy Place


I could go on and on!!! One more quick thing the book talks about is how to use relaxation to lower stress during the day. Maltz recommends picking a “happy place” – maybe a place you’ve been on vacation (I imagine being on my honeymoon), or a special getaway or secluded place that makes you feel happy and comfortable. Maltz recommends trying practice relaxation and meditation for 30 minutes every day (eek, hard to fit in) and then during your day when you’re feeling stressed- simply relax and go to your ‘happy place’. This sounds really corny and stupid but it works!! This is actually proven to work as a natural ‘tranquilizer’ and de-stressor.

What mindset tricks do you use to become a happier/healthier person?

Book Review: It Starts with Food

11 Feb

Before I start: I started a Pencils and Pancakes Facebook page! It would mean the world if you ‘liked’ me!!! Winking smile

I searched for a good couple of weeks for a quality nutrition book that would really help me with meal planning and getting back on track. Truth is I’ve been all over the place, unhappy and uncomfortable with my food lately. Ever since I stopped working out intensely because of my back, what was working for me wasn’t working anymore. At first I tried to cut back calories and felt fine….then I started feeling hungry…all.the.time. But I felt guilty going back to what I was eating before when I was working out. The key word: guilty. I shouldn’t feel guilty over what I eat. I don’t want to think about food as a reward, certain foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or whether or not I could ‘cheat’ that day. It was all becoming a little overwhelming.

I needed direction and researched advice about how exactly I should be eating. This book has given me just that. It’s called It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig.



The authors. both certified sports nutritionists and owners of a gym, start off by explaining dangers of the modern processed food and how the high carb/sugar diet causes all sorts of health problems because of silent inflammation. Health problems ranging from infertility to high cholesterol, IBS, and even stroke.

I found most of the beginning a bit obvious. I don’t think I eat the ‘typical American diet’ they were talking about, but people who are close to me do and it makes me scared for them.

The authors then describe the major food groups that are linked to silent inflammation and insulin resistance: sugar & sweeteners, alcohol, legumes, dairy and grains. They go into detail about the harmful effects of these food groups on the body. The food groups not only cause hormonal imbalances, but also have negative psychological effects that are equally as damaging.

The authors propose the reader adopts what they call the ‘Whole 30’ lifestyle and diet, which is cutting out all of these foods in entirety for 30 days in order for the body to do a ‘reset’, get hormones under control and counteract the effects of inflammation. They include a really easy to use meal plan, pictures and some great recipes for Whole 30 approved food, and what they call the ‘meal template’.

You should eat three meals a day, each comprising of 1-2 servings if protein and 2-3 cups of veggies, and one serving of healthy fat. It also leaves room for a pre and post work out meal of protein and carbs if you’re intensely working out.

Yup, that’s pretty much all there is to it. And you can eat fruit, but not too much.

So the big question is….am I doing it?

Today I started this style of eating….and thus far it has been a huge success. I was so scared about only being able to eat three times a day, but the template makes sure you are FULL from those meals. I was the fullest today (healthy full) than I have been in months. But it’s only day one. Why do this meal plan if I have no immediate dangerous health problems, you ask?

My main concern is my psychological relationship with food, which the Whole 30 really strives to change. The Whole 30 is not about losing weight. I want to change the way I look at food- not look at it as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘cheating’ if I go off-plan. I am so ingrained in some of my eating habits I’m not even eating when I’m hungry. It’s getting annoying.I also want to clear up some other health issues I suspect might be caused by inflammation, as well as put an end to the CRAZY carb and sugar cravings I’ve been having.


Noooooo more of these for a bitSad smile

So yes…this meals no oatmeal, cereal, or (dun dun dun) PANCAKES for the 30 days. Also peanut butter (it’s a legume). But it’s just 30 days. The book also includes a reintroduction guide for you to start reintroducing these foods and see how you feel. To me it’s not really a surprise…cut out sugar, alcohol and bread and obviously you’re going to feel better! I’ve been playing with the idea of trying Paleo for awhile…this is basically Paleo but excludes more (like natural sweeteners). You also CAN’T try to re-create desserts or treats like Paleo muffins or pancakes. It’s part of the ‘healthy relationship with food’ deal. Actually, most of the pancake recipes I make for myself WOULD qualify, but it’s not allowed for the 30 days.


Frank loves the book too!

So overall, this book was informative and extremely beneficial. I can’t wait to see how I feel at the end of 30 days. I know it’s going to be hard, but I mean there’s way worse things to go through in life so I think I can handle not eating cereal. I decided that I’ll really just take it one day at a time, however. The program is really strict, and although I want to get all the benefits, I decided I’m not going to let myself get stressed out about whether or not the peppers I ordered at some restaurant were sautéed in soybean oil. I will avoid it when possible, but I don’t feel like I have the health problems to really stress out about it. I will keep you posted with recipes, updates and hopefully good results!

Visit their website if you want to know more about the Whole 30 and It Starts with Food.

How do you think you’d do on the Whole 30? Or have you tried Paleo? What are your thoughts?

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