Life As We Knew It: Book Review

I should call this a book venting. Before anyone freaks out on me. I’m not trying to be mean, I read the entire book and enjoyed it. Only it was just one of those books where in the end I wish it had been scientifically accurate. The ways people reacted to the events were true to form. The science, however, was shaky at best.

Let me share some notes I highlighted while reading. I’m going to reveal basic plot points, so if you want to be spoiler free just go read it yourself. It’s on Amazon Kindle Unlimited now- Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Very early on at the 4% mark, I started telling my family about this book.
“I don’t know what kind of book this is yet, but the moon is about to get hit by an asteroid and everyone on Earth is excited and happy about it,” I said.

That doesn’t seem right. I’m no astrophysicist but it seems to me that the reaction should be closer to the one in the movies Armageddon or Deep Impact.

But, hey, a benefit of the doubt, this could be a dystopian world. Maybe it is not actually our Earth, and there is no need to panic cause we have a Space Force or something.

Nope. There was every need to panic, and all the astronomers in this fictional universe should be ashamed. I mean, no one caught on? Not even a dorky guy with a lot of papers full of evidence? How about a high school teacher whom everyone thought was nuts? He could have driven all the way to DC to meet up with barely disguised fictional President Bush and shouted the alarm.

Anyhow, totally sucked in, and by the time they were all outside at their viewing parties I was chomping at the bit for some chunks of the moon to head our way.

We didn’t get chunks, but we got a much larger closer moon. Which as you may know is not great for the tides. The planet goes berserk. There are tsunamis, volcanoes, storms, and the inevitable flu epidemic and by the time the story is over I was hoping for werewolves. There was also malaria? In Pennsylvania? Hmmm. They get storms and eventually ash from volcanoes far away which is plausible.

The entire thing is in diary form and everydayness is one of the things I liked about it. The world doesn’t end with a bang it goes out with a whimper. Starving to death takes a long time when you’ve got some food. The family dynamics seemed true to real life and the ending although well timed is also in the realm of possibility.

The author seems pretty anti-organized religion and I didn’t like that the only religious figure in the book was a nutcase. I’m guessing that statistically there would be plenty of normal people praying about this situation.

This book will make you want to stock up on canned goods the same way that Dry made me want to bury a water tank in the yard.

I stayed up very late finishing it in hopes of something finally happening or some kind of a twist ending and I’m going to need to stew a bit more before I decide if I’m reading books 2 and 3!!

Sharing My Schedule

. I’m sort of addicted to reading books about simplicity, minimalism, and creativity. My foremost goal is to be intentional with my time. However, until lately I haven’t been practicing those ideals on a daily basis.

Confession: some days I feel like a digital sloth, I can type and scroll my way through an entire day with nothing of substance to show for it. The notifications keep rolling in all the while you multitask between your phone and real life. Then there is that hilarious meme that you know your friends will like so you stop and share that too. Soon 15 minutes are gone, and you’ve forgotten why you picked up the phone in the first place.

Homeschooling one kid after years of homeschooling many, has opened up most of the day for me. It was easy to waste time time on things that did not move me forward. It’s been about 30 days, which experts tell me is long enough to create a new habit. I feel good about our weekday flow and thought I’d share it in case it helps someone else fine tune their time.

The digital age and all its delights crept up on me. As an early adopter of technology I tend to be enthusiastic about jumping into the newest things. Until one day I realized how overwhelming it all is to me. As an introvert interacting almost continually wasn’t great for my creative side.

How about social media? I took the apps off my phone. I do not check email or social media until after breakfast these days. I may drop in during lunch if I have notifications, and I’ll look at my computer before I go upstairs for the night. What do I do standing in lines and waiting rooms?

  • Read or Listen to a book
  • Use Duolingo
  • Write notes to myself
  • Play Words with Friends
  • Text my kids multiple Bitmojis

I’m an early bird who likes extreme quiet. In a house of people who stay up late, I get up before dawn. Some days that is the only peaceful time there is here.

Beginning with the 5 am writers club (check out the Twitter hashtag group if you’d like to get to know other writers) I hit the keyboard running. I do enjoy writing on paper and that may be the next habit I work on, but for now I type. This block of time is creative writing time for me.

7-8 am research: People say that writing is mostly revising, I’d say 40% revising 40% research and 10% actual writing in my case.
Some mornings I have trouble getting started and I’ll research first. I kind of hate it when that happens because once I get writing, I often have a hard time turning the faucet off and I go into overtime. In theory, writing first and researching for tomorrow works best for me.

8 o’clock shower/breakfast: Again, in theory, because I mostly end up showering at 5 and then putting headphones on so my hair dries all weird. #truth Also, if need be I can eat and type.

From 9 am until lunch I put on my other hat of Rental Manager. During a renovation period, this means calls with realtors, contractor types, and driving to Home Depot. During non-renovation/new tenant season I read during this block. I can finish an MG or YA book in one or two days. What about the teen boy? He does his reading, or if I’m working, he goes with me to carry heavy things.

Lunch: Although we have no screens at the table, this is our dedicated brain candy time and Dec and I watch TV together. We’ve watched all of LOST, Revolution, X-Files, 24, lately we’ve been watching Project Blue Book.

1-4 pm – Homeschool: This is a bold move admitting to afternoon school. Hey, it works for us. This is the time that I teach and we discuss all the things. This year I’m using BookShark Level 5 as our history spine and a mishmash of other things that I designed myself.

4-5 pm blog writing: In theory. I do sometimes also write blog posts in the AM, but I know I shouldn’t. My self imposed code tells me that if I ever want my fictional piece or homeschooling book in print, I need to guard that early morning time with my life. In truth, I started this post one morning at 7 am and made myself stop until later. This is a great time to whip out a couple of book reviews, and it doesn’t matter if I get interrupted.

5-6:30 pm dinner prep and dinner: Why must we eat so many times? Cooking is one thing I would sub out if possible. I am teaching the teen how to cook and whenever a grown kid is home I usually ask them to prepare. I’m no foodie if it is there I’ll eat it and be happy I didn’t have to think it up and cook it.

7- 10 pm free time– reading, screen time, and second guessing everything I wrote that morning.

Of course, life intervenes and some days all of this gets mixed up in a different order, or I skip a block entirely. The concept of self-scheduling eluded me for years. I scheduled every one else except myself. It turns out that I thrive in a structured environment also.

Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles (Ronan Boyle #1)


This book is my brand, my spirit animal, my current fave among 2019 releases. It pushes all the buttons on what I look for in a read aloud. Plus, it is a perfect read aloud for this St. Patrick’s Day week! Ronan Boyle, a smallish kid, lives in Ireland. His parents are in prison for a crime that they didn’t commit, and he is basically on his own. At fourteen he is the youngest recruit in the secret Garda, an Irish police force that handles the misdeeds of numerous magical creatures. Let that sink in. Magical creatures are so real that humans have a secret army to control them. Squee! In the telling of this original tale, we get introduced to Leprechauns, Trolls, Unicorns, The Land of Tir Na Nog and all the rules governing these creatures (and more). Some of it seems glaringly obvious, like the fact that of course, leprechauns would have long fancy names.
Other tidbits made sense but didn’t occur to me. (Trolls can eat bad children if they have caused- seems legit)Ronan himself is a delight and takes all of this news in and manages to thrive at work. You’ve never seen me happier to see a (#1 designation in a title) I can’t wait to see what Ronan, his parents, and coworkers are up to next. 

Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles by Thomas Lennon

March 5, 2019

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (A Sal and Gabi Novel, Book 1)

*I’ve got a couple of new release posts that will be running this week; they originally posted when they were just baby ARCs and are now out in the world waiting to be read. Happy Spring Break Reading!*

I was super psyched to get an early read of yet another book from the new Rick Riordan Presents Imprint Series. This story is a little different than most of the mythology-based storylines that I’ve come to expect from this publisher. It’s Snark, Science, and Spanglish- that’s how I sold it to my own 13 yo kid. I loved it so much that I talked him into reading my Kindle copy. I mean I was reading funny parts aloud at the table, in the car waiting for his brother, really everywhere cause once I started reading it, I didn’t want it to end while still powering through getting closer to the end. It’s that way with all great books though. My favorite quote: “Sometimes, when it’s too hard when it hurts too much, only silliness can save us.”So, true. In this novel, Sal and Gabi deal with some substantial, real-life issues and handle it like the most polite well-mannered thirteen years I’ve ever read about. Sal lost his Mom and has diabetes and Gabi’s little brother is very ill. Not to mention the fact that Sal accidentally broke the universe. This is one of those rare books that straddle the MG category. I think eight through thirteen-year-old kids will all get something out of this storyline. Even older since I’m buying it for a possible re-read and because we’re going to want to own the series. We also need to eat more Cuban food- just saying. Also, homeschoolers: you need to explain that this is a fictional school cause it sounds fantastic. Please note that I received a free advance E ARC of this book from NetGalley without a review requirement or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that, I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book. Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos HernandezMarch 5, 2019

Fine Art Adventures: 36 Creative, Hands-On Projects Inspired by Classic Masterpieces

Art is one of those subjects that sometimes slide into oblivion. I’ve found that much like science experiments having the supplies on hand makes it much more likely to be completed. The projects within are explained in simple terms, the materials needed are easy to find, and the resulting projects look amazing.

I especially like the liberal use of tracing paper. This book is not a “learn how to draw” class, and I’m fine with that. The projects included make it easy to use with a variety of ages- I’d say first through 8th grade. Of course, some projects may not appeal to either older or younger students, but most are middle of the road enough to work at home.

If you are driven to complete the entire book in a year that is doable on one project a week. That’s probably not going to happen here although since it’s the beginning of the year, I’m optimistic that it could happen.

I’m debating if I want to complete the book in order or if I want to skip around the art book to make it match up with our history study. There is a cave painting project that would be fun at the beginning of the year, and the tiger diorama just looks fun, and I’d like to make that while we can still paint outside. (Chicago winters aren’t the best for painting shoe boxes in the garage)

The eight chapters cover a particular technique or subject of fine art: Color, Light & Shade, Shape, Black & White, Portraits, Landscapes, Animals, and Myths & Legends. All chapters include a famous work of art, and then the projects emulate or compliment that art.

I’ve written a complete supply list which you can download FREE-on my sidebar.

Fine Art Adventures: 36 Creative, Hands-On Projects Inspired by Classic Masterpieces

Homeschool Notes March 2019

I’d like to welcome all my new readers over to this blog! The focus here will be a bit different as I may post more than normal about homeschooling.

Don’t worry! I’m still doing book reviews. This is a blog/journal of what we are reading and this year we’ve been reading a ton! I wrote a little bit about it over on the Bookshark blog, but here are the the nitty gritty details for you.

We’re in mid week six, seventeen and twenty one in our BookShark Science/History/LA. (We’re going year-round before anyone starts counting on their fingers and freaking out on my behalf)

I had to check because the last few weeks I had started just “doing the next thing” instead of consulting the lesson plans. We were spending an absurd amount of time learning both Math and Latin, and that did not leave a whole lot of mental space for much else. That seemed like a good plan until it did not.

Taking the last few weeks off and putting it all away opened my eyes to the prevailing atmosphere around here which, honestly, was not great. I love Classical Education (need a primer on that term? Check out The Well Trained Mind from your library and then try not to hyperventilate.

I have used that method on and off with my kids for years because every Summer I talk myself into thinking we will be super academic and for some of my kids, I was right during that specific season of learning. Many times I was not right. At least I do not beat a dead horse.

Confession: sometimes I get bored. I have taught all the grades five times now, and mixing it up with something new is just what I need. Whatever the reason, if you feel like you need to change things up in your home then you should seriously think about it.

My current 13 yo loves memorization. Like he memorizes random lists and facts for fun, he loved the idea of having several subjects worth of flashcards and in his words “hard work.” We are in week Nineteen in all those classical subjects, but it is a slog. I am not in any way saying that school should not be work, but it also should retain a “delight” factor, and we lost that somewhere. We finished both the Science and American History books and were more relieved than satisfied.

To be fair, its an odd year for us, we are still grieving the loss of my father in law and settling in a new house/town, then I needed surgery. We did not get a ton of school done last Spring/Summer either as our entire family participated in full-time caregiving.


This is my show to run, and I take responsibility for any misdirection, luckily I did know that we were going to need more books than the four included in our other curriculum. I ordered Bookshark last Fall and planned on using it at half speed as a deluxe Geography program with a set of awesome readers.

I am not a stranger to the literature based method as we used Sonlight with our older kids for many years. I hardly ever purchased a full core from them, because I resented buying the Bible section that we would not use. So BookShark was a breath of fresh air where I can order the entire level with one click. I don’t know if I will, but I could.

At first, I did not understand the BookShark Language Arts study, it seemed like it jumped around too much and since we were getting plenty of grammar in Latin, I let it slide a bit. We did the dictation and some of the writing. I yanked an old copy of Writing With Ease Level 4 off my shelf, and we worked through the remaining lessons in there to build up some confidence by practicing dictation daily.


This month we are ready to tackle some storytelling, so we began the BookShark LA again with the two-week Animal Story project. He loves studying animals and reading nonfiction so it is the perfect topic for my kid. We also drew a comic strip- stick figures and all! I have dialed some of the assignments way down, but overall it is a win for us at this point.

Science takes no time at all and yet the material is engaging and so far (fingers crossed) the experiments are working well.

In History/Geo we are reading about The Middle East in our Journey’s to the Eastern Hemisphere book. Our read aloud is Daughter of the Mountains and all is well here at The Viking Academy.

I’d love to hear about your school year. Comments are always welcome!

Our Reading Nook: March 1, 2019

This week was filled with our Kindles and Audible books. Therefore, I didn’t get to take any of my pictures. Our school books are mostly real, but I didn’t want to take photos of them. Also, I’m not linking to the books anywhere; you all can copy and paste the titles into your library search engine.

I read some DRCs:

The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times to Live by Heather B. Armstrong
Release date- April 23, 2019

I don’t generally read “mommy blogs” so I wasn’t familiar with Heather at all. I accepted the advance copy because so many people in my family suffer from depression and I thought that reading her profoundly personal story might give me a clearer picture of what life is like at the bottom of the depression pit. It’s not great, even if you have family support and money. Heather is pretty funny about the entire situation in a believable way.
Overall I’d say that it’s an important book to help people understand the utter helplessness and hopelessness of depression and the extent that Heather was willing to endure to get better.

**** try your library for it; it’s a quick read and not one I would keep for a re-read.

The Oxford Illustrated History of the World
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

March 10, 2019

I grabbed this DRC simply because I’m on the lookout for a new World History Spine. (For the homeschoolers out there I’m looking for an overview, with Science at a more difficult reading level than say the Kingfisher that I’ll use in high school for an overview course.) The problem being it is pretty difficult getting a good feel for the illustrations on my Kindle. That said, I think I have a winner. I’ll check it out of the library in a couple weeks and let you know for sure. Beginning with the Ice Age and ending in the present with global warming it appears to be well researched as most books coming out of the Oxford University press are.
 It looks at the rise and fall of ages and empires, the growth and evolution of culture, science, religion, and the arts, and present-day changes to political and social behaviors- in short, it is exactly what I was hoping to find.

The Secret Wisdom of Nature
Peter Wohlleben, Jane Billinghurst
March 5, 2019

Super duper interesting topic. Srsly. Why Deer taste bad to Trees? This is nature study like I’ve never read it before. Readable yet meaty all at once. I read a chapter at a time and then digested before beginning the next topic. In the intro, the authors compare nature to running like a clock. If you take it apart and then end up with spare parts that don’t quite fit back anywhere- you end up with problems like wolves in the U.S. today. It’s a book-length study of interconnections between animals, plants, and humans.
I’m thinking of buying it as a gift for several people in my life this year. I may also use it as part of our homeschool nature study later on.

In the world of Homeschool and Fun Reading/Viewing, My 13yo gave his permission for me to list his books here too:

Scythe by Neal Shusterman (on Audible) (for fun)
Henry Reed Inc. by Keith Robertson (part of our Bookshark curriculum)
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling

During our lunch breaks, we watched Contact (brought on by the mention of prime numbers and our upcoming Spring Astronomy study) and The Black Panther (because we wanted to check out the costumes after they won an award this week and because we are studying The Periodic Table in Science and chatted about Vibranium.) Screen time during the day is one of the perks of homeschooling only one kid.