The second book in the Mercy Falls trilogy is nearly as moving as the first.

The second book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series begins as Sam remains a human enjoying his time with Grace as much as he can. In Linger, we hear much more often from Sam than Grace, as well as from Isabel and a newcomer, Cole, who turns out to not only be one of the wolves Beck had changed in book one, Shiver—but he’s not without his problems.

Grace’s “missing” friend who is really a turned wolf, managing the new wolves Beck infected—including two rock stars—and dealing with Grace’s dubious parents are all on Sam’s plate this year, as is the fact that brilliant Grace is ready for college while he is still getting used to the idea of living as a human for the rest of his life.

Another contention to deal with in this book is Isabel’s father, who wants to kill as many of the wolves as possible after the death of his son. But the main issue in the book is really Grace’s mysterious illness, which is burning her up and eventually bleeding her out.The book is still quite moving and well written, and there are still lots of mystery, romance, and a bit of horror to keep fans entertained. But I was disappointed with the level of romance here. The tenderness between Sam—whom, I still believe, might be based on Supernatural’s Sam Winchester due to his soulfulness and gorgeousness—and Grace still remains, but Sam just doesn’t seem as worried about Grace as he should be. You won’t find the horrible mental and physical abuse you’ll unfortunately find in so many other YA romances these days, thank God, but Sam’s avoidance of that—plus his reluctance to be responsible for the new wolves—made me think a little less of him. It just seemed out of character, even though I know he was doing some self-preservation as well as wanting to wish both away.

In the end, there is a big twist that leads into the third book, which I’m now reading. So far it’s very intriguing, and the tone remains constant as ever—poetic and dreamlike without being too far out of reality, with plenty of realism and real issues woven in. Once I’m finished with this series, I plan on reading everything by this writer’s gorgeous voice, and I would recommend all that I’ve read so far to anyone interested in lovely writing and supernatural, yet natural prose.

Making Spells and Charms: A Practical Guide to Simple Spellweaving

It’s cute, but will it work?

Digging through some old boxes of books to donate for our upcoming yard sale, I ran across a copy of Making Spells and Charms: A Practical Guide to Simple Spellweaving by Sally Morningstar. I had completely forgotten about this book; indeed, I can’t even remember when or where I purchased it. It is a gorgeous book, however, with full photos and a very Harry Potter-esque feel. With that said, does its aesthetic quality really mean it’s a useful book in any form of pagan rites?

In a word, I would say yes. As with any magic, I truly feel like anything that you incorporate must be meaningful to you; so if anything within this book is meaningful to you—or if you can pattern something meaningful for yourself out of any of the rituals in this book, which I think most pagans can do—then sure, it’s going to be quite helpful. It’s also got plenty of ideas you can use not just in spellwork, but also in decorating, I think!Morningstar goes through several important aspects of spell casting at the beginning of the book, such as energy breathing, grounding, and preparation prior to doing spells. Everyone is different, so this should not be taken as “What You Have to Do!” Morningstar’s pledge to harm none, though helpful and definitely worthy of use, may not be for everyone, either; I don’t mean that you shouldn’t harm anyone, but that you may have a personal invocation to utilize instead that is more meaningful for you, in which case you should definitely use it instead.

I do appreciate Morningstar’s full color photos of both ritual items as well as a person smudging, giving offerings, and participating in other rituals; could you imagine what it would have been like with such resources a few decades ago, when such practices were merely whispered about? I remember first starting out as a pagan in my teens, trying to pronounce words like “athame” and wishing I’d had someone to help, or at least visuals—and that was still during a time when there were lots of resources available. Books like this can be exceptionally helpful.

That said, I would caution people to not only read books like this one on their path toward paganism. I would recommend a wide variety (particularly anything by Scott Cunningham, my favorite pagan author, who puts everything into easy-to-read format) of material before you decide on this course for your life, for sure. Timothy Roderick’s Wicca: A Year and a Day is a great tool to use to help you decide for sure.

What Your First Grader Needs to Know

Fundamentals of a Good First-Grade Education

Though my little girl will be in first grade in a technical sense by summer, I have already started compiling a few resources for her. I continue compiling games and resources daily, really, but after checking out What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know and feeling like it had something to contribute to my daughter’s daily adventures, I decided to go ahead and purchase What Your First Grader Needs to Know. It was only a few cents, and it’s full of information that she will be able to use as an easy reference guide in the coming months.

First Grader picks up where Kindergartener left off, building upon—and even reviewing—some of the different concepts and materials presented in the previous book. (I actually had forgotten about it, but there is also a preschool version you can purchase as well, which sets up the skills that are in the K book.) You’ll find just as many, if not more, stories, poetry, and fables, though this time around the focus is more on fairy tales and less on nursery rhymes. I love the fact that various cultures are also included, such as a story about Anansi. (When my daughter is older, if she shares my affinity for Neil Gaiman—and I am betting that she will!—she’ll probably enjoy Anansi Boys as well!)

As with the Kindergarten version of the book, it didn’t seem to have much focus on art, though there were many different songs and musical elements to discus in the text. Instrument families and other components of an orchestra are includes, as well as songs from “Skip to My Lou” to “La Cucaracha.” Different types of music, from jazz to dramatic operas, are also discussed.

The math curriculum covers just about as much material as the previous book, from numbers to money to geometry, but the science section seems to have much more to learn, such as the human body (one of my daughter’ s favorite subjects), electricity, astronomy, matter, and more. I am particularly excited about this section since we got our first telescope for Christmas, though I wish that there were more female scientists profiled. Rachel Carson is profiled, which is great—but all three of the other science heroes are men.

Overall, parents can expect the same thing from this text as they did in the previous one. It’s simple to use and pick and choose from, and I am sure we will find it handy in the months to come.