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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Continued Look at the Nomads in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Let's continue our evaluation of the nomad vampires in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide. Charles and Makenna are an interesting pair of nomads. They both chose to become vampires; Charles to stay with Makenna forever, and Makenna to follow with her family’s tradition. They felt that having a vampire in the family was a way to stay safe and prosperous. Every other century, someone from the family would be chosen to join “Uncle Luca” as family protectors. Makenna was one of these chosen individuals. Interestingly enough, Renata was a previously chosen member of the family who was later adopted into the Volturi clan. We meet her more closely in Breaking Dawn. Renata was who asked Charles and Makenna to come and “witness” on behalf of the Volturi when it was suspected that Renesemee was an immortal child. Once it was shown that she was not, Charles and Makenna chose not to stay with the Volturi.

Have you read The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide yet? What’s your opinion?

Complete book review of The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide:

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide is here!

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide (Review and Opinions, Part Two)

Third Day's Thoughts on The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Day Four of Reading The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide - The Volturi Guard

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide (Inside the Volturi lair, then South to visit the Amazon Coven)

From Twilight to Breaking Dawn: Religious Themes in the Twilight Saga

Discovering Alaska in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Exploring the Egyptian Coven in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Journey to Ireland with The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

James, Victoria, and Laurent in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Mexican Coven in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Seattle Newborns in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

A Few More Newborn Vampires in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Romanians in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Nomads in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Questionnaire to Evaluate Your Level of Addiction


If you’ve never read the Twilight series, check out these other Twilight books, music, and movies:

Twilight
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
The Twilight Saga Complete Collection
The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide
Twilight: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
The Twilight Saga: New Moon: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
Twilight Soundtrack
Twilight: the Score
New Moon Soundtrack
New Moon: the Score
Eclipse Soundtrack
Eclipse: the Score
Twilight DVD
The Twilight Saga: New Moon DVD
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Christmas Ideas to Help Stimulate the Economy…in the United States!

This year start a new tradition of gift giving by thinking local. Instead of spending money on something that is manufactured in some other country, look for ways to stimulate a small business or local service. Here are some ideas to get you started. Feel free to comment and add your own ideas.

Gift certificate to local hair salon or barber

Gym membership

Gift certificate to local car detailer or car wash

Gift certificate for a one-hour massage at your favorite massage therapist (this should be a gift you need to give yourself too! Most chiropractor's offices now have massage therapists on staff-go get one!)

Lawn mowing service, one time spring clean-up or if you’re a big spender how about a whole summer contract for a loved-one

Snow plowing service, one time or a winter-long contract

Gift certificate to a small owner-run restaurant

Gift certificate for a round of golf at a local golf course

Gift certificate for an oil change at a local service station

Gift certificate for a cleaning service to do a spring cleaning or a carpet cleaning

Check out area craft shows and find artists who spin their own wool and knit them into scarves, make their own jewelry, candles, pottery, or (my personal favorite!) jams and jellies!

Plan your holiday outings at locally-owned restaurants and (as you should always do!) leave your server a nice hefty tip!

Gift certificate to a play or ballet at your local hometown theater

Gift certificate to a concert for a local band or orchestra

Always leave a little gift for your mail carrier – he or she works extra hard this time of year!

Have a favorite babysitter? Make it a point to go someplace special (take your pick from the list above!) and hire your favorite babysitter at a special holiday rate. He or she will appreciate the extra money when it’s their turn to do their shopping!

Most books are printed in the United States, pick your favorite author and give a novel as a gift

Have a pet lover in the family? How about a gift certificate to their favorite groomer

Now that we’ve stimulated the economy, let’s see what we can do to help the rest of the world! Pick your favorite local charity and give them a nice cash donation. Next, pick your favorite national and/or international charity and give them a nice cash donation too! Find an ‘angel tree’ and pick a name, talk to a local school and see if they have a program where they collect items to give to poor families, or serve meals at a local soup kitchen. Try to get the whole family involved. It will be a memory they will treasure far more than anything that you could have wrapped with a bow!

Above all, have a safe holiday season and may the true spirit of Christmas be ever in your hearts, this year and always!

I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How to Study! Tips on Studying for Tests in High School and College

One of the most important things to do is start right away. As soon as you get an assignment or find out what day a test is scheduled, start studying. Get organized with the tools needed such as paper, pencils, pens, highlighter markers, a quiet place to study. Now this should only take a few minutes. Don’t let planning to study interfere with actually studying. However, if you take a few minutes to plan you will study smarter.

For this unique study tip, you'll need three colored pens: a red, blue, and black.

When I was in college, I developed a cool technique that really helped me excel at studying. I put myself in the position of the teacher. As I read through the chapters and my notes from class I thought about what questions I would ask if I were the teacher. For example: If the notes or book said “Chlorophyll is the part of a plant cell that traps light and is used to produce food for the plant” I would make my own notes in reverse. I would take a black pen and write “What is Chlorophyll?” Then I would take a blue pen and write “The part of a plant cell that traps light and is used to produce food”. In a way I was writing my own test and then I would cover up the answers and try to take the test. I would take a red pen and correct my own test. If I could memorize all the facts and pass my own test, I usually did really well on the teacher’s test.

To take it a step further, I used to type up my questions without the answers and press print, then take my own test over and over. I usually got a really crappy grade the first time I took my own 'test' but after about the second or third time I would get an okay grade. I never got an A on my own test, because they were too hard. By the time I took the teacher's test, it felt easy in comparison.

Something about the process of writing it all out, typing it up, filling in the answers, checking it with a red pen (including crossing out what I got wrong and writing in the correct answer) and then giving myself a grade at the top of the paper was really helpful. If you are an auditory learner, it might also help you to read everything out loud as you're doing this.

Something I don't recommend is using a highlighter as you go through your books and notes. They are a crutch that don't usually work for anything useful. I also don't recommend reading the whole chapter and then going through to take notes; you'll never go back.

Do this technique as you're reading through the text for the first time. Try to summarize at least every paragraph with a question, but many paragraphs will have several questions.

I know this sounds like it takes a long time, but it actually doesn't when you consider that you've streamlined your studying to make everything you read very purposeful. You will never have to 're-read' your notes, unless you really want to. Do this with your notes from class as soon after class as you can (or even while you're in class, if the professor is droning on and on about something useless). The sooner you do this, the easier it will be. So do this with your notes from class and your textbook readings. It helped me so much! Good luck!

Are you familiar with the three learning styles? Auditory, Visual, and Kinesthetic? Good thing to learn about because if you know your learning style you can adjust your studying to reflect your learning style!


Here are some books and supplies that might help you!

What's My Style?: Test and Study Secrets for Procrastinating Teens

Seven Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences

So Each May Learn: Integrating Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

Bic Ultra Round Stic Grip Pens (my personal favorite!)

I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part One: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion

Check it out! The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part One: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion is now available for pre-order! It will be released December 13th 2011.



If you’ve never read the Twilight series, check out these other Twilight books, music, and movies:

Twilight
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
The Twilight Saga Complete Collection
The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide
Twilight: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
The Twilight Saga: New Moon: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
Twilight Soundtrack
Twilight: the Score
New Moon Soundtrack
New Moon: the Score
Eclipse Soundtrack
Eclipse: the Score
Twilight DVD
The Twilight Saga: New Moon DVD
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer

The Nomads in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Stephanie Meyer goes into greater detail about the Nomad Vampires in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide. They are such minor characters in the Twilight Saga that their character development is minimal. Makenna is probably the most interesting of them. She comes from a long family tradition of having vampires as protectors. Every other century one of her family members was chosen to become one of those protectors. She was honored and resigned to the fact that she had been chosen…until she met Charles. Charles was a law student in Barcelona when they met and fell in love. Because Makenna didn’t want to give up Charles or her heritage, he decided to join her and become a vampire. They live together as mates, but still visit Makenna’s family often.

Peter and Charlotte are another couple of nomads who travel as mates. Their stories are shared by Jasper in Eclipse, but not well developed. They were both transformed by Maria during the time when she was creating her newborn army. Peter was Jasper’s assistant in babysitting the newborns and he developed a close relationship with Charlotte. When Jasper was ready to ‘dispose’ of the vampires who were no longer of interest to him, Peter and Charlotte ran away together. Very few other details are shared about their physical characteristics and backgrounds. Peter is tall, Charlotte is petite. They enjoy travelling alone, but welcomed Jasper into their little coven for a short period of time. One tidbit that was not shared in Eclipse was that Charlotte was tempted to join up with Alice and Jasper to make a coven of four, but Alice’s dietary restrictions stopped her.

Have you read The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide yet? What’s your opinion?

Complete book review of The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide:

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide is here!

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide (Review and Opinions, Part Two)

Third Day's Thoughts on The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Day Four of Reading The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide - The Volturi Guard

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide (Inside the Volturi lair, then South to visit the Amazon Coven)

From Twilight to Breaking Dawn: Religious Themes in the Twilight Saga

Discovering Alaska in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Exploring the Egyptian Coven in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Journey to Ireland with The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

James, Victoria, and Laurent in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Mexican Coven in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Seattle Newborns in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

A Few More Newborn Vampires in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Romanians in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Questionnaire to Evaluate Your Level of Addiction


If you’ve never read the Twilight series, check out these other Twilight books, music, and movies:

Twilight
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
The Twilight Saga Complete Collection
The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide
Twilight: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
The Twilight Saga: New Moon: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
Twilight Soundtrack
Twilight: the Score
New Moon Soundtrack
New Moon: the Score
Eclipse Soundtrack
Eclipse: the Score
Twilight DVD
The Twilight Saga: New Moon DVD
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Review of The Host by Stephanie Meyer



I just finished reading The Host by Stephanie Meyer, and I had a hard time putting it down! That’s pretty typical of me when I’m reading a good book. I was apprehensive about reading it. Although I’ve loved every book from The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer, the first time I picked up The Host I was less than impressed. I was standing alone in a bookstore in a mall and flipped through it. It didn’t look like anything I wanted to read. I asked others who have read it what they thought of it, and I kept hearing similar responses; if you can get through the first couple of chapters, you’ll love it.

I disagree with the people who have told me that the first few chapters are boring! They are background information, yes. But, they are the foundation for the story. When watching movies, I pay very close attention to the first five minutes. I can almost always predict the ending of a movie based on that alone. I’m always impressed by a movie that can stump me and cause me to not be able to predict the ending. That’s probably why I like M. Night Shyamalan movies so much. They always have a twist at the end! I didn't think that The Host had any real twist. What I did find was that it is a good idea to re-read the first few chapters after you’ve gotten to about chapter seven. You will have ingested a great deal of information at that point, and it will help to make it more understandable. I will tell you…things get a little romantic after that! That being said, and knowing most of you won’t re-read those chapters, I’ll give you some tidbits that might help clarify some things:

When they refer to a Soul, these are the ‘aliens’ that have been inserted into human bodies. At the start of the book, there are very few humans left on earth who do not have one of these aliens inserted into their bodies. The few that are left are on the run, scared of the aliens, have watched their fellow humans taken over; they are very much alone. Among the Souls, a Healer is the equivalent of a doctor, a Seeker is roughly like a police officer who is charged with finding leftover humans and giving them a Soul, and a Comforter is like a counselor or therapist. Soul’s have strange names that represent something about how they lived prior to coming to this (human) host body. Wanderer (the main character) was named such because she has lived now on six other planets but has not chosen to stay on any of them after her host body died. At the beginning of the book, she is ‘inserted’ into the body of a woman named Melanie. Melanie is one of the few remaining humans on earth, and is considered by the Souls to be an insurgent. They think she is one of many who are living in hiding and plotting against the Souls. The reason the Souls insert Wanderer into Melanie’s body is to try to glean information from Melanie’s memories, and hope that it will lead them to the insurgency. In reality, Melanie has lived on her own with just her little brother and her boyfriend, and is not part of a larger group. She was caught by the Souls while trying to locate her cousin, who she thinks is still human. In this respect, she is of little help to the Souls. Or is she…

There were several interesting themes to The Host. One of which, the ‘end of civilization’ theme reminds me of The Hunger Games in a way. The way the Souls operate is like collective thinking. It reminds me of how we think of the pre-mortal existence and/or the stories from the Garden of Eden. There is no betrayal or loyalty, the concept had no meaning. Kind of like in the absence of choice there is no good or evil. Everyone is perfectly honest. They don’t pay for things with money; they scan the items just to take ‘inventory.’ They have unity; they’re all working together collectively in perfect harmony toward one goal. However, they are only in harmony with each other, not with humans.

At one point in the book, Wanderer realizes that she is not social, which is not normal among her kind. She ponders that this may be why she has constantly left host planets and gone on to a different planet. She wonders if this planet (earth) has changed her…or revealed her for what she really is.

One quote I really liked was on pages 96-97 “I allowed myself to see the prison that was life without a body. To be carried inside but unable to influence the shape around you. To be trapped. To have no choices.” It reminds me of why we (as human souls) came to earth (to obtain a body), yet what Wanderer is really referring to is how Melanie must feel living inside the body that now belongs to her. Melanie is stuck there and now has no choice what happens to her. Normally a host body does not still contain the ‘spirit’ of the human it once held; it is merely a shell. Wanderer is confused to find that she can communicate with Melanie, and that makes the difference of how she relates to her host body compared to how the rest of her species relates to theirs.

Just when I thought I hated the way The Host ended...it changed. It didn't end. It kept going. Several more chapters in fact. I loved the ending, and I can see why Stephanie may someday write a sequel. Did you know that she's considering that? I saw an interview a while back where she mentioned that. She also knows how The Twilight Saga continues. But that's a story for another day...


My favorite M. Night Shyamalan movies:
The Sixth Sense

Signs

The Village


If you’ve never read the Twilight series, check out these other Twilight books, music, and movies:

Twilight
The Twilight Saga: New Moon
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner
The Twilight Saga Complete Collection
The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide
Twilight: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
The Twilight Saga: New Moon: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
Twilight Soundtrack
Twilight: the Score
New Moon Soundtrack
New Moon: the Score
Eclipse Soundtrack
Eclipse: the Score
Twilight DVD
The Twilight Saga: New Moon DVD
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer

Monday, August 22, 2011

Confessions from Inside a Bipolar Mania

I just got home from seeing my psychiatrist. I knew that would get your attention! My doctor is amazing. He sees things that others don’t. Where others see a happy-go-lucky girl who’s bouncing off the walls with excitement and grinning from ear to ear, he sees a woman who is at the high point of a mania episode. He has also seen me at my worst, on the other end of the spectrum.

I have the opportunity to see him every three months whether I need to or not just to get a refill on my prescription, which I would not live without if you forced me to! I always get a kick out of the way no one in the reception room is willing to look one another in they eye. It’s as if they are morbidly embarrassed to be seen in a counseling office. Having a mental illness is nothing to feel embarrassed of; it’s something to get treatment for. You wouldn’t hesitate to sit in your physician’s office for an annual check-up, or to treat a really bad sinus infection. Why not go to your psychiatrist or therapist to help get through an equally, if not more so, debilitating condition?

I have Bipolar Disorder. There, now you know. Many of my friends and family already know that about me and just brush off my occasional irrational behavior. Most people see me in my ‘up’ stages, and only my family ever sees me in my ‘down’ cycles. Part of that is due to the fact that my depressive cycles tend to primarily happen late at night, but the main reason is that I'm now so well controlled by medication that most people probably don't even realize that I have issues. I have been known to have moderate anxiety attacks (which are different physiologically from panic attacks by the way, but that’s a completely different topic of conversation), and have also been found curled in a ball in the corner of the bathroom crying uncontrollably. Thankfully, you (as the reader of this article) will probably never see me in that state. What you will probably see is someone who can’t sit still if I try, rarely sleeps enough hours, and is always having grandiose ideas that rarely come to fruition.

Today, I was excited to tell my doctor all about the novel that I just wrote. He politely asked me all the right questions about the plot and characters, and what my plans were for the book’s future. I made sure to reassure him that I recognize that it is most likely to be rejected by the publishing companies, and that I have mentally prepared for that. No one wants me to crash into depression because I expect the book to be published with no road blocks. Statistically, it is highly unlikely to ever get published, and I’m aware of that. That doesn’t mean I can’t hope.

You know what he was most concerned with? That I wasn’t getting enough sleep! He’s right, of course; I’m not getting enough sleep. I write in my sleep. I wake up half way through the night sometimes and go downstairs to turn the computer back on so that I can get my thoughts ‘on paper’ so to speak. He explained to me that not sleeping will negatively affect my ability to control the mania (which he clearly recognized) and make it that much more difficult to handle the inevitable crash. So, once again, he is an invaluable addition to my life. If you suspect that you have any type of mental illness, please, take my advice and see a psychiatrist or therapist. Trust me on this one. And I will make this promise to you: I will try to sleep…as soon as I’m done writing this next novel.

Need advice on Bipolar Disorder or Mental Illnesses? Check out these books:

The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide, Second Edition: What You and Your Family Need to Know
Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder
Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder: A 4-Step Plan for You and Your Loved Ones to Manage the Illness and Create Lasting Stability


Friday, July 8, 2011

First Kiss...excerpt from The Cove

“You’re not wearing your engagement ring,” Todd’s statement held a little sarcasm, but more curiosity than anything. Gail was standing in the doorway, still dripping wet from swimming. Todd handed her a towel.

“I can’t swim with it on,” Gail replied, wrapping the towel around her and trying to stop the majority of the water from hitting the floor before it made too much of a mess in his kitchen. “Could you imagine if I lost it? Ugh. That would be awful.”

“Yeah, your fianc√© must have spent a lot of money on it.”

“Why are you being so sarcastic tonight?” she asked, heading for the bathroom. He didn’t answer her question, just walked back over to the kitchen counter where he’d been making smoothies.

“Do you want bananas in it?” he asked, calling to her over his shoulder.

“Of course,” she called back through the bathroom door. She was getting way too comfortable at his house. She laid her swimsuit across the tub, changed into the clothes he'd laid out for her, and wrapped the towel around her head. He was just finishing with the blender when she opened the bathroom door. He handed her a glass with a big straw stuck into it like he always did. She collapsed onto the sofa, tucking her legs up under her. It was too warm for a fire in the fireplace, so the room seemed very quiet.

Todd sat down on the chair across the room. The cottage wasn’t big enough for the space between them to be very far, but the point was clear. He didn’t want to sit next to her. He sipped his smoothie and said the last thing she would have expected.

“Did you know that I’m rich?”

“What?” she asked, sitting up a little.

“Yeah, I’m very wealthy. Probably more so even than your dad.”

“What are you talking about?” she demanded. She shook her hair down from the towel and looked up at him. “And where did this come from?” She didn’t mean, where did the money come from. She meant, why were they having this conversation. But he answered the other way.

“My parents left me a lot of money when they died,” he sat back and looked at her, a little smug.

“So,” it was more a question than a statement.

“So, after I sold their house up in South Bend, I had even more money.”

“Was it a…big house?” she asked, kind of glancing around at the small cottage where they were sitting. Her voice had dropped almost to a whisper.

“Really big. This is the cottage they would come to in order to ‘get away from the corporate world’ as my dad liked to say.”

“Okay…so why are we having this conversation?” she asked him, more directly this time.

“All I’m saying is that I’m not impressed with the fancy ring, and the fancy guy you’re supposedly engaged to.”

“Todd,” she sat forward a little, not really meaning to, it just sort of happened. “I like you the way you are. You don’t have to be rich, or poor, or anything in between. I just like you.”

“But you love him, right?”

Gail stumbled with an answer, not really sure what he was implying. No…knowing exactly what he was implying. Her breathing quickened again, and she wasn’t thinking about Stephan at all. She was thinking about Todd. She’d been thinking about Todd for a long time. Way more than she was willing to admit to herself. She looked away from him and got up off the couch. She walked to the sliding glass door and looked out into the night, out toward the cove. She couldn’t really see much, with the lights on inside the house, and no prominant moon outside. For a minute, she stared at her own reflection and took a drink of her smoothie absentmindedly.

Suddenly, he was there behind her. He took her drink from her hand and set it down on the table. His hands wrapped around her waist and his face came down to her neck. She felt him kiss her very gently and she melted back into his arms. It was the most amazing feeling she’d ever felt.

There was that yearning inside of her that she’d been waiting for all these years. She knew it now. She felt it now. It became very clear that if she married Stephan, she was making the biggest mistake of her life, of her existence. He gently took her shoulders and turned her around. His hands reached up to her face and lifted it to his. He kissed her once, twice, very softly. She almost fell over. She closed her eyes and let him hold her like that for a long moment, his face just inches from hers. She could feel his warm breath, and knew that his breathing was faster than normal. Hers was too. When she opened her eyes, he was looking down at her, searching her eyes for the answer he knew was there. She didn’t love Stephan, and he knew it. She loved Todd, and he knew that too.

“I’m going to take you home now, okay?”

“Okay,” her voice was no more than a whisper. He let go of her shoulders and she practically stumbled to the bathroom to change. She didn’t want to give him back the clothes. They smelled like him. He drove her home in silence and she trudged up the hill, grabbing her shorts and t-shirt from where she'd left them by the seawall, and carrying her sandals. She didn’t make it to the house before she collapsed onto the grass at the edge of the lowest terrace. From there, she could look across the cove and saw the lights from his cottage. She listened for his truck as he drove along the coastline, probably going too fast for the tight curves of the road. She waited long enough that he had probably arrived home. A few minutes later, she saw a light shut off in the kitchen. The light in the living room didn’t turn off for a long time. She wondered how long she’d been sitting there.

Read the first chapter of The Cove here: Excerpt from The Cove: Chapter One

Read the next excerpt from The Cove here: The Funeral

My next novel, The Farmer's Daughter is almost complete! Check out an excerpt:
Excerpt from The Farmer's Daughter...I told you that I tip well

I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Disclaimer for The Cove

Note: This disclaimer may be part of my novel called The Cove. This will probably appear at the beginning of the book. I don’t know if you would call it a forward or a disclaimer or what. At just after three a.m. last night, I finally stopped writing (not that the book is done-don’t get your hopes too high, I was just tired), turned off my computer and crawled into bed. Then I laid there thinking about these words. I almost got back out of bed to write this down. At six this morning, I almost got up again. At eight, I finally couldn’t stand it any longer. I felt prompted to write this. It reflects some things I spoke to a friend about on the phone yesterday afternoon. I’m not very good about sharing my thoughts out loud, so it’s best if I write them down. This isn’t perfect, and will probably be edited many times prior to it being published alongside the novel. But it’s a start. I hope this helps my readers. Thanks, Julie

Dear Reader,

If you are not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, parts of this book may be confusing to you. So I’d like to take a moment to explain of few things. If you are a member of the church, there is information in here for you too, so keep reading.

All of the characters in this book are members of our church (commonly called Mormons). Because of this, they tend to speak to one another using phrases and nuances that are pretty exclusive to the church. One of the main themes of The Cove is centered around our temples. Throughout the book the characters will just call them the temple. What they really mean is that you could substitute any one of our temples' names in place thereof (134 temples are in operation worldwide as of December 2010). The Salt Lake City Temple in Utah is probably our most famous one, but the people in this book live in the South-Eastern United States and thus are more familiar with temples like the Atlanta or Orlando temples.

Our temples are very special for a couple of reasons. The ordinances that we perform in the temple are very sacred, and speaking about them is handled with reverence. There are two main things that I want to mention, Endowments, and Sealings. Whenever an adult member of the church is prepared, he or she will go to the temple and make covenants, or promises to obey God’s commandments in return for God’s blessings. Most of these promises and blessings are the same as what God made to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, so I encourage you to read the book of Gensesis in your Bible. Going to the temple to receive endowments is something that people are required to do before serving as full-time missionaries or before being married in the temple. The covenants and promises are sacred and special and they are not to be taken lightly. If someone breaks a promise to you, it would upset you. When you break a promise to Heavenly Father, it breaks his heart. Some of the most important promises we make to God are to stay clean, pure, and chaste. You’ll see later in the book how this comes into play.

When we are married and sealed in the temple, we are married longer than ‘till death do us part’ but for eternity. We believe, as many religions believe, that there is a heaven and that we will return to live with God. We also believe that if we are sealed to our spouse, we will be together forever. That is why we as latter-day saints make it our goal to be sealed in the temple. It’s not as easy as it sounds. There are so many pressures and temptations in the world that distract us from this goal. For many people who grow up in the church, the phrases ‘married in the temple’ and ‘sealed in the temple’ tend to be synonymous. They are not. For example, if a person is already married to their spouse and later decides to be sealed in the temple, they can go and perform that ordinance. Because of the seriousness of the commitments that we make in the temple, a couple must have been married for at least a year and be morally prepared to enter the temple. Sometimes, it’s a long process. But we feel that it is worth it. Very worth it.

One of the couples in this book makes a series of very bad choices that prevent them from being worthy to enter the temple. As you’ll see, the pain and guilt that this causes them becomes a central theme to the book. But, as Christians we believe that we can be offered forgiveness through the atoning sacrifices of our Savior Jesus Christ. Not one of us in the world is perfect. Many times we look at others and think that they have it all together; that their life runs along smoothly with no problems. It’s just not true, and I’m not going to gloss over that just for the sake of writing a book. Just because the characters in this book are fictitious, doesn’t mean that they don’t live real lives. They require repentance and forgiveness just like the rest of us.

Repentance is another huge theme in The Cove. I never meant for this book to sound ‘preachy’ and I hope that you don’t see it that way. With relation to the Gospel, the repentance process is more than just apologizing for poor choices; it’s more than just saying you’re sorry. For starters, it involves recognizing that you’ve done something wrong. For all the little things we do wrong on a daily basis, this isn’t all that difficult. Like most Christian churches, we believe that when we are baptized we are washed clean from our sins. When we take the Sacrament, or Communion, each week at church, it is like we are remembering the covenants we made at baptism and that we are once again washed clean. But when we have committed a very serious sin, it is like we are not ready to be washed clean. It is not that we are not worthy to be forgiven; Jesus promised that we would all be forgiven. It’s more like we are not ready yet to forgive ourselves. That’s where confession comes into play. We can confess our sins to Heavenly Father through prayer, but for some grievous errors we need to confess to our priesthood authorities. For a larger congregation, or Ward, this person would be known as a Bishop. In a smaller congregation, called a Branch, there would be a Branch President. Confessing our sins is like taking a load off of our shoulders and allowing Jesus to carry our burden. He’s already promised us that He will; it’s just a matter of us letting go and allowing Him that chance.

But, enough of the serious stuff. The characters in The Cove have a lot of fun also. The four main characters that start off the book are college age. There are a lot of neat programs that our church offers that a specifically geared for this age level. Our Young Single Adult (or YSA) programs are designed to give people 18-30 years old a chance to get together for dances and other activities in order to mingle and have fun in a less-formal setting. We also have Institute of Religion classes (or Institute for short) where the college kids get together once a week for a little gospel study session. It’s a more formal class with an actual lesson and manual, but still a lot of fun.

There are a few terms that you may want to familiarize yourself with. I don’t want to create a glossary for you to read, but here are some of the things you should know. We don’t have any paid ministry in the church, so every job or chore that needs to be done is handled through a series of ‘callings’. From the nursery leader, to the Bishop, and right up to the Prophet; every person coming together to do their part makes for an important connection and helps things run smoothly. The ‘Priesthood’ could take up its own paragraph to explain. I’ll suffice it to say that men and boys in the church are offered the opportunity to serve by being called to offices within the Priesthood. All men who are missionaries, Bishops, Branch Presidents, Quorum leaders, and even the guys who come around to pass the sacrament trays full of bread and water are Priesthood holders. The Relief Society is also mentioned in the book. This is a women’s organization where the ladies in the church serve one another and the people in the community in lots of ways, whether it’s providing a meal to a sick family, sewing a quilt for an orphanage, or just being there for one another as sisters. Which reminds me; in the church we call each other Brother and Sister. As in, ‘nice to meet you, I’m Sister Spencer.’ You’ll hear the characters in the book referring to one another in this way. Home and Visiting Teachers are another term that is used. We have a neat system of taking care of one another and it involves visiting one another and getting to know each other well enough that we can help out when needed. Like a Visiting Teacher would probably know that one of her sisters has a sick child and could probably use a good hot meal for her family, or a shoulder to cry on.

Many of the characters in The Cove are missionaries or returned missionaries. The church had 52,483 full-time missionaries serving throughout the world as of December 2010. They volunteer up to two years of their lives to go where they are needed and to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Someone who is a ‘returned missionary’ is just that. A person who has served a full-time mission and has come home to go back to normal everyday life. As you’ll remember from my paragraph about temples, all missionaries have also gone through the covenants in the temple also. Spending two years of your life completely dedicating yourself to the work of the Lord tends to change a person. They tend to take those promises pretty seriously, because they’ve seen first hand how the Gospel changes lives. As you’ll be able to see from the way the characters interact, returned missionaries hold themselves to pretty high standards. The Book of Mormon is mentioned in The Cove once. This is a book of scripture that we read alongside the Bible and is another testament of Jesus Christ. Great book, by the way. Well, I’m sure that this list is not exhaustive, so ask me questions if you want more information about things that I talk about in my book. I am in no way an expert on any of this. For proper authority on these subjects, I highly recommend visiting www.lds.org and learning more about the church. Or you can call 1-801-240-1000 to speak with someone directly.

On a more serious note: I never intended for this to happen, but The Cove has a few sections that turned out a little, how should I word this…descriptive. I take marriage and marital relations very seriously and strongly feel that there are some things that should never be discussed outside of the bedroom of a lawfully wedded man and woman. Some of the sections in this book come dangerously close to crossing that line. I apologize for this. I have agonized over whether to remove certain parts or tame them down a bit, but it is what it is. I hope you will not be offended by them. As a whole, I am very pleased with how the story played out and I hope you will be as well. These characters have become very special to me and I hope you will love them just as much as I do. That being said…welcome to the cove. I hope you enjoy your stay. –Julie

Read a couple of excerpts from The Cove:
First Kiss...excerpt from The Cove
The Funeral...excerpt from The Cove


My next novel, The Farmer's Daughter is almost complete! Check out an excerpt:
Excerpt from The Farmer's Daughter...I told you that I tip well

I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Funeral...excerpt from The Cove

The funeral was held at the country club. It was a closed casket. Although no body had been found, it was obvious to everyone where Gail’s final resting place was. It was where she would have wanted it. She was in her favorite place. In the water. In the cove. She had swam these waters almost every day of her life. As only Todd knew, she had swam these waters almost every night for the past four months…to come to him. He felt sick. He felt numb. Everyone around him cried. He just stared at the lake. None of them knew that he was in love with her. No one knew that she was in love with him. No one knew what they had done. No one knew about the fight they’d had the night before she’d died. No one knew. But Todd knew.

Bishop Mackenzie said a few words. Todd didn’t hear them. Patrick cried for the girl he had loved since Primary. Stephen cried for the woman he had intended to marry. Catherine and Fred cried for their daughter. All of their friends cried. Everyone cried. Except Todd. Todd just stared out at the lake. None of them knew of his pain. None of them knew that he had just lost his eternal companion. None of them knew that he would spend the rest of his life chastising himself for the choices they had made that led him to never have the chance to marry her in the temple.

The procession drove up the street to the cemetery where her casket would be laid and her headstone placed. Todd rode with the Pedersons. They still did not know the extent to which their daughter meant to this young man. They only knew that he didn’t want to leave their sides. They knew that he was attached in a much more meaningful way than anyone else in the crowd realized. They saw it is his blank stare. They saw the hurt. They knew that if it had been one of them who had died, that same blank stare would be in the other’s eyes. They suspected that Todd was very much in love with their daughter. They let him sit beside them.

A few more words were spoken by the gravesite, and the casket was lowered. Todd just stared. At last it was time for the family to stay with the casket and the rest of the mourners to move on to go prepare the luncheon.

No one moved. Everyone was waiting to see who the “family” was going to be. Who would stay beside the Pederson’s? Patrick and his parents? Stephan and his parents? No one thought twice about Todd. No one really noticed him there.

Patrick had planned to marry Gail for years. He had loved Gail for years. He had held her in his arms on the gym floor of the high school, in a tuxedo and boutonnière. He had spent countless days with her playing in the water in the cove, going for boat rides, taking her water skiing. He had sat by the poolside countless times watching her compete, watching her win. He had written to her every week for two years. He had come home to find her engaged to someone else. He turned his head and looked across at the man who had stolen her from him.

Stephan had publicly confessed his love to Gail. He had placed a ring on her finger. He had known the woman that Patrick had only dreamed of. He had attended college classes with her, sat across from her at Institute class, planned a wedding with her. He looked across at the boy who wanted her back.

Neither of them glanced at Todd. They had both been Todd’s friend. Either of them would have thought that Todd was there to support him. Neither of them knew that their biggest competition for Gail’s affection had been Todd.

Patrick narrowed his eyes at Stephan, suddenly feeling all the anger and rage at losing Gail, and directed it towards him.

“You stole my girl,” he said in a quiet accusatory menace. “I never even had the chance to get her back. You had her wrapped around your little finger. You wouldn’t even let her see me for two minutes to determine if there was anything left between us. You kept her away from me!” Suddenly, Patrick was turned towards Stephan and his father’s hand was across his chest, holding him back. Patrick’s hands clenched into fists again and again several times, trying to calm down, but wanting to direct his pain somewhere else, anywhere else.

“She wasn’t yours to begin with,” Stephan spat back. “She was never promised to you. You never had a ring on her finger!”

“Oh, and you made sure that you did before I even got back. That’s real classy! You knew she was writing to me! You knew even after I got home that she needed more time to decide. You just pushed her and pushed her. She didn’t even come and spend any real time with me since I got home. You kept her all to yourself!”

“I never kept her away from you,” Stephan told him. “If she stayed away, it’s because she chose to stay away. I would never have done that to her. I gave her space. She was distraught over what happened, and spent plenty of time alone to think things through. I loved her. I would never try to force her into anything!”

“Well, I’ve loved her a lot longer than you’ve even known her,” Patrick cried. By then the crowds had lost all interest in leaving. They were hanging on every word the two men yelled back and forth at one another. Still, no one noticed Todd until suddenly he stood straight up; knocking over the chair he’d been sitting in.

“Shut up! Both of you!” he cried. “You don’t love her! You don’t even know her! You don’t know how much she has agonized over the two of you. You don’t know how much she sacrificed what she wanted, to do the things that everyone else wanted for her. You don’t know how she pulls her legs up underneath her sweatshirt when she’s cold. You don’t know that she’s bashful at her photo shoots or that she hates to travel, even for swim meets. You don’t know how her nose turns red when she cries, or that she goes through half a box of tissues crying over you two. You don’t know that her favorite late night snack is a chocolate protein shake with half of a banana in it. You don’t know that she throws up if she eats a hamburger, or any other junk food for that matter. You don’t know that she wears her swimsuit all the time, even under an evening gown.”

Todd looked over at Patrick, “You don’t know how many times she wrote to you trying to explain how she really felt, but then tore up the letter, because she didn’t want to hurt your feelings or distract you from the importance of the missionary work that you were doing.” Then he turned to Stephan, “You don’t know how many times she wanted to break off the engagement, but reconsidered, trying to hold on to something that was never there to begin with.”

Todd lowered his voice, and looked down at the ground. “You don’t know how her hair smells when it’s wet, how her lips feel soft against your neck, how the firelight glows in her eyes…how the morning sun makes her hair look silver.”

The crowd that had gathered looked on with wide eyes and Patrick and Stephan looked across at each other in shock. Tears ran down Catherine’s cheeks and Fred reached a hand across to place it on Todd’s shoulder. Todd looked up at Patrick, and then at Stephan. He looked over at their Bishop, pain clearly showing across his face. Bishop Mackenzie nodded his head slightly acknowledging that he understood what Todd was feeling right then, and that the pain ran deeper than most people could see because of the heaviness of his remorse. Todd turned back around as if trying to see down the hill, see the lake, see her cove.

“You’ve never envisioned what her children would look like,” he whispered. Catherine's quick intake of breath made him turn to look at her. She knew. She was Gail’s mother. She knew her daughter almost as well as he did. She knew in that moment that she had not just lost a daughter, she’d lost a grandchild. She leaned against her husband’s arm, trying to keep her balance. Todd looked at the woman who would have been his mother-in-law and touched the tears that ran down her face. “I'm so sorry,” he whispered.

As he turned to walk away, he muttered just loud enough to be heard by all who were close. “By the way, the name on the headstone is wrong.” Everyone turned their heads towards the grave, still an open hole with an empty casket inside, and looked at the stone. Gail Renae Pederson. Catherine didn’t turn her head to look. She watched as Todd walked away.

Read another excerpt from The Cove:
First Kiss...excerpt from The Cove

Disclaimer for The Cove

My next novel, The Farmer's Daughter is almost complete! Check out an excerpt:
Excerpt from The Farmer's Daughter...I told you that I tip well

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movie Review of The New World

The New World, starring Colin Farrell, Christopher Plummer, Christian Bale, and Q’orianka Kilcher, is quite possibly one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. I cannot believe it was nominated for an Oscar in Cinematography in 2005, because that was one of my biggest issues with the movie. It was also boring and confusing.

The New World is supposedly based on the true story of Pocahontas and her relationship with Captain John Smith. I chose it for a date-night movie to watch with my husband because the DVD case says that it’s a romance. There is a neat connection between the two main characters, but there is no real resolve to their love. As a romance goes, the movie stays pretty tame as there is not really a “love scene” per se. There is a hint of a physical relationship, but it takes place along a scattered piecemeal of scenes.

One of my biggest complaints is how the movie jumps around from one scene to the next seemingly without a completion of a single thought and no cohesiveness. Each scene ends without a resolution and jumps to an unrelated thought. Many of the scenes have little in the way of dialogue, and most of the time the characters are either staring off into the landscape (which is beautiful), or gazing at one another in a way that indicates that they are communicating but without words. The two main characters also seem to “think” the dialogue rather than speak to one another.

Another issue I have with the way the movie is presented is that it’s nearly impossible to determine if the scene that is playing out before the viewer is taking place in the here and now or is a memory of what has recently transpired, or even as a wish for what could have been.

The main characters are handsome and beautiful, and the story does seem to follow the commonly accepted historical nature of the tale. Also, I like that it was filmed within a few miles of where the original events actually took place. All things considered, I would not waste time sitting through 135 minutes of the The New World. Sorry New Line Cinema, not your best work!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Year We Left Home: Book Review

I began reading The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson and didn’t get past the first chapter. I kept running into swear words, but was determined to keep going. I felt that as long as I didn’t have to see the ‘f’ word, I’d be able to stomach it if it was good writing. Within another page, I ran into the ‘f’ word but kept going a few more sentences. There it was again not two paragraphs later. I put the book down and would not recommend it to anyone. Thanks for a great read Jean. Have any of you read The Year We Left Home? What’s your opinion? -Julie L. Spencer

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Complete Book Reviews of The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Complete book review of The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide:

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide is here!

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide (Review and Opinions, Part Two)

Third Day's Thoughts on The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Day Four of Reading The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide - The Volturi Guard

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide (Inside the Volturi lair, then South to visit the Amazon Coven)

From Twilight to Breaking Dawn: Religious Themes in the Twilight Saga

Discovering Alaska in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Exploring the Egyptian Coven in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Journey to Ireland with The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

James, Victoria, and Laurent in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Mexican Coven in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Seattle Newborns in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

A Few More Newborn Vampires in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

The Romanians in The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

Questionnaire to Evaluate Your Level of Addiction


I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hunger Games Book Review

I read Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because my fifth grader’s teacher recommended it. It was very good, but intense. I couldn’t put it down, and read it in about two days. I then immediately picked up the next two books in the trilogy, Catching Fire and Mockingjay but we’ll save commentary on those for their own separate book reviews.

Hunger Games is like a government take-over on steroids! It combines the theme of an over-reaching central government with the ability of that government to force its citizens to do anything it wants. The central government forces the twelve “districts” that it controls to provide the Capitol with its every need and whim, while forcing the citizens in the districts to live in abject poverty. To top off the cruelty, the government forces its citizens to participate in an annual tournament called the Hunger Games. To fulfill the requirements of this tournament, each of the twelve districts must provide the Capitol with one boy and one girl that they refer to as “tributes.” These tributes are then forced to fight to the death in an arena that has been created to be dangerous and terrifying for its participants. The citizens in the districts are also forced to watch the games as they play out on live television. The book is set in the undisclosed distant future during a time period after which all other human life on the North American continent has been abolished by some untold event or events.

Several themes that I picked up from reading Hunger Games included the assumption that the people on the North American continent will someday be an endangered species, and will then be punished for whatever caused this to happen. Another theme that is very evident is the theme of an all-powerful central government that has control over everything that its citizens do and one that is very cruel to its citizens. Other themes include over-indulgence on the part of the Capitol society, the cruelty of people towards other people, taking pleasure in the abuse towards others, the need for individual survival skills, and the inert desire for self-preservation.

Hunger Games is centered around a 16 year old girl named Katniss, a defiant young lady who is fed up with the way the citizens in her district are treated by the central government. She has a great deal of survival skills that have been taught to her by her father, who was killed prior to the beginning of the story leaving Katniss to provide for her mother and younger sister. She has a best friend named Gale, a young man who regularly accompanies Katniss on hunting trips. Hunting in and of itself is illegal but provides much needed food for their families and the community. Gale is slightly older than Katniss and silently wishes that he will someday be more than just friends. At the beginning of the story, Katniss has no desire to seek a husband at all because she doesn’t want to bring children into such a cruel world. Also, she has only thought of Gale as a friend and confident, not as a future love interest. Her feelings are confused however when he confesses his desire for her just prior to her leaving as a tribute to the Hunger Games.

When Katniss volunteers as a tribute in place of her younger sister, she is thrust into a friendship with a boy her own age named Peeta, who has secretly been in love with Katniss since they were very young. When Peeta proclaims his love for Katniss on live television, she is forced into a situation where she must choose how to react to his love and then ultimately be forced to either kill or be killed by him. Torn between her need for self-preservation and her desire to keep this love-struck boy alive, she is forced to make some difficult decisions that will affect not only each of them but her family and friends back home as well.

I won’t tell you how it ends. That would be mean of me. I highly recommend Hunger Games as a good read and for its aggressive use of moral and ethical themes. This page-turner of a book contains intense violence and doesn’t let up the chase and conflict for even a minute. Once the action begins, it doesn’t stop until the very last page and has little in the way of conflict resolution, which of course leads the reader to jump right into the next book in the series! Anyone who thinks a strong central government is a good thing…should read this book! Have you read Hunger Games? What’s your opinion? -Julie


Have you read the other books in the Hunger Games trilogy? What's Your Opinion?
Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Mockingjay
Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset

I recently lost 42 pounds on the Take Shape for Life program! Want to check out my weight loss transition? Click here! -Julie L. Spencer