Monday, May 30, 2011

Practices Makes Perfect (My Very First Book Review)

I've officially declared this summer one of reading. All semester long I kept receiving books from Good Housekeeping or buying them from the Strand, and now I finally have time to put some creases in the  covers.  Right now, my goal is to one day either become the literary editor for a Seven Sisters magazine or work at a publishing house. So, I've decided it's never to early to start the Book Pick Reviews.  Therefore, throughout this summer, every book I read will be featured on my blog with a short review.  I've already had a few weeks at home (and the idea just came to me), so this will sort of be a catching up post.

1) Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Although I started this Southern classic while still in New York, I finished it only after I'd tasted my momma's two-cups-of-sugar-per-gallon sweet tea.  The story of Scarlet O’Hara, it followed a Georgia belle living on her family’s plantation, Tara, on the eve of the Fort Sumter attack and showed her life through the war and Reconstruction of the South.  The war and its aftermath not only transformed Scarlett’s life from riches to rags and back again, but also changed her from a carefree, naive girl to a hardened, self-reliant woman, driven at all times by her love of Tara.  Although folk art, the image Mitchell created of the South continues to dominate the American imagination of antebellum life.  Gone With the Wind helped shape the way generations of Americans viewed the Civi War and Reconstruction.  Through its selective remembrance, it encouraged audiences to romanticize the Old South as a land of moonlight and magnolias: 

 "There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South...Here in this pretty world Gallantry took its last bow..Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave...Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered.  A Civilization gone with the wind..."

Now, I'd seen the movie more times than I could count; I thought Vivien Leigh had the most gorgeous dresses and Clark Gable was quite handsome.  But, I 'd never actually made it past page 20 of the most remarkable love story of all times.  And, I'm here to tell you, it's replaced The Great Gatsby as my most favorite book.  Truly amazing!

My Rating:  *****

2) Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen 
Honestly, I don't know what I was expecting when I started reading this book.  I'd seen movie trailers for the Robert Pattison-Reese Witherspoon pairing; it had an entire section devoted to it in the bookstore, so I figured I'd better see what all the fuss is about.  Told in as series of memories from a "ninety or ninety three" year-old Jacob Jankowski, it's the tale of a young man who finds himself the veterinarian of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth after hopping a railway car.  Sure, it had tragedy, scandal, love, and violence-all needed qualities to create a great novel-but I quickly found myself counting down the pages until it ended.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't an unbearable read, but I'm not quite sure it's something I'll keep on my bookshelf for years to come.  

My Rating:  ***

3) The American Heiress by Daisy  Goodwin 
After a disastrous formal entrance into society, Cora Cash finds herself traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the century to seek a titled husband.  With a wealth that easily trumps the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, Cora quickly becomes Duchess of Wareham, married to the most eligible bachelor in England.  However, a happily ever after doesn't greet the young heiress.  Her husband, Ivo, is withdrawn and secretive.  The English social scene is full of traps and betrayals.  Cora soon realizes money may buy a title, but it certainly doesn't insure your husband's love.  

I'll admit, it did take me about 100 or so pages to really get into this book.  But, how could I not eventually be sucked in by all the Gilded Age dramas?  A delightful read, it's the perfect fantasy escape.  Sure, it may not be a high-brow read (and it's certainly no modern classic), but if you're in the mood for a trashy, romance novel, it really can't be beat.  

My Rating:  ****

4) The Help by Kathryn Stockett
"This could be one of the most important pieces of fiction since To Kill a Mockingbird...If you read only one book...let this be it," reads the cover.  I couldn't have said it better.  Three ordinary women take one extraordinary step that forever shakes a Southern town.  It's 1962, and Skeeter has just returned after graduating from Jackson, Mississippi.  She may have a degree, but her mother will not be happy until she has a ring on her finger.  Aibileen is a black maid; a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child.  She finds herself growing bitter after the death of her son.  Regardless, her  devotion  to the little girl she looks after forces her to conceal her broken heart.  Aibileen's friend, Minny is a smart-mouth, back-talking, maid and mother to five.  Although her cooking may be the best in Jackson, she constantly finds herself looking for another job after yet another sassy outburst.  Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has a few secrets of her own.  Although theses women seem quite different from one another, they come together for a stealthy project that puts them all at risk.  Suffocated within the lines that defines their time and town, each know sometime lines are meant to be crossed.  

I absolutely loved every one of the 522 pages that made up The Help.  Stockett's uplifting debut novel may have been set during the Civil Rights Movement, where black women were trusted to raise white children but not the polish the household silver, but it's a timeless and universal story about society's hold.  Definitely make the time to enjoy this heartbreaking story.  

My Rating:  *****

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Friends, Family, and Fiber-Beach Trip 2011

After the trek back to the beach house in our sopping wet jeans, we all changed and spent the afternoon in Historic St. Augustine.  Ever since I finished reading Gone With the Wind, I've become absolutely obsessed with all things Tara.  We passed these two restaurants this afternoon, and I absolutely had to document it:

We had lunch at the Bunnery Cafe, where I broke my vegetarianism for a brief meal and ate a cheeseburger.  I felt so guilty eating a baby cow that I decided my meat-eating was just reserved for that one vacation meal.  I'm back to my salad-eating ways; sorry to burst your bubble Daddy. 

We also took the ferry boat to Fort Matanzas.  Sure, we should have been remembering the soldiers who lived in the cramped living quarters; instead, us girls just used the fort as an additional backdrop for our photos.  Becky posed in front of the cannons, while I used the artillery turret.  To make it appear educational though, we did take a picture in front of the park sign.  

When we sat down for our last night of good eating' (tomorrow we'll just have left overs), Becky and I were sure to grab our fiber pills.  That's been one of our jokes for the week.  At dinner, Mrs. Amy makes the boys take 6 fiber pills; from night number one onwards, my sister and I have begun taking our daily dose too.  We may have to invest in those once we get home.  I'm thinking yes.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Living Like a Longstocking

A week at the beach with wonderful family friends...priceless!

For the next seven days, I'll be in St. Augustine, FL spending my days on the beach, reading books that have been turned into movies and getting burned regardless of my SPF 100.  All nine of us are sharing a ginormous house called the Villa Villekulla.  That's right, we're staying in Pippi Longstocking's house; I'm still searching for pirate's gold and my monkey seems to be missing.  But, the crazy colors and close proximity to the ocean are perfect characteristics for a beach retreat.
The Sign for Our Beach House 

Not really much to report, but I did read 150+ pages of Water for Elephants.  I'm sure it's only a New York Times Bestseller because Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon are starring in the new film, but I found myself buying it at the Strand a few weeks ago.  I'm just saying, it's the perfect read; sections are short and there's multiple places to stop mid-chaper incase you'd like to move your chair closer to the water.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gators Deep In Enemy Territory

Greeted by the Gator Van 

 Because Becky received a scholarship, we made the hour-long trek to the Atlanta Gator Gathering last night.  It was by far the most obscure evening of my life.  Everyone was wearing orange and blue, sporting UF memorabilia, and talking football.  All quite foreign compared to my college choice.  The only time purple is worn by the masses is at graduation, and students only break out their NYU sweatshirts during midterms.  Quidditch matches are our favorite sports events.  Our mascot is the Fighting Violets, and our school spirit level is at a zero.   Basically, NYU is the exact opposite of any school in the SEC.  
Pretending for the Evening
That I Went to a
School in the SEC

I really felt like I was stepping into another college world at last night's event.  When their new football coach walked in,  Gator Chops were done from every attendee both young and old (except for me who had absolutely no idea what was going on and my dad who's a die hard Alabama fan).  Will Muschamp answered questions for what seemed like years, giving intimate details of every player and the upcoming season.  Then, my sister and I waited in line to get Muschamp's autograph; we'd won a raffle, and his signature on some overpriced Florida gear was apparently the prize.  My sister was of course overjoyed by the whole evening and had to buy a UF hat and backpack to sport around campus in the fall, while I just kept asking my parents if this is normal behavior for college students.  
They Even Had UF Balloons 

I always knew going to school in New York was different from my other high school friends’ college adventures.  But, it wasn’t until last night that I realized it’s more than just our locations that differ.  They attend football games, tailgate, and show school pride.  I attend broadway plays, don’t even own a car, and only visit the campus store to sell back my books at the end of the semester.  Two completely different experiences for our first four years of freedom, and I really can’t decide which one is better.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Becky's Graduation Speech

Today my baby sister, Rebecca Noel Thublin, graduated from Tattnall Square Academy.  My mom now officially has two alumni and only one high schooler left.  I've been the most obnoxious older sister ever since I found out Becky was her class' Valedictorian.  For the past week almost every facebook status I've updated has been about her.  When she gave her speech tonight, I just sat there and balled my eyes out.  As my mascara ran down my face, I just couldn't help but be proud of her and all her accomplishments!  Really, there isn't much left to say, her words were so elegant and quite true to her class.  Seriously, I couldn't have said it better myself.  So, to sum up the evening, I'm posting her Valedictorian Speech.  Please enjoy her lovely words; I know I did:

Hello fellow classmates, faculty and staff of Tattnall Square Academy, and friends and family of the graduating class of 2011.  I was given the privilege to address you all today as the valedictorian of our class.  First of all, I would like to show my gratitude to a few people.  I want to thank the faculty and staff of Tattnall Square Academy for putting up with our class all these years and really pushing us to do greater things with our lives.  Some of you have inspired us to pursue certain professions while others have helped us realize that maybe math isn’t our best subject, thank you Mrs. Smothers.  Tattnall has given us all so many amazing opportunities that we might not have had if we went to a different school.  For example, on May 4th when we were give our awards for participating in a variety of extracurricular activities offered by Tattnall, almost every single student in this class was recognized.  Tattnall has so many sports and clubs that we have gotten involved in and has luckily refused to make some cuts other schools have made.  Tattnall sees the importance of classes like the fine arts and not only offers them, but requires at least 1 fine art class before we can graduate.  Some might think this is pointless, but Tattnall has proof that the fine arts affect more than just creative abilities considering the past three valedictorians have been in the marching band and each took 8 years of fine art classes in middle and high school.  For all the amazing opportunities you have given us, I thank you Tattnall and the people that work here.  I would also like to thank our families.  Without you, we could not be here.  Y’all have not only provided for us financially these past 18 or so years, but y’all have our emotional rocks.  Moms, y’all have been there to baby us when we needed it and made us stand up and take ownership for our mistakes even if we did not want to.  Dads, y’all have been the source of constant support and made us stronger through the lessons you have taught us.  Siblings, even if we fight all the time, y’all have been there to help us through anything no matter what because we know we love each other even through all the slaps and punches.  Grandparents, thank you for spoiling us like no others can and never getting mad at us.  Family and friends that might as well be family, thank you for putting us when you could have walked away at any time.  So thank you families of this graduating class, for being there no matter what because we know that at the end of the day, we will always have y’all through every struggle throughout our lives and mistakes we will assuredly make.

Since elementary school, we have been known as a bad class.  At Wasega, we weren’t allowed to slow dance; in Washington, we went out and hopped across the forbidden balconies; in Florida, we and got kicked out of Ripley’s Believe it or Not; and most recently, we took a fun Tattnall tradition and made it into a night filled with regret.  This is how some people might remember us.  We all know that some of the teachers had mixed emotions when we ran the halls for the last time, and most of the underclassmen were just worried about what privileges they could lose because of us.  We might be remember as that class of 2011.

However, this is not how I choose to remember us.  I choose to remember the times when one of our own lost someone and we all banded together to keep each other afloat.  I’ll remember the powder puff games when our school spirit was through the roof and we all celebrated our class, the good and bad.  I’ll remember the lip syncs we put on, or chose not to put on, and all the fun we had different Homecoming weeks.  I’ll remember the football games we won, should have won, and had no chance of ever winning but somehow came out with a victory.  I’ll remember the last few days we finished our careers at Tattnall and the newly found camaraderie we had as a class.

I might forget the quadratic formula or how to diagram a sentence, but I’ll remember the people I shared these last 4 years of high school with.  I’ll remember the lessons we have learned along the way.  I’ll remember to be honest no matter the situation and to keep God in all the choices we make.  I’ll remember the friendships I’ve made, and although we might not stay in touch, I’ve learned a lot from every one of you, and I will take those lessons to college.  I know a lot more about sports than I did in 8th grade, and according to Ms. Dykes, I even know how to walk in a straight line.  I know not to sweat the small things because only the big picture matters.  I know that making someone disappointed is a lot worse than making them angry.  I know that your parents really do know best, most of the time.

Although I’ve learned a lot, I feel like I’m not really graduating today.  Four years really isn’t a long time when you think about it.  I still remember senior breakfast at Ethan’s and stressing about making it back from lunch on time and sometimes, just realizing that you’re going to be late no matter how fast you drive.  I remember watching so many senior classes leave Tattnall and I cannot believe it’s our turn, but it is and even if y’all forget everything else I’ve mentioned, there’s just one thing I want y’all to make sure you never forget.

On every one of our senior t-shirts, we’ve had a quote about greatness.  First we had Shakespeare who said, “Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great; some achieve greatness; and some have greatness thrust upon them.”  Next, we had Drake, the rapper not the academic dean, who said, “Last name ever, first name greatest.”  Finally, we had Ralph Waldo Emerson, with only one m, who said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”  All of our quotes have talked about what’s inside and that greatness we were born with thanks to God.  I don’t want you to forget this as we go our separate ways and our class, 57 students, spreads out from 1 minuscule school in 1 tiny city to26 colleges 4 separate states.  We are all great.  If the hobbits, the lowliest race of Middle Earth, can achieve greatest, so can this class.  There’s your Lord of the Rings analogy Joseph since you said no speech can be good without one.  Shakespeare talks about the different ways people become great but notice something- he says everyone is great.  Everyone is great because they were born great, have achieved greatness, or had no choice but to be great.  He doesn’t add a fourth scenario of “and some people just aren’t great”.  We are all great for different reasons, and even if you don’t remember anything from Tattnall, I want you to remember that.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Seahorses in Graduation Hats

Under the Sea
I'm officially back in GA for the summer.  My dorm room's in storage and all my finals are finished.  This  past week has been a whirlwind of sleepless nights and cups of coffee.  I killed more trees with my incessant amount of notecards, and I drained the ink out of every single pen I own.  I swiped my last meal of the semester at Chick-fil-A, and my last dining dollars were spent on a frappuccino from Starbucks.  I made the 2 1/2 hour flight from LGA to ATL on Friday and have been basking in my baby sister's glory for GRADUATION WEEKEND!  All the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are in as we celebrate Becky's many achievements.  I've told just about any person who would listen to me that she's the Valedictorian.  Seriously, I'm the proudest sister in the whole world.

Her Awards Table

Seven Hours Later 60 Perfect PB&Js
Joey and Rachel-The Cutest Couple
Complete with Converse

Yesterday was her graduation party.  It's Under the Sea theme posed a little of a threat, but my mom of course went above and beyond to make it wonderful.  The decorations were absolutely beautiful; 40 goldfish swam in vases for the centerpieces, and jelly-fish dangled from the ceiling.  A treasure chest filled with pirate booty rested on her awards table; a conch shell fountain adorned the slush-punch station.  Besides the typical sea creatures, alligators and Go Gators blocks lined the desert table in celebration of Becky's top college choice-University of Florida. The food was absolutely stupendous; shrimp sandwiches and salmon pat'e brought the Under the Sea theme to guests' tastebuds, while the seahorse-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruit trays were a tasty substitute for me, the sole vegetarian in Macon.  For Becky's party favors, we had candy bar wrappers especially made that say "Becky Noel-Valedictorian" on the front and "Tattnall Square Academy Class of 2011" on the back.   It was so wonderful to see all Becky's friends, family, and teachers come and support all her achievements.   If you ask me the party was a great success, and the celebration's just beginning.  Today's baccalaureate, and tomorrow's graduation.

Adorable Favors and Gator Cupcakes 
She'll Always Be My Baby Sister!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Comforted by a Good Book on My Last Day at GH

As excited as I am for this semester to end, my last day at GH was definitely bitter sweet.  I still can't believe that I spent four months working on my favorite magazine.  Sure, every day wasn't always quite so glamorous- between the never ending reader mail, hours spent in the archives closet,fact checking for stories and transcriptions, it got a little tedious sometimes.  But I must admit, I wouldn't trade my time spent there for anything.  The whole point of interning is making connections and figuring out if this is something you'd actually want to do.  And I'll have you know, I've never been more sure of my major!

How Precious Is This?
For my last day, Libby let me write the book memo for this week.  It's my favorite task; basically you sort through all the books our literary editor received that week and write up little blurbs about each book.  After that, it was my last dip in the slush pile; today we got a nice letter from a man in prison, and a how-to guide for making Barbie underwear.  I ordered my Mommy's Mother's Day present.  As I surfed the website, I found the cutest onesie ever.  Complete with  1950 Good Housekeeping cover of a little girl feeding her dauchsund puppy, I wish I knew someone who's pregnant.  For lunch, I ate a veggie burger from the Hearst cafeteria.  Seriously, I've never had a meatless meal that could touch its tastiness.  Around 2pm, I answered more reader mail and looked through the June issue.  Michael J Fox is the cover celebrity, and Katie Couric shares the best advice she's ever received.  I, however, especially liked the "30 Ways to Make This Your Best Summer Ever" article.  I wont ruin the whole list, but a few of my favorites were:

1) Life is short:  Get your hair wet when you swim.
5) There's no shame in shelving the classics when its hot out-it takes too much self-dicipline to page through actual literature.
10) Have a winning, go-to-look, whatever works for you:  "For Jackie O it was all about white jeans, Jack Rogers sandals, and a collarbone-revealing T-shirt. She wore that look all the time, whether she was in Newport or New York City."
11) A pedicure can cover a host of sins.
18) Drive-ins are back!  Or at least they're not gone completely.  Go old-school-down to the tinny speakers and fountain sodas in some cases-at a drive-in near you.  ( maintains an updated list of venues; I did some checking, and the closest one to Macon, GA is the Starlight 6 Drive-in located in Atlanta.)
27) All hail the almighty flip-flop.  They come sequined, studded, beaded, and ribbon-trimmed; covered in stripes, polka dots, and Brazilian flags from $2 to $250.  Beachy breezy, and decidedly unserious; treat yourself to a new pair.

BUT, the true highlight of my day was my 4pm meeting with the GH Literary Editor, Laura Matthews.  The woman who choses the Book Picks had a conversation with me; the woman who's mail I've been opening for months gave me advice!  I even found out what her favorite book is-Cutting for Stone.  Seriously, just spending 15 minutes with her made the entire internship worth it!  But I'm here to say, GH hasn't seen the last of me; I'll be back that's for sure.

As I was looking through the latest book catalogs today, I ran across this publishing house who I hadn't seen much of before-Rizzoli.  Title after title kept grabbing my attention; I practically earmarked every page showing Libby which one's I thought the magazine should review.  As I was handing the catalog back to her explaining how much I loved their lists, she told me their bookstore was at 57th between 5th and 6th Avenue.  So after my emotional goodbye, I walked the three blocks over and must say the Rizzoli Bookstore is like stepping into another world.  By now, I'm sure everyone's come to realize my perfect day would be spent reading a good book.  I've blogged about the Strand and there miles of books, and my dream job is to one day either be a literary editor or work as a book publisher.  Basically, I'm a mega nerd who loves to read.  But anyways, back to Rizzoli.  I felt like I was in some super swanky 1960s film.  A beautiful chandelier hung from the ceiling, and jazz music played through the speakers.  The most obscure titles caught my attention; worn leather club chairs seemed so inviting, and the cute boy behind the counter wearing a  skinny tie reading Yates didn't hurt either.  There was an entire section devoted just to French cookbooks.  Their photo travel section made me want to grab my passport and forget all about the finals week looming ever closer.  I bought the coolest book, The Repurposed Library; it combines my love of crafting and reading with 33 craft projects that show you how to give old books new life.
I Have a Feeling I know What I'll Be
Doing with My Hot Glue Gun This Summer 
On a completely different note, my mom also called to tell me we'd be vacationing with the Tribbles in just two weeks.  What a wonderful treat for us all; we've experienced quite a few hard times over this past year, and we all deserve a little R&R.  Seven days at the beach sounds perfect, and I'll definitely have a good beach read.