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review 2020-05-07 21:56
The Chaperone - Laura Moriarty

Title: The Chaperone

Author: Laura Moriarty

Publish Date: June 5, 2012

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Format: Audiobook

Page Count: 13 hours, 10 minutes

Source: Library (via OverDrive)

Date Read: May 2-6, 2020



A dull saga about people living in Wichita. I can't even shelve this as "historical fiction" because the historical part is so superficial, it isn't worth mentioning. This is some low-grade Lifetime Movie women's fiction crap. The author must have had a checklist of agenda items/issues she would be shoe-horning into the story, whether or not those items/issues seem related to the storyline at all. There were (in no particular order): Jim Crow/racism, Lysol as a form of birth control, gay husband, immigrants, orphans, orphan train, eugenics, other birth control, alcohol/Prohibition, workaholic dads, unfulfilled moms, etc.


The chaperone, Cora Carlisle, is a 36 year old woman living in Wichita with her husband, Alan and two sons (who are about to go off to college). She decides to chaperone fellow Wichita resident, Louise Brooks (an actual person - check out the Stuff You Missed in History Class episode), as Louise makes her way from Kansas to NYC in 1922 to study dance with the famed Denishawn Dance Company. Cora has, unsurprisingly, a reason for wanting a free trip to NYC (courtesy of Brooks' dad, who pays all expenses to get rid of the daughter) - she was an orphan and placed with a Catholic orphanage that put her on an orphan train when she was roughly 6 years old. So she went looking for information on her parents. She was quasi-adopted by a couple from McPherson, Kansas and grew up on a farm. When the couple died suddenly, she was 16 and left penniless - since she wasn't formally adopted, the couple's other children kept her out of the will and inheritance. Hiring a lawyer (the aforementioned Alan), she got enough money to live on while studying at a teacher college. Alan came calling regularly after the settlement, and they married soon after. Alan and her had relations enough times to get her pregnant with twins, and that ended any marriage stuff between them - because, surprise! Alan was hella gay with his dear friend Raymond - a fact that Cora discovered one day when she found them in bed naked together. 


She decided to stay married to keep Alan and Raymond's secret and because Alan was well off and she liked living easy and having money. While in NYC, she found out information about her mother, met her mother, and the mother was less than awesome and wanted nothing to do with Cora. Considering the unrelenting bore that constituted Cora's personality, I agree with the mother. Cora decides that a lack of affection from both gay husband and cold mother would led to an one night stand with Joseph Schmidt, the handyman at the orphanage who helped Cora gain the information about the mother. When they were discovered by the nuns when they left his apartment, he was fired and lost his apartment to boot. So Cora's big idea was for Joseph and his young daughter Greta come live with her and Alan in Wichita, going with the lie that Joseph was her brother she found in NYC and Greta her niece. Also Raymond is half-living with them as well, leaving at 10pm every night to go home to his apartment for a few hours before showing up again at the breakfast table. Joseph and her continue on their affair but on the down-low (only Alan knows what is going on between them). This is 66% of the book - one big disjointed family living in America's heartland. The other 33% is a series of false endings with finally Cora passing away at age 100. This last part was a slog to get through and the historical events were mentioned in a newspaper or television show, not really intertwined in the story at all.


Louise Brooks makes few appearances while Cora has her adventures in NYC and then goes back to Wichita yet Louise is the one that is on the cover and the blurb makes it seem Brooks and Cora have more of a connection and influence on each other; the truth is that this is almost all Cora's show and Louise is just there for a cameo. Their scenes together are the typical older woman lecturing a younger woman and cringe-fests to boot. 


The only good thing about listening to the audiobook of this dull story is having Elizabeth McGovern's voice in my ears. McGovern is probably most known for her role as Lady Cora Grantham in the Downton Abbey show and movie. She does a really good job with the accents, especially the Mid-western tone that is subtle but present and the short, terse German accent of Joseph Schmidt. 



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review 2020-05-01 16:47
Strong Book Still Disappoints
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

Title: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Author: Rebecca Skloot

Publish Date: February 2, 2010

Publisher: Broadway Books

Format: Paperback

Page Count: 382 pages

Source: Library

Date Read: March 15-19, 2020



The medical and scientific parts of this book was fascinating and informative. The debates surrounding medical ethics were timely, from Lacks' time to today. What failed for me was the endless fucked-upness that constituted the Lacks family, both before and after Henrietta. This family's story is just as damn disgusting and ridiculous as the family in Westover's Educated, except they are black and live in Virginia. Reading this book soon after finishing the other book made both less in my eyes. I have no sympathy for either fucked up family, but I do have sympathy for Henrietta Lacks - she was done dirty by certain doctors at John Hopkins and the medical establishment at the time. 


That being said, I think this is an important story for medical and public health students to learn from.

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review 2019-11-16 06:40
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicole Yoon
The Sun Is Also a Star - Nicola Yoon

Date Published: November 1, 2016

Format: Hardcover

Source: Library

Date Read: November 2, 2019



Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?




This was a fun trip through NYC with two clearly defined characters as tour guides. Natasha had the most flakiest dad known to mankind; Daniel was the second son who was thrust in the spotlight when the first born son turned out to be a bad bet. I loved these characters both as separate entities and as a couple. They were not complete opposites as the blurb makes the story seem - they just have different ways of handling the individual pressures in their lives. 


I enjoyed the side chapters that delved into the history of topics brought up by Natasha and Daniel and the ones that showed a deeper history of their parents to explain why the parents were the way they were without letting them off the hook for their mistakes in their relationship with their respective children. The epilogue seemed a little too wish fillment/dreamscape, but this is a YA romance so I let it be. 

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text 2019-10-21 22:19
Lab Girl - Hope Jahren

Read the first three chapters and the beginning of the fourth while at the gym. That first chapter has a big whiff of "I'm not like other girls, I like science" misogyny that has put me off and I haven't really warmed up to her yet.

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text 2019-10-01 14:00
October 2019 Reading List
The Final Days - Carl Bernstein,Bob Woodward
Lab Girl - Hope Jahren
#IMomSoHard - Kristin Hensley
Connections in Death - J.D. Robb
Vendetta in Death - J.D. Robb
Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist - Franchesca Ramsey
Jane Doe: A Novel - Victoria Helen Stone
Copycat Killing - Sofie Kelly
A Very Mummy Holiday (Tourist Trap Mysteries #11) - Lynn Cahoon
A Colony in a Nation - Chris Hayes

New month, fresh start. 


Going back to my Nixon Reading List and reading The Final Days by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, which is their follow up to All the President's Men. Although I think this was a good reading project for me, the timing may be off considering....the state of the union so to speak.


NEA Big Reads for Wichita is Lab Girl by Hope Jahren; my real life book club is reading it as our leader/host is on the board that votes every year. There is a few events happening both on base library and my local branch that I hope to get to attend.


#IMOMSOHARD - man I love Kristin and Jen since I first saw their videos on FB. They are hilarious and real and I really want to see their show when they come to Tulsa next February....hint, hint Santa! Rather than doing non-stop toxic positivity, these ladies come straight out of the gate about the less than awesome things (deaths in family for example) or gross (adventures in toilet training), and motherhood with humor and grace. They are my inspirational mom friends.


I am still working through Connections in Death and I picked up Vendetta in Death since it was on the library's shelf, just calling my name. Seriously, brand new JD Robb title just sitting on the new release shelf with nary a waiting list - perplexed I was. I hope to be all caught up on the series by the time November comes around. I can't believe #50 will be published in February.


I need a palette cleanser in between the Eve Dallas books, so I picked up at the library Well, That Escalated Quickly by Franchesca Ramsey. I've listened to a number of podcast episodes with her and she seems funny and smart. 


I wanted something a little dark for this time of year and I am determined to get to Victoria Helen Stone's Jane Doe. I wanted something magical realism/cozy mystery, so Copycat Killing. And by the end of the month, the next novella in the Tourist Trap mystery series A Very Mummy Holiday will be on my NOOK and I can join the gang in South Cove for another round.


Finally, I picked up from the library Chris Hayes' A Colony in a Nation from my non-fiction wish-list. For those not in the US, Hayes is a tv host on MSNBC and former editor/writer for The Nation. Honestly, he is a little heavy on his love for a certain senator from a New England state, but he generally does do a good job of reporting and Ta-Nehisi Coates blurbed the book. I trust Coates enough to give the book a try.




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