Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

Have you ever been a class mom? These women(or men) serve as the teacher’s right hand person and handle a lot of the grunt work. My mom was a class mom multiple times for both myself and my younger siblings. I remember her organizing parties, meeting with teachers, volunteering in my classrooms, and organizing events for me all throughout school. She was always busy and I thought she pulled everything together effortlessly. When I was looking for a new book to read and saw Class Mom by Laurie Gelman in the catalog, I decided to give it a try because I was feeling nostalgic about all the work that my mom put in to my classrooms when I was younger.

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman is a hilarious romp into the life of Jen Dixon. Jen is married to Ron, who she continuously refers to as her ‘first husband’ much to his annoyance. Jen and Ron have an adorable five-year-old son named Max who is just starting kindergarten. Jen is not new to the school system as she has two older daughters, by two different men, who are now in college. Jen had a lively youth following bands around the country and the world. Her two daughters were born as a result of her carefree younger days. Jen raised her two daughters with some help from her parents and when she met Ron, her life seemed to fall together pretty perfectly.

Now that Max is starting kindergarten, Jen finds herself being prodded into becoming class mom for Max’s class. Nina, the PTA president and Jen’s best friend, keeps telling Jen that the new parents have a lot to learn from Jen’s expertise and experience. Jen thinks that’s all baloney and it’s just because she’s older than the other parents that Nina is asking her to be class mom. Regardless of those factors, Jen soon finds herself as the class mom to Ms. Ward’s new class of kindergarteners!

Jen’s tenure as class mom is full of hilarity, snarkiness, offensive, and uproariously funny emails and interactions. She holds nothing back in her emails to the other class parents and is sure to note specific response times to her requests. Jen is responsible for assigning conference times, finding field-trip volunteers, and doing whatever the teacher Ms. Ward wants her to do.  She soon finds herself as the middle-man between Ms. Ward and the other class parents. The interactions between Jen and everyone at Max’s school are ripe with hilarity from Max’s supersexy kindergarten teacher who has a very odd way of running her classroom, an old flame of Jen’s popping up as one of the parents of another student, a mother whose son is severely allergic to almost everything, and two moms who Jen can never seem to tell apart! Outside of Jen’s interactions at Max’s school, Jen herself is struggling to get in shape to do a mud run to make up for last year’s disastrous attempt, trying to figure out what’s going on with her two older daughters, and working to keep her relationship solid with her husband. This book was very entertaining. Definitely recommended.

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby is the story of three people and their love of music and each other.  Duncan and Annie are a couple from England who have been together for 15 years, for reasons neither are really sure of.  Duncan is obsessed with musician Tucker Crowe, who abruptly gave up his music career two decades ago following the release of Duncan’s favorite Crowe album, titled Juliet.  When the book begins, Duncan and Annie (a much less enthusiastic Crowe fan) are on a trek through America visiting famous spots where Tucker Crowe spent time.  After disagreeing about the merits of Crowe’s comeback album (an acoustic work entitled Juliet, Naked), Duncan commits the ultimate betrayal, and he and Annie part ways.  But while working to mend her broken heart, Annie is contacted by the person she least expects:  the musician himself, Tucker Crowe.  The two forge a relationship that is completely unexpected, yet fitting when you finally see it come together.

I was drawn to this book for two reasons: I thought the cover was cool (yes, even librarians sometimes judge books by their covers), and the fact that it’s written by Nick Hornby.  This is the second book by Nick Hornby that I have read.  One of his earlier books, About A Boy, is another enjoyable read if you liked this book.  If you like books about musicians and their fans, Hornby’s books are for you; he is clearly very interested in music, with this book being focused on the fictitious Tucker Crowe and About A Boy carrying a large focus on one character’s fascination with Kurt Cobain.  It was interesting to see a sort of “behind the scenes” look at the life of the musician (even if he wasn’t real), and because of this, Tucker Crowe himself ended up being my favorite character.  The ending, while slightly open-ended, provided enough closure that I had high hopes for Annie and her new life.  Overall, I found this to be an interesting and enjoyable read.

The Beatles’ London by Piet Schreuders

Beatles LondonIf you’re lucky enough to be going to London sometime and you’re a Beatles fan, be sure and pick up The Beatles’ London: A Guide to 467 Beatles Sites in and Around London. Here you’ll find a detailed and meticulous listing of every significant (and some not-so-significant) site associated with the Fab Four. Heavily illustrated and carefully mapped (including listing nearby Tube stations), you’ll soon be able to immerse yourself in Beatlemania. The book is divided geographically so that you can make the most of your time, and includes a special “Fast Fab Excursion”, an outlined walking tour that encompasses the most essential Beatle sites (allow about five hours), and a section on the filming of “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Help” and “Magical Mystery Tour”. While a lot has changed about London since the Beatles were in town, it won’t be hard to find yourself following in the footsteps of Paul, John, Ringo and George. And even if your travel plans don’t include London, any Beatles fan will be in trivia heaven with this book.

The Soloist by Steve Lopez

soloist1This is an unusual true story of a Los Angeles Times columnist who one day takes notice of a violin playing homeless man. Unusual is the music this homeless person manages to produce from a beat up violin with two strings missing. Even the columnist, who has little music knowledge, can tell that this raggedy seemingly eccentric individual must have had some classical training and education. Shortly after approaching Nathaniel, Lopez discovers that he is a former Juilliard student, living on the streets suffering from untreated schizophrenia. The homeless musician stirs something unshakable in the columnist. As Lopez begins to try and improve Nathaniel’s life -by getting him off the streets and back on medication – he finds that Nathaniel has irrevocably changed his.

I was listening to Yo-Yo Ma who was a guest on Garrison Keillor’s radio show last week. I stopped to really listen to this world renowned cellist and was able to imagine Nathaniel Ayers playing in the same orchestra with him over 30 years ago. The Soloist had the potential to be a very depressing read. Instead, it was a hugely wonderful story.