Friday, November 21, 2014


The Astronaut Wives Club tells the story of the wives of the first astronauts in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. Being the wife of an astronaut was not easy. The men were often gone for long periods of training, many were unfaithful while away, and they had terribly dangerous jobs. In the meantime, the women were left to take care of their children and homes, all alone. They also faced tremendous pressure from NASA to present themselves as wholesome happy housewives. Due to the stress and common worries, the wives bonded together for socialization and support.

Each of the first missions were detailed as the wives recalled how they felt when their husbands were blasted off into space and, once they got home and became heroes.

Not only is this book a fascinating look into what life was like for astronaut wives, but it's also a look at what American life was like during the decades of the space race. (Geez, everyone chain smoked). I found it fascinating and very readable.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Big Scrum

The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football details an important time in football history.

Miller describes how Theodore Roosevelt grew up as a sickly child, but one who would do anything to overcome his ailments. Thus, he became a solid athlete and sports enthusiast, though he never really played football.

At Harvard, Teddy was a fan of the game, which looked quite a bit different than it does today. The sport resembled a more violent version of rugby. No equipment was worn, and the ball only moved forward in kicks. As the sport grew in popularity, so did the number of injuries and deaths of its players. This caused great concern among many people. One such person was Harvard president Charles Eliot, who wanted to outright ban football. He was not alone. Many schools banned the sport.

If you read The Big Scrum, you'll find out how Teddy was able to gain support for football and eventually help transition it into the game it is today.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


The Night Gwen Stacy Died is the story of two young runaways who are modeling their lives after Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. Sheila is 17 yrs old and works at a gas station in Coralville Iowa. She dreams of moving to Paris one day, but then comes to realize how unrealistic that dream is. Peter Parker is a 20-something taxi driver who often stops in at the gas station where Sheila works. He lives with his mother and is still haunted by his brother's suicide many years before. Though Peter and Sheila rarely talk, she finds herself oddly attracted to him.

One night Peter Parker comes in with a gun. He wants Sheila to run away with him. She agrees and they make it look like he robbed and abducted her. They drive to Chicago. Peter has prophetic dreams and feels that they were supposed to come to Chicago. Sheila takes the name Gwen Stacy and they find jobs while Peter tries to figure out why they are there.

The book is kind of hard to explain because there is a lot of symbolism and different themes-- Peter has prophetic dreams, Sheila takes on Gwen's persona, she also has a strange connection to the taxidermy coyote in the University of Iowa's Natural History Museum, and coyotes show up numerous times throughout the book. You can interpret that as you will.

I found the story compelling though I felt it needed a bit more character development. I didn't always understand Sheila's actions. The books switches between voices and I enjoyed hearing situations from both Sheila's and Peter's perspectives. The pacing of the book is a bit slow in the middle but it really picked up near the end and I found the ending to be satisfying, yet I want to hear more of their story.

It's a little offbeat, and won't appeal to everyone. I found it to be a satisfying mix of Jennifer Egan and of Spider-man.