September Reads

It’s a little later than usual, but what can you do?

  The Infinite Tides by Christian Kiefer

When I was going to college in Davis, one of my favorite things to do was drive into Sacramento to take in some of the great local music (Birthday /Jacob Golden, Jonah Matranga, Jackie Greene, to name a few).  One musician who always put on an exceptionally good show was Christian Kiefer.  Kiefer plays many different instruments in many different styles.  The most notable thing about his music, however, is how much of a natural storyteller he is.  So when I heard that Christian had written a novel, though a little disgusted (is there anything this guy isn’t successful at?), I wasn’t at all surprised.  The Infinite Tides tells the story of an astronaut who comes home from space to find that his entire life has fallen apart during his absence.  Gripped by tragedy, he yearns for the weightlessness and nothingness that he experienced in space.  Through the selfish and selfless acts of his newly met neighbors, he is pulled back into the fold of humanity, beginning the process of reconciliation and acceptance.  As I knew I would, I really enjoyed this book.  I can’t wait to see what Kiefer does next.

  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I was pretty disappointed in this book, considering the large amount of people who recommended it to me (people who generally have tastes similar to mine).  It isn’t that it’s a bad book, there were several things that I enjoyed about the story, it’s just that the whole thing seemed really forced.  Middlesex tells the story of three generations of the Stephanides family, spanning the decades of their immigration from Turkey in the 1920’s to children and, eventually grandchildren in modern-day Detroit.  I found the story to be annoyingly Forest Gump-like, as the family coincidentally plays an integral part in every major event that occurs throughout the various eras.  The biggest problem that I had with the story, however, was the narrator, Cal/Callie.  His voice is over-the-top cutesy and obnoxious throughout the entire novel.  Further, while his status as hermaphrodite (don’t worry, I’m not ruining anything here, you learn it in the first line of the book) acts as a great literary device to create the perfect “everyman storyteller,” it never does anything more than act as such a device.  Cal’s emotional struggles associated with changing gender in his early teens, which is the most interesting part of the story, and should be the focus, is used only as a tool to tell the less interesting story the Gumpesque adventures and misadventures.  While I wanted to really love this novel, it was just too annoyingly contrived for me to buy into it.

  The Gunslinger by Stephen King

I went through a huge Stephen King phase when I was a teenager and read a ton of his books.  For some reason, I haven’t picked up any of his books since.  When my brother recently showed shock and disdain at the fact that I had not read any of this series, I became curious.  Reading how King refers to the seven (now eight) book set as his “magnum opus,” I decided that I had to give it a read.  The Gunslinger, the first in the series, is a little weird.  Being created from five separate short stories, it is slightly disjointed in how it reads.  Further, the writing itself is bizarre (often riddle-like), which makes it a little hard to tell what is happening at times.  The story is set in a spaghetti-westernish world which resembles a post-apocalyptic version of our own.  In this world, Roland, the last gunslinger (some form of knight) seeks to find the Dark Tower.  The reason he seeks it we do not know, but it is suggested that, by finding it, he may be able to save it from its ultimate destruction.  If this novel were meant to stand on its own, I would say it’s somewhat of a dud.  However, it was intriguing and interesting enough to draw me into reading the rest of the series.  As I read further, I’ll let you know what I think.

  The Butcher’s Boy by Thomas Perry

When I downloaded this book from the library I had no idea of the time period in which it was written.  I got a pretty good idea, however, the first time it referenced things such as phone booths, rotary phones and hotel keys (real keys, remember those?).  These were pretty good signs that it wasn’t written within the last year or two (I found out later that this was Perry’s first novel).  That being said, the fact that the story was fairly outdated, without computers and gadgets, makes it much more fun to read.  The characters are forced to MacGyver their way out of trouble with the items at their disposal instead of falling back on some magical savior from the ether.  Plus, it was refreshing to read a spy thriller which didn’t require a background in IT in order to follow the plotline.  If you’re looking for a nostalgic adventure back into the Octopussy era of spy novels, The Butcher’s Boy is definitely a fun ride.

  Tigers In Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

Tigers in Red Weather is definitely one of those stories of which I cannot say much about without ruining the entire story.  Mostly taking place between the 1950s and the 1960s, Tigers tells a dark tale of lies and deceit, in which none of the characters is without secrets.  This book had me hooked from the very beginning and kept me guessing through the whole thing.


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