Book Review: “The Tommyknockers” by Stephen King

Hey there fine reader folks! This post is about 3 weeks past due, but I’m going to make it a short one anyway, so here goes:

As with my last book review post, here’s the Instagram link to my 51bS7fJnjYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_One-Minute Book Review if you’re pressed for time. You’ll find the following mini-review:

Whew…all 747 pages down the gullet and I’m exhausted. I started this novel September 5th and I finished it today, November 2nd. I consider that a good deal, considering the size of this doorstopper and the fact that I read other stuff as well. Unfortunately, I can only give it 3/5 stars because, although it was a very horrific, compelling story, I felt like it was very much a lot of buildup for a kinda disappointing ending. (I should say that I can’t imagine how else the book should have ended so…that might be an invalid argument lol). It was awesome for character development and I was actually kinda sad when Bobbi Anderson died, and then Gard eventually as well. I guess I “became” (haha) attached to some of the characters so that was probably the main reason I continued reading. I was also pretty intrigued by the premise itself and it just fell a little flat at the end (like the last 15 pages) and kinda blah. Gard conquers the Tommyknockers but dies aboard the spaceship, and Hilly Brown is reunited with his brother David. Okay, so the Brown kids were safe in the end (well, maybe not psychologically!) and the rest of Haven is in ruins. I could have predicted the ending 300 pages in. The children are saved and the adults get fucked. That’s about all I can say. The unearthing of the spacecraft is decently entertaining, and the relationship between Bobbi and Gard is nice enough to ponder, the alien Tommyknocker invasion is described well and grotesquely enough. But some pages just felt like filler and any Stephen King fan knows he’s about as long-winded with his descriptions as they come. (Like…got it already!) Good story but could have been much shorter, like many Stephen King tomes!

Since “The Tommyknockers” was published many, many years ago (in 1988, when I was a baby), I consider it one of King’s “middle” novels. It’s not his earliest work by far but it is still really different from his more recent work. Before picking it up, I read reviews of this book saying it was definitely “King material” and well within the spectrum of his usual horror genre, but much more heavy on the sci-fi aspect. Having read several other King novels in the past (“Christine,” “Dolores Claiborne,” “The Eyes of the Dragon”, “Lisey’s Story,” “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon,” “Rose Madder,” “The Green Mile,” “Gerald’s Game,” “11/22/63,” “Mr. Mercedes,” etc.), I can say with certainty that I haven’t encountered another King novel or story quite like “The Tommyknockers.” (At least not yet…) And that was probably one of the main reasons I swept through it as quickly as I did. (Yes, 2 months for 747 pages is quick for me!)

3/5 stars may not sound very impressive but (as per the One-Minute Book Review) the reason I voted the book down was largely because of it’s size and heft, when I felt it could have been much shorter and still have achieved the same effect. (But what do I know, Stephen King’s been doing this for a long freaking time!) :-) The science fiction element was orchestrated really well in this book, and I have to give King credit for trying something new in writing it. (To be sure, the large majority of his fiction has a supernatural element to some extent, but this one just felt incredibly different and…separate from his other writing. Almost as if King had just binge-watched the “Alien” movies and was uniquely possessed with similar ideas.) Indeed, he writes a fabulously grotesque story of alien-invasion and human vulnerability, and I think the characters are fully developed and largely relatable (with the obvious exception of the green goo circulating through their increasingly pale, translucent bodies!)

I won’t go so far as to say that I predicted the ending (I’m never THAT prescient!), but the ending was largely unsurprising. I don’t think the book really went out with a *bang* like I was hoping it would, but at the same time I can’t imagine how King would have chosen to end it, had the children (Hilly and David Brown) not been rescued and the adults (Bobbi and Gard, not to mention all the other human casualties) sacrificed in the way they were. Again, a lot of filler to explain what I felt was already going to happen: the children are saved, and the not-so-sweet town of Haven is in ruins, smoldering with death and delusion. (Even though I’m unsure if it’s fair to ask this of fiction), I still wonder what the whole point of it was…was some lesson to be learned? What message should I walk away with, other than “eh…it’s just another King masterpiece, not to be questioned?”) Maybe I was to be warned against letting curiosity get the better of me, or not to sell out to the temptation of greed and power, lest everyone be damned for my actions and consequences? Maybe it was supposed to bring more questions than answers…as in life itself???

Anyway, I enjoyed it for the most part. The fact that I read it while listening to the audio book was a plus, and I recommend listening to any book this size on audio, as the theatrical experience is very rewarding. It really helps the pages fly by, especially when you feel some parts (or many parts) lagging, too convoluted with (Stephen King) inner-dialogue or slow action sequences.

3stars3/5 stars for “The Tommyknockers”

See you guys later! Gotta get back to reading!

Forever Between Pages,



Book Review: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

Hey guys!

Please forgive my absence from the blog, these past few weeks have been 51Nsis9xu5Lcrazy-busy (and I’m not even in school right now!) Amongst other things, I’ve been all over Instagram with a madness I can’t even describe except to say: I’M ADDICTED. Whew. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about a great book I finished yesterday. If you just want a really quick review of this awesome book, check me out on Instagram at: allison_readage and if you don’t have time to click over there, here’s what you’ll find on Instagram:

I just finished this wonderful book and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. There was never any doubt it was going to be rated so highly; it was like a great cup of coffee–good to the very last page. If you haven’t read this true story yet, you need to know how important it is! It’s the beautiful, real-life story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black woman who suffered from a particularly aggressive form of cervical cancer, and the amazing account of her truly immortal life through biology, science and technology. I’m not going to lie, you kinda have to believe in a Higher Power once you read this book! Science doesn’t explain everything, and the unexpected power in this woman’s biology will pretty much blow your mind. It’s a complicated story of: cancer, science, technology, race, medical ethics, poverty, history, etc. It’s basically a book you cannot explain away, it’s so strangely wonderful that it almost reads more like fiction than non-fiction! Simply…awesome! Cannot recommend enough.

The longer, spoiler-free review is as follows:

I’m sure many of you have already read this book, as it was published in early 2010 and made headlines as a bestselling piece of medical/science nonfiction. Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer who became interested in the story of Henrietta Lacks (known as HeLa in the medical/scientific community) when she took a biology course at sixteen that changed her outlook on the world of science forever. Her instructor wrote the name HENRIETTA LACKS as he was discussing cell culture and Skloot was anxious to investigate. Her HeLa fascination started there, and continued throughout her graduate school studies in writing, as she contemplated researching and writing about Henrietta Lacks. Eventually, she put pen to paper and brought HeLa’s story to light.

The book is a wonderfully written, and in my opinion, smartly-paced piece of nonfiction. It does a masterful job of detailing Skloot’s heavy involvement in the HeLa chaos that resulted from an unethical medical treatment on a poverty-stricken black woman from Virginia in 1951. If you decide to read this book, (and I really hope you do), in the first half of the narrative you will meet a lovely, sweet woman named Henrietta Lacks and discover that she is suffering from a particularly aggressive form of cervical cancer. Diagnosed at the tender age of 30, Henrietta’s cancer spreads rapidly and cuts short her life in a tragic flash, leaving behind a husband, five children, and surrounding family members who eventually live in the upsetting wake of Henrietta’s undisclosed, yet amazing contribution to science.

(I dislike book reviews that give blow-by-blow, page-by-page details of the book; I want you to read the book, not just this review, so I refrain here from delving too deeply into the scientific material you will find in the book.) I do want to reassure any ambivalent readers that this is an incredibly entertaining science book, without being overly scientific or stuffy in any way! It is very accessible to readers of all scientific knowledge, and will most definitely appeal to people who know absolutely nothing about cellular biology and cell cultures. (It explains things along the way). I started this book hoping the information would not go right over my head, and I’m pleased to say that none of the concepts escaped me intellectually. From a scientific perspective, Skloot has written an informative history of the HeLa cells, and that alone makes this book rewarding.

However, I must say that the human element of the book is the author’s number one achievement. Meeting the Lacks family members, one by one, and learning of their daily lives and coping mechanisms was even more interesting to me than the amazing science behind the HeLa phenomenon. Once you absorb and process the initial shock in the first half of the book of how radical HeLa cells truly are, you begin to settle into a second half of the narrative that just grabs your heart and doesn’t let go until the last page. Skloot skips back and forth in time, and it was an interesting way to tell the story. We have a few chapters detailing events in 1951 when Henrietta was alive and in the thick of her illness, and then we flash forward to 1999 and onward to events in the author’s life as she makes connections with the Lacks family and begins her very hands-on research. (Personally, I didn’t find the structure detracting in any way; I felt that it kept the HeLa history very rooted and upfront in the successive decades and chapters, therefore not allowing the reader to lose sight of the very real woman and family behind the science and medical discoveries.)

Speaking further of the sincerely human element of the book, Deborah Lacks was my absolute favorite part of the book! (I won’t go so far as to say that she overshadowed her mother in the narrative, but I admit that she really did manage to catapult me that much further into the story). The initial portrait of Henrietta Lacks begins the story, and when her daughter Deborah steps in later in the book, you really get the sense that Deborah is trying her damndest to resolve the chaos and confusion that factor so strongly in the book. Henrietta is no longer around to speak for herself, but her cells do much of the “talking” in this book, and Deborah’s voice rings just as true and sincere as her mother’s biological determinism.

I’m going to wrap up here, because the longer I spend on this review, the longer you might spend reading about it instead of picking up the book! I strongly recommend that you find a copy of the audiobook of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin. I read along and listened to this awesome recording and am so glad I did. I feel like the characters really came alive with this audiobook narration. The voices are very expressive, and I think you will enjoy it!

5/5 stars for “HeLa” five-stars

Please let me know if this review has encouraged you to pick up this book! If you have read it, please leave your thoughts in the comments!

As I finish up this review on this rather warm October afternoon, I want to wish everyone out there an upcoming Happy Halloween and if I don’t see you before then on here, BOO!!!

Forever Between Pages,



Apologies for my Extended Absence

Hey bloggers!

sorry-for-being-rubbish-imageI wanted to stop by and send out apologies for my extended absence lately on the blog. Just haven’t been feeling the blogging life for the past several weeks, and haven’t really even been finishing books to my satisfaction. Kinda going through a dry spell with inspiration, as I’m sure we’ve all experienced from time to time. However, I’ve discovered the pleasures of a little thing called Instagram so I’m there ALL THE TIME! If you’d like to check out what’s happening in my reading life (and life in general), please follow me there at: READAGE1987. Although I’m not exceedingly creative or very great at it, I’ve gotten into book photography in a huge way and I’m so happy to have found a home there! If I can finally finish a book soon (I’m oh-so-close with at least one), I will hopefully have something positive to say with a review here on the blog. Otherwise, I’ll keep making sporadic excuse posts for why I’m not on here more often! (That always works, I guess). Again, I’m sorry for being rubbish… :-( Maybe the lovely blogging feeling will return soon!

Always reading (just not always blogging),



Book Review: “Blankets” by Craig Thompson

All the feels you guys, all the feels...

All the feels you guys, all the feels…

All the feels you guys, all the feels…

I did not think a graphic novel could pull me in this quickly and keep me satisfied for so long. “Blankets” was one of those books I took a chance on, and I’m so glad I picked it up and read it! It’s a hefty piece of work (592 pages), and I made it through in decent time. (The only reason it took me most of August to finish was because I couldn’t haul it with me on vacation; otherwise, it would’ve been finished long before now.)

I don’t re-hash books in my reviews; I mainly just gush and guffaw and recommend. Usually, (and depending on mood), if I take the time to review a book it’s because it’s touched me in some way or made a difference in my reading life. “Blankets” is one of those books, and its format was simply delightful. I honestly don’t know if I could’ve maintained interest in the story had it NOT been in graphic novel form. I found myself very wrapped up in the story, and I think this is mostly because Thompson is a very talented artist who brought the characters to life so clearly through his drawings.

I’ve only read a handful of graphic novels so far, and I’m glad to count this one among them. Craig Thompson’s story is beautifully-rendered and very special. Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith.

Thompson writes his own story here, taking us deep into the heavy-hearted confusion that seemed to abound in his adolescent years. He writes and illustrates honestly about his experiences, so honestly in fact that it felt almost like a voyeuristic endeavor on my part as the reader. His adolescent confusion regarding his fundamentalist religious faith, family relationships, and budding romantic interest were (collectively) completely overwhelming at times, but nonetheless enjoyable. I can’t say much more than that; it is just a beautiful book, and I recommend anyone pick it up and start reading it. The almost 600 pages will fly by like you wouldn’t believe!

*Don’t judge my reasoning here, but the only reason it wasn’t a 5/5 star read for me is 1) because I’m not a die-hard graphic novel fan (yet?), and I’m still learning how to read and experience a graphic novel. (The graphic novel reading experience is just not the same as with novels but I’m learning to adjust.) And 2) because, while the subject matter was beautiful and I will read his other books, I couldn’t exactly relate to Thompson’s individual experience (the crazy-strict fundamentalist religion, the sibling relationships, etc.) do not apply to my life in the least. I was very much an outsider looking in, and that’s just fine :-)

four stars copy4/5 stars for “Blankets”



Tell me what you’re reading as we merge into September!

Keepin’ on with the keepin’ on,



Book Review: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

cvr9781451696202_9781451696202_hrIt’s always a pleasant surprise when I pick up a book I’ve known about for years, truly not expecting much, and find that it is REALLY DAMN GOOD! This was my reading experience with Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” This book was published in 1999 (I was in middle school then!) and I finished it a few nights ago. It was kinda amazing, and I’ll tell you why…

The main character Charlie is a real treasure, in my opinion. If you’ve read the book, you know that he’s incredibly sensitive (borderline crazy-sensitive). However, that didn’t detract from my appreciation of the story and character. I found it refreshing to read a character who doesn’t enjoy being the center of attention, who instead prefers to observe others, and who (not-so-calmly) lives inside his head to an insane degree. (I suppose I relate because I just described myself). I found myself in this character, friends, and I couldn’t help but feel emotionally connected with Charlie on several levels.

This book starts out with Charlie starting his freshman year in high school, a time most of us know to be at least some degree of nerve-wracking and intimidating. (I understand that we didn’t ALL feel this overwhelmed when starting this new phase of our lives, but come on, be human and admit that it wasn’t an easy transition at first!) Anyway, our main guy here is not sure what he thinks of all these new social arrangements and contacts. From his diary entries (you’ll understand why he writes in diary entries when you read the book), it’s clear he’s spent most of his life locked inside his curiously inventive imagination, not really living on the outside in any real capacity. He’s accustomed to the sidelines, being what I indeed still kinda am: a “wallflower,” most comfortable observing others and living vicariously through the people around him.

Charlie is anxious and too aware of how he just doesn’t fit in. His older brother and sister have their own hormonally-induced personalities and lives, and they don’t really connect with or understand him. Charlie’s really struggling with what might possibly be wrong with him. Although he lacks social grace, he doesn’t lack insight in any sense of the word. After all, he’s always in his head, thinking, dammit, and that’s the curse of insight for wallflowers everywhere: it’s very persistent. Early in the novel he meets Sam and Patrick, a brother and sister duo, who introduce him to even more complex situations and emotions in his young life. I’m not going to spoil anything for potential readers of the book, so suffice is to say Charlie is going to get a good healthy dose of teenage inspiration that will only lead to even more confusion. (By the way, acid doesn’t improve any already-confused situation. Just saying…)

He struggles with the typical teenage complications:

  • how to get through life without drowning in his self-induced misery (a.k.a. his personality)
  • how not to alienate and frustrate girls (and guys) who might or might not be interested in him as a romantic partner
  • how to meet and bond with strangers…who might or might not become friends
  • how to maintain his sanity (his half-sanity, in his opinion) in the constantly-changing landscape of High School Land
  • how to deal with his slightly-dysfunctional family (his grandfather’s a trip lol)
  • how to find a sense of INFINITE-ness that doesn’t require him to be on drugs or under the influence of anyone else in his life, etc.

As you’ll see, if you read the book, he makes a mess of most of this stuff, but in the end he still comes out on top. Well, that’s pushing it, really…he still emerges as himself, just a wiser, more evolved version of himself. Do any of us ever really accomplish much more in this life? And, is anything more important?

I loved the book because I found myself in Charlie’s introspective nature, and was delighted to find myself cheering for him with the turn of every page. He’s really one of the most likable characters you’re going to meet. I laughed so much throughout, even when things were quite somber and reflective. He’s a slyly humorous guy, that Charlie, and it makes all the difference in the world. The book is great because it isn’t bogged down with just the weight of all this teenage angst and confusion; it provides the necessary humor and lighthearted moments we all need in this life.

five-stars5/5 stars for “Perks”

By the way, I tried to watch the movie version of the book but my file didn’t work correctly so I’ll have to wait for it on Netflix. I’m pretty sure the book will be better than the movie, but it might come close if the acting is anywhere near my expectations. The author directed the movie, so that’s a bonus!

I’ll be moving along now, friends, as I’ve started another book and also must get ready for my trip to Michigan on Saturday! I will be on hiatus for the week of August 8-15, and possibly a few days beyond. I am going to visit my fiance and we’re planning on having a blast I’ll probably need a few days recovery from when I get back! Ciao for now, and please tell me what you’re reading this first hot week of August!

Forever Between Pages,



Book Review: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (Harry Potter #1) by J.K. Rowling


Harry Potter has swept me away…

Finally…I’m a member of the Harry Potter Club!

Ok, fellow book lovers, please don’t faint from surprise with this next admission: I FINISHED THE FIRST HARRY POTTER BOOK TWO NIGHTS AGO.

I can’t believe it’s taken me almost 18 years to actually read this book. I’m 28 years old and finally understanding why everyone has been C-R-A-Z-Y over this Harry Potter phenomenon for years. I’ve heard so much hype over the years, and anyone who knows me understands that I don’t “do” hype. I rarely participate in the discussions surrounding bestsellers or new releases that seem to clog Twitter and Instagram feeds. I generally do my own thing, read what looks good and entertaining, and come to things at my own pace. I’m not even upset about taking so long to read this series, that’s how pleased I am with the first book! (Safe to say, I won’t be taking long to start the 2nd book!)large_uLGaJ9FgPWf7EUgwjp9RTmHemw8

I can’t add much to the Harry Potter discussion, that’s not what this post is about, for sure. It’s just a simple commentary on why this book has been so good for me, as a reader and as an adult. It won’t be long and drawn out, my schedule doesn’t allow for waxing poetic too long, but it will try to explain why it’s never too late for the right book!

I vaguely remember picking this first book up when Harry Potter mania was first starting, and probably thinking something along the lines of “This is not based in reality, it’s not something I’m going to like.” (Keep in mind, I was 10 in 1997 when HP made his first appearance in the world, so that’s further proof that I’m old beyond my years.) I think I borrowed the book from a neighbor and got a few chapters in, just to sucker out and move on. I’m not going to say that was a mistake, because I now feel as if “discovering” Harry Potter at an older age may actually be more rewarding in the long run. (There’s something to the millions of adults who sneak the books out of their childrens’ bedrooms, feigning a read or re-read, for sure.)

I’ve seen at least half the movies, and I’ve been watching those in one form or another for most of my late adolescence and into my early adult years. While I’ve mostly enjoyed them, I believe (like most bookworms) that it’s really the books that are the important contribution to society, and the films are a bonus with good acting and amazing special effects. I must say that I’m thankful that the films don’t stray from the text and that J.K. Rowling maintained control over the projects!

As for the book itself, I think J.K. Rowling is brilliant with easy-going character development. She has created such a diverse crew of characters in this first book that already I feel myself having a strong emotional pull toward them, especially Harry, Ron, and Hagrid. (I want Hermione to be a little less of a snit and I definitely want to see Malfoy get what he deserves, and I know from the movies that these things come with time.) Since I’ve seen a few of the movies, I can picture each scene vividly in my mind while reading, and Jim Dale’s audiobook narration lends so much to the experience. (His performance should be noted for his unique vocalizations and his ability to keep his character voices on such an individual level. He’s a magnificent reader, and I hope to continue with his narration. Plus, the British brogue is music to my ears!)

I love the quiet philosophy behind the action and adventure in the book, and I expect many more moral insights and battles between “good” and “evil” in the coming books. I believe it’s never too early to teach children how to think and behave when other people stand against them or try their patience and good character. Harry Potter and his small crew fight the good fight, and in my opinion, that’s one of the many reasons people young and old have been coming back to this series. It’s a simple-complicated story about a boy with burdensome origins, who has ample opportunity to let his standing sour him on the world. However, he chooses to stay true to his heart and work toward a future of good and strong moral fortitude. It’s the ultimate story of a young man who finds his people (rather, his wizards), and progresses into a better, although not easier, life. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it…

Alright, in the interest of not boring you to death with any more rambling, I’m going to sign off for now and get this posted. It’s already a day late, sorry! I look forward to hearing your feedback on this and any other content on the blog! (By the way, I’ve got my Mom reading the book with the same narration at night now, and she says she’s enjoying it.)


Five stars! All the way!

Keep Turning Pages, and I’ll see you all next time,