March 1, 2020

Goosebumps #39 - How I Got My Shrunken Head

Judging a Book by its Cover




Alright so I said I'd have a new review out by February... and it's March.... but not very late into March so I think I'm doing good!

We are back on track with the next entry in the original Goosebumps series. It's #39 How I Got My Shrunken Head. As expected the head in question looks pretty creepy. I think generally in a shrunken head the eyes are sewn shut... since eyes tend to rot away. I'm guessing this one is super natural though? Also its skin is green. Skin usually doesn't turn green. Maybe it's a goblin head. Looks like one to me...

There are some nice details in the illustration. There is a pair of chucks that often grace Goosebumps covers. There is also a "University" pennant. Most people cheer for a specific university but this kid just loves secondary education in general. I also want to know who has purple and blue tiles in their room. Weird color scheme dude.

The tagline give us so head related word play. "Heads up!" says the front illustration. I wonder if the fact that this tagline is next to a baseball glove and ball is coincidental or planned. My guess is a happy accident. Thinking they thought that out seems like giving them too much credit. The back HILARIOUSLY states that "two heads are better than one." I might have to disagree in this case. No preserved human remains for me thanks.

Anyway, it's been awhile. lets see if I remember how to write a a synopsis and review.

Getting Goosebumps

Mark really likes the video game Jungle King. You swing from vines, collect shrunken heads, and avoid quicksand. What an adventure. Incidentally there was a real video game named Jungle King, where you do in fact swing from vines but very little else matches up with R.L. Stine's description. Incidentally that game had to rename itself Jungle Hunt after it got sued by the people who owned the rights to Tarzan. No joke. Anyway, what was I saying again? Oh yeah, kid likes jungle adventure video games. Kid even made up his own jungle cry, "kah-lee-ah!" Kids are weird. So Weird.

So by total coincidence after collecting shrunken heads in the game, one shows up at his doorstep. Not by itself though, it was carried by a woman named Carolyn who apparently knows his Aunt Benna. Aunt Benna it seems is off on a jungle island studying. The shrunken head is a gift, because what kid doesn't like playing with parts of corpses?

Well that shrunken head does some weird stuff. And some of it is his sister playing pranks, but some of it is harder to explain... like at night it started glowing... and grinning! Still it could be his sister pranking, little sisters are so jealous of gross human heads. She even scratched the darn thing in a spat!

So it turns out that Carolyn was sent by Aunt Benna to bring her nephew Mark to visit her in the jungle. Well the word of a stranger with absolutely no warning from the Aunt is good enough for mom, so Mark packs his bags and is off to dangerous parts unknown with a woman they've never met carrying a disembodied human head through the airport. Sounds like everything here is in order. Next stop, the jungles of Baladora.

Once there instead of meeting his Aunt whom he has not seen since he was quite young, he instead gets introduced to a Dr. Hawlings and his daughter Kareen. Benna, it seems, is missing. That is the reason Mark had to come. They didn't contact police, military, rescue crews, the government, trackers, no.... they contacted a 12 year old boy. How can Mark be of any use what so ever? Well it's simple, Mark has the JUNGLE MAGIC. Yup, that's gonna be the plot of this book I guess. Jungle magic. The Oloyan people of the island had the magic. They were headshrinkers, hence the head in Marks possession. Mark too possess the magic only he is... skeptical. I can't imagine why!

Mark uses some of that good common sense Goosebumps protagonists have and decides to explore the jungle a little bit at night. He comes across a seriously creepy pile of heads. Not cool. He retreats pretty quickly and searches headquarters for a flashlight. Instead he finds Aunt Benna's notes. Turns out ol' Benna is hiding on purpose because Dr. Hawlings and co. are EVIL. They want the jungle magic for their own evil purposes. But come on now, what is the jungle magic of a race of ancient headshrinkers for if not for evil? Anyway to keep things safe she gave Mark the magic years ago, and kept he safe 4000 miles away from the island. Sure would be a shame if he showed up at the island for some reason... oh damn!

Kareen interrupts things. She believes in Marks jungle magic and despite being Dr. Hawlings spawn convinces Mark she truly cares about his aunt. She helps him escape to the jungle, alone... which is a great place for a 12 year old city boy to be. No joke, the dude passes out and gets covered by huge angry ants. Way to go Mark, your aunt is going to die because you are inept.

In desperation he shouts "Kah-lee-ah!" that stupid jungle cry he used in the video game. Turns out that is a plot point too. His jungle cry. It saves his ass somehow. Next his dumb ass falls into quicksand. He never saw the Mythbusters where they proved you don't drown in quicksand so he panics. His little shout won't help him because he dropped the shrunken head, which is part of the jungle magic. Then he thumps the head his way and grabs on to it. His shout works and summons vines to the rescue. But where is his aunt? Well lucky for him that his shrunken head works as a Benna seeking compass.

Next our dude gets attacked by an angry momma tiger. Never fear though because a literal hole rips in the earth to protect him. Course now he is stuck in a hole. Out of the frying pan into the fire. He can't figure out a way to get out of this one. What do you do when jungle magic fails you? Count on Kareen.

The duo walks in a Benna-ward direction while Kareen tries to convince Mark her dad isn't so evil. Then they find Benna and then Kareen tries to convince the old woman of her dad's not evilness too. Then Kareen pulls a total heel turn and reveals that she is totally evil herself, and had been helping her dad find Aunt Benna. Kareen tries to justify it by saying kids gotta help their parents even if they are evil.

Aunt and Nephew get put in a shack til they reveal their jungle magic. Luckily the shrunken head didn't get confiscated. They have one last shot to use the jungle magic to save their asses. I am getting really tired of typing the words "jungle magic" by the way.

They get one last chance to spill the secret or they are gonna get their heads shrunken, shrinked? shrank? shrunk? Their heads are gonna get smaller. The plan to save their asses goes awry when the head gets swatted away into a pile of heads. How can he tell which one is the right one? Oh right, his dumb sister scratched up his, that's how! Hey lookit those details coming back into play.

With the right had and a fierce "kah-lee-ah" the head shrinkers become the shrinkees, except not just their heads shrink but their whole bodies. Odd. Anyway as tiny Stuart Little sized people they are powerless and Benna is free to return to civilization with her nephew. She does the responsible thing and takes back the jungle magic she gave him years ago, but he can keep the shrunken head.... hey did that thing start talking?

My Thoughts

Fundamentally this is the kind of Goosebumps book I should like. There tend to be "location" books, where kids go on an adventure far from the normalcy of home. The Mummy books were a good example of this, exploring ancient pyramids and tombs. Likewise, this explores a jungle. of course it's not a very realistic jungle. It is a jungle right out of old timey adventure movies I bet RL Stine grew up watching. If Tarzan swung by on a rope it wouldn't be out of place.

If this is the kind of Goosebumps book I should like, then why didn't it? I think "jungle magic" had a big part to do with it. Stine loves to put really dumb plot points like this in. I mean, there is probably a really cool way to reveal a magic of the island. Shouting "kah-lee-ah" and calling it "jungle magic" is not really that way. More than just a magical device, it kind of serves as a means to just magically solve any problem by shouting some words. It's a nifty little Swiss army tool for making sure the protagonist can get out of anything.

Sometimes Stine just really drops the ball on things too. It's a book called how I got my shrunken head. It's all about shrunken heads. So when Mark defeats the enemy what does he do? He shrinks their heads them entirely. Whhhhhy? It doesn't make any sense.

Plus he doesn't really flesh things out. For example, why does Dr. Hawlings want the jungle magic? Like, ok... yes he wants to strip mine the area.... why does he need jungle magic for that? Trust me, standard industry has been doing a great job of ripping apart the jungle for raw materials without any need for magic. All you need is bulldozers and chainsaws. Easy peasy.

So lets go over what is scary/creepy. Shrunken heads are creepy. Thing is, I don't know if they go far enough to really convey how creepy that are. Real ones are ACTUAL HUMAN FLESH. Like a real person got murdered and their skin got preserved. It's creepy as fuck! And it's a real actual thing too. Of course probably 80% of so called shrunken heads in collections are thought to be fakes. To be honest if I had a shrunken head I'd be revealed to found out it is a fake.

The other scares are largely "real" scares. Jungle mayhem. Vicious tigers, swarming aunts, fictional deadly quicksand. To me these are largely the more interesting scares of the story. A shrunken head is just gross, a tiger will maul you to death. It could have used a snake squeezing the life of him though. That would be my suggestion.

I think perhaps one of the big reasons I didn't enjoy this is the same reason I didn't enjoy many of these books on the reread. I'm thinking with my adult brain not my child brain. Still, adult brain me wonders if even child brain would think shouting "kah-lee-ah" is pretty dumb.

At the end of the day I guess this book just isn't that memorable to stand out in the field of the near 40 other original series Goosebumps books that were out at this time. If you like the jungle setting it my sit well with you, but otherwise it doesn't have much else to offer.

Rating: 2 out of 5 shrunken heads



Up Next

Ideally I'll have my next review up April 1st. It won't be a Goosebumps book, or even by R.L. Stine, but it's from a series I've wanted to review for awhile now. Excuse me for these little deviations! I think it'll be a fun one though. Until then, thanks for reading.

January 25, 2020

Sending out Goosebumps Postcards!


This Christmas one of my generous friends that knows I love Goosebumps and know I like sending my friends postcards sent me the Goosebumps Postcard Book. Thing is, because I love Goosebumps and I love postcards I've already had this AND the second postcard book and sent my friends all of those 60 postcards. So now I have 30 more, and though I might send a couple to my friends I thought maybe my readers might want one. So if you don't mind sending your address to some random weirdo on the internet, I'll send you a handwritten postcard. If you're not comfortable sending your address to some random weirdo... I understand! But hey, maybe people out there have PO boxes or something. Anyway, sign up for a postcard at the following link. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScEbVsRU7g5EpQUEDD3f8lzn78YVF7W4ceHmdYKmshi8gchHA/viewform?usp=sf_link

If you're wondering where the next book review is, wait til February. Sometime in February I fully intend to have the next review of an original series book up. I am hoping to have a little more output in this blog this year. We'll see how that goes.

November 16, 2019

Red Rain



So on this blog I put the title "Reliving the Terror of Youth." That has been the focus, the Goosebumps books I grew up with. Occasionally some other scary book for kids I grew up with gets reviewed, like that one time I did Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I have even strayed out into more modern Goosebumps books released recently after I was well into adulthood. So here is a real first for me, I am going to talk about a horror book... FOR ADULTS.

The novel Red Rain was released by Goosebumps author R.L. Stine in 2012. At this point in his career Stine had released literally hundreds of children's novels. Adult novels, however, he had only released perhaps a couple. Still, as he had perhaps reached the apex of his popularity in the 90s, it was maybe quite tempting to write a novel for those kids who loved him back then but had now grown up. Thus comes Red Rain.

Now I am not gonna give a full on treatment I give the kids books. It's a newer book, it's for adults, maybe you guys want to read it without me spoiling all of it. I do however feel like I have a want, nay, a NEED to talk about it.

I will outline the basic premise without hopefully giving too much away. Lea Sutter travels to an island to write about for her travel blog, leaving her kids and husband back home on the mainland. There she experiences a horrible hurricane, devastating the island. Emerging from the wreckage appear to twin boys. Orphaned. They have lost everything, and Lea feels an instant connection. She has an overwhelming urge to adopt the boys. Once home, strange things start to happen. Are these boys as angelic as they seem? (Spoiler alert, no.)

So how does this book shape up? Not well. Even though I love Goosebumps books I think in my reviews I have been the first to admit they are not "traditionally good" books. R.L Stine is not an excellent writer. He gets away with this by writing to children, with fun quirky monsters and villains. His writing style doesn't improve that vastly when writing for grown ups. Sure he can provide a few more details, but his characters are still pretty flat. In fact, I don't think I gave a crap about a single one. He also writes side plots for characters like cops that don't amount to anything. He tells us things we don't need to know and frankly don't contribute.

There is one thing that really weirds me out too. So he still writes in R.L Stine mannerisms. Like clearly is aimed for older people but it still feels very much like you are reading R.L. Stine... then a guy bangs his secretary over his desk and you are like waaaaait a minute. It feels so out of place. It's almost like he uses sex scenes and gore because that is what "grown up novels are supposed to do." It is no substitute for good writing.

But is it scary? No. The antagonists of the story are honestly no more frightening than Slappy the Dummy. They would scare an 8 year old, but not an adult. In fact, the only way in which they are "more" scary is that they are successful in murder, and there is some gore. But there essence is not scary. They spout childish mantras that could have been torn right from the pages of Goosebumps. Think when the Phantom of the Auditorium goes on chanting, "stay away from my home sweet home." They say stuff about that level of "scary" except this is meant FOR ADULTS! You can dress them up a little blood and guts but the reader will still come away from it thinking it seems childish.

Bottom line is, this book may be aimed at adults but if you cut out the gore and sex, and shaved off 300 unnecessary pages this could be a Goosebumps book... just not a very good one. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone expecting an advanced scare, nor would I even recommend it to adult readers of Goosebumps like myself. An adult can still get a laugh out of Goosebumps, and read it in a half an hour. This book will take you longer and you'll enjoy it less. I'd only suggest it to someone curious, but would advise you to have low expectations.  My real advice is to go reread the Night of the Living Dummy trilogy. It'll take you less time and you'll have more fun.

October 27, 2019

Goosebumps #38: The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena

Judging a Book by its Cover


My, my, my it has been a long time hasn't it? Sorry for, you know, completely abandoning this blog for almost a year. I'm back though, so let's get to it.

The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. Clearly snowmen are not supposed to be in California. You know the only reason I knew about Pasadena existing before this book was the Jan and Dean song Little Old Lady From Pasadena. I guess these are their 2 claims to fame?

So the Snowman is clearly out of his element amongst the palm trees and one wonders where the snow he is covered with is from. You know I always thought Abominable Snowmen were white furred and that is what distinguishes them from their Bigfoot/Sasquatch brethren. Maybe I'm wrong though. This brute is very top heavy. It looks like he skips leg day at the gym but his upper body strength is a site to behold. Just look at that street light! Also he is knocking over a mailbox which I am pretty sure is a federal crime. Not cool buddy, not cool.

You know what is cool though? Finally writing a review for a dang Goosebumps book again. Let's get on with it.

Getting Goosebumps

This time around our protagonists are the brother sister team of Jordan and Nicole Blake. Their dad is a photographer who just got back from the Grand Tetons where there was SNOW. Jordan and Nicole are mad jealous because, having never seen snow before, they don't know that it's actually terrible. Dad is developing his photos of the grizzlies. You see developing photos is what old people used to have to do before digital cameras were invented. You had to actually WAIT to see what the picture you took looked like. Crazy, I know. And for some reason all his photos of the grizzlies look like... teddy bears? That rascally Jordan pranked him. There has always gotta be a prankster in this books, always.

Speaking of pranking, in the next chapter the neighborhood bullies unscrewed the Blakes' bike handlebars and put them on backwards. That and a thorough Super Soaking (tm) really got the better of the duo. The grand finale was a rock smashing that turned out to be a movie prop. Surely these villains will never get their comeuppance later on!

Anyway dad gets great news that he gets to go shoot some photos in Alaska for a magazine. The normal babysitter is occupied so the kids get to tag along on a professional photo shoot in the wilderness. What could go wrong? The publication wants shots of a supposed Abominable Snowman but dad is skeptical and is fine just getting shots of the tundra. Booooring.

Cut to the flight in to Alaska. It is a mighty small town they land in and they meet their guide Arthur. He is a true believer of the Snowman and tells tales of people gone missing. He is not real fond of the idea of kids being brought along. Can't say I blame him.

As if to immediately confirm Arthur's feelings about the kids, 2 miles in to their 10 mile trek the siblings are horsing around and one of them falls into a crevice. Damn kids. They stop for the night after arriving late at an old musher's cabin. Not too late for Jordan to plant some fake Snowman tracks though. Dad and Arthur fall for it hard. The old guide flips out. I guess it's a reasonable response if you think something that's been eating all your friends is nearby. Count this as a prank that didn't land very well.

Next morning the sled dogs are scared of something. This makes Arthur doubly scared. Mr. Blake concedes and they head back to the cabin. Later on the dogs get spooked again. That night the kids sneak out of the cabin because they can't sleep and they spot Arthur abandoning them to be eaten by the yeti. Dick movie Arthur. Dick move.

The kids chase him because they are idiots and of course they get lost. They fall into another crevice, scream for help, cause an avalanche, stumble into a strange room, and then find the Abominable freakin' Snowman. He is big, he is scary, and he is... frozen in ice? That seems to be the case, even though fresh footprints lead right to the ice cube. Odd


Can ice stop a snow beast though? No it cannot. The ice cracks and he chases the kids, savagely attacking them, tearing them limb from limb and devouring the corpses... oh wait no, he opens their backpack and steals their trail mix. This is the fearsome monster that made Arthur almost piss his pants?

Once the snacks are gone the monster carries the children outside only to be scared away by dogs. The dropped kids return to the cabin and tell their father about the beast. He has the reaction any good father would have, demanding the small vulnerable children lead him to the huge unstoppable monster. They do it because they are kisd and they are idiots.When they get their the Snowman is back in his ice cube. Father of the year ignores his frightened children's please to leave the beast alone, and instead he decides to take the Abominable Snowmansicle back home to Pasadena. Jordan sneaks some snowballs in the trunk they lock the monster in. Wait a second, how fucking big was the trunk Mr. Blake took anyway? It can fit a whole damn yeti inside? Jesus! Anyway, no life or death situation is so serious you can't pack away some snowballs to throw at your childhood bully.

Back home in Pasadena the kids who couldn't wait to see snow are relieved to be back in the sunshine. Dad has to leave for business and warns the kids to leave the yeti trunk alone. Sound advice. Their friend starts hassling them about the trip and the Blakes quickly spill the beans about the Snowman. Their friend is reasonable skeptical and needs some hard evidence. Immediately they do the one thing their dad told them not to do. But hey, when you got a frozen yeti you gotta show it off.

Of course the yeti isn't the only thing in there. They sneak the snowballs out and throw them at their awestruck friend, missing instead hitting a tree. That detail is notable because the snow on the tree starts to spread instead of melt. In 100 degree weather the snow covers the tree and spreads  to the ground. The friend is thrilled to see the snow in Pasadena, because (and I've said this about many characters before) SHE'S AN IDIOT. The Blakes are rightfully concerned. The friend becomes more concerned when she lobs a magic snowball at Nicole and the girl freezes solid.

Trying to thaw her out in front of the oven didn't work. A reasonable solution though. The furnace is a no go too. Then a.... uhh... genius solution comes to Jordan's mind. He'll bribe the yeti with trail mix to warm her up. I fail to see how this could go wrong, so lets do this thing. After taking a bit of time to thaw out, the yeti indeed delights at trail mix. At first he seems to maul the frozen sister but he does indeed thaw her out. Wait... that plan fucking WORKED? You gotta be kidding me! The Snowman even goes outside and rolls around in the new magic snow to get it to dissipate. Then the beast takes his leave. They assume he will travel to the chilly mountain tops, but really it's out of their hands.

There is really one thing left to do. There are 2 of those magic snowballs left, and no yeti to dispose of them. They do the only logical thing and bury them in an empty lot.

Dad is understandable bummed that the Abominable Snowman escaped but takes solace in the fact that his kids weren't terribly mauled. At least he has always got the photos he took. I wonder how those turned out? Well all the pics of tundra and elk turned out fine... but every one he took of the Snowman just shows snow and nothing more. Guess he won't be making his millions.

And that is the end of that.

Oh wait, one of the bullies dug up the magic snowball and threw it at the other bully.

THE END.



My Thoughts

Ok surely I could nitpick this book to death. It is formulaic in the way all Goosebumps are. There are silly solutions to monstrous problems. The trail mix being the key to salvation was ridiculous. There are at times desperate leaps of logic. These are things that seem to commonly plague the series.

There is one major thing I thought could be changed about this book though. The book is called The Abominable Snowman of PASADENA and it is only in Pasadena for like 2 chapters. It is somewhat interesting seeing the kids out of their element in Alaska, and certainly the isolation and wildness of the area makes it quite a great setting for a horror book... but that diminishes the interesting aspect of the "fish out of water" Yeti being in California. To me this book fails to deliver on the premise of its title.

I would like to pitch an altered plot to this book. The kids are at home sweltering away in sunny Pasadena with a broken AC while their dad is out having a wild adventure in Alaska. They receive a cryptic postcard in the mail about some mind blowing discovery. Their father returns soon but is acting strange. It turns out he is the sole discoverer of the world's first yeti, frozen in ice. He spends all his time in his dark room studying it, to the neglect of his children. Oddly, the usually balmy California weather in July starts to plummet. Can you believe that after only a week the temperature is below freezing at night? What ever happened to global warming? One morning the kids discover snow covering the ground outside as far as the eyes can see. And... are those giant footprints in the backyard? It turns out the yeti is on the loose. Their father sheepishly admits he was overcome with the strangest desire and knowledge to free the beast. You see, it is more than just a savage animal that time forgot, it is an arcane beast who brings the tundra with him wherever he dwells, with a thirst to finally be free upon the world again. Only the Blake family know the truth about the frigid weather in the city, and only Mr. Blake with his kids by his side can undo the horror he has unleashed upon Pasadena.

Why is RL Stine a millionaire and I'm just writing shitty blog posts? Life ain't fair! Still though, the book isn't like, absolutely terrible. It's basically on par with your average Goosebumps book. It doesn't hurt to believe it could have been so much more though.

Rating: 2 Yetis out of 5



Up Next

I really intend to write another blog post before the end of the year. At the very least, however, I promise to right another one before next October.


My lovely friends sent me some birthday gifts this summer. One is this awesome Haunted Mask blanket pictured above. Another is the RL Stine book Red Rain. It is a horror book he wrote for adults rather than children. I don't expect to do a full big post about it with a lengthy synopsis and everything, but I do expect to at least drop some brief thoughts and perhaps let you know if it's worth picking up.

Beyond that, I still have a giant pile of Goosebumps to read. I'll try and get to them as soon as I can. thanks for reading and happy Halloween!

November 25, 2018

Goosebumps HorrorLand #2: Creep From the Deep

Judging a Book by its Cover



You may notice the cover above is not my usual slightly blurry photo of a book from my own collection. If you look close you'll notice it is the cover for the audiobook version of Creep From the Deep. Well that was an astute observation. For the first time ever I'm reviewing the audiobook version of a Goosebumps book! I thought it would be a unique experience. I am not really a big audiobook listener but I thought that one of these books would be short enough to keep my focus and the potential for audio spookiness could add a new layer to the story.

So what do we`ave here? It is number 2 of the HorrorLand series, Creep From the Deep. It is, I believe, a sequel to Deep Trouble which I have already read and reviewed here. There is also a Deep Trouble 2. Which I haven't read yet. I haven't read it yet because I don't own it. I generally like to own the books I'm reading. I made an exception for this audiobook because I got it from the library. It was also the only Goosebumps audiobook they had that I hadn't reviewed yet. Made my choice easy, that's for sure. I don't think I will be missing a lot from Deep Trouble 2 though because these HorrorLand sequels had a tendency to retcon other books in the series. A prime example of this would be that The Scream of the Haunted Mask disregarded everything that happened it The Haunted Mask II.  I have a sneaking suspicion the same thing has happened here (and I might have checked the wiki for it...)

Nevermind that though. I guess I should talk about the cover itself. It prominently features a rather mean looking eel. It's a rather big eel at that. Like... kinda bigger than I think eels get? I suppose that depends on how big the porthole it's busting through is. Deep Trouble's cover featured a shark in the open water. It made you think about how vast the ocean is, and how alone the victim was. This cover makes you feel cramped, claustrophobic, and invaded. It may be the nostalgia talking but I've never thought the later series's covers ever had quite the charm of the originals, but I don't have a lot of complaints about this picture. There is a creep, it looks deep, mission accomplished.

I noticed the reading is performed by Jeff Woodman. A quick googlin' showed me that he has done over 400 audiobooks so I am gonna go out on a limb and say he is probably pretty good at his job. I am optimistic for this reading... or listening rather. It's going to be my first audiobook experience since I was little and listened to a cassette of The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree (which might I say was plenty scary in its own right.)

So lets go back to the ocean (I assume) and see what is lurking for us there this time. Is it the eel on the cover? A megalodon? Is a sharknado brewing? Lets find out!

Getting Goosebumps

Meet William Deep Jr. Perhaps you've already met him if you read Deep Trouble (or Deep Trouble 2.) He also goes by Billy, or perhaps as his alter ego The Undersea Mutant. You see he is an underwater hero waging battle against the fearsome Albino Eel. Or maybe he's just a kid with an overactive imagination and the whole first chapter is a fake out fantasy sequence.

Really Billy is on a science boat called The Cassandra with his uncle Dr. D who is a marine biologist. It's a regular Sealab. He likes to try and discover new species like perhaps the infamous Albino Eel? Alas, it seems to be just regular seaweed. Never fear though, just in case he needs protection he trains Billy to man the harpoons. His first throw goes horrible and Billy fatally spears his sister Sheena. Nah, just kidding. She pretended to be hit by a spear. Younger sisters are like that I guess. And even though she may play tricks, she doesn't have quite the imagination Billy does.

So what is the marine biologist vessel doing out in the ocean this time? Hunting pirate treasure actually. Seems odd for a marine biologist to do, but hey, why not. Their target: The Scarlet Skull. Captained by the ruthless Long Ben One-Leg (a name that seems vaguely sexual) this fearsome pirate vessel sank over 200 years ago in a mysterious cloud of black smoke. While checking out a ship site sounds interesting, the real prize is PIRATE TREASURE, ARRRRRRRR. Shan't be easy to be obtaining that ther booty tho, tharrr be zombie pirates guardin' it.

So to explore they have a nice yellow submarine (a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine) called The Deep Diver with which they can explore. But first, the eel has returned to munch on Billy again, unless that's his imagination. Oh. It is. Nevermind then. All aboard! Billy, naturally, gracefully falls straight on his ass upon entering. Now it's time to dive, dive, dive.


Things do not go smoothly on our maiden voyage. There is some engine trouble. The a black cloud The Scarlet Skull. Well on the bright side at least they found what they were looking for. They also found a freakin' skeleton army that starts beating on the ship. The engines won't start. It is the classic moment in a slasher film when the murderer is coming and the cool convertibles ignition won't go. Thankfully Sheena is there to smack the console like Fonzie smacks a jukebox. Problem solved.
eerily like the myth of Cap'n Long Ben envelopes the sub. It is scary, and sickening to the stomach. Even brave Sheena is sacred. Is Dr. D scared? No. Dr. D is... GONE! How could he disappear when they are under water in the middle of the ocean?  Only one thing is for sure, they have to get themselves out of this mess. The kids get the engine going again, but can't control it and crash right into

They manage to steer themselves safe out of the depths, but on the surface The Cassandra is nowhere to be seen. There is an island though. Sheena swims for it, and Billy tries to but the clutz bashes his leg on the way out of the sub and falls into the water. On shore he needs a stick to use as a crutch. Ashore there is no Dr. D, but there is a strange man in a black cloak who turns out to be a corpse. Also there is a trail that looks like skeleton prints. One of the other nice features of the island is a massive pit in which they fall, and then the skeleton pirates capture them. The pirates like to speak in rhyme too. Kooky spooks they are. Anyway, the pirates captured Dr. D so at least he's still alive. Unfortunately they want the kids to give back what was taken from them, and the kids don't know what on earth they are talking about. It must be the treasure, but they don't even have the treasure.

Once again Goosebumps characters decide there is no problem on earth that can't be solved by running away. Unless you meet a big snake, like they do. Then you gotta solve your problems by flinging it the fuck out of the way.

Soon they discover two men on the island. Two LIVING men, which is a big improvement. They are Roger and Goldy, who are photographers and not pirates. They even want to help the kids, and after a fight with some skeletal pirates its off to their motorboat. They want to photograph the shipwreck to get that sweet sweet shipwreck photo money. Is there a lot of money on photographing shipwrecks? Apparently!

They reach the site of the submarine and it's scuba time! While the men are down below Billy uncovers some rifles aboard the boat. Why would photographers need guns? Well the photographers return with the treasure, so all the kids' problems are solved. But the men are actually undead sailors from the pirate ships rival ship which the treasure was stolen off of, and these undead sailors plan on keeping the treasure. So I guess problems not solved. They seemed to have fooled the kids by wearing masks. They must have been really good masks... After tossing the kids overboard Roger the skeleton man touches the red skull jewel on the chest to open it but it turns out to be a trap. It zaps both then men and fries them to ash. That is way more secure than a lock.

After that crazy happening even more crazy shit goes down. The Cassandra somehow just drifting on open water manages to bump into the motorboat. Then the sunken pirate ship rises from the ocean depth with Captain Ben and Dr. D his hostage. He demands what is his be returned, and the kids offer him the treasure but he has no interest in that. No, what Long Ben One-Leg back is the return of his leg. It seems the stick Billy found on the island to use on a crutch was actually the pirate Captain's leg. Sheena shrewdly asks how they can trust he will give back their uncle. The Captain proudly states that he won't give back the uncle either way and he'll murder the kids too. This doesn't seem like the most effective way to get what you want.

Now how do you kill that which is already dead? You throw its own severed leg at it like a harpoon, because your uncle gave you lessons on spear fishing. Why this works is anyone's guess, but it does. The Captain croaks, the red jewel cracks, the pirate ship resinks, Dr. D dies.

Wait.. Dr. D dies? Wait nah, nevermind, he's fine. He advises them that they must go back through the black cloud to return to the living world. Doing so is a success, but sadly the treasure is gone. Does that mean the treasure is dead too? I'm confused. Either way the skull jewel remains, and Billy seems confident it has no more power. All that is left to do is radio for help. The only help they get is dead pirates chanting in rhyme....

This is the end of the book proper.

Now for the HorrorLand section. At the end of each HorrorLand series book, the characters from that book enter HorrorLand and the episodes tie all the books together. Would it have made sense to review all this books in a row? Probably... But I didn't do that...

Soooooo, Billy and Sheena received a special invitation to go to HorrorLand. How could they refuse?

Early on they see two girls in distress at the front desk of the hotel for the park. Their parents have gone missing. Sheena assures them it is just a prank she overheard the employees play on the kids, by moving parents to another room. Traumatizing kids and getting paid for it... is this what being a clown feels like?

The girls are named Britney Crosby and Molly Molloy. I'm guessing their from the first HorrorLand series book but I haven't read that one yet. Either way, they are now worried about a creepy picture on their digital camera. It's of Slappy the Dummy but somehow he is IN HorrorLand and in a picture with all of them including Billy and Sheena. How the hell did that happen? Weird. Must be another HorrorLand Prank.

Their group goes off to quicksand beach and then immediately freak out because they are sinking in quicksand. Did they not understand what the premise of the attraction was? It is especially creepy for Billy because he hears the pirates chanting again. Finally the kids succumb to the sinking and get pulled down by the sand... into a totally wicked sweet slide. Best ride ever! Except... Sheena and Billy don't see the two girls that came with them. Oh well, they are probably not horrifically maimed or dead or anything.

Eventually Billy and Sheena make their way to the games arcade area. One kid with a strange gray keycard is kicking every game's ass and winning all the prizes. He is doing so good the Monster Police come to bust him. The kid sneaks Billy his card and runs away. Billy decides running away is a great idea too

Back at the hotel using the phone is no good because the only person they can dial is a creepy laughing pirate that may or may not be Captain Long Ben One-Leg. I hope it's not long distance.

The kid that gave billy the card turns up at the hotel. His name is Matt Daniels and apparently a strange HorrorLand employee gave it to him. They all decide to see if Britney and Molly are dead or not, which is very nice of them after spending some time at the arcade.

Searching turns up the girls at a cafe. Strange thing is that the door is locked, and it looks odd inside. Luckily the gray keycard opens the door. Inside, the girls are no longer there. In fact, no one is. But there is a mirror. Their reflection reveals Sheena is no longer with them either. But she assures them she is still there. In fact she is there, she is just... INVISIBLE.

My Thoughts

Even in audiobook form, Goosebumps are still Goosebumps. Though the format did alter the experience a bit, it still felt like basically the same old thing. It just made the book take over 2 hours to listen to instead of like a half an hour or so to read. Was it worth it though...

The audiobook aspects of this book were really good! The narrator did a great job. He had unique voices for the very characters that fit with their attitudes. There were nice effects to go with it, like some creepy deep zombie pirate chanting. Plus all the sound effects and really livened things up. It helped make tense moments feel genuinely tense. The whole thing added a level of polish to a foundation that is well... at its heart the generally somewhat average typical Goosebumps story.

If we take away the studio tricks and slick narration does the story hold up? Well, about as well as any other Goosebumps story does. The thing that makes reviewing these books starts to get the same over and over. So many of these books have the same strengths and weakness, the same flaws, the same structure.

So let me compare it to the most obvious title Deep Trouble. This being the sequel to that book we can point out some things. Like the first book, the main interest of the story ends up being supernatural rather than your typical sea creature. The first book had mermaids, this book has the ghost pirates. Unlike the dead swashbucklers in this book, the mermaids of the original weren't villainous. They were a plot aspect to allow man to be the true villain. They are both myths of the sea but have a very different vibe. The first had a bit more of a sci-fi vibe with a small bit of moral quandary (is abducting the mermaids for study ethically alright?) Creep From the Deep is a little more straight horror. Walking pirate corpses that want you dead. It is more scary but perhaps not as interesting.

The whole premise seems a little bit inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean. It's not like that movie was the first to have undead pirates, but the third Pirates movie came out just a year or 2 before this book. Was it an inspiration? Maybe...

Anyway, as a whole this book was a pretty fun piratey adventure. The audiobook aspects of it were really well done and added something to the experience. I won't say that I am an audiobook convert, I still like reading books the old fashioned way but I can see the appeal.

Rating: 4 out of 5 spooky pirates



Up Next

Honestly, the next review might take awhile. December is a pretty busy month for me, so this might be the last review for 2018. When I do finally get around to update again I will probably go back to the original series. Of course, something interesting may catch my eye by then. We'll see. As always, thanks for reading.




October 31, 2018

30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps Listing

In case you haven't been following along, all October I am reviewing a story a day from the book 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps. That book is made up of 3 previously released books of short stories. I am making this handy little thing with links to all of my updates in October. Here ya go!


Intro to 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps (Click Here)

Book 1 - Tales to Give You Goosebumps


Just click on the story title to go to that review

#1 - The House of No Return
#2 - Teacher's Pet
#3 - Strained Peas
#4 - Strangers in the Woods
#5 - Good Friends
#6 - How I Won My Bat
#7 - Mr. Teddy
#8 - Click
#9 - Broken Dolls
#10 - A Vampire in the Neighborhood

Book 2 - More Tales to Give You Goosebumps


Just click on the story title to go to that review

October 30, 2018

The Thumbprint of Doom - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #30


It's finally here! It's Halloween and that means it's time for the final review of 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps. For the grand finale I'll be reading "The Thumbprint of Doom." It's a title that doesn't inspire a lot of fear, but does cause a little bit of curiosity. How does a thumbprint cause doom? Does it link you to a crime scene? That's pretty scary. Let's find out.

Trisha is not having a great summer. She wanted to spend it with her best friend Jeremy, but his nerdy cousin is staying with him. They hang out, but it's just not the same.

They all end up meeting a new girl in town named Carla. She believes in horoscopes and various superstitions. If mercury is in retrograde this chick will know it. The most horrible curse she knows is the "thumbprint of doom." She lives in fear of it, as it will cause the recipient to only have 24 hours left alive. She has many other fears as well, driving Trisha crazy by preventing her from doing fun things for silly reasons. For example, perhaps the stars aren't aligned. Reasonable in Carla's mind.

Well they come up with a plan to show Carla that her superstitions are a bunch of bullshit. They drag her to the local carnival and into the fortune teller's tent. Carla's future is distressing. Clear on her forehead is... THE THUMBPRINT OF DOOM! Carla is distraught but the gang let her in on the joke. Carla lets them know she is well aware it was a joke. It had to be a joke because only Carla herself has the power to bestow the thumbprint of doom. It is a horrible power to bare and one she lives in fear of. Now though, her new friends know her dark secret. This she cannot allow, and thus gives them each the thumbprint in doom. Naturally they run in terror. In their absence the fortune teller lets Carla know it was a rather mean prank to play on them. Carla figures they will figure it out in a bit and they can all laugh about it. Then she lets the fortune teller, her mother, know that she'll see her at home later. The end.

My Thoughts


This is a unique Goosebumps story and I will tell you why: there are absolutely zero supernatural elements to it. There is no magic, no monsters, no aliens, no nothing. Because of this I was actually fooled. I thought for sure there was going to be a twist where even though it seemed silly there actually was a curse, that Carla would actually have powers, that the fortune teller would be evil. Something! But there was nothing like that. It was all a prank, and it turns out magic isn't real. And you know what? That's refreshing! It was enjoyable, and funny. It's certainly not the outcome I would want every time, otherwise it would basically be Scooby Doo, but I think for 1 story out of 30 to end this way? Why not.

Over and over again I have lamented how after awhile Goosebumps stories were all starting to feel the same. And of course again and again I have praised stories that could offer up unique experiences. This is one of those ones I praise. It might even work so well because of the fact that Goosebumps are so formulaic. Because there is ALWAYS the supernatural element, I wasn't expecting one without. Because there are always pranks, that in the end turn out to have some real hidden horror behind them in the end. I didn't see it coming. I really like it.

Of course, some might lament that it isn't really a scary story if there isn't anything to be genuinely scared of in it. I might agree, if you are looking for a story to frighten you, this probably isn't it. At it's heart the threat of the "Thumbprint of Doom" is very silly. There are some pretty silly things in Goosebumps though, so it doesn't make you discount the fact that the threat is supposed to be taken seriously. You just can't, because it's ridiculous. But it ends up that it is supposed to be ridiculous, you can't help but smile. I couldn't anyway. So if you want a fright, yes, this is a let down. However, after a bunch of short stories that all have frights, to end like this, it's just fun. 

So basically, in summation this is enjoyable but not scary. If anything it uses the fact that it is supposed to be scary to fake you out. I give it my... THUMBS up! Hardy har har.

Rating: 4 out of 5 thumbprints of doom


So there you have it. It's Halloween and I've read all of the 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps. If I had to review the whole thing I'd say I am fairly positive about it. Yes there were a few stinkers among them. There were also some really fun stories kids could share around the campfire or at sleepovers. There were some fun ones like this to fool longtime fans. They all still pretty much felt like Goosebumps while managing to be mostly unique. We ran the full gamut of baddies from werewolves to evil teddy bears. Because of the variety I think if you like Goosebumps you'd find something to like in here. So, even if you can't track down this specific hardcover collection, I'd recommend checking out the 3 "Tales To Give You Goosebumps" books that comprise it. They are good fun.

So this was a little bit exhausting keeping up with an entry every day for an entire month. I will probably take a little break BUT I have another review of a full book ALREADY DONE. I was going to post it this month but then I decided to do this special thing for October instead. I'll release that review I have done sometime in November, probably towards Thanksgiving. To all the readers who stuck with me through this, thanks so much. I know it's a little bit silly for a grown man to be reviewing these things. I guess that's kind of the point. So anyway, I hope your Halloween was nice and Goosebumps filled.