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.

Aliens in the Garden - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #29

Halloween is a day away and now I'm going to read "Aliens in the Garden." Do the aliens need some basil or fresh oregano? I don't feel like writing a long intro so lets just read the damn story.

During a fierce thunderstorm 12 year old Kurt notices a strange small object in the sky get zapped by lightning. Whatever it was, it crash landed in his garden. He discovers a tiny spaceship there. How would a toy like that crash in a storm? Strange.

While going to show off his new discover to his friend Jenna he gets intercepted by local bully Flip. The teen teases Kurt and starts physical altercation. A strange blue ray stops the bully in his tracks. It turns out inside the spaceship were 3 little aliens. While they recognize Flip as a threat they seem fine with Kurt.

Jenna arrives at the scene, and after some disbelief marvels at the little creatures. Her marveling is cut short by the return of Flip, this time with his cousin Drake. There is a struggle for the tiny aliens which becomes even worse when Flip's mean old dog shows up.

One alien seems to be trying to get the spaceship working again. Kurt loads the rest aboard and takes drastic measures as their foes go after them. He hurls the spaceship into the sky, hoping all it needs is a little momentum to get going. After a bit of a worry, the rocket takes flight  The bullies are too surprised by the spacecrafts flight to take revenge.

Whilst celebrating Kurt notices a bit of ripped clothing leftover from the spacemen. He and Jenna inspect it. It looks like a tiny little flag, made up with red and white stripes... also a blue square filled with white stars. Peculiar!

My Thoughts

This is a pretty fun take on sci-fi that might just get kids to think about aliens in a different way. So often we think of aliens as either little green men, or scary monsters, like in the movie Alien. What if  they were weak and tiny? This is the first thought. Then of course the twist is WHAT IF WE ARE THE ALIENS? I know, I know, sometimes I criticize a story for having a twist like this. Thing is, I think it kind of works here. It's a little hokey for an adult, but I think it would be more enjoyable for the young.

While the villain in these stories would usually be the alien, in this it is the bullies. I have long supported stories in which it is revealed man is the greatest monster of all. Although I guess the human beings are the aliens... Oh, whatever. What I'm saying is that I like that the supernatural element was not used to be the danger. The danger was in butthead jerk kids. The aliens were used as something that was cool and interesting. It was a fresh feeling change.

Nice that at the end of the book there can still be some stories I would enjoy. I was worried by the end I'd just hate everything and want to die... Maybe I'm just being generous, but I really liked this story.

Rating: 5 human aliens out of 5

Tomorrow is it. The big day. Halloween. I'll be reviewing the final story in 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps. It's called "The Thumbprint of Doom" and it sounds.... well uhh... not super scary. I mean... a thumbprint? I don't know. We'll see tomorrow I guess.

October 29, 2018

For the Birds - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #27

Birds can be scary. Crows are seen as signs of death. Vultures are pretty creepy looking. And who can forget Alfred Hitchcock's famous movie. Now it's time to see what R.L. Stine can do with "For the Birds". At least, I assume birds will be involved. I'll feel awfully foolish if they don't!

Kim's family is CRAZY for birds. Maybe they are just plain crazy. They do like birds a whole lot though. So much that they all went for a stay at the Bird Haven Lodge, a peculiar bird sanctuary. That is to say, it is peculiar, and also a bird sanctuary... not that it is a sanctuary for peculiar birds...

Anyway, the whole family is very into it all besides Kim. There are so many birds to see, beautiful hedges made into bird shapes, and even a hedge maze. Kim is bored out of her mind. While trying to find something to keep her busy she accidentally sit on lodge owner Mr. Dove's (ugh, a bird name) hedge pruning shears.  Mr. Dove is thrilled she found them, and asks Kim about getting revenge on her family for bringing her here. Well that's odd. Also odd that night is the massive swarm of birds outside her window. Why are they out at night? It's not like it is a flock of owls!

The next morning the whole family goes to hedge maze. Mr. Dove is there to greet them. There is even a perfectly sculpted hedge in the form of their entire family. Weird! Oh well. They do the maze and wind up in a giant bird cafe. Fun! The cage closes in around them. Not so fun. Mr. Dove is there creepy as ever and armed with his hedge clippers. Since this is a kid's book he doesn't commit a gruesome murder. Instead he snips his clippers and turns the family one by one into birds. Her parents who are constantly making out become lovebirds. Her jocular brothers become mocking birds. True to his word to help her get even, Mr. Dove turns Kim into a cat. The end.

My Thoughts

I'll be honest, this one is kind of a groaner. I was hoping this would unleash some of people's weird fear of birds, but birds aren't the weird thing here, Mr. Dove is. As it is, there isn't enough Mr. Dove for you to really get scared of him. Also, magic hedge clippers? Eh... I dunno.

What works? Well it does develop an atmosphere where you think "well this is a bit strange." You definitely side with Kim in thinking her family is a little bit crazy. The lodge is odd... but not necessarily in a way that is creepy per say. It does get you wondering about the people involved though.

Besides the family's love of birds, and their eventual turning into birds, the birds play very little part in the story. They show up at night which Kim finds odd, but that's about it. They really could have used some more odd behavior from the birds. For example, have some birds being seen acting like people, or acting more directly to get her attention. Maybe have some sort of half bird half human monstrosity that was a failed experiment from the magic clippers.

Oh man, speaking of magic clippers. So using topiaries and clippers to work magic to turn people into animals is.... weird in a dumb way. Like in an, "I can't bother coming up with something better," way. What next, a haunted lawnmower? If you are gonna have it be magic just straight out have it be magic.

Here is a more creepy conclusion to the book. Instead of literally turning them into birds, have them just be kept like birds in cages for the weird as Mr. Dove, who will treat them like birds. That is creepy and doesn't involve any magical yard equipment. Maybe R.L. Stine will let me write a story for Even More and More and More and More Tales to Give You Goosebumps. Call me, Mr. Stine!

Not the finest story in this tome of many tales. It could have been worse though. If your family is obsessed with birds, perhaps this is the story for you.

My Rating: 2 birds that used to be human out of 5

Tomorrow is the second to last story in this book called "Aliens in the Garden." I am reasonably sure that aliens don't belong in the garden. Check back then and we'll all find out what they are doing there.

October 28, 2018

Perfect School - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #27

As we near closer to Halloween we shall be reading the story "Perfect School." School as we all know is a great source of terror to most kids out there, so it seems fitting. Let's see what horrors await in "Perfect School."

Brian O'Connor is a pretty average kid. A bit too average for his parents' liking so they decided to send him away for a two week course at the Perfect Boarding School. A perfect school makes for the perfect kid.

On the way he meets a fellow student there named C.J who shared the same apprehensions. Once there they notice things are pretty strict. Everyone is in uniforms. Their instructors are called "guardians" Each kid is assigned a number and is known by that number instead of their name. There is to be no talking. They must answer many questions about themselves. It's all a bit strange.

Brian pretty quickly screws up and gets sent to the pattern room for "special training." He hears voices from the vents, and not for the first time. They warn him to get away but there is really nothing he can do. Inside that room he gets weighed, measured, and otherwise inspected closely. Peculiar.

Afterwards Brian managed to find an empty room with a phone. He tries to alert his parents to the strangeness happening but a guardian catches him and puts an end to it. Locked away in his room, he hears the vent voices again. They inform him that the school makes a robot replica of kids to send home, and hides away the children where they'll never be found again. It would really make more sense to kill the children, but I suppose that is too scary...

Brian asks to go to the bathroom and uses some paper to keep the door from locking. He sneaks away and finds C.J. Whew. A friendly face. C.J. leads him to his safety. Wait no, he leads him to his doom. C.J. was an agent for the guardians, and locks him away with the other children. Betrayal.

Flash forward a bit. Brian is delivered to his parents a perfect specimen. Perfectly uniformed, perfectly behaved. But is he a robot? NO! Brian managed miraculously to switch places with his robot double. All he has to do now is act completely perfectly and no one will be any the wiser. It's not so hard to be perfect is it? I mean... he's only made a COUPLE mistakes so far...

My Thoughts

As Goosebumps is a series for kids, it makes sense that they would play to fears specific to kids. This story does so mostly successfully.  In tone it comes across as sort of a... Twilight Zone Junior? The robots definitely give it a sci-fi vibe. Sometimes you gotta remember that a trope that may seem worn out to an adult, may be viewed for the first time by a youngster reading this book... so it could be fresh to them.

So as far as specific fears for kids... Kids frequently worry about the expectations of their parents and teachers. Are they living up to what is expected of them? But what if what is expected of them is too much. WAY too much. What if parents really would be happier with a mindless automaton that would just do everything expected of them? What is a simple story for me, could feel a lot deeper and connect a lot more with a kid.

The robot/sci-fi aspects aren't necessarily my favorite type of Goosebumps tale. I mean, there is nothing wrong with them and I do generally like sci-fi out of Goosebumps... It just that when it comes to 'bumps I kinda like monsters more. Monsters, and magic, and curses. It's more a matter of personal taste.

As for the twist, that I've always gotta talk about... I guess the twist was that he escaped after all. The reality is that they just sort of rushed into this ending. It was basically like "You thought I was locked away BUT NOT REALLY." I just could have been much better thought out and executed. A more interesting but perhaps less funny ending would be if the reader didn't know if Brian became a robot or not. Would that be a bit too "mind fuck"y for a kid? Maybe. Woulda been cooler though.

Ultimately, this was the 27th Goosebumps short story I've read this month and I wasn't bored to death so I guess that merits some appreciation. It's interesting enough even if I don't adore it. Not too shabby I guess.

Rating: 3 out of 5 perfect robots

Only 3 more stories left until the book is over and it's Halloween. Hopefully I still got some readers with me at this point. Check back tomorrow for "For the Birds."

October 27, 2018

A Change for the Strange - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #26

"A Change for the Strange" is the story today. I don't foresee this being any stranger than any other Goosebumps story, but maybe R.L. Stine will wow me. Let's see if he does.

Jane is a middle schooler aspiring to be the star jumper on her track team. Unfortunately she didn't even make the track team, so that's gonna be tough. Her friend Lizzie would rather try on outfits. Convenient then, that the new store A Change for the Strange opened near them so they can try on retro and unusual clothing. Jane ends up with a fashionable red snakeskin jacket. Lizzie purchases an adorable set of bunny slippers. Too cute.

Back at Lizzie's place Jane is wearing her new jacket and kind of loving it. For awhile anyway. Then she starts to feel ill. In fact she starts to feel... strange. Snakelike even. Lizzie freaks out upon discovering one of her brother's disgusting snakes escaped it's cage, not realizing it is actually her best friend. No matter what Jane tries she can't communicate with Lizzie. Though the brother realizes it is not one of his snakes, he still captures it due to his sisters insistence. He notices there is something odd about this snake though. It has... a zipper? I wonder what would happen if you unzipped it. He does so, and *poof* human Jane is back. Hurray.

Flash forward a little bit. Jane is sure to be a star jumper now since Lizzie let her borrow those bunny slippers. She just has to deal with an insatiable desire for carrots.

My Thoughts

We definitely have another story that leans more towards "trying to be fun" than "trying to be scary." That's fine. The title didn't promise it would be scary, just that it would be strange. I guess turning into a snake because you got a snakeskin jacket is pretty strange. 

So does this story work? Yes, mostly. The idea of an odd store that sells magical items is nothing new, especially in Goosebumps. If they can sell haunted masks, why can't they sell animal clothes. The idea is similar but not exactly the same, so it works. They say you are what you eat, but I guess in this case you are what you wear. 

Sometimes a small aspect of Goosebumps leaps out at me, and I NEED to talk about it. Prepare for one such instance. So R.L. Stine loves to throw in details to prove he knows kids. A lot of time he'll describe their attire. He'll through in references to video games, comic books ect. One example is that in this story he mentions after school they watch the cartoon Animaniacs. This is a well loved real life cartoon from the era. Nice job Stine. Now the thing I NEED to talk about. He immediately follows up this detail by saying they also like to listen to the band "Fruit Bag." This is NOT a real band. I am not even going to google it to determine if this statement is true. It CAN'T be a real band. It's not even a good name for a fake band! How come R.L. Stine can come up with Animaniacs but can't name a single band a kid would be into at that time? How come he can't even come up with a believable fake name! It is the 90s, come up with something that sounds Grungey! Go to a Best Buy and look at the music aisle! Say they like TLC. Come on R.L. Stine, don't go chasing waterfalls!

Now that've ranted about an arbitrary detail let me just say this. I am not sure this is one of the great "tell your friends at a sleepover to scare them" stories, but it will probably make you smile a little bit. It might make a kid consider what it would be like to turn into an animal, and that's pretty cool I guess. I dub this story, "Good Enough."

Rating: 3 out of 5 cursed animal clothing items

Tomorrow we'll be reading "Perfect School" which sure as hell is not about any school I went to growing up. Thanks for reading and check back tomorrow for that review.

October 26, 2018

The Haunted House Game - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #25

"The Haunted House Game." Today we get to see how you turn a haunted house into a game, apparently. Is it a board game? Like Monopoly but the properties are spooky? Monopoly teaches us that the only horror in this life is capitalism. I am running out of ways to introduce stories. Let's just read the damn thing.

Jonathan is babysitting his 2 younger siblings with his best friend Nadine. The night is dark and stormy, which means it is a perfect time to play the board game called Haunted House. Each player rolls the dice, and the square they land on has a spooky direction. The thing is, what they read on the board happens in real life. One square may say they hear the windows rattle, and the real windows actually rattle. Another square may say you hear an eerie moan and one actually sounds out. Very creepy.

Of course every game must end. Jonathan lands on the square marked "Scared to Death." Basically every scary thing that could happen. There were lightning blasts, thunder booms, moaning, screaming, rattling windows. The kids screamed for what seemed like hours. Jonathan tried to escape the house but curiously stopped at the newspaper out front. The paper had an article about 4 kids who died mysteriously in a mansion. It appears like they were scared to death... in 1942. So that's how long they've been haunting this place.

Jonathan returns to the house, his siblings are still in there. For some reason he goes to the closet. There is a board game in there called Haunted House. Boy, it would be a great night to play it.

My Thoughts

This tale has a fun premise, albeit one that is not too far off from other stories out there. While it feels like other stories per say, it doesn't feel quite like other Goosebumps stories, so that is good. The idea is pretty simple but effective. I do think the frights have a lot more to offer the young than they do for me. Reading about thunder and moans and rattling just doesn't do it for me anymore.

The story kind of plays out like a spooky, simplistic version of the movie Jumanji (the original version.) I mean, both are about a board game that comes true. This story came out a year after the movie so it's entirely possibly it was inspired by it. That being said it is different enough to not feel like a complete rip off. I guess the end also kind of shows a bit of a Groundhogs Day but with ghosts vibe too...

Lots of these stories feel like they have a particular time that it would be good to read them to other people. Babysitting kids on a stormy night, this would be a great one to take out. You might not be invited back to babysit again... but oh well.

I guess basically this is a pretty fun story. The twist isn't a showstopper, and I probably should probably be complaining about how it's a "they were dead the whole time" one... but it works. The whole "stuck like this for eternity" has also been done before, but I think it is done here well for once. This is one of the better "Tales" I've read thus far.

Rating: 4 out of 5 dice that will lead to your death

Tomorrow I'll read "A Change for the Strange." Who knows if it will be scary, but at least it will be strange. See you then.

October 25, 2018

I'm Telling - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #24

I'll be reading the story "I'm Telling" today. They are words meant to strike fear in your siblings. Just wait til mom and dad find out about this! Then there will be trouble! But will this story strike fear into the hearts of its reader? Let's find out.

Rathering that doing his art project Adam is in the woods playing pretend. He is hunting a stone gargoyle in a fountain using his trusty squirt gun. Sadly, he is out of ammo but the gargoyle begins to emit a strange green ooze from its mouth. Good enough! He fills the gun with it and is ready to go. 

Then his annoying little sister shows up. She is ready to rat him out for goofing off instead of doing his work. She informs him she is telling on him, repeatedly. Adam really has no choice but to blast her with the squirt gun. Rather than just being gross, the green goo has a strange effect. It turns his sister to stone. What to do what to do.

He loads her up in a wagon and starts to cart her off. By pure happenstance his art teacher sees him and thinks his stone sister is an art sculpture he did for his project. Naturally she is amazed and tells him to bring it to the art contest before it's over. He wins first place. Well done.

Now there is the problem of what to do with her. He decides ultimately to wheel her back to the gargoyle. It's not where he left it, it is in the air now, alive and ready to attack. He blasts it with the ooze and the beast returns to stone. Now he hears his sister statue beckoning for help. He has an idea. He squirts her with the gun and she returns to normal. Whew, all his problems are solved. Or maybe they aren't. His sister is rather upset about everything that went down and is threatening to tell on him again. Even though his parents probably wouldn't' believe the outrageous tale, she is pretty annoying... He squirts here again. Back to stone. Problem solved.

My Thoughts

Though I did appreciate the classic mummy in yesterday's story, it is always nice to get a fresh monster to read about. As far as I know, R.L. Stine has never done a gargoyle before. They are by nature kind of creepy but I wonder how familiar kids are with them. Do kids know what gargoyles are? Since the Gargoyles cartoon isn't airing any more I'm not so sure!

Somewhat like yesterday's story I think this one mostly works except with one complaint. This complaint is a little bit more minor this time though. I basically liked the plot, turning his annoying sister to stone is great. Entering her in an art contest is great. The gargoyle coming to life is fine. The problem is this, he did the exact same thing to bring her back to life as he did to turn her to stone. Does the Gargoyle juice just toggle the status of you being rock? That is weird and doesn't make much sense. Stine could have written something where the living gargoyle did something that result in her turning back. Perhaps if it had different spit while in living form  that undid the liquid stone stuff while in its statue form? It seems like that would be a simple enough thing to do.

I think rather than the gargoyle itself the heart of this story is probably Adam and his little sister. People with siblings have probably at least been annoyed by them to an extent they wish they could just shut them up at some point. If you didn't have siblings there was probably a kid you knew you would like to turn to stone. It's a fun idea, and since it is a short story you don't have to do much with the potential ramifications. Yes his is worried about what will happen when people realize she is missing.. but not so much he doesn't want to turn her to stone again. Sisters can be that annoying.

Despite the flaw I find in it I think this story is mostly enjoyable. If I was 10 I probably wouldn't even care about it. 33 year old me is grumpier about such things. I think perhaps just because a story is for kids doesn't mean you shouldn't use some care while crafting it. Still, it is not horribly detrimental.

Rating: 3 gargoyles with magic spit out of 5

Tomorrow another bone chilling tale will be read. I'll be reviewing "The Haunted House Game." Haunted houses are usually scary. Games are usually not. How scary a haunted house game is will have to be determined I guess. We'll do so tomorrow.

October 24, 2018

Don't Wake Mummy - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #23

Today I'll be reading "Don't Wake Mummy." Wordplay involving mummy/mommy has long been a staple of bad Halloween jokes the world over. Well the English speaking world anyway... Well... America at least. What I'm trying to say is that kids love that mommy and mummy sounds similar. Will there be both mommies and mummies in this story? Let's read on.

Jeff's dad is a curator at the local museum. That is why a mummy's sarcophagus is delivered to their house. It seems like it should go to the museum but apparently they are keeping in in the basement for now. Jeff's older sister Kim teases him for being scared. She convinces him to go down to the basement to see the coffin and then deviously locks him down there. What a jerk. He swears he hears the chains on the sarcophagus rattling and straining to be opened and he freaks out, understandable. When his triumphant sister finally lets him free the coffin is quiet. Did he imagine it all along?

That night Jeff swears he hears the thumping and clanking of the mummy walking around their house. His mom arrives to comfort him and assure him everything is fine. It must have been a dream. This event prompts Jeff to find out more about mummies. He tries to research to no avail. Wikipedia doesn't exist yet. Then he finds a strange mystical shop and tells the owner his problems. Finally Jeff gets what he needs: 20 dollars worth of mummy dust. Guaranteed to stop mummies in their tracks. Perfect.

Of course Jeff's sister still teases him, but he knows what is up. That mummy is really coming alive. That night it happens again. You'd think he'd be all ready for it with his mummy dust, but he fumbles with the pouch it is in. His mom apparently heard the commotion and busts in. The mummies has left, and then dad shows up too. He is finally ready to believe Jeff. There were stories that the other museum that had this mummy first wanted to get rid of it because it comes to life. Those stories must be true. Dad promptly locks the basement door with a heavy lock. The mummy won't be able to get them.

Meanwhile sister Kim is in the basement. Boy teasing her brother by dressing up as the mummy was hilarious! Except now the basement door is locked for some reason and she can't get out. Oh well, she can always sleep in the basement for the night. Hey, what is that thumping coming from the sarcophagus?

My Thoughts

This story came dangerously close to being decent. There are some flaws that kept it from getting there though. These flaws were not so much in plot, but in writing style. The basic premise though, works pretty well. Let's discuss it a litte.

First let's talk about what works. Mummy is a quality monster. The undead are always scary. Making it mysterious and foreign like an egyptian mummy adds pizazz. The full length Goosebumps story Curse of the Mummy's Tomb (and its sequel) are focused on going to Egypt to see mummies. This story takes the unique turn of bringing the mummy home. Who wouldn't be a little freaked out with a dead body in their basement? What kid wouldn't dare another to go peak on it? These aspects work. Heck, even the aspect of his sister being the culprit works. Almost.

So let's talk about the format. This story, like the large bulk of Goosebumps stories is told in the first story. Jeff is talking about what is happening. This works, and is fine. It is a decent format for a scary short story. The problem is that when it has to discuss what is happening to his sister in the basement it has to shift perspective to her. It does so abruptly and it is jarring. Yes it has text clues to let you in that the shift has happened, but it is jarring. It doesn't work. It's disappointing because I think if he could have found another way to do it, it would have worked. Maybe do the whole story in 3rd person, that way the shift is not so noticeable?  Or perhaps find a way for Jeff to be the one who is observing what happens to his sister. For example, he could hear her screaming in the basement, and then hear the mummy.  Or he could hear her pounding on the door, let her out, and then have the real mummy be following her. Just a couple ideas. 

So basically, this had potential, and ALMOST works. I'm sure a lot of people wouldn't get as hung up about the shift in perspective as I do but oh well... I'm writing the review and they're not.

Rating: 2 mummies out of 5

Tomorrow check back for my review of the story "I'm Telling." What person has never heard a kid utter that phrase. Some of you were probably kids who told your classmates that all the time. Narcs. 

October 23, 2018

Home Sweet Home - 30 Tales to Give You Goosebumps #22

"Home Sweet Home." That's the name of our story today and it is a heartwarming sentiment. It will be interesting to see how R.L. Stine skews its meaning. I've heard from a reliable study that 90% of all spookings occur at the home. Let's see what kind of spooking resides within this story.

Sharon is a 12 year old girl with a 9 year old sister Alice. She's not particularly nice to her sister but she manages to stop being mean to her sister's dolls long enough to take her to a garage sale. The sale is at Mrs. Forester's house but for some reason she isn't even there. She just has a sign out that says to leave the money for payment on the table. Strange. But then people say Mrs. Forester is very strange indeed. There are rumors she can turn into animals. Alice finds a little lamp she'd like to buy for her doll house. Sharon looks around absently, and picks up a nice bowl. When she notices there is a big gross spider on it she tosses it in a panic, shattering the dish. Does she do the responsible thing and pay for what she broke? No, she runs away. Typical.

From then on Sharon started seeing spiders everywhere. She saw one that night coming to get her in her bed. It had a white stripe down its back, like the one in Mrs. Forester's hair. When her parents came in to see what the commotion was all about there was no spider to be found. Next she saw the same spider coming out of the sewers on a bike ride. Finally the spider attempted to kill her by dropping a chandelier on her. No joke, this shit happened. The spider clamps on to her head, and Sharon knows who it is: Mrs. Forester. The spider lady informs Sharon that now she is a small problem. A small problem. In fact Sharon is very small indeed. But don't worry about her, she has a nice life living in her sisters dollhouse.

My Thoughts

This story has some things going for it. Old ladies are creepy. Spiders are creepy. Old ladies that turn into spiders are doubly creepy. Then ending blows it though. It is a twist ending that goes for a humorous fate rather than anything that makes sense or is scary. A common plight of the Goosebumps story.

So listen, every kid has broken something they shouldn't have and then ran away or lied about it to cover it up. If you were an OK kid you even had the decency to feel guilty about it. What if there  was a creepy spider to help you feel even more horrible about it? Spiders are scary. Except, spiders are only KINDA scary. See the thing about spiders is that they are small. You can step on them or smush them with a napkin. The fact that it is also an old lady gives it some intelligence, so it can scheme. The cutting a cord to drop a chandelier on Sharon made sense. It was a good plot development. Magically shrinking Sharon was a dumb plot development. If she had this kind of magic why bother with being a spider at all? 

Also, I just gotta come out and say it, is attempted murder and permanent miniaturization really a just punishment for breaking a bowl you care so little about that you are selling it at a garage sale that you yourself aren't even present for? I mean I get she's the villain here, but come on. I feel like something of more worth really needed to be the catalyst for Mrs. Forester's vendetta.

The only thing that works about the twist is the aspect that Sharon is mean to her sister and her dolls, and then she has to live in her doll house. Don't her parents have something to say about this? Are they cool with this arrangement? Can't they just buy Mrs. Forester a new bowl or something? Or maybe spray her with some raid?

Basically this story has some ok ideas, they just don't all mesh and pan out into a decent story. He needed either up the creepy factor a little, or make the funny aspects of it actually work well. He did neither. Still if you've got a weird old lady in your neighborhood, maybe you could use this to convince your kid she can turn into a spider. Worth a try.

Rating: 2 spiders that are probably some mean old ladie out of 5

Check back tomorrow when I read "Don't Wake Mummy." Presumably a mummy will be involved. Hopefully it is better than the Tom Cruise movie.