My Life Journal: Horror and Me

I’ve been wanting to make a series where I talk about my life for a while. The reason for this is twofold: 1) It gives those curious about my life some interesting information, and 2) I have a particularly awful memory so writing this stuff down will help me remember it better later. Basically, it’s a journal of my life experiences and things that made me the person I am today. But what to write about first? Some topics that came to mind: My experiences with bullying, my life as a child of divorce, my thoughts on romance and such. But no, those are all too heavy for my first entry into my life story. No, instead, let’s talk about something simple. Since it’s September and everyone is already talking about Halloween, let’s talk about something I love. Let’s talk about horror and, specifically, how I came to love it.

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Halloween in June: Reader Beware Month RETURNS!

WELCOME, FOOLISH MORTALS!  It’s that time of year again.  The sun is hot, people are flocking toward the beaches, and ice cream and soda pop are the foods of choice.  You know what that means!  Halloween in June is back, and this time, it’s out for blood.  Or at least a paper cut…

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Reader Beware Month: Still More Tales to Give You Goosebumps

Happy Halloween everyone!  It’s a night of tricks, treats, ghosts, monsters, magic and mayhem!  As such, I have saved a special book for today.  It’s the only Tales to Give You Goosebumps book I own.  It’s one made up of 10 short stories (mostly) all centered around Halloween, so it’s highly appropriate for today.

Since this is a book of short stories, things will be done a little differently today.  I’m going to try to give each story a short, one paragraph review.  The rest of this article will be long enough.  Onward to the review!

Pumpkin Juice:  My favorite story of the bunch, this story gives the book a strong start.  Two friends find a recipe in an old book to make them their “best on Halloween.”  Or was it beast?  It all takes place while the characters trick-or-treat.  Good pacing, good characters, and a good sense of danger.

Attack of the Tattoo:  Another good one, showing the dangers of not checking your treats.  The danger comes from a stick-on-tattoo that seems to be magic.  It’s creepy and probably the second best story of the bunch.  Suffers from scares being a bit one note and I don’t think snakes are very scary.

The Wish:  This one felt like a Twilight Zone episode.  A kid gets a magic rock that allows him to make one wish.  Shows what happens when you don’t word a wish carefully.  Probably the creepiest story of the bunch.  I felt the most bad for this kid out of all the others.

An Old Story:  Definitely the creepiest story of the bunch.  In short, it seems to involve pedophilia for me.  A group of old ladies try to make 12 year old boys old so they can marry them.  It really weirded me out to see a story like this in a Goosebumps book.  Very disturbing.  Also, Halloween isn’t even mentioned in it.

The Scarecrow:  The worst story in the book.  No scares, really.  The supernatural element turns out to be a trick.  It all smells of a moral gone wrong as it sort of implies that stealing is alright.

Awesome Ants:  Feels like a really cheesy sci-fi movies from the 50s.  Ants originally used for a science project start growing and growing.  The twist at the end is kind of funny.  Though, it boggles my mind how the kid didn’t notice his town overrun by ants while going to school.

Please Don’t Feed the Bears:  Probably the silliest of all the stories.  A family goes to Cuddle Bear Land for Halloween and finds out something sinister may be afoot.  The ending felt rushed and the twist felt karmic.  All in all, solid.

The Goblin’s Glare:  Kid makes a Halloween decoration that looks really scary then keeps having nightmares about it.  Became dull after two non-scares.  Ending was unpredictable, but the constant “it was all a dream”-ness of it made it boring.  Cool idea, bad execution.

Bats About Bats:  Two girls befriend a new girl who likes bats while they hate bats.  The girls seem a bit mean-spirited about their new friend’s interest.  Interesting story with a predictable twist.  If you have a fear of bats, this story may gross you out.  Main character felt paper thin.  Twist was set up alright.

The Space Suit Snatcher:  A kid obsessed with sending messages into space one night gets an answer.  The third best story with a good double twist.  It was also funny.

This collection is actually not that bad.  The stories are varied and creative with hardly any real stinkers among the bunch.  It was a good group of Halloween treats.  Speaking of, you all stay safe out there and have the happiest of Halloweens!

Reader Beware Month: The Ghost Next Door

Peer pressure is a terrible thing.  There, I just gave you the moral for this book in six words.  If this book would stop trying to take the moral high ground and stick to it’s ghostly premise, it would almost be creepy.  Instead, we have a book that seems like a heavy handed after-school special that happens to involve ghosts.  This is The Ghost Next Door.

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Hannah has a new neighbor who seems to have moved in without her noticing.  He also seems to disappear right in front of her eyes.  Hannah is convinced he is a ghost.  Could this be why she’s never heard of him or his friends even though they go to the same school?  And what is the strange shadow that seems to be following Hannah everywhere?

The main story and main premise of the book are actually pretty good.  Needless to say, this is a much better ghost story than Welcome to Dead House was.  There’s a genuine creepiness to the mystery of who Danny is and Hannah’s growing fear of the mystery is a driving point of the story.  However, the book at times seems far more interested in furthering a subplot rather than the main plot.

The subplot, as I mentioned earlier, involves peer pressure.  Danny is seen multiple times hanging out with two boys who force him to steal things and basically trash other people’s property.  Danny seems reluctant to do any of this stuff, but he does because peer pressure.  I understand the importance of teaching these kinda things but did this really need to be in a Goosebumps book?  The kid never really learns that peer pressure is bad.  The other boys never truly learn their lessons either.  So, I find myself asking what the point of the subplot was.  I regretted that it got the most development in the book.

The twist of the story is really easy to figure out.  I knew what the twist would be about two pages into the book.  While it is a very easy thing to see coming, its predictability didn’t detract from its creativity.  The story builds up the twist pretty well, too, almost to the point that you suspect your guess might be wrong.  The main story was fairly good despite it not getting as much “screen time” as the subplot.  The main ending of the book was also very satisfying and left me with a warm feeling.  I’ll just say that I’m left with the same feeling I get at the ending of some Ghost Whisperer episodes and leave it at that.

I don’t want to talk about the characters for fear of accidentally giving something away.  They were well done, to say the least I can about them.  This book is by no means perfect, but it’s a decent enough ghost story.  The moral, despite being distracting, is actually pretty good.  The ending is probably the most heartwarming one I’ve come across in the series so far.  I suggest picking this book up and giving it a read.  And I suggest doing that before you become a ghost yourself…

Reader Beware Month: How I Learned to Fly

This book pissed me off.  I had planned to start this post explaining how flight is another one of those powers people always seem to want.  However, as I said, this book really pissed me off.  So, no cutesy introduction, no clever pun for the ending.  This book doesn’t deserve it.  It just deserves my rage.  This is How I Learned to Fly.

How I Learned to Fly

Jack and Wilson are two idiots who are always competing.  They race, they compare their drawings, they show off their toys.  All this in an attempt to impress Mia, the “cutest girl in school.”  And Jack always loses.  One day after throwing a ridiculous temper tantrum, Jack stumbles across a book called Flying Lessons.  Thus, Jack learns to fly and he thinks he’s finally beaten Wilson.  Unfortunately, Wilson is a breaking and entering thief who always has to be the best and learns to fly as well.

Do I sound angry in my description of this book?  I certainly hope so, because I found this story ridiculous and despicable.  I got so angry with this book that I couldn’t finish it.  I got to around page 73 and I forced myself to skim through the rest.  My issue isn’t really with the story itself.  The story seems creative and very fantastical.  No, my problem rests solely on the idiot, selfish, jerk of a kid that calls himself the main character, Jack.

Jack is a terrible character, plain and simple.  He and Wilson are just too competitive.  It’s trying to sell this competitiveness as “boys being boys” but it all seems far too mean spirited.  Both of the characters come off more as bullies than anything else, constantly trying to one-up each other.  Not to mention, when Jack doesn’t get his way, he just throws a fit.  It was really annoying to see the person who was supposed to be the “role model” of the story acting so completely childish.  (Yes, I know he’s a child.  But none of the other Goosebumps books so far this month have the main characters acting so completely immature.)

Despite the horrible main character, the story itself actually seemed like a good premise to me.  Flying is fascinating, especially the Superman sort of flying with no wings required.  This story was more focused on a fantasy element than a horror one, and it shows.  In fact, it’s fantasy done pretty well.  The few flying scenes I read were fantastic, describing the feeling of flying pretty well.  It reminded me of those dreams where you can suddenly fly for no reason.  Reading those scenes felt freeing in a way, which I believe was the point.

Even with an interesting premise, this book still is one big pile of crap.  The main character is terrible, the ending seems horribly mean-spirited (suffice to say the main character resorts to trickery, and what the hell kind of lesson is THAT for kids?), and I got so annoyed with it that I had to stop reading.  It boggles my mind why people would like this book.  If you like good main characters, this is most definitely not the story for you.  It may be the one Goosebumps book I end up throwing in the trash.

Reader Beware Month: The Haunted Mask

Halloween is one of the only times of the year when people don’t have to be themselves for a while.  Instead, you can buy a costume and pretend to be someone more dashing, more adventurous.  Maybe even someone scarier.  It’s with this in mind that I read today’s classic Goosebumps tale, the Haunted Mask.  And like Monster Blood earlier this month, I’m ashamed of myself for having never read this before.

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We follow Carly Beth, a girl who tends to be a little jumpy.  Her friends constantly mock her, calling her a scaredy cat and pulling pranks on her to make her scream.  This Halloween, Carly Beth wants to get her revenge on her friends.  She buys the scariest mask she can find at a party store that recently opened.  However, Carly Beth finds that the mask is changing her, making her more ferocious and hateful.  And she can’t take it off…

This is one of the most original, most compelling, and best stories I’ve seen from the Goosebumps series.  It’s suspenseful, it’s creepy, and it’s dripping with character.  It was able to seem dark without anything dark really happening.  The pacing was perfect (even if one or two scenes didn’t really add all that much to the story).  This was genuinely the most enjoyable and best of the Goosebumps books I’ve read so far.  The ending, admittedly, is a bit hoaky.  However, the awesomeness of the rest of the book cancels out any sickeningly sweet feelings you feel after the defeat of the monster.  I can’t find one thing about it that I truly dislike…. Well, if I had to nitpick…

The character of Carly Beth was well done.  I sympathized with her jumpiness and her wish for revenge.  She was characterized very well and developed naturally through the story.  When she starts turning evil, it does feel wrong for her, which is the whole point.  When she starts noticing that the mask is changing her, the fear is very well done.  However, her friends are a bunch of jerks.  They constantly prank her, scare her, and laugh at her.  I kept wondering why she was friends with these people at all.  It made me yearn for their comeuppance all the more, though.  So, when they finally come across Carly Beth in her mask form, I was very satisfied.

The mask itself felt like a character, though it never said anything for itself.  It was very well characterized and described.  It FELT like an actual monster.  its presence was menacing and threatening.  THIS is how you make a monster.  It didn’t need to do anything on its own and yet it felt like a threat to the main character.

You owe it to yourself to read this book if you haven’t already.  You cannot call yourself a fan of Goosebumps if you have not read this book.  It’s classic, creepy, and satisfies every need for a good story.  It is probably the best book that I’m going to read from this series this month.  Perhaps I should have saved it for last.  Oh well.  I can’t dwell on that now.  I need to get my hands on a costume.  Halloween is almost here…