Nostalgic Re-Reads – Goosebumps by R.L. Stine (Welcome to Dead House, Stay Out of the Basement, Monster Blood)

I was searching through books from my childhood on GoodReads when I had the whim to reread some of the old series that I used to enjoy. From things like Nancy Drew to Animorphs, there were a lot of stories that I read as a kid that were fun and short and might provide some entertainment even to me now. I was also curious to see how they stood up to the test of time and maturity. Since I had a particular love for horror novels and TV shows as a child, I decided to start with Goosebumps!

Goosebumps, the series by R.L. Stine, were introductory horror novels for children of my generation. There are 62 books in the series, and most feature 12 year old protagonists who are confronted with strange, paranormal events. While the children are often threatened, there is never much violence in these books, and the kids usually escape their enemies (though sometimes they are changed in odd and unnerving ways). There are usually at least two protagonists in each book, and at least one boy and one girl. The books often end with a silly, but creepy twist that makes the reader rethink the story, or entraps the characters in a bigger or more long-lasting problem than expected.

Rating these books is rather hard. They are not particularly well-written, but neither are they really meant to be pieces of great literature. Goosebumps is a series for entertaining and scaring kids, not necessarily expanding their horizons, or making them think about deep questions of life. However, this absence of a philosophical underpinning is perfectly fine. I have no problem with books that are really just about entertainment and silliness as long as there are also books for kids that do offer a more insightful reading experience. As a child, I loved challenging myself to see how many Goosebumps I could read in a day because even then I took them to be short tales whose sole purpose was to keep me amused for an afternoon. I also read books like A Wrinkle in Time and The Phantom Tollbooth, so the presence of Goosebumps didn’t discourage or prevent me from reading novels with a bit more substance. Thus, Goosebumps are a perfectly legitimate part of a kid’s reading diet, but they don’t tend to warrant all that many stars. Make no mistake, they are entertaining, but this is often despite their poor construction and writing. I have given most of them low-star ratings, but I have been enjoying my re-read even though they have numerous literary problems. I can definitely understand why kids devoured stacks of these books as they are often ridiculous, but scary stories that capitalise on the worst fears of children.


Title: Goosebumps #1: Welcome to Dead House

Rating: * * ½

GB 1 - Welcome to Dead House

Welcome to Dead House is where the Goosebumps phenomenon started, and it is a very standard example of what one will get with this series. The Benson family finds out that they have inherited a house from a forgotten relative, so they move to the small town of Dark Falls to start over. Amanda and Josh are our protagonists, two siblings who are 11 and 12 years old (the standard age for all Goosebumps protagonists). Right away they start making friends with some of the kids in their new town, but they soon find that things seem a bit off in Dark Falls. The kids discover that all their new friends have gravestones in the town cemetery, and Dark Falls is actually a city of ghosts that needs to sacrifice the entire Benson family in order to survive!

This first book of the series is moderately suspenseful and creepy, but it’s also not all that memorable. There are a lot of spooky house scenes, but Welcome to Dead House is a fairly standard evil ghost story. It gives kids what they want – a few scares and frights, and that’s really all Goosebumps ever aims to do. It sets the tone of the series and the general parameters of how these stories work, and was a very safe opening to the series.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Double Review – The Unwritten 8: Orpheus in the Underworlds and Locke and Key 6: Alpha and Omega

The following two reviews are going to be short because I find it hard to write about books that I really enjoy. Instead of giving people a fair and accurate description of the good and the bad, I just want to run around in delight, babbling about all the things that I liked. To prevent my review from becoming just a series of animated gifs, I’m going to challenge myself to be brief and concise in my attempts to encourage people to read the latest volumes of both The Unwritten and Locke and Key!

Also, since both books are new or soon-to-be-released entries in popular series, let me be clear that there are at least some SPOILERS AHOY!!!!

Continue reading

Review – Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London by Sylvain Cordurié

Title: Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London

Authors: Sylvain Cordurié (Author), Laci (Illustrator)

Star Rating: * * *

Genre: Graphic Novel, Mystery, Paranormal

NOTE: Review copy obtained via NetGalley. Publication date is February 11, 2014.

Cover - Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of London

Synopsis

After the events at Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes goes into hiding. By convincing everyone that he is dead, he hopes to avoid any reprisals for his part in Moriarty’s death. However, he finds himself drawn back to London for a case from a very strange client. Individuals linked to the royal house are being brutally killed, and it is not the queen that has sent for him, but a demonic master vampire who needs Holmes to track down a rogue monster. With Watson and his wife being threatened, how can Holmes crack this case without handing over his soul to the proverbial devil?

Continue reading

Review – The Night Wanderer Graphic Novel by Drew Taylor

Title: The Night Wanderer

Authors: Drew Hayden Taylor (Author), Alison Kooistra (Adaptor), Mike Wyatt (Illustrator)

Star Rating: * * * *

Genre: Graphic Novel, Indigenous Narrative, Paranormal

NOTE: Review copy obtained via NetGalley

Cover - The Night Wanderer

Synopsis

Pierre L’Errant is an Anishinabe man who has been away from home for centuries. When the desire to come back becomes too much to bear, he flies to Otter Lake to deal with his inner demons. However, when he arrives, he finds himself embroiled in the problems of the family that he is staying with. Tiffany, the teenager of the house, is struggling. Her parents are separated, her boyfriend isn’t treating her well, her grades are dropping at school, and her dad refuses to understand her difficulties. By intervening, Pierre not only helps Tiffany start to sort through her issues, but he comes to a conclusion about his own struggles.

Continue reading