Pets to the Rescue

To the rescue or not, they still suck.
To the rescue or not, they sure do suck.

Hello, Spongey here.

At the start of every month, I hit up the thrift stores that are close to me. I tend to get at least two DVDs from this, and there’s been some cool finds. Usually, the people working there will check the case to make sure the disc is actually in there, as there were problems with that before. I tend to do so but on February 1 of this year, I messed up.

I got what looked like Wallace and Gromit Curse of the Were Rabbit but I failed to check the case on that one so instead the disc was different. That disc belonged to one of those cheap 10 family movie packs that has direct to video kids movies that no one has heard of. Only one disc was there so I got only 5 of those 10, what a ripoff.

It was put out by Echo Bridge Entertainment who mostly does stuff like this. This disc has all 5 movies on one so they cut costs by not having subtitles and having them in eh quality. Not that these are the kinds of movies made in HD to begin with. Two of these were Australian TV movies that were part of a series called Winners.

I figured I may as well watch them all to see if any were worth it. The first one EZ Money was bad enough to qualify and I had it slated. Then at the end of this, the disc finished with a movie that took its place. EZ may get its time eventually but this one burned me more in the end.

You can look at my journey through my Twitter threads on them.

Now I did watch these at night and without subtitles to help me so I may have missed something. Still, while most of these were just eh, this one was actively bad. So yeah, because my own idiocy, we’re doing this.

This was released in 2002 and of course not much is known about it. The director is David Lister who generally does things like this such as The Last Leprechaun. There are three credit writers here, Christopher Atkins, Stephen Ronald Francis, and Gus Silber. Atkins doesn’t have much as he is usually an actor in things like The Blue Lagoon. Stephen doesn’t have much else and Gus has the same deal.

This has two titles, “Pets to the Rescue” and just “Pets. The disc and DVD menu even have different ones, which was a good sign. We’re going with the former to make it easier. All that aid, let’s dig in and see how this really is now that I have a more clear head.

This, is Pets to the Rescue

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That’s So Raven-Road to Audition/Raven’s Home Remix

Hello, Spongey Here.

When you’re as weirdly as into Disney Sitcoms as I am, you start to notice some odd trends in terms of the kind of episodes they do. They often do various types as far as story and format. But there’s one type that has been lacking in their shows, and that is the musical episode.

Disney loves to make these shows as an excuse to push a singer with plenty having scattered songs already. Given that, you’d think most would have a musical episode, maybe even multiple in one show. Instead, so far there have been only 3. One is Even Stevens’ Influenza The Musical which is a masterpiece. The other two belong to the same franchise.

I don’t know why this is. Maybe with fun, like Austin & Ally, there’s enough songs in general that there’s no need for it. I can see them doing one for most shows regardless if it’s needed. Either way, as it stands there’s not too many. Today we’ll go over those other two, which belongs to That’s So Raven.

On July 30, 2004, during Season 2, they aired this special musical episode which was a big hyped up event. They did one cool thing that we’ll get to. I distinctly remember the night this aired, as I was away at my Grandpa’s I think and had to miss the initial airing. Then later on October 12, 2018, the sequel series Raven’s Home decided to create a follow up.

I don’t know if they intended it to be viewed as such, but I doubt they’d randomly do a musical episode if the original series didn’t already have one. This was also highly advertised. I haven’t seen the first in ages and I haven’t seen the latter at all. As part of my thing to look at notable Kidcom episodes vs bad ones, I thought we’d tackle these.

How does the first one hold up? Did Raven’s Home create a worthy follow up? Let’s see.

First up: This is Road to Audition

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Goosebumps Triple Header Book 1

Hello, Spongey here.

After taking a break to let a bunch of AU mes take over…again, we’re back. Yeah that was weird but we’re able to do more Stine stuff again. We got a break from him last month but we can’t escape Goosebumps forever. This time we’re doing something that has been on the docket for a while.

We’ve talked about Tales to Goosebumps before and those were decent sized hits and got adapted into TV to make them more well known. What was less well known was the series that came after it. In 1997, Tales was winding down and Series 2000 was on the horizon. Thus they wanted to shake things up for the short stories.

Enter Triple Header, a short lived series with only two entries in 1997 and 1998. These got a lot of promotion, even having a sneak peak into the school market edition of Haunted School. They had plans to do more but a 3rd was canned due to the whole Scholastic fallout. A bit more on that when we do book 2 someday.

This took on a different format. Remember Fright Time? This was the same idea, having just 3 stories that were split into chapters that made it more like a mini book than a normal short story. I never heard of this until Blogger Beware did Book 2. They only did that one so no one knew anything about Book 1 for ages, unless you read it back in the day.

I first read it through a physical copy a couple years ago, as it wasn’t on Archive until later. I did have the Retro recap before that at least. I read Book 2 first off Archive so I was mostly more familiar with that. Now I’ve thought about Book 1 plenty and am ready to tackle it. It’s an interesting idea and is a promising one on paper. Tales can suffer from feeling too short, more like table scraps than a full meal.

So this longer format could make these better. Another difference from Tales is that these have a framing device with intros by a 3 headed monster., named Lefty, Righty and Slim. Slim is my favorite political affiliation. They’re in script format and tell some classic Jovial Bob jokes. It’s cute for what it is, I guess. I’ll just mention that they address the readers as “boys and ghouls”. Bitch you’ll never be The Cryptkeeper.

So, how does this first attempt fare for me? Let’s dive in and see.

This, is Goosebumps Triple Header Book 1

This cover is good. I dig the monster design here, and the image of them reading a book. It’s not top tier stuff as far as Jacobus monsters go, but it gets the job done. I should note that in real life, it has this holographic going on that is cool but that makes it hard to make out the image fully. Weird but neat. Overall, it’s good and gets the job done, that’s all.

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Elseworlds Month 2: Mr Coat

Welcome to the finale of Elsewolds Month 2!

Universe 1183: Mr. Coat (Character Profile: Pinocchio)

There are certain stories that tend to get retold a lot. These are usually public dominion stories and characters that people are free to use as much as they like. When new versions get released, you’ll usually see comments along the lines of “Really, another one of these?”. While I understand that, there is a reason some of these still live on today.

One of those is Pinocchio. When Carlo Collodi published The Adventures of Pinocchio in 1884, I don’t think he knew the impact his story of a puppet longing to be a real boy would have over the years. With last year having 3 distinct adaptations of the story, I figured now is a good time to look back and where it started and see how the character and story has evolved over time.

The story was originally serialized in a children’s magazine as The Story of a Puppet in 1881 before being published as a book in 1883. The general structure we’re familiar with is there but there are a of weird little things that tend to be omitted. The nature of how it was published is why it has an episodic structure and the original story goes further with it with all the detours it takes. At this point most know of certain things that are different here, like how the conscience cricket, who is not named here is killed off.

But sometimes not enough bring up how Pinocchio is carved from a talking log. Yes, he’s already somewhat alive even before being made with no real explanation. I know this is basically a fairy tale that doesn’t run on logic but I prefer how the adaptations do it. There’s a part where he is thrown in jail by a gorilla judge. I know there’s already anthropomorphic animals in here but that still caught me off guard.

We’d be here all day if I just recapped everywhere but that’s just a taste of the weird bits in here. Much has been talked about in regard to how much darker the original story is, with moments like Pinocchio’s feet being burned and the aforementioned killing of the cricket. It certainly tries to push how harsh this world is, especially with how Pinocchio gets punished to teach him a lesson.

I do enjoy some of these moments in a darkly funny kind of way. It does get repetitive due to the nature of the structure. He actually originally dies in chapter 15 and the story was going to end there, but at the suggestion of his editors, the story continued with the fairy bringing him back to life. Pinocchio himself is more of a brat here, with him learning the lesson a lot before it finally sinks in at the end. I suppose it fits to have him start off acting badly to drive the moral home but I do prefer when the character is more of a nice kid who just gets tempted easily.

The story has been criticized for its “scared straight” approach to teaching the lesson and yeah, it’s a bit much with just how harshly he’s punished for sometimes small crimes. But even with that, it’s certainly fun with everything packed into it and it’s easy to see why it took off like it did. Collodi actually planned to do a sequel where it turns out the ending was all just a dream and he’s still a puppet but he died before it could be finished. One wonders how that would have turned out.

Of course, even given that, we still ended up getting plenty more Pinocchio stories once it became a goldmine for adaptations. Many, many adaptations. We don’t have time to go over every version, so I’ll just hit up some of the more notable ones that I’ve seen. I’m also sticking to more straightforward takes rather than ones merely inspired by it, as much as I may like them. So no “AI: Artificial Intelligence”, sorry.

The first film version was a silent film released in 1911, with Ferdinand Guillaume being the first to portray the character on-screen. It’s an…odd one to say the least. It has some of the basics, but otherwise is a far more wacky take. From the start, it’s a lot of chaos, being somewhat close to the more out there nature of the book even with the changes it makes. I can’t exactly call it good but I somewhat enjoyed it for how baffling it was at times.

Of course, the most famous adaptation is the 1940 Disney Classic. It’s become the definitive version and a lot of future adaptations are likely more inspired by it than the book due to its place in pop culture. Being more family friendly and quite good helps a lot. It was lightened up but they still managed to be scary with that donkey scene.

The main story remained intact and the characters are well portrayed in their own ways, from the wooden boy himself to the fun villains. It does a good job of streamlining the story and it doesn’t suffer too much from being toned down. This is the Pinocchio that most are molded after, with him mostly being a nice boy who falls prey to the influence of others which as I said I do tend to prefer. It was actually a bomb at the time, due to World II cutting off overseas profits. It of course eventually did well over many re-releases and became a beloved classic.

But now it’s time to jump into the other versions. A classic example of strange Pinocchio movies we can get is the Belgian animated film Pinocchio in Outer Space, released in 1965. This is a sequel to the story where the wooden boy has become a puppet again because he has relapsed into being a bad kid. Then an alien turtle who looks more like a parrot and is voiced by Arnold Stang, the voice of Top Cat, shows up and takes him to Mars to stop a space whale.

It’s a…surreal experience to say the least. It’s not really all that bad, the animation and overall aesthetic is pretty decent for the time and it’s certainly never boring. It’s light on plot as it’s mostly just them running around on Mars and Pinocchio relapsing makes it hard to say about any development he goes through here. But the interactions are kinda fun with some of the turtle’s lines. It’s no Disney but for what it is, it’s not the worst way you can spend an hour.

One interesting case is Filmation’s Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night, from 1987. It was part of their attempt to make sequels to Disney movies by falling back on the original stories being public domain. Disney tried and failed to stamp them out but they flopped so it didn’t matter anyway. There’s sadly no space turtles, and instead it has the boy going up against an emperor of the night.

There’s a few fun moments regarding the emperor and the animation is mostly decent for Filmation standards. But a lot of it feels like a retread, with Pinchio falling to temptation over and over again. There’s an attempt at a message about freedom which is interesting but feels like more of the same themes of the original in execution. There’s also some forgettable song in there and a couple annoying sidekicks like a monkey voiced by Frank Welker who is no Abu.

It’s mostly harmless and watchable but didn’t hold my attention that much. One that is nostalgic for some is the 1996 movie The Adventures of Pinocchio, starring Johnathan Taylor Thomas. Director Steve Bannon conceived of it earlier as a project with Jim Henson and pitched it to Disney who turned it down. Disney turning down a chance to make a live action version of a story they previously made an animated version of is hard to believe these days but there you go.

When it did finally get made, it bombed at the box office and was poorly received. As for me, it was somewhat mixed. It’s well made, even if the CGI can look off putting, especially on the cricket. The score by Rachel Portman is good and does help sell the emotional moments. They stick a bit closer to the book while still making changes such as combining the human villains into just one, with Udo Keir being suitably creepy.

It is an admirable attempt to add their own spin to some parts, while trying to keep the heart of the story. But as it goes on, it stays  more to the basics of the plot and gets less interesting. There are some neat moments but the 3rd act does get more standard. There is a genuine effort here so I didn’t mind it too much, but it doesn’t fully work as a whole.

Despite the box office, it did get a direct to video sequel in 1999, so there’s that at least. Before we jump ahead further, there are plenty of other notable Pinocchio appearances that deserve a mention. There was a 1953 radio adaptation with Mel Blanc, various other animated films from other countries, a Sci-Fi take called Pinocchio 3000 in 2004, and a horror film named Pinocchio’s Revenge. Because it’s not a public domain property without a horror version.

An infamous one is the Roberto Benigni directed movie from 2002, mostly due to a panned English dubbed. Thankfully he got to be a better received take in 2019 where he played Gepotto. It even received two Oscar nominations for Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling. Disney has a book in their Twisted Tale young adult series that focuses on the backstory of the Blue Fairy, because that’s something people wanted to know?

Pinocchio is naturally one of the fairy tale characters used in the Shrek series, voiced by DreamWorks artist Cody Cameron. He provided some laughs, and even got one of the funnier scenes in Shrek the Third where he tries to word things in such a way as not to lie. His appearance in the special Scared Shrekless involves him in an Exorcist parody where he plays the Regan role. I had to mention it because I kind of love that concept.

On the TV side, there was a 2000 TV movie focusing on Geppetto, as played by Drew Carey. I thought it was a promising idea but it was dragged by Geppetto not being terribly interesting or even all that likable for most of it. There was a live musical in 1957 with Mickey Rooney as title character, an anime series in 1972, and a 1960 stop motion series by Rankin/Bass. The rabbit hole goes deep, trust me.

There’s an episode of LazyTown where Robbie Rotten brings the character to life to make him lie to the kids. He sees the boy as the ultimate liar, even after Stephanie tells him his nose grows as a tell. It honestly wasn’t the strongest episode.

To close us out, we have the year 2022 which, as mentioned before, gave 3 Pinocchio movies. There was the live action Disney remake, which got a bit of an unfair reception as while it is too beholden to the animated classic, it had its moments of trying some new things even if it didn’t work as a whole. There was Pinocchio: A True Story, infamous for the English dub with Pauley Shore giving an…interesting performance.

At least from what I see. Yeah, the version I watched was a different English dub with other actors. Once you get past the strange ideas and loose take on the story, it’s mostly just kind of dull. The drama didn’t land for me and the horse was annoying, but otherwise I’ve hardly thought about it since I watched it.

Last but not least was Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, also directed by Mark Gustafson. I’ve talked about it before but it’s worth going into again as it’s really interesting compared to a lot of versions. Del Toro has stated he felt the book encouraged blind obedience and wanted to counter that. Thus, the movie uses its setting of fascist Italy to comment on the dangers of this. It’s an interesting take on the story that understands the appeal of the story while doing its own thing with it.

With how these other adaptations tended to stick more closely to the general plot, it further shows how much this version stands out. Of course, this will hardly be the last version. Regardless of how you think about these, it is easy to see why the story has stuck around for so long. There’s something appealing about a lot of the ideas and characters present, which these do sometimes take advantage of.

Like a lot of these older stories, there is something there that leads to so many versions and there have been at least a few great takes alongside the standard ones. While the messaging in the original has its flaws, its story of a boy learning right and wrong to become a real boy is still a memorable one that has managed to survive through all these various versions.

No matter how many versions come out, there will always be something special about the character and the story.

Didn’t know how to end this one so that’s a good stopping point.

Mr. Coat belongs to Stefan Ellison

And that ends Elseworlds Month 2. This one was super tricky (I’ll talk more about it come the 2023 retrospective) and I’m still totally sure about it but hope you enjoyed it anyway. Next time it’s back to just boring old me.

See ya.

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Elseworlds Month 2: Retro Oasis

Welcome back to Elseworlds Month 2

Universe 8488: Retro Oasis (Weird Episodes)

(For context, their current blog and the one I’m taking from: )

Disney is currently digging through their more B tier proprieties to milk some Disney Plus content out of. But this is hardly the first time they’ve done this, case in point with Honey I Shrunk the Kids. For the uninitiated, the idea life as a concept by Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna and became the 1988 film which dealt with quirky inventor Wayne, played by Rick Moranis, accidentally shrinking his kids. It became a hit so naturally sequels followed, to diminishing returns, with the 3rd film going direct to video.

It’s getting a revival movie for D+ to further my point but before that they made some ether attempts to stretch the series while it was hot. There was the attraction “Honey We Shrunk the Audience” but more importantly for our purposes is the TV series. Running is syndication for 3 seasons from 1997 to 2000, the whole cast was replaced, most notably with the late Peter Scolari.

Because there’s only so much shrinking you can do, it adopted an invention of the week format. The series reran on The Hub in the early 2010’s which is where I was first exposed to it. I didn’t see a ton but I mostly just remember it being..weird. You can tell they stretched for ideas, resulting in some oddball concepts. For one, they sometimes ditched Sci-Fi and had actual ghosts and witches. It’s not super well known these days, it’s not even on Disney+ as of this writing but if nothing else, it could be memorably strange.

The one we’re looking at today has stuck with me and I’ve always wanted to talk about it in some form. Which is funny given the plot as you’ll see. The episode being Honey, Name that Tune. What about it makes it stand out? Well, Honey, let’s review this thing.

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Elseworlds Month 2: Lost In Adaptation

Welcome back to Elseworlds Month 2!

Universe 1141: Lost in Adaptation (Maniac Magee)

Hello my beautiful watchers, I mean readers, and welcome to Lost in Adaptation, that thing where I compare movie and sometimes TV adaptations of books to those books to see if they were able to capture the plot and themes. Today’s subject is technically both as it is a TV movie. This one is interesting as I have nostalgic attachment to both but my journey was a bit interesting. 

I saw the movie first and it stuck with me but it’s one of those cases where I forgot the title. So I just had this vague memory of a few events. Since r/whatsthatobook didn’t exist in the 2000s, it just sat with me until we actually read the book in school once and the memories came flooding back. We watched the movie as well and I caught the changes at the time but didn’t mind them.

So I’m in a weird position where I have a soft spot for both but I’ll have to put that aside to judge them on their own and of course we’ll especially scrutinize the adaptation aspect. The book in question is 1990’s Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.

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General Review: The Super Mario Bros. Movie

Hello, Spongey here.

It’s time for our first major animated movie of the year, finally. We had Amazing Maurice as a cute little throwback but it’s time for the big guns. And oh boy we’ve got a big one today. This time we have Illumination’s take on Mario.

I won’t bore you with the history lesson, Mario is pretty well known so no need to over anything major here. My own history is I wasn’t much of a gamer so I know of the games through passing. Down the line I did learn about them and played some of them via emulation ages ago. I beat Super Mario World, that’s something.

I know enough, just aren’t a big fanboy here. Haven’t much from the cartoons beyond memes. I have however seen the first film attempt from 1993. It was a notorious flop on both levels, to the point where Nintendo got cold feed about movie adaptations ever since. It’s kind of a fun so bad it’s good movie on its own but adaptation wise, it’s rough.

Fast forward to 2018 when it was announced we’d get an animated movie from Illumination. This was a pretty big deal but the idea of Illumination doing it caused some worry. Personally from the start I thought they were a fine choice. The look of their movies lends itself well to the style of the games as well as their nature of going for more cute fun stuff than anything deep.

Plus, with Nintendo keeping a close eye on it, it was unlikely to go off the rails. At this point, it’s clear Illumination wants to start branching out. Not that there was anything that wrong to their approach, but at some point they had to evolve. We’ve been seeing that visually at least, and how Sing 2 was them looking inward. I stand by that BTW.

There’s been a lot riding on this, with a lot of hype. Some people have been weird about it but either way I was interested to see how it fares. The casting caused some mixed takes but we’ll take on that as it comes up. As for the crew, the writer is Matthew Fogel who did Rise of Gru so I covered him already.

Thee directors are Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath, best known for creating Teen Titans Go. Outside of that, they’ve written for Batman the Brave and the Bold as well as Return of the Caped Crusders/Batman vs Two Face. Those were pretty good so they were a decent pick. But does it all pay off? Let’s finally find out.

This, is The Super Mario Bros. Movie

With help from Princess Peach, Mario gets ready to square off against the all-powerful Bowser to stop his plans from conquering the world. Also he’s got a brother in Luigi and they are plumbers from Brooklyn. Yeah not much of a plot summary for some reason.

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Pair of Kings-Loathe Potion #9

L’ll  cut to the chase instead of BSing like last time You have entered…


Just pretend I did the firing up the machine stuff. April Fools!

UNIVERSE 714c: Norty (Part 3, Fixing the Flops)

JULY 2014:

“I like Wizards of Waverly Place, so you shouldn’t be shocked that I like Pair of Kings.”

God 2014 was so long ago, I miss it so. I don’t really recall much from this review. Almost like it was done in an alternate universe where Spongey did it…or this that universe too? Whatever, I don’t care. Maybe there’s a universe where I didn’t watch Pair of Kings until trying it out on Peeking at the Pilots and didn’t care for it enough to press on thus making a Kids are Smarter than This unlikely. …Anyway, No Rhyme or Treason sucked.

The review is okay, it’s an episode that is mostly annoying and that is hard to sell. The shtick of Brady hitting on Mikayla could be iffy but this episode ran it into the ground. He gets so creepy and dumb that it’s hardly funny. I can see what they were going for but it just didn’t work. I may have taken that ending joke too seriously but it still feels like it forces a joke in to undo the development it could have had.

It’s not one of the objective worst things I’ve covered but it is one of the more annoying. Finding a counter to it was a bit hard at first. I wanted one that focused on his thing for Maylaya, but the options didn’t quite fit. I was worried I’d have to stretch but then it hit me. I was only checking the first 2 seasons since, ya know, those had Brady before they kicked Mitchell Musso off.

I scrolled through some of Season 3 and it turns out, it had an episode that ended up working well for what I wanted. That’s right, they did something better in the season that shouldn’t have happened to begin with. Enough setup, let’s see how they did.

This is Loath Potion #9

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The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy

Hello, Spongey here.

Last year, I reviewed a book called The Mysterious Matter of IM Fine. It was a book that featured a parody of Goosebumps that was a commentary on the hold it had at the time. But that mostly a backdrop for a fun story of Franny and Beamer discovering an evil plan that involves Russians and gummy works. I covered it due to the Goosebumps connection and that stuff was cool but it did keep me going because of the solid mystery it had going for it.

You can read my review for all the details on it, the author Diane Stanley, and her love of David Copperfield. It was a fun book and I was delighted to find out it had a sequel in 2008. It feels like a bit long to wait but you can’t rush perfection. I haven’t read much of it beforehand this time but I did skim a bit. It seems to be done in a way where you don’t need to read the first one.

Given the gap, that’s fair. I only have a vague idea of what to expect, so I hope it’s good. I don’t have much more to say here before we jump in. I’m curious to see where this goes. It’s like 250 pages so we should just quickly get into it and see what Franny has in store for us.

This, is The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy

This cover is okay. Fairly basic but the contrast of Franny and that kid on the right and the creepy smiling kids is decent. Otherwise, nothing crazy but it’s serviceable I guess.

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Ghosts of Fear Street-How to be a Vampire

Hello, Spongey here.

It’s Stine review time and this month we are headed back to Ghosts of Fear Street. It feels like just yesterday we were ranting about Bobby Newkirk. For this I held a poll to pick the subject. The options were How to be a Vampire, Tale of the Blue Monkey, Field of Screams and Fright Knight. I didn’t know which would win and it was an interesting race. Vampire had a head start but close to the end Blue Monkey jumped up.

It came very close but in the end, Vampire won. With how popular vampires on and it being one of the more classic titles, this win makes sense. O was hoping Field of Screams could win as it’s wild but this was a good choice too. This has been one of the big ones I wanted so I am glad we got it sooner rather than later.

This is one of the few I have physically, and it’s actually a big nostalgic favorite for me. I have a strong memory of reading this once while at some family gathering. For some reason it stuck with me and was one I came back to a lot. I re-read it a while back and did a short Goodreads review for it. That makes this the first Stine review that I did a GR review for previously, what a milestone.

Thus I know what to expect from an adult POV. We’ll get to further see how it holds up and what made me like it back then. A trivia bit to put in is that this had an edition that was a “vampire kit”, coming with vampire makeup as well as “My Vampire Handbook” It’s rare so I don’t know what the handbook entails, perhaps a real version of the book in the story.

Our ghostwriter today is Katy Hall aka Kate McMullen. She mostly does freelance kids books that arne’t that horror-y but she’s still on the more notable side. She did a kids book adaptation of Phantom of the Opera once and has this Dragon Academy series that once did a crossover with Zack Files. That’s neat. She did a couple others and in one she is miscredited as Kathy.

I only mention that because I wanted to know if that was a miscredit so I contacted her to get the scoop. She told me it indeed was. Yeah, another mild connection, just had to bring that up. Anyway, let’s get into it.

This, is How to be a Vampire

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