Hello, Spongey here.
Well, it’s that time of the year again. It’s not only time for December antics, but also for me to push Red Ribbon Reviewers yet again. Weirdly, the yearly promo for it isn’t out yet like it usually is. We’ll go on with the show anyway though. (It came out the night before this went up but I’m keeping this here to mess with him lol)
Yet again, don’t really need to explain their deal, hit up the link to get more on what they are all about. As usual, this month will be packed for me, mostly near the end so before the holiday rush, let’s crack into this month’s Stine review.
We’ve done the modern 12 Scream of Christmas, the even more modern Young Scrooge and the classic Silent Night. Oh and also Fright Christmas ages ago and it was re-visited in the Young Scrooge one. Now it’s time for a special holiday book from him…sort of, oh boy we’ll get to that.
Back in March, I reviewed the first Tales to Give You Goosebumps book. These are short story collections and that first one was very…okay. Most of the stories were just kind of there, either ending before they got good or not being that interesting to begin with, with a few standouts.
I don’t want to give away all my thoughts on all the others but spoilers, they mostly continued in the general direction quality-wise. So when we reach this one, you’d think the final one wouldn’t really escape that. Then came Blogger Beware’s review, where Troy sung this book’s praises, which was a surprise for him too.
Ever since then, I had been wanting to read this and last year I finally got to do so. There was previously a Halloween themed one, naturally, and for the finale they had this Christmas/Winter themed entry.
With all that said, does it live up to the hype? Is it really that good or is it on the same just okay track this series usually had? Did I review the first Tales just to setup this review? The answer to that least one is…yeah. Oh and some of these came with items and this had a stocking. Neat. Anyway, let’s get filled with holiday fear!
This, is More & More & More Tales to Give You Goosebumps
(God, that title)
This cover is cute, that’s the best way to sum it up. It’s just Curly and his dog Drool (who is not also a skeleton for some reason) snowboarding and it works. Not the most amazing standout cover ever but it’s…cute. That’s all, what more do you want from me?!
Don’t Sit on the Gronk
It’s Christmas morning and Brad just got a new Walkman, because 90’s, but it doesn’t seem to work. Then his older sister Kelly informs him he failed to read the instructions and plugged the headphones into the wrong jack. I’m no expert on these but from what I know this is a dumb mistake to mistake and she’s right to call him out,
Brad has a knack for not reading instructions, which I’m sure won’t be a big problem for him later. They notice one last present under the tree that doesn’t seem to mention a sender on the tag. Opening it, it seems to be a Kooshball (again, 90’s)…that seems to move and breathe.
The parents shockingly do see that he’s telling the truth about it being alive, and just let him keep it as long as he takes care of it. So a present that you were not aware of suddenly appears and is an unknown creature and you just let your son have it. Everything that happens is now your fault.
Looking through the box, there are some instructions for how to take care of it, and it is called a Gronk. I love that name. He doesn’t read them because of course and invites his friend Roscoe over to look at it. The creature doesn’t seem to have any features like a mouth and yet it clearly giggles anyway. Weird.
They go outside with it and start tossing it around. Soon it starts to grow and eventually they use it like a basketball. Don’t worry, Gronk giggles a lot so this isn’t abuse. Eventually it gets so big Brad has to roll it back home.
Once inside, the Gronk is now as big as a beanbag chair, so Brad sits on it. Gee I wonder if that was a bad idea. Sure enough, it grow even more to a dangerous level, and Kelly sees this going on. The Gronk bounces after them as Kelly finds the instructions and starts to read them to see what Brad missed.
One, keep it indoors as taking it outside will cause it to grow rapidly. Whoops. Two, don’t use it as a ball. This one is weirdly specific but yeah, oof again. Step 3, don’t feed it after mid-oh wait. Three is actually to indeed not sit on it. The reason is interrupted it continues to bounce after Brad and corner him.
“Because…then it will want to sit on you!”
SPLAT. The End.
Yep, that’s how we end, with possible murder by Gronk. Nice.
Thoughts: The inspiration is obvious (guess I wasn’t done with Gremlins yet) and it’s pretty clear where it is going but this was still a fun one to start with. It flows pretty well and it’s fun to read as the Gronk keeps growing. And the whole concept behind it is just amusing to me and I dig the amusingly dark ending. Plus having a clear setup and payoff like that is good. So yeah, a pretty fun one that is honestly alone better than most of the first book. Not a bad start.
Sam is being dragged by her parents to a performance of The Nutcracker, which she is annoyingly not happy about. They were invited to this by Sam’s old babysitter Mrs. Boren, who she dubs Mrs. Boring. Oh I love her already. They meet up with Boren who is appalled at Sam’s whiny-ness as everyone else, but says she will learn to appreciate the ballet, as these things take “lots of time”.
Then when Sam says it’s time to be bored to death, Boren tells her that it’s time she learned what true boredom is.
Well clearly she’s not up to anything.
They settle in and it seems to take forever for the orchestra to warm up, to the point where Sam’s arm starts to fall asleep. The part where she tries to distract herself perfectly captures what its like to be in this kind of situation, where you just try to think of whatever to keep your mind active through the boredom.
One eternity later, the ballet begins but its been so long that Sam at first thinks she dozed off and missed the whole show. The fact that mom is just acting like everything is normal just makes this all creepier. Eventually the crowd applauds and it goes on forever.
Sam notices Boren looking at her figures out that she is behind all this, punishing Sam for being Sam. To make matters worse, Sam’s mom’s hair seems to be getting a bit of grey. That’s called getting old Sam, it’s scary but it happens. Actually she didn’t have this before so this weird time spell is aging them up with Sam being the only one aware.
Sam tries to run away but not matter how fast she goes, the exit isn’t any closer and she just ends up sitting back down. This is honestly geuingely creepy with details like that. Then Sam’s dress starts to rip, as she is growing out of it despite complaining earlier about it being two sizes two big. More good small setup and payoff, nice.
Soon the curtain comes down and Sam is ecstatic. …Until Boren pipes in.
“Be patient, Samantha. The first act is almost over. The second act will start real soon!”
End. Damn, a simple but effective final beat. I assume by the end Sam will be ranting about kids and their phones, and that’s where the REAL horror begins.
Thoughts: This was…kind of brilliant. I mean it. Most of us, especially as kids, can relate to being at some thing we saw as boring and thinking it is taking forever. Even as adults I can tell you this happens pretty often. So it takes that feeling and uses it for horror, as time really does slow down and people start to age but only Sam notices it, with Mom writing it off as her being impatient. This kind of thing can run the risk of being boring itself and it does get slightly repetitive in the middle but it makes up for that with the little scary details, like the grey hair and such. Perhaps it’s a bit harsh on Boren’s part but it works as comeuppance for Sam. Her narration adds in extra humor to make this more fun as well. So yeah, it does about everything right despite a few dull bits.
Perhaps a tad generous but still impressive for this early on. Also, it’s certainly the superior Goosebumps short story with rapid aging but that’s for another time.
The Ice Vampire
Sam Weaver and his friend Billy Liff has entered a-wait…Sam? Another one? Wow, a good sign for how creative this will be. Anyway, Sam and Billy have entered a ice sculpture contest with their ice cobra but despite how awesome that sounds, they lose to an Ice Vampire by “Bram Stokeman”.
They tell some girl about their loss but when they look back, the ice vampire is gone, dun dun dun. We never meet Bram, by the way. Even weirder, in its place is a sculpture of a girl who looks a lot like someone they know. Its eyes seem to be pleading at them, which is both creepy and sad.
Sam and Billy start to leave, only for the ice vampire to appear…but now it’s alive, uh oh. It grabs Sam and the boy starts to get cold, with the vampire moaning about heat. Billy saves him, because you can’t be a R.L. Stine Billy unless you’re awesome. The boys run home and despite making a frozen keyhole, the vampire is nice enough to stay outside and eventually he’s not there so we can cut to the next morning.
The Ice Vampire interrupts their breakfast by finally breaking in and attacking Sam’s older sister Emily. We were informed Sam and Emily have your typical sibling relationship that these have but Sam still pounces the vampire immediately after seeing this. Nice.
They try to use an icicle as a stake but that fails. They did manage to get the vampire outside though, so they run back in and lock the door. But it just gets back in by freezing the window and breaking it, damn.
It grab Billy but Sam spots Emily’s hairdryer and figures it is worth a try. He uses it on the vampire and it actually works, giving him the heat he needs. He even seems to be happy now. Hey, he ain’t so bad, he just needed warmth like the rest of us. Maybe now we can all be-oh wait he becomes a puddle and dies.
…Well, that’s harsh.
They have a good laugh after murdering a man, and notice the hairdryer has died so they are glad it didn’t do it a minute ago. Way to tempt fate, Emily. So of course their ice cobra randomly comes in, asking for heat, the end. Okay wait, I suppose Bram brought the vampire to life so how did the cobra come to life?
This feels a bit dumb and forced, is what I’m saying.
Thoughts: This one is just so much fun. The concept is a creative one, an ice sculpture vampire that takes your heat instead of blood. It manages to be legit creepy as well as action packed. It flows well, not wasting time and has a few awesome moments and proactive leads. I do have to dock points for the dumb ending. I can let the lack of explanation slide since that could have hurt the pacing but the ending didn’t need to break the logic. Otherwise, it’s one I enjoyed even more when reading it again.
Rating: Very Good
I was going to have it lower going into this but for once I enjoyed something more when recapping it, weird.
A Holly Holly Holiday
Beth is watching wrestling, featuring the generically named The Krusher, when she is interrupted by her older sister Jody. A lot of older sisters in this one. Beth is a snarky little one while Jody is more positive and upbeat, which is a nice flip flop from the usual.
Jody has brought a VHS (because…eh, you get it) tape of her favorite holiday special, Holly Jolly Holiday, which is also Beth’s least favorite as it’s so sugary and annoying. Beth especially hates the heroine (that wording alone makes me think Stine didn’t write this) Susie Snowflake, who is “nicer than Santa and more cheerful than the Easter Bunny”.
But she also has red hair, so nevermind what I said. The lady at the “Christmas Shoppe” says it’s the only copy she’s ever seen, which is odd for something that we are told airs all the time.
Jody starts the tape and it features the cheerful Susie going around and giving kids cookies. She says things like “Christmas cookies to tempt your tummy!”, and “Pretty bitty please with Christmas trees!”. I love everything about her. I also love Beth’s narration of this with her cynical perspective. Susie hugging someone is “going in for the kill”.
Beth leaves and when she returns later, Jody is still watching the movie but now mom is with her. That’s not weird but the fact that Mom baked some cookies is, as dad is usually the cook. Way to defy gender norms at least. Mom says the movie inspired her to make cookies to “tempt your tummy”.
To pound this even further, Mom and Jody’s hair has been getting very red. Even the dog is getting slightly pinker further, which is funny. Even Beth’s hair is getting a slight red tint just from watching it slightly. Beth visits Dad in the garage and tells him what is going on. He thinks its a weird joke but heads inside to see what is going on anyway.
He isn’t seen for a little bit so Beth does to check on him, and sure enough he is watching the tape and under the spell of Susie. Yes, he has the red hair too and his facial is all gone too. Not sure why I find that part odd, I just do. Beth thankfully is smart enough to figure that taking the tape out will fix this spell.
Jody stops her and asks for the magic words, which Beth doesn’t know. Even worse, she is still being affected, just more slowly since she isn’t watching it all the time.
“Oh, sugar cookies!” I said. It wasn’t what I meant to say at all”
Huh, I wonder what she meant to say. I mean, what word that has a “sh” sound like sugar could she possibly be….okay, if this is what I think it is, best Goosebumps story ever confirmed!
Beth figures the only way to get the magic words is to watch the tape and hope she can break out before she becomes Susie Snowflake forever. She goes behind enemy lines and soon starts to wonder what her deal was, what’s wrong with a little holly jolly spirit after all?
Eventually the words come to her, “Pretty-bitty please with Christmas trees” and Jody takes the tape out, giving it to Beth. Beth is happy as they can watch that lovely movie again. However, the TV is turned to wrestling and this snaps Beth out of the spell long enough to throw the tape in the fireplace.
I like this example of setup and payoff as the wrestling was first used to introduce that Beth is a contrast to Jody and then it became the solution, instead of something forced in just to setup the ending. Also, for as comedic as that was, it was creepy to read her almost getting lost in Susie there.
This snaps everyone out and we just abruptly cut to Christmas Eve, as the family decided not to talk about how they were almost turned into a TV character forever. Jody gets Beth a tape featuring The Krusher. If nothing else, it’s cool to have a nice older sister character despite their clear contrast.
Beth is ecstatic and says she wasn’t aware Krusher had a tape. Jody says the lady at the Christmas Shoppe says it’s the only copy she’s ever seen. End. Wait…is everyone gonna turn into wrestlers now? We need that sequel NOW.
Thoughts: This is the one Troy had the most praise for, to say the least….and he is right, this was genuinely fantastic. I just love the more cynical sense of humor, as it parodies cheesy saccharine holiday specials by making the most diabetes inducing one possible. Beth’s narration just adds to this. It flows very well, and despite the silly idea it does manage to be creepy with how everyone is transformed and Beth almost becomes a victim as well. I honestly have no complaints at all, even the twist is good. Well, aside from how the only nice older sister in the series still brings all…this. Figures.
By the way, I would kill for someone to do some Susie Snowflake cosplay. Actually, this really should have been a TV episode, just to see how they portray all this.
Why I Hate Jack Frost
Oh boy there’s an interesting story to share with this one, but first the story itself. Also, why does this sound the title of a video essay on that Micheal Keaton movie?
Jared is spending his Christmas in Arizona after having previously lived in some unnamed place that is colder, and he does not like it. I know an abominable snowman with magic snowballs that can help you with that.
Jared goes biking around town to get his mind off the heat and soon finds a store selling Christmas ornaments. He sees one shaped like an old fashioned house and takes a liking to it. The shop owner tells Jared it is the home of Jack Frost who “brings the ice”. That wording reminds me of Beware the snowman, so hopefully Jack never claims to be his father.
He buys it and places it over his bed, since he doesn’t want it over their dinky fake tree. That night, he has a dream where he is playing in a winter wonderland, building snowmen and all that. It’s interrupted by Jack Frost, who has a red beard meaning he likely has red hair. Come on, wasn’t there enough of that in the last one?
Jack brings the snowman to life with magic and after they go sledding, Jared wakes up and thinks about how real that felt. The way this is written is that it just cuts to this scene and acts like it is the next morning until eventually he wakes up, revealing it is indeed a dream. That just sounds like how you do a dream reveal but I’m totally not saying this because it’s important.
Throughout the day, Jared keeps feeling the cold from the dream despite how hot it is. Not even warm blankets that night can resolve this, but it does bring him to sleep so he can meet Jack Frost again. This time he gets into a sled race with him that gets a bit too fast and once they go off a cliff, Jared wakes up. Wow, talk about a cliffhanger, eh?
I regret nothing.
Whenever he wakes up, he looks at the ornament and while he does see the connection, he just moves it to the family tree instead of throwing it away. Thus, he keeps feeling cold no matter what he does. He just stays in at the request of his mom and that night Jack Frost wants to make snow angels. Jack starts to up his game as he starts to bury Jared in snow but thankfully waking up once again gets him out of this.
Now he throws the thing away, thinking his troubles are over. However, the Jack Frost dreams continue. Finally, Dream Jared rejects Jack but he still finds himself doing what he wants. At this point you gotta wonder what Jack’s endgame is. He’s like winter-y Freddy Kruger/Keith but he just makes you play. The horror.
Jack has Jared put up an ornament on a tree in his house, and Jared wakes up. The good news is that his cold problem is suddenly over but now he has the opposite problem, being so warm, with even cool things being super hot.
This time he doesn’t need to go to sleep as soon he just suddenly finds himself back in Jack’s wonderland. He tells Jack this is all a weird dream but Jack finds his talk of Arizona to be odd. This is where Jared lives.
He protests until he notices that the ornament they put up is of Jared’s Arizona house. Jack theorizes that this must have have given Jared nightmares, as this is where he truly lives. He tells Jared to get dressed, they’re gonna have a snowball fight.
End. That was more abrupt than I remembered but yep, I guess his true life is with Jack and his Arizona life is all a dream. Is the evil Jack also a dream or what? Is this not even true at all? Either way it’s why I mentioned the transitions to the dreams, they kind of hint at this.
Thoughts: It’s basically the early version of I Live In Your Basement and I like that. It goes the psychological route of making us wonder what the truth is and it captures that fairly well. The highlight is the stuff with him feeling cold all the time, it’s a bit creepy and is sort of a be careful what you wish for case. Jared wants cold and gets it the hard way. The dream scenes are both cute and eerie and it flows pretty well. The twist I’m mixed on though. It makes sense for this to have it and I think it generally works but it does leave some questions that give you a headache if you think about it too much. But despite that, still a solid enough standout for me.
My interesting story:
Okay, you can skip this if you don’t care. Anyway, way back last year around when I reviewed Hide and Shriek,, I wanted to research some of the Ghosts of Fear Street authors just to find out more about their other work and heck, possibly contact some here and there. I find the blog of one said writers, Kathryn Lance. In there she had a post about researching your writing, and said “ I was once assigned to write a short story about Jack Frost for a children’s “horror” anthology.”
Now usually that reminding me of this would be easy to write off…but I recalled that one previous Tales story was confirmed to be ghostwritten by someone mostly known for Ghosts of Fear Street. So the possibility of this happening again was open. So I left a cheeky comment about how that reminds me of this story but surely hers has no connection to it.
She replied to it basically confirming my suspicions, saying she mostly just remembers the research more than the story itself. And then we ended up taking this to email and talked a bit further about other stuff. She sadly doesn’t have many other details about the production of this and even if she did, I likely wouldn’t feel right blabbing about it. And I feel like she wouldn’t exactly want to blab all about this thing that we shouldn’t even know that she wrote.
But yep, I single handedly uncovered more Goosebumps Ghostwriting evidence, albeit just for a story. It might be sad if I say this is my proudest moment ever but whatever. She was cool to talk to, btw.
That said, we can reel from that and move on. Also, her Wikipedia page mentions she grew up in Arizona so that explains that aspect.
(Oh and she has a website where at least one parts has her openly claiming to have written 7 Give Yourself Goosebumps books, thought that was worth saying.)
Marsha Zane and her brothers Ricky and Ronnie are sledding down Spooner Hill. They get so out of control that they are stopped by the mailbox of of the local grumpy neighbor Mrs. Spooner. She must have power if she has a hill named after her. Wait, it’s likely just a local nickname.
Anyway, her mailbox is wrecked and she’s gonna be pissed. Marsha actually wants to simply own up to it, which is refreshing. Spooner has a tendency to make a big deal out of minor offensives, hence why some kids like to pull pranks on her. Marsha frowns at this since it just makes things worse and I already like Marsha.
Speaking of the devil, she appears. However, she is acting rather nice and doesn’t seem to mind the damage too much. She even invites them even for some hot cocoa. Usually I’d yell stranger danger but Weenies taught me that sometimes this can end well if you aren’t a bully so sure.
They go inside where everything seems nice enough. Spooner tells them this is an old family recipe with a secret ingredient and a special name. That name is of course, Monster on the Ice. Wait…
It’s Marshmallow Surprise, even though it turns out to not have any. It’s pretty tasty though. Eventually the kids want to leave since it’s getting dark but she wants them to stay. She then goes on a rant, listing all the not so neighborly things they have done. And by then I mean mostly the brothers.
Her trap is pretty obvious even to the kids. She reveals that the surprise is that it will cause their bones to slowly soften, eventually turning them into marshmallows. I can safely say I haven’t seen that before.
However, nothing happens to the kids. Until they say she really should have let them go when it was time as now they have a surprise for her. What is it? Well, they start to …transform.
“You-you are werewolves!”
They then eat her, the end.
Thoughts: So that really good streak was fun while it lasted. However, this one is actually like Strained Peas where it honestly works…if you view under the lens of a parody. Hell, it applies more to this. It feels so much like some ghostwriter wanted to make fun of those forced “The kids were all monsters” endings by having it literally come out of nowhere after a story where not much happens. I kind of love the ending for that reason, out of pure irony and seeing it as a parody. But outside of that, not much really happens so it relies perhaps too much on the punchline even though only some people in a certain mindset will like it. But it is super satisfying to see the vindictive old person in one of these get what they deserve at least, and Marsha is likable.
So my rating may seem too nice but given the mindset I am in and that the rest is at least okay…
Admittedly that’s more on a personal level due to how I view the ending, even moreso than with Strained Peas so you can take this with a grain of salt. Also, there’s slight foreshadowing where Marsha is looking at the full moon early on when she says they can’t stay long so there’s that.
Monster on the Ice
Max discovers his little sister Jessica playing in his closet. She has quite the knack for snooping in his stuff a lot. This time she was wanting to play dress up with their dog Stinker. God that name.
“Jessica is a wimpy little girl. I’m a boy!”
And now I’m suddenly hoping for a cruel ending to this.
He shoos her away and joins his friends to complain about her. Jessica says Max should be nice to her or he won’t get any presents from Santa. He laughs it off because he’s a lovely fellow.
On Christmas morning, Max gets some “Monster Skates”, which tells him he can be a Roll Credits. He heads out to play some hockey with his friends and he finds that he is going a lot faster…and rougher.
That sounded sexual the way I typed it. …Anyway, pretty obvious what is going on and it escalates pretty quickly into Max trying to hurt his friends despite his best efforts to resist. Shockingly, Max does put two and two together very quickly that these skates are doing this to him.
He starts to grow fur, but then he takes off the skates and he goes back to normal. Well, that was anti climatic. He quickly goes home to put the skates in the closet and goes back outside to apologize to Steve, his main friend for this. The scene just ends awkwardly with Max going back home, wondering if he’s just lost his friend forever. A weirdly sobering moment.
When he gets home he notices that something is stirring in his closet and he assumes Jessica is poking around there and worries that she put on the skates. Don’t worry, she didn’t. She put them on Stinker!”
“Check him out! He’s a monster on the ice!”
Roll cr-oh wait. That ending was actually funny.
Thoughts: This one tends to be the weakest one for people along with that last one and I sort of agree that it’s kind of weak by the standards of this book so far but honestly I enjoyed it more this time. The main issue is that it’s a been done concept (a previous short story from Still did it for example) and it’s rushed. Right as it starts to have fun, it ends. That’s too bad as there is some fun when it gets rough. I mostly like it for the small details, like how this is implied to be comeuppance for Max being a jerk to Jessica and the amusing ending that was set up. If this was in the first book, it would be one of the better ones for these reasons so despite how rushed and uncreative it is, it has enough there to be fun enough for me.
The Double-Dip Horror
Wynona and her twin sister Rachael have arrived at the Ice Cream Cone Ski Lodge. My spellchecker must really hate how that the former’s name is spelled with a Y. They are here to be junior instructors. The deal is that you teach for 6 days and on the 7th you get to Ski for free, which the twins are up for. You need to be 13 to qualify and..the twins are 13.
You just immediately broke the cardinal rule of Goosebumps, how dare you.
Anyway, they check in and there doesn’t seem to be any of supervision by school staff or anything like that. I blame this for everything about to happen. Once checked in, Wynona goes to the ice machine when someone tries to push her into it.
She doesn’t see who it is but they just move on like nothing happened. That was weird. A bit before this she saw a boy staring at her, to give you further context for this and later.
Wynona goes back to Rachael who pitches an idea: They will use their twin powers to switch places teaching each day. One will teach the kids and the will other will go skiing. Only the desk clerk woman has seen both of them so it’s bound to be fool proof. I do love a good twin switch plot so sure, clearly this won’t go wrong.
Rachael goes first to teach and later when they are meeting to switch, she warns Wynona of a kid named Bobby Judd (love that name) who keeps annoying her and asking for private lessons.
She discovers that it is indeed true and Bobby is a little brat. The other kids don’t react, which Wynona assumes is just because they are used to him and trying to ignore him. I think you can figure out the real reason for yourself but let’s humor them.
He continues to be a problem, including tripping her up while skiing. After recovering, it’s Wynona’s turn to have a plan that won’t fail. They will give Bobby his private lesson but the other twin will be hiding further down the hill, then come up and they will keep doing this to basically cheat and mess with him. Fun idea, he’s just bad enough for this to not be too cruel but still cruel enough to fit what is about to happen.
Wynona tells Bobby to meet them for a lesson and he agrees, but only at The Double Dip, a slope only for experts that is named for its two identical peaks. Oh I get it, because they’re huge fans of Twin Peaks. Things start off well enough, with Wynona hiding out and waiting for Bobby. But neither him or Rachael pop up.
It turns out the whole two peak thing messed them up and they wore on the wrong ones, which they discover when they eventually meet up. Bobby was still nowhere to be seen on either one though. Rachael stays to see if he pops up while Wynona looks for him.
She runs into the Margo, the main head woman I guess and asks her about Bobby. She is confused as there is no student named that. Once the full name is said, she reveals that this is the name of a kid who died there, dun dun dun. See, he and his twin brother Ricky (another one, although at least this one isn’t technically a character) used to come here all the time but one day in 1954, they tried the Double Dip and Bobby died on it.
Legend states that he misses Ricky so much that his ghost comes back to challenge people to race, and sometimes they don’t make it. I feel like this slope should be shut down after all that.
Wynona is worried since her um, “friend” is there with him right now but Margo says they actually don’t have to worry. Good, but why?
“Bobby only goes after identical twins”
The end. Okay, that’s an awesome ending/punchline.
Thoughts: This one is all in the ending, which I love. The twin setup is fun and as cruel it is, it does serve as fitting punishment for them using their twin powers like this. Bobby is fun and I like his motivation. It does rely quite a bit on the ending but the story is mostly well constructed enough for it to work, even if you appreciate it more once you think over it. However, I gotta knock points for that ice machine scene. Aside from being blatant filler, it doesn’t even make sense as this is implied to be Bobby and he only kills people through those races, so why was he even doing that? I wanted to rate this higher but the nature of it plus that does knock it slightly. Otherwise, still has one of the best ending notes ever.
Rating: Very Good
Spenser (that spelling is only acceptable is if it’s your last name and your first name is M.D) Mayhew and his sister Beth (Dearie me, these ghostwriters needed to coordinate on the names) starts things us nicely by messing with their little sister Diana. They like to tease her a lot as she doesn’t look like anyone else in the family so they just straight up like telling her she isn’t even in their family.
Don’t worry, it’s an ironic punishment story. By the way, the way she looks different is that Diana is the only one in the family without red hair. Eh, that just means she hasn’t watched a cursed video tape yet.
Mom forces Spenser and Beth to go outside in these really ugly red jumpsuits she got them, and they gotta take Diana out there too. They of course use this chance to be awful to her some more. Seriously, they say she can only play with them if she can pull their sled back up the hill and of course she can’t.
“Santa is gonna know how bad you are. And he isn’t going to bring you any presents”
Well of course this means they’re gonna get Monster Skates.
Diana gets to mock them by saying that with their red jumpsuits and green boots, they look like elf. Gee I wonder if this will be important. Diana goes home while the others continue to sled.
That is until four elves show up and kidnap them with a net. Yes. When they are freed from the bag, they seem to be in a workshop full of elves working on toys. Yep, this is Santa’s Workshop. Sure enough, Santa Claus himself appears via doing that thing where you see someone from the back in a swivel chair and then they turn around. I love it.
He scolds the kids running away from the workshop the day before Christmas, wanting to put them on double work duty, 18 hour shifts for the next 5 years. You know, maybe things like that are why they wanted to escape.
Also, Santa reveals that they tell people he doesn’t exist to keep the tourists away. Now that’s funny.
So yeah, he thinks the kids are elves due to their outfits. I feel like cheap store bought costumes that aren’t meant to be elf costumes are different from actual ones and they can’t be THAT short so Santa is a bit dumb. However, he’ll give them one chance to prove they aren’t elves.
Can’t he figure out why Spenser and Beth are through his whole “See you when you’re sleeping” powers? Surly he’d know them from the list if they told him told their names. Anyway, they go back to Ohio and instead of going to their parents to get a birth certificate or something, they go to Diana.
They want Diana to tell them they are not elves, but of course Diana tells them she was told she wasn’t even from their family and that they told her Santa isn’t real. Diana is talking like she knows them and if anything the latter proves they’re telling the truth but whatever, this convinces the elves these two are elves and so they are put back in the bag.
“Bye! Merry Christmas! Tell Santa I’ve been good”
So either Santa got rather dumb or he know the truth and just put two kids into slave arbor just for being kinda jerk-y. Not a great look, then again if this is the same guy who sent Gronk and the Monster Skates, we already know he has a cruel sense of humor. (Hey wait, shouldn’t we ask all the elves if they recognize the kids? I feel like they’d know above all else, whatever)
Thoughts: This one works better if you R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour Don’t think about it. If you break it down everything is really contrived for the sake of some funny karma. I’m sort of amused just by the very idea and for how Santa is portrayed and as cruel as it is, I like these assholes getting comeuppance. Not much happens so it relies on the punchline landing and for me it does at first but reviewing it just allows me to overthink it like I always do lol. So not the best flow and it has logic issues but it is funny and is certainly memorable. So..
Attack of the Christmas Present
Jack loves his Uncle Billy. Okay, this name being rehashed is fine by me. Uncle Billy travels all over the world so he’s found some cool stuff and given them to Jack and his older brother Doug as presents before. He’s over for Christmas so that makes Christmas morning pretty exciting for them.
Also, there’s a bit where Doug and Jack play checkers, and there was also mention of checkers in the last story. Weird connection there. Billy’s present to Jack is an ugly weird looking wooden mask, which somehow isn’t the source of the horror. Doug gets a robot toy called Robot Tag, that has spikes over its robot body. The old guy at the toy shop told Billy it was special, so I can’t imagine anything being wrong with it.
They don’t care for these gifts so they trade them since Jack is more interested in the robot. That night, Jack hearts some thumps and finds Robot Tag on the floor. Then later that night he appears to be closer to the bed. You know where this going so I can honestly skim through most of this one.
But thankfully it doesn’t take long for it to just move while Jack is looking. He goes to tell Doug but of course when he comes in, the robot is not attacking. It’s not quite full Slappy at least. The next morning, Robot Tag is on the dresser.
After dinner, Robot Tag is finally ready to start fully attacking. The way this is written makes it sound scary but if I saw this played out it would look rather goofy. Jack tries to defend himself with a hockey stick but the robot takes it break it. Awesome.
Eventually Jack is cornered and there is no escape. The robot is right on him and it finally makes its move…
“Tag! You’re it!”
Oh crap you’re the Beast from the East, run! Jokes aside, that’s how it ends. …I’ve seen people get mad like with Marshmallow Surprise but honestly this made me laugh because it’s so silly. Plus, the robot is called Robot Tag, it’s very clearly set up so it actually fits the story unlike that one. Not the strongest note to end the book/series on though.
Thoughts: Like with the first one, we end on a story that’s very…fine. It flows well enough with some decent suspense, especially near the end. But it just feels kind of bland, we’ve already seen this kind of story here and done better. I mean, I like how we book end with evil present stories that mention the Walkman at one point but it means this one is easy to forget. The ending is funny to me so I won’t dock points for it, plus it’s more bland than anything else and is decently crafted so…
Man, what a turn around from that first one this was. To start with stats, there were 4 Decent, 2 Good, 2 Very Good and 2 Great. That’s a pretty good roundup in the end, and none were blow decent. Although some came close and I will fully admit to being fine if the lower couple of the ranking were weaker for others.
I found this one really good in the end. Granted, that may be due to lowered exceptions. The stories in these tend to be just middling and often don’t flow as well as they should. This only a few that were like that and even those either had more to offer or still flowed alright for what they were.
My least favorite was probably Marshmallow Surprise, since nothing happened before the ending, giving it the weakest flow even though I like the ending under a certain mindset. I had more to nitpick in Santa’s Helpers but arguably had more going for it if you can ignore that stuff.
But as a whole, this was a strong collection. They handled the Christmas stuff well as most tend to incorporate it or at least give off a good Winter vibe. It’s a really fitting one to read around this time for the variety it can give off. The majority of them flow well and were fairly creative, either being original or having a fun spin on an established idea.
My favorite was A Holly Jolly Holiday, which almost goes without saying. Susie Snowflake is an icon and I will not hear otherwise, dearie. Everything just clicked there to create something special and thankfully that applies to most of these. There’s a certain magic to these that makes this a stand out collection.
The main drawback is that second half is underwhelming compared to the first half, aside from Double Dip Horror. All the lesser ones were around there so it’s a shame it slightly peters out after an amazing start. If the second half were just a bit stronger, the rating would be higher but it’s still getting a good rating for how good the good stories were.
I feel like I’m being too nice to those lesser ones but the quality being high in this book makes me more willing to forgive the flaws of those. That and the positive elements I’ve mentioned.
Although the name recycling was weird.
Overall, this is a solid Christmas miracle that made for a strong end to the Tales series and easily Stine’s best Christmas offering. Even if clearly none of this was of was his. Shout to Kathryn Lance!
Rating: Very Good
I’m so happy to finally have this out, been itching to do this since I read it. And like before, here’s my ranking:
Attack of the Christmas Present
Monster on the Ice
Don’t Sit on the Gronk
Why I Hate Jack Frost
The Ice Vampire
The Double Dip Horror
A Holly Jolly Holiday
And so 2020’s jolly romp begins. Hope you’re ready, and have plenty of cookies to tempt your tummy with. Oh and this is our last Stine review the year, and again we ended on a good one. As for how 2021 will start, I went to my randomizer, just to break from these planned in advance ones. And as for what it picked, we’re going further from when this book was published but still not by a ton. Let’s just say it’s a fitting way to return from holiday break with.
Will you join me, pretty bitty please with Christmas trees?