Halloween Book Review: Human Flesh by Nick Clausen

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

This is a book review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Human Flesh is the third book by Nick Clausen I’ve reviewed this year – clearly, I enjoy his work.

Human Flesh is a narrative formed from fictitious evidence from a murder case. The suspect, Otha’s grandfather, is a man who behaves strangely whenever winter descends. This is somewhat understandable; winter reminds him of losing his wife. Yet, Otha’s grandfather adamantly refuses to admit how she died – almost as if he has something to hide.

As I’ve been reading more of Nick Clausen’s books, I’ve found I really enjoy the many ideas he has for horror stories. Human Flesh is no exception. The story is inspired by legends of the Wendigo, a cannibalistic creature or spirit which lurks in Northern America. I really enjoyed following this mysterious murder case, and I was drawn to keep reading. It’s definitely a creepy little story.

However, when I say little, I do mean little.

Human Flesh is very short. On the one hand, this could tie nicely to the fact the book is meant to be a collection of police evidence and, consequently, a small amount of evidence could reflect the mystery behind the story and how much is still unknown. On the other hand, practically speaking, when I read it, I was disappointed the story ended so soon.

I did like Clausen’s choice to present the narrative as a collection of evidence from the past though, adding some realism because it treats the Wendigo and the mysterious deaths as real crimes. Furthermore, it leaves the reader in the dark, as we have no idea who has survived the ordeal and who has not until the end of the book. However, I do have some constructive feedback about this choice of narrative style too.

Firstly, as Human Flesh largely consists of informal evidence such as blog posts and text messages, the story was also informal. As a result, I thought that in places, the story lacked detailed or literary narration and description. I partly understand this, as the bulk of the narrative is from a teenager’s perspective, which is bound to be more informal. Yet, it also felt a shame that some opportunities for fantastically scary or Gothic language and descriptions were missed.

Secondly, I’m not convinced an e-book was the best format for Human Flesh; at present, it is only available to buy as an e-book. I appreciate it can be harder to publish physical copies of a book but, in this instance, I think a physical book would have lent itself to the format. For example, the pages could have been designed and printed to look like an email browser, a police report, or a text message exchange. It would have looked like a more convincing scrapbook or folder of collected written evidence. In an e-book, however, it is very obvious that you’re not actually reading a text message, for example. I know this is a nit-picky comment to make, and I know the story itself is fictitious – but when the narrative partly relies on convincing you, the reader, of the realism of the situation, I found that this format pulled me out of the story a little.

These comments may sound a little critical, but I only mean them in a constructive way. I still genuinely enjoyed Human Flesh and, in general, I particularly like Clausen’s creative and interesting horror story ideas, even if I do wish these stories were longer!

For anyone looking for a small and succinct yet chilling read, I would recommend Human Flesh.

Star Rating: 3.5/5 Stars 

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020

Book Review: Chills & Creeps Volume 2: Eight Scary Stories by Nick Clausen

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Chills & Creeps Vol 2 is the second anthology of horror and fantasy stories by Nick Clausen. I originally reviewed the first anthology for Rosie’s Book Review Team and, as I enjoyed the stories so much, I asked to read and review its sequel!

To echo the format of my previous review, I will discuss and review each story in turn.

1. Babysitter

The first story in the anthology is about Julie, a teenage girl hired as a babysitter. When she arrives at the house, she is greeted with a note informing her the children are already in bed and the parents have already gone out. However, what should be a straightforward babysitting job turns sinister when Julie hears unusual noises, and begins to suspect somebody is watching her…

I thought Babysitter was a really good – terrifying – story to open this anthology; it was a good length and it had me completely hooked throughout. The only negative I have is that the story ends on a frustrating cliffhanger, when I was so keen to find out more!* After the story ends, Clausen does then apologise for including an open-ending, which I appreciated, as I don’t particularly like them!

*If Babysitter was to be developed into a longer story (and perhaps without a cliffhanger ending), I wouldn’t be complaining…

2. The Teacher from Outer Space

As the title suggests, this story is Tommy, a young boy who suspects his teacher is an alien. However, once the teacher realises Tommy’s suspicions, there are dark consequences. All in all, this was a fun science-fiction story for children. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I can see younger readers definitely enjoying this.

3. The Scarecrow

The Scarecrow is about two children who build a scarecrow which, after being daubed with some blood as part of a childish “witchcraft experiment”, comes alive.

This story was disturbing and entertaining, though I think the descriptions of the scarecrow were lacking in detail. It was difficult to imagine its appearance – beyond its pumpkin head – and, subsequently, it was hard to empathise with the boys’ horror at the scarecrow coming to life.  I kept inadvertently imagining the scarecrow as if it was from the Doctor Who episode The Family of Blood because that was the best I could think of.

Image via BBC

4. The Well

This next horror story is about Oliver, who spends the night in a haunted well. I thought this was a decent horror story and obviously drew inspiration from Ring,  a series of horror novels written by Koji Suzuki.

5. Master of the Crabs

In my opinion, Master of the Crabs is a weird story. It is about Alex, a boy who gains control of an army of killer crabs. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this– it didn’t feel much like a mystery, horror, or a fantasy story, and the concept of “controlling crabs” didn’t engage me.

6. Under the Ice

Under the Ice is about Reggie, who is contacted by the ghostly presence of his dead sister. Reggie then suspects her death was not accidental, and notices his stepmother’s strange behaviour…

This story was ok; it’s not really a ghost story, it’s more of a murder mystery that happens to involve ghosts. I thought some parts were a little vague, but overall it was reasonable.

7. Headless

The penultimate story in this anthology is entitled Headless, a story about a boy named Jack who accidentally disturbs the resting place of a headless ghost. The ghost returns, seeking not only his head, but revenge.

I thought Headless was a really good ghost story, and I was kept entertained. I think it could have been even scarier too – in my opinion – but I still liked it.

8. Whiskers

Whiskers is the final story, and Clausen’s favourite, of the anthology.

Alvin is deeply attached to his dog, Rocky. However, Alvin’s father is sick of having a dog in the house and, one day, Rocky mysteriously vanishes.  Deeply upset, Alvin makes a deal with a witch for Rocky to return. Days go by, and yet there is no sign of Rocky. Alvin grows angrier. So angry, in fact, that he even growls sometimes. His hair grows long and unkempt, and he even begins to grow… whiskers!

I thought Whiskers was okay but, in my opinion, it wasn’t especially creepy or chilling. I wish Clausen had utilised more genre conventions from the werewolf subgenre of horror; I think this would have really enhanced the tale (no pun intended).


To conclude, Chills & Creeps Volume 2 is another enjoyable anthology. There are a lot more horror stories in this collection than fantasy or science-fiction. For me, this was ideal, as I tend to read more horror fiction than fantasy or sci-fi anyway.

Whilst some stories disappointed me in places, overall, this was still a fun collection of short stories, and I’d recommend both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Chills & Creeps.

Star Rating: 3.5/5 Stars 

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020

Book Review: Chills & Creeps Volume 1: Eight Scary Stories by Nick Clausen

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

This is a book review for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Chills & Creeps is a short anthology of horror and fantasy stories, originally published in Danish, but now available to read in English.

It seems to me most logical to discuss each story in turn, allowing the chance to share my opinions whilst (hopefully) not giving too much away.

1. Under the Skin

This was a good horror story to begin with, about an upholsterer with a liking for human skin, and it was certainly chilling. Whilst I could predict what was going to happen, it was still horrifying to see this unfold. However, although the story was tense, I thought the ending was a little lacklustre.

2. Snapper the Fish

This was a horror story about a pet fish which only eats human flesh. I found it truly gripping and scary – I almost didn’t want to keep reading because of the horror, yet I found myself reading on regardless.

3. Deadly Dreams

This was a fantasy / science fiction short story about a video game that comes to life and has dangerous consequences for its players. It was a reasonable story, but I don’t have anything majorly positive or negative to say about it.

4. All Birds Hate Me

I thought this was the weirdest story in the anthology. The main character, Eagle, is a boy with an illness which causes all birds to attack him. The idea was scary enough – and Hitchcock-inspired, I’m sure – but as all the characters happen to be named after birds, the premise came across as odd and a little silly.

5. Ghost Tennis

This was a reasonable ghost story; a family move into a new home, only for their son Joe to discover the tennis court is haunted and the only way of placating the ghost is by playing tennis matches with it – as long as Joe always loses, of course.

6. Drip-Drip-Drip

This was another horror story I found genuinely unsettling. Nadia, a young girl, becomes entrapped in her own home as it slowly fills with water…

I am not the biggest fan of deep water, and the thought of drowning is terrifying to me. I also happen to enjoy stories in which the home is transformed into a place of horror and danger.*

* In fact, I wrote an entire dissertation on this subject.

7. When I Snap My Fingers…

This is another entertaining and thrilling horror story about two siblings; Curtis takes his little sister Rachel to a hypnotist’s tent at the fair. However, once hypnotised, Rachel no longer seems herself. In fact, it’s almost like she’s become someone else entirely. And now “Rachel” is determined to destroy her family’s life.

8. Lights Out

This was the last story in the anthology, a fantasy story about a boy who can control lights with his mind. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as the others, and I thought it lacked any real ‘chills or creeps’. I thought it was a shame to end on a story that wasn’t scary, when so many of the other stories heavily featured horrifying elements. In future anthologies, it might be sensible to organise the stories differently – perhaps by beginning with the least scary story, to build fear and suspense as the anthology progresses towards the most scary story.


Following each story, Clausen added an author’s note, explaining where his inspiration for the story came from. I appreciated this and found it very interesting; I like seeing where authors get their ideas from!

On the whole, whilst every story was not necessarily my cup of tea, Chills & Creeps Volume 1 was an enjoyable and well-executed collection of short stories. They reminded me of the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine, and I think Clausen has a talent for transforming the ordinary and everyday into the terrifying and repulsive, playing on childhood (or adulthood) fears we’ve faced at one point or another in our lives.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars  

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Halloween Book Review: The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Black Cat is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, an American writer famous for his Gothic stories and poems. It’s told from the first-person perspective of a man who adores animals. Subsequently, he and his wife own many pets – including a black cat, his favourite animal. However, once the narrator becomes drunk, he begins to behave increasingly violently towards his wife and pets, with uncontrollable intentions. The narrator is then haunted by the realisation of what he has done…

The key elements of The Black Cat are insane and unreliable characters, the dangerous consequences of heavy drinking, and the burden of a guilty conscience.

I really liked this story; it was a quick read (as short stories tend to be) and well-written, containing all the traditional conventions of a Gothic ghost story.

As a fan of the Gothic genre, and contemporary horror writers like Stephen King, who was himself inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, I can’t believe I haven’t read any of his short stories until now.

I strongly recommend The Black Cat for any fans of the Gothic, horror, or paranormal genres – perfect for reading in the run-up to Halloween.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Halloween Book Review: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn is a short story about a young woman who works both as a fake psychic and a sex worker. She is hired to exorcise Carterhook Manor and, while she doesn’t believe in spirits or the supernatural, feels something is wrong with the house and its inhabitants – very wrong.

I thought The Grownup was a fun, contemporary story that pays homage to classic ghost stories and plays with the Gothic convention of the haunted house.

Given the protagonist herself is a con artist, it’s never clear who to believe or trust at any given moment, which is a reoccurring trend in characters from Flynn’s novels such as Sharp Objects and Gone Girl. Who’s a sociopath? Who’s a killer? Who’s a ghost? Who knows.

However, I felt The Grownup was too short (I know it’s meant to be a short story); the cliff-hanger ending was enjoyable but I was verging on feeling unsatisfied by the way things were left.

Do I think The Grownup is as good as Flynn’s other books? No.

Would I recommend? Yes – Gillian Flynn has fun with the genre and displays her skill at writing both novels and short stories.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories By Women

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

I bought this collection, edited by Marie O’Regan, a short while ago and I’m glad I did. I liked that the book celebrated the talents of female authors. I’ve read some great horrors and thrillers in the past written by women, and this book introduced me to new writers I hadn’t come across before. However, I found The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories By Women (it’s a bit of a mouthful) a mixed bag; some of the stories were good, others were not so good.

For this blog post, I am going to challenge myself to review 25 stories in 25 words each.


1. Field of the Dead by Kim Lakin-Smith

I don’t remember the plot – I think it was about a haunted medieval town? It wasn’t particularly scary and the characters had anachronistically modern names.

2. Collect Call by Sarah Pinborough

It’s about a boy abandoned in the desert. This story was eerier than the last, and more like what I’d expected. Verdict: A decent read

3. Dead Flowers by a Roadside by Kelley Armstrong

A short but sweet tale about grief, loss and melancholy that makes good use of flashbacks and characters even within a short amount of space,

4. The Shadow in the Corner by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

A classic Victorian ghost story about haunted houses and rumoured deaths. It was suspenseful, shocking, well-written and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s definitely one of my favourites.

5. The Madam of the Narrow Houses by Caitlin R. Kiernan

This was one of the weirder stories in the collection, about ghosts who visit the same woman for physical intimacy. I don’t remember much else.

6. The Lost Ghost by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman

Two women recount a paranormal experience of a ghost searching desperately for her mother. This story was entertaining, slightly scary, but a little sad too.

7. The Ninth Witch by Sarah Langan

Not a typical ‘ghost story’, yet a good read. Stylistically similar to Angela Carter, this was a gruesome story about murder, incest, and dark magic.

8. Sister, Shhh… by Elizabeth Massie

A thrilling short story about a girl’s escape from an abusive religious cult. I liked the the paranormal elements and the horror of the cult.

9. The Fifth Bedroom by Alex Bell

A decent story about a haunted house and the lingering presence of its previous occupant. It was okay, but I didn’t find it especially remarkable.

10. Scairt by Alison Littlewood

A story similar to her novel, The Unquiet House, as children begin to mysteriously disappear from a village after possible ghost sightings. Verdict: Fairly interesting.

11. Seeing Nancy by Nina Allan

A short but entertaining thriller about a journalist investigating a ghostly presence, after learning about a murder which took place in her house years prior.

12. The Third Person by Lisa Tuttle

I didn’t understand the plot. It was a bit weird and included some ghost … erotica? I’m not sure what the point was. No thanks.

13. Freeze Out by Nancy Holder

A family start seeing the ghost of their dead mother. It was an okay, but not exceptional, story in which nothing stood out to me.

14. Return by Yvonne Navarro

I really liked this one. It was a well-written story which touched on some taboos and revealed the dark secrets of a creepily dysfunctional family.

15. Let Loose by Mary Cholmondeley

This was an enjoyable story written with true Victorian flair. A fantastic paranormal horror about an evil spirit rumoured to have escaped from a crypt.

16. Another One in from the Cold by Marion Arnott

I thought this one was average and not particularly scary, as the ghost of a war veteran pops up, but then doesn’t do very much.

17. My Moira by Lilith Saintcrow

A bit of a convoluted storyline; it was about protecting a magic Seal in order to help ghosts, but this wasn’t my cup of tea.

18. Forget Us Not by Nancy Kilpatrick

This was a first-person narrative, reminiscing about the loss of her dead husband and missing or dead cat. It was a bit sad, but uneventful.

19. Front Row Rider by Muriel Gray

A fairly entertaining story following the aftermath of a rollercoaster ride. I wasn’t sure who was a ghost and who was alive, which was fun.

20. God Grant That She Lye Still by Cynthia Asquith

This was another older story (you can tell by the writing style) about ghosts, possessions, and haunted houses. It was enjoyable and well-written – another favourite.

21. The Phantom Coach by Amelia B. Edwards

A vividly descriptive tale about a man rescued from a storm by a passing coach, said to have crashed and killed its occupants years beforehand…

22. The Old Nurse’s Story by Elizabeth Gaskell

A nurse recounts a scary experience which affected a girl in her care. However, it was difficult to follow, so I didn’t finish this story.

23. Among the Shoals Forever by Gail Z. Martin

It was a weird story about some magic hunters with bizarre names who target and destroy down supernatural beings – I think? I did not finish.

24. Afterward by Edith Wharton

A couple search their house for ghosts, not realising who are real and who are ghosts until a long time afterwards – a fun, eerie idea.

25. Silver Music by Gaie Sebold

An interesting modern story in the style of a Victorian murder mystery, about the fear of the murder victim’s ghost communicating supernaturally with the detective.


To sum up, there were some clear hits and misses within The Mammoth Book of Ghost Stories By Women.

I’m not sure I’d describe all 25 stories as ‘chilling tales’ like the front cover would suggest. Still, I appreciated the way this collection has enabled me to read a variety of styles and a variety of female authors.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Heart of Darkness is a novella by Joseph Conrad. It is about a voyage up the Congo River, in the heart of Africa, by the narrator Charles Marlow, who tells of his obsession with the ivory trader Kurtz.

I only read this because it’s a set text on my university course. I really didn’t like it.

Conrad’s writing style didn’t engage me at all.

I got the impression, presumably helped by the fact it is a set text for me, that I knew what the book was about whilst failing to follow the story. The themes of imperial rule, racial stereotypes, gender stereotypes, colonialism and madness were particularly noticeable; I’m sure these will be useful in an essay question, but they made the narrative unlikeable.

There was one exciting scene – an attack on the boat – that used exciting and violent imagery. Then it was back to more of Marlow’s boring narration.

I tried to read Heart of Darkness on two separate occasions. The first time, I gave up after a few pages. The second time, I read just over half, and skipped to the ending. I normally don’t like to give up on a book, but I just couldn’t struggle through it any longer.

If you don’t have to read it, don’t.

Star Rating: 1/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.