Lola: A Ghost Story

Jessie is a middle-school-aged boy from Canada who travels with his parents to The Philippines to attend the funeral of his clairvoyant Lola (grandmother). While staying at the family’s ancestral home, he becomes reacquainted with his cousins, one of whom (Jon Jon) died tragically at some point prior to this visit. Jessie struggles to understand and appreciate his ability to see ghosts–a talent his living Filipino cousin Maritess has always longed to have inherited from their Lola. Maritess imparts all of her knowledge on the subject to Jessie in the hopes he will embrace his gifts, and stop hiding them.

Earnest Or’s smooth and minimal illustrations are sepia-toned from start to finish, giving the story a memory-like quality. The clean lines used for the sweet-faced characters and serene settings lie in stark contrast to the gory visions of decimated corpses that appear to Jessie (and Jessie alone).  I especially appreciated how real the relationships felt. For example, the cousins must reestablish their bonds after a long absence, and do so. And in a spooky scene about Jessie and Maritess in the woods at night, his dad is in the background keeping his grief-stricken uncle company (and giving Jessie’s Aunt a much-needed break from her husband’s drinking).

The family’s bonds are tested again and again, not only by time and distance, but by a plethora of adversity like trauma, grief, substance abuse, and cultural clashes. Through it all, they are there for each other even when they part.

The Bone Houses

Seventeen-year-old Aderyn, “Ryn,” has the unique problem of being young for a gravedigger — and that the dead won’t stay dead. After her parents’ passing, Ryn supports herself and her siblings by managing the recently deceased of the village of Colbren, as her father did before her. Colbren sits at the edge of a forest full of old magic, which stretches beyond the memory of anyone alive now to see it — that is until Ellis, a young apprentice mapmaker from the Prince’s court, arrives to survey it for himself.

As long as anyone has known, the occasional risen corpse, known as a “bone house,” has kept to the forested lands, never venturing into Colbren. Bone houses had become such rare sightings that many doubted their existence, though Ryn knows them all too well. Upon the mysterious new arrival of Ellis to Colbren, the bone houses begin attacking with a new ferocity, venturing farther past the limits of the forest and into town than ever before. 

To stop the onslaught of bone houses, Ryn and Ellis know the journey must take them on a path more treacherous than either of them bargained for, deep into the heart of the forest, into the dark secrets of the past.

Contagion by Erin Bowman

“Contagion” is a very fast-paced, horror sci-fi novel with…wait for it…space zombies! Interested?

After receiving a distress signal from a distant mining colony, a team is quickly assembled to investigate why the mining colony sent the distress signal and why it went silent shortly after. Upon arriving, the rescue team quickly realizes something went very wrong and can’t find anyone still alive except for a teen boy who is clearly hiding something. His answers to the rescue team’s questions don’t quite add up. They continue to dig into the mystery of what happened to the miners and things only get worse for the crew of the Odyssey. It’s a race against time as the rescuers fight to save themselves.

Highly recommended for anyone in the mood for a sci-fi, horror read with a lot of action and thriller elements.

Agony House by Cherie Priest

Denise and her parents have returned to their home town in Louisiana after being relocated to the Houston area after hurricane Katrina.   Her parents decided it would be a great idea to purchase an old house and fix it up to be a bed and breakfast.  The house is known as the Argonne House, but the second Denise steps inside she knows that Agony House is a much better name.  The house just feels off. There are odd smells, strange noises and foot prints that appear on the dirty floors out of nowhere.   Denise starts to dig into the past surrounding her new pad and is freaked to find out that someone may have been murdered there! Things get even more bizarre when Denise and her new neighbor discover an unfinished comic in the attic and the creepy events in the comic start to connect with crazy occurrences in the house. Agony House is half novel and half graphic novel.  It’s a ghoulishly good read.


Thea, a Hevetz intern, and a small crew are hurtling through space responding to a distress call.  After two months of space travel and they land at a research site, they thought was long abandoned until now.  Once they arrive, the crew isn’t sure what they’ve stumbled upon, with blood smears and the dead bodies of the research crew around each corner.  Now the small team, with no easy way back to safety, realizes they’ve uncovered a terrible a deadly secret they must escape before it devours them too.

The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud (2017)

This is the 5th & final book in the terrific Lockwood & Co series written by Jonathan Stroud. Lockwood & Co. is about an alternate Britain in which ghosts have been entering the world of the living. Whomever they touch dies; only kids & teens can see them. So all the ghost removal agencies are staffed by kids, but run by adults — except one: Lockwood & Co, run by the dashing young Anthony Lockwood, the scholarly and slovenly George Cubbins, Lucy Carlyle (our narrator) who can speak to ghosts and the marvelously organized Holly Munro! And what a stunning conclusion this book is: we find out the source of the The Problem AND bring the story of Anthony Lockwood and Lucy Carlyle to the brink of — (of course you’ll have to read the book)! If you haven’t already read the first 4 books,  reserve a copy of The Screaming Staircase, the beginning of the whole adventure. (The BBC is shooting a TV show based on this book, so this will not be the last you hear of Lockwood & Co!)

The Girl With All The Gifts by Mike Carey

This is the expanded version of a short story called “Iphigenia in Aulis” that Mike Carey wrote for a collection of horror stories set in schools (An Apple For The Creature). To describe the premise beyond that would spoil the story for you, so I will just say that it is beautifully written and has stayed with me ever since I read it.  It is deeply creepy, and yet heartwarming and, ultimately, hopeful.

(Well, OK, just a taste:  “Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.” Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be taken to class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.”)

This book is also available as an eBook, an eAudiobook, and a recent movie adaptation, if that’s more your thing!  Don’t miss the sequel, The Boy On The Bridge.

Chilling adventures of Sabrina. Book one, The crucible

Sabrina is about to turn sixteen and in order to become a full-blown sorceress, she finds herself having to make a huge decision: Choose her magical destiny or her non-magical boyfriend Harvey? And on top of that, an enemy, that Sabrina doesn’t even know she has, arrives in town with a deadly agenda. This is Sabrina the Teenage Witch like you’ve never seen her before! Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack have created a comic that looks like it came out of Rosemary’s Baby or the Omen. Gory, intense, and fun. 

Kendra Robinson’s Best Reads of 2016

December 29, 2016

kendra robinsonMy name is Kendra Robinson. My family moved to Evanston five years ago from Chicago because our daughter attends Baker Demonstration School. My husband and I work in the private aviation industry and spend much of our time working on our fixer-upper house.

1) The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North (2014)

This is a wonderful twist on a time travel story, with shocking twists and a wonderful main character. Beautifully written and structured.

Continue reading “Kendra Robinson’s Best Reads of 2016”

A Scary Good Author You Need to Read…

October 28, 2016

Horror author Laird Barron (Illustration by Dalton Rose for "Slate.")
Horror author Laird Barron (Illustration by Dalton Rose for Slate.)

With Halloween lurking right around the darkened corner, now is a frighteningly good time to talk about authors who will scare you right out of your reading glasses.  We know you know about horror heavy hitters like Peter Straub, Stephen King, and Ramsey Campbell, but how about Laird Barron?  Already a favorite among horror and dark fantasy aficionados, Barron mixes cosmic horror, supernatural noir, and the occult into terrifying tales that should be topping your Halloween reading list.  Strikingly original and expertly crafted, his novels and story collections have already won three Shirley Jackson Awards, received multiple Bram Stoker and Locus nominations, and been favorably compared to the work of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.  So if you’re in the mood for a good scare, try to be brave and check out one of the following Laird Barron books.  They’re guaranteed to give you the creeps if you give them the chance.  Happy Halloween!

swift-to-chaseSwift to Chase

Barron’s latest story collection was declared an “instant classic” by author John Langan and is sure to make Barron a household name in horror.  Combining “psychological horror, slasher fiction, and earthy weirdness,” these 12 spine-tingling stories are set in far-future dystopias and a hellish Alaskan wilderness where a cyborg war dog, a modern day Jack the Ripper, and a psycho sorority girl all roam wild.  The first book in a planned “Alaska” cycle, this collection is a nightmarish must read.


the-beautiful-thing-that-awaits-us-allThe Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us and Other Stories

This cosmic horror gem is the final book of a “loose trilogy” that includes the award-winning story collections The Imago Sequence and Occultation.  Featuring eight interlinking tales and the World Fantasy Award nominated novella Hand of Glory, these chilling stories are so well crafted author Kelly Link insists you’ll forgive Barron for the sleepless nights they cause.



the-croningThe Croning

Barron’s debut novel tells the story of 80-year-old Donald Miller, a geologist whose sanity is tested as he unearths dark secrets about his wife and their adult twins.  Filled with black magic, weird cults, and unspeakable things looming in the shadows, Barron’s book is a “disturbing imagining of a modern day Rumpelstiltskin” that is by turns touching and terrifying.


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