Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due, Narrated by Tananarive Due, Robin Miles, and Janina Edwards

The fifteen stories collected in Ghost Summer are some of the most engaging short stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading. That pleasure was in no small part because these stories often provide a vastly different perspective from much of the horror and speculative fiction on the market, informed by the author’s experiences as a black woman, both socially conscious and attuned to history. It’s a perspective and worldview that readers should actively seek out because Tananarive Due successfully displays both the ways we are all the same and the stark differences that haunt many people to this day.
There’s nothing not to love in this collection, but it’s the Gracetown stories kicking everything off that stuck with me the most. This strange, haunted place in northern Florida arrests the reader just as it seems to capture residents and visitors, sometimes in horrifying ways. Gracetown is a place of transformation and possession. It’s a town where the ghosts of a torturous, hateful past reveal uncomfortable truths.
Due provides us with glimpses of the past, of places where myth and legend overlap with the real world, where cultures collide with sometimes beautiful but often horrific results. We experience sadness and loss, sickness, and terror as the author paints all-too-real portraits of people, from those struggling to escape their circumstances to those hoping to find the peaceful embrace of death.
It isn’t all about the past or present, as she also takes us to the end of the world, displaying a keen understanding of human nature that proved almost prescient when compared to the pandemic conditions that ushered us into the current decade.
Narration provided by Tananarive Due herself, as well as Robin Miles and Janina Edwards makes for a different experience from story to story, each individual breathing life into the narratives in slightly different ways, but never in an unsatisfactory manner.

Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham, Narrated by Jonathan Edward Durham

Winnie-the-Pooh and The Wind In The Willows collide with The Most Dangerous Game and Animal Farm in Durham’s Winterset Hollow. Exciting, surreal, and defying all expectations, the author has crafted something both somber and thought-provoking.
John Eamon Buckley and his two closest friends join a group of fellow fans of Winterset Hollow to embark on a pilgrimage to the isolated island home of the children’s poem’s author, E. B. Addington. The crowd of friends and strangers couldn’t have prepared for–and never imagined–how intimate their glimpse into Addington’s life would be.
What follows is a dizzying upheaval of everything they thought they knew and understood about the world around them. Awaiting the fans is a dark and scathing denunciation of the history they assumed to be true and a personal journey for Eamon as he discovers his connection to the beloved childhood story is deeper and more horrible than he’d suspected.
The poem at the heart of Winterset Hollow is something I could imagine published on its own, and I could understand how the fictional characters might have cherished its captivating story.
It’s the larger narrative, beautifully written and complete with its damning subtext of the evils associated with colonization and Westward expansion in early America that I adore, though. It’s so well-written and ingenious in its acknowledgment that Manifest Destiny and the American Dream were constructed on a substrate of nightmares levied against all those unfortunate enough to be in the path.
The audiobook narrated by Jonathan Edward Durham himself was a spectacular way to experience this story, and he managed to capture both the tarnished innocence of Eamon and the bitterness combined with the sadness of the residents of Addington Isle.

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry, Narrated by Ray Porter

Jonathan Maberry brings his fast-paced, high-intensity blend of grit, well-drawn characters, action, and wry humor to the realm of fantasy literature with one hell of a splash. Kagen the Damned is everything readers have loved about the Joe Ledger and Pine Deep novels but transferred to a world of swords and sorcery, complete with an homage to Chambers, Lovecraft, Bloch, and Derleth.
Kagen Vale is a broken man, devastated and demoralized by his failure to protect the imperial family he’d been charged with protecting. Possibly the last surviving member of the Vale family, Kagen is driven solely by his need for revenge, forced to wander alone as the gods he’d worshipped have abandoned him. Walking a tightrope between drunkenness and violence, Kagen is hunted by those he hunts, and unless he can find some allies in his quest for vengeance, he’s doomed to fail.
As long-forbidden magic and old gods return to the realm of the Silver Empire, the world Kagen was familiar with becomes increasingly strange and threatening, as an unexpected enemy with enigmatic and sinister plans seeks to take a throne that Kagen will die to defend.
Fans of Richard K. Morgan and George R.R. Martin are sure to love Maberry’s foray into horror-tinged fantasy, but there’s nothing not to love about this introduction to a must-read trilogy.
Ray Porter perfectly captures the character of Kagen in his narration, while bringing the cast of additional characters to life with a blend of accents that are at times both familiar and alien to the listener. Porter was quite likely the best possible choice for the audiobook narration of this novel, and I trust that he’s contracted to provide his services for the remaining two books as well.

Last Day by Todd Love

Todd Love finds a new way to surprise his readers, both in the pure dialogue construction of this narrative and in the shockingly sad twist revealed at the conclusion. But this isn’t one of those twists shoehorned in for the sake of taking the reader by surprise, the hints are there throughout the story, if only we knew to pay attention.
A conversation takes place between two old friends as a former detective, Lloyd Andrews, evaluates his life and the mistakes he’s made. Reflecting on the events that transpired when he successfully ended the killing spree of The Barrhaven Cannibal, he needs to unburden himself to the only person he knows will understand.
If you’re looking for something different, I can assure you that Last Day should make your list. I can imagine this performed on a stage, a contrast between stark shadows and light, and I’d love to see that happen. Imagine it for yourself when you check out Last Day.

You can pick this up by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your preferred mobile device. The link is below:

The Buried King by Thomas KS Wake

Thomas KS Wake deftly combines cosmic horror, folk horror, and kaiju with environmental consciousness in a captivating tale with The Buried King. Raymond, an unscrupulous building developer visits the site of an out-of-the-way vacation resort that should have never existed, at least not where it’s been erected. Unfortunately, his arrival coincides with the consequences of his predatory and deceptive business practices coming to fruition, and it’s a price we all have to pay.
Beneath the construction, buried for centuries, a malevolent force of nature awakens. As those tasked with containing the monster give up hope and give in to righteous anger, the results will be catastrophic and undeniable. Nature will take its revenge.
Reaching the final page of this story inevitably causes the reader to immediately hope that Wake is working on a follow-up to this title. The disaster porn addict within us wants nothing more than to see just how far the devastation will go and how long humanity will manage to survive.

This title was released as part of the Emerge series, focused on providing a platform for emerging authors. This was brought to us by a partnership between D&T Publishing and Godless. You can obtain a copy of this story by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app on your mobile device. The link is below:

The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham, Narrated by Pete Bradbury

It’s not uncommon to encounter political machinations and glimpses of the underlying bureaucratic structure of the world in fantasy novels. Along with the history of the realms and people in question, understanding something of the politics of those fictional worlds is an important element in making them feel like real places. Daniel Abraham has taken this world-building further than most authors by focusing a great deal of his storytelling attention on the facets of finance and trade within the world of The Dragon’s Path. What’s superbly surprising about Abraham’s novel is how interesting he manages to make the details of this commerce.
Of course, it isn’t all banking and trade relations. Abraham has packed this first novel of The Dagger and the Coin series with conflict (both small and large scale), gods and myth, political intrigue, and plenty of witty dialogue.
Cithrin is a half-breed orphan raised as a ward of the Medean banking house of Vanai, and she carefully studied under the tutelage of Magister Imaniel. As the armies of Antea approach the city walls, the only way to keep the resources of the bank safe from plunder is to send them away from the city. Cithrin is tasked with escorting the bank’s property to safety as part of a caravan headed by the tragic hero, Marcus Wester.
As it happens, Cithrin isn’t the only member of Wester’s party who isn’t who they seem. Marcus has replaced some of his complement with a troupe of actors led by Master Kit, the performers playing the role of soldiers and guards. But Master Kit is more than he seems as well. A past he’d thought he escaped will come back to haunt him again before the tale concludes.
In the middle of everything is Sir Geder Palliako, a bookish and weak man who finds himself tossed about by fate and the machinations of those above him in the royal court of Antea. Struggling against forces he only barely recognizes as nudging him along, Geder becomes the key to leading the world down a path from which there will be no turning back.
Abrahamson packs this novel with a diverse cast of characters, both sympathetic and flawed in equal measure, and he sends them on a series of adventures as captivating as they are well-thought-out. It would be virtually impossible to reach the end of The Dragon’s Path without wanting to see where this tale will take us.
Pete Bradbury’s narration spectacularly breathes life into the vast cast of characters populating this story, setting them apart from one another without any apparent difficulty. His voice propels the listener through the circuitous web of the narrative, leading us to the end far more quickly than we want to arrive.

The Death List by Thomas R. Clark, Narrated by Cheryl May

In The Death List, Thomas R. Clark takes the baton carried by John Skipp and Craig Spector through the 1980s and runs with it as if he’s being pursued by some entity from one of their novels. Rock ‘n’ roll and exquisitely perverse horror come together with Clark’s guidance and wry humor to produce a thrilling experience from the shocking beginning through the blood-soaked conclusion.
Ronnie Dark had it all, but those years were behind him, and it was beginning to look like he was about to lose everything. Bitter and driven by cruel impulses, Ronnie sets his mind on a path he’s sure will display all of his spite and condemnation of those he perceives as having wronged him. Unfortunately, Ronnie’s plans didn’t factor in the previous resident of his mansion making his way back home.
Patrick Dermotty, nurtured on a diet of television game shows and influenced by the dark goddess who inspired the graphic and horrifying murders that earned him the title of the Balloon Boy Killer, has escaped from the institution where he’s been all but catatonic for the previous three decades. Dermotty’s bloody, violent rampage is far from over, and he’s on a collision course with Ronnie Dark, a man with nothing left to lose.
The Death List is heavy metal Halloween, with one of the eeriest and most unsettling killers ever described on page or screen.
The narration provided by Cheryl May is spectacular, especially her delivery of Dermotty’s unnerving dialogue following his escape from the asylum. She captures the creep factor of Clark’s novella and brings it to an awful but entertaining life.

You can obtain a copy of The Death List from http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:

Killer Flies by Mark Kendall, Narrated by Sean Duregger

Encyclopocalypse Publications has done something fantastic in bringing this classic piece of 1980s animal horror back to life. Capitalizing on the fears of the nuclear age–of science gone wrong–Mark Kendall penned this exciting tale of deadly, swarming flies descending on the unexpecting people of New Mexico.
From the moment the truck transporting the load of genetically modified flies crashes until the clamorous conclusion, we witness close-up accounts of people, pets, and livestock as they run afoul of the insect menace. Scientific hubris, myopic politicians, and a wholly unprecedented threat combine to create a perfect storm for the horrors to unfold in the worst way possible.
At the core of the story, a mother’s desire for revenge propels us along a reckless path amid the devastating events scattered throughout the tale. New faces appear only to be summarily devoured and left as a bloody pulp by the devouring proboscises of the flies.
Sean Duregger is at the top of his narration game, lending each character their own distinctive voice, breathing life into even the most minuscule roles within the story.

The Damned Place by Chris Miller, Narrated by Daniel Caravetta

The Damned Place could be considered the spiritual successor to Stephen King’s IT, transported into the 1990s from the 1960s of King’s pivotal masterpiece. Coming of age tales are a familiar substrate upon which horror authors can build a significant sense of dread and high stakes, relatable terror–after all, we were all children once upon a time, complete with imaginations and an unflappable sense of our own invulnerability. Some attempts are more successful than others, and Chris Miller’s foray into the subgenre is massively successful.
Deep in the woods is a dilapidated house with a history so unspeakably awful that almost no one in the nearby town of Winnsboro remembers it exists. When a group of friends stumbles across the house, they unwittingly draw the attention of a monstrous, hungry creature hoping to slip through the border between worlds and into ours. It’s in this place that they also discover their world is more magical and unreal than they’d have ever expected.
Miller provides readers with an unflinching, uncensored glimpse of a world populated by bullies, tragedy, and alien beings. With gritty, grimy realism, Miller drags us into the story he’s crafted, forcing us to bear witness to extreme depravity and cosmic horror in equal measure. Gone is the infamous underage sewer orgy of King’s novel, but don’t worry because Miller manages to add plenty of discomforting and unsettling elements to his book. But it’s not all about the terror, The Damned Place is also about the strength of friendship and the courage found in the face of impossible conditions.
Daniel Caravetta’s narration captures the accents and speech patterns of the characters in a way that makes them jump off the page for the audiobook edition of Miller’s novel.

Abhorrent Faith by John Baltisberger

Just as the nightmarish and unfathomable events of Abhorrent Siren are reaching their feverish conclusion in San Antonio, the events of Abhorrent Faith begin. An inclusive, interfaith potluck hosted by a local Rabbi is interrupted by a hideously transformed–and transforming–monstrosity and the rabidly bigoted evangelical preacher seemingly controlling it. As the world outside the synagogue devolves into chaos and madness, a different sort of madness is on display in the defiled sanctuary.
Baltisberger packs this follow-up to his previous novella with just as much perversity and horror but a different brand of social commentary. The scathing indictment of the opioid epidemic is still present, but that takes the backseat as he focuses his ire on bigotry, nationalism, and the anti-semitism embedded in altogether too much of society–and human history as a whole. Calling out the inherent hypocrisy, scriptural ignorance, and mental gymnastics embedded within right-wing Christianity, one can’t help but feel a thrill each time Ari stands up to Adrian King. At the same time, one can’t help but feel the almost tearful frustration and anger at Ari–or anyone–having to contend with the level of ignorance and hate given unworthy life in the story’s antagonist. It doesn’t take long for the reader to recognize that the monsters aren’t all outside, and I’m not talking about the infected, mutating members of Ari’s interfaith circle.
Altogether too much of this narrative is non-fiction, in the sense that these abhorrent acolytes of intolerance and acrimony are everywhere one looks, and the anti-semitic sentiments are alive and thriving wherever people like that are platformed and given attention. Baltisberger is angry over this, and that anger seethes beneath the surface of his spectacular storytelling in this follow-up to Abhorrent Siren.
The discerning eye might recognize a certain similarity between the cover art and a certain evangelical nut known for unhinged rants and barely suppressed bigotry. This is not an accident.

This title is available through multiple avenues, but you can pick it up for yourself by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device. The link is below: