Breach by Candace Nola, Narrated by Jessica McEvoy

Candace Nola’s Breach drags us along with Laraya Jamison into a disorienting and terrifying battle for survival in a world alien from our own. The gradual revelation of a world that feels as fantastic and dreamlike as it is sinister and dangerous is a thrilling adventure for readers/listeners, even as beleaguered Laraya struggles to learn the rules of this new world and means to find her way home.
A camping trip with her boyfriend and two closest friends descends into a violent and horrific disaster as a creature defying comprehension slaughters the others, forcing Laraya into an exhausting race for her life through a forest that transitions into something unfamiliar. Growing up in these woods, she knows she’s far from home, but Laraya has no idea how she arrived in this strange place or how to return to the world she knows.
Laraya’s journey of discovery through this new world is equal parts fantasy and horror. The true journey is of self-discovery as she learns of her connection to this realm and the extraordinary allies in her battle against monstrous beings who seek to destroy her or follow her through the breach and back to our world.
Jessica McEvoy’s narration brings Laraya to life, filling the character’s account of events with emotion that conveys the harrowing nature of her experiences.

The Beasts of Vissaria County by Douglas Ford, Narrated by Jenn Lee

The Beasts of Vissaria County is not what you expect. It doesn’t matter what your expectations might be as you approach this narrative; I can guarantee that you’ll probably find yourself shocked and surprised. The nature of Douglas Ford’s book is as ephemeral and challenging to nail down as the narrative itself, but you’ll find yourself propelled along as if you were in a dream, with Ford as the feverish and abstract architect.
Maggie McKenzie escapes the nightmare of her marriage and, along with her son, seeks a transient sort of safety and solace with her disagreeable father in the backwoods of Florida. She’s a damaged woman–bitter and unhappy–but stronger than she knows. Cursed with an unquenchable curiosity, she’ll soon find herself at the heart of a mystery that becomes more convoluted the deeper she digs.
Any sense of normalcy gets disrupted when she encounters her elusive and peculiar neighbor, WD. The lines that separate reality from fiction, dreams from waking, and myth from fact become increasingly blurred as the story continues from there.
While I wasn’t a big fan of Jack Williamson’s Darker Than You Think, I can’t help but feel that Ford has crafted a sort of spiritual successor to that 1940s novel. The Beasts of Vissaria County takes that same dreamlike, blurry quality and improves upon it in almost every way. In its strange and surreal storytelling, we capture hints and fleeting glimpses of beasts that may or may not be there–or may not be fully there.
The narration provided by Jenn Lee fully brought Maggie to life, embodying her indomitable spirit and the blend of skepticism and curiosity that drives her along the meandering paths she follows.

This title is also available on Godless. You can find it by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan, Narrated by Kate Reading & Michael Kramer

The Fires of Heaven picks up where The Shadow Rising left off, largely leaving behind the events in the Two Rivers where Perrin has become the de facto ruler of a small kingdom. There are references to what’s going on there, but that’s not the focus of this book.
Rand’s expansion into the world beyond the Aiel Wastes is the primary focus of this novel, as he walks a delicate balance between the diverse and often dissenting factions he’s ruling over as both The Dragon Reborn and Car’a’carn. Wanting nothing to do with the trappings of fate, Mat attempts to escape on multiple occasions, only to find himself more firmly entrenched in the wheel’s design and–much like Rand–dizzied by memories not his own.
At the same time, Nynaeve and Elayne are on a collision course with the remnants of the White Tower in hiding, where Siuan, Leane, and Min are also heading. Little do Nynaeve, Elayne, Thom, and Juilin realize that they’ll soon be sharing their journey with an unexpected face from the past.
Robert Jordan spends a large portion of this book familiarizing readers with the politics of the various kingdoms, as well as the machinations between individual Forsaken. We also learn more about the world of dreams and the dangers associated with that realm, and we discover some of the previously unknown danger of magic when Rand uses Balefire.
This installment in the series provides readers with a lot of action and warfare, both close-up and distant, which keeps the story flowing. Additionally, it showcases the stakes, and reveals that even those we consider pivotal to the narrative are not shielded by plot armor, at least not permanently.
As with the previous four volumes in the series, the narration provided by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer is fantastic, fully bringing the narrative to life and fleshing out the characters in the way the best audiobooks do.

Stolen Tongues by Felix Blackwell

Felix Blackwell managed to craft a captivating and unsettling narrative that digs its way under the reader’s skin. Like many of the best horror stories, Stolen Tongues envelops the reader in an atmosphere that conveys a sense of both helplessness and fear. As the characters and their plight become more three-dimensional and fleshed out, the threatening force looming in the shadows becomes more unreal and difficult to comprehend. That alien and unfamiliar threat mingling with the all-too-real lives of the protagonists it imperils propels this story beyond the realm of casual, easily dismissed horror literature.
When Felix and his fiance, Faye, begin their romantic getaway at her parents’ cabin in the Colorado Rockies, there’s no way they could have anticipated the disquieting experience that would greet them. If they’d only known the sinister history of Pale Peak, the cabin that rested there in the dark forests, and the way that past resonated within Faye’s dreams and psychology, they certainly would not have stayed.
What unfolds from there is a feverish and unreal sequence of events that follows the couple from waking life into their dreams, influencing their relationships, and impacting everyone who seeks to help. And as the terror escalates, the reader can’t help but wonder if anyone will walk away without being led into the darkness by the creature speaking with stolen tongues.
Growing up in and near the Black Hills of South Dakota and having spent a good deal of my life in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho, I feel like Blackwell captured the beauty and isolation of the environment. Just as importantly, he captured the way these mountain forests can play tricks on people unaccustomed to such places.
As someone who has spent most of his life straddling the outskirts of Indigenous cultures, I appreciated Blackwell’s attempt to avoid exhausted and exhausting tropes while incorporating elements of those cultures in his story. My former step-mother and half-sister are Lakota, my ex-wife, multiple ex-girlfriends, numerous friends, and my teenage daughter as well. This book doesn’t treat the Indigenous characters as overly romanticized token characters, but it does treat them with respect and obvious appreciation for the history of North America before the arrival of European colonizers.

Dreams, and the Places They Take Us

Have all of you dreamt of specific locations, or a singular location, so many times that you occasionally recall that place in your waking life as somewhere you momentarily believe you can return to? As if it’s somewhere you’ve actually been before?

You only finally stop thinking that way once you’ve reminded yourself that the location exists only in your dreams, though you feel like you’ve been there so many times before.

There are two locations like this for me, both of them situated in outdoor environments that bear a strong resemblance to regions of the Black Hills…or at least they feel like they’re situated somewhere in the hills.

One is a large cave system on private land that I’m able to enter by maneuvering my way along a cliff-side that others apparently don’t know about. It doesn’t keep me from trespassing, but it keeps me from being caught while doing so, as it provides me with an otherwise unknown entrance via a large grotto coming off the cliff wall. Descending from this hidden grotto is a sort of primitive staircase, something that could have been carved into the stone by an earlier culture. I’ve never followed the stairs down any further than the fissure that leads me into the cave system, but the stairs descend much deeper into darkness. The interior of the cavern is so familiar to me as to feel like I’ve been there dozens of times. In my dreams, I’ve taken other people there to experience the place in addition to making numerous trips on my own. The smells and taste of the air are so vividly recalled, as is the way sound reverberates from the walls. The chill of the water in a slow-moving underground stream that pools in a certain location where I’ve always had to strip down to traverse is as real to me as any memory.

Another location is similarly to be found along a cliff wall, this one rising up from an otherwise normal hiking trail that leads off into a narrow, mountain valley. By scrabbling along what would only be liberally described as a path up the early part of the cliffside, one can reach a small tunnel that pushes through to a sheltered cliffside on the opposite edge of what is actually a thin dagger of rock rather than a solid stretch of mountain like what is to be found in either direction to the side. From this sheltered cliff, one can see a whole different valley spreading out, far below. I’ve spent countless hours sitting there, enjoying the view, or so my memory tricks me into believing.

What’s particularly funny to me is that I rarely recall my dreams at all. And yet, when I find myself thinking of either of these two locations, sudden recollections of numerous visits come to mind from dreams I don’t even remember having.

That’s all, just a little bit of absent musing for the day.

What sort of locations do your dreams paint so vividly that you recall them in waking life as real places?