Where are You Reading? Challenge Wrap Up

The Where are You Reading? Challenge was hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. The idea was to read a book set in each of the fifty states. I didn’t make it; but I gave it an ernest effort and I had a lot of fun playing with the google map! I read/listened to 69 titles across 30 states and the District of Columbia and, posted 27 reviews:

  • AL: The Most They Ever Had (written and narrated by Rick Bragg)
  • AK: Caribou Island (by David Vann; narrated by Bronson Pinchot)
  • AR: Shakespeare’s Landlord (by Charlaine Harris; narrated by Julia Gibson)
  • AZ: 3:10 to Yuma (by Elmore Leonard; narrated by Henry Rollins)
  • CA: When the Killing’s Done (by T.C. Boyle; narrated by Anthony Heald)
  • CA: The Haunting of Hill House (by Shirley Jackson; narrated by Bernadete Dunne)
  • CA : Psycho (by Robert Bloch; narrated by Paul Michael Garcia)
  • CA: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Volume #1: The Long Way Home (by Joss Whedon and Georges Jeanty)
  • CO: Columbine (by Dave Cullen; narrated by Don Leslie)
  • CT: Deep Down True (by Juliette Fay; narrated by Robynn Rodriguez)
  • CT: Dead Man’s Switch (by Tammy Kaehler; narrated by Nicole Vilencia)
  • CT: Unexpectedly, Milo (by Matthew Dicks)
  • CT: Happy Ever After (by Nora Roberts)
  • CT: Hellboy: Volume #2: Wake the Devil (by Mike Mignola)
  • CT: Hellboy: Volume #3: The Chained Coffing and Other Stories (by Mike Mignola)
  • DC: A Simple Act of Violence (by R.J. Ellory; narrated by Kevin Kenerly)
  • DE: West of Rehobeth (by Alex D. Pate; narrated by Dion Graham)
  • FL: Nature Girl (by Carl Hiaasen; narrated by Lee Adams)
  • FL: The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady (by Elizabeth Stuckey French)
  • FL: The Shawl (by Cynthia Ozick)
  • GA: A Quiet Belief in Angels (by R.J. Ellory; narrated by Mark Bramhall)
  • GA: The Walking Dead: Volume #2: Miles Behind Us (by Robert Kirkman et al)
  • GA: The Walking Dead: Volume #3: Safety Behind Bars (by Robert Kirkman et al)
  • HI: Unfamiliar Fishes (writtten and narrated by Sarah Vowell)
  • IL: The Last Striptease (by Michael Wiley; narrated by Johnny Heller)
  • IL: Death Masks (by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters)
  • IL: Blood Rites (by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters)
  • KY: The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye (by Robert Kirkman et al)
  • MA: A Drink Before the War (by Dennis Lehane; narrated by Jonathan Davis)
  • MA: Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? (by Steven Tyler with David Dalton; narrated by Jeremy Davidson)
  • MA: The Vices (by Lawrence Douglas)
  • MA: House Arrest (by Ellen Meeropol)
  • MA: The Handmaid’s Tale (by Margaret Atwood)
  • MD: Countdown (by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)
  • MD: Patient Zero (by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)
  • MD: Zero Tolerance (by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)
  • MI: Big Girl, Small (by Rachel DeWoskin; narrated by Christine Williams)
  • ME: Carrie (by Stephen King; narrated by Sissy Spacek)
  • ME: Maine (by J. Courtney Sullivan)
  • ME: Hell House (by Richard Matheson; adapted by Ian Edgington; illustrated by Thomas Fraser)
  • ME: The Taker (by Alma Taksu)
  • MN: The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (by Joanne Fluke; narrated by Suzanne Toren)
  • MN: Shiver (by Maggie Stiefvater; narrated by Jenna Lamia and David LeDoux)
  • MO: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (by Mark Twain)
  • MO: The Adventures of HUckleberry Finn (by Mark Twain)
  • MO: Finn (by Jon Clinch)
  • MS: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (by Tom Franklin; narrated by Kevin Kenerly)
  • NJ: Hotel for Dogs (by Lois Duncan; narrated by Katy Kellgren)
  • NJ: The Plot Against America (by Philip Roth)
  • NY: Rip Van Winkle (by Washington Irving; narrated by Christian Rummel)
  • NY: The Ghost of Greenwich Village (by Lorna Graham; narrated by Nicole Vilencia)
  • NY: Live and Let Die (by Ian Flaming; narrated by Simon Vance)
  • NY: Diamonds are Forever (by Ian Flaming; narrated by Simon Vance)
  • NY: A Visit from the Goon Squad (by Jennifer Egan)
  • NY: Fables: Volume #3: Storybook Love (by Bill Willingham et al)
  • NY: Fables: Volume #4: March of the Wooden Soldiers (by Bill Willingham et al)
  • NY: Fables: Volume #5: The Mean Seasons (by Bill Willingham et al)
  • NY: Fables: Volume #6: Homelands (by Bill Willingham et al)
  • NY: We the Animals (by Justin Torres)
  • NY: By Nightfall (by Michael Cunningham)
  • OK: True Grit (by Charles Portis; narrated by Donna Tartt)
  • OK: Ready Player One (by Ernest Cline; narrated by Wil Wheaton)
  • PA: Lily’s Wedding Quilt (by Kelly Long; narrated by Christine Williams)
  • TN: The Improper Life of Bezilla Grove (by Susan Gregg Gilmore)
  • UT: Jitters: A Quirky Little Audio Book (by Adele Park; performed by Adele Park, Susan Paige Lane, Paige Allred, Kristen Henley, Desiree Whitehead, Garry Morris, John Gobson, Steve Coppola, Christine Hyatt, Dave Cochran, Chase Nichter, Tim Porter, Doug Caputo, RickPickett and, Guy Smith)
  • VA: The Reservoir (by John Miliken Thompson)
  • VT: Double Black (by Wendy Clinch)
  • VT: Secrets of Eden (by Chris Bohjalian)
  • WA: A Spark of Death (by Bernadette Pajer; narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner)

And this is the map!

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I ended up included pins for every book I read/listened-to so there are plenty of pins set in foreign countries too!

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A Drink Before the War

A Drink Before the War

First in the Kenzie/Gennaro series
by Dennis Lehane
narrated by Joanathan Davis
Ⓟ 2011, Harper Audio
8.8 hours
Patrick Kenzie, and by extension his partner, Angela Gennaro, are private detectives hired to retrieve documents stolen from a state senator’s office. Except that the documents aren’t really documents and, what these “documents” are and why they are important, provide the link to a story which highlights a Boston beyond what tourists see: Racial tensions, extreme economic disparity within blocks and, political corruption. Dennis Lehane has written a hard, truthful story about a city, about a culture within the context of a fictional thriller. Black vs White racial tensions are the biggest axe that Lehane grinds in A Drink Before the War. The politicians are white, the cleaning lady is black; blue collar workers hole up in dives in black neighborhoods and, count the number of black players on opposing football teams on TV; the gang wars are drawn along geo-racial lines: the blacks of The Bury (Roxbury) and the white kids of Dorchester; even a newscasting team on television consisting of a white newsman and a black newswoman, show up the racial lines drawn in the racist city. The economic inequality is played out across the neighborhoods in and around Boston: An obsequious doorman pulls open the doors to posh restaurants and hotels and, Copley Square is a testament to the gaudy splendors of the monied; but in Dorchester, the the lower middle class watches as the dual forces of gentrification and urban decay obliterate their homes into the dust and; in Roxbury, the tenements and sagging homes fall prey to entropy. The environments do not encourage correlative levels of crime, only better cover for the crimes in the better neighborhoods. The dome of the capitol, it turns out, provides better protection against punishment than the streets of Roxbury. Lehane’s key protagonist, Patrick Kenzie, has the self awareness to recognize how the city has informed him and; despite his attempts to rise above his circumstances, the scars of his past are ever-present both literally and figuratively. Kenzie’s internal struggle to identify his moral dilemmas and excoriate his ghosts add dimension to a character that could all too easily been rendered a mere action figure.
Jonathan Davis gives a solid, nearly neutral and careful reading of the text. He gives the story a very light, somewhat Ben Affleckian Boston accent, and affects an appropriate Irish accent to the equally affected state senator with a deliberate and near comic manner. A light Boston accent is better than a bad Boston accent; but there are inherent risks in that approach because authenticity is sacrificed. Davis slows his meter down to create an illusion of a deepened register for the black characters, but the street cadence is missing. We always know who’s talking; but all the voices are slightly “off” either in measure or in idiom. One also has to wonder if Davis has a sense of humor in the literary or narrative sense: Some lines could have benefited from a quicker, more ironic delivery.
Recommendation: For those who like grittier fare a la Adrian McKinty (The Dead Trilogy: Dead I Well May Be; The Dead Yard and, The Bloomsbury Dead; or Richard Price (Lush Life.)
Other Stuff: I received a digital dnload copy from Harper Audio for review purposes.
Also, it turns out that the narrator is the nephew of a consultant for the company I work for. This fact did not inform my review on any conscious level.

This book qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. A Drink Before the War takes place in Dorchester and Boston, Massachusetts.

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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

by Tom Franklin
narrated by Kevin Kenerly
9.5 hours

Larry Ott is a total loser: a weirdo, a loner and really, really creepy. Then his date “disappears” on him and, while no one can prove it, you just know he’s guilty of something nasty. Thirty years later and another local girl disappears and everyone in the small town of Chabot, MS is out for blood. That the Stephen King-reading pervert is still breathing is an injustice…
But everything is not so black-and-white, either figuratively or literally. The concretized legend of Larry Ott is deconstructed, not though a basic linear narrative; but by peeling back the layers of time, attitudes and people to get at the truth. The keel of this story, the line upon which the narrative hangs, is the relationship between Larry Ott, a poor white trash mechanic and; Silas “32” Jones, a black deputy sheriff. Erstwhile childhood friends who allow racism and self interest to divide them, they are forced to confront themselves and each other after a thirty-year estrangement. Courage is required from both men to broker a difficult entente and confront the devil they don’t know. This is not a traditional mystery in terms of structure or content. While a straightforward whodunit or police procedural might have been an easy way to tell the story; the sifting of fact from fiction in Chabot, MS is more realistically presented within the context of real time and people’s morally complex natures.
Kevin Kenerly narrates Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter with an amazing facility for both white and black characters, and with rich vocal legacies for all. Whether it’s the slow and easy cadence of “32,” the relatively more nasal qualities of a redneck or, the emotional rhythms of 32’s romantic interest, Tom Franklin’s characters resonate from the page to the speakers with a lushness that reflects the heat of Mississippi and the tensions of the South.
Other Stuff: I borrowed a library edition CD from Blackstone Audio, Inc.
This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com



This book qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is set in the fictional small rural town of Chabot, Mississippi.

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“But screw your courage to the sticking place,
And we’ll not fail.”
— Lady Macbeth from “Macbeth,” Act 1, Scene 7, lines 59-61; by William Shakespeare


Zero Tolerance



“Zero Tolerance”
by Jonathan Maberry
narrated by Ray Porter
Blackstone Audio, Inc.

.75 hours

What the hell did Sergeant Harper do? Pay Attention! Because what starts out to be another cinematically driven action-adventure episode in the Patient Zero canon, turns into something much subtler, only hinted at at the end of the full length novel. This elegantly constructed short story will have you drawing a sharp intake of breath as you realize what Maberry has done: taken the moral ambiguity from Patient Zero to a whole new level. “Zero Tolerance” is described as a sequel to the full length novel, a tying-up of loose ends; but that’s arguable. Patient Zero ended and you could go on without feeling like you’ve missed anything if you didn’t listen to this short; but don’t. This is Maberry at his finest: concentrated in form and function.

Ray Porter is the narrator of the Patient Zero series and no one could do it better. Whether it’s a whispered caress in the ear or the all out assault on a target, Ray Porter delivers the ful range of the characters’, and the story’s, voice.

Other Stuff: I borrowed a MP3-CD copy of Joe Ledger: The Missing Files from Blackstone Audio, Inc. There are five short stories in the collection: “Countdown” (precursor to the full-length novel, Patient Zero), “Zero Tolerance” (follow-up to Patient Zero), “Deep Dark”(prequel to the full-length novel, The Dragon Factory), “Dog Days”(follow-up to The Dragon Factory) and “Material Witness” (a crossover to The Pine Deep Trilogy.) I split up the mp3 files on the CD into the five groupings that made up each story; but each story is available separately as a digital dnload.
This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads.Patient Zero is an audiobook with a [number] in the title, “Zero.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. Patient Zero is has scenes in Baltimore, Maryland.
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Patient Zero

Patient Zero
by Jonathan Maberry
narrated by Ray Porter
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
14.75 hours



Patient Zero is the action-packed, high-octane thriller about Joe Ledger and his team of elite fighters who battle zombies and attempt to save the world! Jonathan Maberry combines mil-fic, action-adventure and horror in a cliche-ridden (but nonetheless effective) story of cinematic excess . Every bullet, jujutsu move and gaping maw is detailed in this novel about impacts: the impact of decisions made for monetary gain; the impact of causes motivated by religious fanaticism; the impact of a hollow point when it penetrates the skull; the impact of a hand chop to various body parts; the impact of having to bear witness to something so horrifying that it impacts your psyche; the deeper impact of having to do something so horrifying it impacts your very soul…


The facet of Joe’s ego that he self-identifies as “The Warrior” dominates the story and the tone of the writing. There is absolutely nothing subtle about Maberry’s writing and, in and of itself it is rather formulaic; but the formula works and, it is entertaining and fun.

There is plenty of action, a little humor, a tender moment or two and, lots of suspense. The unrelenting pace drives home the imperative that constant threat must be met with constant vigilance, however tiresome it might be.


Ray Porter is quintessentially Joe Ledger, reflecting the character’s toughness, humor, anger and doubt perfectly; but more than that, Ray Porter makes narration sound easy. There is a naturalness to the narration that lends credence to

the highest compliment paid: “Ray Porter IS Joe Ledger” – a perhaps overused and simplistic statement, but nonetheless true. Hooah.

Other Stuff: I borrowed a library-CD edition of this audiobook from Blackstone Audio, Inc. Patient Zero is the first full-length novel in the Joe Ledger sequence. “Countdown” is the short story listed as a prequel to Patient Zero, and can be found as part of the short story collection, Joe Ledger: The Missing Files or; it can be dnloaded individually.
n.b. “Countdown” is not really a prequel so much as it is a previous version of the first chapter of Patient Zero.

This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com

This book also qualifies for the What’s in Name? Challenge #4 hosted at BethFishreads. Patient Zero is an audiobook with a [number] in the title, “Zero.”

This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. Patient Zero is has scenes set in Baltimore, Maryland.
View dogearedcopy map 2011 in a larger map



“Can I have a cookie?”

Countdown


“Countdown”

by Jonathan Maberry
narrated by Ray Porter
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
digital dnload
20 minutes

Meet Joe Ledger. Army Ranger vet. Tough Baltimore cop. Now a member of a joint task force heading in on a warehouse raid. Lots of guns, bullets, and a body in a big blue box… “Countdown” is a short story that introduces the listener to an action adventure hero in the making and, whets the appetite for more. What happens next? Who is Mr. Church? What’s with the tinted glasses inside? The Vanilla Wafers? Is Mr. Church a good thing? A bad thing? An X-Files thing? The answers to all this and more await in the first full-length novel in the Joe Ledger trilogy, Patient Zero.

Ray Porter renders the character of Joe Ledger with natural ease. Jonathan Maberry, while generous with the mil-fic elements, also fleshes out the protagonist with an interior life beyond the jarhead mentality you might expect. Joe Ledger is smart, funny and most importantly, human. Ray Porter, in his turn, is Joe Ledger, inhabiting the character so completely that there is no disjunct between the writing and the narration.


Other Stuff: I borrowed a MP3-CD copy of Joe Ledger: The Missing Files from Blackstone Audio, Inc. There are five short stories in the collection: “Countdown” (precursor to the full-length novel, Patient Zero), “Zero Tolerance” (follow-up to Patient Zero), “Deep Dark” (prequel to the full-length novel, The Dragon Factory), “Dog Days” (follow-up to The Dragon Factory) and “Material Witness” (a crossover to The Pine Deep Trilogy.) I split up the mp3 files on the CD into the five groupings that made up each story; but each story is available separately as a digital dnload as well as on this short story collection.
This post is part of the Murder, Monsters, Mayhem feature being hosted by Jennifer L. at http://www.jennsbookshelves.com


This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. “Countdown” is set Baltimore, Maryland.
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Jitters: A Quirky Little Audio Book

Jitters: A Quirky Little Audio Book

by Adele Park
performed by Adele Park, Susan Paige Lane, Paige Allred, Kristen Henley, Desiree Whitehead, Garry Morris, John Gibson, Steve Coppola, Chrystine Hyatt, Dave Cochran, Chase Nichter, Tim Porter, Doug Caputo, Rick Pickett and, Guy Smith
Straight to Audio Productions
6.5 hours
“When Radio and polygamy collide…”

I will be the first to admit openly that, as I was live-tweeting the results of the Audies, I was extremely bemused when Jitters was announced as the winner in the Multi-Voiced Performance category. I had no dog in this fight and I had only listened to one title in this category (The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde; performed by a full cast from L.A. Theater Works, starring James Marsters;) but Jitters was up against not only “Ernest;” but the high profile title, Room (by Emma Donoghue; narrated by Michal Friedman, Ellen Archer, Robert Petkoff and, Suzanne Toren,) Great Classics of Science Fiction (by H.G. Wells, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Lester Del Ray, et al; narrated by Simon Vance, Nick Sullivan, Robert Fass, et al) and The Shadow Effect (written and narrated by Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson and, Debbie Ford.) Big titles, well-known authors and veteran narrators were superseded by an unknown quantity. Adele Park reached out to bloggers this summer and I, eager to hear the David that slew its Goliath competition at the Audies, readily accepted a review copy for consideration.
The story itself is funny, clever and full of surprises. Set in the fictional small towns of Navel and Zion Flats, Utah, shock jock Nancy Neptune arrives to shake things up in the small Mormon community. Nancy has been exiled to a remote, risk-adverse radio station to be its program director and, dj the morning drive. (So, right off the first joke is on the listener as this isn’t a radio drama; but a drama about radio!) The story of Nancy Neptune’s impact on the community is told from several characters’ points of view, each of the twenty-two chapters dedicated to a voice to advance the story. The format is such that each testimony is preceded by a radio news spot which also provides a tell as to the action off-camera. Nancy’s presence is a lightning rod for events that have unanticipated results and, for a slew of eccentric characters including (but not limited to): an obese, divorced woman, a drag queen, a one-armed argro reporter/erstwhile detective and, a mentally challenged, inbred Yeti-like man who likes to sing along to Cheap Trick songs… While the easy laughs lie in the obvious idiosyncrasies of the characters, in the physical humor of their mere existence, the surprises come as the complexity of their characters is revealed.
There are eight key characters and, a number of smaller roles and bits, all performed by the voice-over talent that Adele Park has assembled. Exaggerated accents/mannerisms provide each character with a distinctive and appropriate voice. Because the setting and premise of Jitters is predicated on the radio theme, the production quality also adheres to the same clear, perhaps over-articulated, sound. [If I quibble here, it’s only because there are reasons I don’t listen to radio anymore and, one of them is that I find radio very harsh on the ears.]
There is absolutely no subtlety here. The precociousness of the writing and of the performances can wear a bit thin; but it is certainly original in all regards.

in the title, “Little.”


This book also qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. Jitters: A Quirky Little Audio Book is set in the fictional towns of Navel and Zion Flats, Utah.


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