Fatal Light by Richard Currey

Richard Currey‘s Fatal Light is an unusual novel in which an unnamed narrator provides readers with an inside view of what it is like to be a draftee before, during, and after the war.  Beyond the bullets, the Viet Cong, the mines, and the brutality of war, soldiers had to navigate a culture they didn’t understand, malaria, injury, and unexpected relationships.  The prose is sparse and the chapters are small, but each line, each chapter can knock readers over or back into their seats after putting them on the edge.

The unnamed narrator’s family is dispersed between West Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio, and the tranquility of the Ohio River and its surrounding landscape acts as the backdrop for the later contrasts of Vietnam’s jungles and the war.

“The festival queen and her court rode into view on a float garlanded with tissue flowers, gliding across the horizon of Main Street like a mirage, small-town madonnas sliding past waving their downy arms dreamily, their eyes the eyes of soft animals turned heavenward from thrones of blossoms and crepe, their faces all a magnificent promise, the romance at the end of the world passing so slowly in those long moments of perfect quiet, like the air over the river, the light and stillness inside the world at daybreak, like a held breath.”  (page 12)

There is a deep sadness in Currey’s prose as the narrator spirals further into the darkness of the jungle and of his memories as he recovers from injury and malaria.  But beyond the sadness and memory, the soldier lives on in grief, denial, and anger.  His anger rises at the military establishment, but his connection to his grandfather and those war stories still grounds him in reality.

“Mist filtered, smoke and constant drip. In the distance, the hoarse choke of approaching helicopters.

‘Choppers coming,’ I said. ‘We’re on the way.’

‘Gonna bleed the rest of my life,’ he hissed. ‘Gonna be coming right out of my bones all the rest of my life. You hear what I’m saying?’

I looked at him and the sound of the helicopters grew closer. ‘I hear what you’re saying,’ I whispered.” (page 80)

Unlike other war novels, Fatal Light is less graphic in describing wounds, battle, and recovery but the emotional connection between the narrator’s feelings and the readers are intertwined as they are drawn into each immediate, vivid observation.  While the observations are descriptive, they are not journalistic or clinical.  Currey’s prose is captivating, but realistic and gritty.  Overall, Currey’s slim novel is a memorable, twisted tale of a Vietnam soldier.

***If you missed my earlier recap of Currey’s reading in Bethesda, Md., check it out.  I purchased my copy of the book at the reading.***

Photo by Vivian Ronay

About the Author:

Richard Currey was born in West Virginia in 1949, was raised there and in Ohio, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Canada. Drafted in 1968, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was detached to the Marine Corps, trained as a combat medic, and assigned to various infantry and reconnaissance units. He began publishing poetry after his discharge in 1972, and he drew upon his military experiences in Crossing Over: The Vietnam Stories. His first novel, Fatal Light, became an international bestseller published in 11 languages. Fatal Light received the Special Citation of the Hemingway Foundation as well as the Vietnam Veterans of America’s Excellence in the Arts Award. Currey’s second novel, Lost Highway, looks at the impact of the Vietnam War on an American family and was called “a rich, incisive American fable” by the Boston Globe. Currey’s short stories have received O. Henry and Pushcart Prizes and have been widely anthologized. A former military book reviewer for Newsday, he is now a contributing editor for The Veteran. A recipient of National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in both poetry and fiction, Currey has also received the D. H. Lawrence Fellowship in Literature and the State of West Virginia’s Daugherty Award in the Humanities.

This is my 11th book for the 2010 Vietnam War Reading Challenge.

This is my 56th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

I hope you enjoyed this latest Literary Road Trip with Washington, D.C., author Richard Currey.

True Blue by David Baldacci

While I attend some great panels and meet some authors and publishers in New York City this week, I didn’t want to leave my readers high and dry for reviews. My mom, Pat, has supplied me with enough reviews to get you through until my return. Please give her a warm welcome.

True Blue by David Baldacci follows former Washington, D.C., cop Mace Perry and her sister Beth, who is the police chief.  Mace was kidnapped and framed for a crime, which she did not commit, and was sent to prison.  Mace spent two years in prison, lost her job, badge, and freedom.

Once released from prison, Mace sets off to right the wrong that had been done to her and find the true criminal who set her up and sent her to prison.  Beth introduces her sister to Roy Kingman, an attorney.  Together, Mace and Roy work to clear her name.  The bulk of the novel focuses on the nasty people they encounter and the people set in their path to derail the process of clearing Mace’s name.

Baldacci has written a fast-paced novel that will entice readers to keep turning the pages until the very end.  This is my first Baldacci book and would recommend this author to others.  Very enjoyable and suspenseful read.  Five stars.

Thanks to Hachette for sending along a free copy of True Blue for review.

I hope you enjoyed this latest Literary Road Trip with Vienna, Va., author David Baldacci and his Washington, D.C., cops.

SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue by Aviva Goldfarb (Earth Day Celebration)

Happy Earth Day, everyone!  I try my best to celebrate Earth Day and its 40th anniversary.  What better way to take action in our homes to save the environment and become healthier than by heeding the advice in Aviva Goldfarb‘s SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue.

Before we get the actual cookbook, I wanted to let you know that each copy purchased includes a one-month subscription to the Scramble and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Environmental Working Group, which works to use public information’s power to help consumers improve their health and save the environment by offering resources to make better decisions and to affect policy change.

Goldfarb’s cookbook expands upon her popular Web site with its seasonal weekly meal planner subscription for busy families.  The introduction discusses how the organization of the Scramble and its weekly meal planning enables families to reduce their carbon footprint by:

  • limiting trips to the grocery store to once per week
  • reducing the use of takeout containers
  • limiting food waste
  • using highly sustainable fish
  • and reducing the heavy use of meat in our diets.

Following the introduction, Goldfarb outlines the items you need in your pantry at all times, with indicators next to those that you should consider buying in bulk (among others):

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • minced garlic
  • olive oil
  • reduced sodium soy sauce

Once the staples are purchased and available to you, you should check out the break down of fruits and vegetables by season so that you shop for those items when they are in season.  Shopping for veggies and fruits in season reduces your carbon footprint, according to Goldfarb, because it reduces the need to truck those foods across the country or from another nation where they are in season.

The rest of the cookbook is broken down by season and includes a weekly plan of menus for families to try out and advice for keeping the menu plan on schedule, using canvas bags or reusing plastic and paper bags, creating healthy and tasty lunches for school, picking healthy snacks, and more.  However, the book does not include photos of the recipes, which novice cooks might want to check out to see how well they are doing with their own attempts at the recipes.

For busy, book blogger and other moms, SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue is an excellent edition to your cookbooks.  Goldfarb’s book is more than a cookbook, it is full of advice on how to make healthy choices for families, how to reduce carbon footprints, shop locally, and more.

About the Author:

Aviva Goldfarb (Photo credit: Rachael Spiegel) is author and founder of The Six O’Clock Scramble®, a seasonal online weekly menu planner and cookbook (St. Martin’s Press, 2006) who lives in Chevy Chase, Md.  She has just released a new cookbook, SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth-Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Dinners for Busy Families.  Aviva is regularly quoted in popular online and print Family and Health publications. She is an advocate for healthy families, actively working with national nonprofit organizations and with parents to improve nutrition.

Thanks to Diane Saarinen and St. Martin’s Press for sending me a free copy of SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue by Aviva Goldfarb for review.

The giveaway details:  (I’m buying 1 copy and giveaway is open internationally)

1.  Leave a comment about what you are doing to celebrate Earth Day.

2.  Leave a second comment with a tip about how you live greenly.

3.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, Stumble, spread the word about the giveaway and leave me a link.

Deadline April 29, 2010, at 11:59 PM EST

This is my 29th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

I hope you enjoyed this latest Literary Road Trip with Chevy Chase, Md., author Aviva Goldfarb.


Also check out today’s stop on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour at Necromancy Never Pays!

Your Ten Favorite Words by Reb Livingston (That’s How I Blog)

When I was asked by Nicole at Linus’s Blanket to join her on That’s How I Blog on BlogTalk Radio, I knew I wanted my book club selection to be a volume of poetry, especially since I would be on the show during National Poetry Month.  So Nicole and I agreed on Your Ten Favorite Words by Reb Livingston.

I hope everyone will join me and Nicole at 6:30 PM EST this evening in the chat room and on the phone for the show and the book club discussion. OK, this is me begging! 🙂

Reb Livingston’s Your Ten Favorite Words is a collection of poems that examines the battle between the sexes in a new way, creating caricatures of men and women.  Livingston has a way with imagery, alliteration, and riddles.  A number of poems roll into a rhythm, twist the tongue, and require readers to assess each line carefully.

The collection is broken down into three parts:  Our Rascal Asses; Unsweet and Looking for a Fix; Burgers and Pitchforks.  Readers are introduced to three caricatures Smitten Girl, The Man With the Pretty Chin, and The Heart Specter.  And each section begins with a mini-conversation or set of statements between the characters.  These set up each section, allowing them to unfold.

“The Smitten Girl [to The Man with the Pretty Chin]:  Will you be using your charm for good or injury?

The Heart Specter [murmuring]: (C)harm for G(o)od!” (Page 8 )

Livingston’s collection turns conventional expectations about female perspectives on relationships with men upside down.  Each narrator celebrates female sexuality and desire, but also questions the confusion that comes with that base emotion and need.  At the same time, there is a sense of the comedic in these lines, which pokes fun at the awkwardness of sex and interactions and expectations between men and women.

“He was dark brilliance and moans

(his moans, girlish and dusk, yet I gushed)”  (From Almost Took a Lover Once, page 12)

Livingston’s Your Ten Favorite Words is a collection with a title that will cause confusion among readers and leave them scratching their heads.  The title’s meaning and purpose to the collection could remain obscure for some time, but this is a collection readers will want to return to again and again to unravel the riddles and relish the inner truth of these frank discussions.

About the Poet:

Reb Livingston is a poet and editor of No Tell Books, a press devoted to poetry, and No Tell Motel, an online poetry magazine.  She also is the author of Your Ten Favorite Words (Coconut Books, October 2007) and Pterodactyls Soar Again (Whole Coconut Chapbook Series, 2006). Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2006 and literary magazines.

This is my 26th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

This is my 15th book for the contemporary poetry challenge.

This is my 3rd book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.

Since Reb Livingston is a local D.C. area poet, this is a great look at her work as part of The Literary Road Trip, which has moved to Jenn’s Bookshelves from GalleySmith.


Please don’t forget to check out the next stop on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour Life Is a Patchwork Quilt.

The Bum Magnet by K.L. Brady

K.L. Brady’s The Bum Magnet is local chicklit for Washington, D.C., residents and stars the bum magnet herself, Charisse.  She’s a real estate agent with a serial dating problem, always seeming to attract the wrong kind of man and hanging onto them.  Dwayne, Lamar, Sean, and Marcus are just some of the bums in this book, but are they all bums?  That’s what Charisse has to figure out, if she can get past her own hangups.

“‘Charisse, a good man is like Santa Claus, believing in him feels real good until you find out he doesn’t really exist.'”  (Page 1)

Brady’s debut novel uses a lot of colloquial language and delves into the wrong relationships of her characters through journal entries and flashbacks, but readers may not feel a connection to Charisse right off.  She’s a bristly, independent woman on the one hand, but a dependent, lonely woman on the other.  Like all of us, Charisse has her strengths and her weaknesses, but she seems to have a hard time recognizing the obvious and in many ways she goes off the deep end.

“No, to me, spying on a boyfriend was not only justified, it was a requirement.  Hey, I keep it real.  To ask me not to spy on a scheming boyfriend would be like asking a lion not to hunt, a dog not to bark, or babies not to throw up.  ‘Verification’ was an instinctive to me (and all womankind), as giving birth.”  (Page 61)

As she makes the decision to focus on herself and analyze her past relationship failures to improve her relationship capabilities, she stumbles upon the man of her “dreams,” Dwayne, shortly after breaking it off with Marcus.  Things are soon spiraling out of control for Charisse when past flames reappear and past mistakes rear their ugly heads.   

“I hoped she wasn’t crazy.  For some reason, I’d always attracted crazy people.  Not eccentric crazy, but wear aluminum foil as a fashion accessory crazy.  They always shared their life stories with me.  Did I have an inviting demeanor or a friendly face? Perhaps.  Although I had a deep-rooted fear that crazy people might just be naturally drawn to other crazy people, which would make me one of them.”  (Page 122)

The Bum Magnet has a lot of drama, and Charisse attracts it like wildfire.  Readers will either enjoy the roller coaster ride or wonder when they can get off.  Brady has an active imagination and the dialogue will have readers giggling.  Brady’s writing is entertaining and has great potential.

FTC Disclosure:  Thanks to K.L. Brady for providing me with a free copy of The Bum Magnet for review.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

K. L. Brady is a D.C. native but spent a number of her formative years in the Ohio Valley. She’s an alumnus of the University of the District of Columbia and University of Maryland University College, earning a B.A. in Economics and M.B.A., respectively. She works as an analyst for a major government contracting firm and is an active real estate agent with Exit Realty by day—and writes by night (often into the wee hours of the morning). She lives just outside of D.C. in Cheltenham, Maryland, with her son, William, and two pet Betta fish, Spongebob and Jerry, and lives to eat chocolate, shop, read, and write.

***International Giveaway Details*** 

1.  Leave a comment on this post about what new author you’ve found in the new year.
2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway and leave a link on this post.

Deadline Jan. 14, 2010, 11:59PM EST

This is my 1st book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

Also, this another stop on the Literary Road Trip.

A Maryland Chick-lit Writer’s Inspiration by K.L. Brady, Author of The Bum Magnet

Michelle at GalleySmith started this great blog craze about highlighting local authors on The Literary Road Trip.  I’ve been a bit lax in participating, but I do have some of these great local authors lined up with guest posts and interviews.  I’ve just been slow to post them.

K.L. Brady, author of The Bum Magnet and a local Maryland author; you can check out a list of her appearances or read her latest blog posts.  Today, she’s here to share her inspiration, with some local flare.  Give her a warm welcome.

As a “chick lit” author—which by my definition means I write about female characters and their relationships using heavy doses of humor—my experiences while residing in Maryland and D.C. have certainly inspired my writing. I lived here during my childhood and for most of my adult life. From Hillcrest Heights in Southeast D.C. to Forestville, Fort Washington, and Cheltenham, Maryland (which is Upper Marlboro with higher real estate taxes), I’ve seen this area through the 1970s gas crunch, a major hurricane, mayoral sting operations, planet-sized potholes, two recessions, political turmoil, a terrorist attack, and the first African-American president. And through it all, one thing has remained constant: women still outnumber men. This condition makes for a, shall we say, “unique” dating experience for the women in the area and  provides me with more writing material than I can feasibly use in one lifetime.

If we want to be modern women, we eventually have to adapt to the new times–but I refuse. Unfortunately, I’m a child of D.C’s 60s and still have old-school leanings when it comes to love and dating. I believe men are supposed to call first – and no, a text message that reads “whatchu doin 2nite?” does not constitute invitiation. I believe men should ask you “out” on real dates. “Out” means not “in” the house – microwave popcorn and a DVD do not a date make. And no, dinner does not guarantee that you will get “dessert.” When women like me stay committed to our rules, the selection of women is so plentiful that men can quickly and easily move on to the next target, many of whom don’t impose any rules. So, for men in the Maryland-DC area, dating is like an all-you-can-eat buffet. For women, it’s more like a rice cake—dry and unsatisfying.

People often ask me where my sense of humor comes from and why I incorporate so much into my writing. The answer is simple: I laugh to keep from crying. When you haven’t had a decent date since Jesus was a carpenter, you have to laugh to keep from crying. When you’ve reached level of financial success such that your blip on a man’s dating radar reads “sugar mama,” you have to laugh to keep from crying. When your heart’s been stepped on so many times that it can double as a Dance Dance Revolution Mat, you have to laugh to keep from crying. Some might consider such a dating life depressing, sad, or lonely. For me, it’s entertaining and replete with writing material. Without experiencing another relationship, I could write for eternity based on the life I’ve lived until today. And I view that as an enormous blessing–because if I write a hundred books one of them is bound to be a bestseller.

Ahhh, but fret not single ladies in the metropolitan area, there is a small glimmer of hope at the end of the grim, dark tunnel of DC dating. It’s called “relocation.”  However, until your big moving day comes, stick to your rules, persevere…and laugh through your tears. 

Thanks again K.L. Brady for a great guest post. If you have enjoyed this guest post, stay tuned for my review of The Bum Magnet.

About the Author:

K.L. Brady is a D.C. native, but spent a number of her formative years in Bellaire, Ohio.  She says, “I know, you’ve never heard of it. It’s famous for three things: The House That Jack Built, New England Patriots wide receiver, Joey Galloway, and the home of Three’s Company star Joyce DeWitt.”  She’s also an alumnus of the University of the District of Columbia and University of Maryland University College, earning a B.A. in Economics and M.B.A., respectively.

Literary Road Trip

Hello everyone! I’ve joined the fun and will be hosting local authors and poets here on the blog from the Maryland and Washington, D.C., area as part of GalleySmith‘s project, The Literary Road Trip.

Participants do not have to reside only in the United States; this is a global project. All you have to do is leave a comment on The Literary Road Trip page with your state, Canadian province, or country. Come join the fun.

I’m shooting for one post per month as a regular feature here, but I could bump up the frequency as it becomes more routine here on the blog.

Publishers and Publicists: Please feel free to suggest (savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com) Maryland and D.C. authors and poets for me to showcase, as well as books they have written–either new publications or those from the backlist.

Authors & Poets: Email me (savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com) with your information and we’ll start up a conversation about you, your work, and whatever else you want to discuss as a feature in The Literary Road Trip project.