Monday, December 5, 2016

Louisiana books make excellent holiday gifts

Books make excellent gifts so why not give the gift of reading this year? Here are some lovely coffee table books and cookbooks that make excellent gifts.
            Artist Floyd Sonnier captured south Louisiana lifestyles in pen-and-ink drawings that have been revered for decades. Now there’s a book that compiles his Christmas drawings, many of which have been reproduced on Christmas cards and other holiday products.
The bilingual “Christmas in Cajun Country,” published by Acadian House Publishing of Lafayette, offers two dozen images the late Sonnier made between 1980 and 2001, accompanied by season’s greetings the artist wrote for Christmas cards.
The book includes an article titled “The True Story of Christmas,” which is an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke describing the birth of the Christ Child and lyrics of the song, “The Little Drummer Boy,” one of Sonnier’s favorite Christmas tunes. “Christmas in Cajun Country” is available at Louisiana bookstores and gift shops and may be obtained online at or by mail order from Acadian House Publishing, P.O. Box 52247, Lafayette, LA 70505, (800) 850-8851. It retails for $29.95 plus $4 for shipping.
            Harvey J. Lewis took up collecting Louisiana hunting decoys in 1975, then veered into antique decoys. When good ones became scarce and expensive he whittled his collection down to 20 antiques. At a friend’s recommendation, however, he decided to write about contemporary carvers.
The result is “A Legacy Preserved: Contemporary Louisiana Decoy Carvers” by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, a beautiful book that offers a historical overview on hunting decoys, a primer on how decoys are created and spotlights on 18 Louisiana carvers today, accented by detailed photos.
            Vincent P. Caire offers a century of photographic history with “Military Aviation in the Gulf South,” published by LSU Press. Caire includes the military bases located along the Gulf, which provided open waters and unrestricted skies for flight training programs and defensive operations, and travels from the earliest flights and World War I to contemporary flight training.
Architects William B. Wiener and his half-brother Samuel G. Wiener were at the forefront of the modernist style in America, designing buildings in Shreveport that incorporated the architectural elements coursing through Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. Karen Kingsley, professor emerita of Tulane’s School of Architecture and Guy W. Carwile, an award-winning Louisiana architect, examine their brothers’ career in an LSU Press book, “The Modernist Architecture of Samuel G. and William B. Wiener.” The book is accented by both black and white and color photographs of past and existing buildings designed by the brothers, everything from residential homes to the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium.
Scott Veazey purchased the Nile Mile Point home of a lifelong friend and mentor, artist Martha Wright Ambrose. What he found inside were dozens of paintings and sketches of New Orleans landscapes and people. Author Roulhac Toledano, along with Veazey, have published a tribute to Ambrose in a gorgeous coffee table book titled “Martha Wright Ambrose (1914-2000): The Rediscovery of a Southern Regional Artist,” published by UL-Lafayette Press. The book follows Ambrose’s life and career, her worldly travels and New Orleans owners and art teachers she came in contact with. Many of her architectural paintings are juxtaposed with photographs of the homes and buildings existing today. It’s a retrospective artists dream about, and how lucky are readers that her work was discovered.
The Historic New Orleans Collection is bringing jazz legend Danny Barker’s autobiography, “A Life in Jazz,” back into print with the release of a new illustrated and expanded edition, available Thursday, Dec. 8. Barker was a city legend, an international representative of jazz and African American culture and a symbol of New Orleans jazz. He has appeared on more than a thousand recordings, played with greats like Jelly Roll Morton and Cab Calloway, and penned dozens of original songs, including his biggest hit, “Don’t You Make Me High [Don’t You Feel My Leg],” sung by his wife, Blue Lu Barker. “A Life in Jazz” was first published in 1986 and edited by Alyn Shipton, a music historian and jazz program host on BBC Radio. The new edition features an introduction by Gwen Thompkins, former NPR reporter and now host of public radio’s “Music Inside Out.” The new edition also includes more than 100 images, a discography and a never-before-published song catalog. “A Life in Jazz” is the third volume in THNOC’s Louisiana Musicians Biography Series, following “Unfinished Blues: Memories of a New Orleans Music Man” by Harold Battiste Jr. with Karen Celestan and “Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans” by Ben Sandmel.

New releases
A.L. Vincent has published a Christmas prequel to her Fleur de Lis series, a romance titled “Catch and Release.” The book’s main character, Carly Devereaux, is single again and she’s determined to find the perfect guy by Christmas Eve.
Vincent will host a release party Friday, Dec. 9, at Legends on Bertrand in Lafayette and will sign books Saturday at the Mistleteaux Market in New Iberia.
Perfectionistic Branna Lind has found true love with James Newbern, but the winds of Hurricane Katrina have pushed their wedding date into an uncertain future in Linda Joyce’s new romance, “Branna,” book one in the Fleur de Lis brides series. Newbern’s gun-toting ex-fiancée has been dipping into crazy, but despite Branna’s ranting, he’s not agreeing to a quickie Vegas wedding. His fiancée will be a Fleur de Lis bride, just as tradition dictates, or he’ll die trying.
Another wedding novel is “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Christa Allan of New Orleans. One moment Olivia Kavanaugh is preparing to walk down the aisle and embrace her own happily ever after, the next she learns that her fiancé, Wyatt Hammond, has been in a fatal car accident. Then comes a startling discovery: Wyatt’s car wasn’t heading toward the church. He was 50 miles away — with a baby gift in the backseat.

Book events for the week of Dec. 5, 2016
Barnes & Noble Lafayette will host a “Harry Potter Magical Holiday Ball” beginning at 7 p.m. Friday. Dress like your favorite Harry Potter character or wear your holiday best for dancing, music, activities and giveaways. 
Shane K. Bernard signs copies of “Teche: A History of Louisiana’s Most Famous Bayou” at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette.
Local authors will sell and sign books from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday as part of “Author’s Alley” at the South and North Regional branch libraries in Lafayette.
George Graham signs “Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana: Recipes, Stories and Photographs” from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Crescent City Farmers Market and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum of New Orleans.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Cookbook Thursday: Big Bad Breakfast

Chef John Currence hails from New Orleans but he’s been tearing up Oxford, Miss., with his innovative restaurants — City Grocery, Nacho Mama’s and Snackbar. Now the James Beard Award winner has published a cookbook to match his breakfast eatery, “Big Bad Breakfast: The Most Important Book of the Day.”

With a foreword by Chef John Besh of New Orleans and David Chang, the cookbook not only offers recipes for the most important meal of the day, but places the morning meal on a Southern-flavored pedestal. It’s jam-packed with cooking techniques, personal reminiscences (loved his experience working with a grumpy German chef), basics such as how to cook an egg and the “Ten Commandments of Breakfast” which include always using butter and cooking from scratch. The recipes ran the gamut, from the traditional and expected to the experimental and fun: homemade pop-tarts, North Mississippi eggs Benedict, pain perdu with rum sauce, grits and collard souffeé — even spicy boudin and poached eggs.

If there’s a breakfast lover on your gift list, especially one who loves to have a good time in the kitchen, this book is a must. In addition to Beard honors, Currence was a Top Chef Masters contestant, author and recipient of the Southern Foodways Alliance Guardian of the Tradition Award. He lives in Oxford.

Cheré Dastugue Coen is a food and travel writer living in South Louisiana. She is also the author of several Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire and the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Ebook spotlight: 'Hartman House'

Imagine a house that is a safe haven from witch hunters and werewolf or vampire slayers.  Where any mystical being could live, safe from the threat of the outside world.  The Hartman family were themselves witches and had always tried their best to protect their own, and to protect other magical beings as well. To do so they built a large mansion on the edge of New Orleans and spelled it to conceal any magic.

It’s all a part of “Hartman House” by A L Wright, the first book in the Hartman House Saga and only 99 cents to download.

Here’s the book description: The spell on the house also kept the wolves from needing to turn on full moons.  And kept the vampires from needing to feed on human blood.  With such powerful allies living among them, they could create search and rescue teams to help bring in those who were being hunted down like animals. And with so many successful rescues in recent times, the current leaders of Hartman House needed to find the secret to the spell over the house.  The same spell whose secret had died with the last of the Hartman’s fifteen years earlier.

Louisiana Book News is written by journalist Chere Dastugue Coen, who writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. The first two books in her award-winning series are free as ebooks! For more information and to sign up for her newsletter visit

Sunday, November 27, 2016

DeSantis explains little-known Thibodaux massacre

On Nov. 23, 1887, white vigilantes angered by striking sugar cane workers gunned down black men and women in their homes and on the streets of Thibodaux for more than two hours. This horrific tragedy that turned into an ugly secret few would later speak of is the basis of John DeSantis’ book, “The Thibodaux Massacre: Racial Violence and the 1887 Sugar Cane Labor Strike.” The number of those killed has never been known — an inquest report filed by the parish coroner stated eight victims — but DeSantis believes the number could have been as high as 60. Some of the victims included two elderly people, one a woman. Even the bodies of the slain are unaccounted for, some believed to have been buried in unmarked graves. The event forced an exodus of African Americans from the city. DeSantis offers Louisiana history of slavery, sugar cane production and the Civil War aftermath to give readers an idea of the environment and moods of white citizens reacting to striking workers. But the most chilling part of the book is his recollection of a journalist asking black Thibodaux residents if they had recalled the event and all but one, an elderly woman, did not. Even in this day and age, the older resident refused to speak of the massacre in fear of retaliation. DeSantis is the senior staff writer at the Times of Houma and a former city editor at the Thibodaux Daily Comet. His other books include “For the Color of His Skin: The Murder of Yusuf Hawkins and The Trial of Bensonhurst” and “The New Untouchables: How America Sanctions Police Violence.” He will discuss and sign “The Thibodaux Massacre” at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Octavia Books of New Orleans.

Pelican books
Pelican Publishing of New Orleans offers the following fall releases:

Linda Thurman of Hammond offers part memoir and part expose in “Hollywood South: Glamour, Gumbo, and Greed.” Thurman has worked in the entertainment industry in New Orleans, Dallas, New York, London, Moscow and Los Angeles and served as co-owner of Emerald Bayou Studios.

Kathy Finn of New Orleans has penned the biography “Tom Benson: A Billionaire’s Journey.” Finn is a journalist with Reuters news agency and a columnist and feature writer for regional publications.

Capt. Robert Mueller of Mandeville details the post-Hurricane Katrina rescue operations in “Coast Guard Heroes of New Orleans,” with a foreword by Rear Adm. Joseph Castillo, the Eighth District chief of operations in New Orleans and who commanded the Coast Guard’s Katrina evacuation and rescue efforts. Before retiring, Mueller led USCG surface rescue operations post-Katrina.

Writer and historian Christopher G. Pena, a native of New Orleans, looks at “The Strange Case of Dr. Etienne Deschamps: Murder in the New Orleans French Quarter.” A 12-year-old immigrant was found dead at Deschamps’ home along with the deranged dentist, who believed a young virgin would help him find Jean Lafitte’s treasure. 

Joel L. Fletcher’s “Ken and Thelma: The Story of ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’” is now in paperback. Fletcher is a Louisiana native and worked with John Kenndy Toole (author of “A Confederacy of Dunces”) during his tenure at UL-Lafayette.

Book news
From left to right: Hebert, Ayika, Jackson

The University of Louisiana Monroe’s English program hosted its annual Best Freshman Essay Awards Ceremony Nov. 14, an essay contest held each fall for English 1001 students to demonstrate their writing abilities and creativity. The winners were first place, Princess Ayika for her essay titled “The Color of My Skin is Not Me;” second place, Even Hebert for his essay titled “Blind Hysteria” and third place, Allison Jackson for her essay titled “Another Day Another Dog.” The essays are written based on a unit taught alongside Writing Today and the summer reader “This I Believe,” essay selections from National Public Radio.

Katie Manning’s “Tasty Other,” a collection of poems, has won the 2016 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Manning earned a PhD in English from UL-Lafayette and teaches as an associate professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University. She is the author of four chapbook-length poetry collections: “A Door with a Voice” (Agape Editions), “The Gospel of the Bleeding Woman” (Point Loma Press), “I Awake in My Womb” (Yellow Flag Press) and “Tea with Ezra” (Boneset Books). She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Whale Road Review. The book is scheduled for release this month.

And good news for those of you who asked for paperback copies of my books, written under the pen name of Cherie Claire. My “Cajun Embassy” series of contemporary romance is now available in trade paperback at online bookstores. The three books that make up the Cajun Embassy series — “Ticket to Paradise,” “Damn Yankees” and “Gone Pecan,” the latter set in Lafayette —follows three Columbia journalism coeds homesick for Louisiana who find comfort at school in a bowl of Cajun gumbo. Each book spotlights these dedicated friends as they make their way into the world. Because love — and a good gumbo — cures everything.  
P.S. There’s a gumbo recipe in each book.

Book events Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2017

S.R. Perricone discusses and signs his book, “The Shadows of Nazareth,” at 2 p.m. today at Garden District Bookshop in New Orleans.

Lyrically Inclined Open Mic will be Monday at The Brass Room, 1301 Surrey St; Lafayette.

New Orleans author Chris Tusa takes a look into an alternate reality for New Orleans with his book “In the City of Fallen Stars” at 6 p.m. Monday at Octavia Books of New Orleans

The Writers Guild meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes and Noble Lafayette.

Maple Street Books of New Orleans celebrates the release of Elizabeth Gross’ new chapbook, “Dear Escape Artist,” at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Local writers Anya Groner and Carlus Henderson will join her.

Bill Lascher, author of “Eve of a Hundred Midnights: The Star-Crossed Love Story of Two WWII Correspondents and Their Epic Escape Across the Pacific,” will discuss his book at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Jewish Community Center of New Orleans.

In conjunction with The Historic New Orleans Collection’s free exhibition “Goods of Every Description: Shopping in New Orleans, 1825–1925,” historian, author and former THNOC curator John Magill will present a look at the history of Christmas shopping on New Orleans’s historic Canal Street at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The illustrated presentation will examine variety and department stores—including D. H. Holmes and Maison Blanche—local retailers such as Adler’s and Rubenstein’s and the holiday decorations that lined the famous shopping street. Markets, Santa Claus, elves, the coming of Christmas trees to the United States and the ever-popular Mr. Bingle will all be discussed. Admission is free, and reservations are recommended.

George Graham signs “Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana: Recipes, Stories and Photographs” from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday at The Kitchenary during the Oil Center’s Festival of Lights in Lafayette, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Octavia Books of New Orleans and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Barnes & Noble Mandeville.

The Conundrum bookstore in St. Francisville celebrates its one-year anniversary on Saturday as part of the city’s Christmas in The Country celebration.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Ebook Spotlight: 'Bayou My Love' and 'Christmas Bells'

Newly published is "Christmas Bells" by Linda Joyce, an author who lives elsewhere but claims Cajun blood. Her debut romance novel, "Bayou Born" is a 2014 RONE Award finalist and her second novel, "Bayou Bound" won first place in romance from the Southeastern Writers Association. "Christmas Bells" is only 99 cents to download. Here’s the book description:

After grieving the loss of her husband and son, TV host Morgan Marshall is ready to embrace life again. But she won’t risk a relationship with the father of her favorite cooking student, Avery, since the girl’s happiness is more important than her own.

Advertising executive Alex Blake never thought another woman could pique his interest after losing his wife to pneumonia, a complication of her cancer. Yet every time he’s in Morgan’s presence, she brings sunlight into the room. Plus, she’s a role model for his daughter, always assuring Avery that dyslexia can’t hold her back. But if he asks Morgan for a date and then she refuses a second one, the person he loves the most, Avery, could get hurt the worst because she adores Morgan.

When Alex is injured in a fall, Morgan insists on caring for him and Avery. As they share holiday fun, Avery topples Morgan’s beloved crystal bell collection, shattering it to pieces. Through it all, they discover love of one another is more priceless than any object money can buy. Love rings in the air at Christmastime. 

"Bayou My Love" by Family Circle Award-winning author Lauren Faulkenberry is only 99 cents to download right now (originally $10). Here’s the book description:

Thirty-year-old Enza Parker is at a crossroads. To prove to her overbearing father she can flip a house on her own, she takes on an ambitious project that brings back painful memories—and puts her in the path of the most alluring man she’s ever met. Enza plans to flip the house she inherited from her estranged grandmother in Bayou Sabine, Louisiana. As a child, she spent summers there until the day her mother inexplicably left. Since then, Enza hasn’t let anyone get close to her.

Arriving in Bayou Sabine, Enza finds her house occupied by bedeviling firefighter Jack Mayronne. Enza wants to kick him out, but Jack convinces her to let him stay in exchange for helping with repairs. With only six weeks to fix the house and sell, she’s determined to prove her father wrong, but she didn’t count on Bayou Sabine and Jack capturing her heart. When Enza’s fling with Jack intensifies, she finds herself entangled with a vengeful arsonist from Jack’s past. As she reaches her breaking point, she must decide: Should she sell the house and leave her past in Bayou Sabine behind for good, or can she overcome her fears and build a new life there with Jack?

Louisiana Book News is written by journalist Chere Dastugue Coen, who writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. The first two books in her award-winning series are FREE as ebooks! For more information and to sign up for her newsletter visit


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Children's books for holiday gifts

As you make plans for Black Friday and all that shopping chaos that looms on the Thanksgiving horizon, may I suggest adding books to your holiday list?
            Here are a few children’s books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in the past month that are sure to please:
            The lesson that everything and everyone matters lies in the message of “The Christmas Eve Tree” by Delia Huddy, illustrated by Emily Sutton. A little tree doesn’t grow well in a Christmas tree farm, so it also doesn’t sell. A small homeless boy asks to keep the tree when a shopkeeper throws it out and uses his meager earnings to decorate it while other homeless sing songs, which brings people together in the spirit of Christmas. Afterwards, a street cleaner notices some green left in the tree so he plants it in a park, where “against all odds it grew — if not big and tall, at least cheerfully stout.”
            Okay, so I’m a tree hugger but I adored this book, both for its gentle story and its lovely illustrations.
Caldecott Honor winner Aaron Becker finishes his wordless Journey trilogy which started with “Journe” and “Quest” with “Return,” about a lonely girl who leaves home after failing to get the attention of her father. She encounters a world of castles and magic, which is shared with her father, who follows. It is magic that allows them to return, but something more powerful that brings them together.
Pelican Publishing has produced several new titles for fall, including two children’s books:
Johnette Downing pays homage to our neighboring state with “Down in Mississippi,” illustrated by Katherine Zecca. The book spotlights the Magnolia State’s various wildlife, with accompanying rhyme, then offers facts about those creatures and a song of the same name (Downing is also a musician) in the back.
            Downing will sign copies of “Down in Mississippi,” “Today is Monday in Louisiana” and “Petit Pierre and the Floating Marsh” at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Maple Street Books in New Orleans.
Nana serves Kole green dinosaur pancakes — those made with food coloring — for breakfast one morning and while Nana leaves the kitchen the dinosaurs come to life in the charming “Green Dinosaur Pancakes” by Kat Pigott, illustrated by Mason Sibley. Did Kole dream the dinosaurs fighting on his plate? Regardless, the next time he’s served pancakes by Nana, he eats them right up.

Book events
George Graham signs “Acadiana Table: Cajun and Creole Home Cooking from the Heart of Louisiana: Recipes, Stories and Photographs” from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. today at Barnes & Noble–Perkins Rowe in Baton Rouge, at 11 a.m. Friday at Paul Michael Company in Lafayette and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Lafayette Farmers Market at the Horse Farm.
Liz Williams signs “Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans” from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. today at Page and Palette in Fairhope, Ala., and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble, Baton Rouge.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cookbook Thursday — Following Fitzgerald

Maybe it’s all the talk about heading to Canada now that the election has put a man in the White House only half of Americans approve of, but “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Taste of France: Recipes inspired by the cafes and bars of Fitzgerald’s Paris and the Riviera in the 1920s” by Carol Hilker seemed to be the cookbook to spotlight this week. Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda, along with Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce and many other writers and artists were ex-patriots of their time, traveling through Europe after the devastating effects World War I inflicted on their generation. As Hilker writes in the book’s beginning, “Welcome to the Fitzgerald expat food tour.”

The book contains recipes of dishes you might find today in France, but also American dishes adopted by the French and several influenced by particular writers. There’s Oscar Wilde’s cucumber finger sandwiches, Gertrude Stein’s roast beef picnic sandwich and James Joyce’s beef tea. Fried chicken, a dish that Daisy and Tom enjoy in “The Great Gatsby,” is also included (Fitzgerald wrote the novel while in Paris) and chicken salad stuffed tomatoes, another more American dish found in Fitzgerald’s “The Beautiful and Damned.” Most recipes, however, stick to France.

Hilker also points out that artists weren’t the only ones overseas. Bartenders frustrated with Prohibition also fled the country and the “resulting fusion of American and French know-how made Paris a top-notch center of cocktail culture,” she writes. There’s the 1920s Bee’s Knees, for instance, and The Gin Rickey, the later which makes an appearance in “The Great Gatsby.”

Hilker is also the author of “Dirty Food: Over 65 devilishly delicious recipes for the best worst food you'll ever eat!” and “Breakfast for Dinner: Morning meals get a decadent makeover in this inspiring collection of rule-breaking recipes.”

Cheré Dastugue Coen is a food and travel writer living in South Louisiana. She is also the author of several Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire and the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” Write her at