Sunday, July 6, 2014

Great books, authors, relaxing spa — does it get any better?

            What’s better than a retreat to a full-service spa in the hills outside Austin? How about a spa retreat that features book and authors?
            Lake Austin Spa near Austin is offering a “For the Love of Books Author Series” in which authors visit the resort and offer classes to participants as well as chances to enjoy spa services with them. Coming up in July is “Readers Love Romance” with New York Times bestselling authors Tessa Dare, Kerrelyn Sparks and Lori Wilde. There will be writing workshops, a wine and chocolate reception, wine and cheese chat and chances to enjoy activities with all three. Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nine historical romance novels and three novellas. Sparks is the New York Times bestselling author of the Love at Stake series that’s up to book 15 and Wilde is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 70 works of romantic fiction. 
            Coming up later this summer is Patricia Schultz, author of the international bestsellers “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” and “1,000 Places to See in the UnitedStates and Canada Before You Die” and Katrina Kenison, author of “The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir” and “Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment.”
            Lake Austin Spa is a full-service resort owned by Louisiana natives Michael W. McAdams, who lives in the Dallas area, and William W. Rucks IV of Lafayette. The two men met at LSU.

Cracker Jack Awards
            Who knew that Jim Davis, the director of the Center for the Book at the Louisiana State Library, was a Cracker Jack collector? And because of this knowledge Davis wrote the introductory first chapter history of Cracker Jack in “The CrackerJack Collection: Baseball’s Prized Players,” a book that celebrates the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest baseball card collections in the world. Recently, “The Cracker Jack Collection” by authors Tom Zappala and Ellen Zappala took the silver prize in the Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Awards, bumped out by “A Passion for Grouse: The Lore and Legend of America’s Premier Game Bird,” which took gold. Davis, who has a great sense of humor, quipped, “I think it should have been the gold winner, of course, but I won’t ‘grouse’ about it.”

New releases
            When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, Ibby is sent to live with her eccentric grandmother, Fannie, in New Orleans. Fannie’s African American cook, Queenie, and her daughter, Dollbaby, take the young girl under their wings and teach her the ways of the South, in addition to the dark secrets of Fannie’s house and life, in Laura Lane McNeal’s “Dollbaby.” McNeal discusses and signs copies of the book at 6 p.m. Thursday at Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans.

Books Talks
            The second Bayou State Books Talks by the UL-Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with Michael Marshall speaking about his book, “GallantCreoles: A History of the Donaldsonville Cannoniers,” at the South Regional Library, 6101 Johnston St. in Lafayette. The book explains the 19th-century Louisiana militia company, highlights its activities during the Civil War and includes biographies of each Donaldsonville Canonnier who served. The event is free and open to the public, and books will be available for purchase.

Book events
            The Bayou Vermilion Preservation Association’s upcoming lecture series “Clean Steams” will feature Dana Nunez Brown, who will speak about “Plants that Soak It Up and Slow the Flow” at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Southside Library. Brown is a Louisiana landscape architect and author of a new book, “Using Plants for Stormwater Management.” The talk will be free to the public, but reservations are required; visit or call 591-1582.
            Voices Season Reading Series presents a special evening of literary readings by poets J. Bruce Fuller, Hillary Joubert and J.K. McDowell at 7 p.m. Thursday at Carpe Diem! Gelato – Espresso Bar in downtown Lafayette. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Clare L. Martin at
            Sam Irwin will sign “Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the CajunCrustacean” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Old Governor’s Mansion, sponsored by the Foundation for Historical Louisiana.
            Cajun French poet Beverly Matherne will read from her work in French and English with accompaniment by professional drummer and percussionist Michael Tramonte at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Ascension Parish Library-Gonzales Branch, 708 S. Irma Blvd. in Gonzales. A book signing and reception will follow. Free, but call to register at (225) 647-3955.
            Mark Sutter, author of “Edible Wild Plants of Texas,” will offer a four-hour workshop on finding edible plants from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Vermilionville in Lafayette. For more information and to register, contact Jolie Johnson by calling (337) 233-4077, Ext. 211 or email
            Several authors will be signing copies of their books at the Ville Platte Bastille Day festivities from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Ville Platte Civic Center Pavilion. Authors include Mary Gehman, author of “The Free People of Color of New Orleans;” Jane Vidrine and Jean Kiesel, authors of “Evangeline Parish;” and John LaFleur, author of “Laissez Les Bontemps Rouler: Could ‘Louisiana French’ Have Survived Without the Acadians? Commerce, Confusion & the Consequences of ‘Cajun’ Cultural Identity.”
            To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion at Normandy, which was June 6, Lafayette novelist Dennis Ward and documentary filmmaker Bonnie Friedman will present their related artworks at 3 p.m. Saturday at Cité des Arts Theater in downtown Lafayette. Ward will discuss his historical novel, “Mademoiselle Gigi,” based on a true story of Gisèle “Gigi” Carriton, a young Jewish girl who survived the Nazi occupation of France. Friedman will screen her documentary “Operation Sussex,” which honors the men and women of a secret allied spy mission. The author and filmmaker will answer questions and have books and DVDs available for purchase and signing. For further information, contact Ward at (337) 453-0726 or
Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at