Sunday, August 3, 2014

Domingue continues fantastical literary series

            Ronlyn Domingue of Lafayette created a stir with her 2005 debut novel, “The Mercy of Thin Air,” then followed that success with “The Mapmaker’s War,” uniquely narrated by a woman in second-person, a mapmaker living in an ancient but fantastical kingdom who inadvertently starts a war. 
            Her latest, “The Chronicle of Secret Riven: An Account of What Preceded the Plague of Silences,” is the second book in the “Keeper of Tales Trilogy,” and continues where the first left off, although a thousand years after the Mapmaker’s War. A city has been built in the land of the Guardians, once a non-violent people who guarded a mythic treasure, one discovered by the female mapmaker. In the second book, life and business continue much like our modern world, where prestige and position predominate.
            The book revolves around Secret Riven, a young girl who doesn’t speak until her seventh year, but who can communicate with animals and plants and relates better with the natural world. Like her cold but genius mother Zavat, an expert in ancient manuscript interpretation, Riven experiences unsettling dreams and visions. She takes solace from two friends and mentors, Prince Nikolas, the heir to the throne, and Old Woman, who Secret discovers in a stretch of wood shown to her by a squirrel.
            One day an arcane manuscript arrives for her mother to translate, and not long after her mother dies and the manuscript disappears. By the time Secret reaches adulthood, just past adolescence, she is called upon to find the manuscript and face a destiny as strange as her upbringing.
            Domingue leaves us hanging with “Secret Riven,” offering teases of what’s yet to come and hopeful answers to how the history of this fantastical world fits together. There’s talk of a “plague of silences.” We wonder how the mythology of the first book will come to play. And will Secret discover what’s true about herself?
            Originally, the plan was for two books in the series but it developed into a trilogy, which is good news for readers, offering us more time in Domingue’s world.            
            For more information on the books, visit www.ronlyndomingue.com.                       

New releases
            Donna McGee Onebane of Lafayette has just published “The House That Sugarcane Built: The Louisiana Burguières,” which tells the saga of Jules M. Burguières Sr. and five generations of Louisianans who, after the Civil War, established a sugar empire that has survived into the present. Onebane is a folklorist and English professor at UL-Lafayette.
            Joel Dinerstein, a Tulane professor, and Frank H. Goodyear III have researched what is cool in America, including an examination through photos and film, in “American Cool.” The book looks at the evolution of “cool” from the 1930s until today, and complements an exhibit currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
            Zachary Lazar of New Orleans has published “I Pity The Poor Immigrant,” a novel that reads like a memoir about a Jewish-American gangster.
            Christopher Everette Cenac with Claire Domangue Joller of Houma have published a documentation of southeast Louisiana brands in “Livestock Brands and Marks: An Unexpected Bayou Country History, 1822-1946, Pioneer Families, Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana.” Cenac is the Terrebonne Parish coroner and Joller is a journalist.
            Kathryn and James Elliott, therapists at Anthetic Psychology Center of Lafayette, have written a self-help romance titled “Hearts Entwined: The Love Letters of Therapist-Soulmates.” The book consists of 130 love letters written during their courtship 25 years ago.
            I recently enjoyed the first U.S. edition of “The Silver Donkey” by Sonya Hartnett, a middle grade novel first published in 2004 and winner of the 2008 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. The story concerns two young French girls who find an injured soldier in their woods. At first, the girls keep the soldier’s appearance a secret, bringing him food while enjoying his stories and a tiny silver donkey he holds as a good luck charm. But the soldier needs to return home to an ailing brother and the girls enlist the help of their brother and a friend.
            “The Silver Donkey” brilliantly captures the conversations of children and their innocent views on the world, as well as the unrealistic romantic lure of war. As the children’s visit the soldier, we learn of his abandonment from the trenches of World War I and the horrors he has seen through both his eyes clouded from warfare and through the stories he tells relating to the brave and steadfast donkeys. 

Writing events
            This Saturday is the Berries, Bridges and Books writing conference in Hammond with keynote speaker Erica Spindler. Registration is $35 and includes lunch. For a complete program, visit http://www.creativemindswriters.com/.
            The Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective is offering a unique fundraiser, a literary “Word Crawl” at Sept. 13’s ArtWalk, to help support its seventh annual Festival of Words in November. Participants may read their work during the all-day, all-night “Crawl” with support from sponsors. It’s a great way to read your work in fun places during a fun event and support a festival promoting literacy and the written/spoken word in Acadiana. For more information, visit festivalofwords.org or call Clare Martin at 962-5886.

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.” Her next book is “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History.” Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.