Tuesday, May 31, 2016

June a perfect time to visit World War II Museum

Summer is here and thoughts turn to beaches and sunshine. Closer to home, why not spend a day at one of the world's finest museums and learn about America's history in the process.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans commemorates the anniversary of D-Day, when on June 6, 1944, American and British forces landed on the beaches in Normandy, France, and turned the tide of the war to the Allied’s favor. This year features Maxine Giannini, whose late husband, Ugo, was a combat artist and later author of “Drawing D-Day: An Artist’s Journey Through War.” She will recount her husband’s experiences landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day as one of a platoon of military police assigned to the 29th Division, the drawings he made that day and the impact it had on his life. Joe Balkoski, author and 29th Division historian, will also reflect on the history and strategy of June 6, 1944. Additionally, the museum will offer visitors the chance to climb aboard a Higgins boat, landing craft created in New Orleans for the D-Day invasion.
The museum opened on the anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2000, and was originally dedicated to the story of D-Day in Normandy. Museum founder and author Stephen E. Ambrose dedicated the museum in the city where Andrew Higgins created the amphibious Higgins Boats that Eisenhower described as "the man who won the war for us."
Check out the full day of events at the World War II Museum for the 72nd anniversary of D-Day. 
On June 21, author Stephen Harding presents “The Castaway's War: One Man's Battle against Imperial Japan” beginning at 5 p.m. There will be a reception at 5 p.m., a presentation at 6 p.m. and a book signing at 7 p.m., all in the museum’s U.S. Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center.
In the early hours of July 5, 1943, the destroyer USS Strong was hit by a Japanese torpedo, breaking the destroyer's back, flooding her engine room and killing dozens of sailors. While accompanying ships were able to rescue most of Strong's surviving crewmen, scores were submerged in the ocean as the shattered warship sank beneath the waves—and a young officer's harrowing story of survival began. Based on official American and Japanese histories, personal memoirs and the author's interviews with key participants, "The Castaway's War" tells the personal tale of Navy Lt. Hugh Barr Miller's fight for survival against both a hostile environment and an implacable human enemy.
Harding is the author of eight previous books, including The New York Times best seller “The Last Battle” and “Last to Die.” He is a longtime journalist specializing in military affairs. For nearly two decades, he was on the staff of Soldiers, the official magazine of the US Army, reporting from Northern Ireland, Israel, Egypt, New Zealand, Bosnia, Kuwait and Iraq. Currently he is editor-in-chief of Military History magazine.
The author program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Ensure your spot by RSVPing online or by phone at 504-528-1944 x 412.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nevada Barr's latest takes on Acadia National Park

             I’m a big fan of Anna Pigeon, Nevada Barr’s National Park Service Ranger who must face a host of mysteries in her work at the nation’s parks. Anna travels to Acadia National Park in Maine in Barr’s latest mystery, “Boar Island.”
            Anna takes a temporary job as Acting Chief Ranger at the Maine park but brings along her aunt Gwen, her paraplegic friend Heath Jarrod and her daughter, Elizabeth, who’s lately been the target of cyber-bullying. Anna hopes the move will give Elizabeth time to recover from the brutal attacks and the group moves into a house on rugged Boar Island, off the Maine coast.
             The group has barely arrived when new cyber-attacks happen, making them realize the stalker has followed them to Maine. Then a murder occurs, which calls for Anna’s attention. By the end of the story, the two tales conclude in a dramatic conclusion, with some pieces intertwining.
            The novel brings to light the devastating impact cyber-bullying can cause, especially on vulnerable young people. One of the reasons the group moves to the remote island is because Heath found her daughter attempting suicide. There’s also a corresponding thread of two identical twins finding one another.
            Barr, who lives in New Orleans, has worked as a ranger for the National Park Service and brings that experience to her novels. A travel writer when not penning this book column, I love her books because she sets each one in a new park, using the setting as if it was another character. I was excited that she had set this one in Acadia National Park, one of the most popular parks in the system but one I had never visited. I was disappointed the park wasn’t used as prominent as in her other books. The two parallel story threads also became tiring until the action sped up in the second half of the book.
            Barr will sign “Boar Island” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, at Octavia Books of New Orleans.

Discovering authors
            An ardent science fiction fan and native of Lafayette, Michael Moreau has written several book series, including “The Futureman Adventures,” “Rocket Riders of the 27th Century” and as co-creator of “The Robert Carson Files.” His latest books are “Future Tales and Other Such Rubbish” and “Sherlock Holmes: Monster Hunter.” Moreau is founder of the small publisher Outworld Press as well as being a photographer, filmmaker, costume designer, prop builder and artist. For more information, visit www.mmoreau.net.
            Louisiana’s Rhonda R. Dennis started out in emergency medical care but after graduating college as a non-traditional student felt compelled to write a short story. She has since written several novels and short stories, including “The Green Bayou” series, and has released a romantic comedy titled “Magnolia Blossoms” and a contemporary romance “Yours Always.” She was a nominee in multiple categories for the 2013 Indie Romance Convention Readers’ Choice Awards. For more information, visit www.rhondadennis.net.
Louisiana native Jackie Shemwell earned a degree in French and maintains a love of Francophone Cajun folklore. She weaves personal experience and family history into her short stories, poetry and her first novel, a circa-1957 Southern Gothic suspense tale titled “The Devil in Canaan Parish.”
Elizabeth Sinclair hails from Florida but she sets her paranormal time-traveling novel, “Garden of the Moon,” at a Louisiana plantation named Harrogate that her main character Sara Wade has inherited. Lauren Faulkenberry is also not a native but her latest novel, “Bayou My Love,” is set in “Bayou Sabine, Louisiana,” where 30-year-old Enza Parker is attempting to flip a house she inherited from her estranged grandmother. When she arrives, she finds the house occupied by a cute firefighter who agrees to help with repairs.
All of these books are available online as ebooks.

Facebook discoveries
Just read on Facebook — where I get my news because people have forgotten what email is — that UL’s Ernest J. Gaines Center will host a one-month interdisciplinary NEH Summer Institute on the work of Ernest J. Gaines, titled “Ernest J. Gaines and the Southern Experience.” This program will be Monday through June 24 on the UL campus and is open to any collegiate faculty and graduate students across the country. For information, visit http://ernestgaines.louisiana.edu.
P.S. If you want to be in this column, which reaches thousands, drop me an email.

Walker Percy Weekend
The third annual Walker Percy Weekend, celebrating the life and work of one of Louisiana’s most acclaimed writers, is Friday through Sunday in St. Francisville. There will be panel discussions, scholar presentations, an art exhibition of photographs of Percy and a series of social and culinary events inspired by the author’s most famous works. In addition, there will be special events such as bourbon tastings and crawfish and craft beer in Parker Park. For more information, visit www.walkerpercyweekend.org.

Book events
            An Author Book Rally with several authors in attendance will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at The Thensted Center in Grand Coteau.
            The Writers Guild of Acadiana meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, at Barnes & Noble Lafayette. The speaker will be WGA Vice President Greg Foshee, author of “A Crown of Jewels,” “A Crown of Thorns” and “Boudreaux’s Revenge.” The meeting is free and open to the public.
The Bayou Writers Group meets at 10 a.m. the first Saturday of each month at the Carnegie Memorial Library in Lake Charles. Sharyn Schmitz will speak on “Outlining and Publishing.” For information, visit http://bayouwritersgroup.com/.

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 cherecoen@gmail.com.