Sunday, December 31, 2017

Book highlights of 2017, Part II

On this the last day of the year I conclude my year in Louisiana books, spotlighting some of the literary highlights of 2017. Please remember its only the highlights. Itd be impossible to include all the great news that happened this year. Id love to hear what books you loved this past 2017. Please post your favorites on the Louisiana Book News Facebook page.
William Joyce
Young readers
Im a huge fan of Kimberly Willis Holt and her young reader books, but her latest, Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel, became my favorite. It concerns 13-year-old Stevie who loses her parents in a car accident and is forced to move in with her grumpy grandfather, Winston, who owns a run-down motel in Esther, Texas.

Atheneum Young Readers published several of William Joyce’s children’s books this year, under the label of “The World of William Joyce.” There was “Bentley & Egg,” “A Day with Wilbur Robinson” (Joyce produced the film adaption known as “Meet the Robinsons”) and “Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo,” among others.

Just in time for Hurricane Season was the young adult novel “Into the Hurricane” by Neil Connelly, an author who weathered five hurricanes while living in Lake Charles and uses that experience for this action-packed story where two teens finds themselves riding out a fierce storm off the Cameron Parish coast.

Evangeline Riley is quite happy living at the bottom of the world in a small fishing village known as Bayou Perdu in Plaquemines Parish until Hurricane Katrina arrives in Joanne O’Sullivan’s young adult tale “Between Two Skies.”

Saving Louisiana
C.E. Richard has published “Land’s End: Field Notes from the End of the World,” a collection of essays about Louisiana’s coastal erosion with photos by Frank McMains.

“Ain’t There No More: Louisiana’s Disappearing Coastal Plain” by Carl A. Brasseaux and Donald W. Davis spotlights the neglect of our coastline and the result of man-made flood control measures in aiding to the erosion of Louisiana’s coast.

Another University of Mississippi Press book detailing the Mississippi River and efforts to reign in this beast is James F. Barnett Jr.’s “Beyond Control: The Mississippi River’s New Channel to the Gulf of Mexico.” Barnett insists that even with the US Army Corps of Engineers Control Complex at Old River, which keeps the Mississippi from emerging through its historic channel and heading down the Atchafalaya Basin, the river will one day change course.

Lucy Buffett, who owns Lulus in Gulf Shores and Destin, tackled the Louisiana dish with Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking.

Megan Braden-Perry takes readers on a delightful tour of snowball heaven with “Crescent City Snow: The Ultimate Guide to New Orleans Snowball Stands,” published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press.

Dixie Poché of Lafayette published a sweet culinary history book with recipes titled Louisiana Sweets: King Cakes, Bread Pudding & Sweet Dough Pie.

Melinda Winans discovered 250 recipes of her father-in-law and published them in “The Fonville Winans Cookbook: Recipes and Photographs from a Louisiana Artist,” published by LSU Press.

2017 Book News
A Sisters in Crime chapter began in New Orleans this year, a national organization that promotes the advancement, recognition and professional development of women crime writers. The group meets at the East Bank Regional Library in Metairie.

The annual Dave Robicheaux's Hometown Literary Festival has been renamed the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival: Celebrating New Iberia, Dave Robicheaux's Hometown.

Maple Street Book Shop of New Orleans closed Aug 26 after 53 years in business.

The Conundrum, the latest independent bookstore to open in Louisiana, is now going into the publishing business. The St. Francisville bookstore has created Feliciana Publishing Partners.

The Festival of Words literary festival in Grand Coteau celebrated 10 years this November with featured authors Darrell Bourque, Allison Joseph and Patricia Smith.

The 20th anniversary of Words and Music, a Literary Feast in New Orleans, sponsored annually by the Faulkner Society, was celebrated this month. 

Book awards
Freedom in Congo Square, a picture book set in New Orleans that’s illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and written by Carole Boston Weatherford, took a Caldecott Honor Book award and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book award.

Author, illustrator and pioneer in the digital and animation industry William Joyce was honored as the 2017 Humanist of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

T. Geronimo Johnson of New Orleans won the inaugural Simpson Family Literary Prize, which awards $50,000 to “an author of fiction in the middle of a burgeoning career.” Johnson is the author of “Welcome to Braggsville,” longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award, the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and winner of the 2015 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.

Steve Rabalais’ book, “General Fox Conner: Pershing’s Chief of Operations and Eisenhower’s Mentor,” won the Army Historical Foundation’s Distinguished Writing Award in the field of biography for books published in 2016.

Louisiana author, songwriter and musician Johnette Downing was awarded the 18th annual Louisiana Writer Award at the Louisiana Book Festival in October.

Jack Bedell, professor of the Humanities at Southeastern Louisiana University, was chosen as the next Louisiana poet laureate.

Jesmyn Ward, associate professor of creative writing at Tulane, received the 2017 National Book Award for “Sing, Unburied, Sing.” Ward is a past National Book Award winner for “Salvage the Bones,” a novel about a family facing a hurricane on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana Historical Association awarded Rashauna Johnson’s “Slavery’s Metropolis: Unfree Labor in New Orleans during the Age of Revolutions” the winner of the 2016 Kemper and Leila Williams Prize in Louisiana History.

Jack E. Davis won the 2017 Kirkus Prize for “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea,” an environmental history of the Gulf of Mexico that considers the ravages of nature and man.

New Orleans writer Ladee Hubbard’s novel, “The Talented Ribkins,” was named winner of the 2017 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence. 

Photographer Philip Gould and cultural anthropologist Maida Owens won the 2016 and 2017 James Williams Rivers Award for Louisiana Studies.

Chere Coen is the author of several Louisiana non-fiction books and the Viola Valentine Louisiana paranormal mystery series under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Book highlights of 2017, Part I

Im not a fan of the Best Books of the Year list because who could possibly read every book out there within a years time? I have a hard time just keeping up with books by Louisiana authors or ones written about our unique and interesting state. Instead, Im going to give you the highlights of my book year in this column and in next week’s, and please remember its only the highlights. Itd be impossible to include all the great book news that happened in one year’s time. Id love to hear what books you’ve enjoyed this past 2017. Please post your favorites on the Louisiana Book News Facebook page.

The professors
Wiley Cash, who received his Ph.D. from UL-Lafayette, now lives in North Carolina where he set his latest book, The Last Ballad. The novel concerns the real Ella May Wiggins, who worked the cotton mills of North Carolina and joined the union movement, gaining popularity for her ballads of equality. The Last Ballad” resonates with pain, love, the struggle of life and the gross injustices of the world. 

Genaro Ky Ly Smith, a professor of creative writing at Louisiana Tech, sets his novel The Land South of the Clouds in the summer of 1979, a turning point for 10-year-old Long-Vanh, the novels narrator when his mother decides to leave Los Angeles and her American husband and return to Vietnam.

Award-winning author Arlie Russell Hochschild, a retired professor of sociology at U.C. Berkeley, a liberal California town, traveled to conservative Lake Charles in an attempt to bridge an empathy wall in Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.

Famous people       
Donna Brazile, a Louisiana native who worked as a political strategist and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, published Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that put Donald Trump in the White House.The book details the aftermath of the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Convention, the resignation of party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the final months of the 2016 campaign.

Walter Isaacson published his latest biography, “Leonardo da Vinci.” Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane, has been CEO of the Aspen Institute, chairman of CNN and editor of Time magazine. He is the author of The Innovators,” “Steve Jobs,” “Einstein: His Life and Universe,” “Benjamin Franklin: An American Lifeand Kissinger: A Biography.He is the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made.

Best-selling author Anne Rice of New Orleans and her son Christopher Rice have published Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra,” a “tale of ancient feuds and modern passions.”

Other favorite novels
Three New Orleans generations make up Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s heart-wrenching novel, “A Kind of Freedom,” each suffering through desires, ambitions and brutal limitations.

Ronlyn Domingue, who received her master’s of fine arts in creative writing from LSU, has been tackling an impressive, innovative and intricate trilogy spanning a thousand years in a fairy-tale land in “The Keeper of Tales Trilogy.” It’s an amazing body of work — adventure, myth, legends and symbolism spun together in a tapestry of tales that’s colored with a fascinating use of language.

Unusual history
Pamela D. Arceneaux, senior librarian and rare books curator at the Historic New Orleans Collection, collected information from the rare “blue books,” directories of madams and prostitutes of the Storyville red light district of New Orleans, for “Guidebooks to Sin: The Blue Books of Storyville, New Orleans.”

Christopher G. Pena looks at the strange happenings of Dr. Etienne Deschamps, who worked as a dentist, but many times treated his patients with magnetic and hypnotic powers in New Orleans of the late 1800s. His book, “The Strange Case of Dr. Etienne Deschamps: Murder in the New Orleans French Quarter” examines indecent acts upon two sisters while under hypnosis, resulting in the death of one.

William Wade Watson published the diary of Elizabeth Lucille Cook, who lived in Tensas Parish at Cross Keys Plantation from the 1920s to her death in 1985. “High Water, High Cotton and High Times” provides a rare glimpse into rural Louisiana life leading up to World War II.

Marita Woywod Crandle offers several creepy stories, some with a skeptical slant, in “New Orleans Vampires: History and Legend.”

In author news
Farrah Rochon, a prolific romance author from St. Charles Parish, has a passion for Disney World and Hamilton, the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical. Im forever jealous reading her social media posts for shes off to enjoy both on a regular basis.     This year, she brought her niece and nephew to New York in January to see Hamilton as their 2016 Christmas gift. (Talk about a nice aunt!) If that wasnt enough, she went again in August, making it her fifth time seeing the immensely popular Broadway hit.

            More “Books of 2017” coming up next Sunday.

Chere Coen is the author of several Louisiana non-fiction books and the Viola Valentine Louisiana paranormal mystery series under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday Ebook Spotlight: Blake's 'Louisiana Knights'

Best-selling Louisiana author Jennifer Blake, who has a career writing romance that spans 50 years, and Phoenix Sullivan are retiring from the ownership of Steel Magnolia Press. They won’t stop writing, but the sales and freebies they have been promoting will slow down after March 2018.

“But between now and then, we’ll be offering some really super deals,” they announced in an email.

Here’s one for the holidays….


Jennifer Blake
FREE through Dec 18.
Only available through January ($6.99).


Mandy can take care of herself; she doesn't need a deputy to do it for her. Lance is determined to keep her safe. Thrown together on the run, can they survive bullets and betrayals—and their forbidden attraction?

Carla is assigned the irksome job of writing the profile for her magazine's Perfect Southern Gentleman. Beau wants no part of it. Reluctant editor or reluctant gentleman—who'll win this contest of wills and hearts?

When a dispute over a Christmas tree lands Jake Benedict flat on his back, the nurse he quarreled with renders first aid. He and Donna have a fiery past, brief as it was. Is it possible they also have a future?


Louisiana Book News is written by Chere Dastugue Coen, award-winning author of several non-fiction books about Louisiana. She also writes novels under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her novel series all begin with a book that's available as a FREE download. 


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Photographer Gould, cultural anthropologist Owens win James Williams Rivers Prize in Louisiana Studies

Photographer Philip Gould was awarded the 2016 James William Rivers Prize in Louisiana Studies for his extensive documentation and celebration of Louisiana through documentary and architectural photography, according to the UL-Lafayette Center for Louisiana Studies, which administers the prize. Goulds photographs are featured in more than a dozen books as well as other publications, and he has won several awards including the Louisiana Governors Arts Award for Best Artist and the first Michael P. Smith Award for Documentary Photography given by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.

The 2017 recipient is cultural anthropologist Maida Owens, chosen for her longstanding commitment to and leadership in preserving and expanding our understanding of Louisianas cultures through folkloric survey work and the dissemination of research through innovative and diverse channels and media. Owens has served as Folklife Program director for the Louisiana Division of the Arts for nearly three decades and received the Benjamin A. Botkin Prize for lifetime achievement in public folklore from the American Folklore Society. She is an author, documentary producer and researcher and has won numerous awards, including the 1993 American Anthropological Award of Excellence and the 1993 American Association for the State and Local History Award of Merit.

Buy books!
Books make excellent gifts and provide hours of entertainment, education and enjoyment. If youre in need of gift ideas, here are some wonderful Louisiana-based coffee table books to consider.

Ive always been fascinated by Marfa, that small West Texas town that became a haven for artists over the past few decades. Photographer John Slaughter, who shares his time between Marfa and his hometown of Grand Coteau, introduces us to this unique spot of Americana in a gorgeous book of photography titled Marfa and the Mystique of Far West Texas, published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press. The sunsets are brilliant, the rain bursts rare but breathtaking, the artwork unusual and unique and the sky as big as Texas. Ill never curse that stretch of I-10 again after viewing Slaughters photos. Instead, Ive got Marfa on my bucket list.

I reported earlier of meeting Emile Waagenaar at the Louisiana Book Festival and hearing his story of how he listened to Cajun music in his home in the Netherlands. Waagenaar traveled to Louisiana to witness and photograph this unique sound and the result is a insightful coffee table book of photographs titled “Arrete pas la musique! Portraits of South Louisiana,” also published by ULL Press.

Holiday cookbooks
Melinda Risch Winans was introduced to photographer Theodore Fonville Winans by way of marriage to his son, and over the years she appreciated not only his photographic talents but his culinary creations as well. When she discovered about 250 of her father-in-law’s handwritten recipes after his death, she decided to turn them into a cookbook. The result is “The Fonville Winans Cookbook: Recipes and Photographs from a Louisiana Artist,” co-written with Cynthia Lejeune Nobles and published by LSU Press, recently named a Fall 2017 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. The book naturally includes the recipes, but also Fonville Winans’ story accented by his photos, many of which have never been seen in print. Chef John Folse, whose own cookbooks used Winans’ photographs as inspiration for his covers, writes the foreword.

Another delightful cookbook combines traditional Southern food with French cooking techniques. “Dinner Déjà Vu: Southern Tonight, French Tomorrow” by Chef Jennifer Hill Booker, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and a Georgia resident, explains how to create healthy Southern dishes with a French flare. Many recipes will resonate with Louisiana residents and their fusion cuisine, dishes such as braised quail with wild mushrooms and cognac, asparagus and Vidalia onion quiche, succotash with tarragon and crème fraiche and cherry pie with Chantilly crème. Of course, there’s braised collard greens, shrimp and grits, shrimp Creole and other Southern favorites. Booker is also the author of “Field Peas to Fois Gras: Southern Recipes with a French Accent.”

New releases
Jennifer Bates of Lafayette has published her debut novel, a romantic suspense titled “The Boss’s Daughter,” the first book in the “Black Rose Series.” Set in Massachusetts and Louisiana, the daughter of a mob boss must choose between her loyalty to the family and the FBI.

Deborah LeBlanc of Lafayette has published “The Witch’s Thirst” by Harlequin Nocturnal, where if a witch from a long and distinguished line loves a human, all of humanity will suffer. Resisting the temptations of men has never been terribly difficult for Evette Francoisuntil she meets Lucien Hyland.

William Watson recently wrote to gush about a Louisiana novelist he enjoys. Pat Joffrion has published two novels, Complicit and Unknown Justice, each of which I could not lay down but had to continue reading these spellbinding novels based on some real-life experiences of the author, Watson wrote me. Sounds like good reading to me.

Chere Coen is the author of several Louisiana non-fiction books and the Viola Valentine Louisiana paranormal mystery series under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tuesday Ebook Spotlight: Holiday discounts, freebies

It’s no mystery why veterinarian Callie Webber is having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit. When the residents of her small hometown aren’t pitying her because of her ex-husband’s very public departure, they’re attempting to hook her up with a man…any man. Fed up with being everyone’s favorite charity case, Callie considers closing her animal clinic and moving to the big city. But, before she goes, she decides to give herself a Christmas treat to remember: a romantic holiday fling. And who better to have a fling with than the gorgeous newcomer who is turning heads around Maplesville? 

Does "A Perfect Holiday Fling" sound like the perfect holiday read? For a limited time, author Farrah Rochon of Louisiana is gifting this ebook novella for free!

Want to know more? Here’s the hero’s side:

When injured Navy pilot Stefan Sutherland reluctantly rescues a gutter cat for the sake of his five-year-old nephew, he never imagined it would lead to him discovering Maplesville’s most fascinating attraction…its smoking hot vet. Getting involved with a woman was the last thing Stefan anticipated when he agreed to care for his nephew during his Army nurse sister’s deployment, but if he’s going to spend the holidays in this sleepy Southern town, why not make the most of it with the perfect holiday fling.

99-cent Holiday Specials
My good friend Colleen Mooney, author of the New Orleans Go Cup Chronicles, is part of "The 12 Slays of Christmas" anthology. This fun collection of stories is only 99 cents right now (get it fast) and all proceeds help animals needing rescue in Houston and Florida. 

Here's where to buy "The 12 Slays of Christmas":

How about getting away from the daily grind? 

That’s all middle-aged professor Ollie Stratford hopes to do when she moves to a quiet little Texas town. Ollie is soon thrust into a murder along with an oddball reporter, a dreadlocks-flashing lawyer, a grandma who teaches mixed martial arts and a stray dog named Bodie! If you like cozy mysteries, clever animals, southern charm and coffee, you'll love "Texas Troubles" by N.C. Lewis, the first in the fun Ollie Stratford Murder Mysteries, and it's only 99 cents to download.

Click here for the Kindle version.

Louisiana Book News is written by Chere Dastugue Coen, award-winning author of several non-fiction books about Louisiana. She also writes novels under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her novel series all begin with a book that's available as a FREE download. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Russel Honore's new book, holiday gift ideas for the book lover and book events this week

Gen. Russel Honore, who was in charge of the massive search-and-rescue mission in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, is proposing a plan to use the U.S. military as first responders when hurricanes of Category 3 or higher make landfall in the U.S. and its territories. He outlines this plan in a new book titled Dont Get Stuck on Stupid, recently published by Acadian House Publishing of Lafayette.

Since Louisiana books make great gifts and help local authors, be sure and check out Acadian Houses large list of Louisiana books.

Looking for some Louisiana-based mysteries?

New York Times best-selling author Erica Spindler, who lives in the New Orleans area, sets her latest thriller in Harmony, Louisiana, where police detective Miranda Rader steps into a horrifying homicide scene in The Other Girl. As the case progresses, her boss discovers Mirandas prints at the scene of the crime, although Miranda never took off her gloves. Worst is an old news clipping of when Miranda escaped her own sexual assault 15 years before. Back then, no one believed the teenager, even when she insisted there was another girl left behind. Is Miranda being set up? And just who is involved in keeping her from finding out the truth? And, like the book suggests, who was that other girl 15 years before that Miranda had to leave behind when she fled the scene. Its a complex thriller that will leave you guessing until the end.

Ellen Byron, who lives in Los Angeles but left part of her heart in Louisiana after attending Tulane, continues her cozy mystery series thats set in Plantation Country along the Mississippi River in A Cajun Christmas Killing. The mystery features Maggie Crozat whos helping her family run the Crozat Plantation B&B in the small town of Pelican, Louisiana. Naturally, theres a murder and Maggie and her loved ones are suspects during the height of the holidays. When her boyfriend Detective Bo Durand also comes under suspicion, Maggie has to take sleuthing into her own hands. This edition of the series includes recipes and some Louisiana holiday traditions, such as bonfires on the levee.

Twelve cozy mystery authors, including Colleen Mooney of New Orleans, make up the Christmas anthology The 12 Slays of Christmas, with all of the books proceeds benefitting animal rescue groups. The anthology costs $4.99 and The 12 Slays of Christmas Recipe Book cost $12, both available at online bookstores. For information, visit

Roger Johns, a former corporate lawyer and retired college professor, released his debut novel this past summer titled Dark River Rising, by Minotaur Books. The story involves Wallace Hartman, a female police detective in Baton Rouge, whos smart and fearless. When the lives of those she cares about are put in jeopardy by the cleverest, most violent criminal shes pursued, she is unstoppable. For more information, visit

New Orleans
Next year marks the New Orleans Tricentennial and why not celebrate the city’s 300th anniversary with several new books.

Michael Murphy’s “All Dat New Orleans: Eating, Drinking, Listening to Music, Exploring and Celebrating in the Crescent City,” is the perfect guide to everything Big Easy. There’s history, lists of everything from hotels to cemeteries, discussions of ghosts and vampires, a guide to drinking — you name it. Sidebar profiles, called Lumins (short for luminaries) add to the book’s allure, providing profiles of some of the city’s most colorful personalities. Even though Murphy’s book contains just about everything you need to know to enjoy New Orleans, he insists it’s about the experience, one visitors must create themselves. “But the best way to ‘do’ New Orleans is not to fill up your suitcase with consumer knickknacks and doodads,” he writes in the book’s introduction, “but to fill up your mind and your soul with one-of-a-kind experiences.”

New Orleans residents will love perusing Edward J. Branleys Krauss: The New Orleans Value Store, a Canal Street landmark for almost 100 years. The book comes chock-full of vintage photos, history, products sold, the famous lunch counter and personal remininces, among so much more. The store closed in the 1990s but Branleys book helps the store beloved by so many live on. Branley is also the author of Maison Blanche Department Store and four other books on New Orleans by The History Press.

Multi-published and award-winning author Jack Sullivan examines the music of New Orleans since the 1990s, with interviews and archival material of luminaries such as Jon Batiste, Marla Dixon and Kermit Ruffins in New Orleans Remix. The book attempts to expand beyond jazz with the citys funk, brass band and Mardi Gras Indians traditions and other musical genres. New Orleans Remix includes 40 illustrations.

Three other New Orleans books that will make great holiday gifts are Snippets of New Orleans, a whimsical book that explains the City the Care Forgot in vibrant illustration by Emma Flick, and The Louisiana Urban Gardener: A Beginners Guide to Growing Vegetables and Herbs by Kathryn K. Fontenot. New Orleans historian John Magill tackles one of the city’s landmark thoroughfares, following the curve of the Mississippi River from Canal Street to Carrollton Avenue, in “The Incomparable Magazine Street,” published by River Road Press of New Orleans. The book is accented by photographs from Margot Landen.

Book events the week of Dec. 10-17
The 20th anniversary of Words & Music, a Literary Feast in New Orleans, sponsored annually by the Faulkner Society, concludes today. For more information, visit

Cassie Pruyn discusses and signs Bayou St. John: A Brief History at 2 p.m. today at Octavia Books of New Orleans. The book about the citys beloved waterway contains history from Native Americans to the current Bayou Boogaloo festival.

Adam Gussow signs Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil and the Blues Tradition at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Garden District Book Shop of New Orleans.

Humberto Fontova signs Crazy on the Bayou Five Seasons of Louisiana Hunting, Fishing, and Feasting at 6 p.m. Wednesday and Jack Sullivan signs New Orleans Remix at 6 p.m. Thursday at Octavia Books of New Orleans.

Carol Stubbs and Nancy Rust will sign their cookbook “Louisiana Christmas” at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Citiplace in Baton Rouge. The book features traditional recipes and statewide celebrations.

Chere Coen is the author of several Louisiana non-fiction books and the Viola Valentine Louisiana paranormal mystery series under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at