Sentinel reporter returns to his roots in fiction with new book

Sentinel reporter Peter Rouleau recently published "Masquerade Ball," a collection of short stories -- many set in Montgomery County.  COURTESY PHOTOSSentinel reporter Peter Rouleau recently published "Masquerade Ball," a collection of short stories -- many set in Montgomery County. COURTESY PHOTOS  ROCKVILLE — Silver Spring resident Peter Rouleau, 36, recently published the book “Masquerade Ball,” a collection of short stories, many of which are set in Montgomery County.

In it, Rouleau explores “deception of how little we know about people we see day to day.”

Rouleau said the inspiration for many of the stories comes from his five years working as a reporter for the Montgomery County Sentinel. Many of the stories are set within the county. One story takes place at the County Agricultural Fair, which the Sentinel has covered extensively.


Local teen author celebrates book release

Nimai ArgwalIn addition to his new novel, Nimai Argawal is also creating a series of paintings that depict life in an Indian village, including this oil portrait, “The Shepherd.” COURTESY PHOTO  At a time when most teenagers are just discovering their passions in life, 18-year-old Nimai Agarwal is celebrating the June publication of his first novel “The Lotus Saga.” The book tells the story of a young scribe named Rook, who is forced to venture out to fight an ancient evil.

“When I started writing the book, my main character Rook was my age, 12 years old. As I grew up, he grew up with me, and by the end of the book, he became 15 [or] 16.  My growth was reflected in the book’s growth.”

When Agarwal began writing the book, he was inspired by the wave of young adult fantasy books that became popular in the early 2000s, works like “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini, and the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling. He later moved on to more mature fantasy novels like The Lord of The Rings books by J.R.R. Tolken.

“I lost motivation at a lot of points; I went to many writing camps, where I was surrounded by a lot of amazing writers that gave me a burst of motivation, as I could see my peers doing great things,” said Agarwal. “I wanted to write this book for a long time, so I always found a reserve of motivation when I lost hope, I found it and continued.”


Never too old to tell a really good story

x90 year old authorRecently published author Frances Chavarria.  COURTESY PHOTO   Frances Chavarria was in her eighties when she sat down to write her first book. Now 90, the Rockville resident is getting ready for book signings and dreams of seeing her novel up on the big screen.

Chavarria’s novel, “Let Us Dream of Turtles,” is a love story that pits greedy developers against environmentalists and takes place in Costa Rica, where she lived for 35 years. Chavarria took two years to complete her 300-page book that includes events such as an earthquake and tsunami.

In 2010, she found an editor, who wanted to publish the book if she agreed to make a few cuts, including many of the food descriptions. Chavarria agreed, but eventually stopped, believing the revisions were hurting her book. She put it on a shelf and moved on.

Four years later, Chavarria moved into senior citizen housing in downtown Rockville and met fellow resident, Edith Billups, who had written and edited magazines.

The two hit it off immediately and soon found themselves reworking the manuscript. Billups said she loved the manuscript instantly, especially “all the suspense and intrigue.” And, Billups laughed, Chavarria “may be 90, but she’s got some great love scenes in here.”


Day of the Book Festival draws diverse crowd to Kensington

IMG 1535Thousands attended the Day of the Book Festival in Kensington. PHOTO BY PETER ROULEAU KENSINGTON – A break in the rain on Sunday permitted several thousand people to attend the annual Day of the Book Festival on Howard Avenue in Kensington.

The festival began in 2005, thanks to the efforts of Elisenda Sola-Sole, owner of the Kensington Row Bookshop, a popular used book store. Sola-Sole’s family founded the Pauli Bellet Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of Catalan culture. The inspiration for the festival came from the “El Dia del Libre” celebration in Barcelona, which in 1923 was merged with the city’s traditional Rose Festival. In these celebrations, authors and other merchants set up stalls along Barcelona’s main thoroughfare, La Rambla.

This year, the festival was held on the International Day of the Book, which was designated April 23 in 1995 by UNESCO in honor of the birthdate of William Shakespeare. In other years, the festival is held on the Sunday closest to the date.


It’s a game of musical chairs at Second Story Books

xSecond Story Books-Allan StypeckAllan Stypeck of Second Story Books. PHOTO BY MARK POETKER  

In their own version of musical chairs, those gathered on the ground floor of Second Story Books in Rockville on the last Saturday of each month continually move to the next chair. They reach their goal when it’s finally their turn to meet with the used bookstore’s president, Allan Stypeck.

Stypeck, who has spent 40 years appraising books and other documents, carefully handles all books, checks their conditions, scans the pages and pulls from his memory a wealth of history and recollections. Often that is enough to say what the book is worth. If not, he knows the right internet sites to determine the book’s value.

On a recent appraisal day, Stypeck examined a first edition of “Cujo” by Stephen King and immediately knew when it was published. He also reviewed a book that had an authentic signature of a few of this country’s founding fathers and another one written in German that was mandatory reading for those joining the Nazi ranks.

There can be as many as 200 people who show up to the monthly event, which has occurred at the Rockville bookstore for the past three years. Stypeck also has a used bookstore in Dupont Circle.


Harry Potter fans leave Hogwarts to swarm Rockville

Harry Potter 1Amanda and Chris Brown appeared in costume for the midnight release of "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" at Barnes and Noble on Rockville Pike. PHOTO BY PETER ROULEAU  

ROCKVILLE – More than 100 Harry Potter fans braved the rain on the evening of July 25 to attend a midnight release party for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” which officially went on sale the following day.

Local residents flocked to the Barnes and Noble bookstore along MD-355 for the midnight release.

Jonathan Gruber, a longtime fan, was one of the first in line.

“I got here at 8:10 (p.m.); drove all the way from Wheaton in the torrential downpour,” Gruber said. “I don’t know if I’ll read the whole book tonight, but I’m definitely going to start it.”


Former Silver Spring Library has new life as used bookstore


DSC 0218The former Silver Spring Library now serves as a used bookstore for the Friends of the Library Montgomery County. PHOTO BY JACQUI SOUTH  

Ryan Carmody knows with a few clicks, he can find any book he needs, order it and have it delivered to his Silver Spring home within a few days.

Still, "a few times each month," he visits one of the county's two used bookstores that are operated by the Friends of the Library Montgomery County (FOLMC). 

"There is sort of an aspect of surprise for what you are going to find," he said as he browsed through the books at the used bookstore that opened June 20 in the former Silver Spring library on Colesville Road.


Thousands celebrate Mandela and reading

ROCKVILLE – When Carolyn Thompson’s kids first showed an interest in reading, she didn’t think the passion would bring the family to creating a nonprofit organization to encourage literacy.

Now she and her sons Julian and Jack run Velocity Books, which opened in 2014 with the hope of promoting literacy in Montgomery County.

The Thompson family has since grown their operation, sending books to people in Jamaica and South Carolina.

Thompson is preparing to set up shop July 16 for Nelson Mandela Day at Rockville Town Square in front of the library, with more than 10,000 books available for free.


Thousands expected to crowd Gaithersburg Book Festival

gaithersburg book festival logo 001

GAITHERSBURG – For the seventh consecutive year, the Gaithersburg Book Festival is set to draw numerous authors and literary enthusiasts to the Gaithersburg City Hall grounds this Saturday.

A number of prominent authors are scheduled to appear at this year’s festival, including longtime ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian, former Clinton presidential adviser Sidney Blumenthal, and popular mystery novelist Jeffery Deaver.

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