Sending people backward or forward through time has been done so many times that authors Adam Mansbach and Alan Zweibel decided on a fresh take with time traveling mail in Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in My...!
Franklin Isaac Saturday, preferably known as "Ike," is stuck in the social bubble known as middle school. Although his school life isn't super terrible — he's kissed two girls and he's usually picked somewhere in the middle for sports teams — it could definitely be better. Popularity seems to be the only thing the other students care about, and Ike feels that he is always grasping for it. His troubles also include his stepdad, his crush on Claire Wanzandae with her cherry blossom-and-gasoline-scented hair and that his first name is "Franklin" because his dad thought Benjamin Franklin was cool.
So when Ike's history teacher assigns the class an extra credit letter-writing assignment, he chooses to write to his namesake about all of his grievances. As a joke to make Claire laugh, Ike actually mails his letter. Imagine his disbelief when he receives a reply from Ben Franklin a few days later.
While initially skeptical, once Ike believes the correspondence is real, he seeks advice from Ben about his life and, in return and unasked, he feeds the Founding Father tidbits about America's history and present. It's one thing for Ike to share his problems with Ben and quite another thing when Ike shares evidence with him that could affect the course of American history.
Don't be fooled! Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain in My...! is a teen book in middle grade packaging which is in line with Mansbach's previous books (New York Times bestsellers Go the F**k to Sleep and You Have to F**king Eat). That said, Mansbach and Zweibel created a funny story centered around the idea of mail that can travel through time. Judging from the climatic ending, there may be a sequel in the future.
Fans of Andy Gavin's Untimed, another teen time-traveling novel featuring Ben Franklin and disguised as middle grade fiction, will enjoy this book as well.
It’s December 1941, and a slumbering country awakes to the realities of war in Susan Elia MacNeal’s Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante. Maggie Hope returns to America as part of Winston Churchill’s entourage. In the wake of Pearl Harbor, the United States and Great Britain cement their ties and discuss strategy at the White House. During this delicate stage in their relationship, political enemies of the Roosevelts’ and their New Deal will do anything to harass the President — even if it undermines the war effort.
Mrs. Roosevelt, always passionate about domestic affairs, becomes involved in the scheduled execution of a 15-year-old sharecropper who shot a Virginia landowner. The President is now focused on winning the war and preventing the descent of a new Dark Age. In order to do this, he must have the support of the entire country, including the Jim Crow South. Virginia’s governor sees a way to disgrace the Roosevelt administration and simultaneously reduce the public pressure to reprieve the young inmate. His henchman sees a way to get into the governor’s good graces and ride his coattails into the White House. Maggie Hope must find a way to protect Eleanor Roosevelt from scandal, support the President’s strong leadership position and thus save Britain from Nazi rule.
Once again, Susan Elia MacNeal provides a strong sense of place and captures the uncertainty of that turbulent time. It is a fascinating portal into the society of the 1940s; the marginalized role of women, the powerlessness of the minority, the awful power vested in the politicians we trust. Fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd and James Benn will appreciate the strong characters and the exploration of subjects we often forget. While we tend to think of World War II as the time everyone came together for a common cause, the reality was far from this idealized picture.
They say "Don't judge a book by its cover," but if you glance at the front cover of Stephen Kings' novel Finders Keepers then you can assume one thing, and that is: There will be blood. Oh, and there will be crime, violence and gore.
Finders Keepers goes back and forth between the past and present to follow the lives of two main characters — Morris Bellamy and Pete Saubers, born decades apart. Morris and Pete eventually meet face to face because they have a great deal in common. For instance, they are both obsessed with the same person, who happens to be dead.
The story kicks off in 1979 and introduces us to Morris Bellamy, a 23-year-old criminal obsessed with a famous American author named John Rothstein and his Jimmy Gold trilogy. Morris and his partners in crime pay Rothstein an unwelcome visit. They rob the author of his bank envelopes stuffed with cash, his Moleskine notebooks filled with unpublished writings...and his life. Paranoia sets in. Morris thinks the cop will track him down. This causes him to hide the stolen goods in a trunk and bury it in the woods behind his house. Although Morris robbed and killed Rothstein, he ends up receiving life in prison for committing a different crime.
Decades later, a teenager named Pete Saubers, who now lives in Morris’ house, discovers Morris’ trunk and takes the cash and notebooks. He behaves like a secret Santa by mailing the cash to his parents, who had fallen on hard times and were on the verge of a divorce. When Pete reads what’s inside the Moleskine notebooks, he becomes a devoted fan of John Rothstein and his Jimmy Gold novels. John Rothstein changes him.
Morris, now nearly 60 years old, gets parole. He only has one thing on his mind, the Moleskine notebooks. After spending 35 years in prison, Morris believes his trunk is still safely buried behind his former home. When Morris finds out that Pete is the new owner of the Moleskine notebooks, it infuriates him. There is a standoff between the old Morris and the young Pete. They both want the Moleskine notebooks. There will be blood, lots of it.
Finders Keepers is a keeper. I definitely recommend this book. The story gets better and better after each turn of the page. If you like this novel, you will certainly like Mr. Mercedes also by Stephen King. While not required, I highly recommend Mr. Mercedes since it provides backstory for important events and characters mentioned in Finders Keepers. To find out more about Stephen King and his upcoming projects visit stephenking.com.
It’s that time of year again: The time when the air cools down and the writing heats up. At BCPL, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming to a branch near you. Everyone has a story inside them, and November is the time to let it out! With that in mind, check out the following titles that have helped others reach deep inside themselves to let their own words out.
Need structure? No idea where to begin? Afraid that the middle will fall completely out of the story? Never fear! Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s Book in a Month provides all the instruction a person could want about how to put together an outline, assemble ideas and even generate new ones! Schmidt brings order, structure and worksheets to the chaos that is a house when a novel is being written inside.
What if you have no idea what to write, only that you want to write it right now, immediately? Talk to Chris Baty. The founder of NaNoWriMo (going strong since 1999) aims his book No Plot? No Problem! at anyone who thinks it might be fun to write a novel but has no idea what to write about. Or anyone who has just discovered that NaNoWriMo is a thing and wants to do it.
Unsure if you can be successful writing a readable novel in a month? T. Styles, popular author extraordinaire, demonstrates her prowess in The End, Part 1. This short book (155 pages) takes the aspiring author one day at a time through the process of creating a novel.
Make “some day” become this day, right now.
Get to know former Baltimore Raven Trevor Pryce, a man of many talents — including writing and producing — as he talks about his popular Kulipari series of books for kids, soon to be a Netflix animated series. Learn more about the Kulipari and this fantastical world here. The third book in the series, Amphibian’s End, is out now, and Trevor shares his thoughts on writing, living in Maryland, upcoming projects and, of course, playing for the Ravens.
Between the Covers: The Kulipari trilogy is such a fun blend of adventure, magic, the natural world and animals. What inspired you to create this fantastical land? And why frogs versus scorpions?
Trevor Pryce: I grew up in the '80s, a fan of Star Wars, X-Men and Transformers. And I remember being so wrapped up in the stories and how deep they went. The worlds seemed real to me because of the depth of the ideas. That never left me. When I got older I also found myself drawn to studying different parts of the world and civilizations. I visited Australia once and have never forgotten the experience. Aboriginal culture was one that I latched onto because I love the art and their mystic ways.
I grew up in Florida, and frogs weren’t my favorite of nature’s offerings. However, poisonous frogs were fascinating. Their bright colors make them almost whimsical, yet they are actually the deadliest creatures on the planet. So I put the fun side and the strong side together to create the world of the Kulipari in my books.
Kulipari as a word actually translates into the word “poison” in an Aboriginal dialect. Bringing frogs to my version of the Outback was a lot to mix together, but readers love the books so it works well. I continue to play with Aboriginal themes such as the Rainbow Serpent, The Land and more.
BTC: How does the battle for the Amphibilands compare to a Ravens-Steelers game?
TP: Funny. In a Ravens-Steelers game, we all shake hands afterwards and all of the players are cordial. In the battle for the Amphibilands, there’s no “Good game” afterward. There’s no mutual respect. There’s only a winner…and a loser. And the loser faces death. Wait…then maybe it is like a Ravens-Steelers game! [laughs]
BTC: The illustrations by acclaimed artist Sanford Greene do so much to support the storytelling and bring this magical place to life. Describe the process of working with an illustrator and how it impacts your own writing process.
TP: There’s a secret I’ll let you in on. Kulipari was written as a movie first. So it was always meant to be told visually. I was acting as a director would. There were ideas and themes that I wanted the readers to not have to imagine — things that would be come back later in the story. So although I like the power of imagination, there were some parts I didn’t want the readers to make up themselves. Like the “Poison” found in the characters and them glowing because of it. There’s a very specific way that I saw that in my mind so I wanted the readers to see the same way. I think if you had read the Star Wars movie script and saw the description of Darth Vadar, in your mind I doubt what you saw would have matched what George Lucas brought to life.
I also put a lot of work into the design of the characters. The Amphibilands was another point of emphasis. Sanford helped me envision everything. He’s an incredible artist and by the time we got to book three, I didn’t have to tell him much or give any direction at all.
BTC: Why kids’ books? How have your own children influenced your writing?
TP: Before I wrote Kulipari, I had written a drama for ABC television, submitted storied to the The New York Times, NBC.com and other Hollywood outlets. I kept coming back to my son, who is now 9 years old. He had TVs in our house on whenever he wanted to. So Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ninjago, Marvel, etc. A writer is usually a product of his influences and surroundings. And my son surrounded me with the things he loved. If my daughters ran the TVs in the house, I would have likely written my own version of Twilight.
With kids’ properties, they live on forever, if they’re good. There’s always new 10-, 11-, 12-year-olds. It’s the reason why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles keeps being re-booted.
BTC: What were some of your favorite books when you were a child?
TP: When I was a kid there was Batman, Star Wars and ShaZam and the rest. My favorite book as a kid was called The Hooples Horrible Holiday.
BTC: Congratulations on the trilogy becoming a Netflix series (arriving next year). How involved will you be in production? Do you have any other news you can share about the series?
TP: Thanks! The Netflix series is in production now. The first season is 13 episodes. Seven of them are done. It looks pretty fantastic. I serve as the creator and executive producer. I picked everything. The music, the designs and the story the way I wanted to tell it. It’s a labor of love.
Right now I’m writing the the prequel story, The Hidingwar trilogy that tells the story of Darel’s father Apari, and the formation of the Amphibilands after Terra Australis and the Poison Scrolls. I’m really, really excited about that one. They will be live action movies in theaters around 2018.
BTC: What other books or projects do you have that we can look forward to?
TP: Kulipari: Battalions, the mobile game, is available now for IOS and Android. It’s a tower defense game in the vein of Clash of Clans or Game of War. It’s really, really cool. You can pick either Frogs or Scorpions and build your army. In the future, we are going to add Spiders and Turtles. And this month, the release of book three in the series Amphibian’s End!
Mattel has made a series of toys that go with the game that give in-game upgrades. Really, really cool. And Under Armour is making Kulipari Gear starting with limited edition T-shirts available now. Very limited quantities of course.
There’s going to be a fourth book in the series called Kulipari: A Lord Rises, which picks up after Amphibian’s End. Burnu is also getting a comic book called Kulipari: Heritage, as he’s the Kulipari version of Wolverine and will set out on his own adventure.
Also be on the lookout for Kulipari: Dreamwalker on Xbox One and PS4 next fall.
BTC: You were such an important part of the Ravens’ number 1 ranked defense. Can you share some of your favorite moments or games during your time as a member of Ravens Nation with our readers? How do Baltimore fans rank compared to fans from other cities you played in?
TP: I think the biggest thing I can share about that was the fact that my family and I decided to stay in this area. We live in Howard County and love it here. My kids were all born in Denver and, if not for playing for the Ravens, we would still be living there. And although Denver is great, it isn’t the DMV [D.C./Maryland/Virginia area]. And we are so grateful that a place like this exists. Everything about it.
So I would say I have the Ravens to thank for that. We would have never looked at Baltimore as a viable place to raise our children and set roots if not for me playing here. It’s a great organization, yes, but it’s even better as a part of the country. I’ve told everyone I know that they should move here.
Really, at the end of the day, I played for three cities, and my biggest compliment is that when football is over, where do the players go when they retire? I went here. I stayed here. I didn’t stay in this part of the world because it was just the last place where I played. I stayed because I love it. And there’s no better thing I can say than that. Really. And that’s my favorite memory. Because every day it keeps giving.
“Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” is an old mnemonic device for remembering the order and fates of Henry VIII’s six wives. In The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory, the reader meets the wife that survived, Kateryn Parr. Written in first person from Kateryn’s point of view, the story delves into the many trials that she endures as a wife and queen. When the 31-year-old Kateryn marries 52-year-old Henry in 1543 to become his sixth wife, she has been twice widowed, and all of her marriages have been arranged. Before Henry proposes, Kateryn is set to marry Thomas Seymour, the man she actually loves. However, no one dares go against the tyrannical Henry, so Kateryn puts her love aside to marry the king.
At first, Henry dotes on Kateryn, buying her expensive presents and exotic birds from all over the world to fill her aviary. She can even tolerate Henry’s grotesque physique, the open festering wound on his leg and his fumbling attempts at love making. Yet, she's constantly reminded of her ill-fated predecessors as she wears their gowns and jewels, sleeps in the same bed and even raises their children.
As Gregory portrays Kateryn, it's her religious leanings that put her in constant danger. She's a devout Reformer who subscribes to the new church that Henry created primarily to marry Anne Boleyn. However, there are many Papists in the court who want England to return to the Catholic Church, and Kateryn’s religious sentiments make her powerful enemies. Henry is starting to waver between Reform and Catholicism as his health deteriorates, and begins to fear that, in breaking from the Church, he is doomed to eternal damnation. As Henry’s mental health also declines, he sees heretics and traitors everywhere, and not even Kateryn is safe. When she discovers the King is about to have her arrested, Kateryn must swallow her pride and humiliate herself in order to avoid the executioner.
The following titles will be released next week. Select any title to learn more or to request a copy. Be sure to visit our Hot Titles webpage for more exciting upcoming titles.
Stand-Off by Andrew Smith, the sequel to the acclaimed Winger, starts off with our hero, Ryan Dean West, about to return to his prestigious (if strict) boarding school Pine Mountain Academy as the school’s first 15-year-old graduating senior. Along with the normal doubts and insecurity his relative youth to his senior classmates would bring, he feels overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of his bright-eyed 12-year-old roommate Sam Abernathy. Sam’s relentless chipperness is more oppressive than endearing, and to make matters worse, he suffers from extreme claustrophobia that could send him into a panic if conditions aren’t just perfect. Normally warm and friendly, Ryan Dean begins to push friends new and old away, refusing advice from his girlfriend, honor from his Rugby coach and friendship from Sam, who reminds him a little too much of himself three short years ago. The real crux of Ryan Dean’s pain, however, is dealing with the trauma of the previous year, the chillingly real terrors that plague him night and day that force him to accept grief, resolution and humility.
Andrew Smith’s first person storytelling is warm, direct and effortless. Ryan Dean comes to life in voice as well as in visuals. Sam Bosma accompanies Smith’s prose with illustrations and comics crafted to fit Ryan Dean’s voice, which takes the storytelling to a new level. A read of Winger first is a must for this excellent, fast-paced sequel. Lovers of imaginative but ultimately down-to-earth and realistic fiction of all levels will find themselves exhilarated, heart-broken and lost in these two books.
Mindy Kaling has become a well-known leading lady, writer, director, fashionista and general force to be reckoned with. Because of her show The Mindy Project, we are now on a first name basis with her. Her new collection of essays, Why Not Me?, is just like catching up with an old friend who happens to be doing all of the talking, though we don’t even mind because she is truly that charming. Her essays are hilarious, insightful and even more personal than those in her first book.
She offers up plenty of celebrity stories with the likes of Bradley Cooper, Reese Witherspoon and even President Barack Obama. However, she is always completely relatable. Her response to fame, and the unique situations she finds herself in because of her fame, is exactly what you or I would think if we were suddenly “a little bit famous.”
In this collection, Kaling addresses questions she didn’t feel prepared to tackle before, like being asked how she maintains her confidence by a young woman who had lost her own. Kaling confesses that she didn’t have an answer at the time, but now she does. Her secret is hard work — 19-hour-day kind of hard work.
There is an entire essay in which the author imagines her alternate life as a Latin teacher at a private high school in New York, told to us through email correspondence. It was delightful. I would read an entire book about alternate Mindy. I also hope this potential book gets turned into a movie starring Mindy.
For die-hard fans, it's worth it to check out both the book and the audio book because each contain extras that the other does not. The book has many great pictures, including an entire “Day in the Life” segment. However, the essays truly come to life when delivered by the author in the audio version. She has perfect comedic timing and obviously the best delivery of her own jokes.
Readers who enjoy this book will love her first essay collection Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Yes Please by Amy Poehler and You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day.
Food whore: a person willing to do anything for food.
In her debut novel, Food Whore: A Novel of Dining and Deceit, Jessica Tom tells the mesmerizing tale of one such food whore, Tia Monroe. An aspiring food writer, Tia believes she can ascend to the top of New York’s cutthroat food world, where being the next big thing is achieved at any cost.
Tia hopes to begin her ascension by securing an internship with famed cookbook writer, Helen Lansky. But fate has a different plan. She crosses paths with Michael Saltz, the anonymous and powerful New York Times food critic who has a big secret. He has lost his sense of taste. He convinces Tia to ghostwrite his reviews and, in return, she is provided with designer clothes, access to four-star restaurants and the coveted internship with Lansky. But no one can know of their partnership. She believes this is a small price to pay to achieve her dream. After all, she will be working in the exclusive world of four-star restaurants and celebrity chefs, making unbelievable connections. Any grad student would kill for such unprecedented access. But Tia soon realizes that real connections are difficult to make when you have a secret. Will she keep her integrity while achieving her dream? Or, like so many before her, will she become just another casualty of the New York dining scene?
If you like both deception and true-to-life characters, Food Whore will keep you hooked to the very end. Clearly, dining and deceit do make great fiction.
For a true, no-holds-barred, hilarious account of New York’s restaurant world, try Anthony Bourdain’s memoir, Kitchen Confidential.