December 20, 2014
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Lovely Reads for Valentine's Day

Romance, passion, love and lust. They’re all things that can be easily found … at least within the pages of a book. Kevin Broccoli, 28, is the fiction specialist at Mohr Library in Johnston, and has a seemingly limitless knowledge of the tales that line the shelves. Broccoli, who started working at the library putting books away at age 17, has been working there ever since. He said the fiction section of the Mohr would be what his private library would hold, and he’s stocked it with some of the best. Here are just a few of his recommendations for “lovely reads” to cuddle up with on Valentine’s Day.

MODERN NOVELS

“Heroic Measures” by Jill Ciment

“I give it to people who want something to read in two hours,” said Broccoli of the small novel.

“It’s not a traditional love story,” he said. 

“Heroic Measures” centers on an older, liberal couple living in a walk-up in New York City, pondering whether to leave the hustle bustle and move to Florida. The book also has one other central character: the couple’s dachshund, Dorothy.

One day, Dorothy gets injured while going up the stairs, and the couple tries to take her to their vet. But on the same day, an oil tanker truck gets stuck in a tunnel, throwing the city into panic as they attempt to discern whether it’s another terrorist attack.  

“They’re walking around the city with this little dog on a cutting board,” said Broccoli. But don’t worry dog lovers; Broccoli said nothing bad happens to little Dorothy. 

It’s a quick read, and it’s particularly great for animal lovers and older couples. 

“It’s a great love story about these two people,” he said. “It’s also a great story between pet owners and their pets.” 

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger

This novel-turned-movie is about a man, Henry, who has a rare genetic disorder that causes him to time travel. His wife, Clare, must cope with her husband’s chronic absences, which are unpredictable and uncontrollable. 

During his time travels, Henry continually encounters Clare at different times and places when they are different ages. Throughout the story, there are moments of love and pain, togetherness and distance.

“To me, it’s just a book about when you love someone and the timing’s not right,” Broccoli said. “[The author] just does it in this beautifully written, weird sort of way.” 

“Juliet” by Anne Fortier

“Juliet” tells the story of a woman who traces her lineage back to the famous star-crossed lovers of Shakespeare. 

“It’s sort of a takeoff on Romeo and Juliet,” Broccoli explained. 

The story follows Julie Jacobs, who ventures across Italy in search of clues to unlock family mysteries. She eventually learns that the infamous curse (“A plague on both your houses!”) is still at work, and will soon leave her with the same dreaded fate as Shakespeare’s Juliet. That’s if her Romeo doesn’t intervene first.

“It has everything I love in a book that does have romance, which is Italy and some sort of Shakespearean connection,” said Broccoli.

“Into Temptation” by Penny Vincenzi

Broccoli said Penny Vincenzi’s books are great for fans of Danielle Steele looking to kick it up a literary notch.

“She is like the guilty pleasure queen,” he said of Vincenzi. “She writes these gigantic, blatantly-soap-opera, no-irony, just epic, family sagas that take place over 100 years. Always in Italy, always involving rich, beautiful people.”

“Into Temptation” is the third book of Vincenzi’s Lytton Family Trilogy. The 672-page novel focuses on Barty Miller, the adopted daughter of Celia Lytton, who sits at the head of Lytton’s, a family publishing house in London. Barty is over in New York, and is at the helm of Lytton’s there. Back in London, the Lytton family is shaken by a bombshell that Celia drops, and they soon begin to wonder how Barty’s decisions will impact them all. It’s a sweeping tale of aristocracy, inheritances, power and, of course, romance. 

LITERATURE

“Emma” by Jane Austen 

The classic Austen tale gets an exterior facelift. Broccoli said the story is the same, but the exterior has been revamped to draw in younger readers.

For those unfamiliar with “Emma,” it’s about a beautiful young matchmaker who is busy fixing everyone up but herself. Eventually she realizes that all those around her are happy and paired up, but she’s still alone. 

“Emma,” written in 1815, was the inspiration for the 1995 comedy “Clueless,” starring Alicia Silverstone and Brittany Murphy. Of course, the setting and time period are vastly different, but Broccoli said the movie is a “really faithful adaptation” of the classic novel. 

So go ahead, “Clueless” fans, eat your heart out!

“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte

Another literary classic, “Wuthering Heights” was the only published novel by Emily Bronte. Her sister, Charlotte Bronte, was famous for “Jane Eyre.”

The story is classic literary romance: Mr. Heathcliffe is poor and falls in love with the wealthy Catherine. Catherine tells Heathcliffe that he is beneath her, and soon after falls ill and dies. After her death, Heathcliffe sets out to get revenge on her family.

“But it’s considered a love story,” said Broccoli with a laugh. “I don’t know why, but it is!”

SHORT STORIES

“Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” by Alice Munro

“Hateship, Friendship…” is a collection of short stories by Alice Munro, whom Broccoli called a “brilliant” writer. 

The title story of the book centers on two young girls that have a bone to pick with their old, spinster teacher. The girls also have an alcoholic uncle that lives out of state. They decide, on the premise of nothing more than engaging in a cruel practical joke, to pose as their uncle and write letters to their teacher.

Eventually, the teacher falls in love with the man she believes is penning the letters and quits her job to join him at his home. When she finds him, he’s drunk; so drunk that he believes he might have actually written the letters she tells him of. 

Broccoli said, as the reader, you could only assume that things would go terribly wrong - but somehow, they don’t. In the end, the teacher helps the uncle to recover, and they get married and live happily ever after. 

“You start reading, and from a writer’s perspective you’re going, there’s no way [the author is] going to pull this off,” he said. “The degree of difficulty is so high, and then it works. She’s brilliant. If you ask most writers who the best writer is that’s out there working right now, they say Alice Munro.”

“Mary and O’Neil,” Justin Cronin

“Mary and O’Neil” is another collection of short stories, this time interconnected by the same set of characters.

“This was, I think, his first or his second book,” Broccoli said of Cronin. “He now writes vampire fiction.”

Cronin’s famous now for books like “The Passage” and “The Twelve,” two books in a trilogy. The third book, “The City of Mirrors,” is expected in 2014.

“But before he wrote [vampire fiction], he wrote these really quiet, beautiful books,” said Broccoli. 

One of those books was “Mary and O’Neill,” which tells the story of two teachers in Philadelphia that, although vulnerable and wounded, find love and hope in one another. The book, Cronin’s debut, won the PEN/Hemingway award, the Stephen Crane Prize and the Whiting Writer’s Award. 

YOUNG ADULT

“The Fault in Our Stars,” John Green

For the young adult readers, Broccoli recommends “The Fault in Our Stars.” 

A New York Times Bestseller and TIME Magazine’s Number 1 Fiction Book of 2012, the novel tells the story of two teens with terminal cancer. Still, Broccoli said, “It’s insanely funny.” 

The two teens, Hazel and Augustus, meet in a cancer support group. He falls madly in love with her, but she’s initially resistant: she’s ill, has no hair and knows their romance will be cut short. 

“He doesn’t care and pushes through it and wins her over,” said Broccoli.

Soon the two travel to Amsterdam to meet Hazel’s favorite author. While there, they visit the Anne Frank House where, surrounded by tragedy, the pair falls deeper in love.

“All the tragedy is just too much, so they just start laughing,” Broccoli said. “It’s my favorite scene because you [the reader] get why they’re laughing, and so you laugh with them.”

Broccoli said it’s a sad but heartwarming tale of fate: it may not be destined to end well, but they’re still destined to be in love.


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