Category Archives: 2008


Lights, Camera, Novel: Nicholas Sparks’s The Last Song, The Lucky One and Safe Haven

When it comes to romance, Nicholas Sparks has made a name for North Carolina. Although not a native North Carolinian (he hails from Omaha, Nebraska) Sparks’s geographical obsession with the state has become a hallmark of his writing. In all, Sparks has authored seventeen novels and one autobiographical travelogue. All but the travelogue are set in various locations around North Carolina. Sparks is often very active and hands-on in the process of adapting his novels for the big screen. As of now, eight of Sparks’s novels have been made into films and the ninth and tenth are on the way. Three of the eight adapted novels have been blogged on here in the past: The Lucky One (2008), The Last Song (2009), and Safe Haven (2010), so we’ll focus on those. His five earlier adapted novels: The Notebook (1996), Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember (1999), Nights in Rodanthe (2002), and Dear John (2006) haven’t been covered on the blog, at least not just yet.

Chronologically, Sparks wrote The Lucky One before the The Last Song, but the film based upon the later was released first. The Last Song (book released 2009, movie released 2010) is a bit of an anomaly in that formulating the screenplay for the film inspired Sparks to create a corresponding novel.

The idea for the novel came about when Miley Cyrus, at the time primarily known for her starring role in Disney’s Hannah Montana, was searching for newer, more mature work. Cyrus met with Sparks and he devised an idea based on her interest. His story focuses on a daughter and father healing their estranged relationship. A budding romance between the daughter and a privileged local boy and loggerhead sea turtles appear heavily in the sidelines. The Last Song was a slight departure from his other works as the characters were teenaged and most of his works featured adult and middle-aged characters.

Although Sparks stuck to his customary North Carolina setting (Wilmington) for the novelization of The Last Song, the film was relocated to Georgia and shot on Tybee Island and in Savannah. North Carolina vied against Georgia during the selection process. Ultimately, Disney selected Georgia over North Carolina on the basis of film tax incentives. Losing a deal with Disney and The Last Song was an especially hard blow since Sparks’s last adaptation, Dear John, was also filmed outside of North Carolina. Reviews of the film were mixed, though Miley Cyrus’ performance was praised — see an enthusiastic review of her acting by Roger Ebert here.

By contrast, The Lucky One and Safe Haven featured romances between attractive twenty-and-thirty-somethings. The Lucky One (novel released in 2008, film released in 2012) starred another Disney teen sensation, Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling.  Like Cyrus, The Lucky One was one of Efron’s gateway roles as an adult actor. The plot follows a Marine, who during his third tour in Iraq, finds a photo of a mystery blonde woman that becomes his lucky charm. After his return to the US, the Marine searches for his lucky Jane Doe. Again, the setting was the defining change for the adaptation. The movie was set and filmed in Louisiana as a result of film tax incentives. Sparks seemed unconcerned about the geographical shift. In a quote from, website of The Times-Picayune, Sparks explains that he aims for his novels to feel interchangeable and relatable: “I try to write stories that feel like they could happen anywhere…And that’s what I’m trying to do, too, is write a universal story that people will really enjoy.” Audiences enjoyed The Lucky One while critics were split.

Safe Haven (novel released in 2010, film released in 2013) tells the tale of another mystery woman, who quietly moves into the small, coastal city of Southport. She doesn’t mean to fall in love, but she can’t escape the attentions of a handsome widower with two children. Once she gets to know him, she can’t help but to fall in love. Unlike the other two films, Safe Haven was filmed entirely on location in Southport and Wilmington. IndyWeek notes that the movie is only the third of Sparks’ eight adaptations to be shot exclusively in-state. The other two films were A Walk to Remember (2002) and Nights in Rodanthe (2008). Yet again, the critical response was mixed. Roger Ebert issued a much harsher review compared to his review of The Lucky One, based on his visceral response to Safe Haven’s surprise ending. Despite critics’ response to Safe Haven, it was a success with audiences again. Clearly the divide between critics and audience is a pattern with Sparks’ book-to-movie adaptations.

A Look at box office stats

Screen capture from Box Office Mojo site representing the box office sales of Nicholas Sparks film adaptations.

While critics might not universally laud his films, audience-goers buy the tickets. All three films were box office successes. Sparks has cracked the secret to commercial success, now only if North Carolina could figure out a way to keep his adaptations in-state. The Best of Me stars James Marsden (who replaced the late Paul Walker) and Michelle Monaghan. Filming is underway in Louisiana. His latest novel, The Longest Ride, is in pre-production and it was recently announced that Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott Eastwood will play one of the lead roles. Here’s to hoping that movie will be filmed locally in NC.

Read the original blog posts on The Last Song, The Lucky One, and Safe Haven. The novel and film for The Lucky One are available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. Currently, only the novels for The Last Song and Safe Haven are available. Both films are available through the Chapel Hill Public Library though.

Sources consulted:

Box Office Mojo, Forbes, Hollywood Reporter {two articles}, IMDb {Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron, Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song, The Lucky One, Safe Haven, The Best of Me, The Longest Ride, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, IndyWeek, Movie Clips, New York Times, News & Observer {two articles}, Nicholas Sparks, Nola, Relativity Media/iamROGUE, Roger Ebert {The Last Song, The Lucky One, Safe Haven}, Touchstone Pictures, Variety, Vox, Vulture, Wikipedia {Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song – novel and film, The Lucky One – novel and film, Safe Haven – novel and film}

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2010-2019, 2012, 2013, Brunswick, Coast, Romance/Relationship, Sparks, Nicholas

D. H. Caldwell. Last Love. New York: iUniverse, 2008.

Elsie Erwin is thrown for a loss when her mother dies.  She and her mother have lived together in a small house in Gaston County all of Elsie’s life.  And through those many decades Mama communicated to Elsie a fear of germs, defilement, family, other people–really life itself.  At Mama’s funeral a cousin shares some family history with Elsie that helps explain her mother’s attitudes, but this new knowledge upsets Elsie.  Elsie’s one true friend, Bertha, steps up to help by whisking Elsie off on trips–to Florida in the summer and a cruise to the Bahamas in the winter.  Together the women have their share of innocent escapades and a few scrapes.  Still, when she’s at home, living in her old house proves too much for Elsie.  It is the interest and concern of an older man that reveals to Elsie the sweetness in life–and her true heritage.


Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Caldwell, D. H., Gaston, Piedmont, Religious/Inspirational

Erin McCarthy. Flat-Out Sexy. New York: Berkley Sensation, 2008.

Tamara Briggs was widowed at thirty when her husband, NASCAR driver Pete Briggs, was killed during a race at Talladega.  In the two years since then, Tamara has concentrated on her career as a sociology professor and on providing nurture and normalcy for her two children.  Her only foray into the world of dating has been some decidedly lukewarm evenings with one of her colleagues.  When Tamara takes him to  a cocktail party fundraiser and her good friend Suzanne gives the sweater-clad professor a very critical once-over, Tamara knows that Suzanne speaks the truth–this man is not for her.  Distracted by this realization, Tamara bumps into a stranger, Elec Monroe. The attraction is instantaneous and mutual.

During their first night together (graphically described) Tamara remembers how exciting a man can be, but Elec is just the kind of man she promised herself she’d stay away from–a race car driver.   A driver’s life is too  nomadic and unpredictable–and full of temptations and danger.  Having lost her husband, the father of her children, Tamara can’t face that heartbreak again.  Plus, Elec Monroe has more than the average amount of baggage–his father and Tamara’s father-in-law, once good friends, are now bitter enemies; he is being pursued by a woman who just might be crazy;  and Elec’s career is about to take off–he may even be rookie of the year.

Like a race track designed by a joker, Tamara’s romance with Elec takes some unexpected turns.  Chicken pox, jury duty, unhappy in-laws, a wreck, and a false paternity claim all stand between Tamara and Elec and happily-ever-after, but readers will enjoy the ride.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, McCarthy, Erin, Mecklenburg, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Suzanne Adair. Camp Follower. [United States: CreateSpace], 2008.

At age seventeen in 1768, lowborn Helen Grey was sold in marriage to an old, corpulent merchant bound for the Americas. Her saving grace was her disgusting husband’s educated assistant, Jonathan Quill, who had to play Pygmalion to her Galatea in order to make Helen presentable for the aristocracy in the colonies. Now, twelve years later and nine years widowed, Helen is fighting to survive in wartime Wilmington, North Carolina. After her husband’s demise in a duel, his monetary estate mysteriously vanished, leaving Helen near penniless. She now ekes out a meager existence taking in embroidery work for wealthy ladies and writing a small society column in a Loyalist magazine.

Then Helen’s editor comes to her with a proposition: if she poses as the sister of a British officer in His Majesty’s Seventeenth Light Dragoons, Helen could get close to Britain’s hero of the hour, Colonel Banastre Tarleton, and write a hard-to-acquire feature. Colonel Tarleton doesn’t approve of journalists, so Helen’s mission would be completely covert. But there is more beneath the surface of this apparently simple mission than meets the eye, and soon Helen is up to her neck in danger, intrigue, colonial spy rings, and the attentions of three separate men, one of whom is supposed to be posing as her brother. Traveling through a wild back country overrun with rebels, it’s possible that Helen’s greatest danger lies in the men supposedly protecting her best interests. Set in both North and South Carolina and concluding with the tactically decisive Battle of Cowpens, this romantic historical thriller combines an exciting time in the history of the United States with lots of imagination.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Adair, Suzanne, Coast, Historical, New Hanover, Piedmont, Romance/Relationship

Barbara O’Connor. Greetings from Nowhere. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Loneliness is a difficult state. Although everyone feels that emptiness at one point or another, no two people experience it in exactly the same way. Aggie Duncan is a widow who has just made the difficult decision to sell Sleepy Time Motel, which she and her beloved husband ran happily for decades. Willow Dover had a perfect life until her mother moved to Savannah, Georgia, leaving her with a heartbroken, distant father. Loretta Murphy, an adopted girl who has just received a box containing mementos of her deceased birth mother, is consumed with curiosity about this woman she never knew. And Kirby Tanner has always acted out as a way to get noticed, but now because of all of that negative behavior he is being sent away to a school for difficult children.

Although these four vary in age and background, they find the friendship they need over a few days in Shawnee Gap, North Carolina. Willow’s father has just offered to buy the Sleepy Time from Aggie; Loretta’s family is visiting while on an excursion in the Smokey Mountains to find the meaning behind some of her mother’s belongings, and Kirby and his mother need a place to stay after her car breaks down on the way to his new school. Along with Aggie’s cat, Ugly, they realize how good it feels to have each other in the midst of big changes in their lives.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Children & Young Adults, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, O'Connor, Barbara

Alex Hairston. She Creeps. New York: Dafina Books, 2008.

For the first time in Naomi Gaffney’s twenty-nine years, life is normal. Although her childhood was marred by her white mother’s death, her black father’s conviction of that murder, and the racial tensions that episode created in the community of Eden, North Carolina, Naomi finally has the life she always wanted. She is married to a man she loves, has three children she adores, and household chores she enjoys, such as cooking big meals for her family. This should be the picture of perfection, but Naomi is unsatisfied. When her sister suggests she go outside of her marriage to find happiness, Naomi balks at the thought. Sure, the spark she and her husband once shared has lost its shimmer, but after seeing what happened between her parents, Naomi is not interested in ruining a good (if not great) thing. All of this changes when an attractive mechanic rescues her on the side of the road. Naomi gives in to the temptation, but this puts her life in danger. There is a sociopath on the loose in Eden who is targeting “sinners.”  That zealot kidnaps Naomi with the intention of murdering her. As Naomi confronts the complications her act of adultery has created, she realizes that the simple life was not so bad after all.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Hairston, Alex, Piedmont, Rockingham

Mark Schweizer. The Mezzo Wore Mink. Hopkinsville, KY: St. James Music Press, 2008.

The Mezzo Wore Mink has some familiar elements–Hayden’s lovely girlfriend Meg, the quirky residents of St. Germaine, church politics, the discovery of a body in St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church, and another unsuccessful interim rector.  But there are new elements too and they take the Liturgical Mysteries series to a new level of zaniness.

It’s fall in St. Germaine, and mayor Peter Moss is worried about his re-election chances. The big issue is economic development, and although Mayor Moss has recruited new businesses, not everyone appreciates what they add to the local scene. The naysayers seem to be correct when a body is found in the garden behind the new spa and animals from the new fur farm get loose in the town. Mix in the theft of a head from the local cremation center and a Thanksgiving pageant called The Living Gobbler, and you know that this will be a fun read.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Humor, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Schweizer, Mark, Watauga

David Saperstein and George Samerjan. A Christmas Passage. New York: Kensington Books, 2008.

When a storm strands passengers in the Atlanta airport on December 24th, several travelers accept a stranger’s offer of a ride to Asheville. As the five adults and two children pile into Lisa Barone’s vintage VW microbus, she promises them that they will be in Asheville by dinnertime.  The first few hours of the trip are uncomfortable as the riders adjust to their close proximity to each other, but the drive is smooth, with little trouble from snow or icy roads.  That changes shortly after the van crosses into North Carolina.  The travelers encounter whiteout conditions and an avalanche that leaves them stranded.  Taking shelter in an abandoned cabin, they have a Christmas Eve that none of them could have anticipated.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Saperstein, David and George Samerjan

Dixie Land. Exit Wounds. Kernersville, NC: Alabaster Book Publishing, 2008.

As this novel opens all Lisa York’s worries are minor. Yes, her husband is not a good listener, her mother-in-law is cold, and Lisa would like to loose a few pounds.  But her marriage is strong and their daughters are a joy to Lisa and her husband.  How quickly things change!  Lisa expected that when her daughters entered their teen years, there would be bumps in her relationship with them.  However she is unprepared for her older daughter Melissa’s lies and the girl’s insistence on continuing a relationship with a boy who is clearly young Mr. Wrong.

Lisa expects her husband, Steven, to help pull their daughter back onto the straight-and-narrow path, so her world falls apart when she finds out how far Steven is from his public image as the successful businessman and happy family man.  Steven’s death deepens Lisa’s troubles, in part because the police suspect she had a hand in his murder.  Lisa is able to find a way forward, with support from friends and a new love.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Land, Dixie, Mecklenburg, Piedmont

Dixie Land. Grave Secrets. Kernersville, NC: Alabaster Books, 2008.

Susan Slade grew up feeling secure and loved.  Her parents were attentive and supportive, and Susan had a close relationship with her Aunt Lois and a foster sister, Krystal.  Wes Marshall had been Susan’s boyfriend since high school, and the two seem headed toward marriage.

As Grave Secrets opens, all that is unraveling.  Susan’s father has been dead a year, and her mother has just died.  Susan is beginning to have the same nightmare she had when she was a young girl, a nightmare in which she is a little child, cold and alone in a dark, small space.  Seeking solace, Susan returns to her parents’ house.  There she finds documents that seem to indicate that she was informally adopted–possible bought–by the people she always thought were her parents.  Susan’s first impulse is to ask Aunt Lois what she knows, but when Aunt Lois commits suicide and then Krystal takes a drug overdose, Susan realizes that she must solve this mystery on her own.  Her quest for the truth has consequences for her relationships with Wes and Krystal, but by the end of the novel most of the characters are at peace with the past and ready for a brighter future.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

Comments Off on Dixie Land. Grave Secrets. Kernersville, NC: Alabaster Books, 2008.

Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Coast, Land, Dixie, Mystery, Suspense/Thriller