Tag Archives: Iraq War

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 Nola.com, 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

Karen Foley. Coming Up for Air. Toronto: Harlequin, 2012.

comingupforairArmy captain Jenna Larson is an ace Black Hawk helicopter pilot on her way from Fort Drum in New York to Kabul Airbase in Afghanistan. Stuck at Fort Bragg in North Carolina for three days before heading out, Jenna finds herself running into the same handsome serviceman over and over. Her nosy Warrant Officer and best friend, Laura Costanza, ID’s him– he’s Chase Rawlins, a soon-to-be-deployed, serious-minded special ops officer. When Jenna next sees him at a local bar, he seems just as attracted to her as she is to him. One thing leads to another. Jenna files the memorable encounter away in her head for later, when she’s running dangerous missions in Afghanistan. She never thinks she’ll see Chase Rawlins again.

In fact, she’d be surprised to learn that she has never met Chase Rawlins to begin with. Her tryst was not with him, but with his identical twin brother Chance– a hot-headed, devilish Apache helicopter pilot. When Jenna’s path crosses that of the real Chase in Afghanistan, she’s surprised and disappointed but stoic about his blank response to her presence…until she runs into Chance the same day. Chance hasn’t been able to stop thinking about Jenna, and when he finally sets her case of mistaken identity to rights, she isn’t pleased. Jenna has rules about sleeping with other pilots. Will Chance get a second chance with Jenna? And is their budding romance able to withstand both Afghanistan and the United States Army’s strict regulations?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coastal Plain, Cumberland, Foley, Karen, Harnett, Hoke, Moore, Romance/Relationship

David Goodwillie. American Subversive. New York: Scribner, 2011.

Aidan Cole is only thirty-three, but his privileged existence in New York City has become an embittered one. Roorback (a word meaning a false or slanderous story used for political advantage) is the digital baby that has brought so much heaviness to his once idealistic life. A blog devoted to gossip and news, all served up with a healthy amount of disdainful sarcasm, Roorback was invented and is maintained by Aidan to great success, but it has now taken up so much room in his world that he has nowhere to go but deeper into his own malaise and disinterest. Even a mysterious explosion above world-famous Barneys quickly fades into the background of his routine. Outside of Roorback, Aidan’s life is a mixture of hip parties and expensive dinners with his fashionable Times columnist girlfriend Cressida. Then, someone sends him a brief but electrifying email: a photograph of a young woman walking away from the smoking explosion over Barneys, accompanied by a single sentence: This is Paige Roderick. She’s the one responsible.

Spurred into action, Aidan sets out to find the mysterious Paige Roderick…and stumbles into a world of secrets, eco-warriors, and fanatics. Set partially in North Carolina, American Subversive is a gripping portrait of a generation whose greatest enemy is its own boredom. Through the eyes of two very different but strikingly similar individuals, Goodwillie’s tale chronicles their efforts to develop meaningful voices and find anything in which to believe in a disinterested, mortally hip world.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Goodwillie, David, Haywood, Mountains, Suspense/Thriller

Ann Tatlock. Traveler’s Rest. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2012.

There is an old adage about letting going of what you love: if it returns it was yours all along, if it doesn’t it never was. But what if you are the one who was let go, and you never wanted to be in the first place?

Jane Marrow finds herself in that heartbreaking situation when her fiance, Seth Ballantine, returns from Iraq a quadriplegic. He loves her, but Seth is unwilling to let Jane forfeit a “normal life”: to be carried over the threshold by her husband, to become a mother, and to be free of full-time care giving responsibilities.  He worries that she will waste her life away with him and will eventually resent him if they go through with the wedding. For her part, Jane is unwavering: she is resolved to never leave Seth or to give up on their plans, even though practically everyone has given her an “out”. Seth finally explains that her insistence on staying together is hampering his recovery, so she gives him some space.

At the Veterans Affairs hospital in Asheville, Jane meets a variety of people who support her and Seth in this difficult time. Two Ugandan cousins serve as aids in the hospital, and they always lighten the mood. A retired doctor with an uncomfortable past, Truman Rockaway, helps Jane understand forgiveness and faith. And Jon-Paul Pearcy is a volunteer musician at the VA who shows Jane and Seth that it is possible to live a full life with a disability. Along the way, Jane learns about love, trusting God, and letting go.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Tatlock, Ann

Deborah Wallis. Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines. New Bern, NC: McBryde Publishing, 2010.

What would you do if your husband died and no one will give you a straight answer about why it happened?

When Major Danny Weaver’s Harrier jet goes down during an air show at Cherry Point Marine Air Station everyone’s initial assumption is that it was a terrible accident.  Did a part break?  Was the maintenance check incomplete?  Was it pilot error?   Abby, Major Weaver’s widow, is relieved when the commanding officer tells her that a preliminary investigation has ruled out pilot error, but she is disturbed when he warns her to expect a prolonged investigation and some uncomfortable questions.  It seems that Danny’s unit is under investigation for an unspecified problem.

Abby had some hints that the unit had problems.  Not long after the unit returned from Iraq, Danny had words with another officer, and an enlisted man asked for Danny’s help with a personal problem that forced Danny to go up the chain of command.  Abby didn’t push Danny for details, but after his death she wished that she had.  Using the skills she learned as a reporter, Abby embarks on an investigation that exposes the dark side of several service members’ lives. She also puts herself and her young son in danger.

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

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Filed under 2010, 2010-2019, Carteret, Coast, Craven, Mystery, Novels in Series, Wallis, Deborah

Mark de Castrique. Blackman’s Coffin. Scottsdale, AZ: Poisoned Pen Press, 2008.

Chief Warrant Officer Sam Blackman lost a leg in the Iraq War and, after testifying in Congress about the treatment of veterans, was sent where they figured he wouldn’t be able to cause any more trouble: Asheville, NC.  He is almost finished with his rehab when a local woman visits him and offers him a job with her security company.  She promises to visit again, but is murdered before she can do so.  After her death, a diary written by 12 year-old Henderson Youngblood in 1919 is found hidden in her apartment … and Sam’s name is on it.  Sam leaves the VA hospital and begins his civilian life by helping the deceased woman’s sister investigate the modern crime and its connections to a death in the diary.  This is the first book in de Castrique’s series of mysteries featuring the Sam Blackman character.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Buncombe, deCastrique, Mark, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series

Shelia P. Moses. Joseph. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008.

This beautiful book is written in the voice of Joseph, a high school boy.  When the novel opens, Joseph is living in a homeless shelter with his mother who has multiple addictions.  It’s shocking to Joseph that he and his mother have fallen so low, but at least the shelter is near a good high school.  At school, Joseph finds supportive adults, a few new friends, and a chance to show his talent on the tennis court.  Joseph’s parents are divorced, and his father is in service in Iraq.  His father does what he can to help, and an aunt offers him a home, but Joseph wants to stay by his mother’s side to save her from her worst impulses.  As the novel progresses, Joseph finds his way to a better life.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Children & Young Adults, Durham, Moses, Shelia P., Piedmont

Nicholas Sparks. The Lucky One. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2008.

This is one of those stranger-comes-to-town tales, but since it’s a Nicholas Sparks novel, it’s also a romance.  Logan Thibault is a veteran who believes that a photograph that he found in Iraq is his lucky charm.  When he comes back to the states, he searches for the woman in the photograph.  She is Elizabeth, a divorced mom living in Hampton, near the North Carolina coast. Elizabeth’s grandmother runs a dog training facility in town, where Thibault soon gets a job.  Thibault, a veteran of many battles during his years in the Marines, has his demons, and his interest in Elizabeth can be misconstrued.  Elizabeth’s ex-husband, Keith Clayton, sets out to discredit Logan.  The conflict between Thibault and Clayton builds, putting Elizabeth and her son Ben in danger.  In a raging storm the men battles for their lives, and for Ben’s.  Thibault’s dog, Zeus, helps to save the day.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Coastal Plain, Romance/Relationship, Sparks, Nicholas

Ellen Gilchrist. A Dangerous Age. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2008.

The women of the Hand family live in the post-9/11 world. Winifred had the invitations printed for a December wedding in Raleigh, but her fiancé died at the World Trade Center. Her cousins Louise and Olivia are there to help her, but their lives are soon touched by the war in Iraq. Each woman suffers and each has to find a way to carry on. Family ties, female friendship, the strength of tradition, and a willingness to begin anew contribute to the characters’ ability to endure. The Iraq War creates the context within which this character development takes place. Although the Hand family is from North Carolina, much of the action takes places in Washington D.C. and Oklahoma.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, Gilchrist, Ellen, Piedmont