10 March 2017

Author Spotlight: Nicholas Sparks

Yes, it is somewhat embarrassing to be writing about my love
for Nick Sparks book when I do consider myself to be a well-read human. What I will say is that if you aren't a fan of his books you likely just haven't read one. Yes, the movies are usually cheesy and crap. Yes, the books are better. If you've been thinking about reading some of his stuff or wondering if you can live with yourself if you like it, read this post and come with me to the cheesy-lovey-tear-filled land of reading that is Nick Sparks.

Something I mentioned when compiling my list of books that make good Christmas gifts is that Sparks is a very commercial writer. He has a new novel out every year just in time for Christmas so husbands and boyfriends and parents can buy it for the suckers of women in their lives (like me) and more often than not it will be a movie shortly after and the novel will be re-released with the movie cover. My mother (bless her heart) has been the victim of Sparks' commercial efforts. She once brought home a copy of his book with the movie cover thinking it was new when we'd both already read the original. I am cringing as I type this but on his own website is his own quote: "I don't live to write, I write to live,"... and that basically tells you everything you need to know.

Whether you can take the guy seriously or not as an author, there is something inspiring about his story. He wrote The Notebook in his spare time while selling pharmaceuticals and a random literary agent found it in her agency's slush pile. There is hope for all of us. I also find his books to be 2-3 days of pure enjoyment where I focus on nothing else and don't put it down. Often the stories make me actually sob so I don't care how lame people think he is, I look forward to reading his new book every year. Also, talk to me when you have 20 bestselling novels about how he's not a serious author why don't you...

I'm going to discuss each of his books in chronological order but the basic concept here is that if you like one you'll like them all. the guy doesn't diverge much from his basic fiction formula. 

The Notebook (1996)

Everyone knows this story. Noah and Allie and the Ferris wheel
and the Alzheimer's and all the rest of it. The movie adaptation is incredible and almost does the book justice. Who can forget early Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams (London, Ontario locals I will add) and their amazing chemistry? I'm still not over their real life breakup. You can open up any girls' Tumblrs and find enough romantic Notebook quotes to last a lifetime, but I felt that the Alzheimer's story line was way overshadowed by the 'falling in love' story line. There is nothing sadder to me than dementia so I really enjoyed those parts the most and the book discusses it more thoroughly than the movie.

kill me
I sit by the bed with an aching back, and start to cry as I pick up the notebook. I am tired now, so I sit, alone and apart from my wife. And when the nurses come in they see two people they must comfort. A woman shaking in fear and the old man who loves her more deeply than life itself crying softly in the corner, his face in his hands.”

 Message in a Bottle (1998)

This book is about a woman who finds a love letter from a man to his deceased wife in a bottle, and falls in love with him through his letters. It's not my absolute favourite but I read it, I enjoyed it, and that's what his novels are for. There's also a movie adaptation of this one which was less popular, mind you, The Notebook was a real cultural anomaly that I don't think any of us were prepared for. It's definitely worth a watch on a night at home when you feel like pure fluff.

Kevin Costner and Robin Wright in the 1999 movie adaptation
This story is about a bit of an older couple so I think it appeals to a different audience than most of his novels. My mom would kill me for saying 'older' here as they're likely mid-40's, but that is older compared to his other characters. 

Life passes by now like the scenery outside a car window. I breathe and eat and sleep as I always did, but there seems to be no great purpose in my life that requires active participation on my part...I do not know where I am going or when I will get there.”

 A Walk to Remember (1999)

This is definitely one of my favourite of his novels and movies.
Watching this as a teen was basically a rite of passage and I developed an early Mandy Moore obsession as a result. Bad-boy Landon falls in love with the minister's daughter / school nerd Jamie and I won't spoil the ending if you don't already know it (which, if this is the case, get your head out of the gutter). The movie adaptation is crazy good, even now at age 25 I love to watch it (so does Meg) and as a bonus it has an amazing soundtrack. I have nothing more to say, read this, watch this, you're welcome. 

look at these BABIES
The Rescue (2000)

This was the first Sparks book I ever read. It's about a volunteer
firefighter who helps a single mom find her young son with autism after a car accident. They end up falling in love and there's some drama and whatever else. There's a part of the plot line I think about a lot when main character is reflecting on why he became a volunteer firefighter. He was playing in the attic through the night, despite not being allowed, when his house catches on fire. His parents can't find him, exit the housem and eventually he peeks his head out the window and his dad begs him to jump. He is ultimately too scared and his dad has to run back through the burning house to throw him out, and his dad unfortunately dies. I think of this story line all the time, mainly because its terrifying, but also because I know in the same position I'd never be able to jump. The guilt he carries is a huge part of the rest of the book. I especially think this would be a great read if you know a child with autism as he writes a lot about the emotional trials of caring for them. This is one of his few novels that doesn't have a movie adaptation. 

A Bend in the Road (2001)

This one is sort of blah and I would put it fairly low down on the list if you're trying to work through Sparks repertoire. A man's wife is killed by a hit and run accident and later he falls in love with his son's teacher who is mysteriously connected to him... dum dum dum. It's an easy read, there's nothing wrong with it, but I don't think there's anything that special either. There's no movie adaptation for this one either. 

Three Weeks with my Brother (2001)

I haven't read this so I'm not going to talk about it really. It's a non-fiction account of a vacation he took with his brother Micah who co-wrote it. I can't imagine it could be that interesting. 

Nights in Rodanthe (2002)

This is another novel that I think would appeal to an older audience as age and getting older is a big theme throughout. I remember being bored when I read it in my teens. The main character's husband leaves her for a younger woman and she heads to Rodanthe to escape her life. There she meets a former doctor (how lucky for her) who's in equal emotional turmoil and they fall in love. 

People want pretty much the same things: They wanted to be happy. Most young people seemed to think that those things lay somewhere in the future, while most older people believed they lay in the past.” 

my dad has always had a huge crush on Diane Lane
The Guardian (2003)

This is one of his sadder novels and I think its just because there's a dog involved. If you're a dog lover you'll enjoy this one but you'll also cry a bunch. I would also say this is one of Sparks' more suspenseful or mystery style books. A young woman is widowed but her husband leaves her a puppy when she dies. Years later she has to choose between two men and is caught in a jealous web. There's no movie adaptation for this one but I had always hoped there would be. 

...everyone - you included - is on her best behavior in the beginning of a relationship. Sometimes little quirks turn out to be big ones, and the big advantage that women have - sometimes the only advantage - is their intuition.” 

The Wedding (2003)

This is my favourite of all his novels. It's not the
same typical love story as the others and it's more introspective. The story is told from the perspective of Allie & Noah's (from The Notebook) son-in-law who is concerned his own marriage has lost its romance as he plans his daughter's wedding. His wife is so obsessed with her parents' great love story (aren't we all) and he can't possibly live up to the pressure. This is the first time Sparks' relates two plot lines in any of his books. I am very interested in complex relationships and the trials and tribulations of marriage, so this story really appealed to me. There's no movie adaptation but I'm honestly glad. The book is so heavily thought-based that I don't think it could be properly adapted. 

I learned that it’s possible for two people to fall in love all over again, even when there’s been a lifetime of disappointment between them.” 

True Believer (2005)

This was one of his least interesting novels. Big-city, science-fiction writer heads to quiet town to investigate haunted lighthouses. He meets the local librarian and they fall in love. Cool. There is no movie adaptation for this although I always pictured the main character to be played by Malin Akerman. I'm weird. I have always really liked this quote about marriage:

A good marriage, like any partnership, meant subordinating one's own needs to that of the other's, in the expectation that the other will do the same.” 

At First Sight (2005)

This was a sequel to True Believer and the only other time Sparks has continued a plot line across two books. In this book, the librarian is pregnant and faces some serious complications, along with a 'mystery' element of who the father is. I liked this a lot more than True Believer because they discuss a lot of emotions around parenthood, which I love to read about. You definitely don't need to read these together as they read fine as individual stories.

Dear John (2006)

Ah, Dear John. This was when things for Sparks got very commercial and suddenly every book was immediately a movie regardless of whether it should be or not. This book follows a couple who write to each other long distance while the man serves in the war. I really liked this story line for a lot of reasons, especially the sub plot where the main character's dad has Asperger's. I also found the ending to be very dark which is exactly how I love fiction to be. I love the military element because my favourite plot ever is a wife at home who doesn't know the fate of her husband. The movie adaptation is also quite good but I find it to be a lot 'sweeter' than the book actually reads. That may just be because Amanda Seyfried is essentially just a cupcake in human form. 

comment below if you've ever wanted Channing Tatum to kiss your head like this

The Choice (2007)

I tell everyone I discuss Sparks with that this is his saddest book. I think I cried from like, chapter two onward. You're introduced to the two characters as they are just meeting and falling in love but the book also flashes ahead after years of marriage, kids, etc. when tragedy has struck. It is devastating, don't read it in public. I was SO excited for a movie adaptation of this one because I was ready for a good cry but it was actually garbage. I don't even know the names of the actors used, it didn't tell the story line properly, and I just was super disappointed. I highly recommend just reading the book for this one.

who even are these people?
There had been a long period of time during which he remembered being very happy. But things change. People change. Change was one of the most inevitable laws of nature, exacting its toll on people's lives. Mistakes are made, regrets form, and all that was left were repercussions that made something as simple as rising from the bed seem almost laborious.”

The Lucky One (2008)

This was a great story, and luckily, a pretty good movie adaptation also. A man finds a photo of a woman while serving in Iraq and when he gets home he sets out to find her and they fall in love. Obviously there's a bunch of drama and stuff also but, you get it. In the movie, Zak Efron debuts his hot, adult body for the first time and everyone is pleased. It wasn't the best book in his repertoire but also not the worst and definitely worth a good weekend curled up on the couch. It's also a great read for dog lovers as they are at the forefront of this plot. 

why yes, that is Piper from Orange is the New Black
The Last Song (2009)

This book is one of his only 'family drama' dominant storylines.
Troubled, teenaged, piano prodigy Ronnie and her brother have to spend the summer with their dad against their will. Ronnie ends up falling in love and making up with her dad and blah blah blah. I would argue here the movie is actually better than the book because we get to watch Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth fall in love both on and off screen (luckily for all of us, still going strong today). If you secretly think Miley Cyrus is a good singer like Meg & I do, this movie has a great soundtrack as well. I'd recommend this book if you have hard relationships with your parents or have ever lost a parent because its very inspiring and makes you see the value of family. 

RIP Miley's hair
Safe Haven (2010)

This wasn't one of my favourites either. A battered wife runs from her husband, hides in a small, coastal town, and falls in love with a hot, single dad who protects her. I know I'm making these story lines sound so cheesy but they actually just are that way. The movie was also not great although people were crazy about it and I firmly believe its just because Josh Duhamel is so frigging attractive. I would put this one low on the list to both read and watch. 

I may have this photo framed for my apartment
The Best of Me (2011)

I like this story because similarly to The Notebook it crosses a large
period of time. You see the characters fall in love as high school students, get torn apart by class and family, and then they're reunited by weird events later in life. I found the ending to be quite unrealistic but I won't ruin it for you. The movie adaptation for this book wasn't bad but I didn't like how they used different actors for the young and old versions of the characters, I wish they had just aged them like in The Notebook because I find it quite hard to connect them. I also just have a huge crush on James Marsden.

Michelle Monaghan is my dad's other celebrity crush. It seems my dad and Nick Sparks have the same taste in women.

The Longest Ride (2013) 

This book is a little different as Sparks tells two stories at once and
then connects them in a really cool way at the end. One story is about a married couple years before who can't have kids and devotes their life to collecting art. The other story is about an art student and a cowboy who fall in love despite challenges with his health, family and job. I really liked the first story but found the second one to be super boring. The movie adaptation was also awful and once again the leads were played by actors who I don't even know. My mom on the other hand found the lead actor to be extremely hot. It seems like this whole post is just about my parents' celebrity crushes. 

this girl is like 13 years old
See Me (2015)

This is one of Sparks other most 'mysterious' books I'd say. I
read the whole thing beside the pool in like a day because I needed to know what happened. Bad-boy, ex-con is trying to turn his life around and get a teaching degree when he meets and falls in love with super-student, type-A lawyer who is being stalked. He wants to protect the love of his life but can't risk going back to jail WHAT WILL HE DO? This post is getting out of hand. There is no movie adaptation for this one but it's still quite new. I'd like to predict the cast but I'm sure it will be all d-listers. I'd recommend this one if you're looking for a quick, good read. I also love this quote about college that is on point:

College was a bubble that kept the rest of the world at bay. There was an abundance of free time, friends who lived either with you or right next door, and an overwhelming sense of optimism about the future, even if you had no idea as to the specifics of what that might mean. In college, everyone accepted the fact that their lives would turn out exactly as planned, buoying them from one good memory to the next in a cascade of carefree three-day weekends.” 

Two by Two (2016)

This is my second favourite of his books after The Wedding because
 similarly, the problems are not these huge things like domestic violence or cancer, it's more regular things like a wife who doesn't love you. The story is about a husband who tries something new with his career and in turn his wife (who he never was really sure about) leaves him and his daughter. I thought this book was so well thought-out and detailed. I love to hear the man's side of a story as his wife 'falls out of love' with him. It also touches on the anxieties of parenting a lot which is a topic we all know I like to read about. There's a really sweet sub plot about his dad and his sister who gets sick. Anybody with a dad who's sort of stoic and doesn't show a lot of emotion would really appreciate it. I think any parent or married woman would like this. Maybe even a guy? I won't go that far. I really hope they don't turn this into a movie and butcher it, it's one of his best books in such a long time. 

HOW LONG WAS THAT? If you're still here after all of that congratulations there ought to be an award. In summary, Sparks is a cheesy, romance writer and he's great if you want a good story or a good cry but if you're looking for an amazing piece of writing that's really going to stay with you for a long time, you're in the wrong spot.


  1. I haven't read any, but I do like to dabble in the film adaptations :)
    My all time favorite film adaptation, behind Notebook of course, is The lucky one. It's sooo good!!! <3<3 Zac Efron <3<3
    I really really really can't stand Dear John though, it's the worst movie ever made. I think Tanning Chattum is the worst actor ever. I like to look at him, but otherwise, the sound of his voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me.

    1. I also love Zak but I do love Channing too... we can agree to disagree. :)

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