Monday, March 11, 2013

Safe Haven - Nicholas Sparks (+ Movie Review)

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: September 14, 2010
Source/Format: Borrowed from Mel || Paperback

When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her... a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo’s empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards... and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven. (from Goodreads)

Nicholas Sparks is one of those authors who I started reading when I was extremely young, and I have always filed him away in my mind as writing tragic, but real love stories. While Safe Haven is certainly a stellar example of a love story, and there's certainly a tragedy, I have to hand it to the author for trying something a bit different. Though I'm still reeling from this unexpected new thing, I can objectively say that this adds a new dimension to his writing and made this novel a very interesting read indeed.

Katie seems sweet and unassuming, and just one of the folk, but you can tell that she's put up a wall around herself. Readers get to witness that wall begin to crumble little by little as Katie starts forming relationships with Alex, Alex's children and her neighbor Jo. Eventually, we finally get to see vulnerability and fear that Katie has been disguising all this time, although we don't necessarily find out exactly what's really going on until well into the novel. When I discovered what her secret was, my heart broke for her immediately and all I wanted to do was find a way to make sure that she would stay safe, sound and never had to be afraid again.

Enter Alex. Or really, before him, enter Alex's children. There's something disarming about children, something so innocent and pure that you really just cannot help to respond to that. This is what catches Katie by surprise, and eventually what helps her begin to lower her guard. I enjoyed reading about her interactions with the children, as there was no doubt in my mind that they were key to getting her to feel relaxed.

And then there's Alex. Oh Alex. I totally swooned over him in the book even though he's definitely much older than me. He's a widower raising two kids and running the town general store, and in my mind, he's that handsome, slightly older gentleman. He's responsible enough to keep the store stocked, running and with a loyal customer base. He's also a good father who does his best being dad and mom to the kids, and makes time for them. He's also a bit of a romantic, and he clearly loved his wife. When he starts having feelings for Katie, it's clear he's a little nervous and unsure of what he's doing - but that he's willing to try. Cue the swoons from me.

I love the romance in Nicholas Sparks novels, as that is usually what ends up getting to me most of all. Safe Haven is no exception, as I was definitely rooting for Katie and Alex. I could see the potential problems in their relationship, as well as the potentially awesome things too. But it never stopped me feeling like they were meant to be, and that feeling stayed with me throughout the novel.

I hinted at the beginning that there was something unusual about this Nicholas Sparks book, and I will simply say that the story had an unexpected sort of thriller feel to it. I'd hate to spoil this book for the rest of you, but it's definitely a different direction for Sparks. I hesitate to really decide whether I like it or don't, but I will say that it was very well-done indeed.

Nicholas Sparks is certainly skilled at telling these beautiful stories, with characters that feel authentic and settings that make me want to go and visit a small town. While he managed to inject something new into Safe Haven, it certainly comes across as a quintessential Nicholas Sparks tale - a romance, a tragedy and perhaps a chance for a new, well-deserved happily ever after. I enjoyed this one, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it for fellow Nicholas Sparks fans.

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I watched the movie adaptation of Safe Haven the same day that I finished the book. While I did enjoy it (and fawned an embarrassing amount over Josh Duhamel, who I love), there are definitely a few things that I was surprised by, both in a good way and in a bad way.

1. The movie actually followed most of the main plot of the book. What made it different though was how they chose to show it, which threw me off initially and made me think that they had taken it in an entirely new direction. I was relieved to see that it was still the same main story, which had been pretty interesting in the book.

2. Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough were cast as Alex and Katie - but they were definitely a younger version of the characters in the book. While this bothered me a little bit, I do think that it still worked for the most part (and it gave me the chance to see Josh shirtless so...)

3. Alex's kids were actually older than they are in the book. I thought that was an interesting change for the screen adaptation, but it worked because it made the story with the kids more complex. Both kids did a great job, by the way, and I thought they were completely believable.

I would comment more on the movie, but I don't want to spoil it further for anyone who hasn't seen it. It's an enjoyable film though, and it's actually a good adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel. While it didn't make me cry (which is what I tend to expect from films based on Nicholas Sparks' books), I did feel moved while I was watching it, and in the end, I really did enjoy how it turned out.

16 comments:

  1. I used to be a Nicholas Sparks ADDICT in high school. I read them all. I remember one Christmas I was sobbing while everyone was sitting around talking .. but I was sitting in a corner reading The Notebook. Oh, brother. Anyway, D and I went to see this movie last week and I really enjoyed it. I'm sure I'd like the book way more, but now that I've seen the movie and the awesomeness that is gorgeous Josh D., I don't know how I could read it. ;)

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    1. I mean, come on, JOSH DUHAMEL. That's ALL that matters at this point - and he was SO GOOD in the movie. I was totally swooning over him, and smiling at his moments ;)

      But the book is pretty great! It's a bit different from most Nicholas Sparks novels I've read, so I liked that, even though it threw me off a bit.

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  2. I've never read any Nicholas Sparks but I've seen all the movies. I'm thinking it's about time that I pick up some of his books. My TBR pile just keeps on growing it's ridiculous!

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    1. You should definitely read his books! I enjoy them a lot, though it's been a while since I've read the others. If you want recommendations, you can always hit me up on Twitter!

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  3. I do like me a good Sparks novel every now and then. That guy can write a heck of a novel! I desperately wanna know what Katie's secret is, haha. I haven't read one his books in awhile so I might have to give this a read soon, And see the movie! Mmmm, Josh!

    Vivian
    Confessions of a Vi3tBabe
    Deity Island

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    1. He really can! He's especially good at writing romances, no lie. I always enjoy the relationships he writes about. (You should definitely go see the movie for this one because it's JOSH DUHAMEL. Worth it.)

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  4. I wanted to see this movie so bad (mostly because of Josh), but now I really want to read the book, too. great review! ~daphne

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    1. You should definitely go and see Josh in it - he's FANTASTIC. And he's also pretty darn hot, so... that works too!

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  5. I can't remember ever reading a Nicholas Sparks book...I know my mom had some lying around the house, but I don't think I ever bothered to pick one up. I've definitely seen a bunch of the movies though, and they all made me cry! I like that this one almost has a thriller element to it; it definitely makes me want to make it my first NS book!

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    1. Most of his movies have made me cry too! The same thing has happened with a couple of his books, actually, so you should give them a try. Safe Haven is a pretty unique novel among the Sparks collection, so it would be interesting for you to start with this one first.

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  6. I read this one a couple of months ago when I heard the movie was coming out and then saw it when it hit theatres, they definitely presented the situation differently in the movie, I feel like they were trying to throw the viewers off, but you're right they stayed pretty true to the story.

    While I don't think any Nicholas Sparks movies have been that great since A Walk to Remember and the Notebook, I thought this one was pretty enjoyable. And I do love Josh Duhamel :)

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    1. I have a HUGE crush on Josh Duhamel. He's so adorable in this film, and I think he did a really great job playing Alex. *squeals*

      But yes, I'm glad they were able to sort of stick with the original storyline. The way they presented it was cinematic though, and that definitely worked out better.

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  7. I have read two, I think, of his books and I enjoyed them both. I also loved the movie adaptations for each one. For some reason though, this one nor the movie, catch my attention. I am glad you enjoyed both though. The mystery/thriller part piques my curiosity, but I will probably skip this one. Great review :)

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    1. Aww, that's okay! This isn't one of my favorite NS novels, but I did enjoy it. Glad you liked some of his other stuff though!

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  8. what a lovely review :3 Josh Duhamel is just yummy and perfect for the movie although he's a bit young :D

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  9. Safe Haven is a worthy addition to Sparks' list of books, but not one of my favorites. I wouldn't recommend the audio, even sitting in a car for 12 hours wasn't enough to keep my interest going at times and I found myself drifting off to sleep, or switching over to listen to music. I think I would have enjoyed the book more had I actually read it.

    Cleo Rogers (www.attiglawfirm.com)

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