Book Review: Dear John by Nicholas Sparks


“I finally understood what true love meant…love meant that you care for another person’s happiness more than your own, no matter how painful the choices you face might be.”
― Nicholas Sparks, Dear John

I watched the movie, Dear John a couple of years ago. Over the years, I have watched number of other Nicholas Sparks’ movies such as Message in a Bottle, Safe Haven and of course, The Notebook. I have watched The Notebook so many times but sadly, I have never read the book. This was the same with Dear John.Actually, the only Nicholas Sparks that I have read are Safe Haven and A walk to remember. When I finally came across a copy of the book in one of those inama bookshops on the streets on Nairobi, I decided to get it.

Dear John is such a beautiful love story just like most stories by Sparks. I have never encountered any other author who writes romance novels like Nicholas Sparks does. Anyway, I digress. Dear John is a story about a young woman, Savanna who falls in love with a young soldier, John. The two meet while John is on leave from the army and Savanna is on vacation. They share a few magical weeks and fall in love.

“There are memories for both of us, of course, but I’ve learned that memories can have a physical, almost living presence, and in this, Savannah and I are different as well.If hers are stars in the nighttime sky, mine are the haunted empty spaces in beetween…”
― Nicholas Sparks, Dear John

Soon, John has to resume duty in Germany and so the couple has to part ways. The two manage to keep the romance alive by writing each other letters as they count down the days before they can meet again. After months apart, they meet and immediately rekindle their romance before John has to go back again to the army.
However, things change when John decides to extend his serve in the military especially after the September 11 attacks. The increased time apart seems to strain the relationships and their love is truly put to test during this period. The narrator paints a vivid picture of the hurdles of the long distance relationship at the peril of strains that come with absence.

images dj“Part of me aches at the thought of her being so close yet so untouchable, but her story and mine are different now. It wasn’t easy for me to accept this simple truth, because there was a time when our stories were the same, but that was six years and two lifetimes ago.”
― Nicholas Sparks, Dear John

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks is that kind of book that makes you feel good, all warm and fuzzy inside. It makes you dream as you learn about John and Savanna’s love story. This is the kind of book that you curl up on the sofa with on a cold, rainy afternoon as you drink your coffee. It’s the kind of book that opens your eyes to what love is really about and not just  romantic love but also familial love. Its a beautiful story.


ps:I wrote this review on January 29th 2016 although its scheduled to be posted on March 31st. My reading challenge for this year was to read 50 books. Its almost February and this was my 10thbook for the year

Eleven Books of January

My Reading Challenge

woman reading

I plan to read 50 books this year and that is my reading challenge for 2016. I don’t have a reason as to why I settled on 50 and not 100. Not even sure if it’s really a challenge for me  given that I have already read 11 books so far this year. Nevertheless; it’s a starting point.

So this is what I read in January;
11. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin


About the book:
A plump, vain, and prosperous middle-aged man of robust appetites, Baba Segi is the patriarch of a large household that includes a quartet of wives and seven children. But his desire to possess more just might be his undoing.

And his wives . . .

Iya Segi—the bride of Baba Segi’s youth, a powerful, vindictive woman who will stop at nothing to protect her favored position as ruler of her husband’s home. Iya Tope—Baba Segi’s second wife, a shy, timid woman whose decency and lust for life are overshadowed by fear. Iya Femi—the third wife, a scheming woman with crimson lips and expensive tastes who is determined to attain all that she desires, no matter what the cost. Bolanle—Babi Segi’s fourth and youngest wife, an educated woman wise to life’s misfortunes who inspires jealousy in her fellow wives . . . and who harbors a secret that will expose shocking truths about them all

Why I picked it: I was on the road on a three hour journey. I had started reading a hard copy of: Abducted: The Fourteen Year Fight to Find My Children by Jacqueline Parscal. However, when night fell, I had to find something to read on my tablet. That is when I remembered that I had this book.

Thoughts: witty, enjoyable and quite thrilling

“Men are so simple. They will believe anything.”
Lola Shoneyin, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives

10. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold


About the Book
The Lovely Bones is a 2002 novel by Alice Sebold. It is the story of a teenage girl who, after being raped and murdered, watches from her personal Heaven as her family and friends struggle to move on with their lives while she comes to terms with her own death

Why I picked it: I heard about the book from a forum that was discussing Room by Emma Donoghue. I decided to read it based on the uniqueness of the narrator. Luckily, this is another book that I found on the bookshelves of our lovely library at my workplace

Thoughts: It was a good story, loved the uniqueness of a posthumous narrator. The book made me think about life after death

“My name is Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered.”
Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones

9. Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

About the Book
John Tyree is a 23 year old in the army who goes home on leave, where he lives in Wilmington, North Carolina with his father. There on the beach he meets Savannah Lynn Curtis, a college student working for Habitat for Humanity. John and Savannah fall in love in the week that he is on leave from the army. John has to go back to war and leaves Savannah with the vow to come back and marry her. They communicate by writing letters and phone calls trying to sustain the relationship they had in the short time they were together.

Why I picked it: I was looking for a book to buy (not to read). I have a number of books that I haven’t yet read but like any other books shopaholic, I never feel like I have enough books. I found this book somewhere on the streets of Nairobi (Inama Bookshop) and bought it at a dollar (100 bob) and decided to read it because the cover looked interesting and plus I had already watched the movie

Thoughts: I loved it. It’s a good romantic story, not too mushy or tragic like most Sparks books. I enjoyed the easy flow of the narrative.

“I finally understood what true love meant…love meant that you care for another person’s happiness more than your own, no matter how painful the choices you face might be.”
Nicholas Sparks, Dear John

8. The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy

About the Book:
In this extraordinary collection of stories, the New York Times-bestselling author of Evening Class and This Year it Will Be Different once again reveals her incomparable understanding of matters of the heart. In The Return Journey, Maeve Binchy brings us sons and lovers, daughters and strangers, husbands and wives in their infinite variety–powerfully compelling stories of love, loss, revelation, and reconciliation.

A secretary’s silent passion for her boss meets the acid test on a business trip….A man and a woman’s mutual disdain at first sight shows how deceptive appearances can be….An insecure wife clings to the illusion of order, only to discover chaos at the hands of a house sitter who opens the wrong doors….A pair of star-crossed travelers take each other’s bags, and then learn that when you unlock a stranger’s suitcase, you enter a stranger’s life. In their company are many more, whose poignant, ironic, often humorous stories–unforgettable slices of life–make up The Return Journey, a spellbinding trip into the human heart.

Why I picked it: I once heard someone claim that Maeve Binchy is one of the world’s best writers. When I came across this book at the library, I had to pick it just to find out whether the claim about Binchy was true

Thoughts: I haven’t read a collection of short stories in a long time. This book made me miss traveling. It’s an easy, fun read.

“I don’t have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.”
Maeve Binchy

7. The Help by Kathyrn Stockett

The Help 1

About the Book:
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Why I picked the book: I have had this book in my reading list for quite sometime and finally decided to read it this year. Once I got started, I was hooked to the end.

Thoughts: I should have read it ages ago. It is a good story that I also found it to be very thought provoking.

“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, “Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”
Kathryn Stockett, The Help

6. Hiding in Plain Sight by Nuruddin Farah


About the Book
When Bella learns of the murder of her beloved half brother by political extremists in Mogadiscio, she’s in Rome. The two had different fathers but shared a Somali mother, from whom Bella’s inherited her freewheeling ways. An internationally known fashion photographer, dazzling but aloof, she comes and goes as she pleases, juggling three lovers. But with her teenage niece and nephew effectively orphaned – their mother abandoned them years ago—she feels an unfamiliar surge of protective feeling. Putting her life on hold, she journeys to Nairobi, where the two are in boarding school, uncertain whether she can—or must—come to their rescue. When their mother resurfaces, reasserting her maternal rights and bringing with her a gale of chaos and confusion that mirror the deepening political instability in the region, Bella has to decide how far she will go to obey the call of sisterly responsibility.

Why I picked the book: This was a gift from a Secret Santa from my Book Club

Thoughts: The story-line was good but the bias against Kenya(and Kenyans) left a bitter taste in my mouth

“Death in Somalia seldom bothers to announce its arrival. In fact, death calls with the arrogance of a guest confident on receiving a warm welcome at any time, no question asked.”
Nuruddin Farah, Hiding in Plain Sight

5. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

The Secret Life 2
About the Book
Set in South Carolina during 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of a fourteen year old white girl, Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. When Lily’s fierce-hearted “stand-in mother,” Rosaleen, insults three racists in town, they escape to Tiburon, South Carolina—a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past. Taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, Lily finds refuge in their mesmerizing world of bees, honey, and the Black Madonna.
Lily starts a journey as much about her understanding of the world, as about the mystery surrounding her mother. The Secret Life of Bees is a major literary triumph about the search for love and belonging, a novel that possesses a rare wisdom about life and the power and divinity of the female spirit.

Why I picked the book: I found this book while perusing the bookshelves of our library. Honestly, I picked it because the title sounded familiar. It just sounded like one of those books that everyone else has read.

Thoughts: It really is one of those books that everyone should read. This is brilliant yet moving narration that all women especially should read.

“Someone who thinks death is the scariest thing doesn’t know a thing about life.”
Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

4. Room by Emma Donoghue

nice image
About the Book
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Why I picked this book: It was recommended by a book lover on Hooked on Books on facebook. In addition, I heard that the story was inspired by the Josef/Elisabeth Fritz story.

Thoughts: Another great book. I loved the fact that the narrator was a five year old. It was an interesting and fresh perspective. The story was sad (heartbreaking, really) but quite intriguing at the same time. A very moving story.

“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.”
Emma Donoghue, Room

3. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train

About the book

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Why I picked the book: This is the book that my Book Club is currently reading

Thoughts: I absolutely loved this book. It’s a fast paced thriller that keeps readers guessing up to the end. I can see why it has been compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Fynn. It’s really that good.

“let’s be honest: women are still only really valued for two things—their looks and their role as mothers.”
Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

2. ‘Abduction’ by John Grisham

theo 3

About the Book

Theodore Boone is back in a new adventure, and the stakes are higher than ever. When his best friend, April, disappears from her bedroom in the middle of the night, no one, not even Theo Boone-who knows April better than anyone-has answers. As fear ripples through his small hometown and the police hit dead ends, it’s up to Theo to use his legal knowledge and investigative skills to chase down the truth and save April.

Why I picked the book: It’s the second book in the Theodore Boone series. The first book had such a good ending that got me curious enough to read the second one. In addition, after meeting all the characters in the first book, I wanted to know how Theo would handle the abduction of his best friend.

Thoughts: It’s an easy read like the first one but again, better suited for young adults or the young at heart.

“And I’m sure Theo can always find her.”

― John Grisham, The Abduction


1. The Kid Lawyer (from the Theodore Boone Series) by John Grisham.

Theo 2
About the Book (synopsis)
Meet Theodore Boone In the small city of Strattenburg, there are many lawyers, and though he’s only thirteen years old, Theo Boone thinks he’s one of them. Theo knows every judge, policeman, court clerk—and a lot about the law. He dreams of being a great trial lawyer, of a life in the courtroom.

But Theo finds himself in court much sooner than expected. Because he knows so much—maybe too much—he is suddenly dragged into the middle of a sensational murder trial. A cold-blooded killer is about to go free, and only Theo knows the truth. The stakes are high, but Theo won’t stop until justice is served.

Why I picked this book: I was looking for something to read and was intrigued when I found out that Grisham had published a Young- Adult series. I loved John Grisham books and so had to check it out

Thoughts: I enjoyed reading the book. It’s clearly meant for younger readers but I still liked it and so I think even older readers may enjoy it.


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Plans February, 2016: So those were my eleven books of January 2016. I have already written the full reviews which will be posted on a weekly basis on this blog all the way to April. I expect February to be quite busy for me because of school and work so my plan is to read four books. I think I will read, an autobiography, thriller, African fiction and a classic. Let’s see how the month goes.

On my reading list:

1. Abducted: The Fourteen Year Fight to Find My Children by Jacqueline Parscal
2. Shantarama by Gregory David Robert
3. Angela’s Ashes by Arthur Golden
4. Dreams of my father: A story of race and inheritance by Barrack Obama
5. Dust by Yvonne Odhiambo Owuor
6. P.S: I Love you by Cecilia Ahern

Okay maybe I will read 6 books instead of 4 