Theo James cast as Four/Tobias in DIVERGENT adaptation!

DivergentTheo JamesWell, he’s not one ANY of us considred, but we officially know who will be playing Four in Summit Entertainment’s film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s Divergent.

Theo James, 28, is a British actor who’s resume isn’t long, but pretty impressive. The actor, who has been seen in Downton Abby, Golden Boy, and Underworld: Awakening, will join Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz, and Maggie Q as one of the main characters in the dystopian trilogy.

Moviefone reports that Jai Courtney has signed on to play Eric, and various outlets are reporting that Aaron Eckhart, Kate Winslet, and Ray Stevenson have also been cast and/or offered roles in the film.

So who wants to sound off? What are YOUR thoughts on the casting choice?

Second Look: THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest MindsThe Story: When Ruby was 9 years old, she watched her classmates slowly start to die off one by one of by a horrible disease that killed most children in America. The ones that survived, like Ruby, didn’t get off scott-free. Kids like her developed abilities, some harmless (but still impressive), and some very dangerous. When Ruby was 10, she was carted off to a “rehabilitation camp” meant to help kids like her. Unknown to parents and adults, these camps are not actually intended to “help” anyone.  After a harrowing rescue from Camp Thurmond, Ruby, now 16, meets up with a band of survivors who are trying to get to a secret camp for kids on the run called East River. Run by a mysterious young men simply called “the Slip Kid”, East River gives children and teens a safe place to hide out and try to reach their families if they so desire. When they get there, East River seems like the ideal paradise for a group of kids on the run. Unfortunately, there’s more to the camp than meets the eye, and the Slip Kid has some nefarious plans for Ruby.

The Low Down: I’m not sure how I feel about this book. Being the dystopian lover I am, I really wanted to like it. I really truly did. It wasn’t a a bad book, but I really struggled to follow it and enjoy it at the same time.

There really is no one way to sum up everything that is happening here. There are intermittent flashbacks of Ruby’s past thrown in at random points, which stretch out through the book. Some are of her time at Thurmond, and some eventually lead up to the incident that got her sent to Thurmond when she was 10. There are dozens of different settings (the rehabilitation camp, on the road in a minivan, a Walmart where they hole up for a night or so, East River, a hotel room or two, etc.), though this detail is understandable since Ruby and company are traveling across four states with a 10-year-old Rand McNally atlas. I just had a very difficult time following all the different times and places (case in point: see how long my summary is above? Do you have any idea how long it took me to shorten it to that length AND still make it sound coherent?)

I didn’t feel a lot of compassion or connection to the characters either. Ruby is a young girl who has been traumatized by the events in her young life and has a big scary power that she doesn’t know how to control. Yes, she’s scared. Who could blame her?! But I refuse to label her as a “strong heroine.” For most of it, she just came off as whiny, trying to inwardly deal with her fear and pain, and bitchily shutting out her new friends instead of actually asking for help, all under the guise of her “not wanting to hurt anyone.” Sure, Ruby. Because I’m sure they’ll appreciate it when you accidentally mind-rape them with no warning whatsoever.

My last gripe is that many of the big reveals and huge GASP! moments weren’t all that monumental and left me thinking, “oh… that’s it?! THAT is the big secret?” (there were one or two jaw-droppers, but not enough to say I was at the edge of my seat). Some of the shocking moments were just downright predictable.

One thing I can give Bracken props for is her writing style. I enjoyed the writing itself and appreciate the quality of her words and ability to write. It has a very promising plot, but I think the story could have used a little more polishing.

Extra Goodies: On The Darkest Minds website, there’s a whole bunch of goodies related to the book(s). You can get playlists, explore the world Bracken has created in the series, additional book reviews, and FAQ’s related to the series.

The Bottom Line: Alexandra Bracken is a good writer, but the story needed to be cleaned up a bit. While I don’t think the book was bad, The Darkest Minds didn’t leave me with a lasting “OH MY GOD!” impression. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ll probably skip the rest of the trilogy.

OFFICIAL RATING: 5/10

Because we didn’t get enough cannibalism in Book 1… News for the Ashes trilogy!

Ok, I exaggerated a teeny, tiny bit. It’s not BIG news. But I do have book titles and a release date for the upcoming books!

Book 2 in the Ashes trilogy by Ilsa Bick will be called SHADOWS, and is tentatively set for release on September 11, 2012. Book 3 will be titled MONSTERS, and doesn’t have a specific release date yet, but one can assume it will most likely be as some point in 2013. No cover art for either book yet, but when it’s released, you’ll be the first ones I tell.

Ashes is a dystopian/apocalyptic survival story about 17-year-old Alex, who is dying of a severe brain tumor. The tumor has taken her sense of smell (and therefore, her sense of taste) and is starting to take her hearing, too. While hiking out in the woods alone, she survives an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) which either kills you, leaves you alone, or turns you into a flesh craving, cannibalistic zombie. As she travels with people she meets along the way to try to find help, she discovers that not only has her sense of smell returned, but it’s suddenly heightened to superhero-like levels. She must use this new “power” to help her survive among The Changed (aka. The Flesh Eaters) and everyone else who survived the EMP.

With a ridiculously amazing cliffhanger ending, it’s will leave you hungry for book 2. Check out AtLP’s official review here.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! To celebrate the release of her new book Drowning Instinct, she’s offering a giveaway for a signed copy of the book! Pop over to her website for deets. You can enter through February 8.

Random Facts about Ilsa J. Bick (impress your friends with all this newfound knowledge!)

    • Was an English major in College
    • She is a child psychologist.
    • She’s a former Air Force Major.
    • Wrote Star Trek novels
    • Won second prize in the Writers of the Future Contest in 2000.

Second Look: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

My apologies.

My internet connection has been painfully slow and has been driving me CRAZY. So my routine has been to open a browser window, take a shower and do my hair while it loads, click “check mail”, make dinner while mailbox loads, open an email, eat dinner while email loads, read the aforementioned email… you get the idea. Hence the lack of posts lately.

BUT FEAR NOT! Because amid all this slowness, I was able to tear myself away from my computer and managed to do some reading… on with the reviewing!

PLOT:
Rhine Ellery lives in a post-apocalyptic world where science has made great genetic advancements. An entire generation of people is able to happily live without the threat of disease and ages slowly and gracefully. Unfortunately, all the children of this generation are not so lucky, as a virus kills all women at age 20 and men at 25.  When Rhine is kidnapped by the Gatherers to become a bride in a polygamous marriage, she is ripped from her twin brother and whisked to a luxurious, secluded mansion. She faces a life with her new husband, companionship with her two sister wives, and a sadistic father-in-law who is desperate to find a cure so his son will live past the age of 25. Since Rhine’s arrival at the mansion, all she wants is to escape and make her way back home to her brother. Now she has a decision to make: live the remaining four years of her life in luxury (or a facsimile of it), or attempt an escape with Gabriel, a servant she’s attracted to… and shouldn’t be.

CHARACTERS:
All DeStefano’s characters have a rich, emotional depth that make you to feel what they feel. Rhine is a smart, strong young woman. She knows how to take care of herself and manipulate a situation to her benefit when she needs to. Normally that’s not a trait I’d consider positive, but, given the circumstances, I’d say it’s commendable. She is terribly distraught after being separated from her twin, but manages to have the presence of mind to take care of her sister wives, and formulate the best plan for escape. Linden, her/their husband, is an odd character. He’s incredibly naive and sheltered, which is largely because of his domineering father, Housemaster Vaughn. I want to hate Linden for what he’s done to these girls, but I just feel sorry for him. Jenna, Sister Wife #1, is an awesome partner in crime. At 19, with only one year left to live, she’s got nothing to lose. She watches out for Rhine and supports her by laying some groundwork for some of Rhine’s stealthy schemes. Cecily, Sister Wife #2, is like everyone’s typical, annoying, 13-year-old little sister. That’s right. 13. Who is actually excited to be a child bride. Despite how aggravating she may be, she does have some redeeming qualities which shine through as the book progresses.

EXTRA GOODIES:

  • Wither just might shape your view of parenthood.  After the birth scene, it made me realize that the whole concept of motherhood kind of repulses me.
  • DeStefano’s writing is a treat all by itself, plain and simple.

OPINION:
The long and short of it is that Wither is an incredible book. Lauren DeStefano has a true gift for words and has managed to craft an amazing page turner. I fear the brain that spawned such a brilliant work of YA lit. She took a touchy subject (sister wives, polygamous camps with child brides, etc) that has been steadily gaining more and more national attention and gave it a uniquely creative twist. As for content, there’s not much violence or language at all. Among the wives, there’s talk of “consummating the marriage” and getting pregnant to perpetuate the human race, but DeStafano’s language is classy, and never immature or crude.

As icky as the thought is of being a polygamous child bride, there are positive messages that shine through. There’s no sense of rivalry or competition among the three girls and they manage to bond through their past and present experiences. They also rally around each other when they need to, despite still wanting to do what’s best for themselves. There are two very intense scenes, one dealing with the aforementioned birth and one with a death, that drive that point home.

What worries me about The Chemical Garden Trilogy? Most trilogies follow the same pattern: Book 1 kicks major ass, Book 2 is just a bridge to Book 3, and Book 3 either rocks a satisfying conclusion, or sucks so bad you weep for what should have been an awesome series (for those of us who hated Mockingjay, see: The Hunger Games). By itself, Wither would make a fine stand alone novel. I have a vague idea where DeStefano is going to take Fever (Book 2), but I think the series would be interesting if the next book focused on the POV of one of the other wives. But, then again, with her creative imagination, maybe she’ll surprise me.

OVERALL RATING: 9/10

Second Look: Divergent by Veronica Roth

PLOT:
In a dystopian version of Chicago, people are split into 5 factions: Amity (the peaceful), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intelligent), Abnegation (the selfless) and Candor (the honest). On the day of the Choosing Ceremony, the 16-year-olds of the community must choose the faction in which they want to live for the rest of their lives. No swapping or mind-changing here, kids. Once you’re in, you’re in for life. Either that, or live factionless among society’s derelicts. On the day of the choosing, Beatrice makes a surprising decision, renames herself Tris, and takes the opportunity to reinvent herself. In doing so, she discovers there’s big trouble in their idyllic world, including a group trying to overthrow the government. There goes the neighborhood…

CHARACTERS:
Two main characters are worth discussing here. Tris is eerily similar to our favorite heroine, Katniss Everdeen. She’s tough as nails (with some insecurities), strong willed, rebellious, fights hardcore for her family, and has a fire in her that can’t be put out. She meets up with a young man nicknamed Four, who could potentially be my new fictional boyfriend. He’s rugged and hard, and there’s nothing I love more than a guy who can take charge. But he’s not all rough and tumble. There is an affectionate side to him that, yes, is sweet and romantic, but can be ever-so-slightly fluffy. With a little polishing, Four and I could get along REALLY well.

EXTRA GOODIES:

  • Four. ‘Nuff said.
  • The trauma of wondering what it would be like to confront your worst fears. All of them. In rapid succession. *shivers*
  • Learn how to abandon your family without any of the guilt!

OPINION:
Hey! If you read this and really like it, I have a great recommendation for you. It’s this book called The Hunger Games. Ever hear of it?

In Divergent, you’ll find fights! Shooting! Teenagers pitted against each other for nothing more than glory! Young girls getting the crap beat out of them! Political upheaval! Huzzah! (Sound like any other awesome dystopias you know?) Divergent may scream HUNGER GAMES RIP OFF, but, to be honest, it’s a really good book. I was skeptical at first, but once I dug in a little deeper, I was hooked. The pacing is similar to Suzanne Collins’, in that it keeps rolling and never slows down. Roth’s fictional world is NOT one I would want to live in, but her writing made it feel very real. It’s suspenseful and action packed, but also has a legit storyline.

Roth hits on some interesting topics in Divergent. It could hit close to home with anyone who is preparing to leave home, especially for college. Tris is a young teen who voluntarily decides to leave her parents behind so she can strike out on her own. Roth also throws in political and moral dilemmas without being preachy.

I would absolutely recommend this to any fan of The Hunger Games. Divergent is nearly identical to THG in terms of content: it ranks pretty high on the violence scale (there’s some pretty brutal stuff in here), no sex (but some romance), and some harsh language. The ending sets up the next book nicely, and I’m very excited for the sequel in this planned trilogy (titled Insurgent, tentative release date May 2012). My only fear is that Insurgent will be nothing more than filler to get to the conclusion. My advice to the author: Don’t sell out! Keep the good stuff coming Veronica!

OFFICIAL RATING: 8.5/10