Friday, May 23, 2014

Branded Blog Tour

Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki 
A Sinners Series

Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him.  In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society.  He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.  Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me.  I've been accused of a crime I didn't commit and now the Hole is my new home.

Darkness. Death. Violence.  Pain.

Now every day is a fight for survival.  But I won't die.  I won't let them win.

The Hole can't keep me. The Hole can't break me.  
I am more than my brand.  I'm a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

I turn on the faucet for a long while only to discover ice-cold water rushing out. The water never warms and I begin to understand. The Commander thinks he can wash away my soul by freezing me to death. He thinks he can destroy me by stripping away my possessions. But he can’t and I won’t let him take my memories, my ambition, and my pride.

He thinks I’m so easily broken.

The Commander doesn’t know anything about me, what I grew up with, what I endured—the father I lost, the mother I hate, the brother who walked out of my life, and the stepfather I was forced to accept. He thinks since I was rich, making me poor will cause me to give up. What he doesn’t understand is that, after my father passed away, I grew up behind walls of hatred. I had nothing, but had everything at the same time. I owned expensive clothes, enjoyed good schooling, and lived in a nice home. But my body was just a shell protecting an empty, desperate heart. My life was a colorful façade. I had so much time to sit and think. I spent the majority of my life between four walls. I was abandoned, neglected, starved, betrayed, and abused. I’ve already been treated like the scum of the earth, so the Hole is nothing new. He wants to erase every sign of my existence on this earth, but I won’t let that happen. He can strip me naked, but he’ll never reach my soul.

It’s personal, completely personal.

The story opens with the main character attempting suicide... AND THAT'S PAGE ONE!!! If that doesn't grab your attention and make you hold on for dear life, I don't know what will.  The best part is that you have no freaking idea what is going on!  Why is she doing this? What drove her to it?  Will she actually do it?  You experience this terrifying moment as Lexi is going through it and you are with her when she switches from absolute desolation, where death is the only option, to gripping life for all it's worth and running for it.  You're not even halfway through the first chapter, and you're breathing heavy, hoping, praying that she gets away...but you already know from the book description that she doesn't.

The basis of the plot is that the original 'Commander' took control of the country and instituted a new justice system based on the Seven Deadly Sins, which he claimed were the root of all of society's problems.  Personally, I think the original 'Commander' was bat-s*** crazy and that he picked the first thing that came to mind that made it easiest to suppress the population.  As one might expect, it takes very little to be accused of one of these crimes.  The obvious reality is that this 'justice system' doesn't work nor is it really beneficial for anyone, rich or poor, and as such, it becomes glaringly obvious as the story progresses that the current, faceless 'Commander' is a power hungry sadist that acquired an entire country to torture.  He reminded me of the Joker.  He just wants to watch the world burn.

Lexi has been accused of the crime of lust, a crime she didn't commit, and she will pay for it by being branded and tossed into the Hole...and oh my Hole-ey Hell.  What a truly terrifying setting to be condemned to. It's a place of desperation, hunger, and violence where each Brand is representative of the pecking order.  Stay away from the Reds (Wrath), don't trust the Yellows (Greed), Oranges (Gluttony) keep to themselves, and Blues (Lust) are walking victims.  Blue is quite possibly the worst color to be branded in the Hole.  They are perceived as whores and therefore are easy victims of violence, rape, and death.  Lexi is lucky to be assigned to work in the hospital, as most Blues end up working as prostitutes, and she's downright gifted to have Cole as a guard.  Unlike most of the guards, Cole isn't interested in taking advantage of Lexi.  If anything he feigns disinterest and is stern, but kind.  Her boss at the hospital, Dr. Sutton, is quite possibly my favorite character.  He is the sage adult presence that helped Lexi keep perspective and encouraged her to hold on to her humanity, even in the face of hopeless despair.

The true strength of this story is that it always felt realistic, even in the most extreme of situations.  It is the chronicle of Lexi's evolution from wounded victim, who is emotionally tough, but physically vulnerable, to a kick-ass survivor.  And this transformation doesn't happen at the snap of a finger.  She trains for it, sacrifices for it, bleeds for it.  You can't drop a physically and emotionally abused character into a place like the Hole and expect her to be an instantaneous hero. At first,  she is frequently victimized, but she has all the makings and qualities of a survivor.  Truly and realistically, she needed Cole in the beginning to keep her safe or she would have been picked off quite early on, but that struggle hardens her and makes her more amenable to the fact that she has to learn to fight. This ultimately leads her away from her dependence on Cole to being more than capable of taking care of herself.

This fresh take on the YA Dystopian genre has it all.  Forbidden romance, a crumbling society, character transformation, crippling loss, commentary on the justice system, a unique premise. *Pauses for breath intake* It's a fast paced, engaging narrative that isn't short on plot twists and surprises. Branded makes you feel every human emotion. I laughed, gasped, screamed, cringed, cried, and then I cried some more.  It's the story of the upheaval and rebellion of an oppressed people and a girl that won't go down without a fight.

Branded will be released on June 3rd.  Do yourself a favor and snag a copy.

This Goth Girl gives it:

*Goth Girl Gabs was provided an ARC free of charge in exchange for an honest review*


Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since.  After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship.  Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books.  What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.

Take Part in Our Poll and Tell Us: What Sin Would You Be Branded?
What Sin Would You Be?
Lust (Blue)
Gluttony (Orange)
Greed (Yellow)
Sloth (Black)
Wrath (Red)
Envy (Green)
Pride (Purple)
Poll Maker


  1. Great review! I can't wait for Hunted!!

    1. Thanks :) Me either. I'm already in withdrawals. Lol.