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Book Review + Author Interview: Branded

Title: Branded
Author: Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
Published: June 28, 2013 
Reviewer: Lea
Rating: 3.5 stars


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. 

To punish the guilty, he created the Hole, a place where sinners are branded according to their sins. Sinners are forced to live a less than human existence in deplorable conditions, under the watchful eye of guards who are ready to kill anyone who steps out of line.

Now, LUST wraps around my neck like thick, blue fingers, threatening to choke the life out of me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit, and the Hole is my new home. 

Constant darkness. 

Brutal and savage violence. 

Excruciating pain. 

Every day is a fight for survival. 

But I won’t let them win. I will not die in the Hole. 

I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter. My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.


     When I read the first page of this book my mind was completely captivated— what I found was immediate action, and definitely mystery— who was chasing her? Why? Especially— why was no one taking her in? Two elements that always fascinates me as a reader: mystery and action. So I immediately knew that I'd stick with this book for quite a while.

     Now my interest grew even bigger when she listed the 7 Deadly Sins. Very interesting, very original, I thought. Now the question was— what is her sin? But a hunch came to me naturally (Note: I did not read the synopsis) and I just knew what her sin was— lust.  There's enough controversy and maliciousness in lust, yet it's not too grievous— it's enough to make you curious yet understand: there's a story behind this, and things may not be as it seems.  And when I did find out that I was right, my book intuition grew stronger and I felt the need to read more.

     So Cole was introduced to the reader— I just knew, oh I just knew he's the one.  Every reader has a special sixth sense—knowing who the love interest is— and they did seem like such an interesting pair (Cole being Lexi's guard), and how it would happen is definitely something to find out. I may not be much of the romantic type but I was still very curious.

     And so the rest of the story went on: Lexi helps out in the hospital and meets Sutton—and as a fun fact— I've always wanted to be a doctor, so reading her adventures in the hospital was really interesting. I really love the fact that Sutton is such a nice guy— contrary to belief or contrary to what other books portray, doctors aren't indifferent know-at-alls who tinker with your body, they really care for their patients! (HAHA can you feel my indignation towards the misconception of doctors? In the many books that I've read, it's always the doctors or scientists who were the bad guys so it's great to have the doctor as the good guy for a change!).

     Alyssa and Lexi— they had a wonderful relationship.  You would never doubt Lexi's love for her.  When Lexi requested for Cole to go out on a date with her, I thought, YES PLEASE.  Great idea— seeing Cole trying to be charming for someone HAHA.  Lexi always fought for Alyssa, which definitely showed her strength as a character, as a person— her undying loyalty for the people she loves.

     This strength of hers also turned out as a fatal flaw when she was...violated.  She was too stubborn in her grief. But reading what she went through—it was such a hard thing to read, especially the after effects. The pain seemed very real, not only during this certain circumstance but the loneliness she felt, and the despair. And I felt it as a reader.

     But if there was pain, there was laughter and it's such a GREAT IDEA to have Zeus in the story.  He definitely is the true star of the book.  He made things lighter when things felt so serious— he's such a hilarious and silly dog and he definitely made me laugh a lot.  Also— pretty much the very first dog I've read with such a distinct personality, so it's one thing that separates the book from others.

      Also: this book is pretty well written— the authors of this book has great styles in writing and I loved a lot of lines that came from the book: "So we'll take one day at a time, because each day is one day we didn't have before."— (last line of the book). Very much tweetable ;)

     But if there's something that would be lacking in this book, it would be answers: not all my questions were answered in this book. If there's something I want to know more about, it would be this:

     Throughout the story, if there's somethig I've been most interested in, it would be the society and the world-building of the book.  There are so many ways to play with the concept of the Deadly Sins, so many possibilities, so many political and social issues that you can twist with! So it's something I'm always looking for in this book. But I need more! I learned a lot about the revolution and the Hole but I want to know more about the outside world and what other secrets lay in their world— especially the ones that the Commander brought with him to his grave. Definitely something I'm looking forward to know more about in the next book.

     Something I want to know more about too are the backstories of the other characters— I want to get to know them more. I know a lot about Lexi already, the story was very much fixiated on her (and her romantic relationship with Cole), so I want to understand the other characters this time (such as Bruno, Sutton, Cole, etc.) and their past, their adventures, their deeper character. They're interesting personalities, so it's something I'm looking out for in the next book too.  New characters are something I'm excited in learning more about— there are so little characters with actual importance in the first book— and now that they're out in the real world again, they've got to meet new people. It's something I foresee to be interesting.

      So all-in-all what do I think about this book, would I recommend it? Well I'll say this— it's something that's really worth a try for any fan of YA. It definitely appeals to readers who love action, mystery, and for those who loves romance. *wink wink girls*

Well, in this case— the authors. Two such kind people omg. 

About Abi

Abi Ketner Is a registered nurse with a passion for novels, the beaches of St. John, and her Philadelphia Phillies. A talented singer, Abi loves to go running and spend lots of time with her family. She currently resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband, triplet daughters and two very spoiled dogs.

(Source:  Abi's Goodreads  )

Contact Abi: Website / Twitter / Goodreads

About Missy

Melissa Kalicicki received her bachelor's degree from Millersville University in 2003. She married, had two boys and currently lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Aside from reading and writing, her interests include running and mixed martial arts. She also remains an avid Cleveland sports fan.

(Source:  Missy's Goodreads )

Contact Missy: Website / Twitter / Goodreads

As every reader is interested in knowing, what inspired you both to write Branded? Why did you use the 7 Deadly Sins as a basis for Lexi's society? In what ways did the concept fascinate you? 

We used to get together every month and go over books that we both had read. And there was always something that we agreed we would have done differently, or would have changed in some ways. So joking around we said that the only way we would ever love a book 100%, was if we wrote it ourselves. The seven deadly sins came from Abi. She thought of the scarlet letter and how that was used to publicly humiliate her. She went on to thinking what else would cause this kind of humiliation, and that’s when she came up with the seven deadly sins. The branding around the neck came into play… simply because it was the best way to show the color of the sin they had committed.

Ms. Abi told me in a previous e-mail that you both envisioned Lexi as someone very human— someone who may cry a lot and not always kick butt, but is very true to herself. What made you both want to write a character like Lexi? Do you see yourselves in her? 

Lexi, is a lot like ourselves. Many of her traits revolve around our own insecurities we had at her age. We wanted Lexi to be as believable as possible, so that readers could connect with her more. She’s weak and strong both at the same time, but in different ways. We wanted her to learn from her mistakes and to grow throughout the series. Because that’s what most young teenage girls do, live and learn.

Throughout the entire book, Lexi has shown a deep connection with her father—Were your fathers the inspirations behind the father figures of Branded (Sutton and Lexi's dad)? 

Absolutely. For the both of us our fathers have been our rocks and our true life hero’s. Both of us admire our fathers and respect them in every way possible.

Lyanna and I, as best friends and aspiring writers, always thought it would be difficult writing a book together— is it challenging to write with a co-author, especially if you are the best of friends? What tips would you give to us, and other best friends who love to write, or about writing in general? 

This is probably the most popular question people ask us. We have always talked about & shared books we enjoyed. We’ve also been best friends since 1999, so our friendship has already weathered a lot of changes. It was never really a choice to co-author… it was just something we did because it worked. We both have different strengths we bring to the table, and so capitalising on those strengths came easy. It’s fun for us and we mesh really well. There are definitely bonuses too. We can critique each other’s writing, we spur each other on with new ideas for scenes and characters, and we get to share in the highs and lows of being writers.

Will Zeus ever get a playmate? Do you like cats too? 

We haven’t thought about that actually. We are the kind of writers they call character driven. Lexi leads the way, so I guess that’s up to her. And we are both dog people, so writing a cat into our books probably wouldn’t work for us.

Lyanna's also been wondering if the brands are glow-in-the-dark? 

Ha. No they don’t, but that would be neat.

A huge thank you again to the wonderful authors of Branded, Ms. Abi and Ms. Missy— you guys are the best and we love you <3

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