Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review: Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

Branded (Sinners, #1)Title: Branded
Author: Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Pages: 252, eBook
Goodreads Rating: 4.15 stars
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Content Rating: PG -16? (They call it mature YA/NA, Sex and sexual scenes and some relatively graphic violence)

Summary from Goodreads: 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 have to say first that I was so looking forward to this book and had super-high expectations.  I had read the first chapter and loved it!  The first half of the book really did live up to those expectations - I loved it!  Unfortunately, the book lost some steam for me in the second half, leaving me feeling just a little bit let down.  Did I really, really like this book?  Yes. Did I love it - sadly, no. 

The story revolves around Lexi, who has been falsely accused of Lust - one of the seven deadly sins.  In this dystopian world, being found guilty of a deadly sin gets you banished to the Hole, a dangerous and miserable hell-hole where chances of survival for a young girl like Lexi are slim to none.  But, for some unknown reason, Lexi is assigned a protector who puts his life at risk daily to keep her from harm.  The question is, why was he assigned to her?  As time goes on, Will (Lexi's protector) seems to want to keep her safe out of more than just duty - but a relationship between a guard and a sinner is forbidden and can be just as dangerous as life in the Hole.

Issues I had:
  • The hypocrisy.  In some ways, I just didn't understand the "rules" of Ketner and Kalicicki's dystopian world.  I didn't quite understand what kinds of behaviors could get you sent to the Hole and how anyone survived there at all, considering how violent it was (especially those with "lesser" sins such as Pride).  But, I was mostly disturbed by the hypocrisy that characters seemed to have when it came to Lexi's sin - Lust.  When Lexi was sent to the Hole, she was ashamed of her labeled sin, even though she was innocent.  She had been accused of pre-marital sex and she seemed genuinely ashamed that people thought that this was true.  And yet, when Cole and Lexi started up a relationship, they seemed to have no qualms at all about having sex - they were concerned about the fact that a relationship between a guard and sinner was forbidden, but they never seemed to give a second thought to the fact that they were committing the very sin that Lexi was so upset at being falsely accused of.  Why?  Similarly, everyone considered Lust to be a horrible sin and disdained Lexi, but sinners and guards alike all wanted to rape her or have sex with her (and they never tried to hide this desire from anyone).  I guess it wasn't considered sinful to have sex with someone once they were labeled with Lust?  I just didn't quite understand the characters' convictions and it didn't make sense with the world that had been set up.
  • Lexi's step-father.  When we find out (by letter - which I hated) what Lexi's step-father did to her, it all came off as a bit weird and slightly unbelievable.  I just didn't buy into everything that she said happened and I really didn't understand how others didn't know (at least partially) what was happening to her.  Some of the details were strange and would have been hard to hide.
  • The revolution.  The second half of the book really lost steam for me.  I just wasn't as interested in the revolution part of the story as I was in reading about life in the Hole.  I can't really explain it, but I just felt like the book started to get slower here and didn't pick up again until the very end.

What I loved:
  • The Hole.  I loved that the Hole was gritty and dirty and full of violence.  The authors really held nothing back when it came to this place.  It was truly harrowing and I was riveted during the entire first half of the book.  You never knew what was going to happen in this hellish place and you truly feared for Lexi (and even Cole).  I thought that Ketner and Kalicicki did an excellent job of creating this setting.  The hospital was also a great setting and it was obvious that one of the authors was a nurse - the hospital was dangerous and violent, but still realistic.  I loved all of the details that were given that added  authenticity to the hospital setting.
  • The stakes. This book had very high stakes, both emotionally and physically.  I found myself constantly wondering what was going to happen next and rooting for the characters.
  • The twists.  There were some great twists at the end of the book that I really enjoyed.  I was also glad that a twist that I thought might be coming did not.  We were given  satisfying explanation for why Lexi was being protected as well.  I obviously can't say much about this without spoiling anything, but I enjoyed the twists.
  • Zeus.  Um, yeah, you're probably wondering who Zeus is.  Well, he's a dog.  But, really he was more than a dog - he was an important character in the book and he had more personality than some of the human characters.  I LOVED him.  Every scene with Zeus was a good scene!
So, in the end, I LOVED the first half of this book and liked the second half.  I will definitely be reading the sequel.  I give the book 3.5/5 Stars.

**Disclosure: This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

Buy It for Only $0.99 on Amazon.*

Branded Abi&Missy wrapFINAL.jpg

Author Bios:
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.

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.

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.

website and blog
Book Trailer:

* Release sale going on now (7/14/13) - Price will be increasing soon!


  1. I felt the same way! Great review!!! I'll be posting my review/tour stop tomorrow on I'm a new follower. Your blog is so pretty! I grabbed your button :)

    1. I'm looking forward to reading your review tomorrow! I'm following you back and I added your button to my blogroll as well!!

  2. Thanks for visiting my stop. As you said, we seemed to have similar ideas with this book You're right about the stepfather thing -- it did seem a bit far-fetched and unrealistic to me as well.

  3. See, I didn't think of it like that when I was reading, guess I got swept up in the romance. Thinking back on it now, yeah, I agree with you. The first half was better than the second, and the whole thing with Lexi's step-father did seem weird, but what I thought- before we knew what he'd done- didn't happen. Though what he was doing was cruel, I was just glad it didn't go the way I thought it would.
    I'm still looking forward to the next one though, too! :)