Tuesday, January 7, 2014

{Tour Stop} BOOK REVIEW: Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki (+Giveaway)

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Title: Branded
Series: Sinners #1
Author: Abi Ketner, Missy Kalicicki
Pages: 252
Pub Date: June 27, 2013
Publisher: Abi and Missy Books
Book Source: From the author for review
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars



**POSSIBLE SPOILERS**


Branded begins with 18-year-old Lexi Hamilton putting a noose around her own neck.

She's spent the past few years of her life with a sociopathic stepfather who enjoyed abusing and torturing her in many different ways.

As she prepares to take her own life, Lexi is interrupted by a group of armed guards banging on the door.

Lexi has been accused, and they are there to arrest her and bring her to the Hole—a place for sinners.

You see, Lexi's world is not our own. Post WWV, the Commander controls all.

His power is a crushing fist, rendering all beneath him helpless. So much so, even family members turn on each other when an accusation surfaces. Just an accusation. No trial, no evidence, nothing but an accusation.
Sinners are arrested, branded around the neck with color of their sin, and thrown into the Hole to fend for themselves.

And now Lexi—with a blue brand for LUST wrapped around her neck—must fight for her life in the Hole. What she doesn't expect is to fall in love with the enemy...

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.
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This book completely shocked me. I went into it expecting one thing but was surprised with something wholly different. And I loved it!

The first thing I should say is that I am going to rave about the romance, but don't be fooled. This book is about SO MUCH MORE than just a romance. I can absolutely, 100% promise you that.

Now, about that romance... It's one of the most intense love stories I've encountered in awhile. I was completely floored. In part, it's so intense because Lexi and Cole are completely forbidden.

The penalty awarded those who proclaim to love the branded is death...
And the commander's lackies make sure to show examples. Cringe!

The romance is a slow-build, but not too slow. It comes on in bursts and ends up a passionate, burning fire by mid-book. Cole is definitely book boyfriend material and I see many a reading gal swooning over him.

I never planned on falling for you. You were just an assignment. But it just sort of happened and now look where I am. I'm trapped by you and my obligations as a guard.

You're all I think about. My mind is constantly consumed by you and it scares the crap out of me.

I need you.
Not only did the authors give us an amazing romance, but also a memorable friendship. Lexi befriends a dying girl in the Hole. This part of the book is absolutely heartbreaking. I bawled my eyes out! I never expected to find such a golden relationship amongst the gritty dystopian tale that is Branded. It was beautiful and will stay with me for a long time. Be prepared to cry and to hurt, but also to be amazed and touched.

A stand-out element of this book is the action. The action is almost non-stop and completely enthralling! From the very first pages, it's a fight for life and a fight for humanity. It begins before Lexi even arrives in the Hole and continues throughout until the very end. I can definitely say this one is a page-turner. But make sure to be prepared for some grit and gore!

Lexi is the best kind of protagonist. She begins by fighting for her own life, but ends up fighting for those around her as well. She starts out a scared young woman who can barely get through a day by herself, but ends up a warrior who can defend herself and stand on her own two feet. She grows. She becomes something she knows her late father (a father she was very close to) would be proud of.

And that means joining the rebellion. Yes, there is an insurgency! I don't feel this is too spoilery because it's pretty much a given with dystopians.

Humans will not be a form of entertainment. And remember, my brave friends, you can overcome anything short of death—so free them.
I will say this: You may expect a rebellion, but you will NOT expect the twists and surprises these authors have in store for you. :) They are quite good and I, for one, was definitely blindsided!

The pace of the book was almost perfect, but I will admit there was a lull in the middle-ish. It was becoming routine and I wanted to skip ahead to the good bits. Lexi would complete her duties at the hospital, go home and angst it out with Cole, sleep, awaken, repeat. It's not really an issue once you finish the book. You'll be left with many thoughts and feelings, and I doubt a lull will rank up there. ;)

So, all in all? Branded is a diamond in the rough! Don't let this book pass you by. It's packed with emotion and heart-stopping romance. It's a story of so many different things: learning to cope, staying strong, overcoming the odds, loving and living, giving yourself over to a greater cause... it's a beautiful story with wonderfully written characters (and one very memorable guard dog named Zeus!)—both good and evil. I recommend this book 100%.

If you enjoy a good, unique dystopian, this book is definitely for you!

*This book is not Young Adult. It does contain some adult content—mainly violence, so be prepared.*

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