Monday, May 26, 2014

{Blog Tour+Giveaway+Interview+Review} Branded (Sinners #1): Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

Rating: 7.75/10
Series: Sinners #1
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Romance,
Publication Date: 
Page Count:
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley from Mark My Words Publicity

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ B&N

Goodreads Synopsis: 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.


What was it like co-authoring your debut novel? Now be honest here, Abi and Missy, I know you say you're best friends, but there had to be fights over scenes/characters/descriptions. 

No, we never fought over scenes, characters, or descriptions. We talked about them ahead of time, listing what we wanted, and went from there. But no, there weren’t any arguments over that. As far as co-authoring, it has pros and cons. For us, it was mostly pros. Most people probably wouldn’t want to share their work or allow others to touch or change it, but we’re pretty selfless when it comes to allowing each other to edit and/or rewrite sections. We definitely know each other’s strengths so it’s easy to pass off specific scenes to each other. And if one of us is in a rut, the other person can pick up the slack. It can be hard to coordinate schedules, but I’d say that’s the only difficulty for us. We definitely both enjoy writing together.

When can we expect the sequel to Branded, and what can we expect? Will it be focused more on their life outside of the Hole, on why the Hole exists in the first place, Cole's intense swoonworth-iness/yumminess factor? 

We’re currently writing book 2. You can expect to see more of the outside world. We’ve got some surprises up our sleeves that we’re dying to share!

How long have the two of you known each other, and what made you decide to write Branded together? When did you begin writing, and what made you decide to self-publish?

We’ve known each other since 1999! Abi & I used to meet up to talk about books we were reading and we decided to write our own. She came up with the concept, and from there we built a gritty, violent, unfair society. It just came to life! Honestly, when we first wrote it, it was just for us. After reading through it though, we agreed we should publish it.

Was there any particular reason that Lust was the deadly sin that Lexi was accused of?

I think it’s one of the easiest things to accuse someone of, sadly. Otherwise, not really. It was just what we wrote and we ran with it.

If you committed one of the sins, which one would it be? We all know there would be one. Would you lust after fame and fortune? Indulge yourself in that cute pair of shoes you saw at the mall? Fail to go to church? Break something out of anger? Not share your toys with others?

For me (Missy), it’d be wrath. Haha. That’s why I have a nice, big punching bag in my basement. For me (Abi) wrath. I work out like crazy to get that all out

Disclaimer: I received this book from Mark My Words Publicity which does not affect my honest review in any way.
Were you afraid of writing what could have easily been turned into a cliche novel? The girl falls in love with the enemy, they have to hide their love, or risk dying painful deaths.  
Not really. We knew our society was different than what others have created. We have no sci fi elements. We have a fun-loving dog as a main character. There were just a few things that we feel set it apart. Plus, the Branding itself, is a unique concept.

Pro: The Premise. Like Missy and Abi said, this is a concept that has never been done before. I have never read a book that mentioned the 7 Deadly Sins, and to be honest, I didn't even know the specific sins when I started reading the book. The general structure of the novel, with an oppressive government, and a girl falling in love with her captor, and then them wanting to run away is a classic arc for a lot of dystopian books. Yet Missy and Abi made it all their own. The idea of the Hole is quite terrifying, especially because of how often people were banished to it. It would be one thing if only hardened criminals were thrown in, but Lexi was a one-time offense case.... that didn't actually do anything wrong.

Pro: The Pacing. Oh my gosh, the speed of this book. It didn't let me become bored for a single moment, and I was captured by the different events happening and being described. This was the best part of the book in my opinion, because even when books have characters, romance, and other elements that you dislike, you generally hang on still if there is a good plot.
What inspired the fact that the seven deadly sins were the supposed downfall of humanity?
Abi came up with the concept of branding sinners with their sins. From there, we built an entire world around it and it only made sense to make that the downfall of society. (in their eyes) In all reality, there are some sects of people that believe these things today!

Pro: The World Building. I absolutely adored the ingenuity of the Hole, and uniqueness (not the reasons why characters were in the hole or the conditions), kind of like the characters own personal hell. There were some painfully vivid descriptions that teach you one lesson. Do NOT commit any of the 7 Deadly Sins, because you will not survive being in there. 
What/Who inspired the character Alyssa? Was she just someone the two of you thought of, or was she more symbolic, as a beacon of hope, and a ray of sunshine for the story.
Alyssa is a character of hope in the book. She brings a lightness to the story despite her situation. As far as who she’s based off of. For me (Missy), I thought of a friend of mine I used to babysit, who passed away from cancer when she was only 10. Alyssa reminds me of her in that she carries hope & faith and gives it to others despite her sickness. Abi- Before I had my daughters I was a hospice nurse, and when I was working with a child. Sometimes their strength inspired me, and I couldn’t help but admire the way they were dealing with their illness. I love Alyssa. She is an inspiration to me.
Pro: Alyssa. I hate to say this, but I think Alyssa was my favorite character in the book (sorry Lexi). In the world of darkness that is the Hole, she is the symbol of innocence, purity, and hope -and us readers always need an Alyssa to lighten the story up. for those of you that haven't read the book, she is basically the Primrose and Rue of Branded. Alyssa is a 13 year old girl that has been dying of a deadly disease for months now, and is in constant pain. Then Lexi shows up and the two of them help each other. Lexi provides comfort and reassurance. Alyssa proves to be a much needed anchor for Lexi.

Pro: Cole. I honestly don't know how you can be a guard (like he is) without being totally swoon worthy and hot. The chemistry between the two of them is immediately visible to readers, although I know I can't be the only one when I say that I wish I had Cole to myself. He pulled off the "gruff guar that doesn't want to fall in love with you for the sake of both our safety" without seeming too untouchable. And (this helped me a lot) he reminded me so much of Four from Divergent, more specifically, Theo James. I need not explain myself any further. 

Con: Writing Style. While the story was fast paced and the plot kept me going, the writing style itself was not the highest quality I have ever encountered. The general voice of Lexi Hamilton (who the story is told by) isn't very unique. There are also quite a few descriptions that seemed cliche, "bloodcurdling scream. blood-red object." Lastly, when Cole professed his love for Lexi, I felt like I was reading a script for a cheesy soap opera. Don't get me wrong, I loved the fact that they were in love, but the way he did is seemed almost like the speech you would make when building up to a marriage proposal.

Con: Characters. I didn't feel like Cole and Lexi were really one-of-a-kind characters. I credit this to my slight dislike of the writing style. Even if Abi and Missy described them, I didn't feel a very strong connection with Lexi and Cole. I didn't get the sense that they were real people, with desires, needs, and values. 

Conclusion: Branded is a perfect quick read if you want your taste of action, adventure, and swoon-worthy romance.

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