Thursday, November 28, 2013

Current Updates

Hi! I just wanted to write up a quick post updating you on bookish things I want to talk about! Let's get started:

The books I've read this week:

So, I have read The Fiery Heart (5 Stars), Just a Little Series (2.5 Stars), and Eversea (3 Stars). My enjoyment of the books is very varied. I loved Fiery Heart, I didn't really like Just a Little Series, and Eversea was is in the middle!

I am currently reading The Raven Boys and Darkest Fear. And I am just about to start reading Poison Princess. I hope I enjoy the book!!!


Also, I (sadly) did not participate in NaNoWriMo this November. However, I might try to finish a novel in December during Winter break. I'll have my own little quiet NaNoWriMo-ish challenge. Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo this November?

And, lastly, I just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks for reading my updates!
Happy reading!

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: All Our Yesterdays

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Publication Date: September 3rd, 2013
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Amazon/Barnes and Noble
"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was. 

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.
So. I finally finished All Our Yesterdays. And, I have to say, I am quite disappointed. All Our Yesterday’s wasn’t a bad read, but after hearing so much praise I guess I just expected more from the story. 

I actually really liked the first 30 pages or so, but then the story just went downhill. I began to feel bored, and disconnected to the characters. For example, at the beginning of the book I thought I would really like the character Finn. However, as the book progresses, I never felt like we, as the readers, got to know him any better. We got our first impression of him, and he just stayed that way. There was no real growth, although I did like getting to know “younger Finn”.

Fortunately, I liked Em/Marina. Perhaps because we share a nickname. (At school I am called “Em” not Emily.) My favorite scene in the whole book was between these two, when Em has an amazing realization that made me smile. If you have read the book you will know what I am talking about. Unfortunately, that was one of the only scenes that legitimately touched me. 

The pacing, while it was always moving, felt very repetitive. There was a lot of running, and the characters never really did anything drastic until the end. Also, Em had some problems with killing James, which is understandable... at first. Then, her hesitancy started to get annoying and had dire consequences. I kind of wanted to shake her and tell her to learn from her mistakes. Either suck it up and shoot him for the good of Earth, or have someone else perform the deed. Don’t keep falling into the same hole!

I also did not like the ending, I kind of felt like the action was moving high speed, and then BAM. The book was over. I don't know if I will read the sequel, especially since I am not sure where the story will go. I guess I can only hope it will be better than the first one. I will definitely be on the lookout for reviews.

Overall, I wish that All Our Yesterdays had been more of a hit for me. There were interesting concepts, and a couple touching moments, but I had quite a few issues. That said, if you think you would have a differing opinion, go and pick up the book! I know the majority of the blogging community worships this book and it has a 4.12 average rating on Goodreads. Just do what is best for you!

3/5 Stars
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Thanks for reading my thoughts on All Our Yesterdays!
Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday #31

Publication Date: June 17th, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Publisher: Henry Holt
Amazon/Barnes and Noble
In this new series told from multiple perspectives, teen members of a search and rescue team discover a dead body in the woods.

Alexis, Nick, and Ruby have very different backgrounds: Alexis has spent her life covering for her mom’s mental illness, Nick’s bravado hides his fear of not being good enough, and Ruby just wants to pursue her eccentric interests in a world that doesn’t understand her. When the three teens join Portland County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, they are teamed up to search for a autistic man lost in the woods. What they find instead is a dead body. In a friendship that will be forged in danger, fear, and courage, the three team up to find the girl’s killer—before he can strike one of their own.

This first book in April Henry’s Point Last Seen YA mystery series is full of riveting suspense, putting readers in the middle of harrowing rescues and crime scene investigations. 
Initially, the cover drew me to this book. Sure, the eye shadow may be a little ridiculous...but I love all the green! Then, I read the synopsis and was utterly intrigued! I cannot wait to step into this mystery.

What are you waiting on this week?

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Review: Pawn

Publication Date: November 26th, 2013
Genre: YA Dystopian
Amazon/Barnes and Noble

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. 

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. 

There's only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.
Pawn was a thrilling read, and no where near your typical, old-hat dystopian. Aimee Carter managed to create a world that wasn’t a copy cat, and I could tell she put a lot of work into making the future society seem unique and complete. Be on the lookout for this novel.

It seems to me that a lot of dystopians have love triangles (Hunger Games, The Selection, Shatter Me etc.) so I was elated when I realized that Pawn did not have a bothersome triangle of love and angst. I am not even against love triangles, but they can become overwhelming. Agreed? Pawn’s awesome romance was a nice relief. Benjy was a sweet love interest, and I hope to see more of him and Kitty together in the next book. They seem to click in an awesome way... and I am glad Benjy is not the average, cliched “bad boy” I have grown wearisome of.

That said, the romance is not the front-and-center of Pawn. Nope. The plot mostly revolves around Kitty’s masquerade as the adored Lila. After Kitty basically fails an important test of ranking, she is offered a chance for a much higher ranking. Kitty soon awakes as Lila, the prime minister’s niece, who is a dead, and a formerly rebellious leader of the group against the rankings, and, ultimately, the society.

However, as Kitty masquerades as Lila, she finds more and more lies and political battles. She is told many things, but neither her nor the reader know what to believe. I loved this part of Pawn. There is so much uncertainty and excitement on the part of the reader as you wait for juicy things to be revealed! The world that Kitty endures seems very terrible at the beginning, and just worsens as you learn more. Especially as the minister’s family and other powerful figures are immersed into chaos and fight among themselves. It is hard to tell what a character really wants, and sometimes, your first impression of a character is very wrong indeed. I only have one little complaint... there is this reveal I saw coming, and I thought Kitty should have considered the possibility sooner. Does it ever bother you when you figure something out before the main character does? 

Overall, Pawn is an intriguing story, and I have high expectations for the sequel! If the book sounds up your alley, most definitely pick the thrilling ride up and immerse yourself into a twisted dystopian world!

4/5 Stars

*I received this book from HarlequinTEEN in exchange for an honest review*

Thanks for reading my thoughts on Pawn! 
Happy Reading

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #28

Top Ten Six Bookish
Things I Am Thankful For 
Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

1. Authors and Publishers
Without these wonderful people, I would have never read any of my favorite stories!

2. The Book Blogosphere
I am so thankful that I found the blogging community. People who love books are so awesome!!! It is so fun to interact and talk about books daily.

3. My Kindle
*sigh* Well, I will always love print books more... but I guess I owe my kindle a big "Thank You" for holding all my ARCs. Also, thank you Kindle for being lighter than a hardback.

4. GOOD book to movie adaptations
I just saw Catching Fire, and ohmigod was it amazing!!!!!!!! Also, I love all the Harry Potter movies

5. The Lady at Borders who gave me book recommendations
I am forever grateful to this one lady who recommended Alanna to me a couple years ago when I wandered from the middle grade section into the teen section for the first time! Thanks to her I love young adult!

Borders R.I.P

6. MATCHING Covers
I hate mid-series cover changes!!! So, I am very, very, very thankful to the series that are matching. Do you feel the way I do about mid-series cover changes?

What are you thankful for?
Happy Reading!

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Review: Crash into You

I really enjoyed Katie McGarry's latest novel, Crash into You!

Crash into You by Katie McGarry (Pushing the Limits #3)

Publication Date: November 26th, 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary
Amazon/Barnes and Noble
The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life-that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind. 

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look. 

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.

----The Review----

I loved, loved, loved Crash into You! As soon as I started reading I was hooked. I found myself wanting to spend the whole day reading, and I jumped at every chance to sneak off, ignore my responsibilities, and immerse myself into Isaiah’s and Rachel’s story.

For those who have read the first in the series, Pushing the Limits, you may have been rooting for Beth and Isaiah to get together. Well, it was never meant to be as *spoilers for those new to the series* Beth found her own dream guy in Dare You To. So, Beth and Isaiah shippers, will you be happy with this new girl Isaiah has found? I think you will! Rachel, our new character, is a perfect fit for Isaiah. 

The characters are always superb in McGarry’s novels. Rachel Young was an awesome main character, although her family had a lot of problems. The older sister died and Rachel constantly feels pressurized to be exactly like her to please the mom. Rachel’s panic attacks don't help anything either. Speaking of Rachel’s family, I suggest you pay close attention to the brothers, especially West! Not only is he a fun and full of attitude, West also has a whole book about him coming out in 2014! 

The romance is amazing. I loved the connection between Isaiah and Rachel even more than Noah and Echo. When you see the conversations the two have, you can tell they were meant for each other! Even though both characters lead completely different lives, they have this love for cars that initially drew them into one another, and then you see how they have a lot of fun together just hanging out.

For anyone interested in car racing, this might be a pretty good book for you. I must confess I never had much interest (at all) in car racing. And, while I still have zero interest, McGarry made the scenes fun to read and carefully researched. Also, there is a lot of suspense over Rachel and Isaiah getting Eric, king of the streets, his money after one race turns into a disaster. The book revolves around this plot, and I really loved it; the plot kept me on my toes. We also get a good look at Abby, who is Rachel’s self-appointed BFF. Let me just say, you will enjoy every scene she is in!

Overall, this book was such fun! Crash Into You is my favorite McGarry book to date... and I really loved Pushing the Limits, so that’s saying something!

4.5/5 Stars

*I received a copy of this book from HarlequinTEEN in exchange for an honest review*

Thanks for reading my thoughts on Crash into You! 

Happy Reading!
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Double Cover Reveal!

Today Rebekah Purdy and Entangled Teen are revealing the covers for LEGEND OF ME, releasing in early 2014. And THE WINTER PEOPLE, releasing July 1, 2014! Check out the gorgeous covers, exclusive excerpts, and enter to win an eARC of each!

Author: Rebekah Purdy
Release Date: Early 2014
Publisher: Entangled Teen

Sixteen-year-old Brielle has grown up hearing tales of a beast that kills humans, leaving behind only a scattering of bones and limbs. Or so the village elders say. She thinks it’s just their way of keeping children in line, though it doesn’t explain her grisly premonitions of blood, claws, and severed heads.
When Lord Kenrick, Knight of the Crowhurst Order, shows up asking questions about the legendary monster and Brielle finds a mangled body in the woods, she begins to wonder if the grim stories are true. Her attraction to the handsome knight grows as she spends time with him searching for clues to the creature’s existence, and she becomes even more determined to help him discover the beast’s location.

But as her seventeenth birthday approaches, her nightmares worsen. If Brielle doesn’t figure out the connection between Kenrick, the monster, and visions of a ghostly woman in the woods soon, more people could die. Including those closest to her…

Exclusive Excerpt!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What happened to the week?

I was Gone???

Wait a minute. My last post was a top ten tuesday post? Where have I been? :D

Oh yeah, now I remember :( I have been feeling a little sick lately. Plus, school and ballet takes up a lot of time. And I have been very absent in the book blogging world.

Here is a recommendation!

To make up for it, I am going to give you some of my special advice; Go read The Fiery Heart! It came out this week!

Are you new to the series? Well, start reading!

Have you read this series? Do you have any predictions for the trials of Adrian and Sydney? If you have already read the book, don't spoil me! I am getting the book tomorrow in the mail!

Also, if you have read the series, what book is your favorite? I really, really LOVED The Golden Lily, but I think The Fiery Heart will soon become my new favored Bloodlines novel.

And, for a conclusion, let's take about the covers. I, well, really despise them. I kind of want to sit her down and have a talk about her hair. Also, well, I am feeling kind of ignored by the guy. What's he looking at? Are you a fan of the Bloodlines covers?

Overall, read the series (like, now) if you haven't, and if you have I would love to chat! This is one of my favorite series!!!

2013 Reading Challenge

I have been reading though! Here is the proof :

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Emily has completed her goal of reading 250 books in 2013!

Normalcy will return. And I have a weird idea!

Thankfully, I have next week off school. So, what does that mean? More posts!!!

Also, I had this awesome (I think) idea and I cannot wait to share it with you. Perhaps I will post about it tomorrow! I am so excited!

Bye! Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #27

Top Ten Books I'd Recommend To Fans of Tamora Pierce

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

1. The Seven Realms Quartet
After reading the first book, The Demon King, you will be utterly hooked! The world has wizards, intrigue, politics, war, and amazing action scenes. You will fall for the characters and the Queendom!

2. Throne of Glass Series
Assassins. Need I say anything more? 
Oh, and there are fairies and secret passages in this glass palace. For Song of the Lioness lovers, I will add that I am pretty sure Alanna and Calaena (the heroine assassin) would have gotten along famously.

3. Scarlet (Series) by A.C Gaughen
The female lead, Scarlet, is amazing! She is one of Robin Hood's thieves, but she is known to most as Will. Yep, another girl-in-disguise-as-a-boy. I loved reading about her adventures with Robin Hood! Plus, she has many secrets up her sleeve ;)

4. Book of a Thousand Days
This was a beautiful, vivid tale that Tamora Pierce fans will cherish!
The world is alluring and I know all the readers will be cheering for Dashti and she makes brave descisions. Plus, there is a cute kitten involved.Who can resist a kitten???

5. Of Beast and Beauty
I just read this book and LOVED it to death! While I think the characters are much less fun than Alanna and her band of knights and thieves, I found the world to be so fantasy-like. I would really recommend this book if you are fond of The Beauty and The Beast because... well... (Hint: the book is a retelling of that fairytale.) 

6. Graceling
Katsa was such a wonderful heroine... and Po is just amazing! The setting is reminiscence of Tortall, although the king is much worse than Jon! Graceling is a must-read. That sword on the cover was enough to make me read it. You?

I could list tons more, but I think this is enough! 
Happy reading!

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review: Of Beast and Beauty

I LOVED this book! The blend of fantasy, layered characters, and beautiful writing did me in.

Publication Date: July 23rd, 2013
Genre: YA Fantasy
Amazon/Barnes and Noble
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

 Of Beast and Beauty was, in two simple words, utterly beautiful. In fact, I am not sure you should even read this review, just go and obtain this story. I don’t care how, just do it! (I mean, I would totally understand if you stole it from the library and midnight. I would do the same!) You’re still here? Darn. Well, I guess I will have to convince you further! Read on, my friends! 

Isra is the blind Queen of a messed-up city, that thrives on their hatred of the Monstrous and the sacrifice of queens to the roses. Gem is one of the Monstrous, and he just want to keep his tribe members from starving, no thanks to the Smooth Skins. The two start as bitter enemies. I thought that both of these characters were breathtakingly created. They are no where near your average hero and heroine. Trust Me. 

The writing is spectacular. For example, the first page starts off describing an old secret, a girl, and a darkness that is a big part of the book, and her use of language pulled me into the mystery of the secret, the darkness, and the girl. My emotions were running high, even from the beginning. The desperation of both Gem (to save his tribe) and Isra (to rule a kingdom... with her own secret) ran through me, along with the little pricks of hope or happiness the author presents us. Also, the ending was perfection. *sigh* The last two page were, yes I am going to use the two words again, utterly beautiful.

Finally, I must mention the rose garden. Ahh, how this garden intrigued me. The bloodthirsty roses enchanted me and I love how the flowers play such a big part in the story. Now, before I leave, I must ask you a question. Who is Beauty and who is the Beast in this novel? Think on it as you read this novel.

5/5 Stars

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Thanks for Reading! 
I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Book Blitz: Branded (Excerpt and Giveaway)

Branded (Sinners #1)
by Abi Ketner and Missy Kalicicki
Release Date: 06/28/13
252 pages

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.

Available from:
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I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams. The rope chafes as I loop it around my neck. I pull down, making sure the knot is secure. It seems sturdy enough. My legs shake. My heart beats heavy in my throat. Sweat pours down my back. Death and I glare at each other through my tears. I take one last look at the crystal chandelier, the foyer outlined with mirrors, and the flawless decorations. No photographs adorn the walls. No happy memories here. I’m ready to go. On the count of three. I inhale, preparing myself for the finality of it all. Dropping my hands, a glimmer catches my eye. It’s my ring, the last precious gift my father gave me. I twist it around to read the inscription. Picturing his face forces me to reconsider my choice. He’d be heartbroken if he could see me now. A door slams in the hallway, almost causing me to lose my balance. My thoughts already muddled, I stand waiting with the rope hanging around my neck. Voices I don’t recognize creep through the walls. Curiosity overshadows my current thoughts. It’s late at night, and this is a secure building in High Society. No one disturbs the peace here—ever. I tug on the noose and pull it back over my head. Peering through the eyehole in our doorway, I see a large group of armed guards banging on my neighbors’ door. A heated conversation ensues, and my neighbors point toward my family’s home. It hits me. I’ve been accused and they’re here to arrest me. My father would want me to run, and in that split second, I decide to listen to his voice within me. Flinging myself forward in fear, I scramble up the marble staircase and into my brother’s old bedroom. The door is partially covered, but it exists. Pushing his dresser aside, my fingers claw at the opening. Breathing hard, I lodge myself against it. Nothing. I step back and kick it with all my strength. The wood splinters open, and my foot gets caught. I wrench it backward, scraping my calf, but adrenaline pushes me forward. The voices at the front door shout my name. On hands and knees, I squeeze through the jagged opening. My brother left through this passage, and now it’s my escape too. Cobwebs entangle my face, hands, and hair. At the end, I feel for the knob, twisting it clockwise. It swings open, creaking from disuse. I 
sprint into the hallway and smash through the large fire escape doors at the end. A burst of cool air strikes me in the face as I jump down the ladder. Reaching the fifth floor, I knock on a friend’s window. The lights flicker on, and I see the curtains move, but no one answers. I bang on the window harder. “Let me in! Please!” I say, but the lights darken. They know I’ve been accused and refuse to help me. Fear and adrenaline rush through my veins as I keep running, knocking on more windows along the way. No one has mercy. They all know what happens to sinners. Another flight of stairs passes in a blur when I hear the guards’ heavy footfalls from above. I can’t hide, but I don’t want to go without trying. Help me, Daddy. I need your strength now. My previous desolation evolves into a will to survive. I have to keep running, but I tremble and gasp for air. I steel my nerves and force my body to keep moving. In a matter of minutes, my legs cramp and my chest burns. I plunge to the ground, scraping my knee and elbow. A moan escapes from my chest. Gotta keep going. “Stop!” Their voices bounce off the buildings. “Lexi Hamilton, surrender yourself,” they command. They’re gaining on me. I resist the urge to glance back, running into what I assume is an alley. I’m far from our high-rise in High Society as I plunge into a poorer section of the city where the streets all look the same and the darkness prevents me from recognizing anything. I’m lost. My first instinct is to leap into a dumpster, but I retain enough sense to stay still. I crouch and peek around it, watching them dash by. The abhorrent smell leaves me vomiting until nothing remains in my stomach. Desperation overtakes me, as I know my retching was anything but silent. My last few seconds tick away before they find me. Everyone knows about their special means of tracking sinners.   I push myself to my feet and look left, right, and left again. Their batons click against their black leather belts, and their boots stomp the cement on both sides of me. I shrink into myself. Their heavy steps mock my fear, growing closer and closer until I know I’m trapped. Never did I imagine they’d come for me. Never did I imagine all those nights I heard them dragging someone else away that I’d join them.   “You’re a sinner,” they say. “Time to leave.”   I stand defiant. I refuse to bend or break before them, even as I shiver with fear. “There’s no reason to make this difficult. The more you cooperate, the smoother this will be for everyone,” a guard says. I cringe into the blackness along the wall. I’m innocent, but they won’t believe me or care.  
The next instant, my face slams into the pavement as one guard plants a knee in my back and another handcuffs me. A warm liquid trails into my mouth. Blood. Their fingers grip my arms like steel traps as they peel me off the cement. The tops of my shoes scrape along the ground as I’m dragged behind them until they discard me into the back of a black vehicle. The doors slam in unison with one guard stationed on each side of me, my shoulders digging into their arms. Swallowing hard, I stare ahead to avoid their eyes. My dignity is all I have left. The handcuffs dig into my wrists, so I clasp them together hard behind me and press my back into the seat, unwilling to admit how much it hurts. Did they need so many guards to capture me? I’m not carrying any weapons, nor do I own any. I don’t even know self-defense. High Society frowns on activities like that. The driver jerks the vehicle around and I try to keep my bearings, but it’s dark and the scenery changes too fast. Hours pass, and the air grows warmer, more humid the farther we drive. The landscape mutates from city to rolling hills. They don’t bother blindfolding me because they escort all the sinners to the same place—the Hole. Twenty- foot cement walls encase the chaos within. There’s no way out and no way in unless they transport you. They say the Hole is a prison with no rules. We learned about it last year in twelfth grade. To the outside, I’m filth now. I’ll never be allowed to return to the life I knew. No one ever does. “All sinners go through a transformation,” one of the guards says to me. His smirk infuriates me. “I’m sure you’ve heard all kinds of stories.” I don’t respond. I don’t want to think about the things I’ve been told. “You won’t last too long, though. Young girls like you get eaten alive.” He pulls a strand of my hair up to his face. Get your hands off me, you pig. I want to lash out, but resist. The punishment for disobeying authority is severe, and I’m not positioned to defy him. They’re the Guards of the Commander. They’re chosen from a young age and trained in combat. They keep the order of society by using violent methods of intimidation. No one befriends a guard. Relationships with them are forbidden inside the Hole. Few have seen the commander. His identity stays under lock and key. His own paranoia and desire to stay pure drove him to live this way. He controls our depraved society and believes sinners make the human race unforgivable. 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. I lose myself in thoughts of my father. 
“Never show fear, Lexi,” my father said to me before he was taken. “They’ll use it against you.” His compassionate eyes filled with warning as he commanded me to be strong. That was many years ago, but I remember it clearly. My father. My rock. The one person in my life who provided unconditional love. “Get out,” the guard says while pulling me to my feet. The vehicle stops, and I’m jerked back to reality. The doors slide open and the two guards lift me up and out into the night. A windowless cement building looms in front of us, looking barren in the darkness. The coolness of the air sends a shiver up my spine. This is really happening. I’ve been labeled a sinner. My lip starts to quiver, but I bite it before anyone sees. They shove me in line, and I realize I’m not alone. Women and men stand with faces frozen white with fear. A guard grabs my finger, pricks it, and dabs my blood on a tiny microchip. I follow the man in front of me into the next room where we’re lined up facing the wall. Glancing right, I see one of the men crying. “Spread your legs,” one of the guards says.   They remove my outer layers and their hands roam up and down my body. What do they think I can possibly be hiding? I press my head into the wall, trying to block out what they’re doing to me. “MOVE!” a guard commands. So I shuffle across the room, trying to cover up.   One.    Two.    Three.    Four.    Five of us sit in the holding room. One by one, they pull people into the next room, forcing the rest of us to wonder what torture we’ll endure. An agonizing amount of time passes. I lean my head back and try to imagine a place far away. The door opens. “Lexi Hamilton.” A guard escorts me out of the room, and I don’t have time to look back. As soon as the door closes, they pick me up and place me on a table. It’s cold and my skin sticks to it slightly, like wet fingers on an ice cube. Then they exit in procession, and I lie on the table with a doctor standing over me. His hands are busy as he speaks.   “Don’t move. This will only take a few minutes. It’s time for you to be branded.” A wet cloth that smells like rubbing alcohol is used to clean my skin. Then he places a metal collar around my neck. Click. Click. Click. The collar locks into place, and I struggle to breathe. The doctor loosens it some as I focus on the painted black words above me.   
The Seven Deadly Sins:   
   Lust Blue   Gluttony Orange   Greed Yellow   Sloth Black   Wrath Red   Envy Green   Pride Purple   
“Memorize it. Might keep you alive longer if you know who to stay away from.” He opens my mouth, placing a bit inside. “Bite this.” Within seconds, the collar heats from hot to scorching. The smell of flesh sizzling makes my head spin. I bite down so hard a tooth cracks. “GRRRRRRRRR,” escapes from deep within my chest. Just when I’m about to pass out, the temperature drops, and the doctor loosens the collar. He removes it and sits me up. Excruciating pain rips through me, and I’m on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown. Focus. Don’t pass out. Stainless steel counters and boring white walls press in on me. A guard laughs at me from an observation room above and yells, “Blue. It’s a great color for a pretty young thing like yourself.” His eyes dance with suggestion. The others meander around like it’s business as usual. I finally find my voice and turn to the doctor.   “Are you going to give me clothes?” A burning pain spreads like fire up from my neck to my jaw, making me wince. He points to a set of folded grey scrubs on a chair. I cover myself as much as I can and scurry sideways. Grabbing my clothes and pulling the shirt over my head, I try to avoid the raw meat around my throat. I quickly knot the cord of my pants around my waist and slide my feet into the hospital-issue slippers as the doctor observes. He hands me a bag labeled with my name. “Nothing is allowed through the door but what we’ve given you,” he says. I hide my right hand behind me, hoping no one notices. A guard scans my body and opens his hand. “Give it to me,” he says. “Don’t make me rip off your finger.” He crouches down and I turn to stone. I don’t know what to do, so I beg. “My father gave this to me. Please, let me keep it.” I smash my eyes shut and think of the moment my father handed the golden ring to me. “It was my mother’s ring,” he’d said. “She’s the strongest woman I ever knew.” With tears in his eyes, he reached for my hand and said, “Lexi, you’re exactly like her. 
She’d want you to wear this. No matter how this world changes, you can survive.” I turned the gold band over in my palm and read the engraving.  
You  can  overcome  anything…  short  of  death.   
“You’re going to take the one thing that matters the most to me?” I say, glaring into the guard’s emotionless eyes. “Isn’t it enough taking my life, dignity, and respect?” A hard blow falls upon my back. As I fall, my hands shoot out to stop me from smashing into the wall in front of me. The guard bends down and grabs my chin with his meaty fist. “Look at me,” he commands.  I look up and he smiles with arrogance. “What the hell?” He staggers a step backward. “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with your eyes?” “Nothing,” I respond, confused. “What color are they?” “Turquoise.” I glower at him. “Interesting,” he says, regaining his composure. “Now those’ll get you in trouble.” Reality slaps me across the face. I have my father’s eyes. They can't take them from me. I twist the ring off my finger and drop it in his hand. “Take the damn ring,” I say. I walk to the door. He swipes a card and the massive door slides open to the outside. “You have to wear your hair back at all times, so everyone knows what you are.” He hands me a tie, so I pull my frizzy hair away from my face and secure it into a ponytail. My neck burns and itches as my hand traces the scabs that have already begun to form. Squinting ahead in the darkness, I almost run into a guard standing on the sidewalk. “Watch where you’re going,” he says, shoving me backward. His stiff figure stands tall and I cringe at the sharpness of his voice.   “Cole, this is your new assignment, Lexi Hamilton. See to it she feels welcome in her new home.” The guard departs with a salute. “Let’s move,” Cole says.   I take two steps and collapse, my knees giving out. The unforgiving pavement reopens the scrapes from earlier and I struggle to stand. A powerful arm snatches me up, and I see his face for the first time.  

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About the Authors
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.

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