Saturday, January 19, 2013

Life After Death, by Damien Echols

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Author: Damien Echols
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover; 399 pages
Series: N/A
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, True Crime
Avg. Rating:

Goodreads | Book Depository
In 1993, teenagers Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.—who have come to be known as the West Memphis Three—were arrested for the murders of three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas. The ensuing trial was marked by tampered evidence, false testimony, and public hysteria. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison; while eighteen-year-old Echols, deemed the “ringleader,” was sentenced to death. Over the next two decades, the WM3 became known worldwide as a symbol of wrongful conviction and imprisonment, with thousands of supporters and many notable celebrities who called for a new trial. In a shocking turn of events, all three men were released in August 2011.

Now Echols shares his story in full—from abuse by prison guards and wardens, to portraits of fellow inmates and deplorable living conditions, to the incredible reserves of patience, spirituality, and perseverance that kept him alive and sane while incarcerated for nearly two decades.

When the whole ordeal with the West Memphis Three happened, I didn't pay it much attention. I was nine years old, so it didn't interest me much. Obviously, even at that age, it made me sad that children my age died.. and I got the "don't trust strangers" talk from my parents about a dozen times - but that was about the extent of my concern. But my father kept up with the case. A couple of years later, I found myself more caught up in the case. I liked mysteries. These murders were mysteries to me. And, for whatever reason, I never believed that the three guys who were found guilty of killing the three boys were actually the murderers. Ever since I was thirteen, I have kept up with the West Memphis Three. When they were released (albeit with a crap bargain), I was happy. When I saw that Damien's memoir was out, I was even happier. Now, I have a first-hand account into the history of the West Memphis Three all through the mind of the alleged "master mind" of the group. 

I think I should say that it's pretty hard to actually review a memoir, as it is a story of someone's life. I am not trying to review Echols' life - rather, the format this book was written. As far as the story, I loved this book. Yet, at the same time, it was truly heart-wrenching. I couldn't imagine being in Echols' shoes, having to spend eighteen years in prison for a crime you didn't commit.. especially a crime so heinous as the murders of three little boys. Echols has an amazing talent at writing, and you can practically feel the emotion he put into his writing oozing out of the pages. 

Having said that, I did see some minor things that could have been worked on. First off, it felt like the first half of this book was Almost Home (Echols' book he wrote while incarcerated) written all over again. I don't know, there could have been a reason for this. For someone who has read Almost Home (me), this seems like it could have been skipped. But, if you haven't read it, then you practically get two books for the price of one. There were also some other parts of the story that were repeated that could have been skipped, but it doesn't really distract from the story. What does distract me is the constant use of the word magick/magickal (yes, he spells it with the "k" every single time). The usage was a little excessive - however, again, not a true distraction to the point of this book.

Like I said, I really did enjoy this book. If you know about the WM3 and haven't read this book, then you're missing out. For those of us that do believe that sometimes innocent people are accused of horrible crimes, this is not a book to be ignored - it's a real eye-opener to what sometimes happens to those innocents. 

Source: Netgalley

Damien Wayne Echols, along with Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin, is one of the three men, known as the West Memphis Three, who were convicted in the killing of three eight-year-old boys Steve Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore at Robin Hood Hills, West Memphis, Arkansas, on May 5, 1993.

Damien Echols was convicted of murder by a jury and sentenced to death by lethal injection. He was on death row under 23 hours per day lockdown at the Varner Supermax. On August 19, 2011, Echols, along with the two others collectively known at the West Memphis Three, were released from prison after their attorneys and the judge handling the upcoming retrial agreed to a deal. Under the terms of the Alford guilty plea, Echols and his co-defendents pleaded guilty to three counts of first degree murder while maintaining their innocence. DNA evidence failed to connect Echols or his co-defendents to the crime.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gates of Paradise, by Melissa de la Cruz

Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: January 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover; 368 pages
Series: Blue Bloods (Book 7)
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Romance
Avg. Rating:

Goodreads | Book Depository
Schuyler Van Alen is running out of time. The Dark Prince of Hell is storming the Gates of Paradise, intent on winning the heavenly throne for good. This time he has his greatest angels by his side, Abbadon and Azrael—Jack and Mimi Force, as they are known in the Coven.

Or so he thinks. Even as Lucifer assigns Jack and Mimi the tasks of killing their true loves, the Force twins secretly vow to defeat the Dark Prince once and for all. But how far will Mimi and Jack go to conceal their real loyalties?

Meanwhile, former vampire Bliss Llewellyn has joined forces with Lawson, the greatest wolf of the underworld, to free his people from their imprisonment in Hell. As they struggle against impossible odds, an ancient message, woven into the very fabric of time, reveals just how much depends on the success of their mission.

Lucifer seeks the key to the Gate of Promise, and when Schuyler is taken captive and delivered straight to Hell, she must make an unthinkable choice—the same one the archangel Michael was forced to make during the Crisis in Rome. Will Schuyler find the strength to do what he could not?

The epic, heartbreaking Blue Bloods series comes to a close with this final novel about staggering courage, unbearable sacrifice, and the immortality of true love.

Admission: I have followed the Blue Bloods series from the very beginning. As much as I hate things that deal with fashion, money, socialites, etc.. I couldn't help but love this series. And this series has turned into something so much more than any of the things I have listed - and I freaking love it for that reason alone! But there's so much more. So, forgive me if I am a little biased when it comes to Blue Bloods. I think I can do a pretty fair review, though. ;)

This is the final book in the Blue Bloods series. While I'm sad to see it go, I have to say that I have enjoyed the ride. Compared to the last few books in the series, which dragged a little and come up a bit stale for me, Gates of Paradise was a breath of fresh air. Like all books in a series, it's nice to see some of your favorite characters reprise their roles in a story and see them grow. I've loved Schuyler from the very beginning and her journey has definitely had its ups and downs. However, I think the character that has truly shined for me in this particular book is Mimi - which is amazing considering how much I have hated her for a majority of the series. Her growth and own journey have both astounded me. She literally won me over without me even realizing it until the very end of the book, which I love because I never knew a character could be written so well.

I can't say much without the risk of spoilers, so I'll just keep this short and sweet by saying that this is an amazing book. The storyline is intricate and I loved watching everything come together at the very end. Literally any loose end or question that I could recall throughout the series was wrapped up with a nice little bow to where you were left with a filling of satisfaction instead of confusion.

If I had to pick out some flaws, I can think of two things that I didn't necessarily love about the novel. One, this book is DEFINITELY a part of a series.. and, in being so, you can't just pick up this book without any knowledge of the characters, series, and story/stories. If you try, you'll fail miserably - that's a promise. There were also some parts in the final chapters that felt a little rushed, as though the author was in a hurry to just wrap this series up and move on with her life. Though after seven books with the same characters in the same world, I think it's safe to say that it could be understandable. In all honesty, it's not THAT noticeable.. it's just something that kind of stood out to me while I was reading.

Overall, I completely loved this book. If you've been a follower of the series, I have no doubt that you will love this book as well. If you haven't followed this series.. I'd say you're doing yourself a disservice by not checking it out. Pick up this book, along with the others in the series. I promise you won't be disappointed!

Source: Purchase

Melissa de la Cruz grew up in Manila and moved to San Francisco with her family, where she graduated high school salutatorian from The Convent of the Sacred Heart. She majored in art history and English at Columbia University (and minored in nightclubs and shopping!).

Melissa is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of many critically acclaimed and award-winning novels for teens including The Au Pairs series, the Blue Bloods series, the Ashleys series, the Angels on Sunset Boulevard series and the semi-autobiographical novel Fresh off the Boat.

She now divides her time between New York and Los Angeles, where she lives in the Hollywood Hills with her husband and daughter.

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