Book Review: “999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz” by Heather Dune Macadam

Hello!

For the past three years, I’ve always ended my reading challenges with a book about the Holocaust. Of course, they were mostly fictionized, but they echo the stories of fellow inmates and survivors of the most infamous camp, Auschwitz. This time I managed to find a book that was on my Goodreads TBR (to be read) and it was free with Kindle Unlimited.

I knew what was getting myself into before I did the one click thingy, but I am never prepared to what would be in front of me with every page. I am always drawn to read about these awful years towards the end of each of my reading challenges. I doubt I’ll ever understand it, but here we are anyways.

WARNING: There are spoilers down below, so you might want to ignore this review today!


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A PEN America Literary Award Finalist
A Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee
An Amazon Best of the Year Selection

The untold story of some of WW2’s most hidden figures and the heartbreaking tragedy that unites them all. Readers of Born Survivors and A Train Near Magdeburg will devour the tragic tale of the first 999 women in Auschwitz concentration camp. This is the hauntingly resonant true story that everyone should know.


On March 25, 1942, nearly a thousand young, unmarried Jewish women, many of them teenagers, boarded a train in Poprad, Slovakia. Believing they were going to work in a factory for a few months, they were eager to report for government service and left their parents’ homes wearing their best clothes and confidently waving good-bye. Instead, the young women were sent to Auschwitz. Only a few would survive. Now acclaimed author Heather Dune Macadam reveals their stories, drawing on extensive interviews with survivors, and consulting with historians, witnesses, and relatives of those first deportees to create an important addition to Holocaust literature and women’s history.

taken from Goodreads.


Despite the evil of it all, this book was really interesting!

“We were nice girls from good families trying to learn how to steal from other nice girls from good families. This was not human. They dehumanized us.”

The author Heather Dune Macadam focuses on the original girls who were taken to Auschwitz in 1942. There are a lot of names and numbers to remember throughout the entire book, but I find it important that you mostly hear these heartbreaking stories from these lovely ladies. These were innocent girls expecting to work for the government (even though it was them who took practically their jobs and everything else before whole families were rounded up!) and end up in hell on Earth in a form of a new camp for anyone and everybody who was an enemy to the Nazis.

The conditions at the camps were downright awful! Each girl and woman was forced to strip their Sunday best, shave their heads, and get tattoos on their arms of their numbers the officers gave them. However, as you go on and learn about the jobs the prisoners vied for on a daily basis, and it wasn’t just the Nazi officers giving orders, it was fellow inmates too. They were offered a series of jobs in Auschwitz, none of them were ideal, some were downright dangerous like dig ditches and lakes in all seasons and temperatures! The women were being fed little unkosher meals, like soup made out of horsemeat and a piece of beard no bigger than a fist. And if that wasn’t enough, they also had to deal with diseases like typhus and sleep in places that were covered in fleas and lice!

And yet, we have survivors….

“Genocide does not simply go away. Just as it can continue to haunt the survivors, it shapes the lives of those who live with and love those survivors.”

As I see what is going on with the world nowadays, seeing Israel and what they are doing to their Palestine communities is another example of the Holocaust, as the Jewish were also kicked out of their homes and made to live in a one room with other families in the ghettos. Israel is an unique country with three main religions: Christians, Judaism and Islam. I used to think this was amazing until I saw what they don’t put on the mainstream news. I wonder how many Jewish people who were in these cocreation camps would support this violence. I think it would be a very low number. And then, we have what is going on with Russia and Ukraine, and you have the same exact story. History is just going to continue to repeat itself over and over again until we find out how to respect each other in our differences, and as much as I’d like to see that happen someday, I doubt it’ll happen in my lifetime and that’s the sad truth to it.

Have you read Heather’s “999: The Extraordinary Young Women in the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz” yet? Do you find yourself interested in books like this one? How do you deal with the sadness they tend to bring us readers?

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Summer ’22 Playlist

Well hello there!

Every summer for the past six years, I’ve done an actual summer playlist on here. I’ve loved putting them together for not only you, but for myself because then I can keep track of these amazing songs year after year. I suppose if you wanted to go back even further on what I liked to listen to prior to these individual posts, you can look through at June through September and you might find some more jams that way, it’s just going to be time-consuming on you though. My only regret is I just wish my Spotify worked in 2016-18 so that I could have collected even more and shared them with you but can’t quite fix it now.

In the beginning, I was obsessed with EDM (electronic dance music) and I would go crazy for anything that would come out in mid-March in that genre and see how it would become the summer jam of the year. However, this summer I was really drawn to rock music, and I mean, the majority of the playlist below is made up of rock and heavy metal tracks, I don’t mind the switch one bit honestly. Some of the songs were released at the start of the year and depending on my love for it and how much its played on the various Sirius XM stations I listen to, will make its way to the summer playlist, so I hope everyone loves on what I’ve been enjoying lately and maybe you’ll find your anthem for the year, that is if you haven’t already!

Here is my Top 12 songs of the summer. Want to check out the entire playlist? Click here.

Rest in Peace by Dorothy
About Damn Time by Lizzo
ABCDEFU by GAYLE
Eye of The Storm by Pop Evil
Cleopatra by Train featuring Sofia Reyes
Pink Rover by Scene Queen
Trap God by Hollywood Undead
Voices In My Head by Falling In Reserve
Meteorite by BANKS
Pink Venom by BLACKPINK
Happy Ending by Demi Lovato
Boyfriend by Dove Cameron

Now have I found my anthem for the year? I don’t think so. Every time I think I’ve found it though, it changes on me, so that definitely doesn’t help me out at all, but any of these songs on the list above can be a great reminder of summer 2022. I would really love to hear your favorites on your own list in the comments.

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Book Review: “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, & J.K. Rowling

Hello!

In my post last Wednesday, I mentioned I had finished TWO series this summer. The first was the original Harry Potter books and The Road of Valhalla by Melanie Karsak. I was very proud of myself, but I knew I wasn’t exactly done, done with Harry Potter unless I read “The Cursed Child” playscript. So, I waited two days to allow myself to digest everything that went on in “The Deathly Hallows” and finally wrote out my review in my other journal (I also put my reviews of “Order of the Phoenix” and “Half-Blood Prince” in there!) and began reading the eBook that night.


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The official playscript of the original West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

The playscript for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was originally released as a ‘special rehearsal edition’ alongside the opening of Jack Thorne’s play in London’s West End in summer 2016. Based on an original story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, the play opened to rapturous reviews from theatregoers and critics alike, while the official playscript became an immediate global bestseller.

This definitive and final playscript updates the ‘special rehearsal edition’ with the conclusive and final dialogue from the play, which has subtly changed since its rehearsals, as well as a conversation piece between director John Tiffany and writer Jack Thorne, who share stories and insights about reading playscripts. This edition also includes useful background information including the Potter family tree and a timeline of events from the Wizarding World prior to the beginning of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

taken from Goodreads.


I’ve seen a lot of mix criticism; it was mainly over the fact that this story isn’t written in the normal format. Technically, it wasn’t even J.K. writing the actual book! it was mainly John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. Honestly, I understand why the hardcore lovers of the series would be worried over the different style. it didn’t have some of the things we are so used to seeing with these characters, but it also made sense to create it in the way that actors, producers, etc see it for the play.

One of the main things I said in the beginning of reading this story was I was absolutely thrilled I read M.I. Rio’s “If We Were Villains” because the dialogue sections was written in the same way, and it was very easy to read and visualize what was going on at the same time. I also had another thought as you continue to read the various scenes, they released some inner thoughts from Harry and Albus but not as many as you would in the regular way, but instead of missing it, I actually preferred it this way, which threw me for a loop because I usually love the narrator and their thoughts, so the fact that it was there but in small quantities, did not bother me one bit!

Only time will tell, ladies and gentlemen, only time will tell.

Now, let’s discuss the characters and the overall plot.

Honestly, as I was finishing “Death Hallows,” I was curious on how much information we get of the last scenes where Harry and his friends are grown up with families, because I was really wondering about what happened and where Harry, Ron and Hermione do after the Wizarding Wars. I was thrilled that we got a bigger view into their lives. We follow their children’s life in a matter of three years, and it was so cool to see Albus and Scoripus (who is the son of Draco Malfoy) become best friends, as they go off on this adventure together.

Despite the fact that James, Albus, and Lily Potter knowing the story of how their parents, Aunt Hermione, and Uncle Ron survived the wars and the demise of Lord Voldemort, they have to continue on their journey to Hogwarts, and are placed in their respected houses. However, when Albus turns 13 years old, his dad has a visitor come to their house, Amos Diggory and his niece Delphi. Amos is an old man, but he still feels the loss of his son after the Triwizard Tournament, and he comes to discuss it with Harry, after the Ministry searches for any surviving time-travel necklaces, and ultimately destroy them from changing the past and ensuring the return of Voldemort.

The story itself is actually sweet, but there are some dark moments, especially towards the end of the book. I only cried a few times but for the most part I did okay getting through it in one piece. It was funny though; I saw a few lines that were featured in the other books. Every mention of Sirius Black, Dumbledore, and Snape pretty much released the floodgates, as I’m sure everyone would get teary-eyed during the second time jump too! Again, I wasn’t even expecting that to happen, and it hurt the most!

For anyone who hasn’t checked this book out, I highly suggest reading “If We Were Villains” first so you can get familiar with how to read plays and scripts. I will admit, I wasn’t much of a fan of that book, but apparently it was a blessing in a disguise in the end.

Have you read “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One & Two” yet? If you have, what were your thoughts about it? Let me know in the comments below!

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Book Review: “Shield-Maiden: Gambit of Blood” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

I am still impressed with myself on what I was able to accomplish in the month of July. I started off in the best of indentations, but then I got sick, and I did not read for like five days in a row. I wasn’t very happy about it since I had successfully read every single day the previous month, so what really surprised me was getting to 30 books on my 2022 goal, and I finished not one, but TWO series!

After I completed “The Road to Valhalla” series, I knew I wanted to give the spinoff series another shot. I’ve sort of read the first five pages of the novella back in December, but I wasn’t into reading about the Vikings at that time, and so to be able to get back into the story of Ervie, was almost like full circle, well it will be once I get through the novella itself, which is next but knowing me, I’m probably already done with it by the time this post goes up. I have done reviews on novellas in the past, but I’ve decided to not do one of “Winternights Gambit”.


An orphaned descendant of Loki.
A princess without a kingdom.
A shield-maiden plagued by the shadows of Valhalla


Born to rule two jarldoms, Ervie should of had a life of ease. But fate has not been kind. Her parents’ jarldoms destroyed in the wars of a previous generation; Ervie is set adrift in the world. Taking refuge in the lands of the famed King Gizer, Ervie finds a temporary retreat from her aching sense of loss. But when Gizer’s warband is summoned to defend one of his staunchest allies, the journey promises more than just battle for Ervie.

As it turns out, the Norns have been weaving.

Once, Ervie’s parents were considered the most powerful practitioners of Norse magic in all of Scandinavia. That same magic has been sleeping under the shield-maiden’s skin. Soon, this descendant of the trickster god will find herself on a path to reclaim what was lost…and follow her destiny.

Fans of Vikings and The Last Kingdom will relish The Shadows of Valhalla series. This sweeping Viking historical fantasy retells the story of the second legendary heroine named Hervor—called Ervie by those who know her well—the inspiring shield-maiden from the Norse Hervarar Saga.

Readers of The Road to Valhalla series will love this next-generation tale in a beloved Viking world.

taken from Goodreads.

The one thing I am still kicking myself about, is that I should have waited at least a day after I finished with “Under the Dark Moon” to begin this book. I was not in control of my emotions so any mention of Hervor, Hofund, Svafa, and even Sigrun, made me cry again 12 hours later! I was an absolutely idiot but, in a way, I knew this book would have some of the beloved characters mentioned in that series. I just underestimated my thoughts at the time and after I finished one chapter, I made myself stop and take a break from it all but was right back in within a day or two later.

Ervie. Princess of Reindeer. Daughter of Blossoms.”

For this story, we follow Princess Hervor or Ervie as she prefers to be called; although I think she may accept her namesake and the legend of the shield-maiden Hervor later on, but we’ll see about that. Anyways, Ervie is very far from home, after the death of her mother Blomma, she left her twin brother Prince Loptr and grandfather King Hofund in Grund behind to escape all of her reminders. You could see her pain a mile away and it hurt you as the reader just as much Ervie in a way.

Four years later, she’s found a place among Kind Gizer and Queen Kára’s brood of boys: Dag, Bjarki, Kettel, Gauti, Thorir, Wigluf, and only daughter Eyfura in Skagen. She fights on the battlefield with the same brutality and stamina as the brothers and claims her prizes humbly. She doesn’t just have a good relationship with Gizer’s kingdom, but with her cousin Prince Angantyr, son of Prince Heidrek of Grund and Princess Helga of Jutland, who was originally called Prince Heidrek at the end of “Under the Dark Moon” The name change fits him well, but he isn’t as loved by his grandfather King Harald, but then again you can’t quite blame him for it. He was mostly cared for by Lady Svafa and this time she got to keep her memories. However, by the time we see these characters, Svafa is very blind and old, but she radiates love and joy to everyone around her.

“What lies deep in the Myrkviðr, a dark place where none of these daring warriors dare to enter?”

The first Act of this story was huge, it’s actually the bulk of the plot itself but I really think there were a lot of filler information as well. I understood the reason why Melanie included so many familiar characters, especially Prince Heidrek, as they are all needed, and they become reasons for Ervie to find herself in Myrkviðr. When she makes her way there, the forest is dense, but she finds it inviting at the same time. When we get to this section, Ervie started to remind me of Yrsa, and her bears and cave on the ledge. By the time we enter this phase, we hit 65% overall and I became fairly worried on how much information would be available for everyone. I still think there were missed opportunities on while King Ormar and Audr were training Ervie and why the King chose not to discuss the invasion of The Huns with Audr and Ervie.

The biggest surprise of the whole thing was the entrance of Prince Hlod as that was a brilliant twist to not only Ervie’s storyline but what could ensue for King Hofund, his heir Loptr, and also Prince Angantyr, as there is even more news about King Harald and his family. Once this was revealed to the reader, you are instantly wondering how it will all play out, and I will say, I understood why so much material was in the beginning, but I still say there were some that did not belong there at all or yet.

Have you read the first book of this spinoff series, “Shield-Maiden: Gambit of Blood” yet? I’d like to know your thoughts about it in the comments section below.

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Book Review: “Shield-Maiden: Under the Dark Moon” by Melanie Karsak

Hello!

This July saw me end two books and their respected series, the first was Melanie Karsak’s “The Road to Valhalla” set and it wasn’t an easy thing to accomplish because I really enjoyed the familiarity of the characters and the Norse mythology as a whole, but once I hit 75% I knew I would try to finish the book in one go–it didn’t quite happen that way of course!–as I royally screwed up my sleep schedule for it, but I will explain more about this at the end of the post.

Since this is the end of the series, I have decided to share my Spotify playlist dedicated to these characters and the overall aesthetic. Click here to begin listening to it. Funnily enough, this wasn’t the only thing I created in the midst of reading all five books, I even made its own Pinterest board! So, if you would like to visit that one as well, you should click here for that one!


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For Odin’s chosen, all roads lead to Valhalla.

With Gudmund dead, Hervor and Hofund are crowned queen and king of Grund. The pair soon discover that ruling a Viking land is not without difficulty. Enemies from without and within threaten the new rulers. While her dreams are the same, Hervor’s future becomes unclear. The gods have grown silent. Only Skadi whispers to Hervor now, and all her words are warnings. A dark moon is rising. Hervor must learn to rely on her inner strength to protect her family and face the tumultuous path the Norns have woven for her.

Dive into the thrilling final chapter of the Road to Valhalla series! Fans of Vikings and The Last Kingdom will love the Shield-Maiden: Under the Dark Moon by New York Times bestseller Melanie Karsak.

taken from Goodreads.

Since I started reading the final Harry Potter book at the same time as this one, I quickly realized there was one similar element to each story, you knew from the beginning they were to end. The characters themselves were evolving as you continued on through each chapter and as a reader, you knew very quickly, every emotion was going to hit you hard. This was definitely true with “Under the Dark Moon” as we moved on through time as Hervor grew into a strong individual – not saying she wasn’t in the other four books!

She is wife, mother, shield-maiden, and queen now.

As we left “Under the Blood Moon”, we entered the tender years as the princes (and princess!) of Grund went from babies to young men in their own right. Previously, we witnessed the birth of the younger son, Prince Angantyr born on Grund, and we were allowed to watch the sons of Hervor and Hofund reach their destinies and for Angantyr, it was an easy arrangement, whereas Heidrek was a totally different story. This was another thing you noticed once we jumped further in time a few years and you saw the boys in different personalities, while one was gentle and patient, the other was cunning and full of rage.

On the other side of that, you saw other beloved characters like Svafa find love again. Jarl Lief and Lady Eydis and their brood change with the times. Thorolf and Thyri expand their family, and Princess Blomma become more than just a foster-daughter and older sister to her family and friends. And of course, we see even more of Lady Revna too. Oh, how the Norns weave this woman and her web of victims. Lastly, there was one final character whose own chapter slowly ending too. the much-adored wolf of Bolmsö, Rök. I swear I cried mostly for him! His death was as difficult for Hervor as it was on me too. Honestly, that whole scene about killed me!

Despite the fact this book didn’t have that many battle scenes, there was one new character that was interesting on both sides, and it was Aquippa. He was a capture thrall (or slave) sent to be auctioned off at the marketplace in Grund, until Hervor used her role of Queen to her advantage as warriors would raid throughout the world, they brought back more than gold and silver, they also made it rich to sell people to work. This was common to when the Europeans stole the Africans from their native homeland and customs.

For Hervor to do this though was huge! It wasn’t that big of a surprise to us as she’d be vocal about keeping thralls fairly early in the other books. I mean, Eydis was also thrall in Dalr and sent to work with Jarl Bjarmter’s family. She was a comfort to the lost Svafa, abused Hervor and secret lover to Leif. Eydis and Hervor had a strong connection to each other, and it was because of this that Hervor wished to see the end of this trait washed out to sea for good.

“All your life, your road has led to Valhalla.

Back to Aquippa though, he was a person of many different things for the royal family. He helped Hofund on his inventions and tutored Blomma, but I thought the most important thing about him was the fact he trusted Hervor so quickly, and told stories of how in other lands, there were people who believed in other gods. While this is going on, she starts to see Hervor almost question her own Gods, especially Loki towards, but it was apparent once she and Hofund freed the thralls that she wondered if this was truly a practice in the All-Father’s hall. I was very conflicted by this as she was very much relied on the guidance of Odin and Skadi, and once her communication with Odin disappeared, she was a different person in my eyes, and I still wonder if Melanie had written it that way for a reason.

On the very early morning of July 22nd, I was nearing the end of the story and I was very committed to finishing that night, but I couldn’t get everything that happened in that hour for me to calm myself fully, so I sat back up at 3:30am to complete the rest of the book. A part of me still thinks I should have waited because I was exhausted while writing this review! Anyways, the ending was tough, but I will say, this was my first proper ending compared to the first series I read by Melanie last year. Highland Queen never had an end to the characters and their situations, and I am still furious about it, but this made up for it completely, because I did the whole ugly cry in the darkness of my room! I keep telling myself this was better to get everything out at that moment then waiting until later that day and my parents seeing me with puffy, red eyes and tears streaming down my face. I was such a mess, but it was also needed as I wanted to grieve for these characters, and I was happy I was able to do that this time around.

Have you read “Shield-Maiden: Under the Dark Moon” by Melanie Karsak yet? For those who have, what were favorite parts of the final book? Did you break down as much as I did for that ending? Let me know in the comments section below!

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