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?

snowflake

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.

snowflake

The Garden Tour | The Beginning

Hello!

I am finally ready to give you the story of our garden. I say “our” because even though I didn’t do the actual tilling, planting and pull vegetables off the stocks, I am still very much a part of the whole thing. I haven’t had much say on the entire thing, but I thought talking about it on here will bring me closer to each of the sections.


Since we’ve been in this house and after getting our dog Rumer’s fenced yard earlier this year, my folks have been itching to make the front as pretty as possible. We’ve been in this house four years and my mom has had array of hanging flowers on the side deck and eventually the front entrance, but they took the landscaping up a notch once we started to experience spring weather. There were a few times in those early days where the majority of the plants had to go into my dad’s garage for a night or two, so they didn’t develop any frost on their leaves.

The very first thing my parents bought for the garden was a nod to me, as I had found them on Facebook one day and shared it to my mom and she seemed to like them as they arrived a week later. They are sunflower solar lights. They do not need any batteries nor water but just straight sun to shine bright over the space. Originally, they were going to be in the back deck where I love to spend time hanging out with the cats and reading one of my books, but then my mom wanted some as well. I tried to split them up evenly since it came with 8 sunflowers, but dad ended up scarping that idea as a whole and now we have the majority in the front yard and three are in the back yard.

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The sunflowers are in great company to the real flowers along the fence. As you can see from this photo, we have the lights on the inside of the fence while we have a row of plants on the other side, this is actually an almond bush, it was a small section trimmed off the other bush at my nana and papaw’s house. My nana has a section up north and now we have one for our yard.

All of the plants are non-toxic to Rumer so if she does decide to tear into them, she shouldn’t get too sick by them. We’ve had the front part done for five months and she ignores them so that’s great! For the most part, all of our flowers and vegetables are non-toxic to both Rumer and the cats; the cats have hardly made a dent in our gardens. We’ve caught Grumpy, Midge, and Nelson asleep in the big garden in the backyard but they don’t really care about any of the new landscaping, which has really surprised us in the last month or so!

In the front, we have had array of various flowers line up along the fence like the tulips. My parents were really into the tulips, but they were the first to die once we got started with everything. We had orange, pink, and purple tulips and they were so beautiful, but they didn’t really flourish like we thought they would, but by the time we got them it was the end of March, and we were experiencing frosts in the mornings, but we were able to save the hostas and rose bushes they bought throughout March to late April. It was not a good idea to allow my dad to go to Wal-Mart or Menards because he would come home with more plants, especially rose bushes and peppers!

There is a ruse bush closest to the sunflower patch, I will talk more about them in my next post, which was looking really bad at the store and my dad felt kind of sorry for it like Charlie Brown does at the little real tree in Charlie Brown Christmas special. According to them, they left Menards and went around Wal-Mart, but he kept thinking about that sad bush and they literally went back to grab and take it home. Thankfully they did this because it’s been flourishing since the start of April. It is huge! I can see perfectly from the front door and it’s a nice reddish-pink color too! We’re all happy he was able to save it from its humble beginnings and see it evolve over time in the rich soil. If you are really curious, this rose bush is on the left side on the first collage.

While my dad worked mainly in the fence line, my mom focused her attention to the porch. She has had some type of flowers either hanging from the rails of the side deck or on the front steps. We love to make that space in the front somewhat decorated for all seasons!

And since we’ve had a proper porch, she seemed to step up her game with arranging even more flowers around every surface, and we’ve had petunias of various colors like pinks and purples, but she added a couple of different daisies this year, and one of which has become a sort of favorite for me as it has a yellow hue on the outside with a deep purple in the middle; none of us had ever seen this one before but I hope it’ll become a seasonal stable for us.

We also have two cubes at the bottom of the stairs, and there are a bunch of zinnias and another flower we haven’t had before, but they’re called purple waves and whenever I go up next to the screen door I can’t quite see them because of how dad and our family friend built the actual steps and small patio last year, but I’ve learned to live with it as long as they add pretty elements to this part of our home.

Unfortunately, a lot of flowers we planted in the spring are dead, but my parents really enjoy their flowers so as the weather turns, we grabbed others that would relish in the sunlight. The rose bushes are still going strong, but we did replace the tulips with yellow marigolds. The best way to describe what they look like are dandelions when they become bright yellow, but they have more petals, they look like those 80’s or 90’s toy balls with those silky-soft hairs. I hope you understand what I’m saying, because that’s all I have at the moment.

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We have a group of marigolds next to the legendary rose bush and it wasn’t supposed to be, but I think of it as a nice nod to my great-great-great Aunt Mary and her husband Gen, short for General in fact! I’ve talked about them a few years ago, my nana and I found a file of letters and photos that were supposed to be put with Mary when she died, but they never were, and everybody has always talked about their love of roses. Apparently, Gen was obsessed with them, they had all kinds and bred different ones, and in one of the letters we found, his pet name for his wife was Marigold, which is so, so sweet! It does make me sad we weren’t able to give her back the file in the end, but it is a nice memory to have for newer generations.


I’ve been reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder on Spotify, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about how they did back on the wild frontier, and even my mom has said things that would make Charles Ingalls very happy too! We had a storm back in early June that was semi violent and shook our tomato and cucumber plants to the point they were bent a little and she said, “I now understand what Pa Ingalls went through when it hailed and destroyed their field.” Thankfully, we didn’t lose anything, and they felt a lot better than while they watched the wind mess with the larger plants.

So, that’s all I can say about the front part of our house and when I come back with my second post, it will be about the side yard and I’ll be talking about how my folks decided to dig further on the eastern side of our property and tell you more about the process of our sunflowers, and if you know me well enough, you know how excited I am to chat about them. And if you’re wondering if they have names like my indoor plants, they do! I also share our first experience of canning the large cucumber harvests we’ve had lately! So, I really hope you have enjoyed reading this first section and continue learning about little homesteading journey.

What kind of landscaping have you done to your home? For those who live in apartments, what are some of your future ideas to create your own garden? What are your favorite flowers/plants?

snowflake

Book Review: “If We Were Villains” by M.L. Rio

Hello!

June was a surprisingly good month for my books. I thought I would be about to get through three to four books, but I guess I was reading a lot faster than I originally thought and I managed to finally hit 25 books as we neared the end of it.

When “If We Were Villains” first came out, I was unsure if I’d really be interested in it. I was intrigued by the suspenseful mood but having a big chunk of it built around Shakespeare made me worry since I’ve always had trouble understanding the meaning of what everyone was saying, like most would, but then again, I’m always searching for something like Victoria Helen Stone’s “Jane Doe” and I will admit this book isn’t anywhere near in that direction, but I liked it just as much though.


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Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.

taken from Goodreads.

As the reader, you get to hear both the events that happened in 1999 to a group of students. Four boys and three girls, as they study theatre in college. Everything starts up like it does every day, but then they get their individual requirements for the Halloween show and something changes within the group itself. One character ends up dead and everyone is trying to go on about life, while in the back of their minds, they try to solve who actually killed their friend.

It was just us—the seven of us and the trees and the sky and the lake and the moon and, of course, Shakespeare.

Honestly, it’s a very cliche of “who done it” style of book but I will say it also had a very unique layout. The fact that the author included many Shakespeare references throughout was interesting to me! I got to see how the characters live and breathed William Shakespeare’s plays on a daily basis. You could see each of them act out various characters – sadly I was more focused on how these people would bring them to life as if I could see the show in front of me, and this was a wonderful display of elements. I still had some issues with the dialogue of that time’s way of speaking. I made it through in one piece, but I doubt I will read anything like that for a while. Thanks to this book, I have put both “Macbeth” and “King Lear” on my TBR list!

My true issue was once you made it passed the events that happen after Halloween, everything became very boring, it didn’t pick back up under the final Act, which for a while I wondered if it was worth finishing because it was that bad for me! As I suffered through this section, I tried to figure out who could play each of the characters…

I started hunting when I first started reading but I was thinking of various other actors, and I went with Jamie Campbell Bower as Alexander, Camila Mendes as Filippa, Emilia Clarke as Wren and Sam Claflin as our main Oliver, although I did end up changing my mind toward the end of the story, but I don’t know who the person I saw at that point. Honestly, this was a difficult thing to do because I rarely see a person’s actual face when creating the character’s features, so I could have all of the descriptions an author can give me, and I could still have problems forming them.

Have you read “If We Were Villains” by M.L. Rio yet? If you have, what were your thoughts on it? I’d also like to know who you saw for the important characters down in the comments too.

snowflake

July Playlist

Hello!

This month has been an odd one.

It had so much promise at first, but then the second week came in, and my body decided to throw us a curve ball and it’s been a slow but steady ride back to normal since then.

I was up late at night on the 10th, and I was busy doing some of stuff but I was very hot, I had sweat everywhere and I was sitting straight in front of my fan and I wasn’t feeling like it was making a difference to how my body was reacting, and then suddenly I started to feel really sickly, like I could throw up on my laptop and I knew something weird was going on, so I called for my mom and she realized some of the same things I had but when she took me to the bathroom, and we quickly found out I had some kind of stomach bug, and it ruled my body for four and a half days.

Originally, we couldn’t figure out how I could have gotten this because nobody has had this bug, my parents never came down with it either! The one thing we did agree with was my intake with store-bought brownies–I had a strong craving for anything to do with brownies!–and I had them throughout three days prior. I have had issues with brownies in the past but never this serve! So, we all made the decision to throw them out because nobody was going to eat them to test out our logic, and I was pretty sad about it, but I wasn’t going to continue eating them if this was going to be the end result everytime.

Last month, I was so happy to know I read for thirty days, and I had wanted to do the same thing with July but then this sickness came around and I ended up missing out on five days and I’ve been trying to get back on track with both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows and Shield-Maiden: Under the Dark Moon, the final books of their series, and a part of me was fine with going slow with them but I want to finish these stories just as much. I’m still reading the fourth book of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but I’m currently at a crossroads with it, so I hope I can get back into it soon!

I have started working on my Garden Tour posts. I began writing up the first daft at the very beginning of July, but then I have been sadly avoiding it these last few weeks, but I think I’ll be back to it once August rolls around. I would like to release the first part before the end of summer, but I don’t know yet.

Let’s get into the July playlist now. Here are my Top 20 songs and like always, if you want to check out the entire playlist, click here to be transported to the Spotify playlist.

Chocolate & Ice Cream by Plumb
Love On The Brain by Cold War Kids featuring Bishop Briggs
You’re The One I Want by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (Grease)
Run With Me by Watt White featuring Loch
In Another Life by Crown The Empire featuring Courtney LaPlante
My Head & My Heart by Ava Max
Don’t Pray For Me by Within Temptation
Snakes and Ladders by Power-Haus featuring Sohodolls (Tom Evans Remix)
Trap God by Hollywood Undead
Wild One by Malinda
Stay by Lauren Babic

Her Body Is Bible by Fletcher
Mr. Crow by Andrew Higgins
Yes Girl by Bea Miller
From Today by Coldtrain
Karma by Alicia Keys
All Star by Smash Mouth
Write On Me by Fifth Harmony
300 Violin Orchestra by Ender Guney
Heartbreaker by Pat Benater

I have one more thing to mention; while I was recovering, I allowed myself to watch more movies like my ultimate favorite Shrek and I finally got a chance to check out “Last Night In Soho” (2021) on HBOMax, it stars Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Davis, and Diana Rigg. It was an amazing film! I knew it would be somewhat suspenseful, but it went over my own assumptions, and I just loved it! The most recent was Into The Forest. It came out in 2015 and has Elliot Page and Evan Rachel Wood as the main characters. I thought this would equally by as interesting as far as being thriller-y, but it wasn’t – although it wasn’t too cheesy (considering it is like when we were in lockdown for COVID!) but the ending was very weird, even my dad had some words about how the whole thing! I think we thought we were getting a totally different movie to what was delivered but it wasn’t too awful though. This film was on “The Movie Channel” or Showtime!

I truly hope you’re doing well out there and enjoying the summer weather too!

What were you listening to in July?

snowflake