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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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: 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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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.

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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?

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