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: “Shield-Maiden: Under the Blood Moon” by Melanie Karsak

Hello again!

It’s crazy to think I am almost finished with this series. It has been a great sequel to “The Raven and The Dove” book I read earlier this year, but now my mind is like, what are we going to do after this one ends? The plan is to start on the other Viking series by Melanie Karsak but I am also thinking about focusing on other genres, so we’ll have to see what happens after July, because when I finished this book, I turned my attention to the newest book in Melanie’s “Celtic Rebels” series about Queen Boudica.


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As the blood moon rises, the shadow of Ragnarök falls on Uppsala.

With the dark days in Dalr behind them, Hervor and Hofund journey to Grund. Hervor’s focus turns to tracking down the sea kings and taking vengeance, but she soon finds that life in Grund is convoluted. Family grudges, secret alliances, and shady friendships abound in the capital. Everyone has their own agenda, and for some, Hervor is in the way. Hervor will find that surviving Grund is far more complicated than the bloody fields. But a blood moon is rising. Soon, Odin’s shield-maiden must clear the path to her promised future…no matter who must meet Tyrfing to ensure that fate.

taken from Goodreads.

I had mentioned that once everything ended in “Under the Thunder Moon” you couldn’t see what was going to unfold for our beloved characters. It was going to be interesting as far as how Melanie was going to do about Hervor now being a jarl on Bolmsö and princess of Grund after marrying Prince Hofund. She was becoming her own person, especially now that Eydis was to be with Leif in Dalr. You didn’t exactly how everything would turn out, but I was definitely intrigued about it.

There is a lot of traveling involved as we start from Bolmsö to Dalr, Silfreheim to finally Prince Hofund’s home Grund. As most people would feel in this situation, Hervor and her gang of warriors are uneasy, especially after she was crowned Jarl Hervor of Bolmsö. This world is completely opposite to life on both Dalr and Bolmsö, as Grund is much larger and has a court full of cunning and resentful people close to the royal family. We also have the issue of the sea kings creating havoc everywhere they go, and it was exciting to see all of these various Jarls, Kings, Princes, and several shield-maidens of Scandinavia come together to kick some serious ass towards the end but beware when you arrive to this scene because a beloved character dies, and it hurt me pretty bad–so much that it took me five days to finish this post!

“No one backs a wolf into a corner and remains unscathed.”

While I was reading, I tried to highlight as much as possible, and I do this for two reasons: I get my quotes of this review, but I also enjoy researching various things and then sharing the results with you guys. I did this with the second book of the series, as it mentioned the Trojan horse scheme. For this book though, there was a section where Prince Hofund is showing Hervor, Yrsa and Blomma the marketplace and while Hofund is pulled away, Hervor buys material to make into suitable dresses for court life, and she or Yrsa asks how the seamstress made such a vibrant colors and she explains there is a shell by the sea that helps color the fabric naturally, and what was weird about this, was I remembered hearing something about that exact shell a week or so beforehand!

I enjoy watching History Tea Time with Lindsay Holiday on YouTube and I was listening to her video about FAQs and Odd Facts and there is a part in the video where she is explaining how the darker purple became “Royal” purple and I just thought this was so interesting and incredibly weird that both of things would happen at the same time! Anyways, click here if you’d like to learn more about the process into making a richer color of purple.

Have you read the fourth book in “The Road to Valhalla” by Melanie Karsak yet? For those who have, what were some of your thoughts?

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Book Review: “Isabella: Braveheart of France” by Colin Falconer

Hello!

I wasn’t able to reach five books in May unfortunately, honestly, there were a lot of factors that allowed this to happen, and my overall mindset was like, all I can do is move on and see what I could accomplish this month.

Before we go into this, I just want to point out that I’m an ally for the LGBT+ communities! Being gay and/or trans throughout current and past monarchs have been a touchy subject, but for this, ou have to imagine that these people were heavily influenced by the Catholic church. They did not understand a whole lot–but they were definitely not stupid either! They were constantly guided by their priests in everything, including who slept in their beds, so please keep this in mind while reading my review below.

WARNING: I rambled on with this one and there are a few spoilers below, so if you’d like to read this book in the future or want to conduct your own research about Isabella of France without a bias opinion, then I suggest you should skip this post!


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She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.

When Princess Isabella is offered as bride to King Edward of England, for her it’s love at first sight. But her dashing husband has a secret, one that threatens to tear their marriage—and England—apart. As Isabella navigates the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, her cleverness and grace allow her to subvert Edward’s ill-advised plans and gain influence. But soon the young queen is faced with an impossible choice, taking a breathtaking gamble that will forever change the course of history.

In the tradition of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick, Isabella is the story of a queen who took control of her destiny—and the throne.

taken from Amazon.

When I started reading, I thought I was getting an actual biography or a fictional tale of Isabella, but not of Isabella of France. I thought it was about Isabella I of Castile. When I realized my mistake, I wasn’t so upset about it because Isabella has been an interesting Queen to learn about in the last few years. She’s been called a “She-Wolf” since the fall of her husband, King Edward II and relationship with, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. So, I was curious to learn a more contemporary approach about the former Queen of England.

“You will love this man. Do you understand? You will love him, serve him, and obey him in all things. This is your duty to me and to France. Am I clear?”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately with my historical books, I’ve really stepped up my game on collecting notes and random pieces of information throughout my process of reading each story. For Isabella, I took even more notes because there was a lot of stuff mentioned with not a lot of dates to go with certain important events and it was hard to keep everything straight and at times, I really thought about stopping and put it in DNF list.

This is my dilemma with historical fiction (especially if it’s in or around about British history!), some authors are considerate and include an estimate of years these things take place, or they give readers a part one, two, three, where the transition is easier to understand, but with this book I was having to keep track with every year mentioned because sometimes we are thrusted into more than one year at a time so I had to write things down or else my brain wasn’t going to catch up to the things taking place.

I had a lot of thoughts concerning quite a few of contradicting moments that were somewhat odd, for example, you have Edward II engaged in not one, but two same sex relationships with his favorites Piers Galveston and Hugh le Despenser the Younger. Now there is quite a gap until you get into the Tudor dynasty and the crazy stories of King Henry VIII’s quest to have more male heirs, but this is a little bit different. Edward seems to have fallen in love with Piers and Hugh (although the book explains why the Younger Hugh could have been just a puppet of Edward’s former lover Piers!) rather than take another woman as a mistress. History and what is in this book seem to mesh as the barons were aggravated towards their king by giving his lovers more lands, castles, and even more power of the realm than his wife, Queen Isabella.

And then you have the issues with Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. He did not rise up against Edward in the beginning but while Roger did desert Edward II while at war against Robert the Bruce, he was considered a traitor for this, afterwards he is arrested and convicted as treason. Now, we have to get into the second part of the drama. Did he and Isabella have a sexual relationship at all? History says yes, and this books also agrees, but there doesn’t seem any proof of when everything started or ended either way compared to the King.

So, when Colin introduces this section, he also makes a point to throw in a scandal that appeared in her father’s court fairly early into the marriage, concerning her sisters-in-law Queen Marguerite and Queen Blanche (both originally from Burgundy.) having affairs with brothers Gautier and Philip d’Aunay of France in 1314. I have to wonder, since it is speculated that Isabella to be the one who spoke out about it, can we really assume she would do the same thing? She talks of the aftermath and where Marguerite and Blanche ended up shunned in convents and forced to take up the habit for the rest of their lives. If she was as desperate to be wanted by love and sex, as it is mentioned, stirring the pot like this would be very damning but again, look at what her husband, the king, was doing out in the open for the whole world (including the Pope!) to see and yet, she’s the one everyone wants to drag through the mud!

It must be done for England’s sake, not just for her own.

This is one thing that you as a reader understand at the start of the entire book. She is a woman, living in a very powerful man’s world. She is considered to be nothing but a consort to her king and reproduce children that will belong to both monarchs. The English and French courts. She is to obey everything her king asks and does of the kingdom.

Unfortunately, marriages weren’t made in love, there could be a time where the couple find love in each other overtime, this has happened quite a bit with royal marriages, but what I’m really trying to get it with this is that everything had a reason, you married a higher individual to gain allegiance and power over estates and money. This happened to everyone, men and women, young or old.

When she and Edward were having children, they would never know what true love is, because they never saw it amongst their parents. Their youngest daughter Princess Joan and David of Scotland were arranged only so that both kingdoms could have peace. We can say David probably took a few mistresses and had bastard children, as this was accepted among the men of the times, but the only righteous thing Joan was able to do was show up as a united front and turn a blind eye on it all or wait for an annulment from the Pope and finally enter a nunnery to live out the rest of her days with a small allowance. She would end up being in similar situations as her mother and former aunts.

And finally, there’s the fact, could Isabella have orchestrated the death of her husband and former king. We go back to the notion of her feelings to Edward at the end of his reign. Did she hate him enough to order people to kill him while he was imprisoned? We will never know the whole story of this question either, but I feel like this one is worse than committing adultery, but that’s just me!

Have you read “Isabella: Braveheart of France” by Colin Falconer yet? What were some of your thoughts about the story of this stoic Queen of England?

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Book Review: “Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies” by Hayley Nolan

Hello!

If you know me well enough, you wouldn’t be surprised by my loving support of Queen Anne Boleyn. I’ve always thought she has a bad rap before, during and after her marriage to King Henry VIII. I’ve watched a lot of movies, tv shows, and documentaries that follow the whole “six wives” drama, and I’ve wanted to read a biographical story of her life, but I didn’t want to hear to hear the same things I’ve been hearing since 2008, and I have attempted to read this book two years ago, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it, so after the book itself basically stalking me for months on end, I decided to make a goal to read and complete it before the anniversary of her death in 1536.


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A bold new analysis of one of history’s most misrepresented women.

History has lied.

Anne Boleyn has been sold to us as a dark figure, a scheming seductress who bewitched Henry VIII into divorcing his queen and his church in an unprecedented display of passion. Quite the tragic love story, right?

Wrong.

In this electrifying exposé, Hayley Nolan explores for the first time the full, uncensored evidence of Anne Boleyn’s life and relationship with Henry VIII, revealing the shocking suppression of a powerful woman.

So leave all notions of outdated and romanticized folklore at the door and forget what you think you know about one of the Tudors’ most notorious queens. She may have been silenced for centuries, but this urgent book ensures Anne Boleyn’s voice is being heard now.

#TheTruthWillOut

taken from Goodreads.

Everything you think you know about the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn is turned upside down, as with every historian and film based on the second line of the Tudor dynasty can be comprised of lies, and lots of them. There were things that I didn’t concern beforehand that while I read this book immediately changed my mind and where I stand on my view of both the king and his former “love” that was Anne Boleyn.

I just want to let everything know, I took quite a few notes between mid-April to early May, just so I could remember things that I thought were really important to other people who enjoy a 16th Century soap opera!

Who was the real Anne Boleyn?

The first thing I thought was both crucial and interesting was how the author Hayley had the guts to say that Henry VIII could have suffered a mental illness all throughout his life. She believes she could have been a sociopath, and yes, she tells her readers why this seems like something he would have been going through in life, and It wouldn’t have been caused by the jousting accident he had in 1520’s, although she does point out that it could have heightened his paranoia of his court and of course, not being able to have an acceptable heir.

I thought it was somewhat funny how much I was comparing his actions like of Victoria Helen Stone’s Jane Doe series. Jane is also a sociopath, but totally fictional, so in a way, to see how her mind works–she doesn’t believe she is in the wrong, blames over people, she doesn’t know how to show true emotions like love, and is ruled by her impulses. I thought Victoria’s books were the shit before; I definitely love them now. but it was also frightening to see the similarities between these two, and again Jane is a fictional character!

Besides the rundown of Henry’s erratic behavior, you understand that we need to see Anne as a human being, although it was 1500’s, she deserves to have her real story told and this book is full of information by tons of courtiers and religious people of the time, such as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Crammer, Archbishop of Canterbury, William Latymer, William Kingston, Chapuleys, Ambassador of Spain. You are told things that many historians and authors normally pass through because it doesn’t fit the mold that is the Tudor era.

One of the things we always learn about this part of history is that court life is not about this grand and there is always a party of some sort going on, but this isn’t exactly true. People were stuck in large palaces, and it was fairly quiet, so there was always in need of musicians and poets to keep everyone happy (or at least comfortable with their surroundings!) but it wasn’t just the king and his advisors that were working hard, the Queen also had her own job as she helped the king discover another religion which was evangelism and helped break away from Rome. She was helping students continue their schooling and protected them from harm for practicing another faith. She always worked based on what she hoped would happen for the nation and educate her little daughter Elizabeth as Protestant than Catholicism.

When non-history-fanatics think of Anne Boleyn, do they recall her fighting for religious reform and freedom? No, they think six wives, six fingers and beheaded.

There is something I wasn’t a huge fan of, I didn’t care on how cocky Hayley was, getting her point across with each chapter. I understand as someone who loves and supports Anne very much, you want everyone to know the facts, but I thought the author was sort of cocky with her words. However, there were interesting tidbits that were mixed with sarcasm here and you felt like she was sitting right next to me having a very intense debate about who was really responsible for bringing Anne (and the other poor victims) of the murdering plot down for good, and when it came to sections like this, I was fine with that familiar banter but the rest, not so much.

Anyways, if you are looking for a different perspective on this time period and looking at the ‘romance’ or ‘love story’ that was King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I definitely recommend this book, but if you are set with what media chooses to discuss, then you might want to ease yourself into the real truth of Anne Boleyn.

Have you read Hayley Nolan’s “Anne Boleyn: 500 Years of Lies” yet? If you have checked it out, what were some of your thoughts about what she shared with us?

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

Hello!

And we’re back for another book in Melanie Karsak’s “The Road to Valhalla” series. I really don’t know what I’m going to do once I read all of these books; she is currently working on a spinoff series with the character introduced at the end of the previous story. If you would like to check out my thoughts on the other two, click either ‘Under the Howling Moon‘ and/or ‘Under the Hunter’s Moon’ and then you can always come back to this one afterwards!


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Under the thunder moon, the war-horn will sound, and Odin’s Valkyrie will rise.

Reunited with Hofund, and with Bolmsö safe from its enemies, Hervor takes her place as jarl. But the All-Father has bigger plans for his favorite shield-maiden. When Hervor learns that Jarl Bjartmar has vowed vengeance on Leif, she knows she must stand by her cousin. To free Dalr, they must enlist the help of old allies, former enemies, and a warrior-priest called the Reindeer King. Together, they will fight to free Dalr.

taken from Goodreads.

A lot happens in this book, I mean, it is packed with everything all fans of Vikings love the most: war. Honestly, I thought there was a lot of fighting in the second book, but the journey and reasons are completely different as we have Hervor, Ysra and her cousin Lief going back to Dalr to basically liberate the people there in the village, including Hervor’s mother Svafa and Leif’s younger brothers Hakon and Helger from their tyrant of a grandfather.

In almost every chapter, you feel just as uncertain about the events that could happen to these characters, but then you remember about Hervor’s strength to get through probably the best times of her life being so close to newly grandfather Arngrim–who would have enjoyed Hervor’s company if she and her mother weren’t taken away from Bolmsö–plus his second in command Regal and shield-maiden Hella. When we get towards the end, we get a sense of coming full circle for almost everyone. The one person who I believe will be troublesome is Asta, especially when Eydis and the babies arrive home – this was one part of the whole thing that has me kind of shattered, because I absolutely adore Eydis and Hervor’s antics, but she needs to take her rightful place with the people that love her just as much.

“May the All-Father watch over us. May Frigga shake the spear of war. May Thor beat his anvil. And most of all, may Utr watch our arses.”

Now that things have calmed down for the time-being, I don’t know what to expect in “Under the Blood Moon.” I find this really interesting because we can assume several things, but it sort of feels like we’re starting a brand-new story and Melanie could take the story in another way entirely, and she definitely did that with “Highland Queen” too. I just hope I end up loving what happens, because I was less than thrilled with that ending… Anyways, I’m ready to see what happens, and by the way, there are five books in this series so there’s no way to really figure out how it all ends for these characters and I’m so happy about it!

Have you read “Shield-Maiden: Under the Thunder Moon” by Melanie Karsak yet? What were your favorite quotes and/or scenes mentioned in the story?

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