Write About it Wednesday: Valkyrie, the Plot to Kill Hitler

“’The Nazis are destroying the heart of the true Germany! When the war is over, it will be people like us who will have to act!”

It doesn’t happen very often that I pick up a book, read the entire thing, and still have little clue of what is happening. I will be the first to admit that I do not come from a military background. Battle plans, defense tactics and flanking locations are a bit over my head. I swear I read all 170 pages and still can’t tell you with any form of certainty that I understood even half of it. Sadly, I had to look up some terms using Google to make sure I was understanding the “lingo.” Embarrassing right?

The book is written from Philipp von Boeselager’s perspective with emphasis on his and his brother’s role in the conspiracy. The first 50 pages or so detail the casualties and concerns of war that led them to join against Hitler. They both grew up with military aspirations, and their father was a member of the Nazi party. The soldier’s perspective on what was occurring versus the reality lends a different view of events. They didn’t know all of the evil going on around them until later in the war when their top priority had to be keeping their men safe and returning home. Philipp was officially tipped over to the resistance movement after reading military documents stating that special treatment was being given to Jews and gypsies. After further research the treatment was cold blooded murder and the goal was complete liquidation. The group grew to upwards of 30 committed conspirators with Philipp occupying the role of chief explosive expert. There were several failed assassination attempts, and a gradual evolution of the mission. It was no longer just an isolated assassination but the beginning of complete overthrow of the regime. Unfortunately all attempts failed.

I did not like this book, but not because it was challenging. I wanted understanding instead of battle facts, dates, locations, and additional details that take up the majority of pages. In fact, this may be the one case where the movie is actually better than the book. (Yes, I said it) I have such a heart for research but this has turned me completely away from looking into the conspiracies further. Maybe I will get a second wind eventually, but for now: Goodbye Valkyrie!

Book Review Saturday: The Great Trouble

“We don’t know enough to stop the course of the disease. I can only hope to save those who have not fallen ill.”

The Great Trouble is a young adult novel about the Cholera Epidemic of 1854 in London. It is narrated through the eyes of Eel, an orphan mudlark who is on the run from Fisheye Bill Tyler. Eel has to find odd jobs to keep him and his brother fed and sheltered because his mother has passed away. His luck seems to be turning around because he is working at Lion Brewery which provides a roof over his head, money in his pocket and the opportunity to work other side jobs as well. He manages to hide from Fisheye and continue paying for his brothers boarding until he is accused of stealing from the Lion by a bratty nephew of the owner. On his way to prove himself by locating one of his side employers he discovers that cholera has begun to pass through the neighborhood. The first victim appears to be the tailor that can vouch for him and save his job at the Lion. With the tailor on his deathbed he must turn to Dr. Snow, but the doctor is busy and his case seems hopeless to prove. Once he locates the doctor, he decides to ask him to help the neighborhood with its current cholera epidemic instead and they embark on a journey of discovery to find the root cause behind the disease. The reader can’t forget Fisheye because he makes his appearance at the most inopportune time. Will they be able to make the discovery and save lives? Will the girl he likes fall victim to cholera and survive? The story has no gaps for action and keeps the reader entertained throughout.

This book is a fantastic work of historical fiction for younger audiences. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Dr. Snow and Eel’s discoveries. The book is well researched and blends fictional and historical characters together with ease. I think the narration from a younger perspective allows kids to relate to a time long ago when things were hard and children were often forced to fend for themselves. I could picture myself drinking from the Broad Street Pump or breathing in the foul air that hung over London. The descriptions and story line show a mastery of writing. I enjoyed the opening to each part containing a quote from the past, and the author’s note containing real information about the epidemic and characters. I would have done the research on my own and this saved me from another round with Google.

What is your favorite young adult book? I have been looking for more historical fiction for this age group but the choices seem to be narrow. I enjoy a book that takes me back in time and allows me to experience something on a large scale. I would never have known about the Cholera Epidemic that plagued London without this story, and that is why I read. To know everything. Maybe one day right?

Write About it Wednesday: The Race to Fingerprints

“I look forward to a time when every convict shall have prints taken of his fingers by the prison photographer, at the beginning and end of his imprisonment, and a register made of them; …”

Why do all great inventions have a battle ongoing between who invented or created something first? It’s fascinating but only extensive research leads us to the “right” answer. I have taken quite a few criminal justice classes and fingerprinting is covered quickly and without historical significance. My need to know brain can’t accept that. Every time I dive into the history of crime there are fifteen new questions or ideas to look into further.

In my opinion (aka this blog post), four people are key to the background of fingerprinting. William James Herschel was given charge of a subdivision in Bengal, India during British rule. In an attempt to prevent contract disputes, he demanded his contractors to stamp their hand on contracts to ensure the signature could not be denied. It was common in this time period for workers to declare their signatures fraudulent in order to get out of work for the British. He also introduced the idea of using two fingerprints on leases for authenticity. This was not a new concept nor widely accepted.


The second is Henry Faulds. He was a doctor, lecturer and missionary who stumbled upon ancient pottery with minute patterns of parallel lines. This peaked his interest in fingerprints and he began inking thousands of subjects’ fingers, requiring all ten for research. He used the fingerprints to prove the innocence of two of his staff members for separate crimes where a fingerprint was found at the scene. He set out to prove that fingerprints a) stay the same throughout your life and b) are unique to the individual. Fauld wrote a letter to the scientific magazine, Nature, and it was the first scientific literature to suggest the basic concepts of fingerprints for identification. It was not well received and his letters to police departments across the world were left unanswered.

Thirdly, we have Alphonse Bertillon who was eager to see his method of identification rule the world. He had a woman to impress and that seems to lend motivation to most men. He used eleven separate body measurements for identification of habitual criminals. His original proposal was refused because it was poorly written and the police had little faith in new scientific discoveries. He was given a three month window of opportunity to show that his system could work. He was successful and the success continued to grow as time went on. His identification system aided the new Relegation Law in France that focused on increasing the punishment for repeat offenders.


In walks our fourth key player, the man that takes credit for all of it. A person that I will be researching more thoroughly because I hate when men steal credit from others. I will not outright bash the man before I’ve done my research but what little I have found does not bode well for his character. Francis Galton, the cousin of Charles Darwin, wants to build a genetically superior race of men. Did this instantly make you think Hitler? Because I did. He decides to utilize Bertillon’s measurements for his new race and stumbles upon the research of Faulds to assist in identification. Instead of corresponding with Faulds (he believed him to be of lower class) he worked with Herschel to develop his lecture, “Personal Identification and Description.” He had worked with the Herschel family previously on his research of heredity, and believed him to be of the elite class of thinkers. He did mention Faulds but only in passing and after he quoted several descriptions of Herschel’s research. Galton published his comprehensive book, Finger Prints, in 1892. Galton did not relish in his success though because of the lack of relevance of prints to his eugenic studies. The promotion for identification fell to Herschel who wrote to the Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal along with a copy of Galton’s book.

This story is going to stay with me for quite some time. I do not understand why I’ve never heard of Galton and how this could have unfolded with so little credit to Faulds. And yet again, India is brought into the mix. India under British rule seems to be following my every move. There is a story for me to write if I will just sit down and do it. I know this is only a short overview but what are your opinions? Do you think Faulds was cheated? Would you like to hear more of the story? 

Write About it Wednesday: Versailles 

“It’s truly one of the wonders of Europe and a place you’ll want to explore, either in person or as an arm-chair traveler with a good book.”

I have read a tremendous amount of work on the French Revolution. I could be considered somewhat obsessed, but I have never taken the time to find out information about Versailles. I ran across this short overview that has helped answer a few questions and led me to some interactive tours online. I wanted to share a few things with you in hopes that you may become as obsessed as I am and add a visit to your bucket list. Most importantly you will get a prelude before my review of Where the Light Falls by Allison and Owen Pataki. The novel is set during the French Revolution and the prologue is an instant trip to the guillotine.

Louis XIV wanted to build a palace to preserve his father’s favored hunting cottage. A grand palace and elaborate gardens were commissioned to be built surrounding the current cottage, but the land was a mosquito infested swamp. It took approximately 40,000 laborers working day and night without care for their safety to construct the palace and gardens. The king moved his entire court to live permanently in 1677 and began hosting elaborate celebrations and festivals. After Louis XIV’s death, the seat of government was moved back to Paris until Louis XV, now king, returned to Versailles at the age of 12. Louis XV ignored the advice of his great grandfather and began entering into numerous wars at the expense of the poor of his own country. The aristocracy were not required to pay taxes and the burden fell solely on the lower class. At Louis XV’s death, Louis XVI took control of a kingdom in debt and on the verge of revolution with a wife that enjoyed spending on designer fashion and elaborate parties. It was not a great combination.

Louis XVI was advised to begin taxing nobility. This was obviously not a popular solution and the massive debt reached its peak in 1778 when he agreed to help Americans in the war for their Independence. This decision led to his downfall and the seeds of their own revolution. The French wanted freedom from taxation like the Americans and a republic instead of a monarchy where their voices would be heard. Revolutionaries storm the Bastille and begin the reign of terror known as the French Revolution. Versailles is raided by an angry mob on October 6, 1789. I did not find a detailed account of the amount of damage that occurred, but it would be an interesting topic to research. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are executed in 1793 and France is in a mass upheaval. The bloodshed and terror that occurred are featured in numerous books and movies still being released today.


In 1833, Versailles was turned into a museum that is still open for tours. It is the 39th most popular place in the world and approximately 5.9 million people visit each year. You can tour the different rooms and gardens online at their website: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/. The Hall of Mirrors seems to be the favorite choice amongst guests boasting more than 578 mirrors. It is the site where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919 ending World War One.

Have any of you visited Versailles? Is it on your bucket list? I would love to hear from you!

Write About it Wednesday: American Revolutionaries and Founders of the Nation: Part One

“That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.”

I decided to cover some American history in honor of American Independence and the Fourth of July holiday this week. Many history classes teach the basics of who, why, and when but they get lost along the way in life and forget. This is just a brief glimpse into a few of our founding fathers compliments of the book: American Revolutionaries and Founders of the Nation by James Meisner, Jr. and Amy Ruth. This book had zero reviews or written comments on Goodreads which had to be corrected by me of course…oh the responsibilities of a bookworm.

John Adams- Voice of Independence and 2nd President of the United States

Adams grew into fame after successfully defending the British soldiers accused of shooting unarmed civilians during the Boston Massacre. He helped edit the Declaration of Independence which was passed on July 2nd. The final Declaration was edited and debated for two days until July 4th. Adams thought the celebrations should be held on the 2nd ever year, but as we all know he did not win that battle. He is credited with moving the seat of government to Washington D.C.

Alexander Hamilton- Founding Federalist and Money Man

Hamilton is best known for his duel with Aaron Burr that ended his life. He was a special aide to Washington during the war that helped him make acquaintances and led to his appointment as Secretary of the Treasury. He set a plan to pay war wages and the mounting national debt. His plans were not favored by all and led to much debate. Scandal rocked his personal life leading to a decline in his public favor. He favored federal government over states and wrote more than half of the essays titled “The Federalist Papers.”

John Jay- Reluctant Revolutionary and Responsible Caretaker

Jay supported reconciliation with Great Britain until revolution became imminent. He was loyal to his family and state before the nation. A firm believer that family above all else should be at the heart of a man. He was the President of the Continental Congress, signed the Treaty of Paris and was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I was hoping for more information but I may need to read a full biography to give you more insight.

Thomas Jefferson- Architect of Democracy

Jefferson is a controversial figure in American history. He was Secretary of State, writer of the Declaration of Independence and overseer of the Louisiana Purchase. His presidency was less formal than his predecessors, but significant progress was made as a nation. He was an avid reader and sold more than 6,000 of his books to the Library of Congress after it burned in the War of 1812. Instead of being remembered for writing the Declaration, Jefferson is most known for his controversial relationship with Sally Hemings, one of the slaves at Monticello.

Stay tuned for six more revolutionaries coming soon! Some you might not have heard about in history class. Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend full of fireworks and fun! And for those in other countries, here is a quick picture to share the view…


Who are some of your favorite Founding Fathers to research? I’d love to hear from you!

Write About it Wednesday: Angel of the Battlefield

“When you are hungry and supper less, she told them, I will be too. If harm befalls you, I will care for you: if sick, I will nurse you and under all circumstances, I will treat you like gentleman.”

I started my research on the role of women in war with those that nursed men on the battlefield. When you think of famous nurses there are usually two that pop into your head: Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton. I had heard of Clara Barton, but truly knew very little. In fact, embarrassingly enough I thought she was the founder of the Red Cross. I have since seen her true humanitarian nature and the vast use of her ideas in practices still used today.


Clara grew up in a home that inspired a humanitarian outlook. Her first experience with nursing was due to the near tragic fall of her brother David during a barn raising event. She stayed by his side and was credited for his eventual healing. She began teaching at the age of seventeen, following in her siblings footsteps. She never married, but had many suitors including one who hit it big in the gold rush and deposited $10,000 in her bank account which was later used to help fund her aid work. She saw a need for a free school and offered to work for no pay. The enrollment in her school surpassed 600 pupils and a male principal was appointed to oversee because it was “too large for a woman to run.” This led to her resignation from the school she founded and her career as a teacher. She left for Washington D.C to stay with her sister and was appointed to a position over confidential information making the same pay as the male clerks. She was forced to resign under the Buchanan presidency due to her antislavery beliefs, but was later reinstated by President Lincoln. During this time she made friends with many people in politics and often sat in on debates in the Senate and House of Representatives. These friendships would be the foundation for her assistance in bringing the Red Cross to America.

As the Civil War broke out Clara became concerned with the welfare of the men from Massachusetts. She began collecting donations and requesting assistance for these men through letter writing campaigns and newspaper advertisements. After the Battle of Bull Run she saw that almost nothing had been done to prepare for medical treatment of wounded soldiers. Many men died because they hadn’t been treated quickly enough. Can you imagine? Many of them lay there for three or four days waiting to be seen. Husbands, sons, brothers all waiting and no one showing up. I know this was a time before medical advancements and research but the lack of foresight to know that some men were going to need assistance is distressing. Clara was eventually granted permission by the surgeon general to go with the men to the front as a nurse. She was chartering new ground for women, but only saw it as her duty to help the men who needed her most.


The war came to an end in 1865 and Barton saw a need for correspondence with families seeking missing soldiers. President Lincoln appointed her the general correspondent, but was assassinated before making arrangements for her to be paid. She eventually ran out of her own funds due to lack of payment for much of her work and had to begin a lecture tour over her life and work in the Civil War. She became ill and went abroad to recover. The President of the Red Cross found her abroad and convinced her to speak with the United States about joining. The U.S had already refused to join three times because they felt the treaty broadened their foreign involvement. The treaty was not signed until Barton started the Red Cross on her own and had the organization respond to natural disasters throughout the United States. This was a new concept for the Red Cross, but eventually became a role of the international organization. She had much success and remained the President of the American chapter of the Red Cross until 1905. She died at the age of 90 from double pneumonia.

This woman did not take no for an answer. If she saw a problem, she fixed it. If she saw a person in need, she helped them. If she saw that something wasn’t being done that should, she made it happen or did it herself. I thought her greatest accomplishment was bringing the Red Cross to the United States but she did so much more than that. From opening a school for free without any salary to bringing word to thousands of families about their loved ones lost during the war she left an impact across the nation. She even had Andersonville camp, the South’s infamous prison during the Civil War, turned into a national cemetery for the 13,000+ that were buried there. She was repeatedly turned down with her attempts to sign the treaty for the Red Cross but went ahead and organized it on her own. She developed a new way to assist people during natural disasters that hadn’t been done before to convince the President. She had the foresight to make the hard choices that needed to be made. She is truly a remarkable American, and I’m glad I was able to research her rich and fulfilling life. We owe a lot to this woman, in war time and peace

Book Review Friday: The Underground Railroad

“A plantation was a plantation; one might think one’s misfortunes distinct, but the true horror lay in the universality.”

I picked up Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad after searching my local library database for new literature about the Underground Railroad. This book was recently featured in Oprah’s Book Club and won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. The author took a difficult topic and put it in an easy format for reading. He uses different perspectives and situations to address major issues of slavery that most authors are afraid to write down or mention. This book does not hide the cruelty, but it doesn’t feel like a vicious rant either. His writing asks readers to think about the past and how it is narrated.

Cora is a slave that was abandoned by her mother at a young age on the plantation. Her mother managed to escape and remain free which was a huge feat in the early days. A fellow slave approaches Cora about escaping with the assistance of the Underground Railroad. After intervening for another slave being beaten, she finally decides to escape with Cesar. She ends up killing a white man during the escape which raises the stakes for their capture. They are assisted by the Underground Railroad that according to Whitehead truly exists as an underground network of railway and old train cars that come along intermittently with no set destination. They settle in South Carolina for a while where Cora starts to feel safe. She has a job working at the Museum of Natural Wonders in their live history displays. This part of the book bothered me more than I care to admit. She is put on display as a slave in sections such as Typical Day on the Plantation and Life on the Slave Ship. In addition to this work she is taken to a doctor and realizes they are sterilizing patients and injecting some with syphilis for “research purposes.” They are discovered in South Carolina and must move forward, but Cora is separated and fears Cesar is dead. She is then held in an attic in North Carolina for an extended period before being caught. North Carolina features a barrage of death with the town square holding a hanging each week of a slave or those that helped them. The streets are lined with hanging bodies. This is the first novel I’ve read that mentions bodies hanging along the road. This detail just added to my perspective of the time. I can only see what I have learned from the past, but if you allow your imagination to see past what you know and the possibilities of what actually occurred you find the brutality is more than many could bear. This wasn’t that long ago, and these slave owners and catchers are human just like me. Where was their remorse? Their conscience? I don’t understand how cruelty so deep can form in a person that they no longer see a human being but property. I understand social constraints, but the choice of torture and abuse is a person’s alone. They are responsible.

Cora eventually makes her way to the Valentine Farm which appears as a modern day utopia. *Spoiler Alert* Utopia ends in blood and carnage. I felt like the Valentine scenes were a bit preachy to me, and after the heaviness of the other locations I was just ready for the book to be over. I wouldn’t rate this book on a level of Pulitzer Prize winning material, but his writing does make you think about injustice and the cruelty of slavery. He wasn’t afraid to include the dark and dirty side of history, but he also adds in a lot of lecturing. I do not like to be told how to think. I know some people may need this as an eye opener, but I just wanted more knowledge on the topic from a fresh perspective. I don’t think I would recommend it for most readers unless they have a true interest in the topic.