Book Review: Anna of Byzantium

Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett
Anna of Byzantium
by Tracy Barrett 

4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads


This historical novel tells the story of Anna Comnena, daughter of Emperor Alexius I, Princess of the Byzantine Empire in 1083 AD. Anna is in line to inherit the throne and someday rule the entire empire, until her grandmother plots against her to undermine Anna’s right to rule and establish Anna’s little brother, John, as the next emperor.

Anna is incredibly intelligent and well-educated, spending hours pouring over history books in the palace library and learning from the scholars there. She also becomes very good at seeing to the heart of people’s character, using her emotional intelligence to understand their hidden motives.

There are so many manipulative people in the palace, using their words to influence Anna and secure their own futures. Since she is surrounded by lies, Anna becomes obsessed with cherishing the truth, seeking truth in religion and philosophy, and also finding truth in her books and manuscripts. Because others use words as their weapons, Anna learns to play a strategic game with her words, using her speech as a way to protect herself and assert her dominance and power in the political games. Continue reading

Book Review: Far Traveler

Far Traveler by Rebecca Tingle
Far Traveler 
by Rebecca Tingle

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


Ælfwyn is a shy, bookish maiden in Anglo-Saxon England, caught in the middle of her uncle the king’s political plots. When the king forces her to choose between marrying an old man or becoming a nun, Ælfwyn runs away to become a singing bard on the open road. But circumstances drag her back into her uncle’s clutches, and desperate men try to use her position in the king’s family for their own political gain.

I really identified with Ælfwyn’s character, because she loves to read. She is shy, and is frightened to ride the large and powerful horse her mother gives her. For most of the book, she depends on other people to tell her what to do and where to go, but when it really matters, she makes her own decisions, discovering courage and resilience from deep inside.

I liked the writing style in this book. It really pulls you in to the story, painting a picture of Old England with a few settings, people, and events drawn from real history. I especially liked the scenes when Ælfwyn is on the road, singing her songs and telling stories from her books to entertain the common people.  Continue reading

Graphic Novel Review: Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart by James Buckley Jr.
Amelia Earhart: Pioneer of the Sky! 
by James Buckley Jr.Kelly Tindall(Illustrations), John Roshell (Illustrations)

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads

This graphic novel gives an overview of the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart, focusing on her courage and daring as a pilot, but also honoring her generous spirit and kindness to the poor.

I liked the cartoony artwork, but it sort of looked hastily drawn. It could have been a little more polished. But I liked the bright colors and energetic panels!

This is a good synopsis of Amelia Earhart’s life, from her childhood when she constructed her own roller coaster in her backyard, then through her education and early adulthood, through her growing fame as a pilot and many accomplishments, and following her final record-breaking flight until her disappearance. It does a wonderful job of capturing the spirit and enthusiasm of Amelia, and inspiring the reader to do amazing things! Continue reading

Graphic Novel Review: Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln by Mark Shulman
Abraham Lincoln: Defender of the Union! 
by Mark Shulman ,Tom Martin (Illustrations)

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


This graphic novel tells the history of Abraham Lincoln, from his childhood to his death, how he became president, his tragic family grief, and how he guided the American nation through the Civil War, and was ultimately assassinated.

I loved this overview of Lincoln’s life! The cartoony artwork is colorful and bright, with lots of funny details in the background that bring the story to life.

I think the writers did a wonderful job of condensing such a rich life story into so few pages, but still highlighting the most important and memorable aspects of Lincoln’s presidency and personal life. There were many details that I found interesting and engaging, as well as some cute jokes and anecdotes that were entertaining to read. Continue reading

Graphic Novel Review: Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton by Mark Shulman
Alexander Hamilton: The Fighting Founding Father! (Show Me History!) 
by Mark Shulman ,Kelly Tindall (Illustrator)John Roshell (Illustrator)

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


This graphic novel follows an overview of Hamilton’s life, his service in the Revolutionary War, and his involvement in constructing the financial laws of the new American government.

It’s difficult to squeeze an entire life into 96 pages, and I thought the balance of story-telling could have been better. Interesting parts of Hamilton’s military career were skimmed over, and a lot more time was dedicated to his political battles to establish a federal government with a national currency, etc… I thought the book would have been more engaging if they had spent slightly less time on the politics, since it doesn’t have as much action.

The art style is cartoony and bright, with a lot of funny details in the background. The art is unpolished, and I think it could have been a little more refined. But still, it’s cute, and the panels have lots of energy. Continue reading

Graphic Novel Review: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. by James Buckley Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.: Voice for Equality! 
by James Buckley Jr.Youneek Studios (Illustrations)John Roshell (Illustrations)

4 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


This graphic novel wonderfully summarizes the powerful life story of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his peaceful fight for civil rights in the United States.

I especially liked that many exact quotes from MLK, Jr. and others are used as the dialogue, but some of the dialogue is conjecture and added to enhance the story, imagining what might have been said in various situations. I’m always on the lookout for reputable historical books, and I felt that the history here was accurate and true to actual events.  Continue reading

Book Review: Fire and Forgiveness

Fire and Forgiveness by Martha Dunsky
Fire and Forgiveness: A Nun’s Truce with General Sherman 
by Martha Dunsky

3 out of 5 stars on GoodReads


In the midst of the American Civil War, two schoolgirls at the Ursuline Convent School for Girls are at war. Jane and Clara play pranks on each other and call one another names. Mother Superior Baptista Lynch urges the girls to reconcile, reminding them that everyone has good in them, but the girls find it difficult to forgive each other.
General Sherman’s army is marching into Columbia, South Carolina, and Mother Baptista writes to him to beg for protection for her school and convent. The cannons are firing on the city, and the Confederate Army retreats, leaving the city defenseless.
In the middle of so much violence, how can Jane and Clara learn to make the peace, when the adults are constantly at war?
Continue reading

Book Review: The White Company

The White Company
The White Company by Arthur Conan Doyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young Alleyne has had a sheltered up-bringing in a monastery, learning how to read and paint, but knowing very little about normal life in Medieval England. When he ventures out into the world as a young man, he finds a place as squire to the famous knight, Sir Nigel, the leader of the White Company, a band of English archers. They march to war with Spain, and Alleyne is determined to win glory, love, riches, and honor without losing the saintly virtues that the monks taught him as a child.

I loved the adventure, the action, the rousing dialogue, and knightly courage! The plot ran through all these unexpected turns that took me by surprise. Continue reading

Graphic Novel Review: Boxers & Saints

BoxersSaints
Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was enthralled by this first graphic novel in the duet! It’s incredible how, despite the violent and serious nature of the story, there is still humor and friendship and family. All the good things of life are entwined with the horrifying circumstances of the Boxer Rebellion.

Little Bao is an ordinary youngest son being picked on by his older brothers, but when his father is beaten by “foreign devils” and his village is cheated by the Christian Chinese, little Bao learns to fight and begins a journey seeking for justice and revenge.

With the help of the magical Chinese gods and heroes of the past, Little Bao and his brothers raise an army to protect the country villages, but circumstances push them to Continue reading