Off the Charts – a Muster of Mini-Reviews of Non-Fiction

Ahoy there me mateys!  For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes.  Occasionally I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were.  So today I bring ye a muster of non-fiction reviews.  What be a muster?

Well the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:

  1. assemble (troops) especially for inspection or for battle;
  2. collect or assemble (a number or amount); or
  3. a group of peacocks.

I have been reading a lot of non-fiction books and don’t have enough information to give full reviews because many of the facts fail to muster and fall out of me noggin.  Yet they be enjoyable and so methinks it be good to spread the word.  Here be three such recent reads.

Side note: the book covers come from Goodreads and ye can click on them to add the books to yer Goodreads’ Ports for Plunder List.

h is for hawk (Helen Macdonald)

This is a memoir of Helen Macdonald about her father’s death, the overwhelming grief it led to, and how she coped by raising a goshawk named Mabel.  I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author and was mesmerized by the story.  Part of it is a naturalist tale of falcons.  Part of it is a history lesson about author, T.H. White, and his work.  What draws it all together is one woman’s story about losing her way and finding her way back again.  I absolutely loved the juxtaposition of all of these things.  I don’t think I would reread this but I do highly recommend it.

There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realise that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realise, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps.
― Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk


the house of the medici: its rise and fall (Christopher Hibbert)

So ever since I had to do a project on Catherine de Medici back in me school days, I have had a fascination with the Medici family.  This book is an in depth look at this Florentine family beginning with Cosimo de Medici in the 1430s and ending with the death of Medici family line in 1737.  The Medici family was influential in art, politics, and especially economics.  This book takes a look at all the main players in Florence.  It does not get into the Medici members, like Catherine, who lived their lives outside of the Florentine sphere of influence.  I absolutely loved reading about the escapades of this wily clan.  Of particular interest to me were the discussions of the Medici’s patronage of the arts.  I studied many of those great works in me art history classes and I loved getting a different perspective on things.  I would certainly listen to this audiobook again.

All those things [meaning works of art] have given me the greatest satisfaction and contentment because they are not only for the honor of God but are likewise for my own remembrance. For fifty years, I have done nothing else but earn money and spend money; and it became clear that spending money gives me greater pleasure than earning it.
― Cosimo de Medici

the royal art of poison: filthy palaces, fatal cosmetics, deadly medicine, and murder most foul (Eleanor Herman)

This be a pop history book that looks at the use of poisons.  It was recommended to me by me matey Sionna @ books in her eyes.  I loved this one and read it in one day.  A book of three parts, the first part discusses common poisons, the (lack of) hygiene, and how medicines and cosmetics were actually (inadvertently) poisons in disguise.  The second part looks at specific deaths of historical figures and discusses how modern science helped determine the true cause of death.  The Medici family, for example, was known for this poison laboratory and gifted other rulers with poisons and instructions for use.  The third part deals with poison in the modern world – basically as Russian instruments of death by assassination.  This book is chock full of unsavory, fascinating facts.  The one that I currently can’t get out of me noggin is that in Versailles the floors were covered in feces and urine because there was no septic system and royal protocols were weird.  And these people didn’t bathe!

To cure constipation, he recommended giving a pound of quicksilver at a time to a puppy, collecting it when it came out the other end, boiling it in vinegar, and drinking it.
― Eleanor Herman, The Royal Art of Poison

So there ye have it.  Three excellent non-fiction reads that I highly recommend.  Arrrr!!

18 thoughts on “Off the Charts – a Muster of Mini-Reviews of Non-Fiction

  1. One of my other blogger friends really enjoyed H Is For Hawk. So it’s been on my radar for a little while, but I haven’t gotten around to getting a copy. Its premise reminds me a little bit of Wesley The Owl by Stacey O’Brien, which was part naturalistic information about owls (the author herself was a biologist) and part memoir in that it covered the 20-year period that the author studied a barn owl named Wesley and the relationship they developed as a result.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have never heard of Wesley the Owl. ::goes off to check:: Aye matey that sounds fabulous! I just got the audiobook from the library. That makes me happy. Have ye read a sound of the wild snail eating? That is a memoir with a biological twist. There be a review for it on me blog if yer interested. I adored it. Thank ye kindly for your lovely comment and the recommendation. Hope yer enjoying the weekend. It be raining here. Lovely day for reading. Arrr!
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s a fun muster of mini-reviews! Though if I ever get the opportunity to travel back in time, remind me to never EVER let anyone think I am constipated. That “cure”… nope. Just nope.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know! I am so glad to be a woman in this timeframe – problems and all. As for historical fiction, one of the reasons I love the Doomsday Book is because it seems to make the horribleness of the black death come to life in fiction form. Of course the plot of the book with time travel and epidemic in the future is also awesome too. Arrr!
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

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