Book Reviews – January 22-28, 2020

I have an eclectic group of book reviews this week. Some light cozy mystery reading, historical fiction, a wonderful real-life journey and adventure account from a solo-woman traveler in the 1870’s, and a HypnoBirth book. It was an interesting week in books, for sure.

Corgi’s rule in this cozy mystery

Book Reviews – January 22-28, 2020Cruel Candy by Mildred Abbott
Published by Amazon Digital Services LLC - Kdp Print Us on December 5, 2017
Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, General
Pages: 280
Buy on Amazon

I just found a new cozy mystery series to satisfy my escapist desires. When I need a break from life and heavier reading I’ll pick up the next in this series. What is not to enjoy about a corgi, bookstore and small Colorado town? The characters are fun, there is a recipe and the mystery was fun to solve in this light, witty read. Please note I rate it 4 stars relative to other cozies – not relative to Pulitzer Prize-winning literature.

But who is the author, Mildred Abbott? I enjoy getting to know authors, but there was so little in the book notes and no photos to be found. Hmm, I dug deeper with The Google and finally discovered the real author behind this nom de plume. It all made sense, once I discovered the man behind Mildred Abbott.

I’ll let you do your own sleuthing in case you want to imagine a real Mildred sitting at her typewriter. No modern women are still named Mildred, are they? No author spoilers here.

In sum, if you are looking for a fun, light-hearted mystery series with a great cast of characters, an adorable corgi, a recipe (but not too many), and a touch of romance teasing you along, here is a series to try. Plus the first 2 books are only 0.99 cents for the Kindle versions.

Yes! A first-person account by this bad-*ss Victorian era solo woman traveler

Book Reviews – January 22-28, 2020A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Lucy Bird
Published by University of Oklahoma Press on 1960
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Women, Historical, History, United States, 19th Century, State & Local
Pages: 254

In 1872, Isabella Bird, daughter of a clergyman, set off alone to the Antipodes 'in search of health' and found she had embarked on a life of adventurous travel. In 1873, wearing Hawaiian riding dress, she rode her horse through the American Wild West, a terrain only newly opened to pioneer settlement. The letters that make up this volume were first published in 1879. They tell of magnificent, unspoiled landscapes and abundant wildlife, of encounters with rattlesnakes, wolves, pumas and grizzly bears, and her reactions to the volatile passions of the miners and pioneer settlers. A classic account of a truly astounding journey.


I found this book after reading the Corgi Mystery up above. Indeed, a strange connection on face value. However, the Estes Park setting of the mystery enticed me to learn a bit more about the region. After all, I am prepping for an upcoming mega-road trip.

I came across references to Isabella Bird. How have I not come across this intrepid, audacious solo woman traveler before? This Victorian lady, traveling the world on her own. Traveling through the Wild West picking up “desperado” guides and having the time of her life.

I love original writing. Bird’s letter collection is a valuable example of supplementing historical fiction with narratives written contemporaneously. Bird’s prose is all English (England English) and appropriately Victorian.

Because of her prose style, the author vividly renders the towns and wild areas of her travels. Descriptions of her companions, the animals she rode and those she came across are equally detailed. Further, Bird provides the reader with a sense of the political issues of the times. There are references to the Indian Wars, the buffalo slaughter, the rise of cattlemen, vigilante justice and the corrupt politics of the region.

There is just so much in this book. Readers who enjoy historical fiction, strong women, and sardonic humor are sure to enjoy this book. The episode with a cake and cayenne pepper made me cry with laughter.

I listened to the Audible version which is narrated by an older British woman. The language was so beautiful I slowed the speed down from my usual 2x so I could savor the descriptions.

I found this book worthy of a stand-alone post. More research was needed and I had to find an image of her Hawaiian riding outfit. Seriously.

Calling all Call the Midwife Fans

Book Reviews – January 22-28, 2020The German Midwife by Mandy Robotham
Published by HarperCollins Publishers on June 18, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical, World War II, Romance, 20th Century, War & Military
Pages: 352
Buy on Amazon

First – this is one of the best novels I have read for the varied, accurate and detailed birth stories. No surprise as the author is a midwife. If you love birth or live for the next Call the Midwife episode, this novel is your cup of tea.

Second, if you like your historical fiction to be very close to accurate, beforewarned: The German Midwife book may delve too far towards alternative history for your liking. However, if you accept Eva Braun’s pregnancy and her plucked-from-the-camps midwife, you will probably enjoy the book.

Robotham writes a tale that is full of suspense and romance. I don’t usually go for romances, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. But then, I am a birth doula and a birth junkie – I love all things about birth, especially if done well.

HypnoBirthing is a real thing, and it is a marvel to experience

Book Reviews – January 22-28, 2020HypnoBirthing, Fourth Edition by Marie Mongan
on December 8, 2015
Genres: FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS, Parenting, Motherhood, Health & Fitness, Holism, Pregnancy & Childbirth
Pages: 336

Keeping with the midwife theme, this is THE how-to companion for anyone contemplating a HypnoBirth. What is a HypnoBirth? In short, it is a method of managing the labor and delivery process by using self-hypnosis developed by Marie Mongan.

As a birth doula, I have seen a few births where the mother used this method. Done properly, it takes a lot of advance preparation and practice and requires the mother to be skilled at self-hypnosis. When this is accomplished, HypnoBirths are unlike any others. An observer would have no idea a woman is in labor. The few I have seen left me in awe.

I am taking on a private client this spring who is planning a HypnoBirth, thus I am reading this and other books to prepare. I’ll be adding them to my overall collection and list of essential books to read when planning for a birth. Stay tuned.

Mongan’s book has two sections. The first half is selling the reader on HypnoBirthing in general. I found it repetitive and very biased, but that should be expected given the topic. I think most readers picking up the book already know they want to try HypnoBirthing, so this is a lot of preaching to the choir. The second half has useful information, but no one should expect to have a successful HypnoBirth without an instructor/practitioner helping them train.

As a book to review I found the subject compelling, but the writing just ok. I struggled, to be honest, with the first half, but I found the content overall good. I have the Kindle version and wish I had a paperback as I would tag a few pages to go back to and skim the first half.

If you are curious, here is a video of a hospital HypnoBirth. You can find many more videos of actual births on YouTube, but I found this one to be a reasonable length and to accurately represent a HypnoBirth in a hospital setting. NOTE – this is a graphic real birth so you need to be an adult, and expect some graphic imagery.

I’ll be back next week with more book reviews for you. Browse all of my reviews here. Look for more book lists and recommendations to come.

Last – tell me what you are reading! I would love the comments section to become a bustling hive of book recommendations. What is your favorite book in 2020? What was your favorite in 2019?

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