2019 Reading Challenge: August

Even though I was “off” in August, it was very busy with interviews, business meetings, and the MSMA Women in Medicine gala! I didn’t get as much reading done as book nerd would hope, but stayed tuned because I made up for it in September and October!!!

The Underground Railroad (given to me for Mother’s Day, purchased at Lemuria): 3.5⭐️

I really am not sure what all the hype was about. It was ok. Took me a while to get through it.

The Readers of Broken Whee Recommend (free from PaperBackSwap.com):4.1⭐️

I love books about books. This book is about how a stranger brings a community together with books. A must read for all Book Nerds.

The Glass Sword (audiobook free with Libby via Madison County Library System): 4⭐️

Blah. Blah. Blah. Dystopian fiction with female heroine with special powers who becomes royalty.

Heir of Fire (audible): 4⭐️

Blah. Blah. Blah. Dystopian fiction with female heroine with faerie powers who becomes royalty.

2019 Reading Challenge: June

June was a jackpot for free books. I read several from my shelf, which helped me mark several off my list for the year.

The Wife Between Us: 3

Meh. This was nothing exciting. If you’ve read one suspense novel, you’ve read this plot before.

Eligible- A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice: 4

This was a pleasant surprise. Its a bit smutty, but quit humorous. I’m going to have to go back and re-read the actual Pride and Prejudice now. If you are a Jane Austen snob, you may not like this.

Ember in the Ashes (audiobook rented from Madison County Library): 5

This did my teenage girl heart good. I love dystopian fiction with a girl hero. I can’t wait to read the next couple of books in this series.

Educated (audiobook rented from Madison County Library): 5

Well the hype about this one did not disappoint. People kept saying this was very similar to The Glass Castle, but I disagree. Her challenges were very different. I highly recommend this memoir.

The Paper Magician (free audiobook with Prime Reading): 3

I almost quit this one. I just could not get into it. There are better books out there.

Salt to the Sea (free audiobook with Prime Reading): 4

Excellent read. I enjoyed learning about the largest maritime disaster that you’ve never heard about. Yes… an even bigger disaster than Titanic. 9,000 people perished.

Dr. Darden North: OB-GYN delivering excellent murder mysteries

Dr. Darden North is a well respected OB-GYN in Jackson, MS. Across the country, he has become a well respected murder mystery and suspense author. I read my first Darden North thriller, House Call when I was in high school. My sister went and stood in line and Lemuria one December and got me 3 more autographed books by Dr. North. I had no idea at the time that he was a doctor and I had no way of knowing that I would one day practice in the same community and care for patients alongside him. He also delivered my nephew Rand just three short years ago!

I had been planning to do an interview with him and I ran in to him at Mistletoe Marketplace. I got his new book, 5 Manners of Death, and have gave me an copy of House Call to give away on the blog!

KC: I have to admit, delivering babies is one of the most rewarding jobs. You get to see the miracle of childbirth almost every day and see the most full joy on mothers’ faces. Often people do not consider that you also may see a mother at her lowest moment as she experiences pregnancy loss or infertility. I have experienced loss as a mother and I have lost patients as a physician. Those days can be so incredibly heavy on us as physicians. Is writing somewhat therapeutic for you?

DN: I enjoy practicing full time as an obstetrician/gynecologist—delivering babies, doing robotic/minimally-invasive surgery, and being fortunate to care for many patients in the office with preventive and hormonal medical care. Our ob/gyn specialty is evolving almost daily with new and better health options to offer patients, and I try to stay abreast of it by attending medical conferences and online courses. My writing and being the author of five published novels (so far) has been a blessing as well.

KC: What got you in to writing? Has that always been an aspiration of yours? How did you discover that talent?

DN: I get this question frequently. The “funny” answer is that there was so much talent and so many stories and crazy characters building up inside my brain that I had to let them out—and the writing came easy. Truth is, I saw it as a challenge. Most doctors have a lot of confidence. That’s how we make it through the long hours of medical education and surgical training and the evolution of our careers. I decided to write a published novel and decided I could and would do it. I assumed somebody would want to read my books and was glad that a bunch do. My first taste of formal writing and publishing was serving as Editor-in-Chief of the “Ole Miss” annual and then later the “Medic” yearbook at UMMC.

KC: Obviously, being a physician, you want your books to be medically accurate. Do you consult with other physicians, specifically a forensic pathologist?

DN: Even when you’re writing fiction, readers can see right through a bluff. Several times I have consulted other professionals in my novels to inject accuracy and realism into scenes and to confirm the plausibility of plots. I have talked with fire fighters, police, electricians, lawyers, and personal shoppers and designers, as well as with other physicians and medical specialists. I have toured the Mississippi Crime Lab and visited the morgue. In my fifth novel, “The 5 Manners of Death,” I needed the help of a pathologist to explain the preservation of a 50-year-old skeleton, partially mummified in a leather jacket and discovered in a shallow grave on a college campus.

KC: How do you brainstorm? Do your book ideas just come to you, or do you have a place you go to think and write?

DN: As I answer this question, I’m taking a Saturday morning break from putting the finishing touches on my sixth novel, “Two O’clock Bayou,” which I hope to have completed by the time this article is published. It’s peaceful here at the house, at the island in the kitchen, just me and one of my two laptops. My wife is out showing a house to real estate clients and the dogs are upstairs taking their customary after breakfast nap. This morning has been a good time to think and write.

KC: What is your process? Do you write a basic plot and then fill in the gaps or do you make it up as you go?

DN: Most authors and writing coaches (and, yes, of course, there are conferences, books, and videos on how to write a novel) all suggest writing from an outline. In my opinion and what works for me is that this process of “outlining” can be a loose sketch, a series of short paragraphs, or a short synopsis—not necessarily the type of rigid outline with Roman numerals and capital letters that I remember from junior high and high school English classes.

KC: Have you gotten to meet other writers through the years? Who was the most intriguing one you’ve met?

DN: I have met Robin Cook, Stephen James, and Robert Dugoni at writing conferences and John Grisham and Greg Iles at book signings. It was intriguing to meet Robin Cook, who seemed genuinely interested that I was also physician writing mysteries and thrillers. I talked briefly with Grisham at an Ole Miss alumni function several years back. I was fortunate to attend a helpful writing seminar featuring Robert Dugoni, who has reviewed my work for endorsement as has fellow nationally-awarded Mississippi author John Floyd. I have met other novelists and have appreciated any advice and encouragement. I try to return the favor at my own book signings and presentations when others come to me for the same. I great experience was getting to know several other authors when I was a featured speaker at the 2018 Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

KC: How many babies have you delivered? Have you every heard one of their names and thought “that would be a great character name?”

DN: I have delivered enough babies to fill up a small Mississippi town somewhere—one big enough for a gas station and a zip code. I come across great character names all the time and in various situations, combining surnames and given names and switching them around. I keep a running list.

KC: We have some pretty crazy drama that goes down here in MS. Have you every taken actual events and woven them into on of your books?

DN: Sorry, that’s a trade secret.

Kristen, thank you for inviting me to guest on your blog. I hope your readers will check out my website: www.dardennorth.com for updates and related events, including more author info, a way to sign up for my email newsletter, and a list of my current books and the new novels to come. My mystery/thriller novels are available in print, eBook, and audiobook through audible and iTunes. I enjoy speaking at book clubs and meetings and signing my books at events. I can be reached via email at darden@dardennorth.com.
Thanks again, Darden North


2019 Reading Challenge: May

I have officially come out of my Reading slump. 9 books in May! 6 days of vacation helped tremendously in this accomplishment.

The Heir (audiobook free from Libby via Madison County Library): 4⭐️

See below: The Crown.

The Crown (audiobook free from Libby via Madison County Library): 4⭐️

The Heir and the Crown run together. I listen to them back to back over just a few days so I can’t quite remember where one ends and the other begins. They were just as good as the first three books of the selection series, though the main character drives me insane with her unawareness of self at times.

The Dispatcher (free audible original): 4⭐️

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It was a plot unlike any I’ve read. Short listen. Definitely not for kids. Quite a bit of language and a dark theme.

The Demon Next Door (free audible original): 2⭐️

It filled a time gap I needed it to fill, but was well done at all. The narrator was all wrong for this one. It was like having Elmo narrate a true crime documentary. It could’ve been decent, but your tone, your tone is all wrong *in my best Paul Walken voice*.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (free kindle book with Amazon Prime Reading): 4.5⭐️

This is a classic that everyone should read. We need to be reminded of our past in order to gain a vantage point for looking into the future. You cannot move forward blindly, you need to see how far you have come. The past can give your direction.

Go Set a Watchman (audiobook free from Libby via Madison County Library): 4⭐️

People complained that this book was so different from To Kill a Mockingbird, but I think this is so relevant. People are not always who we think they are. We put people on a pedestal and hold them to the highest expectations. Who is at fault when they fall? Is it our human idols’s fault? Or is it us for putting them up on the pedestal?

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (audiobook free from Libby via Madison County Library): 4⭐️

Incredibly interesting true crime that is very well done. There is closure at the end, but it is both incredibly sad and relieving.

The Ragged Edge of Night ( audiobook free from Kindle Unlimited): 5⭐️

Ever wonder what the Germans thought about Hitler? All the WWII historical fiction I read is from Allies point of view. This one is about a German. It’s a beautifully written story.

Robert Frost- Selected Poems (Barnes and Noble leather bound classics): 1⭐️

I hate poetry. Bleh.

2019 Reading Challenge: March

My goal for 2019 is to read all of the books that have been on my shelf or “short list” for the past several years. I have constantly avoided the longer books, because I love to make progress. Marking something off my to do list or my to read list encourages me. So naturally, I have always grabbed the shorter books off my shelf.

Atlas Shrugged is one of those books that I have avoided due to the sheer monstrosity of it. I have heard that it is incredible by many friends who I have similar reading tastes. But the length of it has discouraged me from picking it up. I finally picked it up at the beginning of March. It is the only book I read last month, and it actually took me about 7 weeks to finish it.

I listened to Atlas Shrugged on audible. It was 63 hours long. SIXTY-THREE HOURS. It is divided into 8 parts that are ~8 hours each. That is almost 3 days of audio. I was so nervous that I was going to be wasting my time. Boy, was I wrong about this one.

This is the only epic novel that I have read that I dreaded the end of it. I finished the first part and was sad that I only had 7 parts left. When I reached the end of the last part this morning, I grieved the end of it. I wanted more and I was mad at Ayn Rand for not going on for another 8 parts. The narrator, Scott Brick, was also an incredible orator. I hope that he narrates many of the remaining book on my list.

Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957. While listening, there were so many parts that were spot on for what we are seeing in our current day headlines. Government officials and insurance companies (non-medically trained individuals with conflicts of interest) dictating patient care and the drugs I write. Shortcuts in education that allow people to pose as experts in their fields. People who are shamed for speaking truth because it hurts someone’s feelings. Everyone being more concerned with the feelings of others rather than the reality of the situation. Media dictating how we should feel and react to events around the world. It is insane how accurate her novel is when comparing it to our current state of affairs.

Ayn Rand is a hedonist and an atheist. This is evident throughout her book. She thinks that man is his own hero and that religion is a farce. She thinks that man’s reason is the greatest gift to mankind. She thinks that one should follow his own desires and wishes and that man’s happiness is the greatest goal for one’s life. I don’t agree with any of her moral concepts, but her insight into “big government” is almost prophetic.

I give 5 stars to Atlas Shrugged. 5 massive gold stars. This one will be with me for a very long time. I cannot wait to watch the 3 part movie on Netflix! Who is John Galt?

2019 Reading Challenge: February

I’ve been meaning to post these for the past month. I had to wait until I was on vacation to get some time to write this! Overall, this was an excellent group of books. I had some that surprised me with a 5 star rating. My next post may be a long time coming. I am listening to Atlas Shrugged which is likely going to be a 5 star rating, but it is 63 hours long. I am about 20 hours into it. It has definitely slowed my pace of 1.5 books per week!

The Color Purple (free from Prime Reading on Kindle): 4.5 ⭐️

I’ve seen this movie and it was absolutely incredible. I was worried that I would not enjoy this book since I had seen the movie, but I was very wrong. It was excellent. Alice Walker’s ability to write dialect is incredible. I was drawn in from the get go and this powerfully tragic story was compelling the entire way through. Definitely worth a read. A classic for sure. But absolutely not for young readers. This has a lot of hard topics within.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (audiobook): 5 ⭐️

This book was a very pleasant surprise. It kept me on my toes. The characters were likable. I was amused the entire way through. If you need a fun lighter read, please consider this book! I also believe there is a movie coming out this year (I may be wrong).

The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning: 4 ⭐️

This book was an excellent reminder that God is crazy about me.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (audiobook free with Prime Reading): 3 ⭐️

I listened to this with Coy. This story is bizarre. Very trippy.

The Glass Castle (audiobook): 5 ⭐️

This was an incredible memoir of a woman who grew up with parents who chose to live in poverty. This read like a fiction book. It was so unbelievably crazy how they lived. Absolutely worth a read.

Karma Patrol: 5 ⭐️

I’ve had this book on my shelf for about 9 months. I don’t know why I was putting off picking it up, but things just seemed to always jump to the top of the pile. I am kicking myself for putting this off. The concept for this book is brilliant. People who have the ability to see karma, destiny, fate, and soulmates and are responsible for keeping everything in balance. It was an entertaining read. A great vacation book for sure. Or in my case, a great break from heavier topics (WWII historical fiction).

Throne of Glass (kindle book): 5 ⭐️

This book was a Christmas gift from my sister. She knows me well! I couldn’t put this one down. I am a big Sarah Maas fan. I can’t wait to read the other 6 books in this series.

Everything I Never Told You (audiobook): 3 ⭐️

This book was haunting. I guess objectively that this was a wonderfully written book, but subjectively, I just can’t enjoy books like this. I felt like I was watching a horrible accident happen and couldn’t do anything to stop it. This bothered me to the core and I imagine that this type of family dynamic happens everywhere. I also had never thought about people of Asian ethnicity feeling out of place in America. This book made me consider this side of racism that I had been totally ignorant of until now. I would tell you to consider reading this, but don’t put it at the top of your TBR pile.

2019 Reading Challenge: January

Wuthering Heights (audiobook): 3⭐️

Pretty decent for Brit Lit. Definitely not my favorite.

Why Not Me?: 3 ⭐️

It was OK. I appreciate her realness, but got nothing out of the book.

Mrs. Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (audiobook): 4⭐️

I really enjoyed this one. Do not make the same mistake I made and assume this is a kids book. It’s definitely not OK for 4 year olds.

The Physician (kindle- Prime Reading): 4⭐️

This was a long and wonderful story. It’s the first book in a series of 3. If you enjoy very long books in a series, give this one a try. It was good enough that I plan on reading the others at some point. The hunger that Rob J has for knowledge of medicine so he can be the best for his patients is the true spirit of a physician. I really connected with the main character on that level.

Four: 4⭐️

I was a sucker for the Divergent series and I loved Four. I couldn’t resist reading the story from his point of view.

Persuasion (Audiobook): 2⭐️

So boring. All these Brit lit books are the same. Just read the cliff notes. Don’t waste your time.

2018 Reading Challenge: The Best of 2018

I never imagined I would read 84 books in a single year. I am a full time physician with a 4 yr old and a 1 yr old that love life, a busy pastor husband, and a dog who deserves to be the next contestant on the dog whisperer. When do I have time to read?! The game changer for me has been audiobooks. I did some math. 68.8% of the books I read were audiobooks. My 12 minute commute, the rare 30-45 min ride on the bike trainer, and the occasional time I got to cook dinner without a chunky toddler in my arms got me through 55 books. Nick and I love listening to books together on trips. You can do it if I can do it!

Asking me to pick the absolute best single book I read this year would be impossible. Asking me to pick the best book in each genre MIGHT be doable, but that would still be difficult. I will pick 5 books from the 3 broad categories that I make my “To-Read” list from. I generally make myself read a) classics, b) personal development, and c) for fun. If I didn’t make myself read classics and for personal growth, I would submerse myself in fairy tales and historical WWII fiction until I lost complete touch with reality.

Top “For Fun” Reads:

I usually divide these into fiction and non-fiction, but after sitting down to make this list, I noticed that I did not read many non-fiction that I would put on a “Best of” list. Instead, I decided to divide the fiction into Historical Fiction and regular old fiction.

Top 3 Historical Fiction:

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan

Nick, lover of non-fiction, and I, lover of all things fiction, were both captured by this book, which is actually based on a true story. I cannot wait until the movie comes out. You will definitely want to read the book first.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

There are terrible people in this world. The worst of them mistreat children. This book is about a real life person who profited from destitute families. This happened in MEMPHIS and not too terribly long ago. After reading this story, I completely understand the hoops one is required to jump through to be approved to adopt.

The Kitchen House

This is the first time I have read a historical fiction based on the years of slavery in America. It is hard to read this at times, but it was a great story.

Top 3 Fiction:

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

I almost put this on the “classics” list because that is what this one will become. Parents must read it, then you must make your kids read it (who cares what age they are). Then go watch the movie. You can thank me later.

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

Sometimes books come at the right time in your life and this one came at the perfect time. I was coming out of a long list of heavy WWII fiction and stressed out a little in my personal life. This book was the perfect medicine for me at that time. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I will admit that time/place may have been a large factor here.

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

This one was a page turner. I didn’t just put this on here because Kimmery is awesome and did an interview with me and is also a physician mom like me, but the book is really incredible. You should take it on your next beach trip. Or mountain trip. Or the next time you get to take a bath or go to the bathroom without an audience… (I’m talking to you moms. You know that will never happen, so just wait for the beach trip.)

Best Non-Fiction:

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

It is an unbelievable story. This disease is horrible and I am glad her book and movie brought so much attention to it. There is hope for some!

In Shock by Rana Awdish

This physician nearly died 4 times from different types of shock. Then she went a wrote a book about it. Every physician or anyone providing care to patients needs to read this. It will change the way you practice medicine.

Honorable Mention:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Last Train to Istanbul by by Ayse Kulin

The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

Twain’s Feast by Audible Originals (I know, totally surprised me too)

The Book of Essie by Megan MacLean Weir

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Top 3 Classics:

I have to say… I slacked in the classics this year. Maybe because most of the ones I did read were a complete drag.

The Hobbit by J. R. Toilken

So this was was pretty great. I mean… if you call yourself a book nerd, this definitely has to be on your shelf.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

This is a great children’s book. As C. S. Lewis said, “A children’s book that is not worth reading at age 50 is not worth reading at age 10.”

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson

Such a good book. Quite a different book than I read when I was a kid. Perhaps it is that I am so much different than the 4th grader that read it initially.

Honorable Mention:

The Nutcracker- by Alexandre Dumas – a nice quick Christmas read

Night by Elie Wiesel

Top 3 Personal Development:

Love Does/Love Lives Here/Everybody Always by Bob and Maria Goff

Its my blog, so if I want this to count these three books as one, then I will. These three books changed the way I approach life. We tend to make being a “good christian” harder than it has to be. It really is as simple as loving your neighbor. When was the last time you loved your literal neighbor? The widow down the street? The person in the cubicle next to you? The lonely single adult that sits at the end of your church pew? The cashier that checks you out at the grocery store each week?

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson

I had to read his for a physician leadership class. It should be required reading for anyone entering a management position, a job where they work with other people, a marriage, a friendship, parenthood… pretty much everyone needs to know the art of the crucial conversation. Just imagine how smooth life could be if nasty conflicts could be artfully avoided?

Of Mess and Moxie by Jenn Hatmaker

I enjoyed this one so incredibly much. I laughed until I cried. I said a handful of “amens!” to my empty car. I related so well with her that I was brought to empathetic tears. I felt understood. And then I didn’t feel so bad about myself as a mom, wife, Christ follower, and female in general.

Honorable mention:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp- must read for parents

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke

2018 Reading Challenge: Books 79-84

A River in the Darkness (audiobook): 3⭐️

What a miserable life. I can’t believe this occurred in my lifetime…

Praying Circles Around Your Children: 4⭐️

i literally read this in about 3 hours. It was encouraging. I feel like a failure as a parent regularly in this area, and definitely found this book helpful.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (audiobook): 4.5⭐️

This was a fun quick read. If you’re into fantasy worlds and fairies and the like… this one is for you. Stay far away if you’re into non-fiction.

The Nutcracker: 4⭐️

Fun little Christmas classic. Got it for $5 at B&N and it is a beautiful leather bound book! I never knew the actual nutcracker story. Glad to finally know what it is all about!

The Christmas Hirelings (audiobook): 3⭐️

Someone tried to write a Christmas classic with the feel of a Jane Austen or the Bronté sisters book. Meh.

Jingle Bell Pop (audiobook): 3⭐️

Interesting perspective and tidbits on the sounds of the holiday season. Not really worth a purchase, however.

2018 Reading Challenge: Books 22-30

Born a Crime (audiobook): 3⭐️

Interesting story but not worth all the language we had to endure. Definitely not a kid friendly audiobook.

Code Name Verity (audiobook): 4⭐️

Excellent audiobook. I’ve heard that the actual book is slow, but these narrators were very good and engaging.

Night Road: 4⭐️

Easy beach read with a good ending

Last Train to Istanbul (audiobook): 4⭐️

Great audiobook. The narrator was perfect.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: 4⭐️

Interesting memoir! This lady was determined to succeed.

Killers of the Flower Moon (audiobook): 2⭐️

Interesting story, but just wasn’t for me.

A Thousand Splendid Suns: 5⭐️

Sad story but a good look into the life of those in Afghanistan and what they’ve endured in war over the past 40-50 years.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared: 5⭐️

I absolutely loved this one. It was a good break from the heavy WWII historical fiction I’ve immersed myself in.

West Cork (audiobook): 2⭐️

I listened because it was free. Not nearly as good as Serial. Don’t waste your time.