2019 Reading Challenge: October

October was my vacation month. I went to the beach with my family and actually had time to read since the kids are old enough to play with each other now. Mom win! I also had time off when I came back while I was waiting to start my job with Baptist. This was an excellent reading month and I enjoyed every single one of these books.

The Magician’s Nephew (audiobook from Libby via Madison County Library System): 4

Coy and I listened to this one together. This is probably my least favorite Narnia book in the whole series, but he loved it. The narrator is fantastic.

The Goldfinch (audiobook from Libby via Madison County Library System): 5

Oh. My. Goodness. This book will stick with me a while. I didn’t want it to be over. I don’t know how I felt about how it ended. I needed to talk about this one with a friend or two when I finished it. I will definitely be reading her other books.

She made me feel sick when the main character was sick. Like, I literally felt like I was coming down with the flu. The narrator was 5 stars. He had to do so many accents and the sick voice! He has to be Russian. There is no way he can speak it that well unless he is actually Russian.

Freakanomics (audiobook from Libby via Madison County Library System): 4

Well this was the most interesting economics book I have ever read. Definitely a fun non-fiction read.

The Pianist: 3.5

This one was not what I was expecting. Fantastic true account of a Polish man living in occupied Warsaw.

The Road Back To You: 5

This BOOK. Everyone needs to read it, twice. Enneagram is so incredibly interesting and pretty accurate. We always need to be working on becoming our best self and this book can help you with that. Do you know what motivates you to do what you do? What about your significant others? I can’t wait to pick up The Road Between Us.

The Alchemist: 4

This is a great modern classic. Beautiful cover as well.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (audiobook from Libby via Madison County Library System): 4

Great listen. I thought this was on my list of books I needed to read, but it wasn’t. I didn’t hate it though. It was fun.

The Silent Patient (e-book on Kindle): 3.5

This was actually my selection for our October book club book. It was predictable and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped.

2019 Reading Challenge: September


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (audiobook from Libby via Madison County Library System): 5⭐️

Coy and I listened to this book together. It was just as good as I remembered. He absolutely loved it and then enjoyed watching the movie.

A Court of Mist and Fury (audiobook via Audible): 4⭐️

I absolutely loved this book. This series is right up my alley. LOVE LOVE LOVE Sarah J. Mass.

Where the Crawdads Sing (e-book on Kindle): 5⭐️

I read this with my book club. It was so good. Great plot!

Calypso (audiobook from Libby via Madison County Library System):2.5⭐️

This book was not my cup of tea. It did not fit with my sense of humor. There were some funny stories, but overall it was not worth my time.

Outliers (audioook from Libby via Madison County Library System):4.5⭐️

Great book and quick listen. Very enlightening. If you have a kid who is an athlete, you def should read. It’ll make you view all these youth sports differently.

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: July


Crown of Midnight (audiobook with Libby via Madison County Library System): 4 ⭐️

I don’t have much else to say about this book other than I love this series and Sarah J Maas.

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell (audiobook free with Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading): 4 ⭐️

This was a very interesting book. I’m writing this review 3 months late so I can’t remember my initial gut reaction. It wasn’t a waste of time, but it obviously didn’t wow me since I can’t remember much more than the general plot.

I’m from the Sun (free audible original): 2.5⭐️

Kids book. It had a pretty catchy song or two in it. Coy enjoyed the songs but the story was so-so. I think there is a sequel, but we probably won’t be listening.

The Art of Neighboring: 5⭐️

Excellent read. We try to make things more complicated than it has to be. Spread the gospel where you live… LITERALLY WHERE YOU LIVE.

Circe (audiobook with Libby via Madison County Library System): 3.5⭐️

Meh. It was ok. Interesting perspective on an old greek myth.

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: 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.

On Being Healthy: Setting Goals

It is a new year and with new years come resolutions. For many years, the most common NY resolution has been to change to a healthy lifestyle, either by losing weight, improving diet, or exercising. Goals without plans of execution are destined to fail. So no matter what your goal is, whether it is to lose weight, exercise, read more, make new friends, do a daily devotional, or find a new hobby, you must have a plan.

1.) Setting Realistic Goals

Goals must be attainable and realistic. When I counsel patients on obesity, they usually have some unrealistic expectation for weight loss. Women especially! (Women, just face the fact that you will not lose weight as fast as your male counterparts. God designed us to hold on to calories in order to continue the human race in the event of famine. So… if you get marooned on an island, you will out live your husband.)

  • So what is a realistic goal? For weight loss centered on lifestyle change, 2-4 pounds a month averaged over several months, for there will be plateaus and dips. For those wanting to read more, start with 1 book if you read 0 last year. If you read 10 last year, increase it to 12. For those wanting to improve diet, pick one thing you will REMOVE and one thing to ADD to your diet.
  • Start small. Accomplish the small goals. Count the victories. THEN improve upon those results. Did you lose 5 pounds in a month? Great! Lets do it again next month. Did you go 1 month without a soda? Great! Now see if you can go 1 month without soda and dessert. Did you get to your book goal by June? Awesome! Double it by December. No one was ever discouraged by meeting goals early, but I have seen many people set too lofty of goals and get discouraged and quit. You must know yourself. Do you have the will power to push yourself to lofty goals or do you need tiny victories to help encourage you along the way?

2.) Be specific.

Do not be vague with your goals. Don’t say “Lose Weight”, instead say “Lose 15 pounds by June”. Don’t say “Read more”, say “Read 5 books this year.” Don’t say “Exercise more”, say “Walk/run/swim/bike 3 times a week for 30 minutes.” Know exactly what you are striving for so that you can celebrate when you achieve that milestone.

3.) Making a Plan

So you set your goal… Now what? You need to come up with a way to get from point A to point B.

  • So you decided to lose weight. Are you going to do that by exercising? Dieting? Both? See below for further specifics.
  • You want to try to eat healthier. What are you going to do? Weight watchers? A fad diet? Paleo? Keto? Whole 30? South Beach? Does heart disease run in your family? Do you need to think about low fat/cholesterol diet plans? What about osteoporosis? Do you need to increase your dietary calcium?
  • You decided to exercise. What type of exercise do you think you will enjoy? When are you going to exercise? Where are you going to exercise? If it is outside, what is your indoor contingency plan?
  • You want to do a daily devotional or quiet time. Are you going to do a guided devotion plan on the Bible app? Are you going to use a Bible reading plan? Will you journal your findings and prayers? Will you do this in the morning or evening? How are you going to adjust your schedule to make time for this?
  • You want to find a new hobby. What are you going to try first? Do your friends have any hobbies you find appealing? What hobbies fit into your lifestyle- budget and time?

4.) Accomplishing the Goal

Celebrate! Do not be ashamed to tell your friends or family. Be proud of what you accomplished. That 5 pounds is great! That one book is a milestone! Walking 30 minutes 2 times a week is an improvement for you!
Do not compare yourself to others because that will rob you of joy or plant a seed of envy.

5.) In the Event of Failure

If you do not meet your goals, take time to reflect to see why you failed. Then alter your plan and try again!

  • You didn’t meet your weight loss goal… So did you cheat on your diet? Fail to stick to your exercise schedule? Did you have some health problems that hindered your ability to exercise? Did your metabolism come to a screeching halt because of menopause? Are you getting empty calories somewhere that you don’t realize? Are your portion sizes too big? Is your lifestyle to sedentary?
  • You didn’t reach your book goal… Did one book bog you down because it wasn’t enjoyable? Did you have a hard time finding time to sit down and read a physical book? Would it benefit you to start reading on a kindle book since you will always have it with you? (Waiting rooms and car pool lines are great for reading instead of browsing Facebook) or listening to audio books on your commute (mine is only 12 minutes and I listened to 60 audio books last year)?
  • You didn’t find a hobby… Did you make time to try several activities? Did you go with a friend? Did you give each activity more than one try? Sit back and reflect on what you truly enjoy. Do you like to be active, still, creative, indoors, outdoors, interactive, reflective? Have you considered things that are not traditionally considered hobbies? Vacation planning, tutoring, volunteering, meditation, yoga, trivia night, board games, wine/craft beer tasting, cooking, yard work/gardening.