Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality by Pauline W. Chen

final exam


Final Exam was a book I picked up myself from the library. It was on my own personal reading list, which I haven’t been really able to get to these days. This is not a new book; it was published in 2007, but the ideas that Dr Chen speaks of should be relevant and in use today.

The mission of all doctors is to maintain life–by performing surgery, by prescribing medication, by encouraging life changes such as dieting or quitting smoking. But–everyone eventually dies, no matter how brilliant the surgeon was, or how much weight a patient lost. Many doctors gloss over this fact and prefer to focus on living and making a better quality of life.

Who will champion a better quality of death? No, Dr Chen is not  going to talk about euthanasia, or discuss funeral services. She is going to bring to the forefront a subject that has been assiduously avoided in human medicine for a long time: death is very much a part of life, and it should not be spoken of in hushed tones or pushed to the back of one’s mind. To truly care for your patients, you must realize that death is truly part of life.

No one wants to consider their own mortality, especially someone who is going to the hospital for an operation.  Dr Chen postulates that all doctors can give better care by embracing their own personal feelings and fears about death, and listening to what their patients are telling them, either with words or what their body is saying.

There is a great deal of explicit description in Final Exam:  of medical procedures and people struggling to die, those with sickness or those who have developed complications after surgery. Dr Chen starts out with her own personal experience with a cadaver in medical school and brings us all the way to her visceral reaction when a good friend of hers dies.

This book’s message is a powerful one, and not for the faint of heart. I thoroughly applaud Dr Chen for suggesting that doctors make themselves more emotionally available and vulnerable. Too often a patient’s death is couched in a sense of failure, of medicine gone wrong. A delicate balance needs to be attained, and I hope Dr Chen has started a dialogue by writing this book.

I loved this. You can pick up your own copy here.


Flawless by Jan Moran


I received this book from author Jan Moran in exchange for this honest interview.

Flawless is an easy, breezy type of read. Set in Beverly Hills, it oozes opulence and glitters wonderfully. The plot is fairly simple: Verena Valent, head of a family owned skincare company, is dealing with money problems. The economy is not what it was, and her big launch in Asia is threatened. Her boyfriend Derrick is pushing her to sell the company, but Verena’s family ties are too strong for this to be an easy decision. To top it all off, she is starting to develop feelings for a man she just met: Lance, the executive chef of the Beverly Hills Hotel. She wants to stay loyal to Derrick, but his actions are pushing her away. As money gets tighter, her family and friends cannot give her all the answers she seeks. Only Verena can be the master of her own destiny. Can she save her beloved company from the sharks?

This book made me feel as if I were sitting along Verena in the boardroom, in the spa, on a jet, and in Paris. Each detail is accurate and adds to the luxury of the story. In fact, if I knew more about the skincare world, I might think this book could be a roman a clef. It’s that authentic.

Verena Valent is a strong woman, even is she is unsure of what she wants, or needs. Her loyalty to her family is strong and refreshing. There is just enough romance in the book to add that warm feeling without overpowering the plot or reality….and what woman wouldn’t want a guy like Lance?!

The bad guys hold the purse strings, and there is a good deal of merger/acquisition/banking talk going on–but not so much that it bogs you down. This book will  appeal to those who want romance, and those who want to read a twisty plot with some thorny intellectual problems to solve.

The character’s attitudes are not entitled or exclusionary; rather, they are real and understandable. Granted, most of us don’t have million dollar companies, but Verena and her grandmother are easy to identify with and root for, as you turn the pages and hope that their financial worries will be rectified. No spoilers here; but the ending was satisfying and left the door open for many different paths for Verena’s life to take.

Jan Moran is an expert in the beauty field, and it shows here in Flawless.  I would definitely read book two of the Hostile Beauty series, just to see what Verena and her friends have accomplished. Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.


The Savant Of Chelsea by Suzanne Jenkins



The blurb for this book made it sound like it was going to be all about a surgeon with a severe psychological issue, and how she interacted (or didn’t) with the outside world. The first half was great–it was dark, and scary, and heart rending; when she told her story in graphic and disturbing flashbacks of how she was abused as a child, I shook my head in disbelief. It was all downhill from there.

The fictitious surgeon in the novel is torn apart when her illegitimate baby is taken from her one day. The rest of her life is spent thinking about her and wanting to find her, but afraid to because of a threat her mother made to her. After her mother dies, she goes back to her native Louisiana and tries to find closure.

From that point on, the book deteriorated into an obsession with children and a hard to believe personality change. In the beginning, this woman didn’t speak to anyone and was unable to dress herself or interact normally…she had assistants take care of things for her. She was driven to the hospital by a car service, did surgery like an automaton, and then spent her free time jogging on the streets of NYC to keep her demons at bay. After she returned to her native state of Louisiana, and certain events occurred (can’t tell you without spoilers), she essentially became a normal person. Vey hard to believe.

The story then takes on a ridiculous twist, and the ending is abrupt and eye-rollingly impossible. Well, I suppose it’s possible, but highly unlikely in the real world.

Suzanne Jenkins touts the book’s ending as something that will galvanize the reader, either it will make you think, or not. Personally, I thought the book could have been shorter, especially all the stuff that took place after her mother died, and I was highly unsatisfied how the character of the surgeon changed from an unstable and fascinating person to a boring, seemingly “cured” normal functioning woman. It seemed as if there were two books with different people melded together. The premise was so brilliant, and the story was such a waste once the plot took that turn for the worst.

You can pick up a copy here. Please, tell me what you think. And if you haven’t done it already, download the Kindle reading app.