Review: Do No Harm by Christina McDonald

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★★★★½

Gallery Books | 2021

Filed Under: The horrors of American health care


This is a story that can only take place in the United States. Almost anywhere else it’s like, “Oh you have cancer? Your medical treatment will not require you to remortgage your home, go bankrupt or start selling meth to pay for it.” Or in this case, write and sell opioid prescriptions in a rapidly evolving drug ring you were not at all prepared to be involved in.

But in the U.S., if your kid has rare and aggressive leukemia, you need to jump through hoops made of red tape – and also the hoops are on fire – before you even know if your insurance company is going to allow you the chance to save your child’s life.

Who thought that was going to be a solid, practical health care system? I just…

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Review: First Cut (Jessie Teska, #1) by Judy Melinek & T.J. Mitchell

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★★★★

Hanover Square Press | 2020

Filed Under: Don’t bring Bitcoin into this.


If you read my review for Working Stiff by Judy Melinek, then you may recall that I am 100% a Melinek fangirl. This woman is amazeballs. I love everything about her.

Where before she recounted her real-life experiences as a medical examiner in NYC (during 9/11 no less,) in her non-fiction work, First Cut is a work of fiction that focuses on a new medical examiner in San Francisco, Jessie Teska.

Considering that this is a debut work of fiction, it’s top-notch.

If you love procedurals that rely on the science and forensic side of investigation than this is going to be a must-read. It might feel a little bogged down in medical details to the casual reader, however.

Melinek uses all of her real-life experience as a medical examiner to bring Teska’s job to life. Honestly, it’s so authentic I could probably dissect a dead body at this point. And I definitely wouldn’t forget what jar and drawer tissue specimens were meant to go in.

Considering we’re in a current moment in time where we’re talking about defunding police, I’m pretty convinced after reading Melinek’s work that medical examiners could probably solve murders a hell of a lot better than most cops.

Just saying.

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Review: The Great Pretender – The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

“Psychiatry at its best is what all medicine needs more of—humanity, art, listening, and empathy—but at its worst it is driven by fear, judgment, and hubris.”

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★★★★

Grand Central Publishing | 2019

Filed Under: Up to your eyeballs in FACTS.


Before you go into reading this book, you must first understand the true premise. It is NOT a history of psychiatry and psychiatric hospitals, though those things are discussed to fully understand what Dr. David Rosenhan was doing. But this book is almost totally about Dr. David Rosenhan and his study from the 1970s that looked to expose how psychiatry was functioning away from public knowledge.

I admit I was kind of disappointed once Nellie Bly was discussed for only a couple of paragraphs because that is shit I showed up for. I was expecting a novel that discussed people like Bly more in-depth. I was expecting something a bit more sinister and historical. Like, give me some Geraldo Rivera at Willowbrook kind of drama.

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But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

Once I got passed my assumptions, I did get into this nonfiction work, but not as much as I was hoping I would. It’s a pretty dense read, full of medical jargon, medical history (seriously, you go through the creation of all the DSM volumes) and a complete dissection and recounting of Dr. Rosenhan’s study, On Being Sane in Insane Places.

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Review: Working Stiff – Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell

“To confront death every day, to see it yourself, you have to love the living.”

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★★★★★

Scribner | 2014

Filed Under: Putting the Y-incision in the “Y-incision party!”


Oh. My. Fairy. Godmother. I loved this fucking book!

Judy Melinek is my new role model/inspiration board/personal icon.

Goddamn, this was some good stuff.

Dr. Judy Melinek – amazing human being and most badass bitch I’ve read about it since I can’t even remember when – takes you on a journey through the first two years of her career after she started a forensic pathology fellowship at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York City.

I swear to the god of thunder, this bitch is living the dreams I would have had if I hadn’t recognized early on in my life that I have zero talent or brain cells dedicated to understanding science.

The romanticized/dramatized version of being an M.E. is that it’s all homicides all the time, and that you’re in the shit with the detectives solving crimes.

And that’s really not at all accurate. I mean I totally knew that on a logically level, but I still love those crime shows. So sue me.

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Review: Stiff – The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

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★★★★

Penguin | 2004

Filed Under: Thinking about your own expiration date has never been more fun!


I think if you’re into the macabre and the dark side of life, or death as it were, then this book is probably required reading for you.

Truth be told, I am not a science-brained kind of girl. Or history. Or geography. Or math. Really anything that requires a level of intelligence that is based on facts and an excessive amount of information and concentration.

These are just not my strong suits. As much as high school teachers would want to make me feel bad about that with those shitty grades I kept getting, I’ve accepted myself now, as an adult. I fully embrace that I will never be able to help my kids with science or math homework. They could ask me about English and art though. But, I do appreciate logic and thoughtfulness.

I do have some intelligence, y’all!

With that in mind, Mary Roach makes heavy scientific topics, experimentation and the history of anatomy and scientific discovery, easy enough for this dumb-dumb to understand. And even find funny! Roach imbues her writing with levity and a flirtatious tone that makes this more entertaining and less textbook-y.

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