Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review and Giveaway: Daughter of Destiny by Nicole Evelina

Daughter of Destiny (Guinevere's Tale, Book #1)
by Nicole Evelina
Release Date: January 1st 2016
2016 Lawson Gartner Publishing
Ebook Edition; 327 Pages
ISBN: 978-0996763103
ASIN: B01651N77A
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from HFVBT

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
In the war-torn world of late fifth century Britain, young Guinevere faces a choice: stay with her family to defend her home at Northgallis from the Irish, or go to Avalon to seek help for the horrific visions that haunt her. The Sight calls her to Avalon, where she meets Morgan, a woman of questionable parentage who is destined to become her rival. As Guinevere matures to womanhood, she gains the powers of a priestess, and falls in love with a man who will be both her deepest love and her greatest mistake.

Just when Guinevere is able to envision a future in Avalon, tragedy forces her back home, into a world she barely recognizes, one in which her pagan faith, outspokenness, and proficiency in the magical and military arts are liabilities. When a chance reunion with her lover leads to disaster, she is cast out of Northgallis and into an uncertain future. As a new High King comes to power, Guinevere must navigate a world of political intrigue where unmarried women are valuable commodities and seemingly innocent actions can have life-altering consequences.

This book has been short-listed for the 2015 Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction.


My Thoughts
Daughter of Destiny, the first book in a planned trilogy, was a very pleasant surprise, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm very leery when reading books about King Arthur and Guinevere and to be honest, haven't really liked a lot of them; either they were too mythological and fanciful for my taste, or everything about the characters were off.  And don't get me started on the movies.  What I've always wanted was a gritty story, one that really understood the times, was not overly fanciful and mystical, but still had that whimsy behind the tale of King Arthur.  This one met most of those expectations.

We first met Guinevere on her way to Avalon as an eleven-year-old girl. To me, she was a typical girl used to being waited on hand and foot, and her attempts to fit in with the other girls did not go too well in the beginning.  It also didn't help that her gift was quite complicated and required extra attention in order to get under control, making the other girls jealous. I liked the author's portrayal of Guinevere's early years as it made her much more sympathetic and real to me; I think if she had been perfect, one who developed allies and allegiances at that age, it would have turned me right off.  She's a girl!!  And one with no idea of the destiny in her future, planning only to wed a lord and run a manor house like her mother did.  Her conflict with Morgan seemed only natural as both were competitive and fierce, so why wouldn't they fight over the top spots whenever they could. And since Guinevere is human, it would be natural for her to be jealous over Morgan's accomplishments as well as anger over her tricks. The author certainly sets up the rivalry between Morgan and Guinevere quite well. Who wouldn't?

While I would have loved to learn more about Avalon, I'm glad the author chose to keep the descriptions to the background as there was the danger of them taking over the story line.  Avalon was essentially just part of the story, and nothing more, except as a way to plot the eventual story line between Morgan and Guinevere.  It becomes very easy for the setting to take over the character development and plot line which can effectively ruin a story, and there was a fine balance to walk in this book; the author wanted to develop the mystery of Avalon so her readers understood its significance, but also wanted to develop the characters and eventual story lines that will appear in later books.  

Guinevere's relationship with Aggrivane was a childhood obsession; he was her first love and we all know how intense first loves can be.  Being isolated on Avalon, her dealings with men were few and far between, so it's really no wonder this man caught her attention after spending many hours with him.  I really didn't think a lot about their relationship other than to wonder how it would end as we all know who she eventually married.  

I did find the portrayal of the religious conflicts to be quite interesting; they actually played quite a large role in some of the events in this story.  While the author doesn't call herself a historian, she certainly shows a lot of knowledge about the subject, and I found it fascinating how it was incorporated into the novel.  Slight touches, here and there, but with deep nuances of meaning.  

Verdict
Daughter of Destiny was a delightful retelling of Guinevere's early years and I enjoyed it tremendously. I thought the characters were interesting and enjoyed seeing them in a new light; Isolde quickly became a favourite of mine so I hope to see her again in future novels.  I think if I had any issue with this book is that it wasn't quite gritty enough for me; the time period was one of great upheaval and war so I would have liked that incorporated a bit more. But this was a book about Guinevere's childhood so I do get why more of that wasn't in this one.  I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the trilogy, Camelot's Queen, to be released April 12th, as Guinevere and Arthur begin their married life together.



  Daughter of Destiny
Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: Remembrance by Meg Cabot

Remembrance (The Mediator, Book #7)
by Meg Cabot
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
2016 William Morrow
ARC Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-237902-3
ASIN: B00XHRR3EE
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

4 / 5 Stars

Summary
You can take the boy out of the darkness.

But you can’t take the darkness out of the boy.

All Susannah Simon wants is to make a good impression at her first job since graduating from college (and since becoming engaged to Dr. Jesse de Silva).

But when she’s hired as a guidance counselor at her alma mater, she stumbles across a decade-old murder, and soon ancient history isn’t all that’s coming back to haunt her. Old ghosts as well as new ones are coming out of the woodwork, some to test her, some to vex her, and it isn’t only because she’s a mediator, gifted with second sight.

From a sophomore haunted by the murderous specter of a child, to ghosts of a very different kind—including Paul Slater, Suze’s ex, who shows up to make a bargain Suze is certain must have come from the Devil himself—Suze isn’t sure she’ll make it through the semester, let alone to her wedding night.

Suze is used to striking first and asking questions later. But what happens when ghosts from her past—including one she found nearly impossible to resist—strike first?

What happens when old ghosts come back to haunt you?

If you’re a mediator, you might have to kick a little ass.


My Thoughts
Remembrance is the first adult version of the Mediator series and I was thrilled to discover that Suze and Jesse's story would be continuing; it was one of those series I thought about over the years and often wondered what it would be like for these two when they are adults.  

As adults, our mediators are now dealing with post-graduate work (Jesse is a medical resident and Suze is completing her post-secondary studies to become a counselor). They are also dealing with the usual complications that arise as adults: work, loans, money, wedding issues.  And to top it all off, Suze gets attacked by a child ghost during a routine guidance session.  Since the mediator stuff was something I really enjoyed in the original series, I was glad to know that a lot of the book would have Suze facing off against vengeful little spirits, although the result wasn't quite what I expected.  It was refreshing, and familiar, to know that Suze hadn't changed a whole lot when dealing with the spirits / ghosts; she was her usual brash and feisty self I remembered from the original series.  I would have been extremely disappointed otherwise.  

It was definitely nice to revisit characters and to see what they were all doing as adults, although I could have done without Paul Slater.  He was still as despicable as ever, but I did have to laugh over some of his antics as a grown up, albeit a much more powerful one now that he has all that money and sway in town.  I liked seeing what Suze's brothers were up to and was a bit disappointed that they didn't have more of a role to play in this one; they are much more interesting as grown-ups and I would love to learn more about them.  The author did hint a bit about their abilities so it would be interesting to see exactly what they could do, especially working together with Suze and Jesse.  And while I love Jesse, and always will, he was a bit annoying at times in this one.  While I get that he had been dead for over a century and a half, his over-protectiveness got cloying and I could have done with a bit less macho behaviour.  Other than that, he was perfect, the same sweet, kind, and considerate person, and the scene with Paul Slater (sorry, spoiler) was great.  

I thought the plot was interesting, but it was one of the weaker points in the this novel.  While I truly enjoyed Becca's plight and the situation with the little ghost, Lucia, I did think the novel was more about Jesse and Suze's relationship issues, and lack of sex, at least on Suze's part, than about the ghost issues.  And while that was fine, it did have a tendency to drag on a bit and I just wanted to get on with the story and find out what was going on with our friendly / unfriendly little ghost.  While I also understood the author's 'need' perhaps to find closure with Paul, I did find the whole situation, the dinner and 'dessert', to be a bit over the top. Really? I'm sure there could have been another way to solve the problem with Suze's house rather than introducing the whole blackmailing plot point.  While it may not bother other people, it didn't set well with me.  

Verdict
Remembrance is a good addition to the Mediator series; it was great to see all of my favourite characters return as adults and to learn about them as adults.  That being said, while I would definitely recommend the earlier novels to my thirteen-year-old daughter, I would not recommend this one to her due to the many, many sexual innuendos that are in here; this is about a grown up Suze and her wants and needs as a woman who is definitely not a teenager anymore.   I enjoyed this book quite a bit and am quite glad that Ms. Cabot is continuing the series as it was one of my favourites (I can't believe it's been almost sixteen years since I've read the first one.)  There is so much potential with these characters, and so many interesting things going on, that I truly hope the author will continue Suze and Jesse's story. 

Tease Me Thursday

Tease Me Thursday

New bannerCat Johnson's Hot SEALs Kindle World

My SEAL Bodyguard TeaserMy SEAL Bodyguard by Paige Tyler

MaryannJordanRevealing Love by Maryann Jordan

danger and comfort 

SEALed in Texas by Marissa Dobson

A Daye with a SEALA Daye with a SEAL by Donna Michaels

 

SEALed for Life by Donna McDonald

SEALs7 QuoteTempted by a SEAL by Cat Johnson

Amazon: US - CA - UK

Herding CatHerding Cat by Sabrina York

Good for You MemesmlDarwin's Evolution by Siobhan Muir

KaLyn CooperClaimed by a SEAL by KaLyn Cooper

NormandieSurrender to a SEAL by Normandie Alleman


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: The Ex by Alafair Burke

The Ex
by Alafair Burke
Release Date: January 26th 2016
2016 Harper
Softcover ARC Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062390486
ASIN: B00X3N8S96
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancĂ©, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder three years earlier—there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is, who would go to such great lengths to frame him—and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets and absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him?


My Thoughts 
The Ex was a pretty decent legal thriller in terms of plot; the lawyer defends a man she was involved with twenty years ago after he was arrested for a triple homicide.  While I don't have anything again legal thrillers, they're not usually a genre I tend to read extensively, although I do love the thriller / suspense genre itself.  That being the case, I had prepared myself for some long courtroom drama scenes, but was surprised at how little of that there was in this one; some may argue that it was not a strength, but for me, I gave a little sigh of relief as I thought the legal stuff was quite interesting and just enough to make it informative without going over the top.  

First of all, the legal information blended quite well into the story.  I have found that sometimes, the courtroom dramas can consume a novel which I think is why I have stayed away from them or have been a bit skeptical over reading them lately.  There was a lot of wrangling between Olivia, her office, and the DA's office over different rights and laws and who had the right to what information; I do find this kind of thing fascinating as there is so much misinformation out there that it is nice to learn a bit more.  I also found little discussions about previous cases quite informative as well and enjoyed that aspect, almost enough to make me rethink the whole legal thriller genre (except for Anne Perry's William Monk series which I do read).  Unfortunately for the author however, I did find the actual story to be quite predictable and mundane; it's a been there, seen that, read about it already kind of story so it was really easy to figure out the mystery, which did leave me feeling a bit unsatisfied.  

I did really like Olivia Randall though; I though she was independent, strong, and powerful.  The only thing that bothered me was her denial about Jack's possible guilt; a hot-shot defense lawyer like Olivia should be able to put away her feelings and look at all sides of an issue, and her constant defense of him for no other reason than she knew him twenty years ago drove me crazy.  And it was repeated throughout the novel ad-nauseam. I also took a liking to Scott Temple and wished we could have learned more about him.  I thought the dialogue between Olivia and Scott was quite witty and interesting so I looked forward to their scenes together.  I do wish the other characters had had more depth to them though.  Just when things were getting interesting, the author sort of sidled away from some interesting possibilities and settled on some more mundane ones and I was very disappointed.  it definitely doesn't hurt to take a risk as I think Ms. Burke's readers have been waiting for those risks to appear in her novels.  

I also really liked the author's take on social media and how the public is ruled by it.  I thought she did quite a credible job at showing how people really rely on technology and not everyone over 40 is a technology idiot, capable of using computers quite well and using other advanced gadgets with ease. I also liked how she showed how easy it was to mess up too when you think you know it all about technology; someone is always faster and better than you.

Verdict
The Ex is one of those novels that I liked because of the author's writing style and because she made her characters somewhat unlikable. I know this sounds odd, but I do like my characters to be somewhat flawed as they seem more realistic and empathetic, and many of these characters were vain and condescending.  And while I enjoyed the author's writing style, I thought the actual murder was predictable and easy to figure out.  That being said, I did enjoy Olivia's personal ruminations about her past and the impact it has had on her present life.  If you are looking for a standard thriller, than this is for you; if you are looking for something darker and more twisted, something more complicated, then I would forego this one. 



Alafair Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of ten previous novels, including the standalone thrillers Long Gone and If You Were Here, and the Ellie Hatcher series: All Day and a NightNever Tell212Angel’s Tip, and Dead Connection. She is also the coauthor of the Under Suspicion series with Mary Higgins Clark. A former prosecutor, she is now a professor of criminal law and lives in Manhattan.
Find out more about Alafair at her website, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review: Dead Lucky by Matt Brolly

Dead Lucky (DCI Michael Lambert, Book #2)
by Matt Brolly
Release Date: January 11th 2016
2016 Carina
Kindle Edition
ASIN: B0150UOADM
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

5 / 5 Stars

Summary

When a woman is murdered, the twisted killer forcing her husband to watch her slow and painful death, DCI Michael Lambert knows that his next case might be his toughest yet.

And when a second set of killings are discovered, with exactly the same MO, the race is on the find the lethal sociopath before he strikes again.

But Lambert never expected to receive an anonymous call from the killer. This time, it’s personal: if Lambert doesn’t find the murderer soon, his own loved ones will be next…

My Thoughts
Dead Lucky is one of those books I just started reading because I was looking for another mystery story, knew almost nothing about it, and absolutely loved it.  The style of writing reminds me a lot of Mark Billingham, and since he's one of my favourite authors, it's not surprising I was quickly wrapped up into the goings-on of DCI Lambert and company.

First of all, I really enjoy police procedural novels; I like the tedious work that is described, the door-to-door scenes, the interviews, and everything that goes along with detective work as the murder is resolved piece by piece and clues are revealed bit by bit.  I'm not a huge fan of those novels where you know who the murderer is right from the beginning; this is definitely more my kind of thing.  And I also love the rebellious streak that Lambert has, similar to Tom Thorne, Inspector Banks, and Armand Gamache, not quite breaking all the rules, but certainly bending them when he has to in order to get what he wants.

What I really liked about this book is that character development did not get lost in the story or vice versa; both were equally important and an equal focus.  I enjoyed Lambert quite a bit, loved his rebellious streak, but was also really intrigued by his 'illness', something that was not very developed in this story.  I am very curious as to exactly when this illness will land him in a lot of trouble, as I am sure it will.  I also liked that Lambert's personal issues didn't muck up the story but added to it; he's got a wife who had an affair with a lawyer and they had a child together, causing intense emotional pain for Lambert as he deals with his own daughter's death three years ago. Quite interesting to say the least, and provides some interesting dynamics.

I'm still on the fence about DS Mathilda Kennedy as the killer told Michael, in very precise terms, to look up facts on Kennedy's father to see what he discovered.  I'm not convinced it's a diversionary tactic and am wondering exactly what this will lead towards in the future.  And Tillman?  Like him, but when do we ever trust the boss?  Quite a bit of secondary story lines happening in this book, many of which appear to continue on to future novels, leaving me quite in suspense.  While this tactic doesn't always work in novels as it leaves the reader feeling unsatisfied, it definitely works in this one.  I never felt the characters and their story lines detracted from the main arc of the novel, which was about the killer.

Verdict
Dead Lucky was definitely my kind of novel; for those who was squeamish about these things, there are some disturbing moments though.  The author has a way of writing that just draws you into the story, and I admit to having a difficult time putting it down.  With many twists and turns, and a few red herrings, I admit to being a bit surprised as to the murderer, and as it's not often I don't figure it out, I definitely like this book for that alone.  I was a bit shocked at the ending, partly because I was not expecting it at all, and partly because there were so many unanswered questions that will have to wait until book three is released.  Without question, I recommend this one to anyone who enjoys police procedural. 


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: The Past by Tessa Hadley

The Past
by Tessa Hadley
Release Date: January 5th 2016 (First published September 3rd 2015)
2016 Harper
Softcover Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062270412

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
These three weeks may be their last time there; the upkeep is prohibitive, and they may be forced to sell this beloved house filled with memories of their shared past (their mother took them there to live when she left their father). Yet beneath the idyllic pastoral surface, hidden passions, devastating secrets, and dangerous hostilities threaten to consume them.

Sophisticated and sleek, Roland’s new wife (his third) arouses his sisters’ jealousies and insecurities. Kasim, the twenty-year-old son of Alice’s ex-boyfriend, becomes enchanted with Molly, Roland’s sixteen-year-old daughter. Fran’s young children make an unsettling discovery in a dilapidated cottage in the woods that shatters their innocence. Passion erupts where it’s least expected, leveling the quiet self-possession of Harriet, the eldest sister.

Over the course of this summer holiday, the family’s stories and silences intertwine, small disturbances build into familial crises, and a way of life—bourgeois, literate, ritualized, Anglican—winds down to its inevitable end.


My Thoughts
The Past is one of those books where I really enjoyed the descriptive writing, but just couldn't get into the story; I did think a few times about putting it aside for a later date, but understood that if I did so, I would never come back to it. To be honest, I actually enjoyed the descriptions of the house and surrounding area better than I did the story line, and although it probably wasn't that way, it did seem like the author preferred the countryside to her characters.  

First of all, I really, really wanted to like this book. Like I'd already mentioned, the writing and descriptions were interesting, and it was very evident the author was delighted by the house and subsequent settings she described.  I love books that are quite ethereal which is why I am probably drawn to gothic stories as well as those about huge houses with big secrets from the past.  This is exactly what I thought this book was going to be like, but it was not quite that way.  There were no really big secrets to be revealed, and the past described in this novel really had no impact on the present day story.  And although I did find Jill's story interesting, I did think it was useless to the story as it really did not go anywhere with the impact on the sisters' lives today, except in some very small and subtle ways that didn't mesh together very well.  There were a lot of hints about things going on, but the plot lines really didn't go anywhere, and I was left feeling disappointed quite often when things just sort of petered out.  

Furthermore, while the descriptive writing was nice, it didn't lend itself to much character development; I didn't really feel like I connected with any of the characters.  I wasn't overly crazy about any of them and none of their stories was actually developed in any way that made them interesting.  While I know a bit about Argentina's "Disappeared" as well as about the illegal adoptions that took place having read about them in a previous novel, I am unclear as to what this had to do with Pilar and her story line; it didn't make a lot of sense to me as to how it all fit together.  And then the dramatic effect of Harriet's fantasies towards Pilar just didn't seem to work here; I'm not opposed to the story line, but it just seemed like the author was trying too hard to develop a plot line for Harriet, but didn't quite succeed at it.  For whatever reason, I liked Kasim the best, which isn't saying a lot, as he tended to be quite lazy, opinionated, and young, wanting everything but not wanting to work for anything.  He just seemed more real to me than the others.  I am also a bit baffled by the story line involving the dog and the cottage; I'm not quite sure exactly what the purpose of it all was, and besides, all I wanted to do was shake Ivy half the time, or put her in time out, with all of the things she did.  Because of all this, I tended to soak up the parts when the sisters went on their walks in the woods or spent time in retrospection as it gave me time to breathe and just enjoy the writing.

Verdict
The Past was a slow novel with beautiful descriptive parts about the house and countryside; unfortunately, the descriptions and the story line didn't quite mesh all that well together, and while I don't usually mind slow novels, I do have a problem when things are muddled. To me, itt appeared as if the author had a lot of ideas for the direction of this novel, but never really took them in any of the directions that were started, only to start a new one, leaving the reader somewhat confused and unsatisfied.  While I would read another book by this author because of her writing talent, I'm not sure I would recommend this one. 
Monday, January 18, 2016

Guest Post: Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen



by Lawrence M. Schoen 
Release Date: December 29th 2015
2015 Tor Books
Hardcover; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0765377029
ASIN: B00Y7RWXDE
Genre: Fiction / Science Fiction


Lawrence M. Schoen shares a scene from Bask: The Elephants’ Graveyard

In Barsk the main characters are anthropomorphic elephants. They’re sapient, they walk upright, have opposable thumbs and science and art, build relationships and cities and governments. But they’re not the only “raised mammals” in the book, and several other characters come from other animal species, or races, and play important roles. I thought I’d share a bit of a scene involving some non-elephants.

I’ve lifted this particular bit from Chapter Four and it’s from the point of view of an Otter named Lirlowil. She’s a very talented young woman with a rare telepathic gift, but she’s also utterly irresponsible and the very definition of a hedonist. Her life to this point has pretty much been a never ending party. She’s availed herself of every vice that comes her way. That all changes when the galactic government has a need for her and shows up to change her life forever. Here’s a snippet of that scene.

A Bear from the Patrol had shown up at her home on Sharv. One moment she’d been fast asleep, dreaming of the debaucheries from the night before, and the next he’d been standing over her bed with a writ of transference in his hand and trailing a small entourage made up of a Prairie Dog wearing a civil parson’s ring in one twitching ear, and an Otter, only a few years older than Lirlowil, garbed like a physician’s assistant.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: Dearly Departed by Hy Conrad

Dearly Departed (Amy's Travel Mystery, Book #2)
by Hy Conrad
Release Date: January 26th 2016
2016 Kensington
Ebook Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-1617736834
ASIN: B00X2EOXPW
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Cozy
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Summary
Paisley MacGregor, a maid to the rich, made a dying request to send all of her wealthy employers on a first-class wake to spread her ashes around the world. Amy has her suspicions about these “mourners,” especially when one has a life-threatening “accident” at the first stop in Paris. And when a mysterious American stranger tagging along with the group has his ticket punched in the shadow of the Taj Mahal, Amy knows she may have a killer on her tour.

Who was this stranger, and what’s the connection to someone in her group? Digging for clues while continuing on with the trip is a lot for Amy to manage, especially when another mourner has a possibly fatal encounter with a Hawaiian volcano. Back in the States, Fanny and Amy start to piece together a secret worth killing for, but someone is hot on their trail, and ready to send them on a one-way trip—to the morgue!


My Thoughts
Dearly Departed is the second book in the Amy's Travel Mystery series and one of the things I liked about this book was the travel portion, simply because I enjoy reading about travel and the things that people do while traveling.  I thought the premise to this book was quite interesting, but sometimes the premise, the promise, and the actual do not quite meet up, and this was the case here; perhaps it was also my higher expectations, as this author is the creator of Monk, a favourite television series of mine, and I was being a unfair in wanting a bit more.

First of all, I thought the actual story line was quite interesting. Amy takes a group of people on a tour around the world, making stops at previously designated locations by a deceased maid in order to pay respects to her and her service over the years.  As the story progresses you learn that not everything is status quo and someone is holding a dirty secret, one that may already have, or will lead to, murder.  The mention of secrets always captures my interest and I was curious to learn what that could be about as a maid would know a lot of things about the people for whom they worked, and Paisley worked for some very wealthy people.  It did take an awfully long time to get to the actual murder though, and by that time, I was actually starting to lose interest in the story for a variety of reasons.

One of those reasons has to do with the story itself.  While I thought the story line and premise were quite interesting, the writing was somewhat disjointed and it seemed to jump around quite a bit.  There was a lot of description, something I am not usually against, but in this book it was distracting and took away from the plot and it's one of the things that made it seem muddled.  There were times when I actually got lost in the dialogue, and didn't know who was speaking, as the qualifiers were often lacking, and I would have to re-read the page to figure out who said what. 

Another reason was Amy herself; I didn't particularly connect with Amy on any level and found her a bit annoying at times. She was a bit bland and wishy-washy. I also had no idea how Peter was connected to her and how and why he was interested in her romantically, but I also didn't care for him a whole lot as I found him weird.  I also didn't find many of the characters to be overly interesting, except maybe for the designer of the fancy glasses as she had a lot of things to say; I did wish she played a bigger role in the story as she was pretty much the only one I wanted to learn more about. There seemed to be hints to a lot of things, but nothing ever seemed to go any further than hints, something that was quite unsatisfying. Amy's mother is quite funny though, although I would definitely not want her as my own mother.  She tends to stir things up and has quite a personality, probably the only really interesting character of the lot; that being said though, there were moments when even her character was too much, and she became rather annoying instead of fun.

Verdict
Dearly Departed isn't a bad story by any means, but it simply wasn't for me.  I found Amy to be quite indecisive and boring, and Peter was a bit too much for me, not even remotely interesting, not necessarily tour guides I would want for a trip I was taking.  While the mystery was okay, and the concept was fine, it did take a long time to build up to any actual events and I began to lose interest long before that happened; I also didn't have a problem figuring out the murderer although I didn't guess the motive until later in the book.  While I do encourage others to judge for themselves what they think of this novel, and I love Hy Conrad's Mr. Monk (Mr. Monk and the New Lieutenant) series, I don't think I will be continuing with this series in the future.