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That's What I'm Talking About

I generally review romance, paranormal and urban fantasy. I tend to pick review books that I want to read, so generally my reviews will be positive. I always give my honest opinion: good, bad, and indifferent. 


Note: on my blog I use a letter grading system. I've listed the ratings below. For sites with stars, I have listed the equivalent rating. If I didn't finish the book, I will not rate it with stars.


A+  Personal Favorite (5 stars)
A    Loved It (4.5 or 5 stars)
A-   Enjoyed A Lot (4 or 4.5 stars)
B+  Liked It A Lot (4 stars)
B    Liked It -- Recommend (4 stars)
B-   Liked It -- But I had a few small issues (3 or 3.5 stars)
C+  Liked It -- But I had issues (3 or 3.5 stars)
C    Finished It -- Liked some, didn't like some (3 stars)
C-   Finished It -- Liked a little, didn't like a lot (2 or 2.5 stars)
D    Not A Big Fan (2 stars)
E    Don’t Waste Your Time (1 star)
TW: Reading this book was like watching a Train Wreck
DNF: Did Not Finish


updated July 9, 2015

Currently reading

Operation: Endgame (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Book 6) (English Edition)
Philippa Ballantine, Jeanne H. Ballantine, William Morris
Just You and Me (A Contemporary Romance Collection)
Fiona Miers, Caitlyn Lynch, Liz Durano, Deelylah Mullin, Cate Farren, Jacquie Biggar, Vicki Batman, Kate Richards, Brenna Zinn, Dalton Diaz, Tierney O'Malley, Desiree Holt, Nicole Morgan, Ashlyn Chase
Bitter Bite: Elemental Assassin, Book 14
Audible Studios, Jennifer Estep, Lauren Fortgang
Progress: 27 %

Review: Dawn's Early Light

Dawn's Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel - Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris

Rating: B Liked It, recommend
Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About
Review copy provided by publisher.


The third full-length tale from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences begins shortly after the conclusion of the second book, with Agents Wellington (Welly) Books and Eliza Braun en route to America. This is Books first official mission as a field agent, although he’s been through the routine a few times with Eliza. The pair are being sent to America to help with a case, but more importantly, to stay out of the limelight back home while there is some heat on the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences following their last case. While on the airship, the pair gives chase to a cunning thief, who gets away. The start of Dawn’s Early Light opens with action and adventure, befitting of our heroes.


Once Books and Braun are in the New World, they are paired with their counterparts from the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical (OSM). Agent Felicity Lovelace is the OSM librarian. She’s never been in the field, and this is only her tenth assignment. Then there is William "Wild Bill" Wheatley. He is a rough and tumble cowboy with arrogant attitude. He and Eliza share a brief history, and he was the cause of some problems for her several years ago. The American pair are truly mirror images of Welly and Eliza. The team is tasked with investigating the disappearance of airships off the coast of North Carolina. But what they uncover is something much larger, taking the quartet cross-country, and involving Thomas Edison, The House of Usher, a female priest, and a death ray. The story truly is a madcap adventure with high stakes and plenty of action.


One thing that I love about the Ministry books, which holds true with the current offering, is that the stories are richly detailed, complex, and full of action. There is so much that goes on within the pages of each book, that to try and recap the adventures would take up several paragraphs of review space, something I choose not to do. So don’t mistake my lack of summary for a sign that the book is simple in structure and nature - for it is not. And if I tried to connect the dots, not only would I spoil the experience for other readers, but I could never do justice to the marvelous storytelling of Ms. Ballentine and Mr. Morris. I will admit, however, that at times the volume of information did overwhelm me, and careful note taking was a must. But once the pieces of the puzzle started to lock into place, I found that the journey to get there was well worth the effort!


The story is told in the back-and-forth third person point-of-views of both Wellington and Eliza. There are also interludes that are written from one of the antagonists’ POV or the agents’ director, Dr. Basil Sound. These interludes provide bread crumbs of parallel stories that all come together by the end of the book. Hearing the tale from both Books and Braun’s perspective is wonderful. Each of the agents have their own unique way of thinking about the cases and life, so the reader is privy to a more complete picture of the story having both POVs.


In addition, the reader gains some insight as to the emotional ties and feelings each agent is experiencing. For example, in the previous book, Books planted an intense kiss on Agent Braun, leaving her to ponder what it meant. And boy, does she think about it. A lot. And she tries unsuccessfully several times to do something about it while on their journey. But Books is completely obtuse, leaving Eliza even more confounded. However, Eliza’s personality pushes her to solve the meaning of the kiss and Welly’s behavior. At first I loved how perplexed Eliza is over the kiss; however, once I reached the midpoint of the book, I had grown tired of Eliza’s childish attitudes and jealousy. While I loved how their feelings enhanced The Janus Affair, for about half of Dawn’s Early Light, I found it distracting and annoying. But it does get better... a lot better!


Eliza's wit and sarcasm are such a pleasure to read. I found myself chuckling out loud throughout the title. She is sharp and seems to know when and how to speak her mind to provoke a desired reaction. However, there is more than one time that Eliza is left speechless. One such example comes in her interactions with Wild Bill, someone she relates to as a field agent. There is a definite spark there, and when he kisses her (not giving any more detail than that!), Eliza isn’t too sure what to think or say. In addition, Agent Lovelace gives Eliza a run for her money when it comes to Welly’s attention. Felicity may seem innocent and naive, but underneath is an observant woman who can call it like she sees it. Finally, Wellington has poor Eliza stumped. Why did he kiss her? Why can’t she figure this one out? I don’t know if there is as much character growth as in previous books, but we do see a side of Eliza we haven’t before… jealousy. The evolution of both her and Books’ feelings was enjoyable, but it did take up a little too much of the story.


The most enjoyable scenes in the book come when Books and Braun work together in the field. They make an amazing team. Neither tries to outdo the other, each recognizing his/her own strengths and weaknesses, while acknowledging the same in the other. When it counts, they are seamless. I think Chapters Nineteen and Twenty were my favorites because they showcase the pair’s teamwork so marvelously. And then, Eliza does something crazy, which is a stroke of genius, to finally air out the pair’s true feelings.


Another favorite part came early in the book, when the agents observe a potential witness dying. The entire scene was marvelously written. Not only is it touching - allowing me to gain more emotional investment in the story, but it showcases the agents, all coming together with differences aside, to pay respects to a fallen hero. The scene demonstrates the integrity of the agents, telling us so much more by painting an entire picture, rather than using a few words to describe the characters. This is the type of storytelling I admire and appreciate.


Finally, for readers of the series, we learn a lot more about the mysterious Maestro, who I had been confusing as the head of the House of Usher. After finishing Dawn’s Early Light, I went back and reread large chunks of The Janis Affair to piece together the bigger picture. Overall, this storyline, which also involves the Queen and Dr. Sound, is still a bit too ambiguous and enigmatic for my liking. And unfortunately, the book ended oddly with a vague chapter, which personally, I could have done without. 


Overall, Dawn’s Early Light is another great tale in the amazingly creative and entertaining Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. Although I struggled with some of the extended jealousy, I enjoyed where it took Eliza and Welly in the end. I was also a bit confused over some of the background story, and I didn’t care for the final chapter. However, I loved Books and Braun in the field, the gadgets, the fight scenes, the use of historical figures, and some of the interactions involving supporting characters. This series becomes richer with each title, and I cannot wait to find out what adventure is next for dear Books and Braun!