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review 2016-10-31 16:43
Adventures in Audio
Phoenix Rising - Philippa Ballantine,Tee Morris
A Conspiracy of Alchemists - Liesel Schwarz
The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, Book 1 - Rod Duncan

Mr Ceridwen and I have been listening to audiobooks on our (somewhat long) drive up to the cabin, which has been generally enjoyable. We got through the entire "Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire" series, which was absolutely a great time. Good narrators, very interesting alt-history, a semi-twist ending I didn't see coming, very astute observations about gender, and on. Well recommended all around. So then we cased around for the next steampunkery to fill the hours. 


I downloaded A Conspiracy of Alchemists first, but holy God was the narrator bad. We just couldn't stop laughing at her hiccoughing reading style. Then we moved on to Phoenix Rising, which opens with a relatively fun rescue sequence, and then settles into ... a whole lot of not so very clever bickering. The main characters, named Books & Braun (gag), are a fussy librarian and a stabby brute, but, get this, the DUDE is the fussy pepperpot and the LADY loves explosives. Oh ho, I bet you thought the lady was the librarian, but you would be wrong! See our fascinating gender reversal! 


I actually fell asleep while listening. 


Which, look, I generally think whether I like this sort of pulp mid-list disposable reading is more dependent on the angle of the sun or the barometric pressure than, say, actual merit. Because this stuff is all more or less the same -- somewhat formulaic, dependent on action, sometimes quippy, little bit of romance for the ladies, etc -- so I wonder sometimes why I bother reading (or writing) reviews. Something called Conspiracy of Alchemists is going to be a three-star outing, shitty narrators notwithstanding, and that I thought Phoenix Rising boring and trite might because I ate something like all the doughnuts when I stopped in Hinckley and hit Toby's bakery. Noms. 

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review 2016-07-17 14:32
Book Review: The Ghost Rebellion
The Ghost Rebellion - Pip Ballantine,Tee Morris

Okay. I have to stop and bring my thoughts together. There is, once again, much we learn here as our Agents fight the best battle they can.

We follow two missions through this book. First and foremost in many eyes is what Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are up against. Following the trail of the isotope Blackwell created for in Dr. Jeckyll, Wellington Books and Eliza Braun find themselves in India where a person Jeckyll had been in contact with was heading.

Books and Eliza are trying to track down all on the list that are working with Dr. Jekyll. It's going a bit...rough. They are trying to clean up Dr. Jekyll's work and mess of super-enhanced people who go a bit mad and grow in size along with other abilities. This leads them to where one of Dr. Jekyll's patients had worked, and shared secrets with military in India. Not only are the medicines that Jekyll experiment with an issue, but there are experimental equipment that is now in the hands of the Ghost Rebellion forces. And this brings a new battle for Wellington and Eliza to battle, trying to get to Jekyll.

But reinforcements come! Well, one assassin that is, and the agents that remain in India. Yes, you guessed it by the mention of assassin. We get to see Sophia again. I really do love this woman, and seeing her personality clash with Eliza's is fun. I believe we will see her more in the last book to come as well - you'll come to the same conclusion in the end.

The second mission we follow is with Bruce and Brandon. They are sent to the arctic cold winter of Russia to find and obtain a Firebird feather to help cure the queen after the effects of Dr. Jekyll's serum in the last book. I have enjoyed the bold Bruce in previous books, but here I have started to see another side to him. Bruce seems to have a softer side here, a genuine person.

We get to see inside the House of Usher meetings too! And they are behind so much that Books has unknowingly stopped. Oh and a bit more on our dear Wellington too. There are major points shared with us that I just can't share because I don't want to spoil the book for you.

While the remaining agents are on their missions we see them deal with the great losses, and losses of those that were dear friends as well. There are connections to those we knew and the losses are still fresh in many hearts. The Ministry is reforming after the great losses felt preciously. It's a lot of work, and being in the state The Ministry is, anything can happen...

I want to add, I love that we have a couple that still function and interact as individuals paired together. They are who they are and love each other for that reason. Eliza and Wellington still banter and make me smile as they go through their missions, but they are more to each other as well. I enjoy writing of couples in this way.

For me steampunk is all about the gadgets. And Tee and Pip don't let me down! I love the gadgets created and used or seen with other agents. Awesome! But they also drew in the emotions from lose to love and blooming friendships into the book as well as the adventures and dangers continue.

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review 2016-06-15 17:21
Review: The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
The Ghost Rebellion - Pip Ballantine,Tee Morris

The Ghost Rebellion is the latest exciting installment in the ultra-creative and madly crazy Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences steampunk series. Co-authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris take readers on a fantastical journey though an alternate history, filled with familiar names and places. This time around, our favorite Ministry agents are chasing down leads on the evil Dr. Jekyll, which takes them to India. Meeting up with an old friend, the pair gets involved in helping eliminate a dangerous rebel uprising known as the Ghost Rebellion.


Once again, the authors have created a high-action adventure filled with twists and turns. However, while The Ghost Rebellion is richly detailed and full of surprises, it is not as intricately complex as its predecessors. And this is a GOOD THING, because in the past couple of books, I’ve found myself confused and lost. This time around, I felt that the story was much more straightforward, with pieces of the puzzle falling into place seamlessly (even with the twists). I was able to see some twists well in advance of the reveals, yet at times, the authors still caught me off guard. While the Ghost Rebellion mystery plays out by the end of the book, there is a generous mix of the continuing storylines involving The House of Usher, Dr. Jekyll, and Sophia del Morte. Additionally, the authors continue to toss in the entertaining “Interludes,” focusing on a side-assignment run by Agent Bruce Campbell. There are still plenty of open avenues for additional heart-stopping adventures.


While The MoPO series is a steampunk adventure series, romance continues to blossom and deepen between Eliza Braun and Wellington Books, and l adore that they are finally out in the open about it. After watching the pair come together as partners and then friends, witnessing the continuing development in their relationship is emotionally rewarding. The alternating POVs between each gives the additional details that help create a well-balance, loving relationship, and a well-oiled pair of working agents. I think this line from Eliza sums up quite a bit of their relationship:


“It was strange how much she had come to love Wellington Books, and yet still enjoyed working his levers.”


Overall, I enjoyed my return to The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, and look forward to more adventures with Books and Braun. I get caught up in each exciting adventure, which leaves me eager for the next book. The Ghost Rebellion continues some of the overarching storylines while providing another singular thrilling escapade. I just wish these books would come faster so I can find out what is really going on behind the scenes.


My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot

Originally posted at That's What I'm Talking About

Review copy provided by author

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review 2016-06-09 15:43
Sci-Fi Review: The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
The Ghost Rebellion - Pip Ballantine,Tee Morris

The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is, far and away, my favorite saga of alternative history, sci-fi steampunk, and espionage adventure. Strong characters, creative world (and history) building, and some really inventive mash-ups of monsters and mechanicals have made each book more interesting than the last.

With their fifth full-length tale, The Ghost Rebellion, Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris have upped the ante once again, thrusting Books & Braun into the battlefields of India, and dropping Brandon & Bruce into the cold depths of Russia. It's the first time in the series that we've had a pair of stories working in parallel, with separate missions advancing the plot, and it makes for a more well-rounded story. Combined with some darker interludes that both open up the story and reveal some of the connections between the previous books, this may be the series' strongest entry in terms of narrative.

Of course, it's the characters who make this series work so well, and it's their ongoing development that makes each new book a must-read. I really like where Books & Braun are in their relationship, with that perfect blend of affection and good-natured aggravation between them. They're both capable of carrying the story on their own, but the way they play off each other really makes the story work. As for Brandon & Bruce, they began to evolve out of the mismatched, awkward partner role in the last book, and they really get a chance to take on some of the heroics here. They're still responsible for some of the most consistently amusing aspects of the story, but they also get some deeper, more significant moments.

The story really kicks it up a notch in terms of technology this time around as well. The 'ghosts' of the title are really victims of an abused æthergate technology that was dangerously unstable to begin with, and there are some chilling implications to their rather un-tethered fates. While the tools and weapons in the series just keep getting bigger and badder, nothing tops the scene where Braun so gleefully takes control of a giant mech, basically flipping switches and slapping at buttons to see what happens, until she hits the self-destruct and initiates the ride of her life. It's not just all fun and adventure, however - Ballantine & Morris really get into the whole politics and culture of India at the time, never shying away from the racism, segregation, and exploitation that came with being part of the British Empire.

Although this is clearly not the last we'll see of Books & Braun, the Ministry itself, or the House of Usher, Ballantine & Morris have spared us the anxiety of another cliffhanger this time around. There are a lot of story pieces still to be picked up - not the least of which are Books' dark history, the eventual fate of Dr. Jekyll, and the tease of Ragnarök - so hopefully the series will keep on rolling.

As a final note, if you're new to the series, do yourself a favor and check out Phoenix Rising first. You won't regret it.

Source: beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.ca/2016/06/sci-fi-review-ghost-rebellion-by-pip.html
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review 2016-06-09 02:21
Peculiar Occurrences in India, Russia, and around the world.
The Ghost Rebellion - Pip Ballantine,Tee Morris

“Well then,” Wellington began, “the House of Usher is apparently supplying rebels with inferior, supernatural technology, India is on the brink of war with Mother England, all while a madman possessing the ability to turn ordinary people into ten feet monsters is on the loose.”


Eliza bobbed her head, her lips bent in a smirk. “Just another day at the Ministry.”


“Shall I go put the kettle on?”



Just in case you thought things were going to settle down for the Ministry following the events around the Diamond Jubilee, well, forget it. The Agency is recruiting and training new members, reassigning others, and sending their experienced agents all over to help get things back under control

The somewhat unlikely pairing of Agent Bruce Campbell (and seriously, what a great character/tribute) and Brandon Hill is turning out to be a great combination (even if Hill spent too much time with Kellogg and his kooky health theories last time he was in the States). The two go off to Russia in search of an artifact needed by the Ministry, and find themselves in the middle of something big. Potentially very big. Thankfully, there's plenty of vodka on hand to help.


Things aren't going swimmingly for the House of Usher and Jeckyll at the moment, either -- there's some internal shakeups/restructuring with the House which should prove to be important for the Ministry. And Jeckyll's, well, he's not taking the loss of his royal patient (and everything else that happened in the last book) too well.


Sophia del Morte, of course, makes her presence known as only she can. When she's not trying to kill Books and Braun, she's really one of their most reliable allies. This time she has a vital piece of intelligence or two, that'll not only impact this book, but (I wager) the next. Also, she brings all the right sorts of weapons to every occasion . . .


Meanwhile, while the Ministry rebuilds, Agents Books and Braun are off trying to take care of Jekyll's remaining and scattered associates. This brings them to India, where they encounter an old friend, an old acquaintance and some ghosts -- literal and figurative. Before they know it, they find themselves in the middle of struggles between the British army and assorted groups of Indian rebels wanting to be rid of said Army (and the rest of the government). The links between Jeckyll and this conflict are surprising, and may put a strain on our protagonists' relationships with various entities.


One thing that isn't strained, is the relationship between Books and Braun -- their young love is still going strong, and is a pleasure to read. Well, okay, there's one little strain -- Wellington Books himself. We've seen hints -- signs -- of what Usher and his father had done to Wellington, but now we see more than just signs -- we see almost the full-fledged results of what they did. These results are both frightening and astonishing (which is pretty much what Eliza and Wellington felt).


I bet I've somehow neglected to talk about the chapter titles in any of the previous novels -- shame on me. And if I have mentioned them, they need to be mentioned again. They're easily something overlooked as one reads -- because, really, who cares? -- these are not to be missed. Witty, understated and full of Steampunk sensibilities. I don't know if I've ever wondered about this before with any book, but I do wonder how much time they spend crafting these. My guess is that it's harder than it looks.


I enjoyed the new characters (Bruce's new pal in particular), and getting to see a couple of old ones in new ways. And it's always fun to see Eliza, Wellington, Bruce, Brandon and Sophia. I just had such a good time with this. In many ways, this book was just setting the table for the next, and final, installment in the series. But the character development, revelations, and overall entertainment value of the book kept this from just being a way to move pieces around. There was real excitement, good character moments (even from an Usher member or two), and a whole lotta fun, with an ending that leaves you really wanting the next installment.. I really can't wait to see what the authors have in store for us next -- it'll be great.


Disclaimer: I received an eARC copy from the authors in exchange for an honest review. Also, I backed the Kickstarter for this book. Also, I liked every other book in this series, so I wasn't exactly an objective reader going in. Not that I ever am.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2016/06/08/the-ghost-rebellion-by-pip-ballantine-and-tee-morris
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