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on May 20, 2010
This was really, really good. It's the 1920s in New York, and Zephyr, "the singing vampire suffragette" is spending every waking minute trying to atone for the sins of her family (her dad is a famed demon hunter and she has hunted "Others" in the past) by trying to save, educate, and secure the rights for Others in America. Then she meets Amir, and agrees to work for him to track down a notorious crime boss. Don't want to give anything away, so I'm stopping there. Lots of action, some romance, great characters. I'm hoping there will be more...
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on February 5, 2012
Have you ever picked up a book with a lackluster cover, read it, and thought to yourself, "Why isn't this book a bestseller?" There are hundreds of books (perhaps more) that go unrecognized every year. These books are almost impossible to find at your local bookseller, there is little to no details about them, and they remain in obscurity. While bestsellers take up shelf space, crowd display windows, and leave avid readers thinking, "Why is this book even popular? It's trite, poorly written, and overrated?"

These are the thoughts that went through this reader's mind after reading Alaya Johnson's "Moonshine" for the first time. Though "Moonshine" is not categorized as a Young Adult novel, Ms. Johnson is primarily a writer for Young Adults. Her most notable work is featured in the comical "Zombie vs. Unicorns" anthology.

Yes, "Moonshine" features vampires. However, this is not a typical vampire novel by any measure. Set in the 1920's, "Moonshine" features a young "do-gooder" named Zephyr Hollis. Zephyr is a "vampire suffragette" who is willing to assist anything and anyone in need, especially if they happen to be an "other"; who are often discriminated against for not being human. It is because of her benevolence that she often finds herself with no money to her name, and taking odd jobs to pay her rent.

Taking advantage of Zephyr's predicament, Amir, her student and potential love interest, makes her a tempting offer: find Rinaldo, a vampire mob boss with New York City in his pocket.

Zephyr, to put it simply, is an amazing character. She is resourceful, intelligent, and philanthropic without emitting any signs of pretentiousness. Constant action blends well with bits of romance, and plot twists will leave readers guessing as to what will happen next. The plot is solid, all of the loose ends tie up as neatly as possible. Moreover, Johnson's writing style is superb, and writes with well-researched detail. She has interwoven a comedy with elements of sadness. All while showing the reader the effects of prejudice, and what it can do to a society without the message being overbearing. Although "Moonshine" does not end in a cliffhanger, the plot leaves the possibility of a sequel, which readers will be begging for.

"Moonshine" epitomizes the underrated novel, and it is a shame that it did not become a bestseller. Humorous, maddening, and heart wrenching, "Moonshine" is a must read for adults and young adults alike.

Original review published on [...]
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on June 4, 2011
I am a voracious reader and have been on a paranormal fiction kick lately, but even I am getting over-sated on "paranormal romance" (eg, I loved early Anita Blake novels, but not the later, soft-porn ones). Despite its misleading cover art, this intriguing book proved to be a most refreshing departure. I enjoyed most of the characters, especially Zephyr, the "Singing Vampire Suffragette" (who is not, btw, a vampire herself). The 1920's alternate history NYC was quite well-done. There were enough plot twists to hold my interest, and the writing was fine. Recommended for readers who enjoy alternate history/paranormal novels that are not mindless clones riding the current popularity of vampires, werewolves, and lots of hot sex. This is one I will not be embarrassed to pass on to friends.
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on March 7, 2010
In 1920s Manhattan, Zephyr Hollis is a rare human immune to vampires. The offspring of a demon hunter, she is a social activist who always makes time for the Family Action Committee for Nonhuman Laborers equal rights protests of City Hall (to the chagrin of Mayor Jimmy Walker) and teaches at a Lower East Side night school for underprivileged paranormal.

Considered a softhearted liberal, Zephyr is surprised when her student Amir the djinn suggest she kill vampire mobster Rinaldo. However, Amir never explains why Rinaldo must die, but she agrees as she can use the money he offers. Zephyr turns to the ruthless Turn Boys for insider trading information even as her hunting father prepares to kill them and the bloodsuckers high on a new customized street drug try to dine on her.

Moonshine is a fabulous urban historical fantasy that will have readers believing in a paranormal 1920s New York City though Gentleman Jimmy is probably turning over in his grave. The amusing story line never takes it self seriously even when blood (not always red) flows. Although the city (and somewhat story line) is inundated by the horde of supernatural species, fans will enjoy the Roaring Twenties Manhattan adventures of the Vampire Suffragette

Harriet Klausner
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on May 21, 2010
As many of the other reviews have stated, the whole sexy vampire thing is pretty much played out, but having said that, I have to admit that Alaya Johnson has succeeded in creating a truly fresh and memorable angle on this somewhat tired genre. I for one love the fact that the entire story isn't driven by the romantic leads relationship, there are a whole host of interesting characters and subplots to tempt your imagination, making the moment when the main characters do come together all the more rich and believable. The time period of the 1920's, being so pleasurably decedent, was also an inspired choice to have made, and meshes with her alternate universe perfectly.

This is a book that left me incredibly satisfied yet still wanting more, leaving me with nothing more left to say except "when can I read the next one?"
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on December 10, 2013
Interesting take on the vampire story! I love a good horror story and this one had my attention from beginning to end!
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on October 11, 2012
Did not know if it wanted to be the Gangs of New York or True Blood. Dialogue was terrible and the characters had limited substance. Nothing but a fluff novel that I would not recommend to anyone. Rather sad that such a poor novel could generate such solid reviews. Have the second novel but doubt that I will read.
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on June 3, 2010
"Moonshine" felt like a lot of books in the paranormal genre: You have the protagonist who has a special power, a past she regrets, a love interest who isn't human, and a mystery plot that isn't too hard to figure out, yet is still interesting. This is not to say that "Moonshine" doesn't have anything unique to offer, it does. Instead of being set in the present day, it's set in 1920's New York, which is a nice change. It also has a love interest that isn't a vampire or a shape shifter, which are currently over saturated in that role, and protagonist who isn't drooled after by everyone around them (another trend that I feel is far too common in paranormal fantasy). Johnson's take on vampire's was also a refreshing change from either the over sexualized or sparkly variety- they have powers, but limits. Of all the characters, the Turn Boys (a group of vampires who had been changed as children) were the most interesting to me. Johnson does a good job of capturing both the predatory nature of what they are, and their innocents.
There were parts of "Moonshine" that could have been better. It seemed like every few pages the protagonist was off protesting this or that which got repetitive. I got the idea that she was a modern, free thinking woman after the first few. The romance was another weakness in the story, with lots of eyebrow arching and lip twitching between the protagonist and the love interest. The fact that whenever they were about to do more, they would get interrupted was much like the protagonist's protesting--. once or twice would be okay, but three times felt a bit much. The fight scenes were another area that could use some work. A few times a weapon would be in someone's hand after having been in a different part of the room earlier, leaving me wondering how they got it.
Overall, "Moonshine" is pretty typical for the genre, but still a fun read.
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on June 21, 2010
This book is set in the 20s. Not exactly the roaring 20s we usually are privileged to have in our movies, but more like the social problems of the 20s we rarely see. This book, of course, goes further and has another group of people who suffer the injustices of prejudice. "The Others" are any groups of people who aren't human.

Zephyr is a "do-gooder" with a heart of gold. She doesn't blindly try to help anyone in need (but she does what she can for those who ask) and sees the hypocrisy of some of the groups she has joined. She understands there is no perfect situation but also believes that everyone has a right to be treated as equals. It's not about saving everyone or that even that everyone needs saved. It's more about the fact that no one is above another. She knows who she is and is willing to suffer for that knowing. These are reasons why I just loved this character.

Amir, her mysterious student and counterpart proposes an offer she can't refuse. As she tries to discover what he is hiding and helping him catch the biggest mob boss on her side of town she starts to fall for him. Although this attraction seems mutual, there is no easy way for them to be together. They do make a good pair as they both challenge what they believe is true in their lives and why. However, as Zephyr's inquiry starts to get more dangerous, Amir tries to pull her from the fray even though he knows it is an impossible task. He respects her independence but needs her help desperately. In the end they are both torn as to what is the right thing and living with the consequences.

Although this didn't end in a cliffhanger, it does have an open ending. I want more! I am so hoping that this is a series. I give this book 4 1/2 stars. It is a wonderful read and I recommend this to anyone looking for a different type of vampire read. Love that it was set in a specific time period.
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VINE VOICEon March 20, 2011
Also appears on The Screaming Nitpicker.

In 1920s New York, vampires and other such Others are minorities with few to no rights and Zephyr Hollis is the singing vampire suffragette, famous for how much she gives and her never-ending crusade for Other rights. She teaches classes for Others and immigrants so they can learn how to function in American society and it's normal for her to give all the money she has and have trouble paying her rent. Then along comes Amir, who offers her money to help him find Rinaldo, a vampire mobster. In her quest to find Rinaldo and do a few other things, like find the parents of a young, recently turned vampire boy, Zephyr runs into more than a few problems and gets a visit from her past.

I haven't read any books set in the 1920s before, so I don't exactly know whether the minute details of the setting are true or not, but they ring true to me. It feels like Johnson did her research on life back then and applied everything she learned to this novel. Despite how much fantasy is in this novel with all the vampires running around, this New York seems like the kind of New York that would have existed if vampires were real. It's just the right blend of reality and fantasy, something only a few authors can do. Johnson appears to be one of them.

Zephyr as a character has a good background and she is the only character I have ever seen that pulled off the "too giving" flaw without making it seem like a non-flaw. If you give your money away so much to the point that you nearly get kicked out of your apartment multiple times, that's a flaw. Her pre-New York background and her current actions as an Other activist provide a fun contrast and really shows how people can change in a few years. The supporting characters were fun and the plot moved along smoothly, tying itself up well in the end. If there was any sort of mystery, it is solved during the final confrontation. With an ending such as the one in Moonshine, the novel could be left as a stand-alone or be given a sequel. I haven't found any evidence of a future sequel yet, so I'm not sure there will be one. And...

And...

-sigh- I'm sorry, but I have nothing to say. I lacked any emotional involvement in this novel, so I'm just pulling stuff and trying to put my thoughts in order about them. I didn't care who lived or died, who turned Judah, what was wrong with Amir, where Faust was coming from--absolutely nothing caught my interest. I had a full PDF of this book before I started doing book reviews and got bored halfway through it, then closed the document and decided to get a print copy one day. Back then, I never thought on what was going on in the book and I didn't this time around either. It was neither bad nor good and in certain cases, this is worse than being bad. At least you care enough about a bad book to dislike it.

I wish I could give it a better rating than this. I really do. Sadly, a rule is a rule and if a book cannot earn my emotional investment, then it automatically gets this rating. Unless it's a special case, I make no exceptions. For anyone that's looking for a good book about the 20s and doesn't mind the large helping of fantasy mixed in, I recommend Moonshine. Maybe you'll get invested in it the way I couldn't.
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