**** or ***** Seriously - I cannot make up my mind on how to rate this book.
First of all...look at this cover. It's dramatic. The only real color here is the title, the full red lips and those (ouch) two bite marks on her neck. Oh, and that little blurb by Rhys Bowen- there right under her chin. I didn't actually notice the blurb until just now - no kidding. The picture is dramatic - the skin is pearly ...gray. The skyline is New York...were there that many skyscrapers during prohibition? I have no idea. At the time, I thought the empire state building was the tallest in New York, but that doesn't mean that all the other buildings were a lot shorter. Just things that idly passed through my mind.
The main character of Moonshine is Zephyr Hollis, described as "an overzealous, underfed social activist" . She really was, almost to the point of irritation. The only thing that saved her from being a total goody two shoes was her rather instant attraction to Amir (dark-skinned Arabic-looking hot djinn - literally hot - hot to the touch, burning hot...Careful Zephyr!), and the rather intense sense of bloodlust that would come upon her when she had to fight for her life....but she was ashamed of the way she felt then...a bit, not too much. :) (Don't fight it Zephyr - just be yourself and let your freak-flag fly!)
Turns out our little miss goody two shoes used to hunt - that's right, HUNT vampires and others with her father and crew back in good old.....Montana. (how did you end up in New York, Zephyr?). She 's not happy about her past and apparently is trying to atone by teaching night school to the oppressed "Others" (because they ARE oppressed, treated as second-class citizens with NO rights), and sticking up for them when she can, giving them literally the last dime in her pockets...(better than me - I'll give a few bucks away even if I only have $10 or $5, but never my last buck).
Anyway, Zephyr becomes embroiled with a found vampire boy (turned and abandoned), trying to locate a mob boss for pay, teaching a very dangerous young vampire street tough how to read and write, a new dangerous vampire drink, and finds herself in danger and having to fight off vampires and revenant cats.
I started out the book very interested, then found my self feeling a bit ho-hum about it (here I have to admit, I had just started it when Magic Bleeds came out, and there are few books that would have made me happy to read them after THAT!) and then finally seemed to be back into the story. By the end of the book I cared about what was happening to Zephyr, to the vampire boy, to Amir (the towering inferno genie), even to the street tough gangster vampire Nicholas.
One of the interesting and yet frustrating thing for me was the time setting. It's set during the Prohibition, which I really don't know much about. I'm not usually interested in that time period. Moonshine had it all though, the mobsters with the vampire twist, the illegal speakeasies along with the vampire equivalent, and all the accompanying problems. Poverty, bigotry, excess by the rich (nothing's changed there!) and I enjoyed the way Ms Johnson handled the "Others" addition to this. The Vampire mob King had his own territory, with rival vampire gangs. There was a separate Night Mayor that was corrupt. There's a lot happening in this novel and Ms Johnson really thought out the extended world that would have Vampires and Djinns, and Shapeshifters in it. Interesting and well done.
On the other hand, there were just a few teeny tiny things that kept me questioning (and this might be my flaw here) things like Blood Banks. Okay, there are blood banks. I'm sure this was researched, but also, the phrase Bags of Blood was used, I'm pretty sure I saw the word "plastic". Were there bags - plastic? Didn't donated blood at this time come in glass bottles? And Crowbars. This might be my stupidity here - in fact it probably is, after all, there were cars, so there must have been crowbars. It's just that I started wondering when crowbars were invented. (Interestingly, in Pillars of the Earth, the Hollywood version, set in times of Kings and Queens and Serfs, and feudal lords, they used the word crowbar, as in "Get a crowbar". really) But the word usage that really made me question things was....clone. How long has cloning been around, and when did they start using this word. I thought it was a late 20th century type of thing, as in test tube babies - 1980something....but the vampire drink thing is a blood product cloned from pigs blood with a boost in it to make vampires high. Rayon was mentioned, but that one my son looked up for me, and yes, it was around, during one of the world wars, so that one was correct, though it was another instance of me stopping and scratching my head a la Scooby Doo (er...Scooby Dooby Doo?). Someday, I might actually look these things up (I am, I admit it, incredibly lazy when it comes to actually LEARNING something. I hate the process of learning. Things came so easy to me in school that when I was presented with something I didn't know yet, I had a hard time LEARNING it; actually did not know how to learn. weird. Lazy. weird, lazy me)
OH! And Cloche- what the heck is a cloche, some sort of hat, because I think Zephyr put it on her head, but I haven't heard it before.
Ultimately I did like Moonshine. I'm just not sure at this point whether I liked it a little or a lot. I went from "I like this", to "ho-hum", to "I like a lot", but like I said earlier - I did interrupt reading this to read Magic Bleeds and that probably isn't really fair when rating other books. Next time I read a book like Magic Bleeds, I'll have to read in a totally different genre for one or two books after, just to clean the palate. This is where my confusion on how I want to rate this comes from.
Moonshine is a good book, with an interesting take on vampires, djinns, shapeshifters and the prohibition. There is a good plot, and the dialogue was good, no lameness at all. There was some interesting instances of bigotry - even from Zephyr, while she was raging against the bigotry that humans had against skin color and other species, she herself exhibited her own brand of bigotry towards the priviledged upper class (which I think I am also guilty of - sorry rich over-priviledged-know-nothing-about-living-in-the-REAL-world-people....oops, have some work to do there. ahem... )
POC Challenge (author)
Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge
***click on cover for excerpt, and on author name for a fun website