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3.9 20
by Alaya Dawn Johnson

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Imagining vampires at the heart of the social struggles of 1920s, Moonshine blends a tempestuous romance with dramatic historical fiction, populated by a lively mythology inhabiting the gritty New York City streets

Zephyr Hollis is an underfed, overzealous social activist who teaches night school to the underprivileged of the Lower East Side


Imagining vampires at the heart of the social struggles of 1920s, Moonshine blends a tempestuous romance with dramatic historical fiction, populated by a lively mythology inhabiting the gritty New York City streets

Zephyr Hollis is an underfed, overzealous social activist who teaches night school to the underprivileged of the Lower East Side. Strapped for cash, Zephyr agrees to help a student, the mysterious Amir, who proposes she use her charity worker cover to bring down a notorious vampire mob boss. What he doesn’t tell her is why. Soon enough she’s tutoring a child criminal with an angelic voice, dodging vampires high on a new blood-based street drug, and trying to determine the real reason behind Amir’s request—not to mention attempting to resist his dark, inhuman charm.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Moonshine is an utterly captivating novel, depicting a richly detailed 1920s alternative New York City inhabited by social activists, feminists…and Others—vampires, fairies, and the occasional, charming genie, as vampire-suffragette Miss Zephyr Hollis discovers. A fabulous entertainment."

—Ellen Datlow, multi award-winning editor

"I love Zephyr Hollis and the magical version of New York she lives in.  Johnson's new series is witty, fun, and stuffed with delicious tidbits of history and mythic lore."

-Terri Windling, award-winning author of THE ARMLESS MAIDEN

"I hope Zephyr Hollis's adventures have only begun. I want more!"

—Emma Bull, author of WAR FOR THE OAKS

“A rip roaring romp through a fascinating period in history and a thoroughly enjoyable read…a winner!” —Karen Chance, author of THE CASSANDRA PALMER SERIES

"A page-turning delight, with bicycles and enchanted blades, drug wars and settlement evening schools, romance and heartbreak. Move over, Buffy and Anita, and make room for Zephyr Hollis!"

—Sarah Smith, author of THE VANISHED CHILD

"In Alaya Johnson's gripping, fast moving story, historical accuracy smoothly blends with outrageous fantasy: Gangs of New York meets True Blood!"

—Rhys Bowen, author of A GILDED CAGE, the Molly Murphy Mystery Series

"Alaya Johnson has broken new ground with a book that combines a fascinating time in history with our favorite mythological creatures - vampires".

—Terri Persons, author of BLIND SPOT and BLIND RAGE

“Vampires and vamps; welcome to a Roaring ’20s New York where the undead go to night school, and speakeasies serve up the occasional bathtub djinn… a first novel to delight fans of Buffy and Harry Dresden." 

—Gregory Frost, author of SHADOWBRIDGE and LORD TOPHET

Publishers Weekly
Fans of Stephenie Meyer and Charlaine Harris will be engaged by this tale, the first in a series set in a parallel 1920s New York City. Zephyr Hollis, a demon-hunter's daughter, has an unusual immunity to the undead that keeps her safe while she teaches vampire night school and marches with the Family Action Committee for Nonhuman Laborers. Hardheaded and softhearted, she soon earns the nickname of “the vampire suffragette.” When an attractive djinn, Amir, asks Zephyr to help him take down Rinaldo, a vampire mob boss, she finds herself in an unlikely romance as she rushes to get information out of the notorious Turn Boys gang before her father kills them. The prose is generally solid, and Johnson's light, tongue-in-cheek approach makes it surprisingly easy to imagine supernatural creatures picketing Gentleman Jimmy Walker's City Hall. (May)
Library Journal
In the cold winter of 1920s New York, Zephyr Hollis struggles to survive, fighting to help the unfortunate as a teacher to new immigrants and a group of supernatural beings. When one of her students, Amir, asks her to find a supercriminal, she agrees, needing the cash and believing in the cause. But Amir has secrets, and as they discover a passion for each other, those secrets may be Zephyr's undoing. General fantasy readers may enjoy this debut, but those looking for a hard-core urban fantasy or paranormal romance will be disappointed. There are too many supernatural beings floating about with little explanation as to why and how they exist. VERDICT Despite these flaws, the character of Zephyr is well drawn and likable, and her relationship with Amir is funny and sexy, although the couple never gets beyond frustrated attempts at lovemaking. [Library marketing campaign.]—Jennifer Draper, Pickering P.L., Ont.
Kirkus Reviews
Good-hearted advocate of vampire rights negotiates the mean streets of 1920s Manhattan. Johnson (Racing The Dark, 2007, etc.) takes a break from speculative fiction for young adults in this first volume of a projected series that populates an alternate world with some colorful characters and clever ideas. The author imagines jazz-age New York as a city in which vampires and other supernatural denizens stalk the same streets as entertainers like Josephine Baker or the corrupt politicians of Tammany Hall. Our narrator is feisty Zephyr Hollis, daughter of a famous monster-hunter, who has reinvented herself in the city as a social organizer and teacher. Zephyr preaches tolerance of nonhumans but carries a silver switchblade to protect herself from the nightlife, despite a natural immunity to vampires. Among her interesting companions are ambitious tabloid reporter Lily Harding, progressive activist Iris Tomkins and, most dangerously, Amir the Djinn, a genie whose interest in Zephyr sums her up nicely. "You are a bit of a contradiction, aren't you?" he says. "A wholesome Montanan girl comes to the city, dabbles in demon hunting and then reinvents herself as a martyr to the poor and disenfranchised?" Before long Zephyr is tracking a newly turned vampire child and reluctantly helping Amir hunt down Rinaldo Sanguinetti, the vampire boss of Little Italy, whose gang of "Turn Boys" terrorizes the streets. Adding to the tension is a new phenomenon dubbed the "Faustian Nightmare," an onslaught of vampires addicted to a vicious new street drug. Johnson's lively narrative has some faults. Anachronistic contemporary language occasionally belies the '20s setting. Laurell K. Hamilton's books (IncubusDreams, 2004, etc.) are far racier, while Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt series (Half the Blood of Brooklyn, 2007, etc.) has more grit. Nevertheless, the inventive, reasonably well-researched setting and obvious historical parallels mostly work to the novel's advantage. A bit jumbled, but entertaining and potentially a good start for a series offering a different take on the undead craze.

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Zephyr Hollis Novels Series
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 5.56(h) x 0.76(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I skidded on a patch of ice as I rounded the corner onto Lafayette Street, only years of experience saving me as I tottered in the bare twelve inches between a shuttered horse- drawn hansom and a Model- T. The white- gloved matron behind the wheel had clearly come to regard her motor vehicle the way one might a pet cat that always vanished at the full moon, and the sight of my bicycle sliding gracefully past broke her remaining self- control. I can’t imagine what she found so terrifying about me. Unless it was the grin I couldn’t keep from my face as I dared the January ice. Daddy always did say I was too reckless in winter.

The matron shrieked and discovered the purpose of that curious little button in the middle of her steering wheel. Her car swerved— thankfully away from the horses, which were even now whinnying and snorting in agitation. I made it past the hansom and auto moments before one of the horses reared and whacked the Model- T’s gleaming rear fender. I winced. Two more seconds and that would have been my stomach.

Damn Tammany Hall, I fumed. Like it would kill those bastards to do something useful like fixing roads between winning elections? Tonight, of course, the criminally narrow streets were relatively clear. No one respectable wanted to be out after sundown on a new moon. I checked my watch— quarter ’til eight— and pedaled faster. It wouldn’t do for the teacher to be tardy to her own class. Especially not this class. And especially not on a new moon.

That’s when I saw it, of course. Just a huddled shadow on an unspeakably dirty street that hundreds of people had probably passed by today without comment. I sailed past it, too, before something made me dig my heels into the ground and turn around to ride back. It wasn’t as though the back of my neck prickled, or I felt a telltale shiver crawl up my skin. I can’t do anything like that, no matter what my students might whisper about me. But I do have a knack for noticing. It’s a skill my daddy cultivated, since I can’t shoot fish in a barrel and he needed his eldest to be good at something.

I had to kick the spokes to turn the handlebar hard right, then jigger them back out again so I could straighten the wheel. I crashed over the drainage ditch and slid on the worn soles of my boots over the sidewalk. I was deep in the shadow of a monolithic, grimy tenement— the kind that put me in mind of hollow- eyed immigrant children chained to beds by unscrupulous landlords so they won’t escape. They hired vampire guards in those kinds of hellholes. I shuddered and looked, suddenly, back at the street. Deserted. I think the hair on the back of my neck would have risen then, if it weren’t already smothered by the respectable starch of my shirt collar.

I walked closer to the crawlspace— too small to even be an alley— between the tenement and a former munitions ware house. A rat, startled by my approach, scrambled over a gray heap that was barely distinguishable from the other refuse and shot into the gutter by my bicycle. My eyes adjusted to the gloom. I could finally see the faint outline of the innocuous little hump that had so firmly caught my attention. It was covered in a child- sized peacoat that smelled of damp wool. Shaking— because by God there is no way to get used to this, no matter how long I’ve lived in this city— I pulled back the cloth. I saw a boy, with hair much redder than my own ochre- tinged brown. His skin was so pale beneath a shock of freckles that I knew what had happened even before I spotted the telltale punctures on his neck.

Excerpted from Moonshine: A Novel by Alaya Johnson.

Copyright 2010 by Alaya Johnson.

Published in May 2010 by Griffin/ St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


Meet the Author

ALAYA JOHNSON is a recent Columbia graduate, and denizen of New York City.

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Moonshine 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Mariko18 More than 1 year ago
If you did a poll to ascertain who among us was least into vampires I would likely rank near the top of the list. While I am a loyal fantasy junkie of the first degree, I have never been a fan of vampires, never understood the draw, and lament on a daily basis the vampire craze that has seemingly replaced all other varieties of fantasy on the YA shelves of Borders and Barnes and Noble, something I find deeply frustrating. Nevertheless, while I may be no fan of vampires, I *am* a fan of this book. I have been reading Alaya's work for a long time and while it was my loyalty to her as an author that led me to this novel, it is her ingenuity as a writer and Zephyr's engaging, light-hearted tone that never takes itself too seriously that kept me hypnotically turning the pages. This is an intelligent, witty book that while aiming (and succeeding) to be fun and funny will nevertheless make you think about the nature of prejudice and all those who are labeled "other" in any society. To be brief: This is not my kind of book--but I loved it anyway. One final note: I've noticed a lot of reviewers and bloggers calling this Alaya's debut novel and I wanted to say to those who loved it and are looking for more of Alaya's work that it is in fact her second novel, not her first. Her debut novel is called "Racing the Dark" and is the first in a truly engrossing fantasy trilogy called "The Spirit Binders." The second installment, "The Burning City," will be released on June 1st. Fans of fantasy, Alaya and "Moonshine" should definitely check them out.
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ikr but m nit complainin
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BookAddictLinda More than 1 year ago
(Originally posted http://book-addicts.com/blog/2010/08/review-moonshine/) I have a fascination with the richness of the 1920's: the glitz and glamour, flapper dresses, jazz music, desperation, ignorance, corruption, to name just a few. Moonshine captures all of these things and more. The streets of 1920's New York gets shined on with a gritty light and reveals what life would have been like if you added other dark denizens haunting the streets, particularly vampires. It's a tale that'll make you rethink the promises that you've kept and not to throw your trust around lightly. The story opens with Zephyr dodging traffic on her bike as she races through the streets on a cold New York winter day. The first of her troubles begins when she discovers the latest - and youngest - victim of a vampire gang known as the Turn Boys. This gang has done more harm by preying on the weak and further marring the reputation of the Others - a term used to describe anything non-human - than Zephyr can restore. Zephyr is an activist committing her time and energy to help all denizens of New York including Others, by participating in rallies and teaching classes to those less fortunate like immigrants or the occasional vampire. Zephyr has many faults. She's too innocent and trusting. She gives all of her money, money that should have gone to her boarding house, on an act of good will for a vampire hard on his luck. She doesn't even think about the fact that if she didn't pay the landlady the next day that she'd be turned out onto the street. Though this book has a very rich weave of characters and world building, I felt Zephyr got away with a lot of stupid things. There was a lot of risk-taking, and in some cases, extreme actions being made, but little to no consequences in response. One of the most unbelievable situations was when she decided to take on nine starving vampires. It's like playing a video game in God-mode. You go through the motions of taking on the challenges but without there being any real danger. So the book wasn't the worst I've read, but it was definitely not the best. I did love the world building and the setting, but I thought it was too unrealistic; the tasks set out for our heroine a little too easily overcome and her character was someone I really couldn't sympathize with. Towards the end, without giving anything away, I really didn't feel any compassion for Amir and didn't agree with Zephyr's life-changing decision.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cid More than 1 year ago
Moonshine I'm not sure if this is a stand alone book or not. If anyone knows I would love to be let in on this secret. As a stand alone book I am deeply frustrated with Moonshine. However, if it's the first book in a series or merely has a sequel I'm all for upping my rating. Moonshine does not set out to be a romance book, it is not shelved in the romance section, but there is a romance arc involved and my whole issue with my distaste is how this arc is tied up - or merely left hanging. The Setting -- of Moonshine is a wonderfully creative, complex den of societies upon societies in early 1920's America, specifically New York. This is a world where vampires could be your co-worker, a djin your next door neighbor - or any number of other things for that matter. There is a world order, a pecking order if you will, and it all falls very nearly in line with history as you or I know it. The Characters -- were very fun. Zephyr is the vampire sufferegette, daughter if the infamous vampire slayer and demon hunter. She works for charities, pro rights organizations and even teaches a night school for immigrants, most of whom are of a paranormal bent. Her mysterious Amir is a wonderful can of worms that I both loved and hated and strangely found myself sympathetic of. There is a whole cast of wonderfully crafted characters! What I like is the very believable motivations. I can understand why Nicholas would make his deal with Zephyr. I can understand the one character who does everything for the sake of his wife. In life there is very rarely a clear-cut "bad guy" and that's the case with Moonshine. The complex characters weave their stories in and around one another so that you're never really sure who is and is not the real menace. The Plot -- is, in simplest forms, a take-the-bad-guy-down story. However, layered over this are people fixing their wrongs, corrupt politicians, and struggling single parents. I was cheering on several different people, who were sometimes at odds with one another, because I felt sympathy for their situation. I could get what their problems were. The ending was bittersweet, and I liked that - but like I said before, I did not care for the way the romance arc ended. Sometimes, yes, you are writing one type of story, but have elements of another within. Moonshine did one well, and another one poorly - for my tastes.
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Trebble More than 1 year ago
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.
dalnewt More than 1 year ago
The book is a combination romance/mystery with thriller elements set in an alternative world of 1920s New York. The Jazz Age references, (from the inclusion of famous personages such as Gentlemen Jimmy Walker to the hazards of negotiating narrow N. Y. streets between a newly minted Model T and a horse drawn hackney), are fun and vibrant. Further, the supernaturals, (mainly consisting of vampires and djinn in this novel), are imaginative and detailed. (Note, other supernaturals such as fairies, demons and werewolves are mentioned in passing.) The dialogue is sharp, but the historical accuracy, in terms of the expressions used by the protagonist, lessens as the plot progresses. Eventually both the dialogue and story take on an urgent, distinctly contemporary flavor. The plot is inventive with twists, complications and colorful characters. It's a real page turner with an engaging do-gooder protagonist named Zephyr Hollis. She's idealistic, smart, emotionally youthful and just a tad naive. Nonetheless. Zephyr's dangerous and has been trained by her famous monster hunter father to take out supernaturals. Further, she's immune to the vampire contagion. The primary story starts when one of Zephyr's night students, (a foreign, alluring and mysterious man named Amir), agrees to take a newly turned 11 year old vampire boy rescued by Zephyr in return for her consideration of his offer to pay her for locating the whereabouts of a Little Italy crime boss named Rinaldo Sanguinetti. Rinaldo controls the upper east side through an infamous and viscous vampire gang known as the 'Turn Boys', but the crime lord himself hasn't been seen for years. A secondary mystery concerning the identity of that 11 year old vampire intertwines with the mystery surrounding Rinaldo and the reason for Amir's need to find him. Almost immediately a charged romance develops between Zephyr and Amir. The narrative is enlivened by complications which include rioting vampires hooked on an inebriating vampiric street drug called "Faust' and the sudden arrival of Zephyr's parents in New York. Eventually, the story evolves into a thrilling quest to find Rinaldo before Zephyr's father and his cadre of fellow-hunters takes out Zephyr's only lead, the unstable 13 year old leader of the 'Turn Boys' named Nicholas. Written from the first-person perspective of Zephyr, the story is fast-paced and exciting. Further, the romance is sizzling but not overdone. The narrative is periodically punctuated by action sequences as well as romantic interludes, and a frenetic, action-packed climax is reached. IMO, this is a very entertaining first installment in a series which promises to be both inventive and exciting.