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Moonshine by Rob Thurman


by Rob Thurman

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I was pretty excited to read this one after enjoying the first so much. Not a bad book, but the story was not nearly as interesting in the way it was done until the second half of the book. Still going to continue reading the series, this one was just a bit lackluster to me.

Cal is still struggling adapting to what he found out he is, moving around a lot with his brother, learning to fight and be responsible, all the while keeping up his sarcastic personality, pessimism, and mistrust. I can truly imagine the lifestyle would be exhausting and hideous. Nikos is still dedicated, disciplined, and a little too perfect for me to like much but he is clearly supposed to be and remain one of the two mains of the series.

The book is rich with plenty of mystical characters in the urban setting: Cal's family foe history, unglamorous type weres, a beautiful vampire woman who has caught Niko's eye and interest, and a psychic girl who's attached to Cal. I was happy to see Robin return, as he was such a hoot and intriguing character from the first story. The scenes where he flirts with Niko, which Cal finds amusing and Niko a bit uncomfortable, are particularly amusing.

The story starts out a bit slow and there's a lot of inner monologue and worrying which keeps driving the chapters to build up to the main meat and heart of the tale. This is a bit off putting and while still a good book, I wasn't as grabbed by far as I was by the brilliant beginning build-up and mystery of the first.

This series is truly a darker Urban Fantasy. There's grimness and an overhanging shadow of doom and despair. The characters are all serious, with the exception of Robin's light banter, but still there's always a lot at stake, violence around every corner, and potential impeding doom, destruction, disaster, death, you name it. The d's of darkness are ever present here and each story is saturated with it.

To me it was disorientating sometimes because with some scenes instead of reading through them, Cal would suddenly be ahead of what happened and replay what happened after the fact. I find this to be a bit distant and distracting. In Nightlife it made more sense to do this as the writer did, considering looking back on what happened slowly was the point to show there was a mystery and to reveal little details at a time for the reader. In Moonshine there really is very little mystery and it's more of an action themed story, so the flashbacks of the scene rather than writing through it don't make as much sense of dramatic impact. In addition, Moonshine used this technique even more than Nightlife did, even though it doesn't make sense to really use it at all.

When Cal is not focusing a little too much on inner angst, the pacing is pretty good and action fierce. While I didn't care as much for this one, I still am anxious to get the rest of the series and see more unfold. I want to see more of the monsters from the first book again heavier too, the Auphe. ( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
Rob Thurman is a very good example of urban fantasy. Her writing is crisp, sharp and sarcastic, full of banter and good old boy humour that will keep you snickering.

Cal and Niko very much remind me of two brothers from Supernatural. So if you like this show you will most certainly love the books.

The brothers are tight, and it's quite touching to see how they can not imagine life without each other and will do anything in their power to save one another.
I also love the puck, Robin Goodfellow, narcissistic, wickedly charming fashion plate/comedian and Promise, a vampire and a black widow who buried five husbands and got her hands on their fortune. Along with brothers Leandros they make a formidable team.

Although this book is not as intense as the first one, Rob Thurman definitely laid the groundwork for the future adventures of the brothers with all the new developments that happened in Moonshine.

And the quotes! You can quote half of the book, the phrases are so catchy :)

" I shitteth you not."

"Sufficient unto the day the ass kicking therein."

Overall, a very good read. I intend to go through all the books written by this author and thoroughly enjoy them. ( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
It was really hard to rate this. I kept a running snarky commentary going in my head the entire time I read it...but I just couldn't put it down. I think the easiest way to describe my reaction to this book is in terms of buttered popcorn jelly beans.

Yes, these bizarre candies exist--they're made by the American company, "Jelly Bellies." In abstract, the concept is repulsive, but they looks so pretty that you pop one in your mouth. The taste is bizarre, a weird mixture of abrasive saltiness and supremely gooey sweetness. When I first tried a buttered popcorn jelly bean, I made a horrible face...but it was so weird that I tried another one out of sickened fascination. And before I knew it, I found I actually kind of liked the taste... and then I was addicted and had eaten the whole handful. The book was just like that--even while I groused and mocked, I just kept reading.

Thurman is, as far as I know, the only female author in the hardboiled noir subgenre of urban fantasy (UF), but she brings a lot of elements from paranormal romance(PNR) in as well, and unfortunately, it's many of my least favorite aspects of each. Thurman's books have all the violence, profanity, and sexism from UF (disappointingly, they don't even pass the Bechdel test), but all of the overwrought angst and glutinous, saccharine language of PNR. I think Thurman fails to capture the true style of hardboiled noir, which is characterized by lots of snappy dialogue sparsely interspersed with exposition via snarky narration. Thurman's book does have dialogue, but basically every line of it is followed by eight to ten lines of explanation. Any innuendo, any references, any jokes are thoroughly and painstakingly explained by the narrator. This style is common in PNR as well as older, e.g. Victorian, novels, but to me, it totally destroys the flow and impugns the intelligence of the reader. Not every detail needs to be explained--outside references help to build up mystery, history, and dimensionality. Even the repartee feels forced and unnatural to me, as does the narration. Cal combines the use of contractions and a truly gratuitous amount of profanity with allusions to Yeats and Elliot--somehow the voice just doesn't feel genuine to me. To break up her tendency to tell rather than show, Thurman often describes physical interactions between characters, especially the brothers...and it just feels weird, awkward, and a bit slashy. Take the gooey sweetness of overwrought language and angst, add in the salty language and often extremely disturbing imagery, and to me, it's the worst of both worlds. But despite all that, I just kept reading.

There were two reasons why: I think Thurman's skill at creating an entertaining plot and an enthralling world are absolutely top-notch. I got hooked in the plot and I found the twists and turns immensely satisfying. The second reason is less complementary: the characters remind me very, very strongly of the TV show Supernatural (SPN), and I really enjoyed analyzing the similarities and differences. SPN is about the exploits of two brothers, Sam and Dean Wichester, who go around alternately hunting monsters and trying to stop the apocalypse. I'm not accusing either franchise of plagiarism--the start dates were so close that neither inspiration nor influence would be possible. But all the same...

Both involve a lot of snark, absurdity, gallows humour, angst, and mood whiplash. The plot features a pair of brothers, with most of the overarching story regarding the younger, part-supernatural brother and his role in a demonic plan to bring about the apocalypse.

In both series, the brothers:
--spend a lot of time on the run with lots of fake identities
--hunt down various paranormal monsters
--are perfect foils for one another
--are from broken, abusive families, with the older brother effectively raising the younger
--have a mother who made a deal with a demon and died by fire
--have allies that include a few badass supernaturals, an occasional Action Girl (who still never manages to get significant screentime) and significant Damsel in Distress subplots.

The older brothers (Niko/Dean) both:
--are blonde, (currently) short-haired, and handsome
--get some guff for being ladykillers (Niko is nicknamed "Cyrano" and Dean is...Dean)
--have a tendency to collect and carry a wide variety of random weapons
--are very possessive about their elderly cars, which they call their "baby"
--effectively gave up their childhoods to raise their younger brother
--sacrified all other ambitions to protect and care for the brother
--due to their roles in protecting their brothers, end up as "enemy number one" of the demonic beings
--are "badass normal" and are afraid of their siblings' superpowers, but try to hide it
--have a male supernatural being (Castiel in Dean's case, Goodfellow in Nik's), the third member of the merry gang, who is clearly in love with them, but appear to reciprocate only with friendship. (It's WAY more overt in Goodfellow's case--he explicitly says it.)

The younger brothers (Cal/Sam) both:
--have long, dark hair to go with a general mopey, emo affect
--have a massive clown phobia that their brothers repeatedly mock
--are monster/human hybrids, which gives them supernatural skills
--angst constantly about their "freakishness" and fear that they will become monsters
--were created/destined by the monsters to help bring about an apocalypse
--are at one point possessed by a seriously evil demonic force as part of the above apocalypse plan
--were both sought after by said monsters and kidnapped to fulfill their destiny
--have a touching belief that their big brothers will always be there to rescue them
-hover for spoiler

Hey, maybe I'm just imagining the similarities.

Their personalities are different, however. Niko has all of Sam's intelligence and obsession with fitness and health food; Cal has Dean's sloppiness and love of fast food and apparent need to annoy everyone in sight. I found that I liked the character of Dean much more than Niko, but I like Cal much more than Sam. Dean is a quirky, screwed-up mess of contradictions with abandonment issues, with his total absence of self-worth hidden behind a facade of bravado and snarkiness, and a truly inappropriate sense of humour, often of the gallows variety. Niko is basically what you would get if you had someone design the Perfect Boyfriend Ken Doll : handsome, romantic, intelligent, self-sacrificing, practical, reasonable, articulate...and really, really boring. But the greatest difference in their character is seen even in their ultimate choices with their demon-touched brothers: in Nightlife, Niko proved that when given the choice between saving his brother and the world, he will choose to sacrifice his brother. He will do everything possible to avoid it, but like Carrot Ironfoundersson from Pratchett's Discworld series, Niko realizes that personal is not the same as important. Dean, on the other hand, has proved that he will make ridiculously destructive choices, even ones that impact the entire world (it's that whole urban fantasy apocalypse fixation) to protect his brother. Yet although I believe it is Niko who makes the "right" choice, I find his painfully clinical decision much less endearing than Dean's selfish one, just as I find Dean's very flawed character more endearing than Niko's perfect one.

Cal and Sam are also different, which makes sense due to the whole "perfect foil" thing. I think one of the most beneficial things about the book is that we are able to get into Cal's head, whereas Sam remains somewhat enigmatic. I see Sam as egocentric and self-righteous, with a tendency to focus on principle (read "revenge") over people, tempts him into serious antihero territory. Cal is significantly less egocentric, more vulnerable, and self-doubting. His admiration for his brother shines through--yes, it's uncomfortably sappy and touchy-feely, but I think he actually does a slightly better job at capturing the weird combination of idolatry and resentment a younger sibling feels for an older one. (Yup, I'm a younger sibling.) Sam also has the (to me) unendearing habit of letting his past mistakes slide off him while still holding out resentment against those who wronged him. Cal tends to feel guilty and constantly worries over his impact on his brother's life and the lives of those around him. Yes, it means we're in for a lot more whining and angsting, but I found Cal much more likable. Hey, maybe it's a guilt thing. I like characters who feel guilt, maybe even over things they could not control, who take responsibility, and who accept consequences.

So should you read this book? If you're a fan of Supernatural, then definitely. I think you'll find it fun and entertaining, especially if, like me, you start envisioning the actors of SPN being forced to act out some of the gooier scenes. There's a lot going for it: sympathetic characters, a strong plot, and lots of action, but if you agree with Dean and think,

then I'd be cautious about this one...like Nightlife, it has a lot of cringe-worthy descriptions and dialogue. While it has all the hardboiled UF trimmings, but with its writing style and the very angsty protagonists, it just really isn't a he-man action-dude book like the Dresden Files, Sandman Slim, Felix Castor, and similar. If you regularly read PNR and don't mind a little more gore and blue language, then this one should definitely be on your reading list.

And me? Well, despite the odds, I ended up liking buttered popcorn jelly beans. ( )
  page.fault | Sep 21, 2013 |
Half-brothers Cal and Niko Leandros are struggling to their feet with their new supernatural fix-it-for-a-fee agency, and it looks as if the Auphe are a thing of the past. Unfortunately, someone else with a scary agenda is lurking in the wings. He needs the brothers to do a job for him, and he has just the leverage to make sure they cooperate.

Cal is just as optimistic and smart-mouthed as ever, and the pacing and the plot are both tighter than the first book. Grim, gritty, bloody and great fun! ( )
  SunnySD | Jul 8, 2013 |
Not as good as the first but then I didn't think it would even hold a candle to that one so I was pleasantly surprised that it still ranked high for me. For once the protagonist has a chance to save his brother instead of always the other way around. I don't think she set up Cal's love for the girl well enough in the beginning. I only got it because I read the first book. The book was still wonderful though and I have already placed a hold on the next book at the library. I'm whipping through these books so it's a good thing there are seven so far and two additional series. It's always a relief when authors I love are prolific! ( )
  maybedog | Apr 5, 2013 |
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To my kick-ass mom.  She could take on both Cal and Niko.  Watch out, guys. There's a new sheriff in town. 
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I was born a monster.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451461398, Mass Market Paperback)

After saving the world from his fiendish father's side of the family, Cal Leandros and his stalwart half-brother Niko have settled down with new digs and a new gig-bodyguard and detective work. And in New York City, where preternatural beings stalk the streets just like normal folk, business is good. Their latest case has them going undercover for the Kin-the werewolf Mafia. A low-level Kin boss thinks a rival is setting him up for a fall, and wants proof. The place to start is the back room of Moonshine-a gambling club for non-humans. Cal thinks it's a simple in-and-out job. But Cal is very, very wrong.

Cal and Niko are being set up themselves-and the people behind it have a bite much worse than their bark...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:02 -0400)

In New York City, Cal Leandros and his half-brother Niko, going undercover for the Kin--the werewolf mafia--to find a traitor in their midst, infiltrate Moonshine, a gambling club for nonhumans, and soon discover that this is no simple in-and-out job.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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