Author: K.C. Grant
Samantha Evans, a recent college graduate and returned missionary (California, Spanish speaking), wants more than anything to be noticed at her new job--an advertising firm located in San Diego. So when she hears word that the company needs a Spanish translator for a gig in Mexico, she speaks up.
Samantha quickly realizes things are far from what she expected, especially in regard to the team she's assigned to work with. Soon, she becomes the target of severe animosity, especially from Kat, the group leader. Kat vies for the attention of all the men on the team, including Dave, the mysterious and attractive photographer. Not only that, but strange things are happening, and Samantha finds herself in a position where her happiness, health, and safety are put in jeopardy.
I give Venom 3 out of 5 stars. My three star rating represents what three star ratings are supposed to mean: I neither disliked nor loved Venom. I know this basically discredits my rating, since in statistical-type things, you toss out the neutral answers. :-) However, Venom would easily be a favorite for many people, so I'm going to give an in-depth review of the things I really enjoyed, along with those things that didn't work for me.
What I liked:
The characters. They were strong, charming, frustrating, seriously annoying, loveable, endearing, etc. Grant did a fine job at creating well-rounded, real, and believable characters. I especially loved Terri, Samantha's roommate, and was sad we didn't get to spend more time with her. I also really, really liked Dave, and especially enjoyed how Samantha had no idea what he was thinking nearly the entire time. It upped the ante quite a bit. I also enjoyed her relationship with other people--her parents, Seth, Sister Remington, etc.
The style of writing. Grant's words and word order, flow, language, etc., really spoke to me. She writes in a clear, concise manner, which is appealing. I'm drawn to books like this.
The religious application. Samantha is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I liked that she holds true to her faith; that she turns to God for help and support in her trials. Grant put in just enough to remind readers that the book is by an LDS author about an LDS person, without becoming preachy.
Samantha's situations. I served a mission, and experienced something very similar to how Samantha's body reacted to fresh guacamole. I loved how tactfully, naturally, and humorously Grant approached the description of that event. :-) Samantha handled other situations in nearly the exact way I would.
The length. Was perfect. Not too long, not too short.
The emotions. Were very true. Samantha felt like a real person, and I was very impressed with the method and way in which Grant pinned how it would feel to be on a lengthy trip with people who don't really like or trust you. Having been in a similar situation myself, my heart hurt for Samantha. I only wish a mystery had come along to distract me when I was on my trip. :-)
What didn't work for me:
The descriptions. I like books that are fast paced and light on descriptions. I rarely care about the location or setting, unless it is integral to the plot--Angels and Demons, for example, or in a fantasy story like Harry Potter or Fablehaven. Venom's plot would be moving along at a brisk pace until suddenly, the internal monologue would switch to lecture mode about the temples and ruins the group visited--something that doesn't naturally happen in our minds in real life--and it would pull me out of the story.
The beginning of the book. It dragged, and most of it wasn't necessary. We learned more about Samantha and her situation from seeing her react to things while in Mexico, then from the chapters that filled in back story at the start of the book. Characters were introduced who didn't really come up again once Samantha and the group had left.
Some of the settings/research. I'm not talking about research into the Mexican things (which was clearly well thought out), but into every day life for a recently-graduated chick in this day and age. It felt like the book was written several years ago. It's exceptionally uncommon for roommates to share a phone bill, since hardly anyone who is twenty something and single has a land line. Also, Samantha finds herself more than once in a situation where co-workers (two) make unwelcomed advances on her. In a big company in corporate America, someone would've turned them in for harassment long before Samantha even started working there.
If the things that were problems for me would really bother you, then this book isn't necessarily for you. :-) On the other hand, if you love mysteries with rich locational descriptions, please, do yourself a favor and read Venom. Honestly, I'm positive you'll enjoy it. And if a slow start bothers you, just scan through the first few chapters. The descriptions, settings, situations, and characters will be worth it.