Uff da, this is some silly stuff.
Venom and Vanilla started with a bang. We're introduced to Alena on her death bed, cut down by a communicable disease that's so virulent that she's flown out to Whidbey Island off the coast of Seattle to die isolated and alone. It's a sad, slow beginning, nostalgic for her simple life and small rebellions. Alena was a member of the Firstamentalists, an almost cult-like religious group who brooked no contact with the Supernaturals: vampires, werewolves, etc. Of course, fiction being what it is, the narrative lack dictates that, in order to cure the fatal disease rapidly killing her, Alena must become a Supernatural.
I actually loved watching a protagonist struggle with her religion. Alena holds to her principles, even though she'd long questioned them, long past my expectations. While I found her childish refusal to do anything close to cussing annoying -- for fuck's sake, donkey butt has nowhere near the frisson of asshole -- I commend the commitment to character. Alena is a good girl, a religious girl, and she's not going to shed her convictions just because she's like a giant snake or there's a hot vampire or whatever.
But that's about where I stop my praise, because this novel is such an absolute fiasco. Alena is turned into an ancient Greek monster by Merlin, THE Merlin, of all people, to be murdered by Achilles, who is apparently a thing, and Zeus works for Wal*Mart, plus there are vampires and naga and werewolves and satyr and god knows what fuck all. Oh, and there's a standard dystopia where Supes are second class citizens dumped onto the other side of a wall (oops, sorry Canada, you're now the dumping ground for supernatural creatures).
This is one of those stories that is so far gone that I enjoyed it, just waiting for whatever bananas ass shit was going to happen next. Lightning shootout in Wal*Mart? Fine. Naked girl fight in a Queen Anne neighborhood attic? Sure. Casual slut shaming while reveling in the lead's nascent sexuality? Whatever. A house-sized snake fighting minotaurs? I guess. So much random shit happens, SO MUCH. SO MANY characters hide footballs, and not even stealthily, but like right in front of you like you don't have eyes in your head. It's so blatant it passes over insulting into something else completely.
Anyway, I guess what I want to say is that the reader for the audio is fucking amazing, and I think she's the only reason I finished this thing. Her name is Saskia Maarleveld, and I really like her voice.
Venom and Vanilla is the fist book in Shannon Mayer's latest series, The Venom Trilogy. Mayer is a bestselling author of many books, and The Venom Trilogy looks like it should have fit right in with her other series.
Venom and Vanilla opens with Alena, who is the owner of a successful bakery, ill with an incurable disease. One that is passed to humans by Supes. Supernaturals who aren't supposed to be this far south. They were contained behind the wall, supposedly to keep humans safe from them. But Alena contracts the disease anyway. She is given a choice, to either waste away and eventually die, or to become a supernatural being, and all that entails. Alena fights for a bit, but eventually gives in, and allows herself to be transformed.
When she wakes up, she notices that she can still pass for human, something many supes can't do any longer. But then, Alena is special. Nobody knows just what she is, only that she's not your run of the mill supe.
Eventually, Alena learns that she's an ancient and powerful creature, one who has powers far beyond those of regular supes. And a creature that the Gods want to kill. Yes, there are Gods. Roman Gods are brought into the mix, in a strange twist. So Alena has to deal with learning the powers she has, all while fighting Roman Gods.
It's a fun book, not particularly deep, but fun. There are some serious problems with Alena, the fact that she speaks like a teenage valley girl, as opposed to a successful businesswoman in her 30's is just one of them. The characters aren't particularly well developed, there isn't any motivation for them, and Alena being summoned to fight Achilles is just...odd, jarring. I didn't like it, but I didn't dislike it either. It just seemed "meh". So I can't really recommend it, but I won't really steer you away from it. Unless you're just starting to read paranormal/urban fiction. In that case, this would be a really bad early taste of a genre that can be very, very good.
I did receive an ARC of this book from the publisher.