Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Music Review - Lady GaGa: "Born This Way"

In many ways Lady GaGa reminds me of M. Night Shyamalamadingdong. When "The Sixth Sense" came out, people--yours truly included--applauded his originality and couldn't wait for the next pile of shit he'd fart out. We were riveted by what twist we'd see next. And as some of us gobbled up "Unbreakable", then "Signs", then "The Village", we began to drop off like flies. Would his biggest twist have been no twist at all? I think so. Lady Gaga could only benefit by taking some notes.

In many ways M. Night Shyamalan reminds me of Lady GaGa. When "The Fame" came out, people--yours truly included--applauded her originality and couldn't wait for the next oozy dance-track she'd poop out of her plastic-lined, rainbow-colored keister. We were riveted by what kind of fucked-up outfit we'd see next. And some of us gobbled up "The Fame Monster", then "Born This Way". That's right. "Born This Way" is Lady GaGa's "Signs". I have not tested if it can also be killed with water.

Some of our old love for Lady GaGa is still in this album. Each beat is poppy and slick, none of the tracks inspiring me to press the skip button. Unfortunately, they don't really inspire much of anything. Don't get me wrong, I found some of "The Fame" to be lacking as well. But that album bore out some damn infectious hits and I don't see any of that here. "Born This Way", the title track, is pretty much a rip-off homage of Madonna's "Express Yourself". I think most people know that and it's actually okay because GaGa does her own thang. It's catchy and listenable, heads and tails above the rest. I really like "Government Hooker", "Heavy Metal Lover", and "Electric Chapel", too, but not quite as much. "Just Dance" from "The Fame" still kicks all of their asses before school and takes their lunch money.

I'd like GaGa to be less daring when comes to costuming and put just as much adventure into her actual music. This album seems determined to showcase Lady GaGa's vocal limitations. She repeats the same words so often you'd think someone taught a parrot to imitate Lady GaGa and it put out this album. Come on, GaGa, you already did this repetitious thing with your last two albums. (Or one and a half if you prefer.) Someone give this woman a meat thesaurus.

There doesn't feel like there's any variety in the sound of this music either. Many of these songs sound like the same damn song with minor differences. She is electro-pop's answer to Nickelback. I wish she had just dialed it back for some of this stuff. You don't have to sing that loud or use a synthesizer all the time. "The Queen" and "Marry The Night" sound like they're going to be something different and then someone decided they needed to be noisy and obnoxious instead.

Thematically, "Born This Way" the album feels superficial. There's religion, fashion, and people being who they are and special and loving themselves or some shit like that. Big whoop. We GET it already: you were BORN THAT WAY. I picture the brainstorm session for this: people, Red One, and GaGa around table that looks like a giant egg covered with purple spots and wondering what words sound cool when repeated by chic gays in teh club.

Finally, that cover's ugly. Why didn't she ask her monsters for help? I've seen fanpages made by fourteen-year-olds edgier-looking than that... back in, like, 1999.

P.S. Stay out of Seinfeld's box.

Average album, average rating. 3 out of 5 acorns.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Review: The Heir From Nowhere

Heh, heh, come on, you and I know he came from somewhere. *snort* Straight from the back:
"You don't know me, but I'm having your baby."
Don't you fellas hate it when that happens?
Dominic Pirelli's carefully ordered world falls apart when a female stranger phones with staggering news: an IVF clinic mix-up means she is carrying the baby that he and his late wife dreamed of having! Though he distrusts her motives, Dominic is determined to keep waiflike Angelina Cameron close. Taking her to his luxury home, the hardened tycoon reluctantly begins to admire Angie's strength and gentle beauty as her body swells with the precious life inside her. But when their baby is born, who will have custody of the Pirelli heir?
Both of them, of course. The book can't end any other way!

Firstly, I must applaud this book for being one of several new books by Harlequin where someone with a brain finally decided to have names that don't have "billionaire", "mistress", and "secret baby" in the title. Also, that cover actually looks like how I pictured these people, depicting them in the pool. Yay for having an event that actually happens in the book.

Author Trish Morey has written a romance novel that won't have you plucking out your eyes or, to use a more realistic reaction, throwing the book across the wall in fury. She presents two flawed people who manage to both be kinda likable.

Heroine Angie Cameron is down on her luck. Her rat of a husband is leaving her and taking all of her good shit and half of her home. Angie and her husband used an IVF clinic but her hubby called it the last straw on their strained marriage when the clinic gave Angie the wrong embryo and she decided to have the baby anyway. As we learn later, Angie was once an abortion possibility herself and she doesn't want to deny the baby a right to live. Fair enough. No, but really, whether you're pro-choice or pro-life, you will agree this boner is a total jerkwad. So she contacts the would-be daddy so the baby can live with his or her natural family after entering the world.

Dominic Pirelli is handsome and rich like most of these Harlequin alpha-male bastards. However, he started out poor, living a scant neighborhood or so away from despondent Angie's current location. He has a somewhat tragic past and hopes by making a lot of money, he can help the people he loves. Unfortunately, the poor fellow ends up losing everyone along the way. This chap just can't catch a break. And his outlook doesn't improve when the IVF clinic admits their whoopsie. Yowch.

So when Angie contacts Dom, he thinks "oh no, this chick just wants to sell me my baby back." She looks sick and poor and while he can't fault her for the poor part, the sick is something else. Dom's deceased wife—that's right, the baby-mama's dead—had an eating disorder and died from it. And poor Dom's all "sigh, not this shit again."

Through a sequence of events, Dom gets to know her little by little and decides his best course of action is for his baby to grow somewhere safe: his giant-ass beach-side mansion. Hey, sounds good to me. So he moves Angie in and the whole growing-closer-together thing begins.

This book never felt like it had a slow spot and every part serves a purpose whether it be in the over-all plot or establishing the characters in the book. Dom's PA Simone seemed a little useless but that was only because I initially expected her to have a slightly larger role in the book. I actually wouldn't mind if she appeared in an equally superfulous role in several different Trish Morey books. Kinda like that Richard Scarry book "Postman Pig and His Busy Neighbors" where you had to look for that pickle in each picture. Ms. Morey, make Simone your pickle!

All in all, this book didn't really stay with me but it was an enjoyable read. Not too much drama and two leads who seemed to be decent people. Because I would've liked a slightly bigger moment to come along and complete the book—we were a little luke-warm here—I'm taking off a tiny sliver of acorn. Also calling the kid AC-DC wasn't cool. That poor child.

4.75 out 5 acorns. ¾

Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review: The Eleventh Son

From book description:
On one of his missions, Xiao (the Eleventh Son, known as the Great Bandit) meets Shen, the fairest woman in the martial world. By the will of fate, he rescues Shen several times, which plants the seed of love in both of them. However, Shen is married to a rich young man who is also an outstanding martial artist. As if things were not complicated enough, Xiao has his own secret admirer, Feng, an attractive swordswoman with a quick temper.

Xiao is drawn into a messy fight for a legendary saber, the Deer Carver, and is accused of stealing it. Xiao finds out that the person who has set him up is a mysterious young man with an angel’s face and a devil’s heart. Before he can pursue any further, Shen’s grandmother is murdered, and Xiao is named the killer. It appears that things are spinning out of control…
"The Eleventh Son" is a wuxia novel written by prolific Chinese novelist Gu Long, who wrote over sixty novels before dying at age 48 in 1985 from too much drinky-drinky. To my knowledge, "The Eleventh Son" is the only one officially translated into English. For those of you unfamiliar with the wuxia genre, wuxia stories are based in the times of long ago, chronicling the adventures of Chinese martial artists bound by honor and full of secret fighting styles and techniques. My usual example when explaining wuxia is to say wuxia stories are the book version of the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", which in turn based on the fourth book of the Crane-Iron wuxia series by Wang Dulu. [And surprise-surprise, it's not published in English either.]

"The Eleventh Son" has a great start, the story opening with the reader meeting Feng. Feng Seniang is beautiful, over-30, bitchy and awesome. As much as I wish the entire story were about her, she only features in the beginning and the end of the story. Boo hoo. Feng's BFF is Xiao Shiyi Lang, the titular eleventh son whose eleventhness doesn't figure squat except for the sad fact that the other ten are dead and he's oh-so-ronery. Xiao is a sinfully-clever, notorious bandit who has the misfortune of being the scapegoat of the so-called ideal gentlemen. It's not the name of their gang or anything, it's basically a group of characters in the story thought to be honorable and chivalrous. Except they're all nasty rats.

Xiao and Feng begin a mini-quest of sorts for a powerful blade called the Deer Carver, which is being escorted to Shen Manor with the aim of getting an owner. Xiao is blamed for the theft of the Deer Carver and even though he and Feng managed to steal it before the final destination, the one they swiped was an obvious cheap copy. A plot is afoot. It is later that Xiao ends up finding the person who has the real Deer Carver, a fiendish character named Little Mister. Little Mister passes for a scampish, adolescent boy but is actually a beautiful woman and never bothers to change a disguise or anything. She just manages to pass for both and dudes lust for her and shit. Yeah, I'm not touching that one.

Xiao also manages to meet Shen Bijun, a woman otherwise known the prettiest lil' piece in the martial arts world. Shen is married to Lian Chengbi, a man who is handsome, refined, reknowned, wealthy, and about as much fun as a box of paperclips. Xiao is constantly rescuing Shen and the two of them eventually form a couple destined to an ill-fated love. You will literally shake your fist as poor Shen is put through hell, with people she thought she could trust betraying her left and right. She in turn betrays Xiao more than once and you really feel for the poor guy. Although Shen's grandmother does indeed die and Xiao is blamed for it, it's really the least of their problems.

Despite the depth their feelings grow to, these two break each other's hearts again and again. The love story here is poignant and pretty much rivals any Harlequin I've ever reviewed here, making it ironic that this is also my first non-Harlequin review. The story is strong and sorrowful. That's no spoiler, you know how this will likely end. Though there is some unintentional lulz at Shen telling Lian she will not be unfaithful over and over again. Come on, lady, you're in love with another man. It really doesn't get worse than that.

At under four hundred pages, "The Eleventh Son" is a brisk read and a great introduction to wuxia for the uninitiated. It is translated by Rebecca S. Tai and is published by Homa & Sekey Books. I give it my highest recommendation.

5 acorns out of 5.