Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Music Review: Alexandra Stan - "Saxobeats"

I forget how I first heard of Romanian recording artist Alexandra Stan.  I believe I had bought a couple of songs by Edward Maya or Natalia Kills and she came up in the line of other artists bought by customers.  Either way, I'm glad she did.

Her debut, "Saxobeats" is short (considering the number of different songs totals eight) but sweet.  This is the full-listing for the digital version:

1. "Mr. Saxobeat" 
2. "Ting-Ting"
3. "Show Me the Way"
4. "Lollipop (Param Pam Pam)" 
5. "Crazy"
6. "Bitter-Sweet"
7. "Get Back (ASAP)"
8. "One Million" (featuring Carlprit)
9. "Mr. Saxobeat" (MAAN Studio Remix)
10. "Lollipop (Param Pam Pam)" (Club Version)
11. "Get Back (ASAP)" (MAAN Studio Remix)
12. "Mr. Saxobeat" (Extended Version)
13. "Get Back (ASAP)" (Extended Version)

"Mr. Saxobeat" is infectious and has that obvious Romanian-pop feel to it more than the other songs imo.  "Lollipop (Param Pam Pam)" is the second single for U.S. although it was Ms. Stan's debut single and a hit in Romania.  Someone on YouTube called it the "jacked up euro version" of "Fergalicious" and that's not completely wrong.  Still a fun song and while self-indulgent, much less so than "Fergalicious" was in my opinion.  The stand-out song for me on this release is "Crazy", which I don't see as being a single since there's already going to be four from this album and I'm not certain if this album will have more than four singles.  "Show Me The Way" is also single-worthy and I'd love to hear some serious remixes on it.  The remixes and extended versions that are here are nice to have but my ear must be lazy because I don't hear enough of a difference for it to matter other than with the club version of  "Lollipop (Param Pam Pam)".

I'll give it 4 out of 5.

Music vid for single, "Lollipop (Param Pam Pam)".  I would've have linked Mr. Saxobeat but YouTube wouldn't let me embed it:

Book Review: Doukakis's Apprentice

With her family business in crisis, Polly Prince does her best to keep calm and carry on. But hard work alone can't save her London company from a takeover by the infamously ruthless Damon Doukakis…or her traitorous body from the lethal sensuality of her boss! As his new apprentice, Polly accompanies Damon to Paris to negotiate the most challenging business deal of her life! Worse still, Polly must at all costs resist Damon in the most dangerously romantic city in the world…

A number of notes before I get to the meat of the review--as lean a cut of meat as it admittedly is:

1. The title makes me think of two different things immediately.

2. Now that I have that out of the way, Polly is not his apprentice. He accompanies her to Paris, not the other way around. And the description would be accurate if it said "father's business" instead of "family business" since Polly has no other real family. (Yes, I know she considers her staff to be family. I'll get to that.)

3. The Harlequin cover is not the worst cover ever by any means but it really makes Damon look like a sleaze coming on to a buttoned-up trollop. The Mills & Boon cover really shows more of the spirit of the book. She's wearing a fashionable little number like she does in the book and is giving him a sweet kiss befitting of her personality. And he even has a tie with pink stripes on it, which is a nice nod to some of the dialogue in the story. The backdrop for the second cover is Paris, which is far more appropriate than the London setting for the story considering the role Paris plays.

4. This book has good reviews at Amazon but one points out the book needed an editor. If you actually click on the cover over at Amazon to look inside the book, sure enough, one of the errors the reviewer pointed out ("two mugs of and a large muffin") is on the first page. I made it into a bit of a Mad Lib by adding a line next to it. Go nuts:

The reviewer also talked about how names change and in my Mills and Boon epub version both Damon's sister Arianna and his PA change to Analisa and Janey (or was that Jenny). It's certainly no fault of writer Sarah Morgan but the PA's name in particular really confused me.

I've found Sarah Morgan's stuff to be generally enjoyable even if I found "The Greek's Blackmailed Wife" maddening at times.  "Doukakis's Apprentice" thankfully goes in the non-maddening pile with "Blackmailed by Diamonds, Bound by Marriage" and the excellent "Powerful Greek, Unworldly Wife".

The main character Polly Price is an enjoyable heroine and what I liked most about her is that she seemed to be someone I would have as a friend. (And I can't say this for any other romance heroine so far.)  Polly's a quirky yet practical, accessible young lady and doesn't snivel nor stand on a soapbox and list out all of her company accomplishments to Damon despite having every right to do so. While a romance story wouldn't be a romance story without misunderstandings, none of these are the type to induce headdesk or the classic, frustrated throwing of the book into the wall. Polly's reasons make sense and she clearly did everything she could given her circumstances. Most romance heroines don't come off as being generally caring to me. The reader is usually given so much from the heroine's perspective that she comes off as batty, egotistical, or unreasonable. But not Polly. She genuinely cares about the staff at her father's company and I could feel that. Good job, Ms. Morgan.

Damon, on the other hand, is not unlikeable. However, both Ms. Morgan and the heroine Polly call this fellow out on his crap. I'm so tired of heroes deeming heroines as being over-emotional and illogical that I was happy to see this doesn't get past the radar considering he makes the most over-emotional move in the story: Damon bought Polly's father's company just to get at Polly's father for running off with Damon's sister Arianna. And he later uses Polly herself as bait.  What does she tell him?
"I suppose you're sitting there planning new methods to use me to flush my father out of hiding. I'm just a worm on a hook." All the horrors of the night before rushed down on her and Polly touched her fingers to her forehead. "Did you put a hook through my head?"
Nice one, Polly.  Also Damon is Greek but I don't see how it matters in the least. He could've been 100% English and it would've been in the same story. In any case, at least this wasn't drummed into the reader like some stories.

My only real issue with the story is the flow. It felt a little disjointed at times (although that probably isn't the right word for it) and I found myself sorely tempted to skip parts and just move along. The ending was also very sudden and this could've been better if it just moved a little slower. We jump into love and marriage at the end when this story seemed more suited to be a one of the two-book stories. Book One could've ended with declarations of love or at least the promise of a future together while Book Two could involve a hurdle Damon and Polly have to overcome before they get married. Instead, this is another single-story book where it feels like it all had to be shoe-horned in when other parts earlier in the story could've been shortened or removed to expand on the ending.

I give "Doukakis's Apprentice" 4.5 out of 5 acorns. Not perfect, but close.