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Alexander Lucard RSS Feed (Arlington, VA)

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Billy Martin: Baseball's Flawed Genius
Billy Martin: Baseball's Flawed Genius
by Bill Pennington
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.78

4.0 out of 5 stars I do love baseball and biographies though so I thought this would ..., March 24, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm not a Yankee fan. I'm a Phillies and Mariners fan. I do love baseball and biographies though so I thought this would be a fun read. All I really knew about Mr. Martin before this biography was his multiple firings by Steinbrenner, his guest timekeeping at the first WrestleMania and his public brawling. This book let me know pretty much every aspect of Martin down to a shockingly minute detail. This was one of the most in-depth baseball player biographies I've ever read and it was a lot of fun. Of course, at over 500 pages, the book would have to be thorough.

I do feel the author lets Martin off the hook a lot instead of pointing the figure at the subject material. At times the book felt like the author was so starstruck with Martin that he gave him a free pass on all the negative things he had done in his career and/or life. Instead the finger and blame are pointed everywhere but Martin. That's really the only flaw I can say about the book though because the narrative style was fun and I enjoyed learning all sorts of things about Martin from his sixteen years as a player down to the man's death. The author also ends the book with commentary that Martin isn't in the Hall of Fame and should be even though his behavior is a parallel to why Pete Rose isn't in the Hall of Fame (but the Author ignores this citing Martin's Alcoholism shouldn't be a factor for denying him entry...even though Rose's gambling addiction is. Oy - hypocritical much? You can't have it both ways. Pick one stance or the other).

Aside from minor quibbles over the author's fanboyism for his subject, this is a wonderful book. The author states it took him thirty years of research to write, and you can tell. Again, I'm far from a Yankees fan, but I loved reading this. So much history and personality in a single subject and I'm sure I will pick this up again some day.

Olay Fresh Effects Clear Skin 1-2-3 Acne Solution System Kit
Olay Fresh Effects Clear Skin 1-2-3 Acne Solution System Kit
Price: $18.69
7 used & new from $18.59

4.0 out of 5 stars A review from my wife, March 23, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’ve tried a couple of “acne control systems” in the past with not much luck. But since I’m a huge fan of the Fresh Effects line by Olay, I decided to go ahead and give this kit a shot. I folded the kit into my regular skin care routine, along with my PanOxyl Foaming Cleanser in the morning and Fresh Effects Dew Over skin cream at night. I know from past experience that using only salicylic acid products doesn’t work for me, and because I know that even my oily skin needs a moisture boost at night to keep it looking good.

For the purposes of full disclosure, my complete routine is as follows:


PanOxyl benzoyl peroxide foaming cleanser

Olay Fresh Effects Clear Skin Swirled Mattifier

After work:

Merle Norman Cleansing Cream (to remove makeup)

Olay Fresh Effects Clear Skin Swirled Mattifier

Before bed:

Olay Acne Hater Deep Scrub

Olay Spot Zinger everywhere I have spots/bumps

Olay Fresh Effects Dew Over moisturizer

Now, let’s look at each product in the kit.

The Swirled Mattifier is my favorite product out of the three. It’s a slightly green-tinted moisturizer for oily skin that helps reduce oil, reduce the appearance of large pores, and conceal redness. I absolutely love this under makeup as my foundation goes on super smooth. But it’s also great on its own or under the Olay Fresh Effects BB Cream (which is a little too heavy for my skin without it). On its own, it helps even out my skin tone and keeps shine at bay, without leaving my skin feeling tight or dry. Used under the BB cream, it allows me to get the sunscreen benefits of the BB without the overly greasy feel that most sunscreens leave on my skin. It also leaves the skin with a cool, tingly feeling. I will most certainly buy this product again.

The Acne Hater Deep Scrub is a foaming cleanser with scrubbing beads. I like that it provides gentle daily exfoliation while I cleanse. That allows me to skip this step most days per week! It seems to clean the skin very well, but (like most foaming cleansers, honestly) I wouldn’t rely on it to remove my makeup. Using it once per day didn’t dry my face out or leave it flakey like some acne cleansers. I would certainly consider buying it again in the future.

The Spot Zinger treatment worked better than I expected. I used it mostly around my cheeks and chin, and it cleared up some mild bumps and splotchiness really quickly, when nothing else had. I also started smoothing over my nose, where I tend to get black heads. It didn’t eliminate them, but they do seem to be less noticeable. For the last couple of days, I’ve started applying it to the little blackheads on my forehead; no improvement yet, but we’ll see. Using it just once per day didn’t cause too much dryness or flakiness for me. I would also consider buying this again.

The bottom line is that this is a great deal especially at the Amazon price. If salicylic acid is already your treatment of choice, or if you’d like to incorporate it into your current acne control regimen, this is a great way to try all three of these products without breaking the bank even if you only end up permanently adding only one or two to your regular routine.

The Gourmet Mexican Kitchen- A Cookbook: Bold Flavors For the Home Chef
The Gourmet Mexican Kitchen- A Cookbook: Bold Flavors For the Home Chef
by Shannon Bard
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.92
44 used & new from $11.90

5.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Mexican Cookbook, March 22, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My favorite Mexican chef is Patti Jinich (whose cookbook Pati's Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking can be found here on Amazon), Shannon Bard really impressed me with "The Gourmet Mexican Kitchen." I had never heard of Ms. Bard before this book but I absolutely devoured it with as much zeal as I did some of the recipes I made with it. Recipes, techniques and food descriptions are all laid out clearly and easily. Even if you somehow have avoided Mexican style cuisine your whole life, this cookbook will help you to make some excellent food with only a little bit of prep work.

Everything in this cookbook is fantastic. My wife was disappointed that there was only a single recipe for tamales in the cookbook (and since it was for pork, it won't be one we will probably ever make), but that is perhaps the only negative thing I can say about this cookbook. There are nine different salsa recipes alone, ranging from the commonly found roasted tomatillo salsa to the outside the box "Sesame and Peanut Salsa," which was amazing. Many of these recipes like grilled corn, Mexican hot chocolate, clay pot black beans and the like are fairly well known to people who do a lot of Mexican-influenced cooking, but don't think for a second that this cook book is just a bunch of rehashed recipes that you can find anywhere else. In this cookbook you will find dishes like lobster tacos, some excellent fish recipes, barbequed lamb and a mole duck. There are so many great recipes and I love how it includes a variety variety of dishes, from the traditional/commonly made, to things you might not think of as being cooked in a Mexican style or used at all in Latin American dishes.

I can't recommend "The Gourmet Mexican Kitchen" enough. It's a fantastic addition to any collection and this cookbook will fit nicely alongside my Rick Bayless and Pati Jinich books.

PNY 480GB CS1111 internal 2.5 inch SATA III Value Solid State Drive (SSD7CS1111-480-RB)
PNY 480GB CS1111 internal 2.5 inch SATA III Value Solid State Drive (SSD7CS1111-480-RB)
Price: $179.99
27 used & new from $171.44

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Solid State Drive, March 18, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
With a MSRP for $169.99 for 480GB, the PNY CS1111 is an excellent choice for those looking to pick up a decent Solid State Drive. The price and size is inline with those from other companies like Samsung. I found it very easy to install in my desktop (As a backup drive for my most important files), but if you've never put together or modified your own computer, you should try and find an external solid state drive. Of course, then you're missing out on the best reasons to have a SSD, such as up to 10x faster speeds than HDD (traditional hard drives) and the fact they use less power, but hey. Alternatively you can get someone else to install this for you, be they Geek Squad or a more tech savvy friend who will luckily do this for you (although a bribe of food and beverages may be applicable).

This drive is certainly faster than my two 1 TB HDD drives I have in my gaming gig, but it's also less than have the size of either. Trying to get 1 or 2 TB in SDD is a lot pricier than most people can (or want to) pay for a hard drive, so for right now, if you have a lot of music, games or digital media on your computer, a SDD like this might be best as a backup or supplementary hard drive. For those of you who don't take up a lot of space on your hard drive, this is a great replacement for the HDD. It's faster, more energy efficient, quieter and most importantly, less likely to lose everything if it takes a hit (such as from a falling laptop). This particular SSD from PNY can indeed be installed on either a laptop or a desktop, making it versatile choice, as well as an inexpensive one, for those looking to convert from SSD to HDD (or just looking to replace/upgrade to a new SDD if they already have an older one).

I've had this particular SDD for a week. I'll have to post an update to this review at the 90 day, six month and year mark (Remind me!) especially as the warranty on this model is only for a year (or three years if you register on with also sorts of personal demographic information). It'll be interesting to see how this reacts to wear and tear.

The Scarlet Gospels
The Scarlet Gospels
by Clive Barker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.88

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Scarlet Gospels is a must read for many, but a must own for very few., March 10, 2015
This review is from: The Scarlet Gospels (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I’ve always been a huge fan of Clive Barker’s writing, comics and movies. Chief amongst them all has been Hellraiser. I loved the first two movies and even some of the bad ones have shining moments – generally due to the incredible portrayal of the lead Cenobite, Pinhead by Doug Bradley. The novella the franchise was based on, The Hellbound Heart was an excellent read, but notably different from the movie in many ways. Still, I devoured it. When I was in High School I discovered the Hellraiser put out by Epic, an imprint from Marvel Comics. These were amazing. Not only did Barker give these comics his blessing, but some of the best authors and artists in the industry teamed up to give their take on the Cenobites and the work of Phillip LeMarchand. Neil Gaimain and Dave McKean’s Wordsworth for example, taught me the word Coprophilia and that human flesh tasted like pork. I even owned a Lament Configuration. Mike Mignolia, the Warchoskis and even Clive Barker himself contributed to the series, creating characters, terminology and a mythology that outgrew even the movies and is still referenced to this day. This series would be followed up by three successive BOOM! Comics series. While not as good as the Epic run, the BOOM! Comics were a lot of fun and gave us an entirely new continuity separate from the Epic line and saw both Kirsty Cotton and Harry D’Amour play major roles at enemies and even unwilling allies of Pinhead and his master, Leviathan.

On the flip side we have Harry D’Amour. I enjoyed The Last Illusion from Books of Blood and his cameo in The Great and Secret Show but his was Barker’s novel Everville where the character really took center stage as Barker’s main protagonist. To be honest, I always well D’Amour was like John Constantine-lite as a kid and it wasn’t until Barker’s own cinematic adaption of The Last Illusion into Lord of IllusionsQuantum Leap fans) and Kevin O’Connor and Famke Janssen were fantastic too. Of course, one can’t deny the incredible job done by the recently departed Daniel Von Bargen as Nyx either. It was this film that I think best showcases Barker’s love for Harry D’Amour and what the character is all about. I feel a little dirty recommending the movie over one of Barker’s novels but he DID write the screenplay for Lord of Illusions so it’s not like I’m saying something horrifying like Hellraiser: Hellworld is better than The Hellbound Heart. It’s not. Laugh at anyone who thinks that by the way.

I bring all of this up because the book I am reviewing today, The Scarlet Gospels is something Clive Barker has been trying to write for a decade and a half. It is the story of Pinhead Vs. Harry D’Amour. An ultimate act of fan service in every way, The Scarlet Gospels is something I first remember hearing about in the late 90s or early 00’s and have never stopped wanting to see the final product. Well I was sent an advance review copy and completely devoured it. Of course, technically this meeting has already happened in the Boom! Comics and so I re-read them on a flight from Washington D.C. to Seattle to see if this would be a sequel or novelization of the comics – especially since the press blurb that came with the book mentioned a companion comic book mini-series to go with the novel.

Surprisingly to me, the Boom! Comics are a completely different continuity from the book. Indeed, every version of these characters that has come before The Scarlet Gospels are not part of the continuity or canon of this book. It is unaffiliated with the movie, either comic run or even previous takes on the characters from Barker’s own books. This Pinhead here is not the same one I read about in The Hellbound Heart twenty years ago (and many, many times thereafter) and the same can be said for D’Amour. This is an alternate universe of sorts where the two franchise characters have different pasts and personalities than have been written for them. For all intents and purposes, these are two VERY different characters that just happen to have the same name and physical appearance of ones you have read before. If you go into The Scarlet Gospels not knowing or accepting this, you will be disappointed, confused, angry, lost or some combination of the aforementioned feelings. I had to read the book a second time without any of my preconceived notions or prejudices in place to appreciate the book for what it was. So if you expect this to be Doug Bradley vs Scott Bakula or any other take on D’Amour and Pinhead, DON’T. You are just setting yourself up for sadness. You might actually be better off if this is your first exposure to both characters as you will be reading the book for what it is and not for the hype you have built up for yourself.

That said there are numerous references to previous incarnations of these characters besides their names and appearances. However they are homages or subtle wink’s to completionists and/or the most hardcore Barker fans. You’ll see the term “Harrowers” come up for D’Amour’s group of hellblazing (literally) companions. This term was originated by Barker in the Epic Comics Hellraiser continuity back in the 90s as a group of humans that actively fight Cenobites. It also shows up in the Boom! Series under the leadership of Kirsty Cotton, with the same purpose, but very different characters and motivations. Cenobites like Chatterer and Butterball get cameos but much like Pinhead, they have completely different personalities and backgrounds. There is a very vague “read it too fast and you’ll miss it” reference to Nyx, but that is really it. These references, homages and subtle bits of fan service are meant to be rewards to Barker’s most devoted fans – almost a puzzle of their own for you to piece together on some level. However, by having completely different characterization, backgrounds, personalities and continuity from the earlier takes on these characters, the assorted references serve to confuse or taunt readers more than reward them. Perhaps paying to close attention to them is akin to wielding the Lament Configuration. Pleasure and pain all in one downward spiral.

There are huge differences in The Scarlet Gospels continuity that you need to be aware of two. First, Pinhead is not Pinhead in name. No, Pinhead is an insulting term that only serves to antagonist the lead antagonist. Indeed the character is never truly name (despite Barker’s promises on social media that this would take place). Instead he is referred to as simply a Cenobite or the Hell Priest, both of which there are many. Here the Cenobites are a religious order in hell, akin to Dominican Friars or whatever analogy serves you best. They are not angels to some, demons to other. They are simply a class of hell’s residents, nothing more and nothing less. As well, Hell is extremely different from not only any other version of the Hellraiser mythos, but any take Barker has done before. This is not the cold logical labyrinth of Leviathan. Nor is it the realm of feces, filth and flesh that we have seen from Barker before. In fact Hell in The Scarlet Gospels is described as a mixture of a weird parody of ancient Rome and the Midwest/Bible belt. It’s just instead of humans like you or I, the everyday joes are demons. Also spiders, flies and cockroaches are like ten times bigger than in our world. The hell is this book is essentially Earth. Only a few demons like the Hell Priest display any supernatural abilities. They bleed, poop, feel pain, cry and die exactly like a human. They just look different. For some, this will be a huge letdown or a disappointment. For others it will work really well because in many ways Barker is saying Hell is a state of mind. I have to admit I prefer the Leviathan based version of Hell to this one or the multi-layered one in the Boom Hellraiser comics, but this was an interesting take and as long as you check decades of preconceptions and previous continuities at the door (Cover?), you will enjoy this. If you want something more akin to the movies or comics, you will HATE this take on hell.

It’s also worth noting here than Pinhead is not the silver tongue one-liner spewer than Doug Bradley has made him into. He is not an alluring anti-hero at times, terrifying creature beyond human fathoming the next. Instead, this Cenobite that bears the visage of the movie Pinhead (but not that of The Hellbound Heart lead cenobite – different “pins”). Instead he is pretty much a religiously zealous thug. He is prone to acts of simple wanton violence throughout the book. He is more one to use fists and feet rather than meathook and verbiage to best his enemies. The hooks do come into play on rare occasion in the book, but more to trap people in locations or on himself. (Again, this is a not any Pinhead you have encountered before. Think of it all the Steve Jacksons in the world, some of whom even look alike.) D’Amour is also more physically and verbally aggressive than in previous incarnations. He is more likely to hit a demon than use his renowned cunning and experience to defeat it. In some ways, the two lead characters of The Scarlet Gospels are as if they are viewed through the lens of director Michael Bay rather than their classic 90s incarnation. Which again is fine if you go into the novel knowing this. Longtime fans of the Doug Bradley version of Pinhead will most likely be angry or disgusted by how base and unimaginative his acts of violence are here.

So now that we have rid ourselves of all the preconceptions from previous incarnations of Barker’s characters, canon and continuity, we can begin to talk about the actual Scarlet Gospels novel itself. The novel is essentially an excuse to pit a new version of Pinhead against a new version of D’amour against each other. That much is painstakingly and transparently obvious. You know what though, fan service can be exceptionally well done sometimes. Look at the classic 80’s X-Men Vs. The Teen Titans. That was a terrific graphic novel that still holds up today. I’m not sure about The Scarlet Gospels though because while it is a good read, it is a novel far removed from what nearly everyone expected which is going to cause some fan rage.

The novel begins with Pinhead slowly but surely killing all of Earth’s mages and harvesting their secrets and artifacts for his own use. The novel begins with the setup of something reminiscent of the cinematic version of the character, but it quickly changes gears to show you that this is a completely different Pinhead in all ways but visual appearance. Meanwhile Harry D’Amour’s side of the novel involves flashbacks to his young adulthood and time as a cop until he is contacted by a ghost with a mission for him. That missions brings Pinhead and D’Amour together for the first time in THIS universe, although as mentioned they interacted a lot in the BOOM! Hellraiser comic series and in an excised chapter of this book where the two meet during Harry’s childhood at a boarding religious school. The only reference to that point in Harry’s life is a trite bit of him being raped/molested there. I should go off tangent and bring up that roughly half the book’s original page count is missing from the final version of The Scarlet Gospels including many things and events Barker has talked about publicly for a decade. Whether that has hurt or hindered the book we will never know unless a “Director’s Cut.” People who have been following the saga of this book will definitely notice that it feels expurgated or like there are huge gaps in the narrative and characterization, while those who aren’t ardent followers of all things Barkers will enjoy the book for what it is rather than lament on all the cool stuff that has fallen to the wayside. There is a secret song in the center of this book and its sound is like razors through flesh…or an editor’s red marker through the original draft of this text.

For some reason Pinhead really wants D’Amour. Not dead mind you, but for a very important mission. Why does it have to be D’Amour? The book never gives a reason why. Perhaps the missing chapters that explain Pinhead’s ties to a young Harry would clear this up, but because of their absence we are left with no reason at all save that the author has deemed D’Amour to be of incomparable value to the Hell Priest. You just have to go with it. Much like many aspects of the novel. This is not great literature, but it is still fun. Repeat the credo of MST3K while reading this book except replace the word “film” with “book.”

So what is this mission the unnamed Cenobite is on? I don’t want to give any real spoilers but let us say he is on a religious pilgrimage of sorts. Pinhead seeks his maker and to utterly change the landscape of Hell. Unfortunately this means Harry and a group of his friends are along for the ride. Half of the book is setup for the journey to hell and the other half is surviving and escaping it. Like any Barker book, not all of the humans that accompany Harry make it out of hell unscathed, but this hell is far more banal than what you would expect. There is no madness and torment everlasting to be had – nor even some Lovecraftian awareness about reality and man’s place within it. No, as mentioned earlier, Hell is just another place in the universe. It is no more or no less frightening than a trip to the moon or less sanity taxing than what super heroes face in their four color monthly pulp magazines.

It must be said that The Scarlet Gospels is NOT a horror novel. Anyone that tells you it is, is not only wrong, but they obviously haven’t read the book. At no point will you be horrified or terrified by the events that take place in these pages. You might feel a bit of repulsion or disgust from the occasional light description of gore and rape, but Barker does not go overboard in these areas and leaves much of it to the imagination of the reader. You will not be scared or have nightmares from this book. Again, The Scarlet Gospels is not a horror novel and at no point does it try to be. The book is closer to a dark adventure/fantasy hybrid but in truth the book is primarily a character study of the two main characters. Much of the book is spent inside the heads of Harry and the Hell Priest. It is a look at what makes them tick and drives them to the insane extreme actions they take. This is an in-depth look at two very different beings and what makes them who they are. The Scarlet Gospels is about as much a Horror Novel as Dowton Abbey or the film Amadeus. In both of those aforementioned products you have vividly described scenery, occasional bits of gore, some death and of course, terrible people doing terrible things, but the core is about the drama and relationship between characters. Amadeus is perhaps a really good analogy for The Scarlet Gospels, but it’s up to you which character is Mozart and which is Salieri. I would say the roles switch regularly between D’Amour and Pinhead until the climax of the book when Pinhead is most definitely Salieri, a new “diabolus ex machina” takes on the role of Mozart and Harry is kind of left as a narrator/confessor to the whole affair. If you go into The Scarlet Gospels expecting Barker’s usual horror writing style, you will not know what to make of this book. If you go in thinking more along the lines of his fantasy or wanting to see Barker really focus on the mindset and personalities of two distinct characters more much of his word count, you will be quite impressed by what is here. Again, this is NOT a horror novel nor scary in anyway. This is not a bad thing, just a continuing trend within the book of it being something completely different from what the target audience is both expecting and wanting. This is a well-written, disturbing and imaginative novel, but it is more in line with the morality plays of “olden tymes” than the horror and viscera one normally associates with Barker’s name.

In the end, neither D’Amour nor the Hell Priest make it out of The Scarlet Gospels in any form close to what they started the book. I will tease you with the revelation that one doesn’t make it out alive, while the other is given an entirely new outlook on life by the other. Both characters also get what they primarily wanted out of this little adventure in hell, although the core of the novel seems to be “what you thought you wanted doesn’t always turn out to be the case once you have it.”

So is The Scarlet Gospels worth purchasing? That’s hard to say. I’ve read the book twice now and had two different reactions to the piece. If you are a Hellraiser fan, you will be disappointed by the portrayal of Pinhead here, doubly so because it is Barker of all people turning the character into something far different from how he has ever written him before. That said, this is because it IS a far different take on Pinhead than Barker has ever written before, outside any of the previous continuities. You may be better off sticking with the films and comics. The same can be said for readers who are passionate about Harry D’Amour. This is not the same D’Amour by any stretch of the imagination and so the more you love the character, the less you will probably like the version of him presented in the book here. If you are new to Barker or his most famous creations, you will probably enjoy this book far more as you are free of preconceptions of how they should be. Those new to Barker will find this to be an entertaining dark fantasy affair where the emphasis is more on the inner workings of the protagonist and antagonist than any action of long running trend of death and violence. The Scarlet Gospels is going to be a very polarizing piece, not just for Barker fans, but for fans of the different franchises spawned by Barker’s imagination. One of the times I read the book I was profoundly disappointed because it was nothing like what I felt it should have been. Then I read the book forcing myself to divorce myself from all that I know about the characters and how Barker usually writes and I found myself really liking the story for what it is. The one thing that both reads had in common though was the fact it felt like there were huge chunks of the book missing, which in fact, there are. I would love to have an unedited version before the editors got a hold of this. As such I can’t say The Scarlet Gospels is amongst Barker’s best works, but it is also by no means in his worst. It is a compelling and entertaining read, but I’m not sure who the target audience for this actually is because if anything, The Scarlet Gospels will polarize many a fan to argue with each other across the Internet about the pros and cons of this novel. My best advice would be to try the novel and if you don’t like it, get the BOOM! Comic series for Barker’s take on Pinhead Vs. D’Amour in the Hellraiser continuity. You might like that better, especially if you’re strongly attached to the Doug Bradley version of Pinhead. All in all, I would say The Scarlet Gospels is a must read for many, but a must own for very few.

I’m going to give the book a 3/5 here on Amazon – not because the book is mediocre, but because of the polarizing effect it will have on Pinhead/D’Amour fans. I enjoyed it for what it is, but I can see a lot of people hating it for a multitude of reasons. Pain and pleasure, indivisible with only the reader’s perceptions and taste determining which side one falls on. In many ways The Scarlet Gospels is a Cenobite itself
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 19, 2015 6:50 AM PDT

Nivea Lip Care Butter Carded Tin, Cocoa Butter Kiss, .59 Ounce, (Pack of 6)
Nivea Lip Care Butter Carded Tin, Cocoa Butter Kiss, .59 Ounce, (Pack of 6)
Price: $17.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic lip balm, March 1, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Fantastic lip balm. Would definitely purchase this product. There was no irritation or dryness. It worked great, especially overnight when our home gets very dry during the winter. The only issue was that it was difficult to open, but it could just be my particular container.

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, 2.5 fl. oz.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, 2.5 fl. oz.
Price: $105.00

1.0 out of 5 stars There has been no reduction in my fine lines, no change in firmness or texture, February 21, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This product had a strike against it before I ever took it out of the box: There were no instructions on how to use it. Not on the box, not on the bottle. And the instructions on the product’s website were different from those on the product’s Amazon page.

The product’s Amazon page says that it “Reduces the appearance of wrinkles and significantly improves skin texture, firmness and radiance.” I’ve used more than half the bottle now, and I can’t see any difference in my skin. None. There has been no reduction in my fine lines, no change in firmness or texture, and I’m not any more radiant than I was. The best I can say is that the product doesn’t seem to have hurt me; there haven’t been any more breakouts, no blotchiness, no allergic reactions. It’s done…nothing. It’s just an extra (and very expensive) step in my skin care routine and nothing more.

I can’t recommend this to anyone. Save your money. For this price, you can get a professional facial at a good spa/salon that would probably do you much more good.

L'Oreal Paris Infallible Smokissime Powder Eye Liner, Black Smoke 701, 0.032 Ounce
L'Oreal Paris Infallible Smokissime Powder Eye Liner, Black Smoke 701, 0.032 Ounce
Price: $6.99
6 used & new from $6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars My wife is not a fan..., February 5, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Infallible Smokissime is supposed to be a “gel-powder” eyeliner with a “precision foam tip for easy application.” I didn’t find that to be the case, unfortunately.

First of all, the “precision” foam tip is huge. This is more like an eye crayon than an eye liner. I couldn’t line my bottom lid at all (and I’ve been lining all the way around for more years than I care to count) without looking like a raccoon who’d been punched in the eye. Even when going for a thick cat eye on my top lid, I found the tip to be anything but precise, giving me a nice taper on one eye and a big splotch on the other.

The product is in the cap so once you do one eye you have to put the lid back on to get more product. This felt clunky to me. Anyone who uses pencil eyeliners isn’t used to the extra step. I found myself reaching automatically for the other eye, only to see that little or nothing was getting applied.

The “gel-powder” formula has a slight greasy feel to it. So I didn’t feel comfortable using it as a shadow over my whole lid. I can use it on just the extreme outer corners of my eye and then lining over it. It gives a nice accent to a smoky eye that way. I won’t get the product again, but this gives me a way to use what’s left.

Scharffen Berger Assorted Tasting Squares Gift Box
Scharffen Berger Assorted Tasting Squares Gift Box
Price: $20.22

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent gift for those who love both wine and chocolate., February 5, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
While I am not a wine drinker, my wife is, so she really enjoyed the wine pairing and trying different wines with the sixty-four pieces of chocolate that came in this gift box. I however, just enjoyed the chocolate. I did think the short wine tasting guide included with the set was well written and helpful to those less familiar with pairing wines to a specific food product.

The current price on Amazon for the gift box at the time this review is being written is $21.23 for the sixty-four pieces. That comes out roughly to 33 cents per chocolate. That's an excellent value considering you're getting actual chocolate rather than something that is more wax than cocoa. As well, all but sixteen pieces are dark chocolate which just makes this a better deal since dark chocolate tends to be more expensive than milk. I will say that the dark chocolate is the reason to pick up this basket. All three kinds (Extra Dark, Bittersweet and Semisweet) were fantastic. The milk chocolate was our least favorite, but it was still better than the usual M&M/Mars, Hersey or Nestle bars you get in North America.

My wife liked this gift box so much she's done a subscribe and save on Scharffen Berger chocolates here on Amazon so she can do the pairing regularly. She did get the option without the milk chocolate though but again, there's nothing wrong with the milk pieces in this set. We just prefer dark chocolate as a household.

MetRX Prime Nutrition Bar, Strawberries and Cream, 6 Count
MetRX Prime Nutrition Bar, Strawberries and Cream, 6 Count
Offered by GRPerks
Price: $20.82
9 used & new from $14.41

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The MetRX Bars are pretty good for you, January 20, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The MetRX Bars are pretty good for you. They're only 200 calories, have half your day's fiber requirement and a good amount of both protein and calcium. These are a fine nutrition bar if that's all you care about.

The problem is the taste. These bars do not taste good - at all. They taste like someone heated up a strawberry Charleston Chew (Do they even still make those) so that the texture is EVEN worse than that candy. I can't honestly say I'd purchase this flavor again but I would consider a different one.

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