Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review & #Giveaway - Peanut Butter Flavored SmartBones

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I adore my dog Reese.  She is a member of the family and she takes care of me as much as I take care of her.  I do everything that I can to ensure that she is happy and healthy.  When my husband and I visit a pet store, he can mention a brand name and I will rant off reasons why she will not be eating their food or treats.  He knows how important it is that I do my research so that Reese only gets the best.

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When I heard about SmartBones, I went to work finding out everything I could about the brand and products.  I learned that SmartBones are made with real chicken breasts and are fortified with vitamins and minerals.  They are veterinarian approved and easy for dogs to digest.  The most important thing to me was that they are safe and rawhide free.  I used to feed her raw-hide bones but she hasn't had one since I learned that vets do not recommend rawhide.  This is because there are concerns when it comes to the animal being able to digest rawhide.  There is also a concern of choking.  My sister's dog actually lacerated her tongue on a rawhide.

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When I pulled out the bag and gave one of the Peanut Butter Flavored SmartBones to Reese, she took off to her favorite spot to enjoy her treat.  She kept looking back at me and smiling.  Being able to give my dog a healthy treat means a lot to me.  I love being able to hand her a bone and not have to worry about her getting choked. 



Spend over $25 at SmartBones.com and get free shipping!

#HungerGames24 - Advance Screenings!!!

LIONSGATE ANNOUNCES 24 ADVANCE SCREENINGS BROUGHT TO YOU BY NOOK BY BARNES & NOBLE Be the first to see THE HUNGER GAMES in theaters - Search #HungerGames24 on Twitter Now!
In celebration of another milestone in the countdown to the release of THE HUNGER GAMES- with under 24 days until the film’s release mirroring the 24 tributes in the story, Lionsgate® has announced 24 Advance Screenings brought to you by NOOK® by Barnes & Noble.    
Fans can show their support for #HungerGames24 by visiting Screenings.TheHungerGamesMovie.com and tweeting a unique hashtag assigned to their closest city to unlock Advance Screening locations. Starting tomorrow, March 1, the top four cities with the most Twitter volume will be announced each day and fans will then be able to enter to win tickets to those locations.
In addition, Barnes & Noble is giving NOOK fans in select cities the opportunity to gain exclusive access to see THE HUNGER GAMES before its official theatrical release. On March 10, while supplies last, the first customers to purchase any of Barnes & Noble’s award-winning NOOK devices – including NOOK Tablet, NOOK Color or NOOK Simple Touch – at select Barnes & Noble stores will receive two complimentary tickets to the official Advance Screening on March 21. To locate participating Barnes & Noble stores, visit www.nook.com/hungergames. 
In the story, Tributes are sponsored based on their first impression at the opening ceremonies, training scores, impressions made in the interviews, performance in the arena, as well as a number of other factors. Donations from sponsors range from medicines to food to weapons and more. Because of this, Lionsgate brought on 12 DISTRICT SPONSORS to each host two of these Advance Screenings and offer 24 fans the chance to win a pair of tickets.  
The digital campaign follows those for #HungerGames100, #HungerGames74, and #HungerGames50 which marked milestones in the campaign with similar interactive fan activities. 
Be sure to register for a District here and learn more about how to impress your sponsors on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thehungergamesmovie?sk=app_240978099326011
Fans who don’t have an advance screening near them may be able to meet and greet the cast at their local mall during the National Mall Tour beginning in March.  Visit the film’s facebook events tab for more information. 
About THE HUNGER GAMES
Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games.  A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which "Tributes" must fight with one another until one survivor remains.
Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy.  If she's ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
THE HUNGER GAMES is directed by Gary Ross, and produced by Nina Jacobson's Color Force in tandem with producer Jon Kilik. Suzanne Collins' best-selling novel, the first in a trilogy published by Scholastic that has over 26 million copies in print in the United States alone, has developed a massive global following.  
Lionsgate will release THE HUNGER GAMES on March 23, 2012.
I am so excited about this movie!!!  I am counting down the days until it's release. =)

Review - Star Wars Logo Blast Mens Hoodie Sweatshirt


As I have said before, I was pretty much born a Star Wars fan.  A love for the force was deeply embedded in my DNA.  I remember back when I was young and my dad and I would have a Star Wars marathon, watching Episode 4-6 back-to-back.  You can imagine how thrilled I was when I came across Simply Superheroes all of their products.  They have all the great selection of products, including Star Wars, The Green Lantern, Batman and more.


When I first laid eyes on the Star Wars Logo Blast Mens Hoodie Sweatshirt, I knew that I had to get one!  I like to wear apparel that allows me to express myself.  This hoodie is super soft, comfortable and warm.  The letters even glow in the dark!  The drawstrings are adjustable and the front pouch pockets are perfect for storing your cell phone.  You can purchase one of these hoodies for yourself in size small through XXL for under $50. 

Stay in the loop by connecting with Simply Superheroes on Facebook & Twitter.

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary Star Wars Logo Blast Mens Hoodie Sweatshirt
from Simply Superheroes for review purposes.  All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Review & #Giveaway - Lemon Curd by Homa Pouragari


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Lemon Curd is a love story between the righteous and opinionated Anna Lisa Gibson and her arrogant British officemate, Neil Scott Whittaker. He can have any woman he desires but Anna Lisa's honesty and down to earth personality makes him fall in love with her. Except that he doesn't want to give up his fiancée and she doesn't want to have an affair with a soon to be married man. Yet romance is only part of this story. From the streets of Los Angeles to the streets of London, Lemon Curd depicts the millennium lifestyle - Women's position in the business world, the workaholic and multitasking attitude of our society and the difficulty of balancing family and work life while trying to make a difference in the lives of the people around us.





MY THOUGHTS:

When I first picked up Lemon Curd by Homa Pouragari, I had some trouble getting into the flow of the book. I kept noticing my mind wandering and I had to force myself to keep reading. Once I was about halfway through, it seemed to pick up and hold my attention. While I wouldn't say this is a must read book, it does have potential.

AUTHOR BIO:


Homa Pourasgari resides in Los Angeles, California. She received a degree in Business from Loyola Marymount University, after which she left to live in Paris for one year and attended the University of Sorbonne, focusing on literature. Multilingual, she has been traveling since the age of 5 and has experienced many different cultures. Homa has worked in various industries such as marketing, retail, banking, accounting and fitness but has always returned to her true love – writing. She is currently working on a new book. Lemon Curd is her first novel.



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Visit the website

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Lemon Curd by Homa Pouragari through Business 2 Blogger for review purposes. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Review & #Giveaway - The Fades: Season One (Blu-ray)


ABOUT THE SHOW:

Seventeen-year-old geek Paul (Iain De Caestecker, Young Herriot) is haunted by apocalyptic dreams that his therapist can’t explain. Neither can best friend and fellow social outcast, Mac (Daniel Kaluuya, Johnny English Reborn, Skins), or unsympathetic and much cooler twin sister, Anna (Lily Loveless, Skins, Bedlam). But trying to fit in becomes the least of Paul and Mac’s worries, as Paul’s horrific dreams become a reality and they are embroiled in a battle between the living and the dead. Natalie Dormer (The Tudors, Captain America: The First Avenger), Johnny Harris (Snow White and the Huntsman), Joe Dempsie (Game of Thrones, Skins), and Tom Ellis (Merlin) also star in this smart new series that embraces both comedy and horror. According to Vogue, “The world of the Fades comes alive through a cast that Dickens might have dreamed up, had he ever turned his mind to zombies.”


Paul and Mac love comic books, video games, riding bicycles and talking about - but not particularly with - girls. Their stats are on par with your average social outcasts. But for a long time, Paul’s mind has been filled with dark nightmares of an abandoned world where the sky rains ash. Worse still, Paul has started to see things - horrible creatures that aren’t human. Then late one night, his dreams start to become real. As fate would have it, Paul meets Neil (Johnny Harris) and his nightmares - though still terrifying - start to make more sense. Neil explains that the things he can see are Fades. Paul is special - he’s one of a small group of people who can see them.


Fades are the ghosts or spirits of human beings. Everyone who dies becomes a Fade. They cannot be seen, heard, smelt or touched by the living, and they are completely unable to interact with our world. The Fades should ascend, but for some reason, that isn’t happening. They’re trapped in a world they can’t experience - until now. See, an embittered and vengeful Fade has found a way to break the barrier between the dead and the living. He’s telling everyone he knows. And soon the fate of humanity will rest in the hands of Paul and Mac, two best friends who already have enough trouble surviving high school, let alone saving the world.


Bonus features include:

Extra Scenes
Deleted Scenes
Behind The Scenes
Deleted Scenes and Outtakes
“Mac Explains” web videos


MY THOUGHTS:

I was psyched when I found out that I would be receiving a review copy of The Fades: Season One.  After reading what the show was about, I knew that it was right up my alley.  I devoured this entire season in a couple of days.  I've always been a fan of ghosts and I found the idea of ghosts being trapped here thrilling.  When a fade figures out a way to get through, the show becomes all consuming!  The acting is excellent and the special effects are outstanding.  If you like the supernatural genre, you should check out this amazing show.

Review - Donsuemor Madeleines

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In my house we have dessert almost every night.  I usually alternate between fruit, yogurt, pie and cookies.  My husband usually has some sort of gummy candy.  One night I was excited to try something new, Donsuemor Madeleines.   "Donsuemor madeleines are elegant little French cakes with distinctive shell shapes. Rich and buttery with a unique flavor and texture—soft and moist with lightly crisped edges—they are made with the finest quality, all natural ingredients."

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The first Madeleine I tried was that traditional flavor.  This simple dessert satisfied my craving without going overboard.  The simple ingredients make this the perfect dessert for anyone.

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Next on my list was the Chocolate Madeleines.  I am a huge chocolate lover, so I was interested to see if these would send sparks flying on my palate.  They did that and so much more!

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I decided to try out the Dipped Madeleine next and they are my favorite!  You get to enjoy the simplistic Madeleine and then, BAM, there's chocolate.   I ended up finishing off the dipped ones first.

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The lemon were my least favorite. I'm not really a big fan of things that are lemon flavored, so it was no surprise when I didn't like them.   I ended up giving the rest of them to my mom who adored them!  She was so happy to have a little unexpected treat. 

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Donsuemor Madeleines are fabulous!  I am a huge fan and looking forward to trying the Dipped Chocolate ones.  I know they will be a huge success with my taste buds.  When you are looking for a decadent treat, check out these Madeleines, you won't be sorry!

Disclosure: I received a free box of Donsuemor Madelelines from the public relations agency for review purposes.  All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Blog Tour Review & #Giveaway - Hope Ramsay & Bella Riley


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Gracious me, my daughter Rocky sure could use my help. I always knew she wasn’t much interested in the local boys—but who’d have thought she’d come home with English royalty. Trouble is, Hugh wants to buy some of our folks’ land. We don’t want to sell, but Rocky’s job depends on her closing the deal. And though Hugh’s obviously smitten, I’m not sure he’s right for my Rocky. After forty years with my Elbert, all I want is to see my little girl find the same. Well, always nice talking to you, and remember: the Cut ‘n’ Curl’s got hot rollers, free coffee, and the best gossip in town.

MY THOUGHTS: 

I had so much fun reading Last Chance Beauty Queen.  It made a great escape from everyday life and I enjoyed following along with the life of these instantly likable characters.  Hope Ramsay knows how to weave an irresistible romance while making it completely believable.  Romance lovers everywhere will rejoice for Last Chance Beauty Queen.

Hope Ramsay Q & A:
How has writing changed your life?

Well, I know people expect some dramatic answer to a question like this. But I've been writing so long that it's hard to see how my life has changed because of it. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was seven years old and I never wavered from that desire. I studied journalism in college. My first job was as a "legislative correspondent" for a member of Congress -- a job that entailed writing letters to people for eight hours a day. I went on to work for a variety of non-profit organizations where I wrote newsletters, articles, speeches, testimony and all kinds of other documents. And while I was doing all that non-fiction writing in my day job, I was writing fiction for fun. It took decades to sell the novel, but even if I never got a book published I would still write them. I think I've just got the story teller's gene. So writing never changed my life, it's solidly a part of who I am as a person.

What author has influenced you the most?

Oh there are so many writers have influenced and inspired me. But my favorite romance authors are Lavyrle Spencer and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Both of these great ladies write memorable characters. Lavyrle Spence always made me cry. And SEP always makes me laugh. I can't tell you how much I admire authors who can do that consistently.

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

Oh this is an easy question. I would want to be Neil Armstrong on the day he took his first step on the moon. I would be awesomely cool to stand on the moon and watch earth rise.



ABOUT THE BOOK:

Despite such a close friendship, Rebecca Campbell never saw fireworks with her fiancé. Now with a broken engagement behind her and a promise she has vowed to keep, Rebecca is determined to make a new life for herself in Emerald Lake – a quaint town in the breathtaking Adirondack Mountains.

When Sean Murphy heads home, he never expects to fall for his younger brother’s girlfriend – but that is exactly what has happened. With a smile like sunshine and a wonderful heart, Sean feels something he has never felt before…at home.

Neither Rebecca nor Sean anticipated the sparks to fly so quickly. Lingering secrets aside, Sean can't deny the obvious attraction and burning desire he has for Rachel. But how can he give his heart to a woman he can't trust – or can he? As the days pass and his resolve is tested, Sean begins to realize Emerald Lake is home sweet home and that it is the perfect place for falling in love.

MY THOUGHTS:

I love it when I start reading a book and two characters meet and the sparks fly instantly.  That's how I felt when my husband and I met up six years after graduating, so I know it can happen!  That undeniable pull between two people is a beautiful thing and Bella captures it perfectly in With This Kiss. 

Bella Riley Q & A:

How has writing changed your life?

I laughed when I read this question because eight years after first deciding to write a book, writing IS my life. :) No matter what else I'm doing – hiking, eating, swimming, watching a movie – the book I'm working on is always there in the back of my head. Inspiration comes from absolutely everywhere and I never know when I'll have an “a-ha!” moment about a character or plot point.

What author has influenced you the most?

I'm a huge reader and I love so many authors. Jennifer Crusie is a favorite, as is Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Both of them write fabulous contemporaries that make me laugh out loud and cry depending on what page I'm on. I would be remiss if I didn't mention a group of writers that I'm very close with. I'm thrilled to call all of these fabulous authors - Barbara Freethy, Tina Folsom, Monica McCarty, Anne Mallory, Carol Grace, Jami Alden, Veronica Wolff, Tracy Grant, Candice Hern, Penelope Williamson, Catherine Coulter and Josie Brown – close friends as well. I've learned a great deal from each of them, not only with regards to writing great books, but also how to best navigate the publishing industry. Best of all, they make me laugh!

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

I really like my life :) so this is a hard one. I do think it would be interesting to see what Kate Middleton's life is like now that she's a princess.



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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review & #Giveaway - Macadamia Natural Oil Rejuvenating Shampoo & Deep Repair Masque


About Macadamia Natural Oil Rejuvenating Shampoo:

Macadamia Natural Oil Rejuvenating Shampoo is a moisturizing shampoo for all hair types and is excellent for dry, damaged hair. The Rejuvenating Shampoo gently cleanses the hair while weightlessly replenishing moisture and protecting the hair from environmental elements.

Macadamia Natural Oil includes:
Macademia Oil is very rich in essential fatty acids. It has the distinctive feature of resembling sebum. The replication of natural oils our scalp produces are for protection. Thus, these factors making it an ideal enriching & replenishing agent with rapid absorption.

Argan Oil consists Omega 9, Linoleic, Oleic, and unsaturated fatty acids. These nutrients are very beneficial in improving hair strength and health.

Applications: Apply to wet hair and gently massage the scalp & roots with your fingertips and work into a rich lather. Rinse thoroughly and towel dry. Repeat if necessary.


About Macadamia Natural Oil Deep Repair Masque:

Macadamia Natural Oil Deep Repair Masque is a revitalizing hair reconstructor for dry, damaged hair. A combination of macadamia oil and argan oil along with tea tree oil, chamomile oil, aloe and algae extracts rejuvenate and rebuild the hair, leaving the hair deeply nourished for improved elasticity and shine with long-lasting conditioning benefits.

Macadamia Natural Oil includes:
Macademia Oil is very rich in essential fatty acids. It has the distinctive feature of resembling sebum. The replication of natural oils our scalp produces are for protection. Thus, these factors making it an ideal enriching & replenishing agent with rapid absorption.

Argan Oil consists Omega 9, Linoleic, Oleic, and unsaturated fatty acids. These nutrients are very beneficial in improving hair strength and health.

Applications: After shampooing and towel drying the hair, dispense a small amount in the palm of hand. Rub your palms together and apply evenly to damp hair. Comb through for even distribution. For an ultra conditioning and reparative treatment, add a small amount of Macadamia Healing Oil Treatment to the Deep Repair Masque application. Leave in for 5 to 10 minutes to penetrate the cuticles of the hair. No heat is required for processing. Rinse thoroughly with warm water. Style as desired. The Deep Repair Masque is an intense, revitalizing hair treatment and should not be used more than twice a week for best results.

Thoughts: 

I am in love with the Macadamia Natural Oil Rejuvenating Shampoo!  The first time I used it, I was in the shower and as soon as I poured some into my hand, my nose filled with a gorgeous aroma.  As I worked it into my hair, I could feel it cleansing and rejuvenating my hair.

When I got out of the shower, I towel dried my hair and applied some of the Macadamia Natural Oil Deep Repair Masque.  I ran my fingers through it and finished up with my after shower routine, which included blow drying my hair.

My hair was so shiny and it even had more body.  I'm guessing that the extra volume was due to the fact that these products don't contain ingredients that weigh hair down.  I kept going back to look at myself in the mirror and stared at my radiant hair.  Now that I have been using this shampoo for a while, I feel divalicious!

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Review - Superman's Cape by Brian Sprangler


ABOUT THE BOOK:

When Sara Connely is asked what life is like today, she answers with the simple words, ‘life goes on.’ The life she and her boys enjoyed the last dozen years is gone. Coping with the death of her husband is difficult. Doing so with two young boys, and no money, is almost too much to ask.

Life does go on, but when Sara’s oldest boy becomes lost in Croatan National Forest, life comes to a stop.

Twelve year old Kyle Connely doesn’t know the woods. He doesn’t know the wildlife. He doesn’t know how to get home. Lost in the wilderness, he faces dangers the likes of which he has never seen. Kyle’s time is running out. A hurricane is looming, and in its path is the coastal forest he is trying to survive.

Jacob Hanson has a gift. An intuition. An insightfulness. And it has helped him find success. But his gift turns into a curse as he becomes an unwilling participant in Kyle's plight. What Jacob Hanson doesn't know is he also holds the key to Sara’s past and the lifetime she lost with her husband.

MY THOUGHTS:

When I sat down to read Superman's Cape by Brian Sprangler, I didn't really have any expectations set.  This is his first novel, so I didn't have any prior work to compare it with.  After reading the synopsis, I had a feel for what the book would entail and was ready to dive in.  I enjoyed Superman's Cape, especially because of Brian's ability to capture my attention.

AUTHOR BIO:


Brian Spangler is a resident of Virginia and lives with his wife, two children, three cats (sometimes more), mouse, parrot, lizard and a sugar glider.

Brian grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a youngster, he liked to write short stories and even self-published a few times using cardboard for book covers and almost all of the masking tape found in his parent’s house. Later he worked with his father in a professional photography lab where emerging technologies captured his imagination and attention and from which a career in engineering was born.

As an engineer, Brian has both a Bachelors and Masters degree in computer science. He has worked on large projects including a number of national level security programs and smaller projects such as computer visualizations that demonstrate a form of graphical pixel ballet in response to music.

Writing has always been a constant. From producing technical documents to writing poetry and his favorite, writing fiction – a day does not pass where Brian isn’t spending a part of it writing or thinking about writing.

Visit Brian's website

Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of Superman's Cape by Brian Sprangler through Business 2 Blogger for review purposes.  I will be receiving a small stipend.  All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Review & #Giveaway - So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Lucky O'Toole -- Head of Customer Relations at The Babylon, premier mega-resort on the Vegas Strip -- thinks it's just another night in Las Vegas. But then a magician pulls a disappearing act, right under Lucky's nose. Is it a stunt? Or something worse?

While Lucky chases leads, someone is trying to put her off the scent. As if this wasn't enough to ruin her day, Lucky's relationship with The Big Boss is coming to a head - - past hurts can no longer be denied. Of course, she is already on shaky emotional ground: Teddie, her live-in, has been touring with a young and lovely pop star. Paxton Dane, former coworker and would-be suitor, is still circling, hoping to find a chink in the armor of Lucky's resolve. And then, there's this French chef, who is proving to be too hot to handle . . .

Las Vegas expert Deborah Coonts thrills again with this third installment in her dazzling series focused on casino "fixer" Lucky O'Toole.

EXCERPT:

Chapter One of Deborah Coonts' So Damn Lucky
By Deborah Coonts,
Author of So Damn Lucky

Some things in life are best savored alone -- sex is not one of them.

This happy thought occurred to me while piloting a borrowed Ferrari and staring at the smiling couples filling the sidewalks along the Las Vegas Strip. Walking hand-in-hand, they were living, breathing reminders of the sorry state of my own love life.

"Lady! Watch out!"

I heard the shout in the nick of time. Slamming on the brakes, I narrowly avoided sliding the front end of the Ferrari under a tour bus. A sea of Japanese faces appeared like moons in the back window, peering down at me. Then cameras blocked the faces, flashbulbs popping as I shrugged and waved while trying to appear unruffled.

The young man who had shouted stepped over to the car and peered through the open roof, like a judge eyeing the accused. "Are you okay?" he asked. His face flushed, his eyes glassy, he looked like he was still recovering from last night's party or getting a head start on the next one.

"Thanks to you," I said as I restarted the car, which had stalled. "I know better than to think about sex while doing something potentially life-threatening. What was I thinking?" I cringed as the words popped out of my mouth. Even I couldn't believe I'd said that. Clearly, I needed to get a grip: first I couldn't stop thinking about sex, now I was talking about it to strangers. This was so not good.

"What were you thinking?" The kid smirked at me as he took another gulp from the glass clutched tightly in his hand. "Care to . . . enlighten me?" he asked after wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his sweatshirt which had NYU printed in bold blue on the front.

The sweatshirt looked new. He looked twelve. I felt old.

"Another time, perhaps," I lied. I didn't really intend to flirt with the kid. However, with Teddie, my former live-in, gallivanting around the globe playing rock star for the last six weeks -- and the foreseeable future -- my prospects looked pretty dim. Teddie and I had been really good for a while. Now, I didn't know what we were.

Sexual self-preservation clearly had kicked in.

"Go easy on those walktails -- they're deadly and the night is still young," I said, in a blatant attempt to steer the conversation away from the current topic.

"Walktail?"

"That drink in your hand, small enough to take with you, but potent enough to leave you puking in the gutter."

The kid's face grew serious as he held up the brew for inspection, looking at it with new- found respect. "Yes, Ma'am," he said, his voice filled with awe.

My smile vanished. Despite careful study, I was still unable to figure out at precisely what moment in time I had gone from being a Miss to a Ma'am. What changed? Whatever it was, I wanted it back like it used to be -- along with a few other things, but they would all take minor miracles. While I believe in magic, miracles were pushing the envelope, even for me. I squeezed the paddle shifter and put the car in gear. Easing around the still stationary bus, I hit the gas. The night held an October chill -- refreshing as the wind teased my hair. A full moon fought a losing battle as it competed valiantly with the lights of the Strip. I knew stars filled the sky, but they weren't visible in the false half-night of Las Vegas at full wattage.

My name is Lucky O'Toole, and, as I mentioned, the Ferrari isn't mine. It belongs to the dealership at The Babylon, my employer and the newest addition to the Las Vegas Strip mega-resort explosion. By title, I am the Head of Customer Relations. In reality, I'm the chief problem solver. If a guest at the Babylon has a 'situation' -- which could be anything from an unplanned marriage, an unfamiliar bed partner, a roaring headache or an unexplained rash, to a wife and kids given a room on the same floor as the mistress's suite -- I'm the go-to girl.

Lucky me.

Actually, I love my job. And I miss Teddie. As the two appear mutually exclusive, therein lies the rub. But, enough of that -- I had wallowed in self-pity for my allotted ten minutes today. No more private pity party for me; I was on my way to the real thing.

The invitation read:

Inviting all family, friends and former dancers to a farewell party in honor of the forty-year run of the Calliope Burlesque Cabaret. October 26, eight o-clock sharp, backstage at the Calliope Theater, the Athena Resort and Casino. Present this invitation for admittance.

To someone in my position, being invited to parties was part of the exercise, but this was one guest list on which I never expected to find my name. I wasn't family, nor was I a former dancer -- although with my six-foot frame, I guess dancing might have been a career path had I not been averse to prancing in front of strangers wearing nothing but stilettos and a thong, with twenty pounds of feathers on my head.

That left friend. As the sole individual responsible for shutting down the show, I doubted I qualified under that category either. Perhaps they invited me because of my unparalleled ability to smooth ruffled feathers, or maybe for my irritating inability to overlook a pun no matter how tortured. Who knew? However, I never could resist a good mystery, so despite the niggling feeling I'd received an invitation to my own execution, I accepted.

After having to go back to the office for the invitation, and after the near miss on the Strip, I pulled the Ferrari up to the front of the Athena. Careful to extricate myself from the low-slung car without giving the valet an eyeful up my short skirt, I then tossed the keys to him. Wrapping myself in a warm hug of cashmere pashmina to ward off the night chill, I straightened my skirt, threw back my shoulders, found a tentative balance on four-inch heels, and headed inside. An aging Grand Dame, the Athena had seen better days. Like a ship marooned on the shoals, torn and tattered by the elements, the Athena had been savaged by time and inattention. Moored at the wrong end of the Strip, surrounded by lesser properties, she now boasted only faded glory. Her carpet stained, her walls dingy and décor dated, she reeked of quiet desperation. While she still boasted 'The Best Seafood Buffet in Vegas' for less than twenty dollars, which brought in some of the locals, her gaming rooms were rarely more than a third full. In Vegas, folks are quick to abandon a sinking ship -- even if the slots are loose and the staff friendly.

My boss, Albert Rothstein (also known as The Big Boss), recently acquired the Athena from the previous owner, who had decided the best way to beat The Big Boss was to frame him for murder. In a high stakes game of cat-and-mouse, The Big Boss had eaten the canary -- with my help, I'm happy to say.

The fact that The Big Boss is also my father is a closely guarded secret -- so close that even I was in the dark until recently, when, facing the prospect of imminent death at the hands of a heart surgeon, The Big Boss decided to come clean. I'm still not sure how I felt about the whole thing, so I ignored it whenever possible. I was pretty happy with the way things were before the big bombshell, so I didn't see any reason to rock the boat. The Big Boss saw it differently; now that he'd claimed me -- and made his relationship with my mother public -- he wanted the whole world to know. Not a hooker's chance in Heaven, thank you very much. Don't get me wrong; I loved him like a father . . . always had. But, who the heck wants to be the boss's daughter?

Expecting the usual sparse crowd, I was surprised to see a throng milling in the Athena's dismal lobby and spilling into the casino. Having spent my formative years in and out of Vegas hotels and my adult life working in them, I rarely noticed the fashion choices of the river of humanity that flowed through. However, tonight their choices were hard to ignore.

Space creatures of all shapes and sizes mingled, giving each other the Vulcan sign of greeting. It was like the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton used to be, but better. While I'm not that well versed in aliens, I thought I recognized a couple of Klingons, a Romulan or two, multiple Ferengi, and a collective of Borg. As the Borg passed, their faces impassive, I thought about saying "Resistance is futile" but I stifled myself. The whole thing made me realize how much I missed the Hilton's hokey institution. When they shuttered Quark's, the Hilton had closed a whole chapter of my youth. Strange new worlds must be explored, I guess.

Scattered among the Trekkers -- they'd been Trekkies when I was young, but one vehement Klingon had corrected me and I was not one to argue with an angry Kilngon -- were little green men, bubble-headed aliens of 1950s movie fantasy, a Wookie or two, other wild Star Wars imaginings, and several truly original creations. Some of the aliens were even disguised as humans -- one of whom I recognized.

Junior Arbogast, hoax exposer, fraud buster, and legend in his own mind, made his living debunking UFO sightings, alien abductions and paranormal phenomena in general. Junior and I had bonded over an interesting outing to Area 51 -- the local Air Force spook palace north of town and the epicenter of UFO lore. He had spent an hour face down in the dirt, a gun pointed at his head, while I endeavored to talk the Lincoln County Sheriff out of arresting him, and the Cammo Guys, as the security service hired to protect and defend the perimeter were so lovingly referred to, from perforating him. Now, each year when the spookies held their annual convention in town, Junior and I usually found time to have a drink together, which I enjoyed. Yes, he could be arrogant and a pain in the ass, but he was bright and knew BS when he saw it. I liked that about him.

Built like a fire hydrant, with a shock of wiry dishwater blond hair, pale eyes under heavy, bushy brows, and a nose that had been broken more than once, Junior loved a good fight -- the product of a childhood in the mountains of West Virginia. He didn't tolerate fools well, so he had few friends, a fact that didn't seem to bother him. How I managed to stay off his blithering idiot list was an enduring mystery.

"Are you merely observing the mating rituals of alien life-forms, or are you looking for the next Mrs. Arbogast?" I whispered as I sidled in next to him.

"Ah, the great quipster, Lucky O'Toole. I was wondering when you'd turn up," Junior mumbled through a mouthful of hot dog. He swallowed, then took a healthy swig from his gallon-size Bucket-o-Beer. "You jest, but I'll have you know," he continued, "a renowned professor at one of this country's most storied institutions of higher learning postulated that all alien abductions around the world could be explained as a simple cross-species breeding project."

"So everything really is about sex?"

"Especially in Vegas. If sex doesn't happen here, why come?" Junior stuffed in the last of his hotdog and washed it down with more beer.

Why indeed, I thought as I watched the UFO aficionados -- some true believers, but mostly half-baked hangers-on who liked a good party with a weird group of folks. I could identify -- I lived there.

People and aliens packed in around us, their energy infectious. A television crew trailed one of the local talking heads apparently on the prowl for content for a 'wacky and wonderful' segment for the nightly news. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something.

"What's going on?" I asked Junior, since he appeared to be waiting as well.

"We are all about to witness a spectacular example of professional suicide."

"Really? Whose?" I felt the inner flicker of some primal calling -- probably the same unsavory instinct that draws us all to the scene of disaster. I didn't like it.

"Dr. Zewicki."

"Ah," I said, not needing any more explanation.

Zoom-Zoom Zewicki had been a train wreck waiting to happen for years. A former astronaut and the twentieth-something man launched into space, with a PhD in some obscure science from one of the world's foremost universities, Zoom-Zoom had one major affliction: He used to be somebody. In recent years, he had resorted to quirkier and more outlandish stunts to make sure we all remembered that.

"This must be my lucky day. First I get to witness professional suicide, then I get to preside at a funeral."

"My, you're a glutton for punishment." Junior waded up the paper wrapper from his hot dog and stuffed it in his pocket.

"That will be my epitaph," I said, only half joking. "I'm sure 'taking punishment' is part of my job description, but, fool that I am, I didn't read the fine print. So, what treat does Zoom-Zoom have in store for us?" I glanced at my watch -- eight fifteen. Fashionably late to the party, I still had a few more minutes before my tardiness would be considered another salvo in my one-man war on the Calliope Girls. The war was a figment of their imaginations, of course, but I didn't want to toss any unnecessary grenades.

Before Junior had time to answer, a hush fell over the crowd. Heads turned as Zoom-Zoom stepped to a podium on a dais at the far end of the lobby.

A short man who kept himself in fighting trim, Dr. Zewicki wore his hair military short, his shirts pressed, his slacks creased, and a look of encroaching madness in his dark eyes. He leaned into the microphone, got too close, then drew back with a jerk as if the resulting squeal was from a snake coiled to strike.

"Thank you all for coming." This time he got the distance to the mike just right. His unexpectedly deep voice echoed around the marble lobby and rippled over the crowd. He waited until the last reverberation died before continuing.

"My statement will be brief and I won't accept any questions at this time. For those of you who wish to know more, I will be holding a formal presentation Thursday night, in Rachel, as part of Viewing Night."

Expectant murmurs rolled like waves through the crowd.

Dr. Zewicki fed on the attention of the crowd like an alien spacecraft sucking electromagnetic energy from a thunderstorm. Pausing, he milked it, then waited a few beats more until every head turned his direction, every voice quieted. Staring at the crowd, a serious expression on his face, he pulled himself to his full height and announced, "I have recently experienced an alien abduction."

The murmurs of the crowd rose on a cresting wave of expectation.

"My abductor's message is simple and two-fold: When we die, they come and take our spirits. Some spirits pass through to the next life, but those of us with unresolved issues -- those who were murdered, perhaps -- live on with the aliens. And now they wish to open a channel."

The wave of expectation broke into a cascade of excited voices, flooding the lobby with a rushing torrent of questions.

Questions that would remain unanswered: Zoom-Zoom Zewicki had left the stage.

Stunned, I needed a few moments to find my voice. "Did he just say what I thought he said?"

"Tortured souls live on with the aliens and Dr. Zewicki can talk to them."

"I'm sure the Homicide division at Metro will be thrilled to have alien assistance." I shrugged off a chill that shivered down my spine. Talk of murder messed with the Vegas magic -- magic that was part of my job to deliver. Junior looked at me, his face inscrutable. "Talk about a meteor hitting the atmosphere! A lifetime of achievement incinerated, just like that." He snapped his fingers in front of my face.

"The death of a star," I whispered.

"And the birth of a pop-culture icon," announced Junior, his voice as hard as flint. Zoom -Zoom Zewicki had just pegged the fraud buster's bullshit meter.

#

I left Junior plotting the pulverization of the last remaining pebbles of Dr. Zewicki's reputation, and headed toward the Calliope Burlesque Theatre on the far side of the casino. Working my way through the throng took me longer than I anticipated. I had just reached the edge of the crowd when I felt a hand on my arm.

"Ms. O'Toole?" Young and soft, the voice was unfamiliar.

"Yes." I turned and found myself staring down at a blue-eyed Ferengi.

The alien thrust an upside-down top hat at me. "Would you be so kind as to deliver this to Mr. Fortunoff? He left it in the bar. Normally, I would take it to him myself, but security is not allowing anyone backstage except those invited to the party."

"Sure." I grabbed the hat, surprised by its weight, as the Ferengi melted back into the crowd. That a magician would need a top hat to pull something out of seemed logical to me, so I didn't think the request odd. I peered inside the hat…empty. Turning it right-side up and shaking -- nothing fell out. Whatever.

A lesser luminary in the world of the Dark Arts, Dimitri Fortunoff specialized in sleights of hand, mindreading, and other parlor tricks. He performed nightly as the entertainment between the first and second acts of the burlesque show. I tucked the hat under my arm and strode through the casino. Flashing my invite to the security guard, I pushed through the double doors into another world. While decorations and scenery adorned the audience side of the curtain, creating the illusion of a bright and exciting world, a different, workman-like world existed behind the curtain. The stage was empty, illuminated by bare bulbs that would be extinguished during the show. Scenery hung in the rafters on counter-weighted pulleys. Other accoutrements, including Dimitri's magic tricks, were stuffed unceremoniously into every nook and cranny, creating an obstacle course for the unwary. At the appropriate time during the show, each piece would be moved into position; after its use it would be removed in a well choreographed, painstakingly rehearsed dance.

Forty years of dust and grime, forty years of pain and sweat, forty years of hopes and dreams, forty years of Vegas history -- and I had swept it all away with the stroke of a pen. A matter of dollars and cents, the decision had been easy to make. Living with it, however, was a different matter.

Extraordinarily tall, beautiful women in heavy make-up and little else dotted the backstage area, each encircled by friends, family, and adoring fans clever enough to talk their way in. I noticed Zoom-Zoom Zewiki orbiting GiGi Vascheron, the star of the show. No wonder he had disappeared from the stage so quickly.

Shorter women in costume also hosted clusters of partiers. The show photographer darted in and out, memorializing the event for posterity. Everyone talked in hushed voices. If anyone smiled, I missed it.

The few men who danced in the show weren't visible. Neither was Dimitri Fortunoff.

Nobody's eyes met mine as I gently pushed my way through the crowd. However, I felt the daggers hurled at my back, and I didn't really blame them. In their shoes, I'd hate me too.

I found my conjurer in his dressing room hiding from reality.

"Well, if it isn't the grim reaper," he growled when he noticed me filling his doorway. "Did you come to gloat, or are you just slumming?"

A tall man with a barrel chest, droopy features, hangdog eyes and a down-turned mouth, dressed in a poorly-fitting tux, Fortunoff looked more like an undertaker than an entertainer. Slumped in a chair, one leg crossed over the other, a plate balanced in his lap, he eyed me as he forked in a bite of chocolate cake with one hand. The fingers of his free hand worked a coin over and under, from thumb to pinkie, then back again.

A number of plastic glasses dotted the desk and shelves. Plates with partially eaten cake stuffed the small trashcan in the corner.

"Looks like you've had a party."

"A wake."

"The world moves on, Dimitri." Mesmerized, I watched the coin dance between his fingers. "The Big Boss is spending millions refurbishing this place, turning it into Las Vegas' first eco-friendly, totally green hotel."

"Eco-friendly in a town known for depleting all the available local natural resources… an interesting concept."

"We like to appear to do our part."

"An illusion."

"You should know," I fired back. "Besides, I've heard you've moved on."

"Yeah? How so?"

"Rumor has it you're the Masked Houdini."

A magician who hid his identity while exposing famous illusions for a national television audience, the Masked Houdini had aroused the ire of illusionists far and wide. In fact, when we announced he would be doing the Houdini Séance on Halloween, several death threats had appeared in my office -- some for me, some for the Houdini. The police were unable to trace the notes, but we'd heightened security as a precaution.

"The rumor is just that, a rumor. No truth to it," Dimitri intoned. His eyes held mine briefly, then skittered away.

"Right. Truth or not, somebody obviously believes it. I wouldn't take the threats lightly." This was old ground for us, but I felt the need to cover it once more.

"I'm touched by your concern."

I might have imagined it, but I thought I caught a glimpse of a grin lift one corner of his mouth, then vanish.

"Don't let it go to your head," I said. "I'm just covering my ass. If the Masked Houdini doesn't show up on Halloween, I'm toast."

This time I was sure I saw a smile.

"Did you bring me a present?" Dimitri tilted his head toward the hat under my arm.

"Not me," I said as I thrust it at him. "A Ferengi."

Dimitri raised an eyebrow.

"Don't ask. The UFO folks . . . " I trailed off, figuring that was enough of an explanation.

He took the hat. His brows creased into a frown when he felt the weight. Reaching in, he pulled out, of all things, a rabbit, surprising us both. "Cute, but trite, don't you think?" he scoffed.

Snow white, his black nose flaring excitedly, the poor creature looked terrified. Reaching to pet it, I noticed something tied to its dainty, jeweled collar.

A note.

I unfurled it and my blood ran cold.

In red lipstick, someone has scrawled 'DIMITRI FORTUNOFF MUST DIE'.

Dimitri paled. He dropped the rabbit as he fell back in his chair, grabbing at the bow tie knotted around his neck.

I snagged the bunny just before it hit the floor.

"Water. I need water." Dimitri's face was now turning crimson. "I can't breathe."

"Molly," I screamed, shouting for Dimitri's assistant, as I put the bunny down. She hadn't been in her cubicle when I'd walked by earlier, but she had to be close by. "Molly!" I knelt by Dimitri and managed to get his tie unknotted and his collar loosened. I was opening my mouth to shout again, when the girl materialized in the doorway.

"What happened?" Molly asked looking flustered and out of breath. Trim and sturdy, she had an athlete's body and an efficient manner. Her dark hair was cut in layers and styled to look unkept. Concern clouded her brilliantly blue eyes as she looked first at Dimitri, then to me, then back again.

"He's just had a shock. Get some water, would you?"

Dimitri gulped air. When Molly returned with water, he gulped that too. His normal coloring slowly returned, and his breathing settled back to a steady pace until a sheen of sweat was the sole remaining evidence of his panic attack.

"Are you okay?" I asked when I thought he could answer.

"Fine." He pushed himself upright in the chair and set about retying his tie. "Well, as fine as anyone could be after having their life threatened."

I sat back on my heels, my knees pressed together. "I found using Thumper as a delivery vehicle particularly menacing, didn't you?"

He gave me a sneer. Molly hid her smile behind a dainty hand.

I pushed myself to my feet, then realized the bunny was nowhere to be found -- he had escaped in the commotion.

"Molly, you better go find that rabbit. He'd certainly liven up the show, but I'm in enough trouble with the girls already."

She glanced at the magician, then bolted.

"Do you want to cancel tonight's show?" I asked, turning my attention to Dimitri. "We really should call the police."

"And then what?" Dimitri mopped his brow with a multi-colored scarf, then tucked it back up his sleeve. "All the other threats have been false alarms and the police have found nothing."

"You have a point. They haven't been successful with the notes delivered to my office addressed to the fool who hired the Masked Houdini -- which, by the way, would be me. I've increased security. I don't know what else to do."

"You're getting notes, too?"

"Just lucky, I guess." Hands on my hips, I tried to look stern. "Seriously, I think you should cancel the show."

"No." Dimitri looked adamant. "The show must go on."

He didn't smile, so I don't think he meant that as a joke.

"Well then, come on." Grabbing Dimitri's hand, I gave him a tug -- neither of us was particularly eager to cancel the final performance in a forty-year run. "This is your swan song. Make the most of it."

"I wish you hadn't put it quite like that."

"You'll be in front of a packed house," I said as I brushed myself off, then straightened his tie. "What could possibly happen?"

#

The mood in the front of the house was even more somber than backstage, if that was possible. Patrons filed into the theatre -- the most important among them following the ushers to long, communal tables placed perpendicular to the stage, seating six per side. Guests of lesser importance were left to fend for themselves. If any of them wanted a beverage of choice, they had to get it themselves at the bar window on the left side of the theatre, the queue for which already snaked halfway across the large room.

Statuesque women greeted each other with hugs and air-kisses. Some cried while their escorts shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. Nobody smiled when they looked my direction.

I felt like a creep.

Unaccustomed to being in the midst of so much hostility, for a moment I was flummoxed. Casting my eyes around the room, I finally spied a safe haven -- a small gaggle of elite magicians. Purportedly the members of the Magic Ring -- a secret ruling society within the mystical arts community -- I had checked them into The Babylon yesterday and taken charge of their VIP stay.

"Mr. Mortimer." I greeted the man who had made all the arrangements for the group. "How are you enjoying Vegas so far?"

"It's been lovely, thank you," Mr. Mortimer said, his eyes lighting up when he saw me. "And this show is a particular treat."

A short man, almost as big around as he was tall, Mr. Mortimer had dancing eyes and a quick smile. A ring of snow-white hair circled his otherwise bald head. The buttons of the silk vest stretching across his blossoming midsection looked ready to burst, but he appeared unconcerned.

"We were so sorry to hear the show is closing," he continued, clearly unaware he was talking to the harbinger of death.

"It's one of our favorites -- a Vegas institution."

"Where are you sitting?" I asked.

He consulted his ticket. "Table Seven."

"Me as well. May I show you the way?"

We worked our way down to the front and took our seats as the lights dimmed and the orchestra played the first chords of a lilting tune. The curtain parted and the company of clothed dancers, male and female, took the stage in a rousing cabaret number. The audience, many of whom were former dancers, whistled and clapped for their compatriots. When the topless ladies, or the nudes as they are referred to in the business, sashayed onto the stage, the admiration of the audience grew louder. Some of the women smiled, but most stayed in character.

Despite having seen my share, topless shows remained a mystery to me. First, the women weren't even buxom. With the shortest of them measured at five foot ten and none of them weighing more than a hundred and thirty pounds, how much bust could they be expected to have? Of course, my initial expectation had been they would all have been enhanced like most of the strippers in town, but that was not the case. A sort of weird reverse discrimination prevailed in Vegas: the very best showgirls must be au naturale. I bet those women's boobs were the only natural things left in town. Heck, even the grass outside The Wynn was plastic.

Wishing I had taken time to wait in line for a drink, but worried I might not have lived through it, I sat back, tried to relax, and watched the show. At the completion of several rousing dance numbers, each punctuated by the appearance of the nudes, the curtain fell on the first act.

After a brief moment, the curtain again parted. The scenery had disappeared. A large rectangular wooden crate resembling a phone booth with a glass front and sides stood vertically in the center of the stage. Shiny brass angles attached along the edges with neat rows of rivets, held the box together. Although it was hard to tell, I thought the crate was full of water.

Mr. Mortimer and his friends gasped in unison. Leaning over, he whispered in my ear, "That's Houdini's Chinese Water Torture Chest."

"Houdini? Like Harry Houdini?"

Mr. Mortimer nodded. "I can't imagine where Dimitri got it."

Our eyes shot back to the stage as Dimitri Fortunoff appeared, clad only in old-fashioned swimming attire. Molly and several of the dancers accompanied him. The magician waved to someone off stage, then glanced up as a block and tackle descended from the rafters. It bore a wooden plank, cut with two round holes.

"Is this part of his normal act?" one of Mr. Mortimer's compatriots asked.

"Not as of a month ago," I replied, a ball of dread growing in my stomach.

"Ladies and gentleman," Dimitri began. "As you all know, tonight is our last show and I've been perfecting a special escape for you."

When he paused, you could hear a pin drop.

"Harry Houdini, widely considered the best of all time, developed the escape I am about to do for you. First, my ankles will be placed in this stock." He held up the wooden board, removed an open padlock, which released the two halves, allowing it to be positioned around his legs.

An assistant then bent, threaded the padlock through two D rings, one on each half of the stock, and snapped the padlock closed.

"Thank you," Dimitri said to the girl, then continued. "After volunteers from the crowd have checked all the apparatus thoroughly, I will be lifted and lowered head first into the chest you see here, which is filled with water. My beautiful assistants will then padlock the top in place."

A nervous murmur rippled through the room.

"You must be convinced the chest is nothing more than it seems, that I have not tampered with it in any way. Now for the volunteers." With one hand shielding his eyes from the lights, he looked over the crowd. His eyes came to rest on our table. Pointing at us, he said, "You. All of you. Would you be so kind?"

Catching my eye, he shook his head at me, so I remained behind as the magicians at my table filed onto the stage. Zoom-Zoom appeared from backstage and joined them even though he hadn't been called.

Dimitri didn't seem to mind. As he watched, the men examined every pane of glass, every nook, every cranny of the chest. When they had apparently satisfied themselves, Dimitri asked them, "Could you see any alterations in the chest that might explain an easy escape?"

Each of them shook his head. "We could not," announced Mr. Mortimer in his stage voice -- apparently he'd been voted the group's spokesman, as the others remained silent, merely nodding their agreement.

"What about you?" Dimitri pointed to one of the magicians who looked most unhappy at being singled out. A hawkish man with angry eyes, he glared at Dimitri. "If this box has a trick, I do not know it."

"Why don't you ask Mr. Houdini?" Before the man could answer, Dimitri turned to address the crowd. "Some of you may be too young to remember the acclaimed mentalist, but may I present The Great Danilov."

The crowd clapped politely as Danilov took a bow, and shook Dimitiri's hand. After a whispered exchange with the magician, Danilov hurried off stage.

"Or you?" Dimitri pointed to Dr. Zewiki. "You claim to talk to the dead. Maybe Mr. Houdini will speak to you."

"Doubtful. No one ever said he was murdered," Zoom-Zoom hissed as he ducked backstage.

The other magicians filed after Danilov and retook their seats as Dimitri announced, "Ladies and gentlemen, these men are part of an august group of magicians. If they can't see how I perform this escape, then it must be a very good trick indeed."

"I have a really bad feeling about this," Mr. Mortimer again whispered in my ear as he settled himself in his seat. "It's long been believed the secrets of the chest died with Mr. Houdini."

"Could Mr. Fortunoff have a new trick up his sleeve?" I asked.

"There are only so many ways to get out of a chest filled with water and locked from the outside."

I didn't like the hint of impending doom in his voice. I fought with myself. I wanted to stop the whole thing. But what if he really could get out of that contraption? He wasn't suicidal, as far as I knew, and I was in enough trouble already. Against my better judgment, I decided to let the show go on.

We watched as the assistants first checked the shackles and tested the block and tackle. Then they helped the magician as he was lifted, then lowered into the tank. Quickly the women lowered the lid and snapped several padlocks in place around its edge, effectively securing it to the chest -- with Dimitri clearly visible inside.

I held my breath as the assistants drew a curtain around the chest and left the stage. Apparently the rest of the audience felt as I did -- they didn't move. Not even a whisper broke the silence.

An eternity passed. Then another.

The audience grew restless. Nervous whispering buzzed.

Finally someone shouted, "It's been too long. Somebody get him out of that thing."

Other voices joined in agreement.

"Come." Mr. Mortimer ordered as he rose to his feet and grabbed my hand, pulling me with him. His friends fell in step behind us as we started for the stage.

We had made it to the first step when Molly ran out from stage-left. Her face was stricken, streaked with tears.

"Oh my God! He's dead!"

The above is an excerpt from the book So Damn Lucky by Deborah Coonts. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2012 Deborah Coonts, author of So Damn Lucky

MY THOUGHTS:

I have been a fan of Deborah Coonts writing ever since I first laid eyes on one of the Lucky O'Toole books.  The author has a way of sucking in a reader and never loosening her grip.  So Damn Lucky offers an interesting plot with a memorable main character.  I recommend reading the series in order, because once you get a taste, you will be hungry for another. 

AUTHOR BIO:


Deborah Coonts, author of Lucky Stiff, says her mother tells her she was born in Texas a very long time ago, though she's not totally sure -- her mother can't be trusted. But she was definitely raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. She currently resides in Las Vegas, where family and friends tell her she can't get into too much trouble. Silly people. Coonts has built her own business, practiced law, flown airplanes, written a humor column for a national magazine, and survived a teenager.

For more information please visit http://www.deborahcoonts.com/, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.



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Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of this book and information from FSB Associates for review purposes. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

A Happy Visit From The Fairy Hobmother


I was visited by The Fairy Hobmother!  When I opened up the email, I was all giddy with excitement.  They are sending me a gift voucher to use at Amazon just in time for my husbands birthday!  My mom always said that the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.  It's so true because most of what James wants is pretty expensive.  Now I will be able to get him something extra special!  Thanks Fairy Hobmother, you have truly made my day!

Disclosure: I will be receiving an Amazon gift voucher for sharing this post.  All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Paul the Male Matchmaker: Part 2


I've been watching episodes of Paul the Male Matchmaker on Hulu and it's super funny.  My favorite episode is the very first one.  I love it when Paul asks Leslie to tell him about herself.  She starts explaining why she has to come to him to help her find someone special.  She tells him that she keeps attracting guys who are only interested in her looks.  Paul wrinkles up his nose and says "really, that's a problem for you".  The way he approaches his clients is unconventional and the stuff he says totally catches me off guard.  Have you seen Paul the Matchmaker yet?




Disclosure: I have been hired by Warner Bros WBWord division to raise awareness for Paul the Male Matchmaker.

Review - Bamboo Charcoal Fiber Pillow

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I always seem to have so much trouble getting comfortable when I am trying to go to sleep. I know that the main reason is because my bed is ancient and worn out. Until recently, I had no idea how much my pillow was contributing to my being uncomfortable at night. I thought that the pillow I was using was of good quality because it cost a lot more than other pillows. Boy was I wrong. The first time I laid my head on my brand new Bamboo Charcoal Fiber Pillow, I knew that there was something completely different about this product. At first it felt a bit awkward.  I wasn't used to having neck support and while I felt like my neck was in a weird position, I soon realized that it felt really, really nice.  I had my husband try it out and he felt the same way as I did.  We were baffled because all this time we had been missing out on getting a better night's sleep.

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I have been sleeping on my new Bamboo Charcoal Fiber Pillow every night since it was delivered to my door.  There has been a significant improvement in my comfort and my husband even said that it has helped a little bit with my snoring.  Needless to say, that makes him happy.  Plus, he doesn't have to listen to me constantly complain about my neck hurting.  I was in a car accident a few years ago and I have suffered from severe back and neck pain.  I feel like at least the top half of my spine is better aligned when I lay on my new pillow.  I normally toss and turn throughout the entire night.  I'm pretty sure that I did this because I couldn't get comfortable.  Now that my neck is able to relax and receive the support it needs, I only toss a couple of times during the night.  When I wake up in the morning, I feel ready for the day that lies ahead.  I have noticed a tremendous change in my attitude because I don't want to take a nap all the time.  I feel like I my life has improved with my Bamboo Charcoal Fiber Pillow.  

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I am so glad that I was given the opportunity to have a better night's sleep and I plan on telling everyone how wonderful this product is.  It is made using Bamboo Charcoal is a green product that is really popular in both China and Japan.  It "consists of carbonized Bamboo, which is created when Bamboo is burned in an oven at over 1000 degrees."  The Bamboo Charcoal will "absorb environmental impurities and moisture."    The pillow is made of 100% cotton twill fabric. The pillowcase can be washed in the washing machine.  You can purchase a Bamboo Charcoal Fiber Pillow for $44.99 from Qbedding.  If you order right now, you will receive a free teddy bear by spending more than $30.  You can connect with Qbedding on their social media pages on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.  You can also subscribe to receive updates.

Disclosure: I received a free Bamboo Charcoal Fiber Pillow from Qbedding.com for review purposes. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Review & #Giveaway - Chuggington: Brewster's Little Helper


ABOUT THE DVD:

Honk your horns for this all-new collection showcasing young trainee, Brewster, as he discovers adventure and responsibility in Chuggington. In these six traintastic episodes, Brewster gets some unexpected help from Zephie, cleans up a mess in the recycling yard with Koko, does a sign-reading exercise with pal Wilson, and even meets his hero Action Chugger! Together Brewster and his friends learn valuable lessons about friendship, patience, following instructions, and completing daily tasks. Join the trainees as they ride the rails of life in Brewster's Little Helper!

Episodes:

Brewster’s Little Helper
Koko Takes Charge
Brewster Knows Best
Zephie’s Zoomaround
Nurse Wilson
Wilson And The Paint Wagon


MY THOUGHTS:

Damien is a Chuggington fan, so when I heard about the new Brewster's Little Helper DVD, I knew that I had to get it for him.  We watched the DVD together and it was nice to see him having fun and telling me all about the characters.  Plus, Chuggington is a cute show, even for adults.  The Chuggington: Brewster's Little Helper DVD has bonus features including Coloring & Activity Sheets.

Review - Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream


ABOUT THE BOOK:

In thirty days Clementine Pritchard will be finished with her last painting and her life.

World-renowned artist and sharp-tongued wit Clementine Pritchard has decided that she's done. After flushing away a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions, she gives herself thirty days to tie up loose ends—finish one last painting, make nice with her ex-husband, and find a home for her cat. Clementine plans to spend the month she has left in a swirl of art-world parties, manic work sessions, and outrageous acts—but what she doesn't expect is to uncover secrets surrounding the tragedy that befell her mother and sister. In an ending no one sees coming, will we lose Clementine or will we find her?

A bold debut from an exciting new voice, Losing Clementine is a wonderfully entertaining and poignant novel about unanticipated self-discovery that features one of the most irresistible, if deeply flawed, characters to grace contemporary fiction in years.

MY THOUGHTS:

This book is amazing! While reading it, I couldn't help but laugh out loud at the wildly entertaining voice of Ashley Ream. Clementine is an unforgettable character with lots of personality. Although she has a timeline set and is planning to end it all by taking her own life, she has an undeniable spunk about her. I thought that there would be some depressing parts but it was really comical. I adored reading Losing Clementine and can't wait to see what Ashley publishes next!

AUTHOR BIO:


Ashley Ream got her first job at a newspaper when she was 16. After working in newsrooms across Missouri, Florida and Texas, she gave up the deadlines to pursue fiction. She lives in Los Angeles where she works at a nonprofit and is finishing her next novel.

Visit Ashley's website

Disclosure: I received a free copy of Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream from HarperCollins for review purposes.  All opinions expressed are 100% my own.

Clip It With clipix

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to be more organized.  So far, this is the easiest resolution for me to keep.  I now have a "flow" and it is so much easier for myself and my family to function.  The main thing that has helped me has been being able to do pretty much all of my organizing online.  I am constantly blogging and now that I have formulated a system, things seem to be running a lot smoother. 

I checked out this website called clipix and have been clipping away!  This clipboard program gives you the opportunity to upload different pictures by placing them in different categories.  When see something online that you like, you can instantly add it to clipboard and easily share it with both family and friends.  It doesn't cost anything to open an account and you can upload as many images as your heart desires.

I just put together a clipboard for electronics, which I can share on Facebook, Twitter or by email with just the click of a button.  You can start sharing your images, documents, spreadsheets and PDF files now.  Be sure to invite your friends and have fun!

 

 

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