Time to Laugh: Behind the Curtain Audiobook by Amy Lane Narrated by Hugh Bradley

Dreamspinner Press

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/behind-the-curtain-by-amy-lane-6070-b

Blurb

Dawson Barnes recognizes his world is very small and very charmed. Running his community college theater like a petty god, he and his best friend, Benji know they’ll succeed as stage techs after graduation. His father adores him, Benji would die for him, and Dawson never doubted the safety net of his family, even when life hit him below the belt.

But nothing prepared him for falling on Jared Emory’s head.

Aloof dance superstar Jared is a sweet, vulnerable man and Dawson’s life suits him like a fitted ballet slipper. They forge a long-distance romance from their love of the theater and the magic of Denny’s. At first it’s perfect: Dawson gets periodic visits and nookie from a gorgeous man who “gets” him—and Jared gets respite from the ultra-competitive world of dancing that almost consumed him.

That is until Jared shows up sick and desperate and Dawson finally sees the distance between them concealed painful things Jared kept inside. If he doesn’t grow up—and fast—his “superstar” might not survive his own weaknesses. That would be a shame, because the real, fragile Jared that Dawson sees behind the curtain is the person he can see spending his life with.

Review:

This is a sweet story of two people, seemingly in opposite phases of life, coming together and finding love.  Dawson is totally adorkable and Jared is too cool for school.  They are utterly perfect for each other!

Amy is so good at giving us these bony limbed-kersplang-awkward characters that you can’t help but absolutely adore and then pairing them with a masterful, solid, yet somehow broken-needing-to-be-fixed character.  Dawson says all these ridiculous things and it just works.  Just when you think Dawson is the one who needs to grow up, you realize that, no, he is the rock in this relationship and poor Jared is the one who needs to be rescued.

Amy also excels at “friends” and Dawson’s friends (and family) are so wonderful and though they may try to steal the story, they only add to its richness and texture, by giving it greater depth.

The dialog in this book is funny, sweet, touching and wonderful, just like Jared and Dawson’s love for each other. I really enjoyed these guys and I hope we get to see them in future books, I didn’t want this one to end! 

Audio:

The narrator, Hugh Bradley, is new to me, but I will definitely look for him in the future. He did an amazing job, really brining the characters to life with his voices and inflection. He seemed to really “get” Dawson and Jared and their story. Sometimes a narrator can mess up a story for you, if you have already read it and already have a feel for the characters in your head. But Hugh seemed to be reading the same story as me, and I really enjoyed listening to his version. I highly recommend this audible as a companion to the book or all on its own.

6 of 5 stars

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Recent Release: Blood Dance by Samantha Cayto

Pride Publishing
https://www.pride-publishing.com/book/blood-dance

Blurb
What lurks in the dark is not always a monster. Sometimes it’s your deepest desire.
A thousand years ago, Alex captained an alien ship that crashed on Earth. Stranded, he has tried to keep his men together while forging a new life. He’s locked into a never-ending war with mutinous crewmembers that makes unsuspecting humans collateral damage. That humans mistake them as vampires is all to the good. Humans are still not ready to learn aliens live among them. Alex has finally found some peace running a private club, but the memories of a human, loved and lost, keeps him alone.
Quinn Cooper was kicked out of his family when he came out as gay. Having travelled to Boston, he takes a job in Alex’s club. His boss and the men around him are large, scary and hard to ignore—as is his instant attraction to Alex. Becoming involved with the boss is always tricky. There’s something about Alex, however, that’s too sexy and compelling to ignore.
Knowing that seducing the vulnerable and virginal Quinn is a bad idea, Alex tries to keep his distance. He’s also trying to protect the boy and everyone else when the traitorous crew once more stirs up trouble. Alex’s and Quinn’s growing attraction leads Quinn closer to the frightening truth of whose bed he shares, while putting him in unfathomable harm’s way. Alex has to find a path forward to end the alien war for good or risk losing another love.

Review
Can many of our beliefs in the supernatural really be aliens who have infiltrated our world? Not as farfetched as belief in vampires. Quinn stumbles into a BDSM club in answer to an ad for go-go dancers. New in town, as well as homeless and hungry he immediately catches Alex’s attention. Unfortunately he shows up just as an opposing group of aliens are starting to pick at the life this group has made for themselves.

The world building goes on through the whole story. Bits and pieces revealed in the form of explaining the story and later informing Quinn. The romance between Quinn and Alex seems to happen quickly, I think the story only spans a few weeks, yet by the end there are declarations of love. The writing was good, the story kept my interest all the way through, and the sexy times were hot! There was mention of men being able to get pregnant, but it didn’t happen in this story.

This ended with a HFN, and left it for more stories to come, both with Quinn and Alex as well as the other alien members of the group. There will be an overall storyline so the books should be read in order as they come out.

Rating 4 of 5 stars

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Scorch (Homecoming Hearts book 1) by H.J. Welch

Amazon Link

https://www.amazon.com/Scorch-Homecoming-Hearts-Book-1-ebook/dp/B0764JKB53/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507145933&sr=8-1&keywords=scorch+welch

free on KU!

Blurb
At twenty-three, Blake is facing what most don’t see until decades later: the end of his career. His record label has dropped his boy band, and he’s got no place to go but home, except his mom’s about to turn his entire life into a reality TV show.

Elion isn’t where he wanted to be. A barista in a town so small he knows every customer by name, his world is about to be turned on its head when Blake – and the attending media circus – walks right through his doors. And like a fool, in front of thousands of viewers, Elion feels that old spark reignite.

Blake isn’t sure he’s a man’s man, but his producer assures him that a fling will be great for ratings. Elion’s set on showing him what being with a guy can really be like, too, and as reality and fiction begin to blur, falling in love becomes tantalizingly possible. Dangerously so, as a real-life superfan decides that Blake belongs to him.

Elion will have to fight if he’s to keep the man who’s fallen into his arms like manna from heaven.

Review

What does happen to the members of a boy band when it’s all over? I’ve never thought about it unless I see them of celebrity reality shows. I liked this story because it’s not about regretting a life that has gone but positive about what can be. Blake heads home to decide what to do next and gets quite a surprise when it’s already been decided for him. Initially he goes with the flow. At this point I’m wondering when is Blake going to stand up for himself. He is such a sweet guy that taken he is advantage of by family and people around him.
I loved Elion, he is a fun character. So outgoing and the life and soul but hiding that he has had a difficult life. I loved his sassy attitude, no one was going to push him around. I enjoyed Blake and Elion’s first meeting and I thought the way they ended up in their fake relationship was inspired. The gradual realisation that they actually had something real is lovely. Not to mention they are hot together. Elion is such a gentle teacher and lover.
The filmmakers and the outlandish situations they force on Blake and Elion are described so well. There doesn’t seem to be anything they wouldn’t do to create drama and this makes a great read.
Overall this is such a satisfying start to the series and I’m looking forward to the next book Spark.

4 of stars out of 5

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Brave & Beautiful (Sassy Boyz #3) by Elizabeth Varlet

release day review

Carina Press
https://www.carinapress.com/shop/books/9781488079184_brave-beautiful.html

Blurb

Sexy, seductive and hiding dark secrets, the Sassy Boyz return to the stage in Brave & Beautiful

There’s only one relationship that matters to Tameron “Tam” Kis—his love affair with dance. Life’s been pretty shitty, but dance got him through it and now he’s ready to focus on what he loves. He doesn’t have the bandwidth for any distractions—especially not his sexy, not-quite-straight new neighbor.

Driver Ellis doesn’t need anything but his bike and the open road. He wouldn’t trade his drifter lifestyle for anything…until his friend calls in a favor and Driver suddenly finds himself pet-sitting. Driver isn’t thrilled being stuck in one place, though things start to look up when he sets eyes on the gorgeous girl next door.

There’s just one problem… She isn’t a girl at all.

All it takes is one spontaneous dance to turn both Driver’s and Tam’s worlds upside down. They might not have been looking for love, but as things heat up between them, it’s clear life has very different plans.

Review

If you’ve been following this series along the way, you know that the author, Elizabeth Varlet, really likes to make our guys work for their HEAs. In this sense, she’s given us a bit of a break – but only in the fact that poor Tam has already lived through his hell and is on the other side.

She makes our MCs work for it in the way that Driver is difficult to like. He’s pretty selfish and though he has “reasons” for why he acts like he does, he doesn’t have nearly the gorgeous soul that Tam does. So it’s hard to reconcile him for Tam – though it’s obvious that Tam needs exactly someone who makes him feel safe – and that’s Driver.

This is a slow burn, very romantic installment with a lot of feels. I felt like the pacing was appropriate given Tam’s history – even if I did want to jump to the part where Driver finally pulled his head out sooner!

I think this might tie for my favorite in the series – mostly due to Tam and how amazing he is as a character. I also really loved the parts where Tam was with the therapist – outlining just how important that was in his recovery.

Highly recommended!

4.5 of 5 stars

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Encore By Ruth Clampett

Amazon Link
https://www.amazon.com/Encore-Ruth-Clampett-ebook/dp/B074W11WPV/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1506886862&sr=1-1&keywords=encore+ruth+clampett

Free on KU!

Blurb

When shy programmer, Charlie, is dragged to a “Magic Mike” club in Hollywood by his co-workers, the last thing he expects is to be pulled onstage. But when he’s approached by Ramon, a dancer whose only focus is to bring him pleasure, something awakens in Charlie that can’t be denied.

Yet heated attraction only goes so far when one man dreams of true love and a life finally fulfilled, and the other is still grieving the one he lost, and the mistake that cost him everything.

Can a realist and a dreamer from two different worlds move forward and build a future together, or will their painful pasts keep them from fulfilling their destiny?

***This standalone is a M/M love story with graphic sex.***

Review

This is a story of leaving the past in the past. That by doing that you have the opportunity to see what is in front of you and ahead. Charlie is so wrapped up in taking care of his sister, hiding in the closet, and regrets of his past choices that he is just walking through life with no plans or goals. Ramon has run from his past only to find that it has followed him from Miami to L. A.

I get the impression that this book was plotted out with certain events the MC’s needed to get through and then as an afterthought tied together. There are 3 or 4 swells of intense emotions and situations in the story and then a conclusion to that episode, only to move to the next one. I liked how one MC’s impression of themselves is so opposite to how the other MC sees them.

I liked the storyline I just felt like it was too planned.

3.5 of 5 stars

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Back to School: Learning From Isaac by Bev Bentham


Amazon Link

https://www.amazon.com/Learning-Isaac-Tarnished-Souls-Book-ebook/dp/B00JO2FD02/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505408708&sr=8-1&keywords=learning+dev+bentham

 

Free on KU!

Blurb:

It’s hard to break out of a rut. For years, Nathan submerged himself into his job at St. Genevieve’s. He enjoys teaching, hates faculty meetings, loves his science and has committed himself to the cycle of college life. Along the way, he’s become resigned to being a gay man in a straight culture, a Jew among Catholics, and single in a world of couples. Then the brilliant Isaac Wolf appears in his classroom. Isaac’s a few years older than his fellow students, gorgeous, self-composed and Jewish.

Isaac has his own secrets, which Nathan finds out at the racy new club downtown where the boys who dance out front can be bought in the back room. Nathan thinks he’s about to get a lap dance, but behind the beaded curtain the man on his knees turns out to be Isaac. Nathan’s mind isn’t the only thing Isaac blows. Afterward, Nathan can’t stop thinking about that night. The question is whether Nathan can let himself fall in love with a student, much less someone with Isaac’s checkered past. Is it too late for a student to teach his professor the true nature of love and respect?

Review:
There a many issues covered in this story, we have a professor/student issue which also includes an age difference, we have a man prostituting himself to pay for college, we have the aftermath of said prostitution of being both recognized and assumption of being a paying client. With all of this controversy going on I think the author did a great job of telling this story.

We get the story from Nate’s point of view. Nate has become complacent in his life. He teaches a specialized year long class at a small college. His last relationship ended with his partner being unfaithful and giving him the clap. As a professor he knows the implications of getting involved with a student, yet his mind goes there quite often. On top of that he believes the age difference will make a true relationship impossible.

Isaac risked everything by declaring his love for another man only to be deserted by his parents and discovering his lover is married to a woman with kids. He is enrolled in an expensive private college and is practical about not graduating with a massive debt. He gets into dancing and other things at a strip club to pay down his debt.

Throughout this story it really seems like Isaac is the more mature of the 2. Isaac has a much better handle on controlling his impulses. With Nate we get the usual what ifs?

The sexual interaction between the 2 were hot. As well as all of the protection put in place waiting for a clean slate diagnoses for Isaac. When all barriers are dropped it ramps up even more.

An easy, enjoyable read for a day off

4 of 5 stars

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Copy Purchased for Review

Audiobook: Tart and Sweet (Candy Man Book 4) By Amy Lane Narrated by Philip Alces

audiobookreview

Dreamspinner Presents
https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/tart-and-sweet-by-amy-lane-8858-b

Blurb

In the Army, Robbie Chambers turned on his lover out of fear—and he hasn’t been able to live with himself since. Now he’s out of the Army but still trapped in the closet that brought on his most cowardly moment, and he starts to think he’ll never be able to fight his way free.

Until he sees Cy McVeigh. Beautiful and uninhibited, Cy is dancing on the boardwalk at Old Sac for no other reason than the moment called for it. Robbie not only joins in the dance but is smitten from the very beginning.

However, Robbie still has old business to clear up, and when he helps out a kid in need and comes face-to-face with the man he betrayed, he’s forced to come clean with himself. He can’t redeem his mistake if he’s still locked into his old patterns, and he won’t ever be worthy of Cy if he can’t earn Adam’s forgiveness. He’s going to need all the help he can get from the people at Candy Heaven in order to make things right with his past so he can have a future with Cy.

Review

(Book Reviewed Here Previously)

This is book four in a series and I guess – in theory- you don’t have to read these in order – but ya should! Without reading about Adam and Finn, you really can’t truly appreciate Robbie and why it’s such an AMY thing to do to give him his own book! Also, Ezra and Miguel’s book also gives you insight as to why Ezra has to be the one to help Robbie.

On Facebook we had a long discussion – Mary and Amy and all the peeps – about whether or not Robbie even WAS redeemable and a lot of people thought he wasn’t… well – she managed to find a way.

At first you think Robbie was a true a-hole. He dumped Adam in the middle of a war-zone and left him high and dry, knowing what that could potentially do to him. And we, as readers, are already very invested in making Adam (and Finn) happy so how can we look at Robbie and root for him?

Well—- there are some things we learn that help – for sure – but I think the most important lesson Amy teaches us is that anything (I guess within reason!) can be forgiven if you really mean it and are determined to “not be that guy” anymore.

That’s awesome because who doesn’t want to believe they can outgrow their mistakes, right?

In any case – we now get to see just what makes Robbie tick and learn more about the bi-sexual and oh so tempting Cy (who briefly thought about pursuing our Ezra). And… for me this is HUGE – we get to see Mickey and Shane again!!!! WOOOOOT!

Of course I devoured this in one sitting the minute I got it and I loved every last bit of it. Just like all the other “Amy lite” books it has some hot smexy times, some super satisfying feels and some hard bits that we have to be brave to withstand.

Based on the ending I’m not sure if this is the last one? It sort of leaves it open for more, but not in the near future… As Darrin said – all his boys are happy and healthy so I guess this is a good place to stop, (or take a vacation!) right?

Highly recommended to fans of the series, an okay standalone but better read in order.

5 of 5 stars

Audio

So, Philip Alces has done all the other books in this series (and several others by Amy) and he does his typical good job with this. I definitely think he’s getting better over time, though I do think his voice is a bit “old” for the characters he’s portraying.

However, he attempts to do a Russian accent for Anna and Mickey and…. Well – it sounded more Scottish than Russian. Also – I have a huge soft spot for Paul Morey’s narration of Amy’s Making Promises (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8578296-making-promises?from_search=true) and his interpretation of Anna, Mickey and Shane – so I was disappointed by Philip’s accent – but glad he gave them an accent at all!

This is a lovely closing book to the series and – of course – it was great having the same narrator throughout – I thought he did a nice job of giving Ezra a bit more of a distinct accent this time and I adore his Miguel, Adam and Finn … so all in all I was quite pleased. I’d have made this a 6 if his Russian accent was better *wink!

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Satin (A Material World #2) by KC Wells

Amazon Link

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073SHP317/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1499972523&sr=1-1&keywords=satin+kc+wells

Free on KU!

Blurb

Can a touch of Satin bring a straight copper to his knees?

Detective Joel Hunter is on surveillance when he first lays eyes on Satin, the singer with the amazing voice, which is as beautiful as she is. But when the stake-out comes to an end, he can’t resist going back to the bar. He gets a shock when he learns what lies beneath the satin dress, but an even bigger one when he realizes he’s attracted to the owner of that sultry voice – Ross Dauntry.
Ross can’t figure out why the cop keeps coming back, even after he’s learned the truth. Is Joel attracted to him, or to Satin? Because the answer is important, and one way or another, Ross needs to know…

 

 

Review

Satin can be read as a standalone story.
What I like about KC Wells is that she gives you characters you can believe in. Joel’s confidence in dating is at a low point. Women think he’s boring. Ross (Satin) has also had bad luck dating. They start meeting as friends and get on so well together. The story unfolds from there.

What I like about both Lace (book 1) and Satin is that in both cases the main characters have to learn to be comfortable with themselves. Ross likes to wear Satin because it boosts his confidence and Joel with the fact that he finds Ross attractive. Accepting a new side of yourself is not easy and the struggle they go through is compelling to read. Joel is dense when it comes to relationships and doesn’t really understand how he is hurting Ross. There were times I wanted to give Joel a shake. Ross wears his heart on his sleeve and maybe that scares Joel. I love the pair of them. Both strong and fragile at the same time. For me it’s a sign of a great story when I get wrapped up in the characters. I highly recommend it.

5 of 5 stars!

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Just Like Cats and Dogs by BA Tortuga

release day review

Dreamspinner Presents

https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/just-like-cats-and-dogs-by-ba-tortuga-8090-b

Blurb

2nd Edition

A Sanctuary Novel

Can cats and dogs ever get along, let alone fall in love?

Sam knows you can never go home again. As an orphaned feline shifter raised by wolves, being an outcast is nothing new to him. But the pack is still his family, and when one of them passes away, Sam returns to the New Mexico desert to say good-bye.

Gus is a loner who rarely returns to his pack, but as fate would have it, Sam is there when he chooses to visit. The history between Gus and Sam is tumultuous, to say the least, but when Gus gets an eyeful of the grown-up and gorgeous version of his childhood bully, he can’t control his reaction. And he isn’t alone.

The attraction is powerful, but so are their differences. And with trouble brewing in the pack and danger surrounding them, Sam and Gus might not have the opportunity to seek common ground.

This action-packed shifter novel is the ultimate opposites attract and enemies-to-lovers romance, and it includes a bonus novella, In the Dog House.

First Edition published by Torquere Press, 2011.

Review

This was a lot of fun! One thing I appreciate about BA Tortuga’s shifter books is how “animal-like” the shifters are, even while in human form. They purr, growl, crave tuna, rub against one another and chase birds in the park. Sometimes the writing style reflects this – short, staccato phrases that go along with a more “simple” brain and this can be disconcerting until you get into the rhythm.

I was confused at times by the whole “mate” thing. It’s not as simple as some other shifter novels where they meet, know immediately and claim one another. It’s a bit more subtle than that, so I found myself flipping back and forth trying to figure out if I’d missed something when our MCs go from fighting to fucking to calling one another Mate.

I also didn’t fully understand the whole situation regarding Sam in the city and what happened. Maybe we’ll learn more as the series progresses? But that was not really clear. Nor was the family situation. I guess the “sanctuary” is meant to be the big adopted family but having everyone refer to one another as brother and sister (even when they hooked up) was a bit confusing and disconcerting. (I was also confused about the type of cat Sam was – the cover suggests a Jaguar but the way he acted felt more like a house cat…)

Overall, I really enjoyed this. There was a lot of sex and a lot of odd discussions but a lot of warmth and humor and sentiment as well.

I definitely recommend this to fans of shifter romances, but you might want to read a sample first if you’ve never read anything by this author before, as she has a distinct style that not everyone enjoys.
(This cover is a huge improvement over the original! Kudos!)

4 of 5 stars

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Curling Iron Audiobook by Nya Rawlins Narrated by Michael Ferraiuolo

audiobookreview

curlingBlurb

Kane leads a double life. By day, he pumps iron, running a fitness center, where jocks and cougars flock for the burn and the ‘tude. By night, it’s something else entirely that gets pumped, as Kane swaps sweats for Armani to cater to an exclusive clientele, willing to pay well to indulge their special interests and tastes. His double life isn’t a problem until his conniving ex tightens the financial screws.
Finding and retaining suitable companions for his after-dark clients isn’t easy. David Black’s pole dancing performance at a friend’s club hints that he might hit all the bullet points on Kane’s list of requirements, in a way that could mean something other than just business.
David is out of work and out of options, so when he’s offered the choice of starvation or performing both on and off the stage, it’s a no-brainer. Kane’s offer of a position with the escort service is as attractive as the man himself, and David agrees to a trial period involving certain conditions. He quickly finds that he’s out of his depth.
Confronted with unanticipated roadblocks, one thing is clear; neither man is taking no for an answer.

Review

Both Kane and David are struggling financially and both have been burned by past boyfriends. Kane’s ex is literally trying to take his last dime and David’s took his sense of personal safety.

Both of these guys are what I would consider “anti-heroes” in that Kane runs an escort service (ie Pimp) and David does poll dances and gives BJs for extra cash (ie rent boy). This is what draws them to one another initially. In a traditional romance they might start out “bad” but end up “good”. Well…. That’s not exactly how this story goes.

David keeps telling us (himself?) that he’s a good boy … he doesn’t do that… then he does that which he was objecting to. He also says his ex left him because he was too vanilla and so he tried BDSM to “spice up” his love life – only it went all wrong and he ended up in the hospital.

I gotta tell you. At this point – where Kane and David are talking about safe words etc. I was pretty done. I am NOT a BDSM fan. David was essentially raped and he needs some therapy not a “better Dom”. But … I know this is my own bias.

So I persevered. The author’s writing style is engaging. She does not bash you on the head with every little detail but allows you to draw your own conclusions. I like that. You have to pay attention while reading/listening to this because it isn’t just laid out there for you to be spoon-fed. That’s pretty awesome.

For me, however, I just never really felt a bond for the MCs. David never appealed to my sense of “poor David” nor did Kane. So I didn’t gel with them and while it seems as though their relationship will work out (this is one of three in a series and they continue to be a couple throughout according to blurbs on goodreads) it felt like more of a passionate connection than a love one. (This is probably more about my preferences than anything else.)

I did love the ending and how the two end up “solving” their respective issues – that was pretty “sweet” *wink!

These guys are rough with one another and I know there are folks out there who love that – for you I’d definitely recommend this book/series. For me, it wasn’t as sweet as I’d like nor did I feel the emotional connection between the MCs that I look for.

I’ll give this a solid 3.5 of 5 stars for writing, unique characters, and grit.

Audio

Michael Ferraiuolo does another fantastic job with this! He’s a super narrator with great timing, emotion, great voice quality and he’s very easy to listen to. I highly enjoyed listening to this and recommend the audiobook as the best way to enjoy this story.

5 of 5 stars for the narration

Overall 4.25 of 5 stars

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Copy Generously Provided by Author for Honest Review

Audible Link

http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Curling-Iron-Audiobook/B01M8KKQDR/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1478716493&sr=1-1