Categories
adult - 18+ Angst Level Baseball Book coming of age Contemporary Dreamspinner Enemies to Lovers Exploration Fan Art Gay GFY/OFY Heat Index Homophobia Hopelessly Crying Hurt/Abuse Karrie Jax m/m Mid level steam/heat Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Sports Sports

Force Play by Elle Brownlee

force playBlurb

Professional baseball player Harmon “Hawk” Kiel was a rookie sensation with dazzling talent and an arrogant attitude to match. But he’s hit his sophomore slump, and his natural talent seems to have deserted him, along with the confidence of his team and the media’s approval. During the All Star Break he hits rock bottom, gets careless, and sensational pictures of him at gay clubs go viral. All at once he’s outed, and out of a job.

When he’s dealt to the Loggerheads, a worse-than-terrible expansion team in Charleston, South Carolina, he can’t imagine he’ll get a warm reception—nor does he particularly want one. But it’s the only chance at redemption he has.

There he meets Caleb Jackson, a former player who’s part of the Loggerheads organization, someone who tries to be the friend Harmon so desperately needs. But Caleb has a secret too, one more gut-wrenching than anything Harmon can imagine. Together they try to put the past behind them, rediscover their love of the game—and maybe even find the love of their lives.

Review

Harmon, aka Hawk is a pro-baseball player who ends up violating his contract and outing himself in one fell swoop. He gets traded to anon-name expansion team where he’s to lick his wounds and try to recover his career. In addition to combatting the “gay” thing, he also has to rejuvenate his image as a star player as all his averages have been dropping since his miraculous first year.

Caleb is the catcher for the team, but not really. He can’t play professionally anymore but he can do his best to make his team members the best they possibly can play. He helps Hawk to re-invent himself both as a player and a gay man.

Their relationship is a slow burn but very sexy. When they do come together it’s hot! In the end we are given a pretty strong HFN/HEA though these men are few in the words department.

12209126_10156170964150414_139732082_o**
If you are a fan of baseball you will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this! Elle Brownlee is a very meticulous writer who obviously knows her subject matter. (I didn’t always understand the baseball but I felt absolutely immersed in the sport!) I really liked how authentic these two MCs felt. Hawk especially seemed very real. His angst sprang honestly from his upbringing by the over-achiever sports-dad who tried to live through his son’s experience. His reluctance to leave the closet and be out and proud felt real and progressed at a believable pace.

The entire expansion team gave me the feel of Major League or Bull Durham in that they all had stories and hopes and dreams and just needed the right combination to “make it big!”

I was less impressed by Caleb – though I liked him quite a bit more than Hawk! – in that I’m not sure anyone can be that open, friendly and sweet given the life he had. But – he was a great foil for Hawk’s crankiness.

I also wish we’d gotten a more “firm” HEA for these guys. I’m not sure if this is in preparation for a sequel or if the author just kept these guys “in character” and not willing to talk about their feelings much.

I recommend this to fans of baseball and coming out stories.

4.25 of 5 stars

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Copy Generously Provided by Publisher for an Honest Review

Dreamspinner Presents
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7052

Categories
adult - 18+ Angst Level Audiobook Baseball Contemporary Dreamspinner Friends to lovers Gay Geek/Jock Heat Index Hidden Lovers High School m/m Mild level angst Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Purchased Scorching/high heat second chance at love Sports

Caught Running Audiobook by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux Narrated by Jeff Gelder

CaughtRunningAUDmedBlurb

Ten years after graduation, Jake “the jock” Campbell and Brandon “the nerd” Bartlett are teaching at their old high school and still living in separate worlds. When Brandon is thrown into a coaching job on Jake’s baseball team, they find themselves learning more about each other than they’d ever expected. High school is all about image – even for the teachers. Brandon and Jake have to get past their preconceived notions to find the friendship needed to work together. And somewhere along the way, they discover that perceptions can always change for the better.

Review

Brandon and Jake were never friends nor really enemies in high school, simply occupants of totally different social spheres. Ten years later they are both teaching at their old high school and things are looking a lot different than they did back then.

Brandon, who was home schooled for much of his schooling, was never a “team” type of guy. But, he’s still an athlete. When the school needs a coach to help with the winning baseball team, new teacher Brandon is pressed into service.

Jake is very skeptical of Brandon’s “help” in the coaching department, but after seeing the guy run, he re-evaluates. They end up kind of working really well together as coaches, and that slowly blossoms into more.

It’s a slow-burn, but both are aware of the other physically, more than just friends. It takes an act of bravery on Jake’s part to test the waters, but once he does the two barely come up for air!

These are still tough times, and nobody can find out about them… and are they willing to even admit how important they are to each other?

**

I really loved this and it was my first audiobook that I bought in the m/m genre. It’s an easy read. Very low angst, very hot sex, fun dialog, quirky MCs and in general just a light fun book.

Now that I’ve read a ton more in this genre, and have come to expect a bit more from it, I can say that there are things that could be done to improve it – ie make these guys move past the ILYs to the nitty gritty living life in secret as co-workers, dealing with Jake’s pain management, coming to grips with Brandon’s life ambitions… lots of heavy “issues” that got fairly well brushed under the rug at the end of the book and left as things to be dealt with “later”.

I think that, as authors, both Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux definitely grew and improved as they published more books, but as far as a fun, light books go – this still ranks among the top!

4.5 of 5 stars

Audio

Jeff Gelder isn’t my favorite author, and as has been pointed out in other reviews, he makes many mistakes with this narration. In addition, his tone is rather flat or sometimes takes on an up note that doesn’t fit the story.   In any case, it isn’t horrible, but it’s not great, and other narrators could’ve definitely done a better job.

Regardless, I still highly recommend this book and as a way to enjoy this without reading it, this narration will absolutely get the job done.

So for the book and the narration a solid 4 of 5 stars.

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(Copy purchased for review)

 

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http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3247

Categories
adult - 18+ Angst Level Audiobook Basketball College/University coming of age Contemporary Dreamspinner Exploration Friends to lovers Gay GFY/OFY Heat Index Hidden Lovers High School Homophobia Hopelessly Crying Hurt/Abuse m/m Mid level steam/heat New Adult Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Purchased Sports Virgin

The Locker Room Audiobook by Amy Lane Narrated by Sean Crisden


locker roomBlurb

Xander Karcek has only wanted two things in his life: Christian Edwards and basketball—the man he loves and the game that let him escape a childhood he’d rather forget. His two obsessions have served him well. He and Chris beat the odds and stayed together through high school, college, and right on to the NBA. But life under fame’s microscope isn’t easy, especially when two men are pretending to be frat-buddies so the world doesn’t know they’re the next best thing to married. Their relationship survives the sacrifices they make and the lies they tell to stay together, but when their secret is exposed, the fallout might destroy them when nothing else could. Chris and basketball are the two things holding Xander together. Now the world is asking Xander to make a choice. Is there an option that includes a future with the man he loves?

Review

I feel like this story is so well known and beloved that everyone knows what it’s about and it’s hard to remember a time when I hadn’t read it or had it affect me.

But I know that’s not entirely true, and somewhere there are readers out there who have yet to experience the amazement that is this story.

So…

Xander is poor, pretty much raising himself as a teenager, keeping out of the way from mom’s “boyfriends” who want to steal his money and slap him around. The only thing that gives him any hope in the world are basketball and his “friend” Christian Edwards.

Chris is your typical all-American boy, a great family at home including a little sister, who meets a young boy playing basketball one day and sort of “adopts” him into his life and his family.

When Xander’s mother’s latest man friend forces Xander on to the streets Chris’ and Xander hatch a plan for him to work and go to school and live on his own. This lasts for a little while until exhaustion and hunger make him collapse one day on the courts, driving him to first move to a group home then later the Edwards’ house.

Everything would be perfect but for one thing: Xander and Chris have realized that they are more than friends. They don’t act upon it. A sense of morality keeps them to furtive kisses until they’re 18.

Basketball treats them both well, and sends them to be roommates in college. There, the fact that they’re so good works against them. Instead of living together as roommates as they’d dreamed, their skill lands them in the house of the varsity team, forcing them to keep their love quiet yet again.

When graduation comes they have to make the miraculous occur and get drafted by the same NBA team… they manage it, but at a cost. They can’t be gay and in the NBA. So, they manage an arrangement that … well, let’s just say they end up having to do more than just show up with a woman now and again to look like the straight celebrity athletes they are.

Finally, after years of hiding and the shame from denying their true nature, disaster strikes, eliminating basketball for one of them but opening the door to their future at the same time.

**

This book. GAH! I’ve read and listened to it so many times, and each and every time I am TORN OPEN. It is so gut-wrenching. They love each other so damn much and their pain kills me. Unlike some romances where them finding love is at least one if not the main obstacle, keeping their love quiet is the only focus in the book.

Probably the part of the story that guts me the worst is the part when they’re teenagers and Xander is living by himself and Chris’ mom finds out just how he’s been doing that… GOD I cry like a baby every time.

Then, there’s the nights the boys have to “fake it” to convince the media they are straight. It’s so heartbreaking!

Finally there’s the ending, which ends up being so bittersweet, but that interview they do with Barbara WaWa… bawling!

Amy’s ability to grab your heart and make it bleed is profound and amazing. She has such a way with emotion and finding just the right small thing to focus upon which manages to impart the greatest impact.

These guys are so well written that they feel real celebrities to me – they’ve made appearances in her other books as well as some guest appearances in other author’s works- it’s as if they are truly part of basketball history.

I know Amy has mentioned a book two for these guys and I know I for one would LOVE that. They need more time and we need to see Chris healed and give them their reward for all their years of silence.

Audio

Sean Crisden is just awesome! He is one of my favorite narrators and he does an amazing job here. Xander is just so stolid and stoic and Chris is just the right amount of peppy and growly. This is an absolute joy to listen to.

6 of 5 stars! A true M/M must read.

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(Copy Purchased for Review)

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Categories
Angst Level Audiobook Bi-Sexual College/University Contemporary Exploration Friends to lovers Gay Geek/Jock GFY/OFY Heat Index Hidden Lovers Homophobia Hopelessly Crying m/m Mild/low level heat Music/Rock Star Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Purchased Sports Virgin young adult

Social Skills Audiobook by Sara Alva Narrated by Andrew Eiden

 

 

social skillsBlurb

Music is the only form of communication Connor Owens controls. No matter how badly he wishes to fit in, friendly banter and casual conversations have never been his thing. College is yet another social universe he has no clue how to navigate – until he meets Jared, a football player with chestnut eyes and a cocky grin that holds the power to shatter his self-imposed prison. Jared’s attention opens Connor up to a new realm of emotional and physical intimacy. But as Connor’s self-confidence grows, so does his fear that everything will fall apart. Because in this socially stratified world, how long can a relationship between an introverted violinist and a closeted football player really last?

Review

Connor’s first year at university is turning out to be very hard. He’s very shy and socially awkard and gay. He finds a group of friends but is still rather lonely. When he meets (and falls for) Jared, a jock, he’s shocked when his attentions are returned.

Jared is a jock and tries hard to be “a man”. In fact, that’s one of his most identifying “issues”. When he realizes his attraction to men, he tries to be “bi” but finds that if he’s honest, he’s really “gay” and that’s hard for him to accept. He doesn’t want to let his mom down and his friends are kind of jerks about stuff like that.

Jared, however, loves being “the one” for Connor. They click and just feel good together. Jared, however, can’t deal with being public about their relationship and ultimately they split.

When something happens to make Jared realize he can’t let his friends or family expecations rule his life, he realizes he needs Connor more than he ever thought possible.

**

Boy… what to say?

First, it’s easy to love Connor. God, he’s just so painfully shy and geeky and you want to wrap him in a blanket and tell him it all gets better from here. (As a former band-geek I TOTALLY get Connor, so I’m a little attached to his happiness.)

Then there’s Jared… who, let’s face it, acts like a guy in his situation really probably would.

So… on the one hand I commend the author for that feeling of authenticity. I could buy this story as happening. There was some (mild) on page sex but mostly this is a YA book about coming out and coming into your own “selfness”.

I was (of course) rooting for the couple… who wouldn’t… but Jared has a long way to go to convince me he’s worthy of Connor and I’m not sure we quite got there. Jared’s kind of a jerk and though I think (especially in private) he really cares for Connor, are they really likely to succeed (long term) as a couple… meh… I don’t know.

But… FWIW I do think they come really close to being a good example of “first love” and gave both characters their first taste at being true to themselves.

So… the die hard romantic in me wasn’t very satisfied, but the more pragmatic reader of stories recognizes that this is a well written book full of really well developed and realistic characters that touches on some important topics in growing up and does it very well.

(I LOVE the cover and really, really want to give that boy a big hug!)

Audio

I thought Andrew Eiden did a good job with the narration. I liked how he handled the emotions and though he didn’t do a lot to “act” or give special voices to the characters, he was easy to listen to and made for a good way to experience this story.

4 of 5 stars

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(Copy purchased for review)

Sara Alva Presents

http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/Social-Skills-Audiobook/B00NIYVOW8/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1441569197&sr=1-1

Categories
Angst Level Audiobook College/University Contemporary Exploration Gay GFY/OFY Heat Index Hidden Lovers Homophobia Hopelessly Crying Hurt/Abuse m/m Mid level steam/heat New Adult Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Part of a Series Purchased Sports Wrestling young adult

Pinned Audiobook (SSU Book one) by Maris Black Narrated by Chris Patton

pinnedBlurb

On his first day of college, all Jeremy Miller can think about is getting away from his hellish home life, making the wrestling team, and finally getting a real boyfriend. He’s sick to death of being used by closeted football players who are too afraid to admit they like guys. What he doesn’t count on is losing his mind over the gorgeous, golden-eyed wrestling captain who needs to keep their attraction a secret at all costs.
After earning a full-ride wrestling scholarship and getting accepted into an elite sports medicine program, Beck thinks he’s got it made. Now he’s a favorite for the national championship in his weight class. Life has never been sweeter or more predictable. Never mind that he’s gay and wishing he didn’t have to hide it. There will be plenty of time for a social life after graduation. Until then he doesn’t need anything to get in the way of his big plans, and that includes the adorable little wrestler who’s got him all tied up in knots.

Review

This is a complex YA/NA story about two wrestlers finding love in a sport that is fairly homophobic, but in this case their coach is dangerously homophobic.

There is a lot of sex in this – so I think for groupings New Adult is more appropriate, but the angst and drama and sometimes over-the-topness sometimes felt more Young Adult.

Beck’s is gay but closeted, doesn’t want to lose his wrestling scholarship. Jeremy is the new guy, super attracted and attractive to Becks, but having to fight against the fear of outing.

The first part of the book is their push-pull of attraction, the second part is dealing with the aftermath.

The second part is where (for me) it got a bit too dramatic at times, though I appreciated the overall statements that get made and the end result. (I won’t say but it involves the Coach in a very bad way and Jeremy makes some decisions that are really hard to witness.)

At the end we get a very satisfying HEA and our MCs manage to bring the bad guy to justice! (I loved the whole Batman/Robin switcheroo underwear thing – very clever!)

Audio

Well I just love Chris Patton so I loved the hell out of this narration. He’s so easy to listen to and I think this hits his “age level” spot on. Kind of young, but mature enough for some hot man on man action. ☺

4.5 of 5 stars

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(Copy purchased for review)

Maris Black Presents

http://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/Pinned-Audiobook/B00YSSPEUQ

Categories
adult - 18+ Angst Level Book Contemporary Curling Enemies to Lovers Gay Heat Index Hockey m/m Mid level angst Mid level steam/heat Novel 140 pgs + (80K + words) Part of a Series Purchased Sports

Burning up the Ice (International Men of Sports Book 5) by TA Chase and Devon Rhodes

burning up the iceBlurb

Book Five in the International Men of Sports

Two men, two very different sports and one rink—sharing ice has never been so hot.

Olivier ‘Big Bang’ St Pierre is back in his hometown while he recovers from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hockey’s a contact sport—still, he didn’t count on the locker room being dangerous. As a professional hockey player, he also didn’t count on it being hard to find ice time. But when a rink shuts down unexpectedly in a winter-sport-crazy town, even being a big name won’t help as people scramble for whatever they can get.

The first time Ethan Campbell hears from the local hockey legend he knew as a kid, Olivier manages to insult both his family’s rink and his new sport—curling. So he’s not exactly receptive when Olivier shows up in person to plead his case. He makes a sarcastic offer…and is shocked when Olivier takes him up on it. Ethan’s bad experience with hockey had left him cold. But soon he and Olivier are burning up the ice.

Ethan is tied to his town, job and family, while Olivier will be going back to Chicago to rejoin his team as soon as he’s able. It can’t possibly last…can it?

Review

Olivier is “out” but not necessarily vocal about it as he’s a professional hockey player. He gets injured and returns home to heal. When the normal rink has problems he turns to a smaller, family owned rink to practice. He finds Ethan there, a guy he knew as a kid, and a wall of resentment.

Ethan is too small to play pro hockey, but he’s got mad skills. He turns to curling for an outlet, but is often ridiculed by the hockey players he envies. When Olivier does the same, he hits him with attitude.

But over time the two come to find that they actually have something special to share if they let the other in.

**

So… Olivier is quite cute and Ethan is sad about not being able to play hockey and they have great sex but where is the relationship and where is it going? I never really felt the connection between these two beyond the physical. I just didn’t “see” their connection.

I thought the Zamboni sex was hot, but it felt awkward that they couple didn’t ever go on dates or even have sex on a bed til the end.

Olivier was a super neat character – an astrophysisist hockey player and I wished we’d had more interactions with him and Ethan as a couple – taking advantage of that uniqueness that seemed to be just something to say rather than a real aspect of his personality.

I didn’t know anything about curling and got to learn something new, so that was nice, but again it felt like everything was just kinda put out there to “be unique” and not something integral to the characters.

The writing and editing were fine but I didn’t really get a great feeling about these guys as a couple and didn’t even understand where they ended up by the end of the book. Are they moving in together? Doing the long distance thing? They just sort of hinted at things in the future which was very unsatisfying.

I’ve enjoyed TA Chase in the past and I’ll definitely given Devon Rhodes another shot, but I was underwhelmed by this effort.

2.5 of 5 stars

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(Copy purchased for review)

http://www.amazon.com/Burning-Ice-International-Sports-Book-ebook/dp/B00IUNB5X0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441911971&sr=8-1&keywords=burning+up+the+ice

Categories
Angst Level Audiobook Bi-Sexual College/University Contemporary Dreamspinner Exploration Friends to lovers Gay Geek/Jock GFY/OFY Heat Index High School Homophobia m/m Mid level angst Mid level steam/heat New Adult Novella 20-160 pgs (20k-40k words) Purchased Sports Virgin Wrestling young adult

Superhero Audiobook by Eli Easton Narrated by Tristan Wright

 

SuperheroAUDMEDBlurb

It’s not easy for a young gay artist like Jordan Carson to grow up in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where all anyone seems to care about in middle school and high school are the sports teams. But Jordan was lucky. He met Owen Nelson in the second grade, and they’ve been BFFs ever since. Owen is a big, beautiful blond and their school’s champion wrestler. No one messes with Owen, or with anyone close to him, and he bucks popular opinion by keeping Jordan as his wingman even after Jordan comes out at school.

Their friendship survives, but Jordan’s worst enemy may be himself: he can’t seem to help the fact that he is head-over-heels in love with a hopeless case—his straight friend, Owen. Owen won’t let anything take Jordan’s friendship away, but he never counted on Jordan running off to find a life of his own. Owen will have to face the nature of their relationship if he’s to win Jordan back.

Review

Owen and Jordy have been friends since forever. Jordy is the arty, small boy to Owen’s large, jock, wrestling counterpart. When Jordy comes out Owen protects him and together they make a comic about a superhero who looks suspiciously like Owen with a counterpart who is suspiciously like Jordy.

Once, in a swimming pool, things between Jordy and Owen crossed the line – but Owen wasn’t ready for something like that, so it gets “tabled”. They remain friends, and in fact the three of them (Jordy, Owen and Emily – Owen’s long standing girl friend) remain tight throughout high school.

Eventually these guys face graduation and moving on to college. It’s at this crossroads that Owen must decide where his loyalties lie. Emily has decided on Smith – no wrestling there!- and her own career path. Owen had thought Jordy and he would be together forever, but when Jordy chooses something different, Owen has to come to grips with the fact that he can do without a lot of things – Jordy isn’t one of them.

**

You know I’m a huge Eli Easton fan (all my previous reviews can be found here:  http://kimichanexperience.com/?s=Eli+Easton or on GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=Eli+Easton), so this was right up there among the top titles of favorite books. The best part is that though it is YA, there’s an appropriate amount of hot smexy times, done just like Eli knows how to do ‘em!

The HEA and feels in this book are wonderful, as are the very well developed MCs and secondary characters.

Eli’s writing is always crisp and flowing, smart and engaging. She makes you laugh and say “awwww” every time.

“Say yes, Jordan,” he said, shifting closer.
“No,” I said.
Owen smiled. “Close enough.” And then he kissed me.”

I highly recommend this to any fan of the GFY/friends-to-lovers theme, don’t be dissuaded by the age, it’s just as hot as you’d want it to be!

 

Audio

Tristan Wright is a new narrator to me, but he does an excellent job with the narration. He doesn’t do anything over the top as far as voicing or acting goes, but he’s easy to listen to and does a nice job with the emotions and making the story come to life.

 

5 of 5 stars

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(Copy purchased for review)

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http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5193

Categories
Angst Level Book College/University Contemporary Dreamspinner Exploration Football Gay Geek/Jock GFY/OFY Hurt/Abuse m/m Mild level angst New Adult Novella 20-160 pgs (20k-40k words) Purchased Scorching/high heat Sports

Steamroller by Mary Calmes (Book Review)

SteamrollerBlurb

About the last thing Vincent Wade expected was for Carson Cress to ask him out. Vince is a dedicated biology student and a bit of a loner. Superstar quarterback Carson is larger than life, and he lives under a public microscope. There’s no way they should work. But Vince is learning that sometimes people just come steamrolling into your life and all you can do is hang on for the ride or lose your heart in the process. If their relationship can survive the fallout when an injury derails Carson’s future plans, maybe Vince can finally find something to believe in.

 

Review

Vincent is that snarky, obviously gay guy who kind of “reverse snobs” the “cool kids” before they can hurt him.

Carson is the golden boy. Never can do any wrong. Living the lie of being straight and playing football for his parents.

Carson wants Vincent, but Vincent isn’t going to make anything easy. He’s distrustful, and not eager to be anybody’s secret.

It takes an epic change in Carson’s life for Vincent to realize that Carson means it when he says that he and Vincent will be together forever… and like a steamroller, he always gets what he wants.

**

This is one of my first m/m books ever and it pleased me so much I’ve kept going and never looked back! It hits every single one of my buttons. Geek and jock. GFY. A very, very HEA. Humor. Passion. It’s so much fun to watch Carson court Vincent and for bitter and cynical Vincent to become putty in his hands.

Of course – it’s Mary – it’s gotta be amazing!

5 of 5 stars!

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(Now we just need an Audiobook to make it perfect!)

 

 

(Purchased for Review)

Dreamspinner Presents

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3199