Netgalley Review Pile Up

The following are a few reviews of books I’ve read over the past few months. I’ve procrastinated reviewing them for a while and figured I’d get them done all at once.

the-invisible-life-of-ivan-isaenkoThe Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko
by Scott Stambach

5 of 5 stars

I really adore this book which actually surprised me a little. I expected to enjoy it based on the premise but it’s not a genre I normally find myself wandering into. The book is very character driven but remains incredibly interesting. Ivan is a fascinating character who I fell in love with gradually over time. Polina is equally charming, especially through his eyes. I admit some of the sexuality made me slightly uncomfortable but unlike some books it felt like it had a place. Instead of just being graphic or shocking for the sake of it, this was used to round out the characters and make them all that much more real. I had a suspicion that this book was going to make me cry and I was right. I found the ending to be perfect. I don’t think this book is for everyone but I do highly recommend it if you want a book that will completely immerse you in all sorts of emotion.

menagerieMenagerie (Menagerie #1)
by Rachel Vincent

4 of 5 Stars

I admit right off the bat that I went through some strange back and forth with this book At first I was really excited by the premise and jumped at the chance to read it but then seemed to grow hesitant and put off actually reading it for quite a while. I’m really glad I finally decided to jump in though as it’s truly a magical story. I love any story that really features oppression of any kind. The story line with Menagerie focuses on a battle between ‘monsters’ and regular humans. The entire book I couldn’t help but be reminded of the similarity to real class war and racism that happens every down around the world. I felt like these topics were handled incredibly well. There were a few weird bits that never felt exactly right to me but I liked anyway. The only thing that holds me back from a five-star rating is perhaps the pacing of the book. I felt like the majority of the book was almost slow and then all of a sudden at the end all sorts of things happen all at once. I’d prefer some more gradual building though I did appreciate the lack of cliff hanger since the next book in the series isn’t available until May of 2017 according to GoodReads.  I am feeling the pain even without the suspenseful ending though.

with-maliceWith Malice
by Eileen Cook

3 of 5 Stars

I’m extremely conflicted when it comes to this book. The writing itself was good though at times confusing with the unreliable narrator that we are provided. It’s not a fault of the book, it’s simply the reality that Jill has with the huge gap in her memory. That aside the book just gave me a very uncomfortable feeling which I believe was part of the point. I appreciate where the author chose to go with the story as it’s not something I see very often in YA but I don’t think I’m the target audience for this type of book. It held it’s own in terms of being an intense thriller that kept me guessing for sure. Often I had no clue how things might turn out though there were a few things I was able to at least speculate on in advance. If you are wanting a really good YA thriller or mystery novel I highly recomend this. Don’t go in expecting warm and fuzzy though, you won’t get it for sure.

awakeAwake
by Natasha Preston

2.5 of 5 Stars

I liked the premise of this book so much and then I began reading it. The relationship between the characters never made much sense to me, and the romance never felt quite right. I don’t mind instalove on occasion but this felt like a much more boring tamed down version of the cliche that’s so popular in YA books. This wasn’t the only emotional connection that just didn’t quite work – her friendships felt wrong. Even the family dynamic she has with her parents just felt very off. The first half of the book is a bit slow and the only thing that kept me reading was how it picked up after that. I chose to purposefully ignore the fact that a key part of the story (her not remembering anything before the age of 4) was scientifically .. lacking. In my own head I sort of upped that age a bit just to have it make sense. Very few people remember much of anything significant before the age of five so this element just had to be overlooked or it would drive me crazy. What I would have appreciated was a bit more reason to have empathy for the cult members. Not much is ever truly explained as to why this cult is so charismatic. To get to the point they do in the story with Scarlett they’d have to be pretty convincing and charming right? I just never saw it. If anything they come across as creepy and somehow lacking in rounded character formation – specifically the leaders. I never really understood why anyone was following them, what the pull was. The action itself was interesting and curiosity kept me going through the book but I really had hoped for more out of such a promising premise. If you are able to look past quite a few of these issues you’ll probably enjoy this book a lot more than I did.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing these titles in exchange for my review. This did not affect my opinion in any way and I was compensated in no other manner.

 

Mindfulness: A Journal by Catherine Price

mindfulnessMindfulness: A Journal

by Catherine Price

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

ABOUT MINDFULNESS: A JOURNAL

Featuring a sleek, modern design in a toteable, giftable package, Mindfulness: A Journal provides the user with a series of simple journaling prompts designed to nurture a positive, calming framework to approach the day. Each of the writing prompts provides the user with space to examine one’s self and ponder some of the basic tenets of mindfulness. The journal can be completed at whatever pace the user prefers to work at (daily, weekly, etc) and features inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout, as well as introductory material on the practice of mindfulness and a list of resources for further reading.

My Review:

Through my struggle with mental health issues I’ve gone through a number of classes that either focus on mindfulness or at the very least include it as a core component. I admit I’m not at all skilled with this practice but have always found it interesting and helpful when I do use it in my life. I also love to try out new journals so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try this one out.

My first response was just the physical aspect of the book. I was expecting a rather simplistic cover as in the pictures. I’m pleasantly surprised to find that the photo’s really don’t do the book justice at all. It is simplistic but rather than being boring it’s just enough to not be overly distracting and elegant enough to have out on your desk or table. On the front, the flowers are slightly indented and slightly silvery in color – just enough to grab your attention. The copy I have is somewhere between a hardcover and softcover with a flexible front and back. I’m on the fence with the binding itself. It’s possible to get the book to lay flat but in doing so over time you’ll probably need to break the spine which I’m not overly fond of doing with any book – even journals. I’d prefer something that laid flat on its own for easier writing in the journal itself. This is hardly a deal breaker though as I’ve come across journals in the past with much tighter binding that have been far harder to write in.

The prompts themselves are a mixture of quotes and what I’d refer to as guided instructions. I found myself liking the guided instructions far more than the quotes as it felt easier to stay ‘mindful’ with a goal oriented prompt. The quotes are also good but my mind wanders a bit more freely when doing this kind of writing than something that feels more ‘task’ focused. One thing I really do like about the journal is how the author encourages you to skip around. You can go in order of the pages but you don’t have to. I appreciated how this created a sense of making the experience entirely my own rather than following some predetermined course someone else had created.

Overall I think it’s a worthwhile purchase for anyone who loves to journal and is interested in mindfulness. Or if you are interested in journaling but have a difficult time figuring out what to actually write without guided prompts. Mindfulness is something I think everyone could benefit from (even though, as the author admits, it’s become a bit cliche). If you are at all curious about mindfulness I think this is a great starting point to see if it’s something that you’d like to find out more about. It’s also a great tool for those already involved in mindfulness to keep up the practice in daily life or as an addition to therapy or any classes.

I received this book free in exchange for my honest review from Blogging for Books. This did not change my opinion of the material in any way and I was compensated in no other manner.

 

 

Series Review : Vampire Acadamy

vampireacadamyVampire Acadamy Series ( Six Books )

by Richelle Mead

Goodreads Synopsis:

Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth’s magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires – the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa’s best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger . . . and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever . . .

Amazon | Goodreads | Barnes & Noble

My Review: 

4 of 5 Stars

I pretty much devoured these books once I started reading them. I like to think of them sort of as ‘junk food for my brain’. Especially toward the beginning of the series I was able to predict a lot of the twists and turns though it still kept me interested in spite of this. As the series progressed I really appreciated how most common cliche’s found in young adult were avoided. For example, while there is some idealized romance it’s not (in my own opinion) the ‘instalove’ that I’ve come to dread in young adult literature. The only real issue I had was how much it focused on the romantic side of the story. If you aren’t into that kind of a premise this probably isn’t the book for you.

What really kept me going was how involved I got with the various characters – which there seem to be plenty of. We read the entire story from Rose’s perspective but because of the connection they share we also are able to get a peek from Lissa’s point of view. I absolutely loved this because it gave us a way to find out information we wouldn’t have had any other way. Most books I’ve read fix this by having an alternating point of view narration which is okay when done correctly but I found this to be a quite refreshing change from the ordinary. Rose herself is an okay character but I admit I frequently grew frustrated with her. All of her flaws made sense but I was repeatedly sighing and muttering under my breath in her direction. Lissa was an okay character as well but to be honest not my favorite. I did appreciate her growth through the series but always felt she was just a bit shallow.

The characters I really fell for first however was Dimitri who through the series remained my favorite. If anything he’s probably too good and somewhat unrealistic because of that. This brings me to my other favorite character who is almost the opposite of Dimitri and perhaps a little overly flawed. Adrian is the bad boy that could potentially be a great guy under the right circumstances. He’s got a lot of growth potential but often falls back to drinking and self-pitying sarcasm to get by.

Overall I really enjoyed the series which I didn’t completely expect to happen. It’s not the best series of books I’ve ever read but it was incredibly fun and suspenseful. If you enjoy romance and vampires I highly recommend giving this series a try. It’s an easy and fairly quick read that will definitely immerse you in an interesting and unique world. If you finish this series and still want more of the world you are in luck as well as there is a spinoff series – Bloodlines which takes a few of the characters from this series on a whole new adventure!

 

Review : Just Add Watercolor by Helen Birch

JustADDwatercolorJust Add Watercolor by Helen Birch

Goodreads Synopsis: 

A beautifully illustrated, easy-to-navigate guide to creating contemporary watercolors, pairing full-page paintings with insights and tips for artists.
Featuring 200 of the best works of young, modern watercolor painters, paired with bite-sized painting tips and art instruction, Just Add Watercolor gives aspiring artists access to information about–and examples of–top work in the medium. Artist and instructor Helen Birch breaks down each painting by techniques, subject matter, and tools, providing art enthusiasts and painters with a one-stop resource and gallery of the best that modern watercolor has to offer. Its small trim size with one painting per spread provides a bold, but user-friendly alternative to traditional, process-heavy painting instruction texts. Just Add Watercolor shines the spotlight on featured paintings, while still giving readers all the insights needed to get started painting in this popular medium.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My Review:

I’ve put this review off for quite a while simply because I am having such mixed thoughts about it. If I hadn’t gone into the book with the expectation of learning I’d probably not be at all disappointed. The size and style of the book are great for a coffee table book or quick page through when looking for inspiration. That being said while I got some tips, I didn’t get anywhere near the tutorial level I’d wanted in a watercolor book. I love the idea of watercolor and have been experimenting when I have free time and to be honest, this book didn’t help at all as a beginner. It’s a great piece in terms of fanning the creative flame and I’ll most likely use it for such in the future. I love the artwork and highly recommend the book as long as you aren’t looking for tutorials or anything that will be teaching you how to achieve the styles represented within.

I received this book free from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review. This had no impact on my thoughts or feelings about the book and I received no other compensation.

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1)
by Sarah J. Maas

Goodreads Synopsis:

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Timesbestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it… or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

My Review:

4 of 5 Stars

Beauty and the Beast has to be my favorite fairy tale in existence. Because of this I had some high hopes for this book. While it still doesn’t quite measure up to the wonderful Disney movie of my childhood, it was a really enjoyable read and I’m painfully anticipating the sequel!

The Glorious

  • This fairy tale actually has faeries! I loved this aspect especially since these aren’t just the ordinary cliche fae that appear in a number of books. They are a race and a culture all their own and I appreciated the level of detail I got in knowing them.
  • The world building was amazing as well as the background story and history with the war. I’ve read some other books recently where I really wanted this added information but didn’t get it. The really special part of this world building however was that it didn’t feel like it dragged on forever. I didn’t feel like I was reading to ‘catch up’ to current events. I don’t necessarily mind this but it’s nice when a plot keeps moving while I’m learning.
  • I fully believe that all villains need a backstory. I need to know why they are evil, what drove them to where they are, all of that heart breaking stuff. The Glorious side of this is that we get a bit of this, and yes – it broke my heart. The nice balance though is that while I knew the villains story to a degree, I still could glorify in hating her.

The Somewhat Glorious

  • Feyre kind of drove me crazy through the book. I wanted to just shake her to get her out of her own  head. That being said, her behavior was completely normal given her circumstances and history. I did find it amazing how much she really grew by the end of the book and how her new knowledge, wisdom and experience will work in the continuing story.

The Not so Glorious (for me)

  • I am not a big romance person. I tend to shy away from anything that involves too much mushy, lovey-dovey, googley eyed, maidens in distress, swooning under the moonlit sky.. stuff. With this it’s not that I didn’t like it but at times it just felt a little over the top. In some moments it pushed me a bit away from the story because I was just rolling my eyes. Again, this is really just a personal preference. If you enjoy the romance with the electric arms touching, breath gasping across a crowded room.. thing, you will completely adore this.

 

Review: A History of Glitter and Blood

A History of Glitter and Blood
by Hannah Moskowitz

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Beckan and her friends are the only fairies brave enough to stay in Ferrum when war breaks out. Now there is tension between the immortal fairies, the subterranean gnomes, and the mysterious tightropers who arrived to liberate the fairies.

But when Beckan’s clan is forced to venture into the gnome underworld to survive, they find themselves tentatively forming unlikely friendships and making sacrifices they couldn’t have imagined. As danger mounts, Beckan finds herself caught between her loyalty to her friends, her desire for peace, and a love she never expected.

This stunning, lyrical fantasy is a powerful exploration of what makes a family, what justifies a war, and what it means to truly love.

My Review: 

3 of 5 Stars

This was possibly the weirdest most unusual book I’ve ever read. Several times I almost DNF’d it but the sheer absurdity of it kept me going. I was first pulled to the book honestly.. faeries and glitter, you can’t beat that right? That screams “look at the shiny” all over it. But then I started reading.

the-fuck-is-thisThese Faeries are immortal but they get eaten by gnomes they just sort of put up with being around. Well, parts of them get eaten. Legs, Arms, Ears.. but the really, really weird part is something else.  I won’t divulge the weirdness, but I promise you it was creepy.

My biggest actual issue with the book was that this is really meant to be young adult fiction but the content is fairly .. explicit. The F Bomb is used a lot. A lot isn’t really even a good measurement of how much swearing is really in the book – far more than I felt necessary to be honest but, eh. Second, there is a lot of sex. Not just regular sex either – prostitution with drug use as a nice little bonus.

huh-faceI’m still not really sure what to think of this book because it was so.. odd. I’m not sure if I liked it. I’m giving it three stars mostly because I’m amazed at it’s ability to completely baffle me. I did also really enjoy the artwork which is really good at least to me. I would have ranked it higher had there been a little more world building or perhaps something more about the war itself. Alas, I still have no idea where this really takes place which is a bit bothersome.

This is not a book for everyone. In fact I’d probably say most people will not like this book. That being said if you enjoy the strange and bizarre you might enjoy this story if you can manage your way around the alternative writing style (and not get offended by copious amounts of teen swearing, sex, and drug use).

This book was provided free from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion and I was compensated in no other manner.

Review: God is With You Every Day By Max Lucado

God Is With You Every Day
By Max Lucado
Published by Thomas Nelson

Description:

 

It’s easier to face the day when you know God is with you.

God Is With You Every Day is a brand-new 365-day devotional from Max Lucado, and his first new devotional since the creation of the Grace for the Moment® line. Max’s signature reassuring and encouraging voice, paired with the practical, relevant, and personal message that God is with you every day, makes a great way to start each day of the year.

This devotional begins each week with a prayer and scripture, followed by six days of devotions and scripture for reflection. Weaving messages of comfort, grace, and encouragement, this book is wonderful for anyone who wants a fresh infusion of faith to start each day, as well as those walking through difficult seasons of life such as loneliness, grief, or change.

You can face each day with courage – because God is with you.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

About the Author2737

More than 120 million readers have found inspiration and encouragement in the writings of Max Lucado. He lives with his wife, Denalyn, and their mischievous mutt, Andy, in San Antonio, Texas, where he serves the people of Oak Hills Church.

My Review:

4 of 5 Stars

I’ve recently begun really exploring my faith again and have a number of devotionals that motivate me on a daily basis. I find these to be great when I need something small, especially in the morning or sometimes right before bed. I’ve read other books by Max Lucado and always enjoyed his writing style so I knew I wanted to try this one.

The first thing I noticed when I had the book in my hands is the incredible quality of it. I have a few devotionals that aren’t bound all that well and after only a month or two these tend to start looking a little worn – often with damaged spines. I can tell this won’t be an issue for this devotional and that it will most likely hold up through out the year for multiple reasons. First, it’s got a thick and almost plush cover which gives it a good bit of weight. Second, the spine is very solid. I admit I’m hardly an expert on book binding but I can tell extra thought was put into this. Rather than just being glued I believe it has a sewn binding complete with a bookmark ribbon. Which brings me to my third item. I love the fact that it comes with a ribbon to hold my place. Sure you can grab a scrap piece of paper or a bookmark but I constantly lose these and traditionally sized bookmarks are often too big for the regular devotional sized book. Being able to just open right up to the day I’m at is a huge plus.

Now for content which has me a bit on the fence. Don’t get me wrong – it’s great content. Every day comes with a bit of scripture and a bit of writing that pertains to it. Certain days also feature prayers. Also helpful is a full topic and scripture index included in the back. I’ve loved a few days that I’ve read and others just feel like they miss the mark for me personally. It’s not bad, just not necessarily fitting for my life right now. That being said as I read through it I knew several others who would get much more out of this devotional than me (and I’ll be passing it on as a stocking stuffer to my lovely sister).

I don’t think you can go wrong with this devotional. It really is beautiful, enjoyable to hold, and contains some great ideas. These books I like to think of as snacks for the soul – and this fills that description perfectly.

This book was provided free from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion and I was compensated in no other manner.

Review: Illuminae

23395680Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
by Amie Kaufman

Goodreads Synopsis:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N

My Review:

5 of 5 Stars

I admit I was a bit skeptical about this book at first, primarily because of the layout and different way it is written.  In the end though I ended up really enjoying being able to see the different pieces of evidence including the chat logs.

It took me a little while to really get into the story.  At first I was slightly annoyed by Kady but began to realize how realistic of a teenage character she truly was.  Everything that happened felt believable and realistic.  I was quickly wrapped up in what was happening.

The twists were the absolute best part.  I didn’t expect them at all the way they ended up happening and it kept me on my toes and thinking right through to the end.  I do recommend this as a book to get in hard copy due to the pictures and various graphics.  It was okay to read on my tablet but I look forward to getting a solid copy to read in the future.

This eGalley was provided free from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion and I was compensated in no other manner.

Review: The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

CharThe Library at Mount Char
by Scott Hawkins

Goodreads Synopsis:

Carolyn’s not so different from the other human beings around her. She’s sure of it. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. She even remembers what clothes are for.

After all, she was a normal American herself, once.

That was a long time ago, of course—before the time she calls “adoption day,” when she and a dozen other children found themselves being raised by a man they learned to call Father.

Father could do strange things. He could call light from darkness. Sometimes he raised the dead. And when he was disobeyed, the consequences were terrible.

In the years since Father took her in, Carolyn hasn’t gotten out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient Pelapi customs. They’ve studied the books in his library and learned some of the secrets behind his equally ancient power.

Sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing. And if God truly is dead, the only thing that matters is who will inherit his library—and with it, power over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her.

But Carolyn can win. She’s sure of it. What she doesn’t realize is that her victory may come at an unacceptable price—because in becoming a God, she’s forgotten a great deal about being human.

My Review:

4 of 5 Stars

Confused and shocked is how I felt for a vast majority of this novel.  It’s a bit surprising for me to say at the same time that I enjoyed that.  For a while I honestly wasn’t quite sure what was going on.  This isn’t one of those books that takes its time trying to explain things to you.  The author is abruptly throwing you into the many layers of the plot and it’s up to you to sink or swim.

I vaguely knew what might happen with Carolyn though not how or why.  I had guessed some basic elements not very far into my reading.  The journey though was something else entirely.  I’d expect one thing or think I knew what was happening only to find myself in another jaw dropping scene.

Close to the end there were a few scenes that had me in tears.  All of the confusing pieces started to come together.  What I loved most about this is that the characters in the book were experiencing some of the very same things.  Carolyn, Steve, Erwin were all growing and understanding more which was amazing to see.  Steve ended up being my favorite by far.

I was first pulled into the book by the idea of a library.  After reading the description I was a little worried because it was .. odd.  I was right about that.  This has to be one of the weirdest, oddest, out there books I’ve probably ever read.  I don’t think this book is for everyone.  You really need to be prepared for the very strange trip that you’ll go through while reading it.  For me though, I know I’ll never be able to look at librarians the same way again.

This novel was provided free from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion and I was compensated in no other manner.

Majorly MIA – Life Goblins and More

I’ve not been able to post any reviews (or anything really) in quite a while now.  Life became incredibly busy and then confusing.  I’ve gone through two different moves in the last two months and am now preparing for an even larger move half way across the country in November.  Until then I only have spotty (at best) access to wifi or even charging my tablet where most of my books to review are located.  I’ll still be reading my actual books and posting reviews as I’m able.   Yet again, reading and books are saving some of my sanity.  I’m looking forward to getting back for real, hopefully in mid to late November!

Also, if you’ve requested a review in the last few months I will do my best to get to these as quickly as possible.  There will be major delays however as none of what’s happened was expected – such is the way of life goblins of doom.

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