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River of Shame, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 3), Susan Clayton-Goldner 

River of Shame, (A Winston Radhauser Mystery 3), Susan Clayton-Goldner 

River of Shame: A Winston Radhauser Mystery: #4 by [Clayton-Goldner, Susan]

Genre:, suspense, General fiction (adult)

My third book from Susan, and its as fabulous as the other two. I missed the first Radhauser mystery, but feel as if I know him now. He’s the kind of policeman all should aspire to be, won’t give up, seeks the truth, not the convenient answer and is such a genuine caring man.

When we meet him at the start of this book I understood why his wife was angry, and yet like her I understood that he’s the kind of man he Had to go in to work, couldn’t just leave justice when he knew he was needed to help pursue it. Yet his wife has just given birth to their son, and is also undergoing chemotherapy. Such a hard decision, and he’s trying to do both, do what’s right for Grace and their family and also try to stop more crime and hatred being spread.
I love Radhauser, he’s a great man. He’s been through such a lot with the death of his first wife and son in a tragic accident, and been given another chance at happiness, which is is so pleased about, but Grace knows he wouldn’t be the man she loves if he just ignored something when he could help.
Of course what seems a simple case expands to include others, to include murder and to show up an evil thread of bigotry running through the locality.

Its at times a harrowing read, not because its overly graphic but because its so real. Sadly I could imagine this happening, not just in US but here in UK too. We too have our share of bigots and hatred 😦 I had to put it aside a couple of times because the characters feel so real that I was really upset when certain things happened. That’s a testament to good writing, not a book I put aside because I’d lost interest, I just needed to take time to read something lighter, give my mind a break.

Its a gripping, suspensful story, and so easy to believe in the reality of it. I so felt for the characters, was so angry at the bigots, felt for the kids, brought up by such narrow minded folk, they’re almost bound to follow their thinking and actions. It takes a brave child to break away from such strong minded parents.
Radhauser is his usual thorough self, and I love the way Susan explains his thinking, why he takes certain actions, that allowed me to come to my own conclusions. The ending though – that came as a shock, really didn’t expect that and yet looking back I can see how the threads were seeded out, but so carefully that I missed them.

Stars: five, a scarily real novel, written with very genuine feeling characters. Its a story I could very well see played out in real life.

ARC supplied by author

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The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp, Sarra Manning

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp, Sarra Manning

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp: ‘A razor-sharp retelling of Vanity Fair’ Louise O’Neill by [Manning, Sarra]

Genre: Romance.

I hadn’t read Vanity Fair, but I’m a sucker for romance and this sounded a fun read – plus I’ve loved some of Sarra’s past stories.
I’d not class it as romance though…there is some romance via secondary characters but that’s just a tiny fraction of the story, and for me sitting it in the romance genre was wrong, and I was disappointed at that part of the story.

I struggled at first, maybe if I’d read Vanity Fair I’d have found the start easier. I almost gave up at one point, the characters all seemed irredeemably dislike-able, but persevered and once into the story found myself hooked on Becky’s actions.
Was she right in what she did? Was she fair? Was she treated fairly by others? So many questions this book threw up and its easy to judge Becky as amoral and avaricious, but with a past that gave her nothing was she just making her way in the world as best she knew? Would be have felt better about her if she accepted her lot and lived on the street begging? Pretty much sure that’s a No from what gets said in current news. Or maybe if she took a zero hours contract and lived day to day on min wage sharing a room with someone else. Why should she just accept that as the best she can hope for though?
Some of the other characters didn’t act any better but their actions – as happens so often in the real world – get excused under work pressures, family issues, social obligations etc. Its only accident of birth that placed George, Amelia, Dobbin etc where they were and not where Becky was in life.

I didn’t like Becky but in way by the end I did admire her. She was tough, grabbed life’s opportunities when they came and worked the to her best advantage. Its would be easy to say she took advantage of others and yet weren’t they doing that to her? Did Amelia and her family treat Becky fairly? What about the Pitts? What about George’s actions, the way he treated Amelia? I think the only person I liked was Dobbin…and Amelia by the end. The section with the news magnate had me thinking “News of the World anyone? Murdoch and the scandals there…”

Its easy to sit in judgment if you’ve never known homelessness, never gone hungry, never had to shop in jumble sales and charity shops. I have. Would I act like Becky if the chance arose? I’d really, really like to think my moral compass points in a different direction but until it happens who knows what we’d do.
Marie Antoinette’s apocryphal “quote” of “Let them eat cake” when told the peasants had no bread sums up so many governing figures attitude to those in need now. They genuinely have no idea of the issues facing so many people, and yet sit in positions making judgments that affect the lives of those people.

Stars: Four, a slow start for me, that may have been better had I read VF, an annoyance that its not what I’d call romance, but a story that was a fun read.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.

 

The Artisan Heart, Dean Mayes

The Artisan Heart, Dean Mayes

The Artisan Heart by [Mayes, Dean]

Genre:Woman’s fiction, romance

First a quick rant – why “women’s” fiction? Why exclude 50% or readers….this categorisation makes me so cross. Who’s to say sex determines what we enjoy reading?

Its a great story, written so intelligently, not dumbed down as so many are now. No grunting heroes here, no page after page of repetitive sex, but a romance in the truest sense for me, where the characters really spend time getting to know each other. Having said all that there were times when I floundered a bit within the story, where I got a bit bored with the pacing – but that’s my issue, my problem not the book.
There are some terrific characters here, Hayden and Isabelle, and Isabelle’s little daughter whose a real star. Max and Annette, friends of Hayden’s parents, Chas, one of those characters that makes a village, eccentric,at times careless but so full of life, so joyful he brightens others day. I had hoped for a bit more unpleasantness from Bernadette, she’s pretty ambitious and will stop at nothing to get ahead, and her plans and Hayden’s don’t necessarily match. All the things I love from a “nasty” character but she really wasn’t in the story that much, enough to throw a few spanners but nothing more.
Its an interesting read, Hayden’s initial issues really felt so genuine, its something I could see playing out all too easily and as he says, that could end his career. All that hard work, years of study, gone in a moment. I loved Isabelle and her determination, adored little Genie, so irrepressible and entertaining, loved the way the village rallied round its inhabitants. I really wanted to give this book five stars and yet…I kept putting it aside, losing interest and I’m really not sure why. It had everything I love, intelligent writing, real characters, excellent plots, not just a sweet, simple romance but a more involved one but for whatever reason it didn’t pull me in to a cant-stop-reading mood.

Stars: Four, a good story, well written with terrific characters, but not quite the magic five for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Thorne Bay, Jeanine Croft

Thorne Bay, Jeanine Croft

Thorne Bay by [Croft, Jeanine]

Genre: Romance, paranormal and fantasy

I enjoyed this story, its a debut novel for Jeanine and a great start. However there were a couple of issues that hopefully will get fine tuned as later books come out. I can certainly see more books in this series, Dean’s story sounds promising, plus of course there are other pack members and the whole keeping the secret in modern times issue.

Its a fun read though I wanted to slap Evan at times for her stupid decisions. Especially when she decides to return home – that’s something we can all see isn’t a good idea, is very unsafe and yet….I did like the chemistry between her and Tristan, and the way he was hot and cold for her – she doesn’t know of course why he seems all over her one moment and giving her the brush off the next, nor why his family and friends are so strange. I liked Tristan, but wanted to know him ( and the others) in a bit more depth really. Nicole, I love characters like hers, and though she plays a big part in the later end of the novel I’d have like to see more of her early, more of her bitchyness and jealousy over Evan. I love the “bad” guys, they really add to a story for me.
I’d guessed what was going to happen, but not exactly how or how things would play out so that made for some fun reading. Its nicely paced, apart from the stupid decisions Evan makes. I did get tired of all the wolf references that kept cropping up at first, when even doesn’t know what they are, it felt a bit like ramming the point home. Yes they’re werewolves, no she doesn’t yet know that, I could do without references to wolf eyes, behaviours, claws etc, like the language issue it felt jarring, overdone. Hopefully as later books come out Jeanine will find the balance, although it irritated I’d still rather have over use than back to the grunting and two syllable words that predominate in so much paranormal romance.

Its not a deep plot but kept fairly simple, which means its easy to follow given its a whole new world setting, with unknown characters. Its hard in a paranormal story delivering all that with an interesting plot, and sometimes simple and well done is better than a poorly done and complex plot, that leaves the reader with too many unanswered questions. I would have liked to know a little more about the main players in the story, and of course how on earth they manage to keep secret what they are. Usually in books like this is by way of some form of Vampire style wipe or alteration of memories, and/or having witches who can wipe clean scenes when things go wrong. If Evan had died what would they have told her family? How would they have dealt with authorities and the inevitable investigations. I think for later books these questions need to be addressed, maybe bring in some other types, or some humans in the know in certain places, IT, local cops etc who can help keep that believable.

My biggest issue was the language that kept cropping up, overly descriptive, using four words when one would do. Its kind of odd because I’m always banging on about books that seem to use only words of three syllables or less, and repetitive language.

When I’m reading a historical story I love to find words I don’t know, that fit the period I’m reading about but in this book words kept cropping up that I had to look up. I’m an avid reader and it rarely happens, I’m pretty literate as far as knowing language ( using it is something else!) but here I found words that I didn’t know, or was uncertain about it they didn’t really feel right in the context used.

I rarely make notes when I’m reading, but after about the 5th or 6th time I started to note the words, “a momentary pulse of igneous green, like St Elmo’s fire, suddenly flickered in his eyes.” In fact St Elmo’s fire is blue or violet, not green, igneous or otherwise….and

igneous refers to rocks and fire rather than colours. You can get green igneous rock but it doesn’t solely mean green. Using language like this its easy to make errors and for me it detracts from the actual story.

A few more examples, canid, sylvan, attestation, “whatever the myriad of secret thoughts quickening behind those unfathomable variegated eyes” that one is easy to understand but feels clumsy. Asseverated, limbal rings ( in an eye), gibbous moon, “mantled the ripples with bands of silver…an otherworldly moon with its strange halo of diaphanous cloud” cilice, syzygy, abnegate, senescence, declivitous, stygian.

I know many of those words, though not all, and not well but they felt out of place, as if the author was trying a little too hard. Sometimes Less really is More. The story is good enough without this, in facts IMO they bring it down. I did notice that past the halfway mark this issue became far less evident and for me that really made a difference.

Stars: three and a half. The basic story-line was a good start to what I hope will be a series, introducing some promising characters, a pack structure within other packs in the US.

KU read, suggested by author.

In Too deep, Dani Collins

In Too deep,  Dani Collins

In Too Deep (Blue Spruce Lodge Book 3) by [Collins, Dani ]

Genre: Romance

I haven’t read book one ( but will sometime), really enjoyed book two and we got a hint about Trigg and Wren there. I was hoping they were next, and it proved to be a fun read, with some very real characters and situations.

I really felt for Wren, she’s been a parent to Sky since she was little more than a child herself, and her parents were not any help. They dealt badly with the death of Wren’s brother when he was a child, and her father became an awful, violent man. Wren now hates confrontation, has mental scars from the beatings she took. Yet all that, plus the loss of her loved sister Mandy, Sky’s mum, and she’s still a lovely person, and has given so much up for Sky.

Sky’s an obnoxious pre-teen, but TBH many of them are. It’s like a rite of passage for some, my own daughter made a calendar when she was 12 listing the days til she was 16 and could move out, and religiously crossed off each day. Of course poor Wren gets the “if my mother was alive…” jibes, and harassment about Sky’s father, with Sky desperate to meet him. When they up sticks and do just that though its not all fairytales.

Trigg is a household name in snowboarding circles, and a rich playboy to boot. Having a 12 year old daughter has come as a shock, he was just 17 and Mandy had said she was having an abortion. Now he meets Sky and she’s not some sweet, adoring kid, but a bundle of confusion, irritation and resentment.

All that was so real, and the way the other characters reacted to Sky’s moods and rudeness felt very genuine. Its easy to say “she’s a teen, ignore it, she’s been through a lot”, but harder to actually do just that when she seems to be going out of her way to be difficult. Of course poor Wren feels guilty for that too. She moved there as Sky wanted to get to know her father, and now she’s wondering if it was the right course to take.
There’s a slow turnaround, some really funny moments, some issues that were very emotional, and of course the characters’ stories from earlier books continue. I loved the way there’s not a moment when I can pinpoint Sky’s mood change, but that its a natural progression, that Trigg slowly became a caring parent, loved Sky and was key to understanding her.

Trigg wasn’t the greatest to start, knows nothing of bringing up kids and this rude ball of fury comes as a shock. He’s inclined to blame Wren for everything, and she already does enough of that herself. Slowly things change, he begins to feel like a dad, and of course the attraction that’s always been there between him and Wren simmers.

As well as the romance there’s the story of the Lodge, the characters that live and work there, and the issues they’ve been having with accidents that are beginning to seem like deliberate sabotage. Someone doesn’t want the lodge to succeed but who? And what can they do about it? It comes to an explosive climax, with some sharp edged actions, and made this story have that edge over just a simple romance. I really enjoyed it.

Stars: Five, a great fun read, terrific real characters, and the story of the Lodge and the sabotage added such a lot.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Lightning Boy, (A Taboo Love Story 2), Amy J. Heart

Lightning Boy, (A Taboo Love Story 2), Amy J. Heart

Lightning Boy: A Taboo Love Story by [Heart, Amy J.]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

So I’d read the prequel and really enjoyed that, an brief insight into L’s background, and heartbreaking in that what happens to him happens to so many kids. I was keen to read this story and see what transpired for him and Eden.

Eden, Eden, what an amazing girl. She’s young in years yet through her life experiences she old too. Yet not jaded, still believes there’s a way out, still believes she can get her happy. Then she meets L. Its not an auspicious meeting, she’s on one her her awful jobs for dirty ex cop Coop, being watched, voyeur style by three creepy guys and L, well he’s Angry, Seriously Angry. Its clear he doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t want to be with her, and I kept wondering why he was there, it clearly wasn’t money motivation him.
Eden was tasked with what seemed impossible, make L want her, the wrong sex to turn him on so Coop and the others think, convinced he’s gay. It takes a turn none of them expect when she tries gentling L, and he, shocked that its the girl he saw years before, lets him.
In short-story-land that would be it, but here its like real life, forward one step and back two. There’s a long way for them both to go yet.

L is confused, he’d convinced himself sex could only be via pain and hurt with men, keeping his emotions back, just going with strong control, giving pain and abuse, and getting that brief physical release. I so felt for him, he’s still young and yet been through so much. I love how he got his nickname, its so perfect, he owns what he’s doing by that, sticks it to his abusers by his actions.
Could he make things work with Eden? Would he try?
For a while its back and forth with him being a complete jerk in between torrid, sensual encounters with her.
Coop, dirty ex cop Cop. How many lost kids are caught by guys like him, how many guys a( and ladies) are like him too I wonder – too many I guess. I really wanted to know what he held over them both.
I was a little bewildered by Eden’s reasons, wanting her farm back didn’t really seem strong enough to do what she was to me. But then the farm held a special significance to her, a memory of happier times and maybe getting it back was a kind of lifeline to her.

Sex: yep, there’s a lot here, and some of it is violent, abusive, what was done to him and by him by other men, and yet the tender moments with Eden balance it , keep the book firmly in Romance Land.

Great characters, and hurray, a bit more of the wonderful Ariana, oh I want to be her! I was gripped by the story, alternated between feeling so sad for L and then berating him for being a jerk to Eden. She was so patient, so incredibly careful of him, so forgiving, I really felt their connection was meant to be, transcended ordinary love. L too, I so felt for him, that sad kid, taken from happy to horror to nightmare. No wonder he was such a jerk, only way to protect himself.
And Coop, a man I loved to hate. Oh I love it when authors create characters like that, bad through and through, pulling the strings of others, such a contrast from all the sweet and cute, strong but lovable people. We need these bad characters too to keep things interesting!
Its all put together so well, drawing the reader in, bringing us down, lifting up and then crashing again. I went through so many cycles reading it. Will things work out for them? How? What about Coop? How will they get away from him? What about the hold he has on L? I had so many metal questions while reading and at times felt I was racing through to find answers….I’m not known for patience.
I’d have liked it to be just a little longer, there’s an awful lot happens in a short space at the end of the book. A perfect wrap up but could have done with being spread out just a little more IMO. Its intense and a lot to take in, but of course that’s just my feelings. I need a HEA in romance, and this was perfect.

I’ve read too many “romance” novels recently where the only romance is in the last tow chapters and the HEA doesn’t exist expect in some future with maybe someone else. That’s not what I want, I need these characters I’ve come to love to get what I think they deserve.

Stars: Five, A great read, and now my occasional misunderstandings and confusion in the first book don’t mean so much, I can understand more the reasons its written the way it was.
This story, especially when both books read together, really pulls at heartstrings, and is incredibly emotional.

ARC supplied by author

 

Hidden Hearts, An Alpha Project Psychic Romance, Eva Chase

Hidden Hearts, An Alpha Project Psychic Romance,  Eva Chase

Hidden Hearts (Alpha Project Psychic Romance Book 2) by [Chase, Eva]

Genre: Romance, Sci-fi and fantasy

I really liked the sound of this and saw that if I went to Eva’s website I could get the prequel novella Burning Hearts, free. Its also on amazon. That gave me an insight into alpha Project and Nicks family. Stupidly I missed there was another book before this one, but I was still able to follow this story easily and have borrowed the first book via KU.

Its a fabulous story, scary in that its all too believable, that some wealthy organisation is trapping and experimenting on those with psychic talents. The prequel sets pout the parents story and escape and this series seems to be about the brothers meeting people for themselves. Poor Nick has the misfortune to get feelings for Carina, who’s working for AP, using her talents to help track down Nicks family, having been told lies about how dangerous and murderous they are.
I really enjoyed the story, but what stops it being five stars is its brevity, just under 200 pages. That means even though I felt the plots and characters were excellent there wasn’t space to fully develop them, let the dangers and suspense really play out and for me that was a real shame. Other love shorter books, and this will be what makes it a five star for them. Horses for courses and all that…
Even though the story was short for me I still want to continue with what is going to be an excellent series, and as I said I’ve now borrowed book one so can catch up with whats gone before.

Stars: Four, a really interesting series, just wish it was a bit ;longer and I could see characters and plots in more depth.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Bright Ruin, Vic James

Bright Ruin, Vic James

Bright Ruin (The Dark Gifts Trilogy Book 3) by [James, Vic]

Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, I loved books one and two and was desperate to read this. These characters, this strange UK feels so real. My heart was breaking for those caught up in the Equals power struggle, their determination to keep unSkilled commoners where they feel they belong, serving Equals as slaves for ten years of their lives. There’s a section on Abi’s thoughts that’s so relevant to today’s Real Britain, not just Vic’s fantasy one. It was very resonating to me and I have to quote it.
“ Abi knew many would approve of such expulsions. This narrative fitted into the bigger lie Wittam Jardine was telling the British people. If folk felt poor, it was because of these sponging refugees, not the greed of the Equals. In the same way, those that protested against the slavedays were being cast as the lawbreakers, when it was the days themselves that were unjust.”
We have that same kind of thinking now, and I guess that’s why I was so easy to suck into Vic’s alternative Britain, and why it felt real. I could see events playing out this way, the careful manipulation of facts, the scapegoating, the laying of blame in certain quarters, and the behind the scenes atrocities that the Equals claimed were necessary to keep the peace. Or at least the status quo where the one per cent of the population flourished supported by the 99 per cent unSkilled….
We learned things about a certain character that explained why others had acted in a way that felt unusual, not what they would do willingly. I certainly hadn’t seen that as being the cause!

Jenner, I so liked him in book one, was astonished and heartbroken at his actions in book two, and here we can see his motives.
Gavar, in book one I found him cold to everyone but his daughter Libby, and finally I understood him a little better. I was so sad about Libby’s mum and wondered why he did what he did, finally there’s an explanation for his actions.
Silyen, the enigmatic character, you never really know what he’s thinking, he does things that seem heroic but for completely different reasons than ones we’d think essential, and he treats life and death very lightly. He’s extraordinarily skilled though, incredibly complex and half the time his mind is on other worlds, such as when he was with his aunt in her world while she was comatose.
That other worlds bit comes quite prominent here, and reminded me of another book I read. Annoyingly I can’t recall the title but it involved parallel worlds or dimensions, kind of like a fold in fabric reveals different layers. I got to reading about the whole real theory they could exist, that one centred around tesseract principles but there is a whole scientific ream of thinking that these could exist in many different ways.
We see much more of Abi, Luke and Dog here too and I can’t help having a soft spot for Dog. He’s done some awful things, but had atrocities perpetrated on him.

I felt at times the story got a little battle heavy, not the breathtaking displays, the actual actions but in the endless battle planning, dealing, double dealing and for me that was a bit…dull. ( and I skim read those bits* blush *) Battle planning never is my favoured parts of stories. It didn’t detract from the whole though, and I’m sure there are readers who love all that minute detail.

Its a terrific conclusion, a battle royale, full of surprises at every turn, and an heroic ending. Made me think of just what happens next, how does Britain continue, and what life holds for those we’ve come to know and love ( and hate in the case of some of them!)
That last sentence though, that last tiny action made me so, so happy 😉 for certain characters, I like to think they got a HEA.

Stars:Five, fantastic read, excitement, drama, some breath stealing suspense, that left me floundering to work out just how it could all wrap up. How on earth was Vic going to sort this world out, how could things work out better for the unSkilled, when would all the atrocities end.
I loved the scenes with Luke, Silyen and the King. Oh, and That Kiss, it was a long time coming….

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Faithless,  Elle Charles

Faithless,  Elle Charles

Faithless (Fractured Book 4) by [Charles, Elle]

Genre: Romance

I hadn’t read the first three books, saw this was a stand alone and thought I could read it without the others. That was a mistake, there are so many references to events from first three books, and so many different characters that I was lost for a good part of the beginning. I did work out whop connected where and how but it took much of the joy out of the story for me and I think I’d have got along much better with this if I’d read those earlier books. My fault for misunderstanding the description.

Its a packed book, and a good length. Usually I’m all for that but maybe because I didn’t know all the backstories at times it was a slog for me to get through and thinking of all those pages to come was so daunting that I nearly DNF it.

I did stick with it though, and its an interesting story, packed with the kind of drama I’d usually adore but which felt a bit OTT here, probably again because I just didn’t know the whole story.
I did like the characters, they felt very realistic even if I did want to slap them a time or too…..

Stars: Three, an interesting read and I think IF I’d read those earlier books I’d have got far more from it.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Imperial Stout, Layla Reyne

Imperial Stout, Layla Reyne

Imperial Stout (Trouble Brewing) by [Reyne, Layla]

Genre: LGBTQIA

I loved Layla’s AIW series, and this new one seems set to became another favourite of mine.
I do have trouble with all the acronyms, not just in this series but all US stories. Its hard enough keeping up with UK ones, but those from another country, not a chance. Thankfully though its fairly easy to mentally throw them all in a box marked “official legals” and then just try to remember the hierarchy and jurisdiction 😉
As before there are some great characters here, not just the leads but in the supporting cast, and it was good to see some of the characters from AIW here. These people feel real, have genuine emotions, and act like I would expect, passionate when adrenaline is flowing, angry about perceived injustice, jealous at times, though not in a controlling way. We get to see how they think, how they feel and that made me understand them better and let me connect with them as genuine folk.
The issues with Nic’s father looks set to run through the series, and bring even more trouble down on poor Nic, despite their 27 year estrangement. Cam has his own dark past that rears its head here and I think that will come up again. The plot is action packed but, thankfully for me, not overly burdened with technical terms and devices. I get lost when they go into that kind of detail, I’d rather know more about the characters and whats happening than the type of gun or car they’re using.
Its a shortish read, 62,000 words but full of action and great characters. This main plot wraps up – ish, feels complete at the end so far as the main story goes. Somehow though, there are often over-spills from sub-plots in series like this, and of course there are issues raised such as Nic’s dad and Cam’s background that are going to follow through in later books.

Stars: Five, great characters, terrific plots and a romance that fits the story, doesn’t dominate.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

 

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