Title: The Magician’s Nephew
Author: C. S. Lewis
Published: 1955
Genre: Children’s novels

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

The adventure begins…
On a daring quest to save a life, two friends are hurled into another world, where an evil sorceress seeks to enslave them.
But then the lion Aslan’s song weaves itself into the fabric of a new land, a land that will be known as Narnia.
And in Narnia, all things are possible.

Review:

This is the first book in the wonderful Chronicles of Narnia series, written by C. S. Lewis. It is the second time I have read this book as an adult – although I remember having this collection of stories growing up so I must have read them as a child too. My review of this book, from 2008, is here.

I loved this book. We meet Aslan, and we see Narnia created. I was enjoying the story up to that point, but as soon as we met Aslan and he sang Narnia into being, the beginning of the book was basically forgotten for me! It is beautiful. One of my friends said that is her favourite chapter of all time, and it is easy to see why. The magic and the wonder are breath taking.

This series of books is meant for children, but they are wonderful reads. I was drawn in, and transported into those other worlds with ease and enjoyment. Like a lot of people, I know the story of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe really well, and this novel, The Magician’s Nephew, gives us a lot of background information and ties very neatly into the series. It is in this book we learn about The Witch – an evil, angry, proud woman who just wants power and minions; we discover how the lamp post arrives in Narnia; and how the wardrobe becomes the entrance into Narnia.

As when I last read this book, my favourite character is Aslan. He is fierce, yet gentle. He is powerful, yet so caring. When he was talking to Digory, who was sad that his mother was so ill, Aslan was compassionate and kind. The character of Aslan is based on God – our Heavenly Father – and it was an amazing read, and a great reminder of who God is, and what His character is like.

I loved this book. It was an easy read, but so enjoyable. I can’t recommend it enough. The highlight for me was the creation of Narnia – its just a shame that the Witch and Uncle Andrew had to feature at that point! I am rating this book 4 out of 5, and cannot wait to read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

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Addition: Audiobook
Genre: Chick-lit, Christmas
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe, is in love and couldn’t be happier. Her new business is thriving and she is surrounded by close friends, even if her cupcake colleagues Pearl and Caroline don’t seem quite as upbeat about the upcoming season of snow and merriment. But when her boyfriend Austin is scouted for a possible move to New York, Issy is forced to face up to the prospect of a long-distance romance. And when the Christmas rush at the cafe – with its increased demand for her delectable creations – begins to take its toll, Issy has to decide what she holds most dear.

This December, Issy will have to rely on all her reserves of courage, good nature and cinnamon, to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas, one way or another…

I really enjoy Jenny Colgan books, and this was no exception. They are light-hearted, predictable, enjoyable chick-lit; which can leave you feeling warm and fuzzy! I had this version as an audiobook, and it was very easy listening. I was quickly drawn into the story, and found myself using every available moment to listen to it.

This book is the second in the Cupcake Cafe series. In the first book Issy opens a new cafe – The Cupcake Cafe, and we see her following her dream to make it a success, and fall in love with her bank manager Austin at the same time. We are now a year on, and fast approaching Christmas. But all is not as merry as it should be as Austin is in New York, probably being scouted for a new job out there. Will he go? And will Issy go with him?

It seems hard to know where to start with this review – it was just a good read! It won’t take you long to work out the storyline, or even the ending, but I found that didn’t bother me. I liked the characters and I liked the settings. I also like the concept – a novel set in a cupcake cafe, plus this book contains recipes – yummy!

My favourite characters were actually the children. I thought Lewis, Pearl’s 4 year old, was adorable. He was kind-hearted and good natured. He seemed to brighten up the room when he entered, and in many ways he reminded me of my little boy. I liked Darny too – Austin’s little brother. He was 11, and he had lost his parents when he was 4 and had been raised by Austin. He was very clever, a bit misunderstood and he pushed all the boundaries. Yet he had a soft side, he really was just a vulnerable little boy. I thought both these boys were very well written.

As I have said, this book is fairly predictable, but that didn’t spoil the story for me. I found myself being drawn in – I felt like I was there in the cafe with them. I knew what the outcome would be, but how would we get there? And I loved the setting – New York! I loved it when we went in autumn a few years ago, and it sounded magical at Christmas. This book was the right length for me. As much as I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t have wanted too much more “will they, won’t they”. The only ending I was dissatisfied with was Pearl’s, but who knows – Colgan might write another in the series which resolves that! This book has all the elements expected in a chick-lit novel. It has romance, drama, friendship and a look at family life (plus cupcakes!). This book isn’t a disappointment.

This book was fun, it was an easy read (or listen) and it was enjoyable. I can’t say it left me feeling particularly Christmassy, but I do keep thinking about that gingerbread recipe, I definitely need to try it! (It can be found here). This is a genre I really enjoy. It may not be life-changing literature, this book probably isn’t a classic, but I was drawn in and hooked. I am rating this book 4 out of 5.

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Addition: Audiobook
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

A shivering of worlds.

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning…

This is the final book in Terry Pratchett‘s amazing Discworld Series. This is one of my favourite book series – so many characters, so many adventures, so much humour. These books are well written, they are hilarious, there is always danger and adventure, and the characters are fabulous. There are 41 books in this series, and I am pleased to say I have read them all!

I really enjoyed The Shepherd’s Crown. This book had all the elements I mentioned above. This novel is the 5th book in the Tiffany Aching mini-series, which also features the witches, Granny Weatherwax and Granny Ogg. Tiffany has found herself in the position were she must save the Chalk from the fairies, who are getting set to attack. She must keep her wits about her, round up the witches, plus the folk of the Chalk, and get set for battle.

As ever, this book was entertaining from the start. Pratchett never fails to draw me in and keep me hooked. He uses characters I love – I was pleased that Death had a cameo in this novel, he is one of my favourite Discworld characters – and he writes such good stories! In other Discworld novels, other reviewers have felt that there is too much going on in the story; I didn’t feel this was the case with The Shepherd’s Crown. We had the story of Tiffany, and her rise as a witch on the Chalk, we had the story of Geoffrey, the man who wanted to be a witch, and his work alongside Tiffany; and of course there is the elves storyline. All three worked well together and brought us to a great climax – the battle for the Chalk.

I have read other reviews about this book which mention that Pratchett died before this novel was completed, and that it is obvious in places that he hadn’t quite filled out some of the story. To be honest, I didn’t notice this. I was excited that there was a final book, grateful that I was able to go back to the Discworld one more time and I just enjoyed the story.

I was reminded somewhat of Julia Kagawa’s Iron Fey series when we were in the world of the fairies. This is another series I enjoyed so this isn’t a criticism. The stories are very different, but as I was reading it there were moments when I was transported into Kagawa’s world.

This book ticked all the boxes for me. It was entertaining, gripping, humorous and enjoyable. This is an excellent fantasy novel. It didn’t feature all my favourite characters – I really like the characters based in Ankh-Morpork, such as the Wizards – but I found the Nac Mac Feeble really funny. However, if you have read any Discworld novels, you will also see the sadness in the pages. This is a goodbye to the Discworld series, and to Terry Pratchett. I am rating this novel 4 out of 5, and I am gutted there won’t be another Pratchett novel.

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Addition: E-book
Genre: Fiction, legal-thriller
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

The life of a ten-year-old girl is shattered by two drunken and remorseless young men. The mostly white town reacts with shock and horror at the inhuman crime. Until her black father acquires an assault rifle and takes matters into his hands.

For ten days, as burning crosses and the crack of sniper fire spread through the streets of Clanton, the nation sits spellbound as young defense attorney Jake Brigance struggles to save his client’s life…and then his own.

I have read a few novels by John Grisham and have enjoyed all of them. This is the first novel Grisham wrote, back in 1989. This is also the first book in the Jake Brigance series. The second novel is Sycamore Row, which was published in 2013.

It is hard to summarise this novel without giving too much away. The opening chapter was a tough read – two drunk white men get their hands on a ten-year-old black girl and have their way with her in the most awful way. She is left to die, but once found and cared for, she is able to identify her attackers. They are taken to court, where on their back to their transportation, they meet her father, who is armed. The rest of this novel follows Jake Brigance, who is tasked with trying to save the father from the ultimate punishment – the death sentence – in a district were racism is still rife. He also has to try and protect himself, as the Klan are keen to see the end of the white lawyer who defends a black man.

This wasn’t a quick read, and there was a lot of legal jargon I didn’t even try to follow, but this is probably one of the best books I have read this year. The first few chapters were horrendous to read – what happened to that girl was awful beyond words. I found it quite difficult to read, and it unsettled me every time we were reminded what happened to her. Once we were past the opening though, I found myself gripped. I’m not sure “enjoy” is the right word, but in want of another word, I did enjoy this book. I found myself in a moral dilemma. The father needed to pay for his crime, but he was avenging his daughter. I couldn’t decide if I wanted him sent to jail or let off completely. The jurors has the same problem, and I’m still not sure I am pleased with the outcome.

I wasn’t really bothered by the main character, Jake, but I don’t feel that this was a novel where my opinion of the characters mattered. Some of them were entertaining, some of them I disliked, but that didn’t make or break the story for me. The focus of the book was the trial, not whether I liked Jake or the decisions he made in his personal life.

This is a story that is hard for me to comprehend. Growing up and living in England, I have very limited experience for racism, especially not on the scale of the American white/black divide. It was eye-opening and shocking to see the depths that this racism extends. This novel isn’t that old, and yet the Ku Klux Klan feature heavily in the story, terrorising any white person who associates with a black person. I am just shocked that this behaviour, these attitudes exist in any form in the world today.

Like I said, this is one of the best books I have read this year. It isn’t for the faint-hearted – the opening chapters are truly awful, and really upsetting; but once past that, this is an excellent read. It is well written, there is suspense and drama. There was a load of legal stuff I didn’t understand, but that didn’t spoil the story. This is a great legal thriller, with the ultimate twist: what happens to the Dad? I am rating this book 4 out of 5, and would highly recommend it. I am looking forward to reading Sycamore Row, the second in the Jake Brigance series.

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As I am behind in posting updates about the books I have read (see previous post!) I have decided to attempt to do block updates to catch up.

Books 16-20 in 2015 were:

16.
Harriet Evans – A Place For Us
Rating: 3 out of 5

I hadn’t read a Harriet Evans novel in a long time, although I have several lined up. I saw that this one was available at the library so I snatched it up. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I found it quite long, and sad. The book looks at family, mental illness, secrets and affairs. It wasn’t a particularly easy read and one that I came away from feeling a bit down. I will read more by Evans, but this one isn’t one I would highly recommend.

17.

John Green – Paper Towns
Rating: 3 out of 5

This is the second John Green novel I have read. I loved The Fault in Our Stars so had high hopes for this novel. I found it a bit of a let down – well, I found the ending a let down. This is a story of friendship. A girl goes missing, and a group of friends – led by her neighbour – seek to find her. I liked the tension, I liked reading about the friendship group, but ultimately I didn’t really like the girl they were looking for and I didn’t like the outcome. I finished the book feeling a bit deflated. I will probably watch the film when it comes out though!

18.

M. C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet
Rating: 4 out of 5

This is also the second M C Beaton novel I have read. I am thoroughly enjoying the Agatha Raisin series. I find them entertaining, gripping and easy reads. The crimes are never too gruesome, and there is something about Agatha that amuses me. This novel didn’t let me down. In this instalment, she investigates the murder of the vet that no one liked. It was a fun read. If you like light-hearted crime novels, this is for you!

19.

Rowan Coleman – The Memory Book
Rating: 4 out of 5

Man, this was a sad book. This was recommended to me by a friend (a fellow book lover), and I did really enjoy it. But goodness me was it a sad read. This novel looks at dementia, but in early age, and the effect it has on the family. It was a hard read, a bit of a tear-jerker, but one that I enjoyed. There was also a little twist, which I hadn’t seen coming, but was a bit heart-warming. This is a novel I would recommend.

20.

Debbie Macomber – 1022 Evergreen Place
Rating: 3 out of 5

As you know, I like a Debbie Macomber novels. They are quick, easy reads – definite Chick-Lit. This, of course, fit that bill perfectly. This is the 10th Cedar Cove instalment. As I am reaching the end of this series of books, I am finding them to be a bit same-y. That said, I liked the storyline about the WW2 letters, that brought a new element to these stories. If quick, girly reads are your thing, you will like this series books – but don’t read them all in one go!

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Addition: E-book
Genre: Young adult
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

What if compassion was not an emotion that evoked a response,
but was a prize to be won?

57142 has only ever known the reality of Outside, the place where he has to glean a lonely existence from the discarded rubbish of Tropolis.

Everything changes when he receives the crimson Post. It invites him to the competition that is the Compassion Prize offering wealth, happiness and a place in Tropolis if he succeeds.

How could he refuse to enter?

This is the third novel by Katy Hollway, and is completely different from her other two books, which are part of the Remnant Chronicles. This novel is not part of this series, it seems to be the beginning of a new series of young adult books.

This is a young adult, dystopia novel. 57142 lives in the Outside, surviving off the scraps from Tropolis, until he is selected to enter The Compassion Prize. This gives him the opportunity to compete against 19 others for a live in Tropolis for him and his family. This novel reminds me of both The Hunger Games and the Divergent series for the following reasons:
1. The idea of the very rich city and the very poor outside sectors
2. Competing for a place in a different, better society
3. The public in the city voting for their favourite contestant
That said, this novel does take a different look at this type of society. Hollway starts to unpack the idea that compassion and charity can be outlawed, and the effect this has on live. There are no friendship, no trust and no communities. It is a stark look at how important compassion is. How do you survive in a world like this? Is it possible to build friendships and escape this sad existence? Is being rich and fortunate enough to live in the city actually worth it? I really liked this different take on the dystopia novel.

I found this book really drew me in. I was hooked right from the first page and would have easily read it in one sitting had I been able to! I really liked the characters. They displayed a whole range of emotions, and despite their faults and lack of understanding, I was drawn to them and wanted to see what would happen. I also liked that they weren’t all inward-looking. Some were gentle and caring, despite what life has thrown at them. They were realistic and likeable.

I liked the storyline too. The tension built really well throughout the book. I found the novel easy to read and really easy to get drawn in to. Hollway creates a world and scenes that aren’t hard to imagine. There is drama, adventure, fear and a lovely study into friendship and trust. This storyline is so different from Hollway’s other novels, yet it was such a good read. Hollway is displaying that she has a wide range of writing talents, and a vivid imagination. This book draws you in – the more I read, the more I wanted to read and find out what happened. I am hoping this is the start of a new series by Hollway as this was a great read.

I am rating this novel 4 out of 5 because I really enjoyed it. This is a great, dystopia novel. If you like novels by Suzanne Collins, Lauren Oliver and Veronica Roth than this book is for you!

The first three chapters of this book are available to read to Katy Hollway’s blog.

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2015 Reading Book 9 – Rose Harbour in Bloom by Debbie Macomber

Synopsis:
Since moving to Cedar Cove, Jo Marie Rose has truly started to feel at home, and her neighbors have become her closest friends. Now it’s springtime, and Jo Marie is eager to finish the most recent addition to her inn. In memory of her late husband, Paul, she has designed a beautiful rose garden for the property and enlisted handyman Mark Taylor to help realize it. She and Mark don’t always see eye-to-eye—and at times he seems far removed—yet deep down, Jo Marie finds great comfort in his company. And while she still seeks a sense of closure, she welcomes her latest guests, who are on their own healing journeys.

Annie Newton arrives in town to orchestrate her grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary celebration. While Annie is excited for the festivities, she’s struggling to move on from her broken engagement, and her grandparents themselves seem to be having trouble getting along. Worse, Annie is forced to see Oliver Sutton, with whom she grew up and who has always mercilessly teased her. But the best parties end with a surprise, and Annie is in for the biggest one of all.

High-powered businesswoman Mary Smith, another Rose Harbor Inn guest, has achieved incredible success in her field, yet serious illness has led her to face her sole, lingering regret. Almost nineteen years ago, she ended her relationship with her true love, George Hudson, and now she’s returned to Cedar Cove to make amends.

Compassion and joy await Jo Marie, Annie, and Mary as they make peace with their pasts and look boldly toward their futures. Rose Harbor in Bloom is Debbie Macomber at her heartwarming best.

Quick Thoughts
I received this book from Netgalley to give an honest review.

This is the second book in the Rose Harbour series. If you know me at all, you will know I love Debbie Macomber‘s books and was very excited to read this one. As ever, I really enjoyed it! The story quickly sucked me in. I love the characters – Jo Marie is such a lovely woman – and I enjoyed walking through this time with her. This story is quite predictable but I didn’t mind that, it is chick-lit and it is heart warming. It didn’t take me long to get drawn in and I didn’t want to put the book down. I enjoy this series so much I have the next book, Love Letters, on my shelf waiting to be read!

Rating: 4 out of 5

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2015 Reading Book 8 – Unbreakable by Andrew Wilson

Synopsis:

It stands out because unlike most other books on the Bible, it doesn’t start with a bunch of objections that people have to the scriptures. Nor does it begin with information about the Bible’s authors or the historical contexts they were writing into. Instead, this book uses Jesus as the starting point! As Andrew explains, ‘Ultimately… our trust in the Bible stems from our trust in Jesus Christ…’ If you are a follower of Jesus, then you’ll be keen to believe what the Bible says– because, as you’ll see in this book, that’s what Jesus did!

Andrew, in his clear and often amusing way, shows us clearly that the Son of God loved and trusted the Word of God – and if anyone sets out that the Bible is trustworthy, authoritative, good, helpful and powerful… then it’s Jesus Himself!

Quick Thoughts:
This is a little gem of a book. It is about 60 pages long, with very short chapters. It is easy to dip in and out of. Wilson is clear and concise – and funny. This book looks at what Jesus said about the Bible. It is a great introduction to looking at Jesus and looking at the Bible. This is a helpful book that I will be going back to many times.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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2015 Reading Book 5 – The Inn at Rose Harbour by Debbie Macomber
Synopsis:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber comes a heartwarming new series based in the Pacific Northwest town of Cedar Cove, where a charming cast of characters finds love, forgiveness, and renewal behind the doors of the cozy Rose Harbor Inn.

Jo Marie Rose first arrives in Cedar Cove seeking a sense of peace and a fresh start. Coping with the death of her husband, she purchases a local bed-and-breakfast—the newly christened Rose Harbor Inn—ready to begin her life anew. Yet the inn holds more surprises than Jo Marie can imagine.

Her first guest is Joshua Weaver, who has come home to care for his ailing stepfather. The two have never seen eye to eye, and Joshua has little hope that they can reconcile their differences. But a long-lost acquaintance from Joshua’s high school days proves to him that forgiveness is never out of reach and love can bloom even where it’s least expected.

The other guest is Abby Kincaid, who has returned to Cedar Cove to attend her brother’s wedding. Back for the first time in twenty years, she almost wishes she hadn’t come, the picturesque town harboring painful memories from her past. And while Abby reconnects with family and old friends, she realizes she can only move on if she truly allows herself to let go.

A touching novel of life’s grand possibilities and the heart’s ability to heal, The Inn at Rose Harbor is a welcome introduction to an unforgettable set of friends.

Quick Thoughts
As you know, I love Debbie Macomber. This is a new series from her, called Rose Harbour. This is the first novel in the series, however there is a short story called When They First Met. Having already read the short story, I was acquainted with Jo Marie and already liked her. This novel follows her move to Cedar Cove following the death of her husband, to open a new inn. I loved this book. The characters are warm and loveable. There is always a happy ending – yes sometimes it is a bit predictable, but I love it. This is my guilty-pleasure reading. It did not take long to read this book and I am already looking forward to the next one! It also worth noting that although this is a new series, it is set in Cedar Cove, so we do encounter some of the characters from that series too.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Addition: Netgalley review book
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

Summer has arrived in the Cornish town of Mount Polbearne and Polly Waterford couldn’t be happier. Because Polly is in love: she’s in love with the beautiful seaside town she calls home, she’s in love with running the bakery on Beach Street, and she’s in love with her boyfriend, Huckle.

And yet there’s something unsettling about the gentle summer breeze that’s floating through town. Selina, recently widowed, hopes that moving to Mount Polbearne will ease her grief, but Polly has a secret that could destroy her friend’s fragile recovery. Responsibilities that Huckle thought he’d left behind are back and Polly finds it hard to cope with his increasingly long periods of absence.

Polly sifts flour, kneads dough and bakes bread, but nothing can calm the storm she knows is coming: is Polly about to lose everything she loves?

I received this book from Netgalley to give an honest review.

This is the second book from Jenny Colgan which is set in Mount Polbearne and follows the life of Polly. I loved the first book, The Little Beach Street Bakery so had high hopes for this book. And it did not disappoint!

We return to Polly, who has been in Mount Polbearne around 2 years. She is running the bakery successfully, owns and lives in the lighthouse, and is in love with Huckle her boyfriend, and Neil her puffin. All is going well until Mrs Manse, who owns the two bakeries, dies. Her family inherit them, and this starts a hard season for Polly.

I was immediately sucked into this book. Every spare moment I had, I was reading this book. I found myself trying to work out what was going to happen, as if this book is a thriller! I did ultimately guess the ending, but I didn’t guess how we would get there. Often chick-lit books can be really predictable, you can guess everything that is going to happen in them. This novel was not like that. I was kept on my toes the whole way through.

I like Polly. I liked her in the last novel too. A downside for me in this book is she is a little moan-y. Things do get tough for her, but it did seem like we had a few chapters of her just being miserable. My favourite characters were Reuben – the loud American, and Jayden, the local boy who works for Polly. Reuben is just so funny, he says whatever he wants, in the most brazen manner, and just generally entertained me the whole way through the novel. I liked Jayden, he was quite shy, but loyal to Polly and seemed like a lovely guy.

There is a lot in this novel. As I said, there are a few moan-y chapters, but that doesn’t spoil the book. There is friendship – Polly befriends Selina, a lonely widow on the island; there is love – Polly and Huckle have to work on their relationship, particularly when Huckle is again in America; and there is action. I don’t want to give too much away, but the sea and a massive storm do play a role in this book. There were times when I felt like second novel was similar to the first, yet I enjoyed them both, so I didn’t mind that.

The downsides for me were few. There seemed to be a lot of bad language, which I don’t like reading. This is a personal preference and won’t bother many people. There were a few parts of the story that were a little unrealistic – perhaps particularly the storyline involving Neil the pet puffin! There are some very British references in this book too – to things such as Lidl, a popular supermarket in Britain, which readers outside of the UK might not understand. Other than that – this is a great book.

And I must make special mention of Neil the puffin. I just loved him! I read the whole novel wishing he was my pet. What a great addition to this book!

I am rating this book 4 out of 5. It was so readable. I was gripped from the beginning. This book has it all – adventure, bravery, love and friendship. I really enjoyed this book. Jenny Colgan has not let me down! Thank you Netgalley for letting me review this book, I loved it!

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