Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Crescendo (Hush, Hush)Book Details:
Crescendo (Hush, Hush)
By Becca Fitzpatrick
Genre: Young Adult
Published 2010, Simon & Schuster
Hardback, 427 pages
ISBN: 9781416989431

          The sequel to the New York Times Best selling phenomenon, Hush, Hush!
Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.
The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?
I waited quite a while for my tiny, local library to get this book in for me, and I devoured it in about a day and a half. Ironically, I was a little disappointed with the way it turned out in the end, as I do not really consider that much of an ending at all. It felt more like one of those cliff-hangers television writers use when they have run out of air time. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The book flowed much like the first book in the series. It opened with a scene that takes place in an undetermined time period in relation to the previous book. Then it finally returns to Nora and her life, which is assumed to be perfect since Patch has become her own personal guardian angel. But as usual, unexplained events happen and Patch keeps Nora in the dark. Nora behaves in her predictable, highly emotional ways and gets herself in one bad situation after another. I could not help thinking that so much of Nora and Patch's problems could have been avoided if they both would have been completely honest with each other from the beginning.
Because the book is told mostly through Nora's viewpoint, I felt as much in the dark about what was really happening as Nora did, which became very frustrating after several hundred pages. Even after the book ended, I still had a number of questions regarding the Nephilim secret society, such as the deal with the multiple rings. Hopefully, these will be answer in the final book, Silence. I did find the character of Scott growing on me towards the end, as it became obvious how much of a victim he was, which made me wonder how many more there were like him. Marcie was just as annoying as ever, though I guessed what her problem with Nora was very early in the book, which only created more unanswered questions. And really, how hard would it have been for Nora to just read the diary? That drove me bonkers.
On the whole, as much as I loved the first book, this book was a distant second in many ways. I can only hope that the concluding book fixes what was wrong with this book.

The Cover: This cover seemed more artistic than actually applied to the plot of the book. What is the red feather supposed to represent? Why is it storming? Sure, the girl is obviously Nora, but that is about all I can gather here.

First Line: "The fingers of the thorn-apple tree clawed at the windowpane behind Harrison Grey, and he dog-eared his page, no longer able to read through the racket."
This opening ironically made me think of the famous Edgar Allen Poe poem, but it is not particularly compelling by itself. But it did bring to mind how the first book, Hush, Hush, began with a seemingly unrelated scene.

Favorite Quote: "Being with you never felt wrong. It's the one thing I did right. You're the one thing I did right."

Read For: Twenty-Eleven Challenge

Furniture Fantasies and a CSN Stores Giveaway

Christopher Lowell's Seven Layers of Organization: Unclutter Your Home, Unclutter Your LifeI'm a stickler for organization, even to the point of naming organizational books as some of my favorite titles, but unfortunately, living in a tiny apartment with a husband, two small children, and a third on the way makes such fantasies impossible. But still, it is nice to dream sometimes, such as having a home office to fill with beautiful home office furniture. (And by the way, if you're like me, you'll love Christopher Lowell's Seven Layers of Organization: Unclutter Your Home, Unclutter Your Life.)

So, to fill someone else's furniture fantasies, I am giving away an $85 gift certificate to to one lucky follower of Jacob's Beloved's Books! This giveaway is open to U.S. and Canada only, and bear in mind that the gift certificate does not cover shipping charges to Canada. This giveaway ends on Sunday, March 13th. Just complete the form below or click here for the form, make sure you are a follower, and I will use to pick the winner, who will then be emailed the gift certificate code.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods: A NovelBook Details:
American Gods: A Novel
By Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Published 2001, HarperCollins Publishers
Hardback, 461 pages
ISBN: 0380973650

          The storm was coming....
Shadow spent three years in prison, keeping his head down, doing his time. All he wanted was to get back to the loving arms of his wife and to stay out of trouble for the rest of his life. But days before his scheduled release, he learns that his wife has been killed in an accident, and his world becomes a colder place.
On the plane ride home to the funeral, Shadow meets a grizzled man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A self-styled grifter and rogue, Wednesday offers Shadow a job. And Shadow, a man with nothing to lose, accepts.
But working for the enigmatic Wednesday is not without its price, and Shadow soon learns that his role in Wednesday's schemes will be far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. Entangled in a world of secrets, he embarks on a wild road trip and encounters, among others, the murderous Czernobog, the impish Mr. Nancy, and the beautiful Easter -- all of whom seem to know more about Shadow than he himself does.
Shadow will learn that the past does not die, that everyone, including his late wife, had secrets, and that the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined.
All around them a storm of epic proportions threatens to break. Soon Shadow and Wednesday will be swept up into a conflict as old as humanity itself. For beneath the placid surface of everyday life a war is being fought -- and the prize is the very soul of America.
As unsettling as it is exhilarating, American Gods is a dark and kaleidoscopic journey deep into myth and across an America at once eerily familiar and utterly alien. Magnificently told, this work of literary magic will haunt the reader far beyond the final page.
I have only ever read one other adult book ( I don't count Coraline) by Gaiman, which was vastly different from this book in both style and mood - Stardust. A friend recommended I read this book many years ago since I like mythology. I found this book really had not much to do with mythology in the classic sense. Instead the characters that were pulled from mythology, such as Odin, Anansi, Horus, Bast, and Ganesha, among others, behaved like has-been D-list celebrities that struggle to survive in a country that is repeatedly described as "...a bad land for gods." The powers they rarely put on display were minimal and amounted to the same kind of "magic" as a skilled pick-pocket, con-artist, or amateur magician. The few times any real power is observed is once during the sexual scene of a re-invented Queen of Sheba (I'll spare you the R-rated details) and when the gods travel "behind the scenes," a state of existence that only the gods can enter.
While the names of classical mythology fit into the category of the Old Gods, there are New Gods that have taken root in America, born from cultural obsessions that have evolved and devolved over the years, such as railroads - a man dressed as a railroad conductor, television - a voice talking through Lucille Ball on a rerun of I Love Lucy, vehicles - stocky men that seemed to resemble vehicles themselves, and internet - a short, nerdy, nervous kid, among other American fixations and stereotypes.
In addition, one of the scenic devices used throughout the plot is what Gaiman's characters describe as places of power - side-of-the-road dives that road-trippers visit for no apparent reason, such as a place boasting the largest doll collection in America or the biggest wheel of cheese. And no, Disneyworld is not one of them.
One of the things I found interesting about this Gaiman-born world is that the Old Gods only exist in the New World when regular people travel from other countries and bring their memories and practices with them, even when they don't intend to stay themselves. The gods are "born" from these average people, and even though they can be killed by others, they don't die otherwise, but instead alternately starve or thrive based on the behavior of the people who live and die in the New World. They all have counterpart manifestations of themselves in the countries they are pulled from, but one's existence does not affect the other - though they do seem to be aware of each other.
All of this is merely the background of the main plot, which centers around the activities and travels of a seemingly mortal man with a single name, Shadow. I never did "get" the one-name thing, but whatever. Through Shadow's narration, the reader learns of an impending storm - a battle between the Old Gods and New Gods, the former fighting for survival and the latter fighting for dominance. Shadow works for a mysterious "Mr. Wednesday" and is randomly haunted by his dead wife, Laura, but otherwise seems to have little drive of his own for most of the book. In fitting irony, he has his own brand of "magic" - an obsession for coin tricks to pass the time from his days spent in prison - which I could never really follow the descriptions of.
To be completely honest, I truly did enjoy this book, though I am struggling to say exactly why. Perhaps I was fascinated by the "shadowy" way that Gaiman told the story, or how he developed this over-the-hill world of gods and goddesses that better resembled America's middle and poor classes' struggles for survival, money, and influence. Some of the personal touches that Shadow's character added to the plot made him at times surprisingly endearing. In addition, the way that Shadow seemed to address the reader at the very end of the book was so satisfying that I laughed out loud and had to read it again several times. Something about that just brought the book to life for me and help me to fully appreciate the versatile style of Gaiman. This is one of those books you don't have to fully understand to fully appreciate.

The Cover: The cover seems to symbolize all the traveling that the main character does around the United States, with a lightning bolt to represent the storm that is alluded to throughout the plot. I like the simplicity.

First Lines: "Shadow had done three years in prison. He was big enough and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time. So he kept himself in shape, and taught himself coin tricks, and thought a lot about how much he loved his wife."
This is definitely one of the stranger beginnings to a fiction book that I've read in a long time. I'm already curious.

Favorite Quote:"What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul."

Read For: Read a Myth Challenge, I Want More Challenge, 101 Fantasy Challenge

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: You Having a Baby by Michael F. Roizen, MD and Mehmet C. Oz, MD

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy
          While many pregnancy books tell you what to do, we aim to add a deeper level of meaning in true YOU style and explain why. After all, when you truly understand the why, the what is much easier to adopt. Instead of giving you a week-by-week or hiccup-by-hiccup guide to pregnancy, we're going to take a more holistic approach, focusing on how your mental and physical health affect your baby, and how -- at the same time -- pregnancy affects your mind and body. - pg. 5, YOU: Having a Baby: The Owner's Manual to a Happy and Healthy Pregnancy by Michael F. Roizen, MD and Mehmet C. Oz, MD

What are you reading this week?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bad Poetry

My blogging has been more irregular than usual lately, due to stress of pregnancy and other family-related problems. Sometimes when I am stressed and can't find anyone to talk to, I write bad poetry, one of those habits I never lost from my school days. This is what came out this morning. As today is "Family Day" in Canada, I suppose it would be an ironic title for this:

Happy Family Day

Oh the madness
children shrieking
husband monologuing
about my memories
can't think
can't write
the noise takes over
the sounds fill the spaces
it is all distraction
the dishes calling
morning sickness plaguing
it all fails
use more noise against the noise
more distraction against the crazy
focus refracts and head spins
impossible concentration
a deficit of attention
a deficient of control
what to do
how to control
make it stop
still the noise
quiet the crazy
empty the silence
my voice is lost
I am gone.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

BeastlyBook Details:
By Alex Flinn
Genre: Young Adult
Published 2007, HarperTeen
Paperback, 304 pages
ISBN: 9780060874186

          A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright—a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever—ruined—unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.
I have a small obsession with the classic fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, so any time a new retelling comes out, I must read it. This version written by Alex Flinn is both modernized and aimed at the Young Adult genre. I was curious to see how closely it would parallel the original fairy tale and still feel like an original story, and I think that it succeeded fairly well. There were parts that felt cliche, and it certainly verged into the realm of fantasy with the presence of the witch, but not so much that I was bothered by these elements. Plus, I liked the ways that the author diverged from the original tale and added new elements, such as the continuing involvement of the witch and the character of Kyle's father.
The plot wraps around the character of Kyle Kingsbury, who becomes the Beast. The book mainly felt like a character study as he progressed from a conceited, self-involved boy to a self-sacrificing, repentant young man. This is certainly a change from most retellings of this tale, since it is usually from the viewpoint of the character who plays the role of "Beauty." Many of the side characters were also just as fascinating, such as the blind tutor who comes to live with Kyle. I love the fascination that Kyle adopted for roses and the details of their care that were included in the book, it gave the book more depth. Probably the most exciting part of the book was his frantic race through New York City and the way that he handled the reactions that he created during this foray.
I know that this book was turned into a movie recently. I have not seen it as of yet, other than the previews, but I do look forward to it. But I already know of one major difference that the movie has from the book, and  that is Kyle's beastly appearance is changed to resemble extravagant and disfiguring tattoos. I'll reserve opinion on this until after I've seen the movie.

The Cover: I like the simplicity of the white rose, which is used throughout this book. Nothing flashy and it's to the point.

First Lines: "I could feel everyone looking at me, but I was used to it. One thing my dad taught me early and often was to act like nothing moved me. When you're special, like we were, people were bound to notice."
The arrogance of the boy who eventually turns into a beast just oozes off the page. This opening promises to satisfy my expectations.

Favorite Quote: "Every girl pretends she is a princess at one point, no matter how little her life is like that."

Read For: Read a Myth Challenge, Twenty-Eleven Challenge

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Review: Coyote Dreams by C. E. Murphy

Coyote Dreams (The Walker Papers, Book 3)Book Details:
Coyote Dreams (The Walker Papers, Book 3)
By C. E. Murphy
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published 2007, LUNA
Paperback, 408 pages
ISBN: 9780373803057

          Instead of powerful forces storming Seattle, a more insidious invasion is happening. Most of Joanne Walker's fellow cops are down with the blue flu—or rather the blue sleep. Yet there's no physical cause anyone can point to—and it keeps spreading.
It has to be magical, Joanne figures. But what's up with the crazy dreams that hit her every time she closes her eyes? Are they being sent by Coyote, her still-missing spirit guide? The messages just aren't clear.
Somehow Joanne has to wake up her sleeping friends while protecting those still awake, figure out her inner-spirit dream life and, yeah, come to terms with these other dreams she's having about her boss….
I never am sure how to evaluate the books in this series, because I understand so little of what is occurring. Joanne is the type of character who lives moment to moment, and still comes out smelling like roses. In the first book, this didn't feel like it would work for me, but now I'm quite used to it. The irony is that what used to surprise me so unexpectedly had quite ceased to have that sort of effect.
The plus side to all of this is that Joanne no longer seems to be fighting her shamanic role as much and is excepting who she is and what she can do. Even her boss seems to be adapting to the idea, which can be quite hilarious at times. The chemistry between them is as visible as lightning, but for some reason neither one wants to act on it, which is frustrating to no end for me.
I was really hopeful through most of the book that the new male element was as good as he seemed, because he was perfect for Joanne in so many ways. The way her life changed on a dime did not seem to phase him, and neither did her shamanic duties. It was like he had this secret knowledge that he knew exactly what she needed, and it was the hottie standing in his shoes. Alas, these things are always too good to be true.
I enjoyed the focus on sleep and dreaming that this book had, it was a more unpredictable element for Joanne to work with and it made her expand her limits and comfort zone. This also allowed her to venture into her boss's mental garden, which was both surprising and exciting and added a new layer to their evolving relationship.
I was not really satisfied with the ending, but the great thing about series is that this still has the potential to change. I look forward to the next book in the series, Walking Dead (The Walker Papers, Book 4).

The Cover: The design on the cover is fitting for the plot line. It shows the main character asleep and much of the book is about sleep and dreaming.

First Line: "Someone had driven a tire iron into my skull."
Even though I have no idea if this line is literal or figurative, I'm so used to Walker's character by the third book that this opening does not impact me as strongly as I'm sure the author intended.

Favorite Quote: "Imagination trumps reality."

Read For: Twenty-Eleven Challenge, Strong Heroine Challenge, 101 Fantasy Challenge

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Harvest Moon Anthology

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
Harvest Moon: A Tangled Web\Cast in Moonlight\Retribution (Luna Books)
          "So, this is 'little' Persephone." The king chuckled. "I must say, I envy Hades. Perhaps Thanatos can find me another like you?"
"Oh, he already did, and you wouldn't want her," Persephone replied, thinking about the rather formidable war-goddess she had left stewing in Hades's care. "Cross Athena with Ares's temper, and throw in a bit of Bacchus's madness, just to keep things uncertain--" She explained to Rhadamanthus what had happened as briefly as she could. "So the problem is," she concluded, "since Thanatos didn't abduct me, I have to find another way to keep Mother from getting me back. Hecate says the only way she can think of is for me to eat something grown down here. But it has to be real food, apparently, flowers won't qualify, or I would already have had a salad of asphodel." - pgs. 70-71, Harvest Moon: A Tangled Web\Cast in Moonlight\Retribution (Luna Books) by Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara, and Cameron Haley

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Winner of Amour Et Vengeance

I had 18 people enter my giveaway for Amour Et Vengeance by J. Fred Beckman, so with a little help from, the lucky winner is #3.

Congratulations Anita Y.!! 

The winner has already been contacted and has 48 hours to respond to her email. I hope you enjoy the book!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Bloggers Beware of Unprofessional Authors

So the latest scandal to grace the book blogging community is the rantings of a certain author who apparently could not accept a few negative reviews of her books for what they were - opinions. Now, I've been reading strongly opinionated posts from several book bloggers whom I follow, but it took me awhile to track down the original post that started this whole mess, so I may be a bit late to the game. Nonetheless, I've been part of this community for over a year now, as well as bookstore management under my belt, so I feel my thoughts on the matter are valid enough to contribute.
First off, I want to qualify what I write by saying that I've been an avid bookworm my whole life. I know books, I know authors, I know fiction, no question. My years in the bookstore further expanded my knowledge of authors' names to vast lists, as well as familiarized me with the revolving door of the publishing industry. But this author? I've never heard of her before today or the books published under her name. The fact that she compares herself to Stephen King at the end of her article, with a misquote no less, and then follows it with the phrase "our huge royalty checks" is laughable. Stephen King has little to no respect for the kind of romantic fluff that she writes, which he discusses in his memoir for those interested, and rare is the author that can actually survive off the royalties that proceed from their publications. In addition, Stephen King wrote that to be a successful writer, one needs to spend 4 to 6 hours a day minimum reading. This author writes "the people who set up these kinds of blogs have never written a thing in their lives, except maybe a grocery list." Well, she's dead wrong. What are book reviews? Writing. In fact, I have lost count of the number of book bloggers I have discovered who started as book bloggers, and later became published authors.
The author complains about objectivism versus subjectivism in the negative reviews. Guess what? "Objective opinion" is an oxymoron. All opinions are subjective - that's why everyone is entitled to have one, and NO opinion is right or wrong. Dictionaries are wonderful tools. She complains that her books were described as predictable and one-dimensional. I don't find this hard to believe, considering that the romance genre as a whole is often mocked for these qualities. But on the flip side, I have read romance books that are very well-written with incredibly unique characters, think The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffennegger, and very unpredictable endings, such as Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely (Quality)) by Melissa Marr. This author defends her books by saying they are supposed to be like this - can you say cop out? 
What seems to be so easily forgotten about book bloggers is that they are by and large nearly all volunteers. Where would this world be if it were not for the dedication and passion of volunteers? The professionals in the book industry are paid for what they do, yes, and sometimes, they even have a fancy degree to back up their "professionalism." The flip side of this is that they do their jobs to keep that paycheck coming, not necessarily because they are passionate about what they do. No job description requires passion and love and a nearly-undying devotion to what some would consider a nerdy pastime, but that is exactly what book bloggers have to offer. Book bloggers come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, from the high-school kid who shells out her own pocket money so that someone half a continent away can get a sought-after ARC, to the over-40 mom, with a full-time job, who writes in the wee hours of the morning to recommend her latest great read to a handful of followers who highly respect her choice of literature. Book bloggers will sacrifice both sleep and groceries to fill that hunger for great literature, often reading fast enough to fly through several books in a single week, much faster than the average bookstore browser. The book industry's best customers are often the book bloggers themselves, and sending a single copy to a book blogger with 500+ followers is much more efficient advertising than sticking a sign or a poster in a chain of bookstores and crossing your fingers that the patrons notice (which, based on the number of people that can't find the neon bathroom sign in a bookstore, I would say is not very many). So what if a few people don't like your book, I find that the good reviews nearly always outrank the bad in quantity, even on sites like Amazon. Plus, as the saying goes, "Any publicity is good publicity." (Hence the reason I refuse to name the author or her book titles.)
And just to be thorough, I tracked down the negative reviews that offended this author so personally. The first one was from Rowena at The Book Binge, and the second was Chick Lit Plus here and here.  The first review was long where the second was short, but other than that they both seemed to agree with each other, and neither one fit the descriptions that the author gave of "trashy", "rubbish", or "unprofessional". I especially enjoyed Rowena's review, as I think I have a better idea of why the author took this so personally - but I'll keep that matter to myself. I also find it cowardly how the author hid behind the "Anonymous" title to comment on Rowena's review, when it's very obvious who it is.
This whole event is rather trivial in the grande scheme of things, and more than one author has lost many a reader based on behavior that parallels hers. One thing I have learned with good writing is that the book makes you forget about who is doing the writing. This author apparently never got that memo.

What do you think of this mess?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My Teaser:
American Gods: A Novel
          Shadow went out back and got the hearse. Both Mr. Jacquel and Mr. Ibis had made a point, individually, of explaining that, really, the hearse should only be used for funerals, and they had a van that they used to collect bodies, but the van was being repaired, had been for three weeks now, and could he be very careful with the hearse? Shadow drove carefully down the street. The snowplows had cleaned the roads by now, but he was comfortable driving slowly. It seemed right to go slow in a hearse, although he could barely remember the last time he had seen a hearse on the streets. Death had vanished from the streets of America, thought Shadow; now it happened in hospital rooms and in ambulances. We must not startle the living, thought Shadow. Mr. Ibis had told him that they move the dead about in some hospitals on the lower level of apparently empty covered gurneys, the deceased traveling their own paths in their own covered ways. - pg. 173, American Gods: A Novel by Neil Gaiman

What are you reading this week?

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