Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger…

A collection of all-new and previously published short stories featuring Mercy Thompson, “one of the best heroines in the urban fantasy genre today” (Fiction Vixen Book Reviews), and the characters she calls friends…

Includes the new stories…

“Roses in Winter”

…and reader favorites “Fairy Gifts”
“Alpha and Omega”
“Seeing Eye”
“The Star of David”
“In Red, with Pearls”

I love any excuse to revisit Mercy Thompson’s world and with a series that gives us one new book a year, I was so excited to get a bonus Mercy world book this year that includes stories for some of our favorite characters and some new faces in a world we’re pretty familiar with. I’m not reviewing all the stories, but just a few that stood out for one reason or another. But keep in mind, all the stories but one are for characters other than Mercy. Sure, I was a little disappointed with that, I was hoping for a few short stories for Mercy along with her core group of characters. However, a few stories have lead characters that I’ve been itching to get to know better, including Ben, Warren and Kyle and a favorite reread for a couple I adore, Charles and Anna.

Ben probably had my favorite story in the book with Redemption. We’ve already met him in Mercy’s series as the werewolf with an accent who still trying to deal with and move beyond his past with the help of Adam and the pack. But here we see a much different side of Ben. The story primarily takes place at Ben’s work, he’s a techie, a big computer geek and he’s got a surly, bad attitude – I loved it. His grumpy comments, being the guy in the last cubicle who no one wants to deal with, he had me cracking up. But Ben has a bit unknowingly started looking at his office and co-workers as his pack of sorts. So when a receptionist starts to be harassed at work, Ben’s protective streak comes out and as much as he hates it, he helps her in a few different ways. The whole story really had me laughing out loud, simply because of Ben.“I tell you what, Stan,” he [Ben] said slowly because that’s how he talked to people too stupid to live. The things he says, the things he gets frustrated over, his over-the-topness and dirty language at work – it’s all so funny and it really made me want to reread the Mercy books and focus more on his scenes. I certainly can’t wait to see him show up on page more after reading Redemption.

An old favorite, Alpha and Omega is included in this set and even though I’ve read it before, I loved catching up again with how it all began for Anna and Charles. Anna is in a pack that’s beat her down, made her a shell of the person she was before she was changed, when really any pack worth anything would be dying to have her with them as she’s an Omega. She’s a wolf who helps bring calm to the other wolves simply by being around them. Charles is the son of the Marrok, Bran who’s head of all wolves and is a complete Alpha. He and Anna may not make the most sense at a quick glance, but I’ve loved seeing their relationship unfold over the course of their series and can’t wait to get my hands on their next book.

Another previously publishing short story, In Red, With Pearls, focuses on Warren and Kyle. This was a new to me story and I enjoyed getting to know these two and see their relationship at a more up close and personal level. With Warren being a wolf and Kyle human, I liked seeing their dynamic play out and how they made their relationship work. I really liked getting more detail about Kyle and really enjoyed him as a character and seeing how he rolled with the punches that is being with a werewolf and all that brings to the table.

A new story, Roses in Winter, stood out from the crowd as it tells the story of a werewolf in the last years of his life (or so he believes) Asil and his mentoring of a young wolf, Kara. Kara was never taught control and the Marrok’s rules are clear, if you can’t control your wolf, you’re killed. Kara’s time has run out and while Asil tries his best to help her manage and control the change back to human when she’s in her wolf form, she ultimately has to do it herself and in one of the most pressured situations a young girl can find herself in. I really enjoyed their mentor/mentee and really, father/daughter type relationship and seeing how not only Asil impacted Kara’s life but how she brought life to his world. It was a very engaging and well done story.

Finally, Hollow the lone Mercy story, picks up after the last book, Night Broken, with Mercy’s garage in shambles and Mercy trying to decide if it’s worth it to rebuild or just level the whole thing and find something else to do with her time. But the story’s focus is on Mercy being hired to try and help a ghost move along – the ghost is supposedly haunting and making life miserable for the man she’s been tormenting for years. I liked the main focus of the story well enough, but honestly, I was more interested with Mercy’s garage and what she’d do without it and her interactions with Adam. Their relationship is always what ends up keeping my attention in any of the books. It was a good story, but again, I’d have liked another story or two for Mercy and/or Adam to have been included in this collection.

Short story collections tend to be hit or miss for me and while a few stories here didn’t do it for me, enough of them did to make this a solid read. My favorites were the stories that focused on the characters who have already made a name for themselves in the main Mercy Thompson series, with Ben’s story being my favorite. This book would be a nice addition to anyone’s Mercy Thompson series collection.

Rating: B

Release Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Ace
Patricia Briggs: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Evernight (Darkest London #5) by Kristen Callihan

Once the night comes . . .

Will Thorne is living a nightmare, his sanity slowly being drained away by a force he can't control. His talents have made him the perfect assassin for hire. But as he loses his grip on reality, there is no calming him—until he finds his next target: the mysterious Holly Evernight.

Love must cast aside the shadows . . .

Holly cannot fathom who would put a contract on her life, yet the moment she touches Will, the connection between them is elemental, undeniable—and she's the only one who can tame his bouts of madness. But other assassins are coming for Holly. Will must transform from killer to protector and find the man who wants Holly dead . . . or his only chance for redemption will be lost.

While being held captive, Holly Evernight is forced to put a metal heart into Will Thorne. It’s her own invention, but she’s being forced to do this even though she desperately wants to get away. All she can hear are Will’s screams, even months after their rescue. A year has passed and Holly now has a deep fear of leaving her home, and in fact, hasn’t since she was abducted. The past year hasn’t been kind to Will either, being a demon and having a metal object forced into him should have killed him. Instead, his body turns to metal causing him great pain and even with spotty memories, he’s hell bent on getting revenge on the person who did this to him. Holly. But after arriving at her house ready to kill her, he learns that he needs to get in line, as various attempts on her life have already been made and no one knows who’s behind it or why. After Will learns that Holly is an elemental and has a unique ability to use metal in any way she needs, one touch from her on Will’s skin eases his pain and he strikes her a deal: continue to keep him sane through her touch when the metal threatens to take hold of him and he’ll provide her protection and help her figure out who the threat against is her. Holly feels trapped between a rock and hard place and eventually agrees.

Oh Holly and Will – if ever two people needed each other, it’s these two. Holly is a brilliant scientist who’s dealing with a huge fear of leaving her house. She’s been on leave from her job at the SOS and even that’s in jeopardy now. But when Will barges into her home and her life and forces her to start to live again, it’s the best thing that could have happened to her. That’s not to say she goes along with his plans easily. Oh no no no. But he gives her a sense of safety and when he realizes just how deep her fear runs, he helps her deal with it in the exact way she needs.

For Will, being a demon got him kicked out of his house as soon as the signs of what he was started to emerge. While his memories of his past are still slowly coming back to him, he knows deep down he has never had anyone that called him theirs. He’s never been loved, or been a person that someone has needed for just Will, no other reason. He finds all that and more in Holly and it’s addictive. He craves her touch for more reasons than one, he just needs her and the feelings between them grow stronger and stronger the more they’re together and the more they go through. This was a romance that had me laughing at loud at their personalities and how well they played off each other on page and as the story progressed and their feelings became so much deeper, they had me in the palm of their hands. Theirs is a relationship that’s a “hate to love” and the last 20% of the story is perfection. There was no way I was putting the book down, Will and Holly had me tearing up with the horrible situation they were put into by a third party. Not to give any spoilers about who or what this third party is, but they’re a horrible person who not only impacts Will and Holly’s life through the use of others but we’re left with details of another character this person was just at the start of tormenting and I want to know what happened now.

While the series storylines keep progressing, the secondary storyline involving the GIM maker Adam and his latest obsession, Eliza May, a young woman he saved and in doing so bound her to him for a length of time of his choosing. The only issue, Adam recognized her immediately as his other half, his mate, but Eliza wants nothing to do with him. She won’t talk to him and all she wants is her freedom, something Adam won’t give her. Needless to say, the setup for their story is so well done, giving us just enough buildup between them to be enticing and leaving poor Adam in a horrible situation. Kristen Callihan does love to torture her characters!

But the heart and soul of Evernight is Will and Holly. Whether they were making me laugh with their early snap and crackle dialogue when they both wanted to kill each other, or making me sigh with the sweet words they give to each other when they each needed to hear them most, I loved their journey and watching them fall in love. This continues to be a series that completely grabs me and each book just makes me love the world that Callihan has created even more.

Rating: A

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Forever
Kristen Callihan: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: B&N | IndieBound | Kobo | iTunes
*eARC provided by publisher for review*

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: The Best Kind of Trouble (Hurley Brothers #1) by Lauren Dane

She has complete control… and he's determined to take it away

A librarian in the small town of Hood River, Natalie Clayton's world is very nearly perfect. After a turbulent childhood and her once-wild ways, life is now under control. But trouble has a way of turning up unexpectedly—especially in the tall, charismatically sexy form of Paddy Hurley….

And Paddy is the kind of trouble that Natalie has a taste for.

Even after years of the rock and roll lifestyle, Paddy never forgot the two wickedly hot weeks he once shared with Natalie. Now he wants more… even if it means tempting Natalie and her iron-grip control. But there's a fine line between well-behaved and misbehaved—and the only compromise is between the sheets!

Natalie Clayton, a small town librarian and Paddy Hurley, a member of a successful rock band with his brothers, hooked up years ago for 2 weeks that neither of them have ever forgotten. Natalie isn’t that same person anymore and she’s worked hard to leave that wild, partying girl behind and takes her job and quiet life very seriously. She’s cut out people from her life who have dragged her down, mainly her own family, and she’s surrounded herself with good, close friends and is happy. The last thing she wants to do is upset this life she’s made by letting Paddy come crashing back into it. He’s still recording music, still in the public spotlight and she’s not interested in being a part of that life anymore. Paddy has other ideas though and wants one date with Natalie. And she makes him work for it, which is always fun to see play out!

There’s something about Natalie that helps to ground Paddy. The only other person who’s been able to do that is his older brother Ezra. Paddy isn’t one to take no for answer, so he shows up at the coffee shop that Natalie hits every morning and doesn’t let up until she gives him a chance. They start things out slow and I liked seeing their relationship progress. There are some nice moments between not only them as a couple, but plenty of scenes with Paddy’s rock n’ roll brothers and Nat’s friends as well.

Lauren Dane always brings the sexy to her books and Nat and Paddy are no exception. For as much as I enjoyed their romance, there were a few things that bugged me. There’s a lot of talk about button pushing and how it relates to Natalie fitting into Paddy’s world and his public persona with his fans. It also relates to Paddy needing to be needed by Natalie. So of course with all this talk, someone’s button get pushed causing a big angst filled fight between Paddy and Natalie. And the whole scene surrounding this fight just didn’t work for me at all. It almost felt like Paddy’s reaction came out of nowhere and his argument just didn’t make sense and even felt out of character. Unfortunately, this comes at the end so it soured my feelings on the story being left with this fight so close to the HEA, which of course we get.

The supporting cast is well done and I really enjoyed getting to know the Hurley brothers and look forward to more from them. Their stories are built up nicely and I’m anxious to get to know them as well as Nat’s best friend Tuesday as the series progresses.

While I did like the majority of The Best Kind of Trouble, there were a few things that I didn’t necessarily enjoy and it took away from the story a little bit for me. But I’m a sucker for a series centered around brothers, so I’ll be checking out the next book as I did really enjoy getting to know all the Hurley’s.

Rating: C+

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Lauren Dane: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The dead of winter.

An isolated island off the coast of Maine.

A man.

A woman.

A sinister house looming over the sea ...

He's a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She's a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids' puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.

But she's not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they're trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.

It's going to be a long, hot winter.

We open with Annie, who is trying to find her “legacy” at her late mother’s home on Peregrine Island. She doesn’t expect to run into Theo Harp, a man who as a young boy made Annie’s life a living hell and almost killed her. He now writes grisly horror novels (which fits his personality according to Annie) and he’s staying at the Harp House near the cottage of Annie’s mother. Theo’s twin sister, Regan, had been a close friend of Annie’s growing up but Regan’s death followed by Theo’s wife killing herself has all added to Annie’s belief that Theo is unstable and she wants to stay far, far away from him. Yeah right. There’s much more to Theo and their past together than Annie realizes, and not everything is the way she believed it to be. As the truth comes out, her feelings for Theo change no matter how hard she tries to fight it.

Annie was a struggling actress for years and has since starting using puppets and being a ventriloquist as a way to pay the bills. Because of this, she often thinks in the voices of her puppet’s personalities that she’s created. This…is annoying. I know it’s supposed to be charming and a way to get into Annie’s head a little bit as each of the puppets plays on her thoughts and emotions, but it came off as Annie just having multiple personalities, it was annoying and didn’t read all that smoothly. This is especially bad in the beginning when almost all of the conversations on page are between Annie and her puppets. Thankfully, as Annie starts to meet people and get more involved with Theo, her talks with her puppets dies down, although not completely.

I found Theo’s story and history to be the most interesting piece of this book and really would have liked more to have been told from his point of view. He’s misunderstood, but he keeps the truth about so many things hidden, playing on his psycho/bad guy persona that people have labeled him with. He’s on the island temporarily to try and finish his next book and he’s not having much luck. Instead he finds himself drawn back to Annie and acting as the island’s medical expert even though he’s only qualified as an EMT. Annie’s influence brings life back to Theo and he goes from an anti-social grump, to a man who finally has a ton of weight lifted off his shoulders when he’s able to let some things out.

There’s a small suspense storyline surrounding someone trying to force Annie off the island. I wasn’t able to really get into that portion of the story. I like that it served to bring Theo and Annie closer together, but the resolution to this storyline felt a bit weak and easy.

I struggled with the romance. There was a big lack of chemistry on page between these two, especially in the bedroom and it’s unfortunate because I know Susan Elizabeth Phillips can bring it for her couples, and it just was a letdown here. Their first time having sex almost seemed to come out of the blue, one sentence they’re kissing, the next BAM, on the floor having sex and fade to black. In general, I was left wanting a lot more not only when it came to their romance, but the relationship in general. I just never bought into them as a couple in love with each other.

I was ultimately letdown with this story. I enjoyed Theo and seeing his progression on page. Annie has some fun, quirky moments, but it wasn’t enough for me to fall in love with her or them as a couple. The first half of the book was struggle to get through as the pace felt incredibly slow. The second half picks it up a bit, especially when more about Theo comes out, but it ended up being a book that was easy to put down.

Rating: C-

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Across the Line (In the Zone #2) by Kate Willoughby

Calder Griffin needs to get back in shape. Sidelined last season by a knee injury, he's determined to return to the San Diego Barracudas and play the best hockey of his career. This might even be the year he gets out of his talented older brother's shadow.

For months, Becca Chen has poured her energy into Cups, the restaurant she owns, desperate to prove to her parents that she can succeed in the career of her choice, not theirs. But after she spends a five-hour plane ride flirting with charming, magic-on-the-ice Calder, she tells herself she needs a fling.

Becca and Calder can't keep their hands off each other, but they know the relationship can't last. They live on opposite coasts, and they're both too devoted to their careers. All they have to do is prevent their feelings from crossing the line from lust to love…

What stood out most about Across the Line was the romance; it’s a very sweet romance and I liked that it felt like Calder and Becca dealt with real-life issues. There’s nothing overly dramatic or forced about what they go through. But they do have some things to work out and it came across as real as (I assume) dating an NHL player can be!

We follow Calder and Becca through their first meeting on a plane when they realize that they actually went to school together, but it wasn’t a great trip down memory lane. Becca was teased when she was younger and Calder was a part of that. But he’s determined to get to know her and finds reasons to be around her. They do the long distance thing but after a devastating fire changes the direction of Becca’s life, she makes a leap and throws herself into their relationship, fully committed.

I liked how the story and the series in general, focuses on the couple and their issues with making their relationship work. There’s no outside angst, no other parties influencing them, it’s just about the couple, in this case Calder and Becca, trying to mesh their lives to make it work. And it’s hard. There are bumps along the way and in Becca’s case, some eye opening she needs to do on her end. I did find both Calder and Becca to come across a bit immature in some scenes. It was a combination of their actions and dialogue but it came off a bit ‘young’ on page.

That said, Calder is a sweet hero. I like seeing both sides of him, the personal where he’s trying to make a relationship with Becca work, both long distance and when she moves to the west coast to be with him full time and his professional side. Not only his being an NHL player and coming back from an injury, but having to share the ice alongside his brother, a man he butts heads with more times than not. That actually ended up being a really interesting dynamic to see play out, especially when it’s clear that Calder doesn’t know his older brother at all.

While Calder and Becca may not have grabbed me as hard and fast as Tim and Erin did in book 1 of this series, On the Surface, I still enjoyed their romance and seeing their relationship grow. I like what Kate Willoughby’s bringing with this series and look forward to seeing what’s next.

Rating: B

Release Date: August 11, 2014
Publisher: Carina Press
Kate Willoughby: Webpage | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Bound to Danger (Deadly Ops #2) by Katie Reus

At a benefit dinner, community activist Maria Cervantes overhears two men plotting a terrorist attack that could rock Miami to its core. But before she can alert authorities, she’s almost killed in a massive explosion—and wakes up in a hospital with no memory of what happened. As the sole survivor of the attack, she is now a person of interest to the NSA—and especially to Agent Cade O’Reilly. Because Maria is the one woman Cade has never been able to forget.

Years ago, they were closer than either was willing to admit—until Cade disappeared when Maria needed him most. Now he’s sticking by her, whether she likes it or not. Because the memories locked inside her mind could hold vital clues to the next attack. Because terrorists want her dead—and because he never wants to let her go again.

Maria Cervantes overhears dangerous information about future plans of attack in Miami just moments before the building she’s in explodes. She’s the only survivor and she has no memory of what happened just before the explosion. Cade O’Reilly, working for the NSA, takes her on as his own mission when she comes up on their interest list. Their past romantic history is something he’s never forgotten even though he pushed her away years ago after her brother’s death overseas.

Cade served with Maria’s brother, he spent time at their family home and he and Maria became closer as they corresponded via letters and emails when he was overseas. Then after her brother is killed, Cade feels guilty and so he pulls away, hurting Maria badly. Now he’s back, Maria’s in trouble and Cade can’t let anyone else watch her. Old feelings come back to the surface and Maria is going to get some answers about Cade’s behavior while trying to protect her heart.

Maria and Cade’s romance was overall good, even if it is a bit predictable, but it’s sweet none the less. I liked the inclusion of the emails they sent to each other years ago. It adds a nice layer to their history and helps build up a basis for the relationship they once had and where they’re heading now. The resolution to the angst of Cade being so certain that Maria would hate him after hearing how her brother died and how it was all his fault felt really rushed at the end. It was a major issue for Cade throughout the whole story and it was the reason he pulled away from her to begin with and it ends up being resolved in just a few pages. It seemed like maybe there was going to be more to that storyline, more drama or something but it ended up being a bit anticlimactic.

The suspense storyline surrounding the terrorist threats was a bit weak. The bad guys were actually doing a good service (ok, killing isn’t good but I guess I was able to easily understand their reasons) ridding Miami of a circle of men who were running a sex slave ring. It’s hard to feel like the bad guys should pay when they’re getting rid of scum, but ok, they shouldn’t be planning various terrorist attacks and taking matters into their own hands.

Bound to Danger falls into the good read category: I liked the characters, I generally liked the story and the romance was nice. But there was nothing that reached out and grabbed me about this story. It’s a fine read but I can’t say that after finishing I was left anxiously waiting for the next book in the series.

Rating: C

Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Signet
Katie Reus: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Lay It Down (Desert Dogs #1) by Cara McKenna

Backbreaking days, wild nights, and the hard hum of steel between your thighs...

That’s a life well lived, according to the Desert Dogs—four friends who call Fortuity, Nevada, their badlands home.

Vince Grossier is the self-crowned outlaw king around here. But when Fortuity’s slick new mayor invites a casino development to town, greed isn’t far behind—and it claims Vince’s good friend as its first casualty. With the law turning a blind eye to the mysterious death, Vince must seek his own brand of justice. The pretty photographer hired by the developers might be the key to uncovering the truth. And she’s a temptation too good to pass up.

Finally free of a controlling ex, Kim Paget’s not looking to be taken for a ride—not on the back of some tattooed roughneck’s bike and definitely not in his bed. But when she uncovers evidence supporting Vince’s suspicions of murder, Kim must entrust her safety to a man whose body threatens danger of a whole different kind.

Vince is trouble with a capital T. He’s been in jail, he’s on parole, he’s the guy who trouble just seems to find. He works odd jobs, some questionable, he takes care of his mother, and he’s used to people leaving him. People including his brother and his father, no one seems to stick around. And then Kim comes to town. She’s been hired to take photographs of the town for the new casino that’s being built, much to the local’s disapproval. No one wants a big, fancy casino coming in and ruining the small town, simple life these people are used to, but construction has started and with it has come a murder mystery that jumpstarts the book and this series. Vince’s best friend is killed in an apparent drunk driving accident, but Vince isn’t convinced and he’s certain there’s more to his friend’s death, especially considering the phone call Alex made to him just hours before his death. He mentions seeing bones at the construction site and Vince starts to dig deeper into Alex’s comments and what’s uncovered is more than anyone expected, especially when Vince’s suspicions are confirmed when it’s clear that Alex was murdered. The book sets up a series storyline surrounding the murderers and what exactly they’re covering up.

Kim ends up sticking around because of a vision that Vince’s mom has. She’s not quite all “there”, but for years she’s had visions that have come true and Vince has no reason to doubt her latest one about the role Kim will play in finding out what really happened to Alex. Kim just ended a long term relationship and wants to let loose a little bit and have some fun. Fun as in – Vince. He’s not at all her type but they’re attracted to each other and get close pretty quickly. I found Kim to be very likable. She’s trying to find something in her life, a purpose or direction. Currently she has no apartment, she’s drifting but she finds a place she really likes in this small town of Fortuity. And she wants to do something for herself for a change and that includes taking a chance on Vince.

I liked the progress of the relationship between Kim and Vince. They’re sexy, always a must have and I especially liked the place we leave them. They definitely get their happily ever after, but it’s not fast tracked for the sake of wrapping things up in a nice neat bow. It makes sense for them and I’m already looking forward to updates for them in the books to come.

I found myself unexpectedly intrigued by out of towner Duncan Welch and local girl Raina. Welch is initially in town working for the development company that’s building the casino, so he’s loyalty is definitely up the air at the start. Even though we get to know him better as the story progresses, I feel like there’s still so much we don’t know about this man. I have no idea if he’ll play a role in future books, I really hope so because there was some serious sparkage between Welch and Raina. I’ll be curious to see if Cara McKenna takes their storyline further or if she has a different plan for Raina and hopefully Welch.

I enjoyed Lay it Down. It’s a nice blend of sexy romance and suspense that kept me intrigued throughout. The main storyline is still ongoing and in the end we have the start of the Desert Dogs, best friends that are back in Fortuity and will be a force to be reckoned with.

Rating: B

Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Signet
Cara McKenna: Webpage | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 

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