Saturday, January 17, 2015

2015 Reading List


Instead of making a New Year's Resolution this year, I made a list of books I want to read. The only thing is, I keep adding to it! A little over two weeks in, here is the list. But I am sure I will add to it as the year goes on- especially because it is a list of 23, and that is an irritating number (I prefer nice round number ending in 5 or 0 or, at the very least, an even number, if you please). In no particular order:

It's November now and I have continued to add to this list.  I haven't included my 22 summer reading books on this list because they are listed in other posts.  It's a little bit hard for me to keep trying to remember which books I still need to read, so I have put an asterisk next to the titles that I still need to read. But the asterisks will come off once I finish the book.



*1) As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto by Joan Reardon -- my dear friend Rebekah and I were reading My Life in France together until her children hid her book from her! I finished it on my own, and I have to say, I didn't love it like I thought I would; but I think that maybe Mrs. Child's friendship with Mrs. DeVoto was one of the loveliest things about her. (I also thought her marriage was really sweet too.) As Rebekah is a very special friend with whom I have not long had the pleasure of living in the same place, I thought reading this book about a very special long distance friendship (involving a shared love of food, no less!) would be an apropos follow up read in honor of my special long distance friend with whom I share a love of food.


2) As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes -- Honestly, I am not sure why I am reading this. I believe it started as a book George mentioned to me that he thought I would be interested to know about and then I put myself in line to read it- 15th out of 4 copies on order, I think- and eventually, it arrived and was read by 14 people, and the library let me know it was ready for me. It is interesting enough; I just don't need to read a whole book on a movie.


3) Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty -- Oh dear. I had this out from the library for the maximum number of weeks and renewals and still only made it through Chapter 2. It has that Faulkner-like quality of involving quite a few characters of the same family from quite a few generations in a very subtle plot that has the reader feeling like surely there is more going on here than they realize. And, if the reader is me, she will begin seriously questioning her intelligence and ability to follow such a complex and artful saga. I read a wonderful review on Amazon that encouraged me to stay with it after all, but unfortunately, the library would not allow another renewal. I ended up waiting to check it out again until December. But what I found is that after those first two chapters, it gets a lot better. I am glad I kept it on the list and took the time to read it all the way through.


4) 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson -- This is first on my list of quite a few by Mr. Wilson. What happened was, I read Notes From the Tiltawhirl and was so impressed, I decided I wanted to read his fiction. He reminded me of my husband and his friends- guys that I love! I was really surprised and wanted to hear more! I am sure I have mentioned having multiple problems with Mr. Wilson's parents. I really want to like them and can even allow that they are very nice people, but their writing seems harsh and judgmental and it hurts my feelings on other people's behalf. I am not sure if I had low expectations of Mr. Wilson because of his parents or if Notes From the Tiltawhirl was really that good, but it piqued my interest and earned my respect at the very least.  I will say that I wasn't crazy about 100 Cupboards and put the next two books in the series off because of that. It's not that it wasn't well written, it's just that it was rather dark. I have heard good things about his newer series so those are also on my list and I hope they are a bit less grey.


5) Dandelion Fire by N. D. Wilson -- The series got a little better. It was still darker than I expected. But I am glad I went ahead and stuck with it. Upon reflection, I think the reason this series felt so dark to me was because there was a lot about it that was solitary for the characters, especially at the beginning. As the series goes on, more people "join forces" and there isn't quite such a forsaken feeling- if that makes any sense.


6) The Chestnut King by N.D. Wilson -- This was the last in this series. And, as I said, it was better than it started out for me. But if you have to choose between series (I don't know why you would, but maybe if you just want to choose), I would go with the next one.


7) The Dragon's Tooth by N. D. Wilson -- This is the first book in Wilson's series Ashtown Burials. While still having a strong element of danger and evil, these books weren't quite as creepy to me. Maybe they were just a little less lonely? There is a strong group of-  I don't know what to call them, good guys? Anyway, there is a strong group of good guys in this series and they are all, or almost all,  likable. And even if you're not crazy about some of the good guys, the bad guys are really easy to hate!


8) The Drowned Vault by N. D. Wilson --  The story continues and we get to meet all kinds of new characters. Who is the dude on the front cover?! It's so exciting! I have to say though, these books make me feel a little stupid. I wish I knew much more about history and mythology and Latin and all of it. But I just tend to get this feeling from time to time. I didn't let it ruin the books for me!


9) Empire of Bones by N. D. Wilson -- They don't sound any less grey do they? But this second series is really good. I am eager for the release of the fourth book! There's not even a date yet though so I think we'll be waiting a while.


10) Belinda by Maria Edgeworth -- This is a book George got me a while back that I have just never stayed with. I always read the introduction in books and the introduction to this book gave away the entire plot, without warning, all the way down to which gentleman wins the heroine's heart in the end! That took some of the wind out of my sails, but I really wanted to read it anyway. George thought it would be a fun read for me because the author was one of Jane Austen's contemporaries. And it was good! It wasn't as good as Jane Austen, but if you are like me, always wishing there was more Austen, this one is worth reading. Just don't read the introduction!


11) The Last Days of Socrates by Plato -- This is another book inspired by Nate Wilson. He is classically educated and knows all this history and philosophy and stuff I don't know. I don't like it that I don't know these things because I feel like I'm capable of knowing, just no one ever taught me. Well, no one ever taught George either, but he's just read all the philosophers. George tells me I can read Plato, and that I would actually like it. So, it went on the list. I can't say that I liked it very much. And I don't know for sure that I got it. But I think I did. The bigger problem for me is that I don't remember a lot of what I read. I probably wouldn't remember that I had read this at all except that it went on my list. So, now I've read it and if I ever get seated next to Wilson at a dinner party, I can say that I have read Plato and then move on to which Taylor Swift album is his favorite. Do you think he listens to Taylor Swift? I'll ask him.


12) The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers -- This is the first in a trilogy (the rest of the series is listed below) that I have been interested in for a while. I guess the reason for my interest is because the author is often linked to Andrew Peterson whose Christmas album is my all time favorite and whose fiction series has long been a favorite of Amabel's (and is listed below this series on my list as she has implored me to read them for quite some time.) These books are a fictionalized retelling of the story of King David before he was king. And they're smart. You can tell when you're reading them that Rogers is some sort of super educated educator (he really is). I liked this series so much that I ordered all the books for August. I think he really enjoyed them as well. They're great outdoor adventure books for boys, but Amabel enjoyed them as well.


13) The Secret of the Swamp King by Jonathan Rogers


14) The Way of the Wilderking by Jonathan Rogers


15) On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson


16) North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson


17) The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson


18) The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson


19) Gilead by Marilynne Robinson -- This is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by an Iowa author. I have dedicated the last year or so to reading almost exclusively Southern authors and you can see that this list is a departure from that. In thinking that we may also depart from Iowa altogether, I decided to read some of Ms. Robinson's works before I go. Out of worry that I might hate the first one, I reserved the right to remove the next two from off the list. However, there was no need to worry on that count. Ms. Robinson's books are lovely.


20) Home by Marilynne Robinson


21) Lila by Marilynne Robinson


22) To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander -- Okay, this one is a bit humorous. I read these period novels last summer by a Christian author, Julie Klassen, who loved Jane Austen and wrote stories set in the same time period-- usually about girls who had suffered some misfortune or other that should remove them from all good society, but, because of their character and courage, ended up with a wealthy and wonderful man in the end anyway- Ruth stories set in Regency England, if you will. They were, honestly, page turners, even if they wouldn't win Pulitzers (many of them did win the Christy Award though which is how I heard of them) and I quickly read through her entire body of work. Often alongside Mrs. Klassen as a nominee for the Christy Award was the name Tamera Alexander. Though Mrs. Alexander lost to Mrs. Klassen each time, as they say, it is an honor just to be nominated. And I thought I might like to read what she had written as well. And, as it turns out, she has written several post-Civil War era novels about the historical homes in my hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, two about Belmont Mansion and two (second one coming out later this year) about Belle Meade Plantation. I read the Belmont Mansion books but my library did not have the one listed here set at Belle Meade Plantation. I finally found it at a library in the suburb where I work and went over there and got a library card. I didn't expect it to be great, but it was actually better than the Belmont Mansion ones were, and dare I say, a little sexy in parts, especially for Christian chic lit! (But not in an inappropriate or even PG way.)


23) The Princess Bride by William Goldman -- Well, I don't suppose I can very well read a book about the making of the movie without reading the original book as well.



24) Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay  --  I loved this book. There are reviews on Amazon about it being a rip off of Daddy Long Legs, but to me, the plot was so obviously parallel that I don't think the  author was trying to get away with anything. She took a format, and idea, a plot really, and updated it and made it more interesting. I don't think she was thinking she wouldn't be found out, and I don't think it took anyone any real detective work to find her out. It was pretty obvious. But oh, it was so good. I really loved it. (And I can add it to my list without any added anxiety because it is also marked off the list!)


25) Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay -- I didn't enjoy this one as much. It was about cancer and estranged sisters. It just wasn't a fun read. I wanted to like it even if I couldn't love it like Dear Mr. Knightley, but it just didn't have the same kind of happy. It had a whole lot of sad. However, I have seen that Ms. Reay has a new book coming out in November called The Bronte Plot. Of course, my library doesn't have it on order yet, but I put a request in so we shall see.


*26) by Katherine Reay -- I am on the list for this one at the library. It came out in early November, but it still says "on order." I really hope it becomes available before the end of the year!


27) The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham -- Remember how I said I read everything by Sophie Kinsella but nothing she wrote under her real name? Well, I did listen to one on audio a few years back and it was terrible. For one thing though, the person reading the book gave everyone horrible voices. And then I realized that it was actually only her second novel. You know how I said Fannie Flagg had improved so much with time? Clearly, so has Mrs. Wickham. So I decided to give her another try. And I liked The Gatecrasher. It isn't so lighthearted as the Sophie Kinsella books, but it was a page turner, and I need a few of those peppered in amongst some of the heavier titles on my list. So I've added the rest of hers as well!


28) The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham


29) Cocktails for Three by Madeleine Wickham


30) Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham


31) 40 Love by Madeleine Wickham


32) The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall  -- Do y'all know the Penderwicks books?! They're so wonderful. They're just lovely books about four sisters and their friends and family. The newest one just came out this March (I am updating as the year goes by) and we had pre-ordered it. Amabel and I drank it up. If you don't know the Penderwicks, you're going to want to get to know them soon!


33) Beautiful by Cindy Martinusen Coloma -- This was a book that I found through my Amazon recommendations and searching through the finalists for Christy Awards in years past. I was looking for a book for Amabel and thought I would read it first. I didn't care for it at all. It's about a girl who is in a very bad and disfiguring car accident in high school - a story I can actually very much relate to as I went through a similar, but less severe situation. What I couldn't relate to was the character. I mean, she was a teenaged girl, but she was unlike any teenaged girl I have ever encountered. I decided that Amabel wouldn't enjoy it at all. It was intense without being entertaining or relatable. I wouldn't recommend it.


34) The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen -- This one came out in December of 2014. Somehow Miss Julie is managing to crank them out as there is a new one coming out this July and another one in December! I really enjoy these books. As I have said, they are virtually all the same in terms of the plot- a young, single woman who has found herself in dire circumstances and has managed a temporary solution or disguise but is frightened of the new people in her life not understanding or wanting to maintain their connections with her in the event of inevitable exposure.  That is pretty much the plot of all of her books. But they are still so much fun to read!


35) Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen -- This one was set for release on July 7, and my library did eventually get a copy. This one had some unexpected twists! But yes, it was still the same plot. I loved it anyway!


36) The Painter's Daughter by Julie Klassen -- Amabel thinks it is hilarious that all of the titles have daughter or lady or girl in them. This one was our Ruth plot again, but it was also very good.


37) The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson -- This book was mentioned in the newest Penderwicks book and I took it as a recommendation.  I cannot pass on the recommendation. It's a bit tedious. It seems like there is a lot of potential in a story about a little girl who goes to boarding school in the English countryside at the dawn of World War 2 and befriends an exiled prince from a country taken over by the Nazis. But it was surprisingly dull and, dare I say, unimaginative. A disappointing read.


38) Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce -- This book was also mentioned in the newest Penderwicks book and I took it as a recommendation as well. This one, however, is a much better book than the other. It's sort of a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets outer space.


39) This Quiet Sky by Joanne Bischof --This is another Christy award finalist and again, I was not very impressed. I think the thing that bothered me most was that it was set in 1885 for no apparent reason. The setting was actually distracting because the characters behaved and spoke very much like characters from 2015. I kept trying to figure out how the story needed to be set then because it so obviously didn't work that I figured an editor would have had to let it be because of key points in the plot. Nope. This story could've easily moved to modern day and worked. But then it would be compared to The Fault In Our Stars because of the whole teen cancer thing. Did I mention the teen cancer thing? It was sad for sure. But it was also a case of the stakes being too high. That irritates me in modern literature (and cinema)- the stakes are always death. Can we have tension in a story without lives being on the line? According to Disney and bad books everywhere, no. But I say yes! Looking back over this list, most of the books I like do not have a strong role for death, which is a mercy because after reading this and finishing All the Light We Cannot See today, I have had enough of death (not that it matters because I have already read almost everything else on this list). Alright, end rant.


40) Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham -- This book was kind of adorable. If you like Lauren Graham, and I really do so much just because of Parenthood alone, in spite of never having seen Gilmore Girls, you may really like this book. It's just a good old fashioned romantic comedy with the main character being a twenty something struggling actress in the mid nineties. My guess is it is at least somewhat autobiographical. But I don't know for sure. It's a fun read.


41) Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella -- Hurray! My sister bought me Sophie's new book when I went to visit her.  It is her first young adult book, but it was still very Sophie and very good. It was about a family, and specifically, about a teenaged girl. But it was a loving family. And that is rare to see in any type of media these days. It was not a family without faults by any stretch, but it was a family of people who cared for each other - parents who weren't afraid to make choices for their children's best, even when the children strongly disagreed, and parents who also weren't afraid to change their minds and admit when they were wrong. And it was overall, a redemptive story. I quite liked it.


42) Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris -- This is a book that I have seen on the bestseller list a bunch as I have looked for books for my summer reading challenge. Because someone lent two bestsellers to me, I didn't choose this one for the challenge, but then couldn't ignore my curiosity. However, it was rough. It was described as "hilarious and delightful" and it was neither. It was supposed to be sort of part memoir and part grammar guide, but I didn't feel it accomplished either. The writing was choppy and distracted so that I wasn't really even sure what she was talking about. "Fixing cars? No? Prepositional phrases? I don't know..." It was like when you hear a really long, overdrawn sermon illustration that doesn't fit and you spend the rest of the sermon distracted by the randomness of the illustration (or is that just me?) - she was trying to make stories from her life work with grammar and it was not happening. Furthermore, she overcomplicated basic rules of grammar that I have heard explained worlds better by every grammar teacher and grammar textbook I've ever encountered. For example, the chapter on nominative vs. objective case pronouns, a grammatical element that I feel I understand quite well, had me bored and confused, counting pages until it was over, and mentally screaming my own clearer explanation.


43) Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss -- This just naturally followed Between You and Me in my mind. If I'm going to read nerdy grammar books, I should read nerdy grammar books! This one was much better than the other, but still, it was a nerdy grammar book written by a grammar snob. (And yes, I can be a bit of a grammar snob myself so I didn't let it bother me too much.)


44) To Win Her Favor: A Belle Meade Plantation Novel by Tamera Alexander -- I mentioned earlier that this would be coming out this year. Well, it came out and it was another surprisingly good one after the Belmont Mansion ones. It starts out and you don't think it could be as good as the other Belle Meade Mansion one, but somehow it is! I wouldn't recommend the Belmont Mansion ones, but I actually might recommend these two to a certain type of reader. They were surprisingly good.


45) What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty --I really enjoyed this author from the summer beach read book list I got from Modern Miss Darcy so I checked out, and also enjoyed, this one and the next one. The next two aren't as good, but I liked this one so well that I got this one and Big Little Lies for my sister for her birthday.


46) The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty -- This one was a little less light hearted. It was kind of hard to take in a lot of ways. But it was very well done.


47) The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty -- This one was also a little heavier than I was expecting. And it was probably the most tedious of her books. I actually had to return it to the library because someone else requested it and I couldn't renew it. I usually don't have to renew books if I really like them. But I liked this one enough that I wanted to check it back out and finish it later. So do with that what you will.


48) High Bonnet: A Novel of Epicurean Adventures by Idwal Jones -- I have had this book for years and have never read it. I'm not exactly sure why but I think it is a case of ordering too many books at once. I have really enjoyed several books from the Modern Library Food Series edited by Ruth Reichl (a hard list to find, but two of my favorites, the absolute must reads, are Life a la Henri by Henri Charpentier, which is sadly out of print, and Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon) and I ordered the ones I couldn't find in the St. Louis County library system right before we moved to Des Moines. The ones I couldn't get to right away probably just got packed in a box and then put on a shelf and forgotten after we moved. But now they are found. I have to say though, this book is not really worth reading for someone like me. I was so encumbered by the French words and foreign culinary terms and the overall lack of plot that I did not enjoy it at all.


49) The Passionate Epicure by Marcel Rouff -- Ugh, I didn't like this book. I was laughing at it at first because the main character is so pompous and pretentious and ridiculous. But after a little while, I realized that the author was completely serious; he thought the main character was great. It is interesting that this book is on my list right before the next two- I have about had it with anything to do with French cooking.


50) Lunch in Paris: A Love Story With Recipes by Elizabeth Bard -- I saw Picnic in Provence when I went to Barnes and Noble to pick out a book by its cover. It was in the running and almost definitely would've been better than the one I ultimately chose. But because it had a book that came before it, I didn't get it for the summer reading list. Instead, I decided to read both books later. I like this first one okay. One thing the author does is switch from past tense to present tense and then back to past tense, willy nilly, all within the same paragraph. I can't stand it. It's confusing and it's just sloppy. Another thing is that she is one of these boring Americans who move to France and think that Americans are just dying to know about how awful we are and how great this other place is. Sure, she admits, France has its own glaring shortcomings, but not so bad as America. Oh no, America is just so horribly American. Please! The other thing she does that all the Americans who go over to France do, is use French words in the middle of English when an English word is perfectly acceptable. Do we really need the French word for cake when you just described the cake to us? It's cake, not gateau. And it's garden, not jardin. Your audience is English!


51) Picnic in Provence: A Memoir With Recipes by Elizabeth Bard -- The only reason I read this book was because I had already put it on my list. The author has become obsessed with French food and French women being skinny and Americans being fat and eating horrible food. And the book ends with her becoming a French citizen. Good riddance. I am not a hyper patriotic person, but I get sick and tired of people bashing American ways for the ways of a socialist, godless nation full of characteristically cold and snotty people. This hits a nerve with me because Ms. Bard is not the first person I have encountered with her attitude. I just have no patience left.


52) Me Before You by Jojo Moyes -- I read this book in almost 24 hours. I started it on the elliptical at the Y, couldn't put it down that night until almost one o'clock in the morning, dreamed about it that night, woke up at 6AM before my alarm went off, and read until about 9AM, didn't get a chance to pick it up again until after work that night at about 9PM, and finished before I went to bed. But I can't really tell anything about the book lest I ruin it.


*53) After You by Jojo Moyes -- I am in line for this one at the library now.


54) The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion -- This one was not as good as the first one. And I really don't relate to Rosie so it's hard to like these books, but I do find Don, the main character, amusing.



55) Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple -- This one was okay. It's just that the thing that I thought probably happened to Bernadette did. I mean, no I didn't guess all of the details, but it's kind of like if someone was half an hour late to meet you and me and you said "I wonder where she is," and I said "she's probably stuck in traffic," and then she got there and there had been this whole incident on the interstate with one of those pig trucks and pigs were in the road and everyone had to narrow down to one lane and go slow and it took forever- so maybe I didn't guess the whole pig part, but basically, yeah, she was stuck in traffic. It was like that. I didn't guess everything, but the general idea was pretty obvious to me. Still, it was funny in some parts.



56) Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella -- Okay, these have gotten a little silly. It's out of hand.



57) Call of the Wild by Jack London -- Somehow I have managed to dodge reading this until now. I don't know why I chose it for August. Actually, I do. I thought George would have read it and could take over this particular unit. But no. This one isn't as long as the next one. And somehow it was more interesting too. I am struggling with White Fang.



58) White Fang by Jack London -- Again, I've managed not to read this, but now I must. It started out okay and then went to really dull and then went to pretty good. There are parts where there are no humans at all and that is tough to get through. But in the end, it was a redemptive story and I actually found myself smiling and even chuckling when I read the last eighty pages or so. In the end, I liked this one better than The Call of the Wild.

59) Charlotte's Web by E.B. White -- I just read this for the first time. The cartoon we grew up with is amazingly close to the real story. Again though, this was part of homeschool, for Elspeth this time. I went through the entire book in a day and made up comprehension questions for every chapter. I have  to do the same with the following title.


60) Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- I have read this before, but I still need to go through and make up comprehension questions.




61) Rules of Civility by Amor Towles -- This is one I don't know anything about, but a friend who loves to read let me borrow it. I'm excited to see what it's about


62) The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty -- This was good! I really like this author! She writes books with a mystery that aren't your typical whodunnit mysteries that I don't much care for. Until I read her books, I didn't think I like mysteries at all. But she has a way of writing a good book that also happens to have an intriguing mystery in it. The mystery doesn't drive the story. The characters drive the story. But the mysteries are interesting and not the typical ones I've encountered before.


63) Nightmares! The Sleepwalker Tonic by Jason Segel -- I was excited to find out a sequel recently came out to the book I read and enjoyed last year. But I didn't like this one at all. I don't know if the first one was bad and I just missed it or if this second one is just a whole lot worse. There were a lot of leaps and I just couldn't overlook them- why is this situation so upsetting? how can we deduce the thing the characters are deducing (we can't)? etc.



64) Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman -- I didn't like this very much. I don't generally put Christian living books on my book list, but this wasn't quite that. I'm not entirely sure what it was. It was just kind of Emily talking about herself and her life and what she thinks. And that's fine, but it was just a little too self important to me. Is that mean? I don't mean to be. Talking about yourself is all good and well on your webpage, but I think it's kind of a lot to ask someone to pay for it. But maybe it's just because the thoughts she shares in the book weren't new ideas to me. Maybe I should just chalk that up to great minds thinking alike ;)


65) Home is Where My People Are by Sophie Hudson -- This book intrigued me because it's about a Southern girl and her journey to "home" which, for her, is Birmingham, Alabama. Sophie is funny. And what's more, she was a Chi O at and SEC school. So she and I have a lot in common! However, it also just felt a little more blog worthy than book worthy to me. I'm thinking this must be a trend in Christian publishing.


66) Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle -- With thoughts on the last two books I mentioned in mind, I was not confident that I would enjoy this book much more. But a good friend recommended it to me so I gave it a try. But it clenched it for me- I am not a memoir girl, especially memoirs of people who haven't really done anything unusual. And what I didn't realize was that it's a book about motherhood. And I disagreed with much of the author's perspective. And again, while I think this is an often humorous account of this particular person's life, I just don't see why there needs to be a book at all, or really even a blog. But I know some people like reading blogs of strangers. It's just not for me.

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