Sunday Salon: Excuses Edition

Posted 26 June, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

sunday salon books

Forgive me internet, for I have sinned and it has been nineteen days since my last blog post. Well, it’s been nineteen days since my last blog post, anyway. I was going to start writing on the regular and … et cetera et cetera.

Let’s start with something relevant to the blog, like what I’ve been reading. I’m probably 100 pages shy of finishing The Fireman and it has been wholly enjoyable. I’m working my way through Before the Fall by Noah Hawley so I can book-club it with my new local-bookish-BFF who also happens to be dating my General Counsel from work. I also just got a magical care package from Catherine at Gilmore Guide to Books with Sweetbitter and an upcoming Shirley Jackson biography which was the one book I really wanted but wasn’t able to get my hands on at BEA. (I promise Catherine, that Kindle Paperwhite will be in the mail this week…)

So, what’s been going on? Well, last Sunday Salon (three weeks ago?) I told you I was taking a case to trial that I desperately didn’t want to. It was a win… ish. Eight count accusation, seven acquittals and one conviction on the charge the defense attorney went in telling the jury to convict on. Sentencing pretty much went my way though, so… win? Doesn’t matter, it’s over. While that jury was still out deliberating I had to pick another jury and try another case, it was utterly exhausting.

The Friday of the week of all the jury trials I had to leave after work to go to a intensive week long training starting the next day (SATURDAY) in BEAUUUUTIFUL Forsyth, Georgia where I proceeded to work twelve to sixteen hour days for the next six days. That was the same week that the Pulse shooting happened and that the alligator ate the baby at Disney World and I just couldn’t with the internet.

I came home and Mr. SFR was gone and The Girl was with my mother and really all I could do was collapse into my bed and watch trashy television until last Wednesday. At that point I went back to work and had to bury myself in that… so no blogging.

Which brings us to today… I think it’s time to get reading. What’s new with you, Reader?

April

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Friday (Re)Reads: The Passage

Posted 10 June, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Friday (Re)Reads: The PassageThe Passage by Justin Cronin
Published by Random House Publishing Group on June 8th 2010
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Suspense, Science Fiction, Apocalyptic & Post-Apocalyptic, Literary, General, Fantasy, Epic
Pages: 784
Format: Kindle Paperwhite
Goodreads
four-stars

An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival, The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

So this is my second journey through Cronin’s The Passage, I remember enjoying it immensely back in 2010 when it first came out. I only refreshed myself with the Wikipedia page when the second book in the trilogy The Twelve came out in 2012, but now with the impending release of the last book in the trilogy (City of Mirrors), I felt it was time for a full re-read.

Let me tell you, while I still enjoyed The Passage a ton, it didn’t hold up as well as I wanted it to. It is an epic, sprawling story with multitudes of characters spanning about a hundred years. What makes The Passage stand apart from other apocalypse novels is that Cronin manages to do it all. We get to see both the fall of society and the almost dystopian aftermath a hundred years later with society evolving to live with the virals. First Colony is peopled with at least half a dozen fully formed and fleshed out characters. Cronin is an excellent world builder and puts a bright new spin out in the world of vampire literature.

My problem with The Passage comes from the not-quite-heavy-handed-but-at-least-middle-handed Christ allegory that we get at the end with Amy. I don’t know a whole lot about Justin Cronin as a person except that he seemed lovely for the fifteen seconds that stood with him at BEA (but not as lovely as George Saunders), but the preachy-ness at the end of this book leaves me suspicious of Cronin the way we should have been suspicious about Creed in the late nineties.

Despite all that, I must highly recommend The Passage to all lovers of vampire, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic fiction. It’s a good fun read, especially if you want a fast-paced chunkster.

So Readers, I know other people out there have read The Passage. Thoughts? Feelings?

April

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Monday Madness: I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Posted 6 June, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Madness: I’m Thinking of Ending ThingsI'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Published by Gallery/Scout Press on June 14th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Thrillers
Pages: 224
Goodreads
three-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

You will be scared. But you won’t know why…
I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always.
Jake once said, “Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”
And here’s what I’m thinking: I don’t want to be here.

In this deeply suspenseful and irresistibly unnerving debut novel, a man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. When the two take an unexpected detour, she is left stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape at all. What follows is a twisted unraveling that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.
In this smart, suspenseful, and intense literary thriller, debut novelist Iain Reid explores the depths of the human psyche, questioning consciousness, free will, the value of relationships, fear, and the limitations of solitude. Reminiscent of Jose Saramago’s early work, Michel Faber’s cult classic Under the Skin, and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an edgy, haunting debut. Tense, gripping, and atmospheric, this novel pulls you in from the very first page…and never lets you go.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is, as promised, very atmospheric. It’s also incredibly creepy and not to put to fine a point on it but – it’s weird. Really, more than anything this novel is weird. I generally like strange and unusual and perhaps the longer I sit and marinate with I’m Thinking of Ending Things, the more I’ll like it. But for now, about three days after finishing it… it’s just weird.

A man and woman are driving out to the country so girlfriend can meet homeboy’s parents for the first time. It’s dark, cold, and snowing. Parents are decidedly weird. The whole book is written in sentence snippets. Like this. What I guess I’m trying to say is that the first person narrative from unnamed girlfriend’s point of view is a little unnerving. But maybe that’s what the narrative is supposed to do…

Homeboy, or Jake, comes off as a pretentious asshole – and I can’t remember if Jake and girlfriend are actually supposed to be college-age kids – but that’s the vibe that I got from this novel, that’s how I imagined these characters.

Between girlfriend’s experience are chapters of two people talking to each other. Who they are is never explained but those interim chapters are an excellent tension building device that Reid uses quite effectively. If nothing else, I’m Thinking of Ending Things has dramatic tension in scads. (Or is it ‘scads of dramatic tension’? Anyway.)

The big problem with this novel is that it rests entirely on the ending. Without the ending this book is a jumbled mess. I’m not entirely sure it isn’t a jumbled mess anyway. Kind of like this review.

So Readers, who’s running out to buy this one next week? I didn’t hate this book, but I don’t know who or how to recommend it. Maybe a book club, there’s lots to talk about here. Do you have books that you don’t know how to recommend?

April

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Sunday Salon: ‘Twas the Day Before Jury Trial

Posted 5 June, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

sunday salon books

Time // 8:54 A.M. EDT

Thinking // About how I have to take a case to trial next week that I really don’t want to. I get that the idea of overworked public defenders is a way sexier news story than overworked prosecutors. (Also, malicious/improper prosecution is way sexier than the thousands of prosecutors that do their jobs properly and within the scope of the law every day.) But let me tell you, my office might represent The State, but it’s made up wholly of people – just people – handling enormous case loads. I can assure you that the vast power of the state is not so vast in backwoods Georgia. Anyway. I really don’t want to take this case to trial next week. Such is life.

Reading // Things. Lots of things. About 60% done with The Fireman – it’s got shades of The Stand in it… I’m liking it a lot but unsure if I’m going to topple over into loving it. Finished a weird little book that I picked up at BEA, I plan to write a review on it after this. Also finished re-reading Justin Cronin’s The Passage. Now I need to re-read The Twelve so I can pick up the thrilling conclusion in City of Mirrors.

Beginning // To run again. I got my two runs in last week and am aiming for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule from here forward (last Monday was a federal holiday, can’t run on federal holidays). It’s so dang hot and humid here I’m also considering taking up some type of swimming. The neighborhood pool is only about a half mile from the house and it’s big enough to do laps in – I don’t know, we’ll see if that works out.

So, that’s what I’m looking at, Reader. How’s your week? Anything exciting to look forward to?

April

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Whatever Wednesday: In a Dark, Dark Wood

Posted 1 June, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Whatever Wednesday: In a Dark, Dark WoodIn a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Published by Harvill Secker on July 30th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Genres & Styles, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 352
Goodreads
two-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In a dark, dark wood
Nora hasn't seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.
There was a dark, dark house
Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?
And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room
But something goes wrong. Very wrong.
And in the dark, dark room....
Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood was naturally billed as “for fans of Gone Girl“. We all have feelings about how nothing should ever be marketed this way – but despite this I wanted something light and fluffy so I thought I’d take In a Dark, Dark Wood out for a spin. While this novel is delightfully British – something that never fails to charm me – I still have to put it in the unfortunate category of: you could do worse on a plane.

I seem to have read a string of books that go into the you could do worse on a plane category lately. But I haven’t defined what that means lately in the blog so, let’s hash it out. Books like In a Dark, Dark Wood, aren’t bad per se. They’re just kind of ‘meh’. I’m not sorry that I read it, but I probably could have made it through life without reading it. These books aren’t deep or important, nor are they going to blow your mind in any way.

My biggest problem with this particular novel was probably the marketing (so lazy) and the utter predictability. As soon as it was revealed who was murdered (which is about halfway through the book), it was pretty clear whodunnit. I have to give Ware some props for attempting a bit of a locked room mystery outside the ‘cozy mystery’ subgenre. Agatha Christie, Ruth Ware is not, but it added a little bit of novelty to what otherwise could be considered a rather standard and unremarkable novel in the psychological thriller genre.

So Reader, do you think that In a Dark, Dark Wood might work for you? I think it’s been optioned for a movie, maybe that will be better? Does anyone else out there love a locked room mystery the way I do? 

April

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Posted 30 May, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings

fireman cover

Well, I went to Savannah on Friday with the husband for an impromptu holiday weekend for Memorial Day and some work detox. The problem is that Tropical Storm Bonnie came crashing into the east coast and it was a generally crappy time to be walking around in the outside. I say ‘problem’ but it was really not a problem for me, because it allowed me the weekend in the hotel room with Joe Hill’s newest novel, The Fireman. I finished up In a Dark, Dark Wood and meant to transition into another dead tree novel – but the husband was ready to turn the light off so I picked up my trusty Kindle instead.

The Fireman is a 768 page post apocalyptic chunkster. Naturally this means, I am loving it. I’m about halfway through and finding everything about it amazing.

Like I said, the weather in Savannah was crappy, but it didn’t stop me from eating all the things. I’m debating on whether or not to write a post about that. I need to write a review for In a Dark, Dark Wood – it’s the first BEA book that I’ve read that has been released – so that’s something to do.

I was thinking about joining Bryan in the 99 Days of Summer Blogging – but just in the next few weeks I have some pretty significant time commitments at work through trial week and being sent to GPSTC for training for another week, I’m just not sure that I can write anything worth reading every day for 99 days. I have a desire to revive the blog, but not to just hit the publish button just to publish. If I can get back to three times a week, I’ll feel okay.

So, it’s Monday! What are you reading? Turned into a little Sunday Salon as well. Let’s call it the best of both worlds. What are you reading, Reader?

April

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Sunday Salon: Local Election

Posted 22 May, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, memes, musings

sunday salon books

Time // 12:26 P.M. EDT

Feeling //  Exhausted. So exhausted. The local Judge’s election is on Tuesday and the mudslinging has been epic. All of my non-work friends (and my husband) are exceedingly bored with me because at this point the election is all consuming and leading me to be extra snippy and just generally boring. Just keep swimming, April.

just keep swimming

Reading //  Just finished the upcoming Blake Crouch novel. Review forthcoming. Also working on the new George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo, it’s very Faulkner-eqsue. Read: Fabulous. There are so many books from BEA waiting for me, this keeps me excited. I’m hoping to get some regular reviews going here again.

Living //  With the windows open! I feel like I need to start running again – partially because the stress of this election has me off the charts. I know that the endorphins from running would definitely help me more than stalking election sites on Facebook, but… effort.

Blogging // Yes, I saw all the BEA brou-ha-ha on Twitter this past week. I agree with most bloggers that it’s rather dated and boring. Let me be clear on my position. The sentiment that I largely agree with is this:

Publishers owe me nothing. In return, I owe publishers nothing. I have no problem with book bloggers that are able to monetize their blogs, as long as they are upfront about the monetization. That doesn’t necessarily make their opinions on books more or less valid than mine. Please stop telling me that I don’t know my worth. I know my worth. The thing is that the worth of me writing book reviews (or writing in general) is less than what I’m willing to accept to give this up as a hobby. Taking money for my blog turns this into a job. I have a job that I love, I don’t need another one – therefore – it’s not worth it to me to seek out paying opportunities to review. If this means that publishers don’t send me ARCs or I can’t attend BEA because I’m not actually a part of the industry – that’s okay. I guess what I’m trying to say to authors, bloggers, and Twitterers who try to say that if I’m not charging for my reviews I’m just another cog in the machine, is this:

election

There’s so much more going on in my head, Reader but, you guessed it! It’s mostly regarding this local election that bores everyone but those involved. Someone send me an easy way to Zen.

April

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Terrific Tuesday: Forty Rooms

Posted 17 May, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Terrific Tuesday: Forty RoomsForty Rooms by Olga Grushin
Published by Penguin on February 16th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Literary, Contemporary Women, Family Life
Pages: 336
Format: Kindle Paperwhite
Goodreads
five-stars

Totally original in conception and magnificently executed, Forty Rooms is mysterious, withholding, and ultimately emotionally devastating. Olga Grushin is dealing with issues of women’s identity, of women’s choices, that no modern novel has explored so deeply.
“Forty rooms” is a conceit: it proposes that a modern woman will inhabit forty rooms in her lifetime. They form her biography, from childhood to death. For our protagonist, the much-loved child of a late marriage, the first rooms she is aware of as she nears the age of five are those that make up her family’s Moscow apartment. We follow this child as she reaches adolescence, leaves home to study in America, and slowly discovers sexual happiness and love. But her hunger for adventure and her longing to be a great poet conspire to kill the affair. She seems to have made her choice. But one day she runs into a college classmate. He is sure of his path through life, and he is protective of her. (He is also a great cook.) They drift into an affair and marriage. What follows are the decades of births and deaths, the celebrations, material accumulations, and home comforts—until one day, her children grown and gone, her husband absent, she finds herself alone except for the ghosts of her youth, who have come back to haunt and even taunt her.
Compelling and complex, Forty Rooms is also profoundly affecting, its ending shattering but true. We know that Mrs. Caldwell (for that is the only name by which we know her) has died. Was it a life well lived? Quite likely. Was it a life complete? Does such a life ever really exist? Life is, after all, full of trade-offs and choices. Who is to say her path was not well taken? It is this ambiguity that is at the heart of this provocative novel.

There is no way I can say enough good things about Grushin’s Forty Rooms. I’ll admit that while the first two or three chapters are flawlessly written, it still took about that long for this book to really grab me. But once it did, it didn’t let go until the end.

Let’s just start with the premise. Writing a novel around the idea that people on average inhabit about forty rooms during their lifetime, each chapter being a different point in time in the life of our protagonist, starting with early childhood. The writing in each chapter is skillfully and beautifully rendered, matching the thought patterns of each period of life it’s meant to represent. We begin with the little girl in the bathroom who is reflecting with childish thoughts about what it means for different members of her family to be bathing her. The prose is just so perfect that by the time I was grabbed by this story I felt like every part of it could be related back to my own life.

Forty Rooms is fantastic. Despite that there are many people who this book did not work for. I can’t recommend this book to people who need constant action. I can’t recommend it to people who dislike introspective character studies or can’t deal with ambiguity in a novel. Everyone else should definitely read it.

For a much more eloquent and well written review visit Catherine over at Gilmore Guide to Books.

Whatcha thinking, Reader? Does Forty Rooms sound like it might be your jam?

April

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Sunday Salon: Recovering from BEA

Posted 15 May, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, memes, musings

sundaysalon-200-pixshark

So I got home from BEA yesterday night. It was a whirlwind good time and I’m really pleased with how it went. I got to hang out with some amazing women (at the very least I must mention Catherine from Gilmore Guide to Books, Shannon from River City Reading, and Marisa from The Daily Dosage – though there were many, many more).  Additionally, I picked up a ridiculous amount of books and now shouldn’t have a shortage for reading or reviewing for quite a time. I’m hoping to start writing reviews again or at least some discussion posts. Let’s see if we can’t get this blog rolling again, shall we?

I was really impressed with many of the publishers at BEA and how polite and helpful most of the publicists were despite what had to be long days on their feet. Hachette had an exceptionally organized booth and it was amazingly easy to access the ARCs that I was interested in.

Chicago is such an excellent city, I definitely ate all the things, though oddly that did not include Chicago style pizza, which I do love.

Tomorrow, I must return to work. It’s a probation day no less, which is usually the most unpleasant of court days. The local judge’s election that is giving me so much heartburn will be over in nine days which is not nearly soon enough.

Hm, I thought I had more to say on this, Reader. C’est la vie. How was your week?

April

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BEA 16: Books Off the Beaten Path

Posted 11 May, 2016 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, books and publishing, musings, Reading, Topics

BEA 16: Books off the Beaten Path

Just like most literary fiction bloggers going to BEA this go around of course I’m looking forward to and hoping to get my grubby little paws on the new Ann Patchett and George Saunders. As a apocalypse, horror, vampire blogger of course I’m looking forward to the thrilling conclusion of the Justin Cronin trilogy. The beach blogger in me admittedly might like to see what new thing Charlaine Harris will be pimping. But since I’m a little bit of an off the beaten path blogger I thought I might share some not-so-mainstream books that I’m hoping to encounter this year at BEA.

John Lennon vs. The U.S.A.: The Inside Story of the Most Bitterly Contested and Influential Deportation Case in United States History by: Leon Wildes (ABA Publishing)

“For the first time, noted New York immigration attorney Leon Wildes tells the incredible story of this landmark case – John Lennon vs. The U.S.A. — that set up a battle of wills between John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and President Richard Nixon. Although Wildes did not even know who John Lennon and Yoko Ono were when he was originally retained by them, he developed a close relationship with them both during the eventual five-year period while he represented them and thereafter. This is their incredible story.”

Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground by: Ian Purkayastha (Hachette)

“A self-described oddball kid from Arkansas, Ian Purkayastha found his true calling when he learned to forage mushrooms and tasted his first truffle. An instant passion for the delicacy sparked an improbable yet remarkable journey to New York to become the leading truffle importer in America in the dynamic and sometimes shady world of the exotic food trade. Today, at age 23, Ian has built a multi-million dollar specialty foods company with clients as renowned as Jean-Georges Vongerichten and David Chang. As “farm-to-table” becomes “forest-to-table,” Truffle Boy provides a unique view into the world of luxury sourcing, while delivering a coming of age story that will charm foodies and business readers alike.”

Mischling by: Affinity Konar (Hachette)

“It’s 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood.

As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele’s Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.”

Tacky Goblin by: T. Sean Steele (Consortium)

“An aimless twenty-something struggles to make sense of reality after he moves to Los Angeles to live with his older sister. His legs are rotting, his apartment is haunted, and he’s in charge of taking care of a human baby that might actually be a dog. On top of it all, he has trouble making friends. Tacky Goblin blunders through particularly strange but familiar misadventures to remind us that, ultimately, learning to take care of yourself is hard.”

The Motion of Puppets by: Keith Donohue (MacMillan)

“In the Old City of Québec, Kay Harper falls in love with a puppet in the window of the Quatre Mains, a toy shop that is never open. She is spending her summer working as an acrobat with the cirque while her husband, Theo, is translating a biography of the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Late one night, Kay fears someone is following her home. Surprised to see that the lights of the toy shop are on and the door is open, she takes shelter inside.

The next morning Theo wakes up to discover his wife is missing. Under police suspicion and frantic at her disappearance, he obsessively searches the streets of the Old City. Meanwhile, Kay has been transformed into a puppet, and is now a prisoner of the back room of the Quatre Mains, trapped with an odd assemblage of puppets from all over the world who can only come alive between the hours of midnight and dawn. The only way she can return to the human world is if Theo can find her and recognize her in her new form. So begins the dual odyssey of Keith Donohue’s The Motion of Puppets: of a husband determined to find his wife, and of a woman trapped in a magical world where her life is not her own.”

The Last Days of Night by: Graham Moore (Random House)

“New York, 1888. The miracle of electric light is in its infancy, and a young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society—the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing Paul is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown attorney shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it? In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.”

So, those are some of the books off the beaten path I’ll be looking for at BEA, Reader. Any other suggestions? What are you looking forward to this fall?

April

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