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Review Date: 11/10/2009
ALL BUT MY LIFE recounts the story of Gerda Weissmann, a young woman forced into slave labor for the Nazis during the Holocaust. Stripped from her father, mother, and brother, Gerda must endure cruel working conditions, little to no food, and harsh weather as she fights for survival during Nazi Germany in the 1940s. Gerda promised her father that she wouldn't give up and with her mother's last words of âBe Strongâ, young Gerda keeps going, even when there is no hope left.
The book is divided into three parts. In Part One, we learn of Gerda and her immediate family before the war and during the beginning of the war. They are a family of pure strength and love. I was struck by the intense closeness of her family and cried when they were ripped apart.
In Part Two, we relive Gerda's experiences during her time in the Nazi labor camps, being shuttled from one camp to the next, some better than others. The friendships Gerda is able to make with other girls at camp are heartwarming, yet heart wrenching. How hard it must be to become close to someone who may not be there the next minute, hour, or day? The decisions Gerda makes throughout this period are, at times, unbelievable, yet she survived. I have no doubt that she was meant to live to tell her story and that of her family and friends. What if Gerda had made a different decision at a crucial crossroads?
Finally, in Part Three, we are told of Gerda's life after she was liberated by Lt. Kurt Klein, who becomes her husband. What an incredible love story.
This is a book of inspiration, faith, and hope. It will definitely make one think of problems in a new light. If the human spirit can endure what Gerda did, then we all can survive what is thrown at us, even when it seems like we cannot.
I whole-heartedly recommend this book to everyone. It's phenomenal. I cannot praise it enough. Although it is not an easy book to read, the message it sends is one of hope and strength. We can all survive, we can all make it. Thank you for telling us your story, Mrs. Klein. It is not one I will ever forget. 5+ stars!
Review Date: 3/2/2010
Helpful Score: 1
My Rating: 5 stars isn't enough!
How do I, as a book blogger, review a book that is wrought with so much emotion and so much angst and turmoil that I was sobbing by the end of the book? How can I adequately put into words how much of an impact this book had on me as a human being? I honestly don't know if it is possible to review this book effectively, but I'll give it my best shot!
I am a huge fan of historical fiction, especially of events in and around World War II. The Holocaust was an absolutely horrifying event in our world's history (and horrifying is putting it mildly), but I am, for whatever reason, drawn towards these types of fictional and non-fictional accounts of WWII. I don't know why. I break down crying every time I read a book about this time period, but I continue to seek out more of it. I wish I could explain it.
The Book Thief is a unique story in that it is narrated by Death. I was a bit leery at first because I wasn't sure how this type of narration would play out through the entire novel. I have to say that it worked wonderfully and I can't imagine the book told in any other way, without losing the power and overall feeling of the story. From the very first page, Death hooks the reader with His (Her?) account of his many visits to Germany during WWII. But, this story isn't just about Death, even though he was around quite a bit during that time. It is a story about a young German girl named Liesel Meminger, otherwise known as The Book Thief. It is a story about how books can help a person survive in a period of utter despair. It is a story of relationships; of love; of friendship; and of the power of the written word.
I've written and re-written this review many times. I've decided not to go into any details because I don't want to give away the magic of the novel. It is spellbinding, but heart-wrenching. It is a book that must be experienced first-hand. No review could possibly do it justice.
I will leave it at that.
Review Date: 4/27/2010
"Cars from a Marriage" is a delightfully honest portrayal of a 20+ year marriage, told from the perspective of the cars that the couple drove during their life together. I found this premise intriguing and highly enjoyable. We don't really think about how our cars have been with us through the ups and downs of our lives, and telling the story of a marriage in this manner is refreshing and quite unique!
Ivy Honeycutt and Ellis Halpern meet and fall in love in NYC in 1981. Ivy is a southern transplant with an intense fear of driving, although her father owns the local Buick dealership in her hometown. Ellis is a wannabe stand-up comedian who rescues Ivy from a mean waitress in a nightclub he is performing at. He whisks her away in his 1974 Burgundy Mustang Hatchback and they fall in love.
Where most stories end, "Cars from a Marriage" is just beginning. From the 1982 Light Green Buick LeSabre, to the 1987 Buick Century Wagon (white with wood trim), to the 1992 Silver Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon, to the 1995 Red Audi Cabriolet Convertible (rental), and finally to the Red Chrysler Sebring Convertible (rental), the reader is taken on a journey of the highs and lows of a 20 year marriage. What I found interesting about this book is what each car signifies - that the car is a metaphor for the characters lives at that time. From just starting out, to having children, to figuring out life, to death, and to infidelities. You can picture the family in each of these cars during these times, feel the joy and feel the pain that they are experiencing.
The story is told in alternating chapters between Ivy and Ellis. I really felt for both of these characters. I could understand their frustrations and their angst and you can't help but be drawn into their story, wanting to help them and hoping that they will figure it all out. This story is, at times, laugh-out-loud funny, and at times very, very sad. Just like a marriage.
I would absolutely recommend this book - I loved it!
Review Date: 8/6/2009
I received this book from the author for review. It is only 170 pages, so it is a very quick read. I was very intrigued by the premise of the story and, overall, I did enjoy the book. With that I said, I also felt that the characters and the story could have been fleshed out more and the book could have been much longer. I felt that I only got a cursory glance into these girls lives and I wanted to know more!! The story was just too quick for me!
The author changed viewpoints quite a bit also, so I got confused at times as to who was narrating (sometimes from sentence to sentence!), so I had to go back and re-read some parts to try and put everything together.
All that aside, this book does grab you right away and is a very engaging story. I would definitely classify it as Young Adult (YA). It really makes you think about anorexia/bulimia and the pressures teens face to be "beautiful". This is definitely worth a read!
Review Date: 7/29/2009
Helpful Score: 2
I wasn't sure what to think when I cracked open this book! The story is told in comic book style, with illustrations and thought bubbles! I have never read a graphic novel and I wasn't sure if I would like the style in which the book was written. I have to say - I just closed the book after finishing it in less than 24 hours and I am extremely impressed with how the author, Laurie Sandell, put this story together. This style works extremely well for this story and I am so happy I read it! Because of all the illustrations, the book reads very quickly, so it's possible to finish it in one sitting. Don't be put off by the illustrations, though - the story itself is engaging and thought-provoking. The only caution I give is this. There are comic illustrations of nudity, so just be careful where you are reading this book!!
Laurie Sandell grew up in awe of her father and all of his mesmerizing stories. As she gets older, she begins to question her father and learns that he is not who he says he is. As Laurie digs deeper into her father's life, she struggles to learn who she really is along the way. This is a coming-of-age story that will keep you quickly turning the pages to see what will happen next! Definitely recommended!
Review Date: 11/9/2011
The Amazon synopsis above doesn't tell me much, so I had no idea what to expect from this memoir when I started reading it. I know it's about a marriage on the rocks. Apparently her husband left, but now wants her back, so Jamie lets him back in despite misgivings from her family. With that intriguing premise, I began Lost Edens
This memoir is about co-dependency and emotional abuse. It's about a man who manipulates his wife into thinking everything is her fault. It's about a woman who is so enraptured by the idea of a perfect marriage and family that she will do anything to please her husband, including giving up her own sense of self-worth. I was appalled by the actions of Jamie's husband, Ben. I was flabbergasted by Jamie's reactions to Ben's obvious manipulations. I'm sure it is easy for myself, as the reader, to look into this situation and see how obvious the emotional abuse is. But, when you are in it, it is not so black and white. When you are in it, you just want to please your husband. You assume that what he says must be true, so you try to constantly be better, do better, revolve your life around him so maybe he will love you and want to stay with you. Unfortunately, I can easily see how a woman could get caught up in this type of relationship. It's sad yet frightening.
I had some issues with the author's writing. At times, it wasn't clear. For example, I had to read this passage multiple times and I still didn't understand it until a bit later in the chapter:
"I'm anxious to get moving, and I don't really want my brother to know where I'll be living. Either Ben can know where I live and no one else, or my family can know and Ben can't. I am choosing Ben. I am choosing my husband."
When I first read this, I thought Ben was her brother. From the end of the first sentence, "I don't really want my brother to know where I'll be living
" and the beginning of the second sentence, "Either Ben can know...
", I assumed Ben is her brother's name. And I was very confused - is her brother her husband? Shortly after, it became more clear that Ben is not her brother, but the wording of some passages like this gave me moments of confusion and interrupted the flow of the story. Other times, there would be a flashback in the middle of a scene and I wasn't sure if I was reading something that was happening now or something that happened in the past. The transitions were unclear to me.
This is a fast-moving story that will make you shake your head in disbelief. You will be angry and saddened all at the same time. But I have no doubt that relationships like this are very common. It's only through books like this that attention can be brought to the issue and people can begin to recognize the signs of an emotionally abusive situation. I commend the author for her bravery in telling her story.
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publicist for review purposes.
Review Date: 3/15/2010
This is a beautifully written love story that draws the reader in from page one. The characters felt so real that I was instantly drawn into their story, feeling their ups and downs, highs and lows. The author truly has a gift for words that kept me furiously turning the pages, eagerly anticipating what would happen next.
The story begins in 2006 where we meet Brian Weller, a bestselling author who recently lost his son in a terrible accident that left his wife in a coma. As he struggles to cope with the loss, an unexpected e-mail changes everything. It is from Joanna Richman, his first true love and, arguably, the love of his life. As e-mails are sent back or forth, Brian decides to head back to Boston for a book signing and to reconnect with Joanna.
The story then shifts to 1991 when Brian and Joanna met. It was love at first sight, but Joanna isn't available. She is engaged to another man, Erik Ruby. He is mean, manipulative, and egotistical, seeing Joanna as a possession that he must own, flashing his money and stature at every moment. Even though I knew the outcome, I was rooting for Brian and Joanna, hoping things would have worked out and they could have been together. I could feel the emotions between them and truly believed that they are soul mates. Erik, learning of Joanna's affair, manages to force Brian out of her life. Although I did not agree with how Erik handled things, I can understand where he was coming from. I think he did love Joanna, but was more concerned with having a "trophy wife" than actually loving her for who she is.
The story then shifts back to 2006 and Brian and Joanna's reunion. It is heartfelt and full of emotion. But, will anything change? Will Joanna learn the truth about her husband? Will Brian and Joanna get another chance?
I was impressed with how well this story was written and how much I cared about the characters. This is truly a remarkable love story that I would very highly recommend. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from this author.
Review Date: 3/29/2010
Helpful Score: 1
Reading this book made me think of those teenage horror flicks I used to watch as a young adult. Every scene in the book I could picture on the big screen. It's one of those that I would be gripping my husband's hand next to me as I sit on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next ball to drop, trembling with anticipation. The author created such a suspenseful, tense storyline that kept me up until 1:00am on a work night, because I HAD to know how it ended!
I loved this book! I will admit that I figured out what was going on about midway through, but I didn't know for sure, so I was furiously turning the pages to see if I was right! The author's pacing of the story was spot on and kept me intrigued page after page. I love how the chapters ended on a cliffhanger, so I had to continue reading to see what happened next! Hence, the staying up until 1:00am part!
I'm not going to recap the book as I think the synopsis is spot on and covers it all perfectly. I love suspenseful novels and this one definitely fit the bill. This is the first book I read by this author and I will definitely be looking for his others. This is a great young adult book, with some fairly gruesome scenes, so be forewarned!! It reads very quickly and easily and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Recommended!!
Review Date: 2/11/2010
Helpful Score: 4
In China there is a belief that people who are destined to be together are connected by an invisible red thread. Who is at the end of your red thread?
The Red Thread is a wonderfully written novel chronicling the lives of five couples, along with the adoption agency director, as they go through the process of adopting a baby girl from China. We see their high pointsand low points; their excitementand their jitters. Fraught with emotion, Ann Hood puts a spell on the reader and she seamlessly moves us through the families stories, from their initial meeting, to the home study, to the paperwork, to the months and months of waiting to hear from the Chinese government, and finally to the trip to China to pick up the babies. Through each section of the story, we get the adoption director, Mayas, point of view, as well as the perspective of each family as they struggle with the emotional upheaval that the process brings onto them.
Maya comes with her own set of demons and it is agonizing to read her inner turmoil and how she is haunted by a freak accident that resulted in the death of her infant daughter. It destroyed her and it destroyed her marriage. Through this book, Maya does begin to heal, but she is very tentative and does not want to get emotionally involved with anyone, for fear of losing them, too. I enjoyed reading about Maya's journey and how through her work as an adoption agency director, she is able to begin the healing process.
One of the best parts of the book are the stories of the Chinese mothers and fathers who are forced to give up their baby girls. China has very strict laws about having one child, with the male child being the most desirable. If a family has a daughter first, they are allowed to try for a son, but if a second girl is born, there are strict punishments on those families. Thus, many women are forced to give up their little girls leaving them in parks, on police station steps, or at orphanage doors - in order to avoid punishment. It is utterly heartbreaking and I cannot imagine the pain that these families must endure, hoping that their children end up in good homes. I truly loved reading their stories and it added so much depth to the novel.
I love the magical theory of the red thread, that people are destined to be together. I believe in fate and destiny and I loved reading about the invisible red thread that brought the American families and their abandoned Chinese daughters together. It truly was pure magic.
I thoroughly loved this book and I would highly recommend it. If I could give it more than 5 stars I would thats how much I loved it.
Review Date: 9/21/2010
This book is kind of hard to describe. It is a "story within a story". Anna Hott is a woman in her mid-fifties who is reflecting back on her life twenty years prior, of the week she had all to herself, where she began writing her novel. When life intruded upon her again, the novel got tossed in a drawer, never to be seen again. At the opening of this book, Anna is on her way to see her old neighbor, Fedelina, who inspired Anna to write that story so many years ago. Anna is looking for an ending to her story, and to reconnect with the woman who changed her life.
Fedelina is living in a nursing home in Indiana and when the two women reconnect, Anna begins reading her story to Fedelina, looking for approval from the woman on whom this story is based. The reader is taken back in time, twenty years earlier, to when Anna is an overwhelmed mother of three, caring for her three young children, taking care of a household, and stumbling through the after-effects of her husband's affair. She is on the verge of a complete breakdown when her husband heads out of town on a business trip and sends the children to stay with his parents for a week, giving Anna some much needed time and space to confront her emotions and figure out who she is and who she wants to be.
With a quiet house, Anna begins pursuing one of her lifelong dreams - writing a novel. When she meets her elderly neighbor, Fedelina, Anna's outlook on life changes completely. Fedelina gives Anna sage wisdom on life from raising her own seven children, with gardening metaphors that carry throughout the novel.
The story is broken out in sections. "Belvedere" is the present in which Anna and Fedelina are in the nursing home; most of the story is the reading of Anna's manuscript to Fedelina; and there are several sections from the early 1900s with Cora, Fedelina's mother, sharing her life's wisdom with her own daughter (these are also part of Anna's manuscript).
These characters are rich, complex, and deeply formed. You can feel their emotions leaping off the page. I was instantly drawn into their story, taking meaning from their lives and applying it to my own. There is much to think about in reading this novel and it can easily be transferred to your own life. Are you doing what makes you truly happy?
A few things that bothered me: although this book is 355 pages, I felt that the ending wrapped up too quickly and I didn't like it! I kind of felt cheated as a reader. Also, the story seemed to move very slowly at times and I had to force myself to keep reading, because I just wanted to get through it. Finally, there were so many editing errors that it drove me a bit crazy! (i.e. lashlight instead of flashlight; loose instead of lose). I hate finding errors like these in a book because it really detracts from my enjoyment of it. There were also many hyphenated words that I didn't get - i.e. sup-posed. I'm not sure if the completed novel just didn't translate correctly into a printed, bound copy, but this was all through the novel and really bugged me.
Overall, this is a wonderful story and gave me lots to think about. The characters are rich and deep and I'm sure many of you could find a little bit of yourself in Anna.
Review Date: 6/4/2010
Helpful Score: 2
thoroughly enjoyed this novel! It blends elements of both chick lit and women's fiction into a delightful story of suburbia - and it is not always a pretty picture! This book actually reminded me a bit of Desperate Housewives - lots of infidelity, backstabbing, secrets, and sex! Just my kind of book!
Lyssa Harper befriends her neighbor, DILF du jour (Dad I'd Like to...well you know!) Harry Wilder after he is separated from his wife. He is floundering through life, trying to be a single dad and hold onto his career at the same time. Lyssa really feels for him and tries to help him through life post-separation. To help him integrate into the mommy scene, she introduces him to her friends at the Paradise Heights Women's League Board. Poor Harry - he never had a chance! These women are C-R-A-Z-Y!! Harry is soon bombarded with food deliveries, new clothing in the form of leopard print bikini briefs (yes, for HIM!), and women rearranging his kitchen cabinets and drawers.
Harry is forced to draw a line and soon finds himself exiled from the mommies of Paradise Heights. Lyssa continues to be his friend, to the anger of her mommy friends. What Lyssa doesn't expect is the impact that this friendship will have on her own marriage with her hubby (who likes to watch tv sports while having sex - what a great guy!), and her so-called "friends".
This is a fast read and a great story. I enjoyed reading about Lyssa and Harry's friendship and the shenanigans of the mommy clique were downright hysterical! This would make a great beach read - definitely recommended!
Review Date: 1/1/2011
Helpful Score: 4
From my blog:
I don't know how she continues to do it, time and time again. Picoult just has a knack for creating characters that you love (and hate!) and storylines that are chock full of so much depth and emotion that you can't stop reading until you know what the outcome is. Sing You Home will probably be one of the most controversial books she's ever written. There are so many questions that she explores in this book (from her website):
* What does it mean to be gay in today's world?
* How reproductive science has outstripped the legal system
* Are embryos people or property?
* What challenges do same-sex couples face when it comes to marriage and adoption?
* What happens when religion and sexual orientation - two issues that are supposed to be justice-blind - enter the courtroom?
* What constitutes a "traditional family" in this day and age?
I'm sure just reading through those thought-provoking questions, you had a knee-jerk, strong response to one or more of them. I think we all do. And that's the point of this book. To explore those questions. Picoult isn't afraid to tackle the tough social issues. But she does it in a way that is honest, really capturing the essence of each side of the argument. Of course, she throws in a couple of characters that you loathe - the stereotypical "crazy" religious lawyer and the pastor with his own agenda who is pushing Max to do some things he is not entirely comfortable with. But, with those characters aside, I think Picoult did an excellent job capturing both sides and laying out the story the way she did.
The story is told from 3 perspectives - Zoe, Max, and Vanessa. At the beginning of each section, the reader is told who will be narrating and the font-type is different for each character, which is a fantastic idea! Each character is developed extremely well. Picoult is able to capture the essence of each character, with appropriate backstory and supplemental characters, to really give the reader a true picture of who Zoe, Max and Vanessa really are.
The narrative flowed like a movie in my mind. Hollywood - are you reading this? I could seriously picture this movie on the big screen. Picoult takes the reader step by step through each phase of the book. There are no odd time shifts or parts of the narrative that seemed out of line to me. The only thing that I took issue with is how quickly Zoe and Vanessa's relationship developed. I'm not sure, after being with Max for nine years, that someone could realistically work through all of that and fall in love with another person that quickly.
In case you couldn't tell, I thought this book was amazing. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good story, with lots of controversy! No matter which side of the issue you fall on, this book will give you something to talk about.
This is a moving, heartfelt, emotionally-packed novel that will keep you riveted until its stunning conclusion!
Review Date: 3/27/2010
I really enjoyed this story a lot more than I thought I would! I wasn't sure how I would be able to relate to the characters, but I became completely engrossed in the story and couldn't put the book down! I was cheering for Sarah and yelling at her best friend, Brianna, throughout the whole book! I could really feel the emotions that the characters were feeling. I was able to really relate to Sarah and how she was feeling - not wanting to betray her best friend, but really wanting to see where things go with Ryan. It was a struggle for her and I really connected to her feelings.
The character who really stood out to me was Brianna, Sarah's best friend. I alternated between feeling bad for her due to her family situation and disliking her for the way she treated Sarah, who is supposedly her best friend. She is a complex character with many dimensions. I could really feel for her; putting on a brave front and trying to be strong, but on the inside she is really hurting. I know the reader was probably supposed to dislike Brianna, but I felt bad for her more than I hated her. She is an interesting girl and I'm curious what other readers thought about her.
Overall, this is a wonderful young adult story about first loves and best friends. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it!
Review Date: 10/17/2011
Whatever has happened in your life up until now, whatever you have believed in, hoped for, or dreamed of, is in the past. A new meaningful life awaits you. You have the opportunity to clearly see it. I have written this book as if the two of us are about to walk through a gate into a deeper experience of lifes meaning. All you have to do is open the gate. pgs. 15-16
In her book Where Am I Going? Moving From Religious Tourist to Spiritual Explorer, Michelle Cromer provides a roadmap of her own individual spiritual journey and what she has learned while passing through seven distinct stages of inner transformation:
The Wake-Up Call
Denial and Fear
The Search for Deeper Spiritual Meaning
The Dark Night of the Soul
The Clarity Moment
Where Am I Going?
Although Cromer admits in the book that she was raised a Christian and there are moments throughout the book where this comes out, this book does not strongly follow any one religious faction. There is mention of God many times; but there is also reference to the Higher Power as well. Cromers book isnt about what you call this supreme being; rather it focuses on an individuals journey to understanding their own spirituality and how one can find this sense in oneself. Personally, there are some things in this book that sounded a bit New Age-y to me (mysticism for one) and some things that seemed a bit contradictory, but there were a lot more things that made a lot of sense (prayer, meditation) and made me stop to ponder my own spiritual transformation.
There was one thing that the author revealed at the end of the book that perplexed me and is probably due to our differing theology. I am a Christian. I believe that there is one path to God and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Based on what the author wrote through the course of her book, I was led to believe that the author is also a Christian (pg. 130, specifically I am a woman, I am a mother, and I am a Christian.).
Yet, at the very end of the book, she writes: I understand now that there are many paths to God and enlightenment. (pg. 156, emphasis mine). Perhaps on her spiritual quest, she came to a new understanding of her Christianity. If thats the case, I would have liked to have seen that development through through the book. Instead, I am left wondering.
For those who do not identify with any known religion, this is a fantastic book to help you get started with your spiritual journey (or at least getting you started thinking about it!). For many people, just thinking about it raises the stress level. But, Cromer has written a book that will appeal to everyone. For those who shy away from texts that are specific to one denomination or another, this one is universal. It is not specific to Christians or Buddhists or Hindus or anyone else (although all are mentioned in some fashion or another). It can be of help to those who do identify with a religion and those who dont. For me, I would have liked something geared more toward the Christian perspective, but I still got some great things from this book. There is a lot here that will make you stop and think. It is definitely a book that can and should be read more than once.
Check out some of my favorite quotes from the book below.
I will never forget waking up in Kathmandu and not having any idea who I was. None. Zero. Zip. I dont mean like Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity or one of those soap opera stars who gets bumped on the head and cant figure out who she is. No, Im talking about something far worse; waking up to the horrible reality that I had no idea who I was or what my life meant. I was stuck in the middle of a meaningless existence. And I wanted out. pgs. 8-9
Shouldnt life be about more than just working, trying to make money, buying stuff, and traveling? What if theres more to life than what we experience with our five senses? pg. 9
because once you begin to ask deep questions of yourself, you activate and open a dormant part of your brain, and like Pandoras box, it is a part that may never be closed again. pgs. 14-15
I discovered I was entering a period in my life that I call the Age of Meaningit is the time in your life when you finally wake up and ask questions that propel you to discover who you were born to be, leading you to an understanding of your lifes deeper purpose. pg. 15
You dont have to be a person of a particular faith to know that there is more going on in the world than just the activities we can experience with the five senses. pgs. 25-26
If we could order up a life like we do food in a diner, I am sure most of us would request, One good life, please, and hold the pain. pg. 41
Trusting your feelings is the first step to processing them. Your feelings are trying to communicate with you, trying to tell you something. Accept them, own them, and try not to judge them. Feelings may simply be our souls way of getting our attention. pg. 48
When I pray, I dont ask of plead for things, I surrender the need to control the outcome of events. pg. 51
Praying gives me a chance to talk to God, and meditating gives God the chance to talk to me. pg. 51
We search everywhere except for the one place we need to go, deeper into ourselves. Perhaps because deep down we are afraid of who we really are. pg. 55
I think most people try to worship a God that they can define so that God then behaves in a way they can expect, but God is a complete mystery. pg. 147
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