[496]: Hero by Samantha Young

hero GOODREADS SUMMARY
NAL | Kindle Edition, 404 pp.
Publication Date: February 3rd, 2015
ADULT FICTION | Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


A dead spark plug.

I wanted to jump-start my NA appetite again by reading a novel written by someone I’m familiar with. And while I enjoyed some aspects of this book, I felt that it wasn’t as strong as her previous work.  Particularly when she switched focus from Alex’s family troubles to Caine’s past. The less than smooth transition jarred me a little, and I can’t find anything remotely remarkable about her characters if you stand them up beside every other characters you’ve ever read from this sub-genre. Unfortunately, this book did very little to inspire me to read more in this brand new thing you kids love reading these days.

The plot twist from the left field.

Sometimes, it is best to give your readers bits of hints to your character’s  background; not so much to prepare them, but just so when the revelation comes, it is not so surprising. So surprising, in fact, that it almost looks like the element was an addendum; an afterthought that didn’t belong there in the first place.

I’m really bored now.

If you are a regular reader of New Adult romances, this book should be a good addition to your collection. It follows the formula of every single book you’ve ever read from this sub-genre.  I am, however, a sporadic reader of this new thing. So it’s not saying a lot when I got bored 5 chapters in. I already had an inkling where the story was going (apart from the exorcist-head-turn-twist of Caine’s past).

I fall asleep during sex…in books.

However,  all is not lost. The characters have believable chemistry even though they started off on the wrong foot. I enjoyed their banter, and Alex was a fun smart ass. Caine was intense – in a Christian Grey kind of way, but without the flogger. The sex was…well, here’s the thing. Nowadays, sex scenes in literature bore me. I tend to  gloss over those especially while in the throes of a ho-hum book. I can’t recall the reading on the heat gauge during their coital unions, but if that’s your thing, you might want to check out another person’s review.

I need to move on now…

I don’t know. Perhaps I’m not cut out for these type of books. I should just wave the white flag already and stick to what I like. Otherwise, I’m seeing a lot of mediocre reads in my future.

 

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[486]: The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand

the chocolate temptation GOODREADS SUMMARY
Series: Amour et Chocolat, #6
Self Published | January 15, 2014
Kindle Edition
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Have you ever met one of those perpetually flirty guy? You know the type:  one who can’t resist a wink, a nudge, and an innuendo with every word that comes out of his mouth?

Meet Patrick. Sous chef to Luc Leroi and a pathological flirt. Very few could resist his charms. Heck, very few would even dare to! Except maybe for Sarah Lin – his apprentice. Hand picked by Patrick himself, to shadow a couple of well known names in the annals of the lavish Parisian food industry. But Sarah hates him. Hates him for making sure that all her cuts, burns and bruises from working in a fast-paced environment are taken care of; hates him for making sure that she eats; hates him for making sure she gets home safely after a long, gruelling day of working in a three-star kitchen; hates him for making sure that she doesn’t take all of Luc Leroi’s cutting words to heart; hates him because he flirts with everything that moves. Most of all, she hates him because she can’t help but feel a giddy happiness every single time he does something thoughtful.

There was an underlying seriousness in all Patrick’s playfulness. He hides behind the facade of the easy-going, smiling face. Both Patrick and Sarah are afraid. Sarah is afraid to fail; because failing means she’d tuck tail and go back to California, where she’d once again disappoint her mother. Patrick, for his part, is afraid of stepping outside the shadow of his foster brother, Luc. Because for all his brilliance in the kitchen, it is not his dream. All his life, He’d been complacent to follow in his older brother’s footsteps.

Sarah’s story is heartbreaking. Her mother is a North Korean refugee who suffered the horrors of fleeing a country known for tight-fisted rule over its people. Her mother had to make a series of incredibly difficult choices that had left her scarred, and consequently, the reason why she expected a lot from Sarah.

In the end, they’d have to make some choices themselves. Least of all, is to try let the other inside. They also needed to take their careers into some heavy consideration. I love that Sarah is willing to temporarily postpone hers in behalf of Patrick’s. This doesn’t make her weak or subversive. Sometimes, giving up something important shows their incredible strength and courage. And Sarah was willing to do exactly that.

This is probably my second favourite book to this series. Florand flexed her writing muscle by telling a story that’s equally funny and heart-wrenching.

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[483]: The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand

chocolate touch GOODREADS SUMMARY
Series: Amour et Chocolat, #4
Kensington Books | Kindle, 305 pp.
Published: July 30th, 2013
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Dominique Richard’s personality perfectly represents the type of chocolate deserts he create: untamed, brass, and delightfully sinful. While his creations draw the wealthy masses for their decadence, there is one person who seeks the wild flavours of his chocolate for their soul-healing quality.

Jamie Corey’s guilt of being born with a silver spoon has led her to become the champion of those who can’t defend themselves. After an incident that nearly cost her, her life, she decides to get lost in the  quiet comfort of Paris: beautiful architecture, culture, and lavish chocolates her family only hopes to achieve. One of her favourites was Dominique Richard’s chocolate shop.

Unbeknownst to one another, each felt a mutual attraction both are wary to address. But if they ever have hopes of escaping the shadows that chase them, they need to shed whatever guards they put up around themselves.

The fourth book to this series gives us more of the same: luscious deserts beyond our imagination, the elegance of Paris, and a romance that could be as unforgettable as it is frustrating. Fortunately, I’m happy to say that the featured couple in this book won me over. I’m going as far to say that Dominique and Jamie are my favourite couple.

They didn’t drive me mad with their contempt at one another as did the previous books. Jamie Corey is a shy, freckled little thing trying to learn to get back on her feet again after she was beaten to within an inch of her life.  Surprisingly enough, Dominique was able to sense the fragility even before he learned of what happened to her.

Dominique is a big bear of a man. It’s sometimes hard to believe that he can handle something as delicate as Jamie. I supposed, if he can handle finely-spun sugar, and smooth as silk chocolat, treating Jamie with a kid glove was not as far-fetched.

This book was infinitely better than the first two books that I’ve read. The relationship is based on an almost immediate trust, so there’s very little drama to speak of. However, their story is a bit more emotionally-heavy (which I loved), due to the circumstances of Dominique’s past and Jamie’s recent tragedy.

I’m starting to enjoy these books a bit more. I can see the allure of Laura’s writing, and this series. As usual, her knowledge of the streets of Paris, the shops, and the different types of desserts ring abundantly clear with every instalment.

 

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[481]: The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand

thechocolaterose GOODREADS SUMMARY
Series: Amour et Chocolat, #3
Kensington Books | Kindle 245 pp.
Publication date: April 10th, 2013
Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


Top chef Gabriel Delange has an ax to grind. He can’t believe that the man who fired him after he’d earned him a three-star now has the gall to put out a book with his recipes.

So then he filed a lawsuit against him, and once again couldn’t believe that the man would send his daughter to try and soothe his feathers. But maybe all is not lost. Because as soon as he sees the beautiful Jolie Manon and mistakes her for prospective sous chef, albeit, an incompetent one, he knows he can try to work it to his advantage.

Jolie only ever wanted to do what’s best for her ailing father. Taking care of him while he writes his book makes up for all the time they spent estranged. Jolie knows what it’s like to lose a loved one to the profession. The family always takes a backseat to the restaurant no matter what. It’s what happened to her parents; estranged for as long as she can remember. So she must be crazy to be entertaining thoughts of a relationship with Gabriel Delange. Oh but she can’t resist!

I’ve been reading these books out of order, but it’s no biggie. In fact, you can probably treat them as stand-alones in the same world. It’s been fun reading these books no matter how I felt about the first. Romance novels are only as good as the characters in them, and these books, at least, have consistently introduced me to some pretty larger than life personalities.

Gabriel Delange is one of those. I’ve noticed that Ms. Florand do like her men big, burly, and so outside of my perception of how chefs should look like. But if there’s one thing I’ve been learning about them, is that they are incredibly dedicated people. It’s like being married to a surgeon, almost. You’ll be constantly vying for their attention, and who does painstaking work.

Chefs are like artists, too. And Ms. Florand perfectly describes the beauty of their work. I’m sort of happy Gabriel is not a pâtissier or a chocolatier. Truth be told, I’ve been experiencing phantom toothaches from reading these books. A twinge in my teeth whenever a character pops a chocolate in their mouth. Which is the most ridiculous thing I could ever admit to , I know.

Jolie is a person who likes making people happy. She coddles her father, and strokes his ego. The poor girl got stuck between two magnanimous forces (her father and Gabriel) that I felt like she rightfully deserved a bitch-fit.

In summary, aside from my experience with the first book, Amour et Chocolat is a series that I can recommend if you’re on the look out for fast, decadent romance reads. The characters are perfectly drawn out, and the plots, well conceptualized. Fall in love with the characters, and enjoy the sceneries of France!

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[478] The Chocolate Kiss by Laura Florand

chocolatekiss GOODREADS SUMMARY
Kensington Books | Kindle |Audible
Series: Amour et Chocolat, #2
Publication: December 24, 2012
Contemporary Fiction | Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


This one was slightly better than Chocolate Thief, though frustration is, once again, the prevalent emotion throughout this novel.

Slightly fantastical, The Chocolate Kiss tells the story of Magalie and Phillipe Lyonnaise. Magalie finally found the stability her parents couldn’t give her; and in an island in the middle of Paris, her aunts and their seemingly enchanted tea shop is the place she can finally call home. Everything is threatened when Phillipe Lyonnaise moves in the neighbourhood, however.

Phillipe Lyonnaise owns a world-renowned pâtisserie. As soon as he sees La Maison des Sorcieres, he knows it’s the right neighbourhood to open up another shop. Unfortunately, the three women that own and run the mystical tea shop were not so receptive to him moving into their territory. But he’s determined to change their minds. With just a taste of his macarons, he knows they’ll be eating out of his hand. He just didn’t anticipate how stubborn the three women are. Especially Magalie Chaudron.

This book is about contest of wills and battle for supremacy. The women knew their long-standing salon de the is threatened with Lyonnaise moving into their turf. Above all, it’s Magalie’s journey to find her self-worth; to realize she could be the home for someone looking for stability themselves.

I mentioned frustration, and it was palpable with every single interaction between Magalie and Phillipe. The relationship was contemptuous, and to be honest, not really in a fun way.


For practically the majority of the novel, these two tried their darnest not to partake in each one’s creations. Because they fear that they’ll lose part of themselves. I suppose it’s the euphemism that perfectly describes the dynamics of their relationship. They’re both reluctant to give in and impart pieces of themselves they’re not willing to give.

I listened to the audiobook and also downloaded the e-book. I had to stop listening after a while because the narration wasn’t working out for me. At this point, I think I’m going to just read them on my Kindle instead of downloading the audio. It was tough listening to the English dialogues spoken with French accents. I had a hard time understanding it. Though this is just probably me. I know Rachel (The Readers’ Den) loved the accent.

For now, I think I’m moving forward with this series. I’m starting to appreciate Florand’s knowledge of pastries, chocolates, and Paris. She makes me want to savour everything France has to offer.

 

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[437]: Worth the Fall (The McKinney Brothers, #1) by Claudia Connor

22075732GOODREADS SUMMARY
Loveswept | Kindle Edition
Publication Date: September 9th, 2014
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


If you’ve been  a regular visitor of the blog, you should know that I rarely post reviews that feature men or women in different states of undress – no matter how hot they look. Like this guy, for example. It’s not because I’m prude, but it’s because I’m discriminatory with the books I review. Take that with a grain of salt.

I also tend to take my sweet time. I like going back to the experience and try to remember significant characteristics of a book that is worth mentioning in my review. That doesn’t mean, however that they end up  perfect, or well-composed for that matter. Most of the time, I don’t make sense. In this case, I can’t begin to pin point exactly why I loved this one, considering the plot line is one that’s been regurgitated many a times (give or take a couple of kids).

It’s the story between a man, a woman and her four kids. It’s a beautiful romance that’s complex but surprisingly simple, if you think about it. It’s a woman’s fear of attachment and abandonment. It’s a man’s guilt over a promise to a dead best friend. It’s making a choice between the possibility of getting hurt and a lifetime of loneliness. A woman so wholly independent and strong but is unfortunately weakened when love is put in the equation. We all could relate.  This woman is amazing, actually.

Most men would steer clear of a woman with three kids and one on the way. But not Matt. Not him. The SEAL in him couldn’t fathom the thought of leaving a single mom fending for herself. He might’ve fallen in love with her kids first before her. I mean, who could resist Abby? Abby, whom in Matt’s words, is a tiny version of a pregnant Megan Fox? An orphan who got shuffled from one foster home to another, and one who expected to be abandoned by those she loves. You will not be able to resist rooting for her and her kids, and for their romance to thrive.

This book is candy; a toothache in disguise. It was sweet, but it induces that kind of hurt that only a re-read can soothe. Which is what happened soon after I finished it. I went straight back to page 1 and decided to waste my Saturday wallowing in all its delightful glory. On my last count, I read and re-read this three times. If that’s not a clear indication of how much I loved this, then I don’t know what.

 

 

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Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

ugly lvoe GOODREADS SUMMARY
Atria Books | Paperback, 336 pages
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating 4 out of 5 Stars


Hoover’s last two books had me conflicted. It was the type of read that could’ve gone either way. My feelings about them straddled a thin line. Fortunately, she’s managed to win me both times.

Sort of.

Admittedly, I’m a fool in love with Colleen’s books. She has this ability to make me forgive characters that normally wouldn’t be so lucky to receive my pardon. Case and point: Ridge, Sydney and the sordid love triangle of Maybe Someday. The culprit in this book is Tate; her offence? She was weak, weak, weak. And yes, a fool in lust love with Miles.

Colleen said not one of her characters had ever made her cry more than Miles. That alone was enough to send me into a nervous tizzy. But Miles didn’t make me cry. Sure, I felt sorry for him. The boy, however, was cooooold. He was determined to keep the status quo of walking around permanently slathered in Novocaine. And I understand, you know? I understand his need to put on 3-feet thick concrete around his heart. But his coldness was so severe, I felt the frost seeping out of the book. All the baleful staring would normally melt me into a puddle, but I’m sorry to say that Miles didn’t do it for me.

As for Tate. Sigh. I don’t know what to say. I am not a fan of female characters who forget who they are simply because a man makes their hearts palpitate and their other parts er, quiver. Ultimately, this is why Ugly Love didn’t do as well with me. Listen, I’m as liberal as they come. Feminist, yes. So I understand and commend Tate for agreeing to Miles’ sex only rule. Women can play the field as men could. But. Her constant acquiescence bordered on submissive behaviour (of which, I’m not a fan).  If she didn’t feel so much for Miles, perhaps it’d been a different matter. But she couldn’t leave her emotions out of the equation. And I couldn’t. I felt like I was that friend, you know? The one who wanted to douse her with a bucket of ice cold water just to wake her up. They used each other for their own reasons. Miles was up front about what he wants; Tate, on the other hand was hopeful that all the sex would make him fall in love with her someday. Really.

I did say she won me over (sort of) with this book. And yes, she most certainly did. See, the writer in me – the one who dabbles in poetry – couldn’t suppress the envious monster that reared its ugly head whilst reading this book. She gets right into the deepest, darkest recesses of her characters’ heads, hearts and souls. The result? The rawest feelings translated into words. Not a lot of writers can be so affective, but Colleen does it so well and seemingly without much effort. Consequently, this is why I’m giving this book – albeit, hesitantly – four stars. I can appreciate those writers who can move an otherwise, stalwart heart. She does it every time.

 

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I Want It That Way [2B Trilogy, #1] by Ann Aguirre

20945757 GOODREADS SUMMARY
Harlequin | ARC, 343 pages
Publication Date: August 26th, 2014
Contemporary Romance
Rating 2 out of 5 Stars


Listen, I’m not a fan of Backstreet Boys, never in their prime, definitely not now when they’re staging a comeback. So, why did I think this book would be good knowing that it’s a part of a series named after songs of said boy band? Well, I wanted to keep an open mind. I didn’t want my dislike for BSB to cloud my judgement over this book. Besides, I met Ms. Aguirre. She’s a super nice lady. It’s too bad I can’t make niceties with her book, however.

This is a story about a single dad who’s had some really awful experience with a woman whom he thought loved him enough to stick around. Especially after giving birth to their son. But since she wasn’t built to be a mother, she took off. Single dad, then decides that relationships are just too much work for him and his son. So he squashed any signs of attraction to any woman that comes along. He wasn’t prepared to run into Nadia, however.

Nadia is a woman determined to overcome Ty’s misgivings about relationships. In the meantime, she’ll bide her time and take his offer of friendship. They didn’t count on their innate attraction towards each other to be so all-encompassing. They tried, though. And when they finally give in, it’s like an explosion that was too bright, but was spent fast.

There wasn’t much conflict here, to be honest. Ty’s back and forth about Nadia was borderline boring. There wasn’t much substance to the characters either, and Nadia fell too fast for Ty. Sometimes, instant-lust is okay. But the thing is, I couldn’t find anything remotely attractive, personality-wise, about Ty. I didn’t get it. I do like how close to the characterization Ms. Aguirre was for a single dad who works full time and who goes to school part time. I felt ever exhaustion in his bones, and imagined every tired lines mapping his face.

Despite my lacklustre reaction to this book, I want to believe the rest will be at least good. After all, this is Ann Aguirre we’re talking about. I’m hopeful that the brilliance she’d shown in Urban Fantasy would somehow bleed into her contemporary romance stint. However, as the rest of the books share titular rights to BSB songs, my expectations aren’t very high. I guess that could be a good thing.

 

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Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

Once in a Lifetime [Lucky Harbor, #9] by Jill Shalvis

Grand Central Publishing | E-ARC via Net Galley
February 18th, 2014
Adult Fiction, Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
BUY THE BOOK:

SOMETIMES WRONG IS OH-SO-RIGHT
After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniel tried to escape his grief by working in dangerous, war-torn places like Africa and the Middle East. Now he’s back in his hometown and face-to-face with Aubrey Wellington, the hot-as-hell woman who is trouble with a capital T. Family and friends insist she’s not the one to ease his pain, but Aubrey sparks an intense desire that gives Ben hope for the future.
Determined to right the wrongs of her past, Aubrey is working hard to make amends. But by far, the toughest challenge to her plan is sexy, brooding Ben – even though he has absolutely no idea what she’s done . . .
Can this unlikely couple defy the odds and win over the little town of Lucky Harbor?

Jill Shalvis is back with another story from my favorite fictional (?) town of Lucky Harbor. This time, it’s the story of the town troublemaker, Aubrey Wellington and the town favorite, Ben McDaniel.  I can say in all honesty, that this is the only romance series that I follow with gusto. It’s hilarious, quirky and lovely. I look forward to each installment with bated breath.
Two headstrong characters in a tiny town can’t be good for anyone, but as a signature Jill Shalvis romance, these two will have you laughing at the most inopportune moments, and sniffling at the sudden on-set of the feels. 
Quick Story:
Aubrey Wellington has a lot of people to answer to in her life. However, Lucky Harbor being the quasi-Mayberry town that it is, don’t really expect a lot from a once troublesome beauty.  Armed with a list of people that she’s done wrong in the past, she sets out to make amends and make up for the troubles and mistakes she’s caused. However, there’s one person in the list that she’s terrified of ‘fessing up to: Ben McDaniel.
Ben McDaniel has done everything in his power to escape the grief of losing his wife. Even to the extent of putting his life in danger all for the sake of helping war-torn countries rebuild. Back to Lucky Harbor with the intention of finally moving on, he never once expected the fiery Aubrey Wellington.  The woman got under his skin in seconds like an annoying sliver. However, if there’s one thing Aubrey is good at, it’s that she’s managed to make him forget the past that he’s been trying to escape. The woman made him overly curious – too curious for his comfort.
My Thoughts:
Jill Shalvis is not your typical drugstore romance author. Her work is never cut and dry, nor a one-dimensional plot. Her characters are larger than life that would make you think they’re acquaintances you’ve met once in your life. Her stories are wonderful and never boring. I’m not one to read these types of contemporary romance but after reading the first book to this series, I was hooked. This series is one of the few that I look forward to every year. I just wish Jill can write faster!
About the Author:
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.


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The Barker Triplets by Juliana Stone

About two weeks ago, I finally gave in and replaced my iPad. It was the original iPad that my kids have long since inherited. This thing is filled to the hilt with games. Needless to say, it’s slow as molasses.

I decided to buy an early Christmas present for myself and picked up the iPad Air. It’s slight. Slim. Speedy. I’m in love. So the first thing I did after I set it up was to explore iBooks and all the freebies that are available – something that I never really did with my old iPad.

After I downloaded the requisite Classics, I explored some more and found some romance, paranormal, and even some Young Adult. Well this is how I found Juliana Stone.

The first book of the Barker Triplets got me hooked. I’ve always been a fan of sports and romance and Offside features a retired hockey player who had no choice, but to hang up her skates due to a concussion.

The second book, Collide is about the middle Barker, who used to be the other half of a twosome trouble. Years go by; life happens. She then reinvented herself and became the responsible adult that everyone wanted her to be. But when her ex-partner in crime comes back, she starts craving for the reckless things she used to do.

The third book, Conceal is about the most troubled Barker. A former supermodel who lived way too fast and had fallen with a resounding thud from the life she used to know. When a big shot Hollywood actor sets his sights on a has-been junkie, she can’t help but think that he’s got an ulterior motive…and he does.

It only took one book. One freaking book to fall in love with Stone’s characters and stories. Sure they are romance and slightly veering towards Erotica (okay, yes, it’s Erotica) but man, when you’re stuck in a reading rut, and you need something quick and dirty, Juliana Stone was the cure all for my slump.

Her characters have layers and personalities entirely their own. The male leads are hot and the sex even more so. But that’s not the only draw of Stone’s books. She’s got some depth to each and everyone’s stories: their father is losing his battle with symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but their grandfather is far from going senile. The heroes also has problems of their own that just made them a bit more real and less than perfect. And of course, the triplets.

Billie-Jo has always dealt with the sexist perception that women are not allowed to play professional hockey. So she took her talent to Sweden (they allow women to play in men’s league over there. Go Sweden!). But when she suffered a career-ending concussion, she had little choice but to go back to her hometown. Her book explores all the idiocy of men: sexist, chauvinist, no-girls-are-allowed-in-our-club attitude.

Bobbi-Jo didn’t have a choice but to stick around while her older and younger sister goes off and have the lives they’ve always wanted. She grew up and became a no non-sense practical girl who is willing to marry a man slightly more exciting than a rice cake. But when prodigal son, Shane Gallagher gets out of prison, she starts thinking about what was waiting for her after she marries a man for practical reasons. Yeah well. That’s no biggie, isn’t it? Why would you hang around a guy who doesn’t give you O? This one’s a no-brainer.

The third book, Betty-Jo’s story was one that I was dreading reading. Let’s just say that the woman gets around in the first two books…that is, that’s what Juliana wanted you to believe. Her story is heartbreaking and I think favourite among the three.

Sorry this has gone on too long. Just…just read them, will you?

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