First Finish of the Year

I’m starting the year off with a finish and no, it’s neither of the blankets I was working on last time I shared my crochet projects. Whoops! Instead I started a new blanket from the yarn I received from Christmas because it was new and exciting. 

My initial idea actually didn’t work as the yarn I bought has colour changes a lot shorter than I expected from the picture and ended up looking muddy and messy. So I frogged it all and had a think.

I decided to follow this pattern from raverly which is a corner to corner linen stitch. One of the projects actually used similar colours to what I had so I copied that and…..

Ta da….

The new idea used two instead of the the three yarns I was originally planning to use so it’s smaller. A good sized lap blanket.

I love the colours and the way it goes from rainbow to monochrome.

The pattern says it’s square /rectangle deepening on which you want but I’m not certain it truly is. It might be if I were to block it but currently it lies a little skewed. But then, it’ll be draped over someones lap when in use so it really doesn’t matter much!

Now that’s finished I should get back to those two linen stitch square blankets I need to finish, right? Well, ummm, I may have started a completely different blanket from more of the yarn I got from Christmas! Double whoops!!!

Too early to share it yet but the yarn, scheepjes colour crofter, is SO SOFT it’s actually ridiculous. It’s DK and pretty cheap especially considering how gorgeous it feels!

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New Year, New Project (SAL)

It’s a new year, and with finally finishing the stitching on my Christmas project (which no, I haven’t finished up properly yet), it’s also time for a new project.

I’ve only just got this started and is going to be a really simple design. A Latin quote, big letters, nothing fancy except I’m stitching it on black fabric for the first time (18 count aida, my go to).

The letters are really big (like 3 inches high) and I might do a smaller version to use up some of the left over fabric as the scraps are a bit too small to use for anything else.

I think the black would look amazing with bright colours like I’ve seen a few of the other stitchalongers do but I thought I’d keep it simple for my first time stitching on black but also because I haven’t had time to design anything else!

Here are the links to everyone else stitching something for the SAL:

Avis // Claire // Gun // Carole // LucyAnn// Kate // Sue // Constanze // Debbierose // Christina // Kathy // Margaret // Cindy // Helen // Steph // Linda // Heidi // Jackie // Sunny // Hayley // Megan // Catherine // Connie // Clare

Welcome back to Mary Margaret, and hello to our new stitchers Renee & Jenny !!

We post updates for all our individual projects every three weeks

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My Year in Books 2018

2018 is over which means I can finally get to my year in books. I didn’t want to share stats or best of lists until I knew they wouldn’t change. So here we are. 2018 was my most successful reading year yet in terms of books read. I set my annual goal at 52 books again, knowing I could meet it but I did even better than my personal best of 63 from 2017 by reading 68 books!

It is swayed by the fact I did read a handful of novellas (and one short story) as well as a few writing craft books which are both shorter and quicker to read. My pages read is actually lower than 2017 but only because for some reason The Queen of Air and Darkness is showing up as 350 pages instead of its 950 pages reality which would easily bring my to the top. It also means that the second longest book I read is showing as the longest.

But onto the most interesting stat, at least I think so. My average rating for 2018 was 4.1 stars. Which is much higher than it use to and i think this is for two reasons, 1) I’m getting much better at judging which books I will like and am more fussy about my picks, and 2) I’m getting less fussy about my 5 stars, I used to feel like only the best books ever should be rated 5 stars but have realised books can be brilliant 5 star reads without being my all time favourite.

My rating chart is also skewed because if I do end up reading something that I think will be 1 or 2 stars I DNF it (life is too short and there are too many books to read!) and I don’t rate DNF’s.

So 68 books read. An average rating of 4.1 stars, 23 of which were 5 star reads. All this means that my Best Books of the Year list was even harder to narrow down than usual but I did it. Here are my favourites of the year….

Best Books of 2018:

1. The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn – Tyler Whitesides

Adult fantasy

The Lies of Locke Lamora but with dragons

Ardor is a cocky con artist asked by a priest to steal the kings crown to save the world. Science-y Magic system but more chemistry than physics based which is something I’ve never seen before (except maybe in Mistborn). Its basically different types of powdered dragon poop that explodes. It’s so much more awesome than that sounds I promise. The book is very long but there’s no boring info dumping or world building and Ardor’s & Raek’s friendship is Goals (brotp). Recommend it for fans of Locke Lamora or ADSoM or Mistborn.

2. Darkling & Undertow (Port Lewis Witches) by Brooklyn Ray 

NA contemporary fantasy novellas

It’s Witchy & atmospheric & queer. The MC is trans male and it has a M/M friends to lovers romance. The second novella switches POV to the boyfriend. Theres going to be a whole series of novellas each with a different MC. And I can’t wait. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are real and amazing and the covers for the whole series so far are my favourite covers of the year. A queerer and more adult Raven Boys.

3. Isle of blood & Stone by Makiia Lucier

NA Fantasy

Map makers & explorers & sailors & all things wanderlust. It has 19 yo MCs (yay for older YA) with only a very minor romance subplot (nothing explicit) which is a plus from me. A cartographer goes on an adventure to solve a riddle about 2 missing princes. The friendship between Elias (mapmaker) & Ulises (the king) is everything. One of my favourite friendships ever not just in 2018 and the setting and wanderlust are palpable.

4. Baker Thief – Claudie Arseneault

Adult fantasy

About a fat bigender Baker by day/ thief by night & the cop who wants to catch her as they both investigate magic users going missing. It has a cool mix of science based magic, based in a French-Canadian inspired setting. Really great aromantic & demisexual rep but also lots of other queer & disabled rep in the supporting cast. There’s also lots of baking that WILL make you hungry. And cats….

5. Starship’s Mage series by Glynn Stewart (I read books 2, 3, 4 & 5 in 2018 and they are all amazing so I’m putting the whole series here)

Adult sci fi

This is my favourite sci fi series ever. All of the books are amazing (the first was originally written as four novellas and it’s all self pubbed). The MC is in his 20’s but this reads more like a YA adventure than a heavy space opera. I’d describe it as the navy fleet of star trek mixed with a YA harry Potter all overseen by space royalty (and space pirates) and there’s little to no romance plot through out the series.  I can’t wait to read the next books.

6. Paper and fire (The Great Library #2) – Rachel Caine

YA alt-historical fantasy

The library of Alexandria never burned down so it now, obviously, rules the world. There are huge automaton statues that protect books & chase/kill people. Jess is a thief who loves books. Do you see the problem? Anyway, it has a diverse cast of amazing characters, non-stop action and amazing settings (Alexandria, Rome, London…)

7. Lost boy, Found boy – Jenn Polish

Scifi novella

Futuristic fully queer Peter pan retelling where Peter is trans and in an M/Enby relationship at the start.(And Tink is a gay AI whose computer code extracts reminded me of illuminae). But when Peter’s partner enlists in military service that will kill them just to be able to fly Peter creates neverland for them. The writing is gorgeous and there are so many little nods to the original story, including Peter having the same ambiguous childish morals but with a different twist….

8. All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Scifi novella 

About a socially anxious security droid that has to save other humans on a strange new planet with things that want them dead. MC is so relatable it’s hilarious. It is short but felt the perfect length for the story with no unnecessarily long description of backstory to slow things down and it’s the first in a series.

9. Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli 

YA contemporary 

Adorable and fluffy read and I loved the email extracts between Simon and Blue. In fact all of the relationships in this are so good. It’s a coming out story where both families are accepting and loving and it has zero secondhand embarrassment which normally scares me off YA contemp.

Plus special mentions:

The City of Brass by S A Chakraborty, A Court of Mist and Fury & A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah j Maas, The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

Quick Fire Round:

Favourite Character: Either Jess Brightwell (The Great Library) or Damien Montgomery (Starship’s Mage)

Favourite Friendships:  Ardor & Raek (The Thousand Lives of Ardor Benn) and Elias & Ulises (Isle of Blood & Stone)

Favourite World/setting: The Great Library or Isle of Blood & Stone

Favourite Magic System: Dragon Poop from The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn

Most Heartbreaking Book: I didn’t read any absolute heartbreakers in 2018 but there were plenty that had moments like The Poppy War or The City of Brass or The State of Grace

Happiest Book: Simon vs The Homesapiens Agenda

It was a good year in books. I’m looking forward to more amazing books in 2019 which brings me to…

Book goals for 2019

  • My annual Read 52 books challenge which you can keep track of on my goodreads if you so want. (I will because goodreads is the only way I have any clue what I’ve read!)
  • I’ve also made a “What to buy next” shelf which was me going through all backlist books (ie books that were released in 2018 or before) and picking the ones I most wanted to read. This ended up in a top 50 so this will be a rough 2019 TBR. I’ll hopefully be reading most of those books this year.
  • And finally but very importantly, I want to keep my owned books under 50 on my kindle.

Have you read any of my top books from last year and if so, what did you think? What was the best book you read last year? Hard question, I know, and it’s also unfair of me to ask because I really can’t pick one off my list. They were all so good! And what are your reading goals for the year?

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New Year, Same Me

I hope everyone has been having a happy holiday and I’m wishing you all a very happy new year. I got a load of yarn and books for Christmas, no surprises there, right? I love them anyway and I had a very exhausting but happy Christmas. I’m not going to show you the yarn, you’ll have to wait and see what I make with it (Hint: Blankets, it’ll all be blankets!)

Photo 03-12-2018, 3 52 24 pm

I kind of hate resolutions. Especially the ones that say to do something different. New year new you. Those never work for me but I do like seeing goals. Things I want to achieve which are normally a continuation of what I’m already doing. I guess my biggest struggle is to keep doing things not start (anyone who knows me know I start too many things!!). And goals help to keep me motivated and not give in.

But before we get onto 2019 I’m going back for a quick look at last year. I’m not actually going to go through the goals I wrote last year (they’re here) as I didn’t stick to most of my small goals instead I’ll focus on what happened. I did set one big one though and that was to focus on writing which I’m going to put a big tick next too even if the goal morphed throughout the year.

Photo 31-12-2018, 1 37 39 pm

2018 Happenings:

  • Finished writing my first ever proper book and edited it
  • Got feedback on my writing for the first time and learnt so much
  • Shelved that book which is an achievement for me to step away from something that was not making me happy
  • Wrote and edited a whole new book that I love so much (I’m getting feedback on it at the moment)
  • Moved back home (goodbye beautiful guernsey) and made our house ready to be put on the market (26 years worth of clutter and Wear and tear) but now we are just waiting for it to go live.
  • Got my autism diagnosis. The understanding it brings has already made such a difference to me
  • Read 67 books (I’ll go into this in my next post) 
     

So that’s my 2018 over. To be honest I’m really proud of myself. I’ve learnt so much and endured where it came to my writing without giving up. The feedback and doubts are hard. And I’ve also learnt where I should step back for my own sake. A lot of it hasn’t been easy but I wouldn’t trade other parts for anything!

Goals and Happenings for 2019

Again my main goal is going to be too focus on my writing. To keep going. To keep growing and not let myself give up. I love it so much but parts of it can be so very hard. I want to edit #ExcitingSpaceWIP based on the feedback I get. I want to get more feedback, edit it again and see where I end up. I want to also at least write a draft zero for my next story idea at some point during 2019 too. I’m not going to say I’ll write the first draft though as, while that may happen, it’s too far away to predict.

I’ll also be setting reading goals as always and also, as always, I won’t be setting it so high that is difficult for me. I like enjoying reading! My reading goal will be 52 books again and I want to keep the books I own on my kindle under 50. (Cross your fingers for me!)

The biggest event this year will be moving again. Only this time the plan is to move to Lanzarote. Finally. After so many years of planning. Which is all very scary right now with brexit happening so soon and so badly.

Linked to this is making ANOTHER attempt at learning Spanish (I think I’m on attempt 7 now? Edit: I just worked it out and this is attempt 8) I’ve downloaded a new app and am going to try to keep at it (again).

This year is going to be scary I think with the move and with brexit happening but it’s also very exciting. I have no idea what my look back at this year will look like!



So what about you? What are the biggest events of 2018 for you and what are you most proud of? I’d love to hear about them! I find that sometimes it’s the small things that we can be happiest about. My diagnosis is definitely up there for me. And what about next year? What plans and goals are on store for you?

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Memo Pad: December Book Wrap Up (+ Xmas Book Haul)

Merry Christmas everyone! It’s the end of the final month of the year which means my last 2018 book wrap up. I’ll be doing a bookish year post in the next week or so once 2018 is officially over (you never know what awesome books I’ll read between now and new year!) but for now my last reviews of the year.

Stats wise I went on a book buying ban in June in an attempt to get the 75+ books on my kindle down to a more manageable number. Well I can officially say I managed to get it down to under 50. Before Christmas it was down to just 44 (pretend with me that’s a low number please!) and it meant that I could allow myself to buy a few books for Christmas. I think my goal next year will be to keep it below 50 so I’m allowed to buy books up to that number.

The books I bought in my mini Christmas haul were:

Sometime After Midnight by L Philips (which I’ve already read. See below) / Vicious by VE Schwab (finally!) / Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare (Which I’m currently reading) / Failure to Communicate by kaia Sonderby / The Disasters by MK England / An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

But onto books I’ve read this month…

Read: 5 DNF: 1

The City of Brass by S A Chakraborty *****

There is so much hype on this book that I had to put this on hold for months but I finally felt it was the right moment to read this and just wow. I really need the sequel now. I do have to say that it felt more like a solid four stars until the last third. But what an end it was.

Nahri is a thief living in the streets of Cairo when she accidently calls forth a djinn who tells her of a magical city and, with demons also accidently called forth, Nahri has no choice but to follow him.

I do have to mention the problematic start. I didn’t like that the story started by having an autistic girl possessed by a demon and murdered simply to earn the main character sympathy points and push her off on her journey. It could have used something else and I’m surprised that it hasn’t been mentioned anywhere which is disappointing. I also felt the pacing of the first half was a bit slow and things could have moved quicker but the rest of the story was griping and other elements kept me engrossed until then.

I am VERY invested in happy endings here (for some people anyway. Definitely not for others).  Dhiru better end up happy (I think I spelt that name wrong). I have a lot of other demands but I feel like that’s the only thing I can say without giving away spoilers and is the most important one anyway!

Personally I did find the characters a bit too flawed. It does make for more epic character arcs but means for quite a lot of the book they were annoyingly flawed and I rolled my eyes a lot. But the relationships between all of the characters and how they are all connected means you can’t help but love them anyway (even if they’re being annoying!) And as I said, it all came together so well in the last third of the book that I can’t wait to read more. I also loved the world created. The different cultures, names, and characters really made the world vivid and rich and set it apart from the same old western inspired fantasy setting. I’m looking forward to the sequel (although part of me is also dreading it because INVESTED)

Scardust by Suzanne Van Rooyen *****

This was a quick and engrossing read but it does hit a lot of heavier topics (Trigger warnings for rape, self harm, physical abuse and sibling suicide).

A near future sci fi set in the middle of nowhere texas where Raleigh dreams of joining the MarsLife program to escape his life but his plans get interrupted when a guy crash lands in a crater nearby.

I loved the mix of feeling like the world was on the edge of the future but it hadn’t reached this small place on earth yet. Raleigh’s dreams of escaping were very real and you definitely routed for him through all of the heartbreak. His life is absolutely tragic and you need him to make it through. The connection and way the relationship between both boys grew was really great. It wasn’t instant, there was plenty of mistrust and learning between them and it developed into such a caring and understanding relationship that it makes you physically scared about what will happen. I guessed the twist quite early on but it was very well written and just made me want to turn the pages quicker to find out what happened next and I wasn’t disappointed once I got there at all.

City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault *****

This isn’t the first book I’ve read by this author, in fact Baker Thief is on my list of best books of the year, and while this didn’t quite reach those heights for me it is still a brilliant book full of amazing characters. It’s set in an old city on the edge of an empire where old families rule from their towers and a sect of magic users are infiltrating and disrupting the peace. There are elves mixed in with the humans, and as most of Arseneaults books do, it focuses on family and friendship with a good dose of aromantic, asexual and nonbinary rep mixed in with other queer rep.

The thing I love about all the worlds that this author creates is that they are so real and fully realised that they feel normal. You really feel as if there are ordinary people going about their lives and living in these places beyond the characters and story. I loved all the characters and there were A LOT of them. I think there were ten point of view characters. But it’s very well written and I was never confused or lost. They were all distinct, I knew how they all related to each other and everything was well explained without slowing the pace down. There are lots of characters to love. The downside of so many povs though is that there wasn’t THAT much plot and I wasn’t expecting for it to just end there. There are sequels but I definitely felt it could have been a bit longer to round out the plot more. I guess I will just have to read the next books!

Pulse by Danielle Koste *****

The thing that drew me to this book was that it was vampires but not in your typical urban fantasy setting. Instead it focuses on a boy captured and kept in a laboratory. It’s all scientific experiments and secret testing facilities but at the same time focusing on the characters caught up in it and their interactions. It reminded me of the way The Girl With All The Gifts changed up the zombie idea and I really liked it. There’s also no love triangle which I was worried about for a while. I did feel the end was messy and I was a bit disappointed with how things went in the last quarter but only because I’d enjoyed the rest so much. Overall it was a really enjoyable read that I raced through and was a fresh and different take on an over used trope.

Sometime After Midnight by L Philips *****

This was such a cute, easy read. It’s a queer modern cinderella retelling where two guys meet at a gig but the rich guy only manages to snap a picture of the other’s sharpie decorated converse before he runs away. It gets put on social media and things explode. It’s all about music, guitars, singing, the record industry and the good and bad that comes with it. Also something to note is this is NOT a coming out book. Both main characters are already out and it’s fully accepted by both friends and family so it’s never used as part of the drama which is also really nice to read. If you like your YA fluffy and light then I’d definitely recommend this book. It was such a quick but engrossing read and all of the characters are loveable.

Trigger warning for mentions of a parents suicide


DNF

White Fire by Laurie Bell

I honestly can’t put my finger on a good reason why but I just didn’t connect with this book. It’s also split into parts and when it switched to two years later I couldn’t convince myself to keep going for no other reason than I just wasn’t invested. DNF @35%



Best book of the month goes to The City of Brass. What about you? What was the best book you’ve read recently? And how was your reading this year? Any new favourites that you would recommend?

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Christmas is Here!! (SAL)

I finished it! I have a very Christmassy happy dance to share with you all! The final bells are in place and the fabric has been unrolled.

Here is my Christmas cross stitch all finished:

By all finished I obviously just mean the stitching. It has not been made into a wall hanging yet. Too much going on to even attempt that but I will hopefully get that done after Christmas. Although it definitely won’t be for the next update. I have no idea what I will show you then because I’m not sure I have another project to jump into. I’ve been too busy to design anything. Hmmmmm.

It’s taken me a very long time (over a year at least) but I’m very happy with it. I’m so pleased the gold works with the white. I’m still in love with the bright red fabric. Yay.

Here are the links to everyone else who is taking part in the stitchalong where we post our progress on which ever projects we’re working on every three weeks.

Avis // Claire // Gun // Carole // LucyAnn// Kate // Sue // Constanze // Debbierose // Christina // Kathy // Margaret // Cindy // Helen // Steph // Linda // Heidi // Jackie // Sunny // Hayley // Megan // Catherine // Connie // Clare

I hope everyone has a lovely Christmas and Happy holidays and I look forward to seeing more lovely projects grow next year!

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Top 5 Wednesday – Most Anticipated 2019 Winter Releases

Top 5 Wednesday is hosted by Lainey @ GingerReadsLainey on Youtube and has a group over on goodreads. This week’s topic is most anticipated 2019 releases but I’m narrowing that down to 2019 winter releases (or first three months as technically March isn’t winter) because there’s too many great sounding books to do the whole year in one small list.

These are my top 5 most anticipated 2019 Jan-March releases:

(I’m going by the release dates on their goodreads pages which I’ve linked to)

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi 

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much. Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

Immoral Code by Lillian Clark

For Nari, aka Narioka Diane, aka hacker digital alter ego “d0l0s,” it’s college and then a career at “one of the big ones,” like Google or Apple. Keagan, her sweet, sensitive boyfriend, is happy to follow her wherever she may lead. Reese is an ace/aro visual artist with plans to travel the world. Santiago is off to Stanford on a diving scholarship, with very real Olympic hopes. And Bellamy? Physics genius Bellamy is admitted to MIT—but the student loan she’d been counting on is denied when it turns out her estranged father—one Robert Foster—is loaded. Nari isn’t about to let her friend’s dreams be squashed by a deadbeat billionaire, so she hatches a plan to steal just enough from Foster to allow Bellamy to achieve her goals.

Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin

Years ago, the house at the end of the lane burned down. The townspeople never learned what happened, but Rita Frost and her teenage ward, Bevan, were never seen again. Only Mae and her brother Rossa know the truth of what happened that summer—and they’ll never say a word. When they were told they’d be spending their summer with their great aunt, Mae and Rossa were anything but thrilled. But nothing at Rita’s is as it appears. Bevan is enthralled by a dangerous power lurking behind the walls of Rita’s home. The power—known as Sweet James—is hungry, and what he wants most is a taste of the twins. And Bevan wants the magic and escape that Sweet James is offering her. But Sweet James is never satisfied, no matter what Bevan brings him. Mae would give Bevan almost anything—she is in the grip of first love, both dying for Bevan’s attention and worried she’ll get it. But Rossa is learning some of the terrible secrets the house is hiding, secrets that paralyze him with fear. As the summer draws to a close, Bevan tries to free Sweet James from his prison within the walls, but is thwarted by Rita and her cat (who is more than a cat), Bobby Dear. It’s over for Mae and Rossa, isn’t it? They return home. They don’t talk about the strangeness of that summer. But it never completely abandons them. And things at home only get worse. And so three years later, Rossa and Mae are sent once again to Rita’s home, as their parents’ marriage finally seems to crumble. At first it seems that the strangeness has dissipated. But Sweet James never left. He has been lurking within the walls, waiting the perfect time to return. He’s been waiting much longer than any of them know—any of them except Rita, who has been keeping secrets of her own. Secrets that bring the house down in flames around them and bring them all to the brink of the things they most want—and what they most fear.

The Perfect Assassin by K A Doore 

Divine justice is written in blood.Or so Amastan has been taught. As a new assassin in the Basbowen family, he’s already having second thoughts about taking a life. A scarcity of contracts ends up being just what he needs. Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, Basbowen’s finest start showing up dead, with their murderous jaan running wild in the dusty streets of Ghadid. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders, before the family gets blamed. Every life has its price, but when the tables are turned, Amastan must find this perfect assassin or be their next target.

Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

This one is the last in a series so I’m not going to copy the blurb but I simultaneously cannot wait to read this book and am terrified of how the series will end. I don’t want it to end! It’s one of favourite series ever with the cleverest and most awesome thief I’ve read.

I could have done ten to be honest but I was being strict. How about you? Do you want to read any of these books? What is your most anticipated book/s of 2019? Let me know in the comments and feel free to link your lists too.

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