ARC Review - Everything, Everything

Title: Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delecort Books for Young Readers
Series: n/a
Published: September 1, 2015
Source: Sent for review
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My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Overall?
I ENJOYED IT

When I was younger I discovered a show on what was then the Discovery Health channel and I decided I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up.  Several years later after realizing I was slightly terrified of sick people I no longer want to be a doctor, but weird diseases still fascinate me, so I was pretty excited about reading this novel.  I had also heard from a good friend who has a scary-similar taste in books that it was really good, which made me even more excited!

First I want to let you all know that despite having a protagonist with a deadly disease it's NOT in the vein of The Fault in Our Stars, so if you're looking for something akin to that book you will not find it here.  What you will find is essentially a cute contemporary romance with a sick main character.  Aside from the main character's disease, made famous by the  movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble starring John Travolta, the book is fascinating in the sense that it's not only told in prose but also in IMs, some lists, medical charts, and a variety of other "mediums".  That alone made it a pretty fascinating read.

It was really fascinating watching the main character, Madeline, grow as a character.  She went from interacting with two people who kept her very sheltered from the world to interacting with three people, one of whom is very much a part of the outside world.  The romance might have been a little fast, but because of the situation she grew up in it's understandable how quickly she fell for a cute boy her age who actually paid attention to her and liked her.  That being said the romance was also pretty darn adorable, which made it the perfect summer read.

The incorporation of the graphs, charts, and various other ways the story was told was a great addition and made the book stand out in a way that, without it, it might not have.  There are very few novels that include things like that, although they are becoming more common, and so for now it makes them unique and fun to read because they're something new.  It also makes it twice as adorable because Yoon's husband drew all of the doodles and whatnot included in the book.

Oddly enough I think the thing that bothered me the most about the novel was actually the disease.  I don't want to say too much and spoil anything but the part of me that is transfixed by rare diseases and conditions was a little disappointed by the small details, but I suppose that since it all made sense in the end I can't really complain THAT much about it.

Despite that it was a really quick read that brought a smile to my face and I have no doubt that because of the other mediums of storytelling along with Yoon's beautiful writing this book will take off.  Fans of Jenny Han and Stephanie Perkins will most likely find this debut novel to be to their liking and I personally look forward to reading what comes next from this author because if it's anything like this one it's sure to be fantastic.

2015 Fantasy Extravaganza - Sabaa Tahir


The fourth interview is with the amazing debut author Sabaa Tahir, whose novel AN EMBER IN THE ASHES rocketed onto the NYT bestseller list and thankfully gained a deal for a highly anticipated sequel!  Read on to find out a little bit about what you might find in that sequel to help tide you over until some time next year.

The Interview;
Once Upon A Teen Reader: As I was reading the book I was struck by how Roman the world you created seemed, mixed with some Arabian elements.  Did you have inspiration for the setting and the people?

Sabaa Tahir: The setting was inspired by ancient Rome and the social stratification was also inspired by ancient Rome.  The battle school, the military school, that was inspired by ancient Sparta.  There was no arabian inspiration that I took, it was all North African and Middle Eastern, and that was just the magical elements and that’s because I was terrified by stories of Djinn as a little girl and I thought that would be a good sort of magical side thing with just a little bit of South Asia, a little bit of North Africa, and a little bit of the Middle East.

OUATR: Was one character more difficult to write than the other?  If so why did you choose to write from dual POVs as opposed to just one?

ST: Elias with definitely more difficult but I really like “inside outside” narratives and I like narratives that show more than one POV because when you’re a journalist objectivity is very important.  Of course with fiction you can’t be objective but you can try to show more than one part of the story.

OUATR: Unlike so many other fantasy heroines you had Laia run away in the face of danger, instead of staying to fight.  Did you have a specific reason for having her be more afraid than one might think a typical fantasy heroine should be?

ST: Well, her character is a coward.  She starts off as a coward and as with everything it’s really important to me that I stay true to that, even if that’s not comfortable for the reader.  Authors want their heroes to be interesting but if they’re not naturally in that place then I think it’s more me making them act as opposed to them acting, which is not really how I like to write.

OUATR: I’ve read quite a bit of YA and I know that books that have a sort of magical element to them the main character generally ends up finding out that they have some kind of magical powers, but you decided not to have Laia or Elias have any powers, did you have any reason for that?

ST: Not any specific reason, just that that’s not her right now in time. Although maybe later.  But for right now she’s just a normal person.

OUATR: Unlike many other YA novels, fantasy or not, the romance in EMBERS was such a small part of the plot. Was that intentional or did it just end up being that way after editing and the like?

ST: You know, for me it was just more natural for the story because it’s really an adventure story.  It’s not a romance, it’s not meant to be a romance.  I added the romance because I thought that it fit with the age of the characters and what they were going through.  I mean, if I were Elias and I saw Laia I’d probably go “Oh, she’s nice”, so you know, it was just sort of a natural for characters and where they are.

OUATR: Recently I was discussing the particularly brutal scene at the end involving Elias with another blogger and she was saying how she couldn’t see the character being redeemed from that and I was saying that I could.  Do you think that there’s a point after which your characters could not come back from something that they did?

ST: I think that it really depends.  Elias has been killing for years and I think that as somebody who has been killing for years and talking to people who have actually done that-people from the military who have killed upwards of 40 people-I think it really depends on the person.  There are people who are irredeemable after certain crimes, like those who murder for no reason.  There are a lot of Masks, Marcus being one, who are irredeemable-at least for now-but I think that Elias, because he feels it, still has a chance to be redeemed.

OUATR: So the sequel, do you think it will be a direct sequel,a prequel, or a companion?

ST: It would be a direct sequel.

OUATR: Do you think it will also be from both Elias and Laia’s POV?

ST: The sequel I kind of always had in my head had POVs from Elias, Laia, and then a little of Helene.  Not as much as Elias and Laia’s but still some.

OUATR: Do you think you will add more romance in the second book or will you keep it about the adventure?

ST: It’s really hard for me to say.  As an author I try to write what I think the characters would do as opposed to like, “well I want this to happen so I’m going to make it happen” because then you end up with a lot of plot contrivances and stuff.  So I guess we’ll just have to see.


The Book;
Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Published: April 28, 2015
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Laia is a slave. 
Elias is a soldier. 
Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.


The Author;
 Sabaa spent her childhood in the Mojave Desert, where she didn’t have cable and thus chose to entertain herself with books and radio. Her parents assured her that she wanted to become a doctor, but a brief stint working in a hospital changed her mind.
She left the desert for university at 17, graduated from UCLA a few years later, and went to work for The Washington Post directly after. Five years later, she left the Post and started working on a book.  That book turned into AN EMBER IN THE ASHES.  
If she could be anything, she’d be a space explorer, but a cool one, like Jean-Luc Picard.
Find Sabaa on Her Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr
The Giveaway;
I splurged when Sabaa came here for a signing and purchased a second copy of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES.  One lucky person will win that copy and all you have to do is enter via the rafflecopter below!
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2015 Fantasy Extravaganza - Jodi Meadows


The third author featured is the wonderful Jodi Meadows, author of not one, but TWO series.  Her newest one, which starts with THE ORPHAN QUEEN, will conclude next year with it's sequel THE MIRROR KING! Thankfully that means you don't have to wait as long to find out what happens next, which is good because Jodi is probably the queen of cliffhangers.  Check out the interview I did with her below, which will hopefully make the wait until next March just a little bit easier.  Or maybe it will make it a little worse?

Interview;

Once Upon A Teen Reader: Your first series was more sci-fi than fantasy, was there a reason you changed genres for this new series?

Jodie Meadows: No reason! I've always written fantasy books, or books with some kind of magic in them. Fantasy is my first love, and OQ isn't the first straight-up fantasy that I've written, and it certainly won't be the last! 

OUATR: Every good high-fantasy novel, yours included, has a map in it.  Personally I feel that it helps me visualize the story and where it's going (literally).  Did you take inspiration from any real places?

JM: I am such a fan of maps in books! I, too, love to follow along with the journey characters make. I like to look at the different places they reference. I love getting a peek at the places that are never mentioned in the book but must be there.
And yes, I usually do take inspiration from real places. It just makes it easier to plot out the travel time and terrain, even the environment. While Incarnate is based in fantasy Yellowstone, OQ is based in fantasy Shenandoah Valley. You might notice the map in the book looks vaguely like Virginia. 

OUATR: To be believable there has to be a set of constraints on the system of magic in a novel, which you have gone above and beyond by creating a consequence for using magic.  Where did you come up with the idea of Wraith? 

JM: Science.
It's one of the Laws of Thermodynamics. Energy is never created or destroyed. It can only change forms. It makes sense to me that magic would be the same. So, what might magic change into? Probably something harmful. 

OUATR: Mirrors have a somewhat superstitious air about them in your series, people put them up for protection.  Was there any real world folklore you pulled from for that portion?

JM: Oh, I researched lots of folklore on mirrors, though the idea of using mirrors as protection came well before the research binge hit. Mostly, I wanted to know what was out there and see whether any of it could be useful for my purposes. 

OUATR: Whilhelmina's go to weapon appear to be daggers, as you can clearly see on both covers actually.  Did you do any research in that area in terms of craftsmanship or fighting styles?  What was that like?

JM: Definitely. Wilhelmina loves daggers. And definitely. I had to research. Not being much of a fighter myself (I'm more of a hug-it-out person), most of my weapon knowledge comes from years of reading and research. While I did do some research specifically for this book, I've been writing stories with fight scenes for ages, and therefore researching for ages. 

OUATR: The magic system in Whilhelmina's world is very straight forward in the sense that the magic user basically asks for a task to be performed. Was there a reason you decided to go that direction as opposed to using a series of symbols or "magic words"?

JM: It wasn't so much of a decision as a discovery. Just, this is the way magic is in Wilhelmina's world. I find that a lot of my worldbuilding is like that: I simply look more deeply into it and discover the way things are, rather than make decisions about how I want things to be. Because of this, there was never really a chance for anything more complicated with symbols or magic words. Maybe another story, though.

OUATR: You're known for your crazy cliffhanger endings and possibly evil treatment of your characters which means we are all slightly terrified of what we might find in THE MIRROR KING.  Could you give us a small hint to help pass the time between now and book two's release?

JM: I'm not sure you'd like any hints I offered. Everyone who's read THE MIRROR KING hates me, including my editor and agent and best friends.
Well. I guess I will say: something the mean part of you hopes will happen . . . yeah. Be careful what you wish for. :

The Book;
Title: The Orphan Queen
Author: Jodi Meadows
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Series: The Orphan Queen #1
Published: March 10, 2015
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Wilhelmina has a hundred identities.
She is a princess. When the Indigo Kingdom conquered her homeland, Wilhelmina and other orphaned children of nobility were taken to Skyvale, the Indigo Kingdom’s capital. Ten years later, they are the Ospreys, experts at stealth and theft. With them, Wilhelmina means to take back her throne.
She is a spy. Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate Skyvale Palace to study their foes. They assume the identities of nobles from a wraith-fallen kingdom, but enemies fill the palace, and Melanie’s behavior grows suspicious. With Osprey missions becoming increasingly dangerous and their leader more unstable, Wil can’t trust anyone.
She is a threat. Wraith is the toxic by-product of magic, and for a century using magic has been forbidden. Still the wraith pours across the continent, reshaping the land and animals into fresh horrors. Soon it will reach the Indigo Kingdom. Wilhelmina’s magic might be the key to stopping the wraith, but if the vigilante Black Knife discovers Wil’s magic, she will vanish like all the others.

The Author;
Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, a Kippy*, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy and the ORPHAN QUEEN Duology (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen), and a coauthor of the forthcoming MY LADY JANE (HarperTeen).

*A cat.

Find Jodi on Her Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr

The Giveaway;
While there's not a specific giveaway for Jodi's newest novel if you're excited about it make sure to enter the giveaway because one person will win ANY novel from a featured author, of which Jodi's is one!

*UPDATE: I HAVE ADDED A SPECIFIC GIVEAWAY FOR THE ORPHAN QUEEN THAT WILL GO TO ONE PERSON!

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2015 Fantasy Extravaganza - Sara Raasch


For our second interview I'm hosing the lovely Sara Raasch, author of SNOW LIKE ASHES, whose sequel, ICE LIKE FIRE, is out in less than two months!  I actually interviewed Sara with Victoria Aveyard, which is why both interviews are a little shorter than the other ones that will come later on, but I hope you guys will still enjoy it!

The Interview;


Once Upon A Teen Reader: All of the kingdoms in your book are based on season, right?


Sara Raasch: Yes.  Well, four of the kingdoms are seasons and then the other ones are like... “normal”?  One’s artistic, one’s knowledge based, one is opportunistic so they’re very money oriented, and then Paisely, you’ll find out more about them in book three.  They’re very mysterious for now.


OUATR: Where did you come up with that concept?


SR: I decided to choose seasons because one of the very first ideas I had was about writing a book where winter was perceived as the “good guys” and all of the seasons just kind of unfolded from there.  Once I had that I liked the idea of having a balance where, if there were four season kingdoms and there were four kingdoms which had all of the seasons, which kind of creates this prejudice and conflict.  The cultures just came about from playing around with it and looking at what I wanted to explore, what kind of world I wanted to create, and you get to see a lot more of the rhythm kingdoms in ICE LIKE FIRE, which I’m very excited to have coming out.  So yeah, it was just fun for me to get to explore these other kingdoms.  I really liked building cultures, it’s one of my favorite things about writing fantasy.


OUATR: Were any of the kingdoms based on real-world places or did you make them up completely?


SR: I pull a lot of inspiration from the real world, I actually combine a variety of cultures, Yakim in particular has a certain Germanic/French influence and, like the kingdom of Summer has a rather African kind of islander feeling, very desert.  And the clothing they wear is very islander, very light layers and things.  So yeah, I kind of combine and pull and play with things to create kind of what I think would make sense in those kingdoms and what I think would be kind of a fun contradiction sometimes.


OUATR: Do you have a favorite fantasy novel that you would recommend to people?

SR: Oh my god, yes.  My most favorite fantasy novel is a series called The Twelve Houses by Sharon Shinn.  The world is just breathtakingly incredible; it’s so complex.  I read it in high school and I’ve just re-read it so many times cause it’s just fantastic.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy.

OUATR: Why did you decide to write ICE LIKE FIRE from two POVs and does that mean that book three will have three POVs?

SR: I decided to do two POVs in ICE LIKE FIRE because the story grew beyond what one POV could hold. Book 3's POV are still top secret. ;)

The Book;
Title: Snow Like Ashes
Author: Sara Raasch
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Published: October 14, 2015
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Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.
So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

The Author;
Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too.  Not much has changed since then - her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures.  Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, came out October 14, 2014 from Balzer + Bray, and the sequel, ICE LIKE FIRE, comes out October 13, 2015.  Neither features her hand-drawn pictures.




Find her on Twitter | Tumblr

The Giveaway;
Along with the signed copy of SNOW LIKE ASHES that I got when Sara came to town I also have a crazy special giveaway for someone who has read book one and can't wait to read book two.  Did you guess what it is?  If you guessed an ARC of ICE LIKE FIRE you're right!  Thanks to Harper Collins someone will get to read book two early, regardless of who you are!

The giveaway for ICE LIKE FIRE will be restricted to the US only, seeing as the ARC is from the US publisher, and PLEASE only enter if you've read book one so it goes to someone who will for sure read it and treasure it always!


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And don't forget the main giveaway where a signed copy of SNOW LIKE ASHES is up for grabs!


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2015 Fantasy Extravaganza - Victoria Aveyard


Today I have the honor of hosting #1 NYT Bestseller Victoria Aveyard, author of the fantastic debut RED QUEEN!  I met Victoria when she came here in April and after the panel she agreed to do a short interview with me.  Please note that since this was an oral interview that I recorded, and since it was super loud, I've done a wee bit of editing, but the essence of the interview is still exactly the same.  I also apologize for the fact that it's a little short.  It seemed like more questions at the time.


The Interview:

Once Upon A Teen Reader : The Silvers in your book have a variety of different powers, is it possible for them to have ANY powers or are they set?

Victoria Aveyard: They’re set ones.  I have a list of certain ones that the silvers have and then you find out more people who are like Mare. Their powers are expanded. They’re either stronger or they’re totally different and they’re things Silvers have never seen before. That was really fun for me to try and find new powers that I hadn’t already used for Silvers.  When I was first planning the book there were a couple of powers I held back and didn’t use with the silvers because I knew I wanted to use those for special people.

OUATR: So there are other Reds with electricity powers, it's not just Mare?

VA: Yes. We'll find more like her. That’s what book two is, a lot of finding more.

OUATR: Are there any Silvers with electricity powers like Mare?

VA: Well there are some that the storms that can kind of manipulate it and the weather sort of thing but no one with these powers has ever existed in the silver world.

OUATR: Is there a reason that the Silvers have silver blood?

VA: Yeah, haha, a lot of people ask me about the science and they’re like “oh, what about hemoglobin and blah blah blah?” I just thought it looked cool and I wanted to write that cause the idea of someone getting punched in the teeth and having a bloody lip that’s silver, that’s cool.  And then people come back and they go “well blood oxidizes and it turns this color because of this chemical” and I’m like okay, guess what, why in Harry Potter are they magical? The magic of Star Wars was lost when you started explaining the force so there is a fine line between reality and fiction.

OUATR: Are we going to see more of the other kingdoms?

VA: Yes, yes. The first book is very narrow in looking at just a certain part of Norta and then the second book is a lot more of Norta and the third book is a lot of different places.


 I also asked about a map for the book, because at the time there was none, but since then Epic reads has released a map to go along with the novel, which you can find here.


The Book:
Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Publisher: Harper Teen
Series: Red Queen #1
Published: February 10, 2015
Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.
To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.


The Author:
Victoria splits her time between her hometown on East Longmeadow, Massachusetts and Los Angeles.  After graduating with a BFA in Screenwriting from the University of Southern California, she decided to try her hand at writing a novel.  Her debut RED QUEEN came out of the terrifying, unemployed year after college.

She's currently revising on the second book in the series, GLASS SWORD, along with pursuing other projects in literature and film.  Her proudest achievements include riding a horse in the mountains of Montana and navigating from London to Edinburgh without a GPS.


Find her on Tumblr | Twitter | Facebook | Blogger

The Giveaway:
Someone is going to win a signed copy of the fantastic RED QUEEN from my local indie bookstore and all you have to do is enter via the rafflecopter giveaway!  International entries are welcome, but please note that it might take some time for me to get the book out to you if you win because I need to actually put some money in my bank account, not just take it out.  Oops.  Be sure to check back on Friday for the next interview with Sara Raasch, which will include a very special ARC giveaway!


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Introducing the 2015 Fantasy Extravaganza

Despite being on a blogging hiatus from March to July I continued to go to book signings and, believe it or not, I was actually still thinking about things I would to to hopefully make this blog a little better than my last one.  I had the great opportunity to interview three pretty big YA authors who write YA fantasy novels and so I decided that I would turn it into something special for you guys.  For some reason I don't like to do things small though, so I also went online and asked several other YA fantasy authors if they would be up for doing a short interview too, which lead to me having a whopping 11 authors contributing!  And thus I would like to introduce you all to the 

2015 Fantasy Extravaganza!

(I even made this super cool graphic with the help of Canva!)

Starting on the 18th I'll be posting two interviews a week, one on Tuesday and one on Friday!  Check out the schedule below.

Tuesday August 18 - Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen)
Tuesday August 25 - Jodi Meadows (The Orphan Queen)
Tuesday September 1 - Taran Matharu (The Novice)
Friday September 4 - Becky Wallace (The Storyspinner)
Tuesday September 15 - Mary Weber (Storm Siren/Siren's Fury)

I'll be linking to the interviews here as I put them up and make sure to check each one because there will be some pretty awesome prizes up for grabs to, including an ARC of ICE LIKE FIRE, and signed books, among other things!  I hope you all enjoy the Fantasy Extravaganza and have as much fun reading the interviews as I had putting them together!  Check out below to get your first entries!




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