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text 2017-01-18 12:50
The Reading Habits Tag

Yey -- another book tag bandwaggon to jump onto!  Thanks to Spooky's House of Books for starting this and to BookLikes for spreading the idea.  (Also yey for the return of BookLikes community posts!)


1. Do you have a certain place in your home for reading?


Yes -- my bed and my living room couch.




2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?


Well ... I like bookmarks and I've been known to buy them if I find particularly nice ones (e.g., in museum gift shops) -- and I even went so far as to setting aside my bought special souvenir bookmarks for my Halloween Bingo and 12 Tasks of the Festive Season reads.



Then again, I've lost countless beautiful bookmarks over the course of a long reading life, and I actually do miss some of them.  So I have a huge assorted stack consisting of everything from postcards and greeting cards, tickets (opera / concert / tourist venue / train / you name it), boarding cards, purchase receipts, bookstore promotional bookmarks, and whatever else just happens to be on hand sitting on my bedside table next to my bed, right behind my alarm clock(s), and that's what I typically end up using ... including, incidentally, for my Halloween and Festive Season reads.




3. Can you  just stop reading or do you have to stop read after a chapter / certain number of pages?


I almost always finish a chapter (or, in the case of very long chapters, a given section within a chapter) before I put my book down.  Or at least I try to do so ... unless I'm so tired my eyes are shutting all by themselves and there's just no point reading on.



4. Do you eat or drink while read?


When reading while lying on my living room couch, I usually have a mug of tea sitting next to me, and there may also be chocolate or sweets involved.  When reading while lying in bed, no food or drink -- the reason being 8 times out of 10 that I'm reading immediately before going to sleep.



5. Multitasking: music or TV while reading?


Well, unlike MbD I can't claim a plane crash has actually happened near my house while I was reading (wow, that's some story!), but I, too, tend to be totally oblivious to my surroundings while immersed in a book -- from when I was little, my mom always said that you could drop a bomb next to me while I was reading and I wouldn't take any notice of it whatsoever.


That said, if driving on a familiar road or on the freeway (i.e., in situations where I don't have to actually focus very hard on navigating unfamiliar terrain), I can listen to audiobooks while driving; and I don't mind music playing in the background while I'm reading, either (as long as it's of a sufficiently soothing variety and playing softly enough).


But TV is a total and complete no-no, and trying to actually talk to me or get my attention for anything outside my book while I'm reading is, likewise, an enterprise doomed to utter failure.



6. One book at a time or several at once?


I used to be a "one book at a time" sort of person, but audiobooks and, oddly (or perhaps not) the Halloween Bingo and Festive Season reads have changed that -- lately, it's typically been at least several audiobooks to one print book, or in some instances even several print books simultaneously.



7. Reading at home or everywhere?


At home, mostly -- though I do think they ought to include a plane or train trip (of whatever length) without a book at hand in the U.N. Anti-Torture Convention.  And I do know what I'm talking about ... I used to have motion sickness as a kid and therefore was unable to read while traveling.  Pure torture, I can tell you.  (To the adults present on the occasion as well.  "Are we there yet???" doesn't begin to describe it.)



8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?


Sing along with me: "It's in your head -- in your head ..."




9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?


I've been known to read ahead on occasion (if for no other reason, to determine whether a given book merits my sticking with it or if I might just as well DNF), but there's no skipping of pages.  Skimming, yes.  Skipping, no.



10. Barking the spine or keeping it like new?


Keeping it like new to the best of my ability ... which, however, with paperbacks (especially mass market paperbacks) isn't always easy, or even achievable.



Do you write in your books?


No (shudders).  Well, unless it's a texbook -- those are meant to be annotated.  But other than that, I don't annotate my own books, and one of the reasons I hardly ever buy used books declared as being in "good" or "acceptable" condition is that with those descriptions you must be prepared to receive a book that someone has marked or written in ... which I simply am not willing to receive.


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text 2016-07-04 21:28
Question of the Month

In this post, Olga Godim says:


"Periodically, BL explodes with questionnaires. It could be 50 questions or 5 or 12, and everyone pitches in, because we all want to talk about ourselves, express our struggles and thoughts and quirks. We want to share ourselves with our friends.


One of my online friends, Michael D’Agostino @ A Life Examined, came up with a blog hop Question of the Month. Once a month, he makes up a question, sends it to all the participants, and we answer on the first Monday of the month. This month, his question was:


What was the first book (or book series) you really fell in love with?"




My answer (as already set out in the maxi version Bookish Q&A that made the rounds a while ago):


To an equally great extent:


- The various collections of Greek mythology that we owned (they taught me to value courage and intelligence -- my favorite hero was Odysseus; my favorite deity, you've guessed it, Athena -- and they gave me a first inkling of just how far the history of mankind actually goes back);


- The books by German adventure novelist Karl May (they taught me to respect all people equally, regardless of their national and ethnic origin, as well as to value friendship and, again, courage, and they fed into my curiosity about countries and cultures other than my own),


- Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books (they taught me that girls can go absolutely everywhere they want to), and


- Otfried Preußler's Die kleine Hexe / The Little Witch (it taught me that in the face of a setback, perseverance and cleverness equally pays off; if you stick to your guns and use your head you will still prevail in the end -- even if you are seemingly outnumbered and outranked).



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text 2016-07-04 21:05
Liebster Award



I've been tagged for this by Kendall Roberts of curious•pondering on Wordpress – thank you so much! 


Since it's very much in line with the things folks on BookLikes seem to find irresistible, too (witness the most recent incarnation, "50 questions") – and since it's specifically designed to spread the word on (and communicate with) new blogs, something the BookLikes community also deeply cares about, I figured I'd cross-post my responses on both sites.


FWIW, in case anyone is wondering, there's no actual "award" ceremony: as with other memes of this type, the "award" is being tagged at all.  Also, while the name sounds German and there is a literal translation for it that you may see being bandied about on the web in connection with this thing, it really only makes sense if you make it a whole phrase (in which "liebster" is an adjective, not a noun): "Mein liebster Blog" – "my favorite blog."  I don't think whoever first envisioned this actually ever thought of nominating random strangers' blogs as their "darling" or "beloved" (which would be the literal translation of "Liebster" when used as a noun).


Anyway, since this sort of thing seems to spread like wildfire regardless how many people are tagged (or not), I'm just going to invite everyone who sees this and wants to join the fun to consider themselves tagged.


Since its purpose also is, however, to highlight recently-created blogs (or, I suppose, blogs that are new to us, which in my case comprises just about the entire Wordpress community), and the rules expressly call for specific blogs to be tagged, too, I'm going to tag:


On BookLikes:


On Wordpress:


... and as a bonus entry, a blog I just discovered on both BookLikes and Wordpress: Mybookfile (= BookLikes) / My Book File (= Wordpress)!



The Rules:

1. Thank the blog that nominated you and link back to them.
2. Nominate up to 11 other bloggers for the award.
3. Answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
4. Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Give your nominees 11 questions to answer themselves.




My Answers to the 11 Questions Asked of Me:

What is your favorite season?

I've more or less answered this one before, at least after a fashion, though obviously only on BookLikes (so here goes for the Wordpress crowd):


Spring, summer and early fall, at least where I am living now.  Winters tend to be gray, wet and murky hereabouts.  I love snow, so if I were living in the mountains, I might just go for "year round," or "any day that it doesn't rain all the time."  But I don't particularly mind heat (and I'm not living in the tropics to begin with) ... and I absolutely love what spring and early summer does to nature, including our own back yard.



What is your favorite security item? *If this is too personal, do not feel pressured to answer.*

No "item":

Her name is Holly.  She's the most loving and affectionate creature in the world, and whenever I'm down or depressed there is nothing better than feeling her soft, warm body and silky fur cuddling up next to me with the sweetest and most eager of purrs.  I love her to pieces.



What is your third favorite website?

Hmm. Until a mere three days ago, I'd have said I have two favorite websites; BookLikes and Leafmarks. Since Leafmarks's sad demise, however, it comes down to just one – the BookLikes community that I've come to care about more than about anything and anyone else online.


Everything else is just utilities. I do tend to get my news from a bunch of major newspapers' sites (both English and German), I use Facebook to stay in touch with a number of friends who neither live close by nor are members of BookLikes, and there's a really good translation website named Leo that I use a lot – though first and foremost for my job – but that's pretty much what it comes down to.


Wordpress is looking promising, but at the moment I'm still building up the basics of my blog and I haven't connected with too many people yet (which is why this "Liebster award" is probably coming exactly at the right time, so thanks again, Kendall). Will have to wait and see, I guess.



What is your favorite movie?

Another one I've answered before on BookLikes:


"Here's looking at you, kid ..."

 Casablanca, hands down.



What is the best smelling plant/flower to you?

At a pinch, I'd probably say citrus fragrances and similar scents (especially verbena); though I love most natural fragrances – flowers (lavender, roses and apple blossoms come to mind in particular), Mediterranean herbs, spices (the more exotic, the better), pine woods, wet grass, sandalwood, you name it.



If you could have one wish, what would you use it on?

Well, this is going to sound boring beyond belief, but I'm a little past the mid-point of my life now and I've had the good fortune of being able to fulfill some of my really great wishes already, so I mostly would wish I'm going to be able to go on leading a meaningful life instead of just going through the motions.


Of course if someone were to somehow transform me into a literary genius of Shakespearean dimensions, that would be very nice indeed ...



Would you rather be able to produce music or literature?

See last paragraph above, I suppose. I love music and my life wouldn't be the same without it, but the use of language (which is what literature is ultimately all about) is a big part of my day job, too, so I suppose literature would be somewhat more within my reach, and it would also be, I think, ultimately what I'd most like to try my own hand at.

(Sure. One day ...)


Who is your favorite actor/ actress?

Actor(s): Humphrey Bogart; closely followed, however, by Robert Redford, Kevin Spacey, Colin Firth, Jeremy Brett, David Suchet, and half the alumni of the RSC (in no particular order and to name just a few, John Gielgud, Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Alan Rickman (RIP earlier this year), Patrick Stewart, Ralph Fiennes ... plus a whole bunch of others).


Actress(es): Emma Thompson, Susan Sarandon, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and the great leading ladies of Hollywood's golden years – Lauren Bacall, Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, and Marlene Dietrich.



What is your favorite beverage?

Tea – pretty much any and all kinds –, Diet Coke, and single malt Whisky (preferably Glenlivet, Laphroaig, or Bowmore; though the latter only if 18 years and upwards.  And yes, I know I'm a snob when it comes to whisky).

Left: 17yo cask strength limited edition Glenlivet (this: http://www.whiskyshopdufftown.com/shop/the-glenlivet-17-years-old-cask-strength-edition/) Right: 10yo Tobermory:



What author do you most wish to meet?

Dead: William Shakespeare – the greatest literary genius that ever walked the earth.
Living: Salman Rushdie – one of, if not the most important contemporary literary voices, particularly (though for reasons I wouldn't wish on my very worst own enemy) on the great scouges of the post-Cold War world: fundamentalism (religious and otherwise), racism, and the encroachment of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.




Do you keep an offline written journal?

No. I tried a couple of times, but the habit never stuck – I neither have the patience nor the time for it.




11 Random Facts About Me

For this, I'm going to draw on the "50 Questions" list that is currently making the rounds on BookLikes.


1. I've never made a habit of counting my steps, but when walking on brick or flagstone paths, tiled sidewalks and the like, as a kid I used to make up rules about where I had to / could only step – e.g., never on the same stone / slab / tile with both feet, etc.

The Yellow Brick Road:


2.  My everyday breakfast consists of black tea, freshly-pressed orange juice, and a roll straight from the baker's with butter and jam.  I love hotel breakfast buffets, however, and when traveling will always indulge in those; with everything from cereals (preferably granola) and fresh fruit to scrambled eggs / omelet / eggs over easy, bacon, croissants, you name it.  Bonus points if the buffet includes local food items.  When in Great Britain, nothing but a full English breakfast will do (solely minus grilled tomato, which I can't stand).  Similarly in Mexico, huevos rancheros, quesadilla, and at least one variety of a tortilla wrap (enchiladas, burritos, etc.) are a must.


3.  Stubbornness is one of my greatest failings (or strengths, as the case may be?).  I can also be lazy to the point of utter procrastination – which however tends to conflict with the fact that as a rule I am also fairly ambitious and, if something truly matters to me, an OCD level perfectionist.


4. In Chinese astrology, I'm a dragon.



5. The last time I had a photo taken for a portrait by a photographer was four years ago, for our office's website.  More recently, an artist friend of a colleague / friend of mine created a micro-portrait picture on the basis of a photo of me – though you have to stand very close to the picture to recognize it's (a) a photo (b) of me, which is sort of the point of the whole thing.


6. The first music performance I can remember attending was Engelbert Humperdinck's children's opera Hänsel and Gretel, together with my mom and my grandparents, when I was about 5 years old.

Hänsel und Gretel (Oper Bonn)(Hänsel & Gretel and the gingerbread house: image from a recent production of Bonn Opera)


The first concert I attended without parental supervision, just with my then-best friend, was either Chris de Burgh or Hot Chocolate (anybody remember them?) – anyway, same venue for both, and in pretty quick succession one after the other, as I recall. I must have been about 14 or 15 at the time.



7.  If in terms of biorhythm we are either owls or nightingales, I am definitely an owl.  Can't go to bed, much less sleep, before 11pm, but the only way I'm able to function at all early in the morning is on autopilot.  Change even the slightest bit of my morning routine, and I'll be walking around like a zombie, utterly and completely lost.


8.  The issue of tucked-in sheets doesn't arise as a matter of routine, as we don't use them in Germany and I never used them when living in the U.S., either, but in hotel beds, the first thing I do is pull out the sheets.  I need to be able to wrap my feet in whatever I'm using as a cover, and anything tucked in makes me feel claustrophobic.

(A Highlands welcome – The Torridon Hotel, Torridon, Scotland)


9.  If listening to CDs while I'm driving, I sing along all the time.  Same if / when there's a song on the radio that I truly like.  Lately, that hasn't been the case very often, though, as my heretofore favorite station has taken a musical turn towards the bland an meaningless recently, thus putting me in the position of either having to find a new radio station or live with their current musical selections in order to continue getting their (still rather good) talk radio contributions and editorial contents.


10.  I've never used a gun, nor would I ever want to.


11.  I have tremendous respect for the fact that the greater the height you're at, the worse you're likely going to get injured if you fall (if you survive in the first place, that is).  That doesn't stop me from climbing up every bell and observation tower I come across for the view from the top, but I'll never be found too close to the edge.




Questions for Others

For my questions for others, finally, I'm going to draw chiefly (though not exclusively) on the Proust Questionnaire:


1.   What do you most appreciate in your friends?

2.   What fault do you find easiest to tolerate in others?

3.   What is your favorite occupation?

4.   What is your idea of happiness, and what is your idea of misery?

5.   If not where you are actually living right now, where would you like to live?

6.   What is your favorite color?

7.   Who is your hero / heroine in fiction, and why?

8.   Who is youro hero / heroine in real life, and why?

9.   What natural talent would you like to be gifted with?

10. If you had a time machine allowing you to travel to up to 3 different eras (past and future), what era(s) would you like to travel to?

11. From a burning building, you have the option to rescue either a [cat / dog / supply your own favorite animal] or a priceless work of art, but not both.  Which of the two do you rescue, and why?




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text 2016-05-22 19:25
Ten Bookish Questions (meme)
The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics - C.S. Lewis
Gone, Baby, Gone - Dennis Lehane
The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works - William Shakespeare,Gary Taylor,Stanley Wells
The Complete Vampire Chronicles (Vampire Chronicles, #1-#4) - Anne Rice
The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory
A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin
The Complete Novels of Jane Austen - Jane Austen
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives - Alan Bullock
Joseph Anton: A Memoir - Salman Rushdie

Once more, thanks to Bookloving Writer for finding and starting this.


1. What book is on your nightstand now?

C.S. Lewis: Signature Classics (Mere Christianity / The Screwtape Letters / The Great Divorce / The Problem of Pain / Miracles / A Grief Observed / The Abolition of Man) -- the book that I currently dip in in between my other reads.


2. What was the last truly great book that you read?

Dennis Lehane: Gone, Baby, Gone.  No. 4 of the Kenzie & Gennaro series, and boy had he reached his full stride by that point.  No book in the series is bad (in fact, even the very first one, A Drink Before the War, is amazingly good for a first novel and deserved every award that it won), but Gone, Baby, Gone absolutely knocked me off my socks. 


3. If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

Dead: William Shakespeare (obviously, if you know anything about me at all) – the greatest literary genius that ever walked the earth. I think I'd just want to hang out with him and shoot the breeze, though.  I have a feeling he'd be part annoyed, part supremely amused with all the cult surrounding him and his works these days, and the last thing I'd want to do would be to feed into that.  Once we'd hung out together for a while, I suspect the conversation would shift towards literature and the theatre quite naturally anyway, and I'd be happy to then take it wherever would seem most natural.

Living: Salman Rushdie – one of, if not the most important contemporary literary voices, particularly (though for reasons I wouldn't wish on my very worst own enemy) on the great scouges of the post-Cold War world: fundamentalism (religious and otherwise), racism, and the encroachment of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.




4. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

Cry to Heaven - Anne RiceHmm.  Again, depending how well you know me, possibly the first volumes of Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles.  I'm absolutely disgusted with the way she's been behaving towards anyone who doesn't bow down before her in abject admiration in recent years, but I did actually like her early Lestat novels and also, in particular, Cry to Heaven.  I just think she's a clear case of success having completely screwed up a writer's mind.  In terms of her books, the Vampire Chronicles jumped the shark for me once and for all with Memnoch, the Devil.  I haven't touched any of her books since then, and I sure as hell won't anymore now that she's turned full-fledged bully.


5. How do you organize your personal library?

By genre and country of origin / language, and within those categories, essentially alphabetically; also including, however, a few subcategory shelves for authors or series that I particularly treasure.




6. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrased never to have read?

With a TBR consisting of almost 3,000 books, are you kidding me?  There are plenty of books I'd still love to read -- and plenty, too, that I've always wanted to get around to but just haven't yet.  And no, I'm not embarrassed about a single one of them, either ...



7. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didnt? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

Disappointing and overrated: Philippa Gregory: The Other Boleyn Girl.  It was the first book by Gregory that I read, and given my interest in everything Tudor, and in Anne Boleyn in particular, it should have been a dead-on match.  Instead, I've found it badly researched, clichéd, sensationalist, and just plain sickening.  I've steered clear of Gregory's writing ever since.


DNF: My last major DNFs were (not as individual books, but as series), A Song of Ice and Fire (annoingly wordy, derivative world-building, clichéd, loads of characters too stupid to live, and just generally seriously underwhelming), Fifty Shades of Grey (awful writing and sick beyond belief) and Twilight (equally awfully written and, again, there's something truly sick to telling teenage / YA readers that it's not merely OK but even desirable to have to fear the guy you love).




8. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

I'm drawn to the literary classics (novels, plays, poetry, you name it), historical fiction and nonfiction (including biographies and memoirs), any- and everything international, mysteries and crime fiction, adventure stories (again, both fiction and nonfiction), art, archeology, nature, cooking, music, and politics.


I read very little horror, absolutely no slasher stories and, at the other end of the spectrum, also virtually no chick-lit and romance novels (or indeed anything arguably qualifying as cute and fluffy).


9. If you could require the president to read one particular book, what would it be?

The book that'll probably be found lying next to me when I die will be William Shakespeare's Hamlet, though as a matter of principle, I'm an advocate of people's reading as widely and variedly as possible -- hominem unius libri timeo and all that.



However, what with the turn world politics have been taking in the recent couple of months, I have a growing feeling that our precious world is in danger of going to hell in a handbasket really fast, so right about now, the books that I'd like to shove in just about all our dear leaders' respective faces are George Orwell's 1984, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a hefty dose of books about Stalin, Hitler, and the "Third Reich" (both fiction and nonfiction) -- as well as a copy of the Qu'ran.


10. What do you plan to read next?

Hmmm.  I just whipped through the first couple of books in Dennis Lehane's Kenzie & Gennaro series in (for me) practically no time at all, but I think I'll leave the last one for later, take a small break from Lehane's writing (great though it is), go for a  change of pace and start Salman Rushdie's Joseph Anton.  Kind of also feels also like the right book to start on the day when Germany's Austrian neighbors look all poised to elect yet another right-wing, nationalist and populist head of state ... however hard I personally may be praying that this isn't actually going to happen.






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text 2015-07-20 17:00
The Wedding Tag
Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper - Harriet Scott Chessman
The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q - Sharon Maas
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Lamentation - C.J. Sansom
In the Woods - Tana French
Birds Without Wings - Louis de Bernières
The Complete Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics) - Vivien Jones,Tony Tanner,Claire Lamont,Jane Austen
Gaudy Night - Dorothy L. Sayers

The Reader who Lives a Thousand Lives recently created this tag in celebration of a friend's wedding and invited all those who want to join in.  Alright, I'll play:



The Wedding Dress:

A book that was either simple and elegant
or breathtakingly over the top.

Harriet Scott Chessman: Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper

"Simple and elegant" is actually a pretty good description for this lovely novella about the relationship between impressionist painter Mary Cassatt and her sister Lydia, set in late 19th century Paris; told from Lydia's point of view and based on five beautiful portraits of Lydia painted by Mary, images of all of which are included in the book.



The Wedding Cake:

A book that was so scrumptious you just ate it up.

Sharon Maas: The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q.

Set partly in Guayana and partly in London, a beautifully written multi-generational tale of love, forgiveness, and three women coming of age and fighting to define their place in life.  Oh, and a valuable stamp.

My review.





The Wedding Party:

A book with amazing characters that you fell in love with.

Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall

Damn that woman -- Ms. Mantel -- for turning one of those people whom I'd always happily pigeonholed as one of history's great villains into one of my new favorite characters.  The whole vast canvas of Tudor London and the Tudor court really comes alive in her writing, but Cromwell himself is the unquestionable standout. 


Love sequel, Bring up the Bodies, as well ... and I can see the as-yet unpublished third book of the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, as a hot contender for the First Dance category even now.



The Wedding Reception:

A book that left you with a major hangover.

C.J. Sansom: Lamentation

That ending!! How dare you leave me hanging in the air like that over the fate of my favorite character, Mr. Sansom?








Tana French: In the Woods

All those books about other Dublin Murder Squad detectives are fine and good, but c'mon, Ms. French --

when are we going to see Ryan and Maddox back together

(spoiler show)







The First Dance:

A book that was so beautiful you cried.

Louis de Bernières: Birds Without Wings

Major lump-in-throat time.  Two friends, one Greek and one Turkish, coming of age in a mixed-ethnic village in early 20th century Turkey, and ripped apart by the world events that are sweeping through their village and tearing it to shreds.  Not an easy book, but absolutely gorgeous writing.


Also a hot contender for the Best Man category.



The Maid of Honor or The Best Man:

A book with two amazing friends.


Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes (complete canon).

The iconic literary friendship to end all literary friendships.



The Bride and Groom:

A couple that you can't get enough of.

Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy forever.




Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey

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