Mary, Queen of Scots in Edinburgh

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My trip to Edinburgh in October 2016 was one of my favourite holidays I’ve been on so far. My friends Brendan, Dan and I spent a week in the Scottish capital and had so much fun looking around the city. There was plenty to do for Harry Potter fans but I also wanted to look at the Mary, Queen of Scots sites, as I’m also a huge fan of her era of history. For those of you who also are thinking of travelling to Edinburgh to see the sites of Mary, Queen of Scots, here is my round-up of places to visit.

1.

John Knox House, 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

One of Mary’s greatest rivals was Protestant minister, who famously opposed Mary’s rule in Scotland, not only because she was a Catholic but also because she was a woman. The house itself tells the story of Knox’s life as you go through the museum, and you have the added knowledge that Knox also lived there for a period of his life. The biggest highlight is the ceiling in his bedroom, which is original.

2.

Holyrood Palace, Horse Wynd, Edinburgh

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(c) Dan Luxton

When Mary returned to Scotland after spending time at French court with her then-husband Francis II of France, she took to Holyrood Palace and married again, this time to her cousin, Henry, Lord Darnley, who also had a claim to the English throne. At Holyrood, you are able to see the chairs which Mary and Darnley sat, their beds and chambers. You can also see the spot where David Rizzio was murdered, which still has a shade of blood-red on the floorboards.

3.

Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Edinburgh Castle is where Mary gave birth to her son James VI, fathered by Darnley. In the castle, you can see Mary’s apartments and the side room where she actually gave birth. You can also see the Scottish crown jewels which are held in the castle. Like most historical landmarks, the castle is open to the public and is a popular tourist attraction.

4.

Linlithgow Castle, Kirkgate, Linlithgow

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(c) Clare Holman-Hobbs

Linlithgow is only half an hour from Edinburgh and was where Mary, Queen of Scots was born to James V of Scotland and Mary of Guise. At aged six days old she succeeded her father and became Queen of Scotland. Now, Linlithgow is virtually in ruins. The windows are open to the wind and when we visited the palace had extensive repairs being done to the exterior to keep it open to the public. In the grounds of the castle, there is a statue of Mary to commemorate this area in her history.

Are you fans of Mary, Queen of Scots? Do you want to visit the historical sites of Scotland? Let me know in the comments!

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Series I Need to Finish

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When thinking about bookish resolutions, I always consider the series that I need to finish up. Quite often I’ll power through a series, but occasionally I’ll be delayed in picking up sequels for whatever reason. Maybe my tastes change, maybe the next book hasn’t been released yet. Whatever the reason, I’m making a comprehensive list of books I need to crack on with!

These books are in no particular order.

1.

The Study Series by Maria V Snyder

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About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. – from Goodreads.com

I read the first book in the series, Poison Study, last year and only yesterday did I finish the second book in the series, Magic Study. I need to get reading the third book in the series, Fire Study, pronto! There are lots of companion books to Yelena’s journey that all come under the title of The Chronicles of Ixia, so hopefully, I’ll get around to reading those too!

2.

The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon

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In 1945, Claire Randall is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon in Scotland. Innocently she walks through a stone circle in the Highlands and finds herself in a violent skirmish taking place in 1743. Suddenly she is a Sassenach, an outlander, in a country torn by war and by clan feuds. – from Goodreads.com

In 2017, I read both Cross Stitch/Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, both of which I enjoyed. The Outlander series is actually compromised of eight books in total, and whether I’ll end up reading all eight of them, I don’t know, but I’m certainly enjoying where the series is at, at the moment.

3.

The Tudor Court Series by Philippa Gregory

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Thus, bestselling author Philippa Gregory introduces one of her most unforgettable heroines: Katherine of Aragon. Known to history as the Queen who was pushed off her throne by Anne Boleyn, here is a Katherine the world has forgotten: the enchanting princess that all England loved. – from Goodreads.com

The Tudor Court series begins with The Constant Princess and continues with The Other Boleyn Girl and The Boleyn Inheritance, all of which I read in 2017. I’m currently reading The Taming of the Queen, which concludes Henry VIII’s wives with Katherine Parr. These books thrive on the scandal that drove the Tudor court, and I absolutely love the excitement of the novels that keep the Tudors as some of the most notorious historical figures in British history.

So these conclude the series I need to continue reading in 2018. Have you read any of these books? Or finished any of these series? Let me know in the comments!

Promises and Wishes: 2017 Edition

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(Me in January and December of this year)

Once again, we find ourselves at the time of year where nostalgia and reflection overcome us! Every year on Christmas Eve, I round-up my yearly achievements and set some goals for the new year. To say I made a tonne of progress is an understatement!

Here’s my list from last year:

  • Learn to drive.
  • Go abroad again.
  • Visit Stonehenge.
  • Write another book.
  • Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

Let’s see how much I achieved:

Learn to drive.

Erm… the less said about that the better.

Go abroad again.

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(Dan, Brendan and Me)

Does going to Scotland count as going abroad? Some might agree, some may not. I didn’t use my passport, let’s just say that. But going to Scotland has definitely satisfied some of my wanderlust and has also given me the travel bug. In fact, Dan, Brendan and I are planning to go away in 2018 as well. We got to see a lot of Harry Potter and Outlander sites as well as some historical ones, particularly to do with Mary, Queen of Scots. (More on that later!)

Visit Stonehenge.

Nope. Didn’t happen.

Write another book.

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Yes. NEARLY. I did CampNaNoWriMo this April and managed to write fifty thousand words of a first draft for a book titled The Elementals. I also re-wrote another draft of my mystery novel Losing Lola. A 100k word count for 2017 ain’t bad!

Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

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Well, yes, Part Two anyway. I had a ticket for Part One but I couldn’t get the time off work, so I could only go and see Part Two, which I loved. Good job I knew what happened in Part One!

So, three out of five! Not too bad in my opinion.

Now, here’s my list for 2018:

  • LEARN TO DRIVE.

I really, really need to get around to doing that. Really, really.

  • USE MY PASSPORT.

As I said, Brendan, Dan and I are thinking about going on holiday again together in 2018, and there are a few European cities on the list so who knows!

  • Get into full-time work.

I’m already working part-time in schools which I’m absolutely loving. Ideally, I’d be looking to move into a full-time teaching assistant position. Let’s keep those fingers crossed.

  • Write another book.

If I could write a book a year. I’d be happy with that. I’m aiming to do NaNoWriMo 2018 and have an idea still developing in my mind, so I’m sure this would be an achievable goal for me.

  • Read 100 books. 

I’ve read 100 books the last two years and I really want to keep this number up, even if I’m going to be trying to get into full-time work. Reading is my greatest passion, and I want to keep my favourite hobby going at all costs!

So, let’s see what 2018 brings! What’s on your bucket list for this year? Let me know in the comments!

My Literary Trip to Scotland

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Ever since I wrote about my top literary places to visit, I have been chomping at the bit to get exploring! I’m always drawn to places where people lived/live that I admire. For example, in August, I visited Oxford, home of CS Lewis, Tolkien, and various Harry Potter filming locations, and this October just passed I visited Scotland! I was drawn to Edinburgh in particular because of its literary links but also for its historical element, as it was the home of Mary Queen of Scots. (Blog post about her coming soon!)

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Above: On the train journey to Scotland.

Scotland is home to one of my favourite series, Harry Potter, as JK Rowling lived (and still lives) in Edinburgh whilst she was writing the stories. We went to various locations around the city that held history for Harry. The first stop we went to was the Greyfriars Kirkyard filled with graves which Rowling stole names from for characters for the series. We managed to find Tom Riddle, a McGonagall and a Scrimgeour! Victoria Street, just around the corner from the graveyard, also claims to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Above: McGonagall, Riddell and Scrymgeour graves and Victoria Street.

We also visited The Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote a lot of Philosopher’s Stone and also another cafe named Spoon. But Rowling isn’t the old city’s claim to fame. Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer of Sherlock Holmes, was born in Edinburgh, in the home of 11 Picardy Place. To commemorate, there is a statue of Sherlock outside the home which has now become a restaurant. Across the road, there is also a pub, named the Conan Doyle, after the author.

Above: The Elephant House cafe, the Sherlock Holmes statue, and the Conan Doyle pub.

We also visited the Writer’s Museum (which is also free to enter!) which chronicled the lives of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. Having only read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, he was the only author that I knew a little bit about but still didn’t know his full story. The museum was also doing an installation on Ian Rankin, another Scottish novelist.

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Above: The bust of Robert Louis Stevenson inside the Writer’s Museum.

There was so much to see and do in Edinburgh when it came to literary themes, not just history. There were even historical walks that lead you through the lives of writer’s, but we didn’t get a chance to go on that, and it’s something that I would really recommend any literary fiend doing.

As I said in my blog post on literary places, I’m hoping to work my way through them and so next on the list is hopefully Haworth where the Bronte’s lived!

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? Or have I made you want to take on your own literary pilgrimage? Let me know in the comments!

Top 15 Books I’ve Studied

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I’ve been in education for more years than I’ve been out of it, and with a love of books as passionate as mine, I’ve spent a lot of time studying them. Some I’ve grown to love, some I’ve grown to hate, so here are the top 15 books I’ve studied over my time in school.

15

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

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Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a village before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past. – from Goodreads.com

My Dad always carried around a copy of Cider with Rosie, and when he passed away it was bequeathed to me. I took ownership of his battered, well-read, well-loved copy and actually chose to study this book in A-Level Literature.

14

The Go-Between by LP Hartly

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Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years. – from Goodreads.com

I studied The Go-Between alongside Cider with Rosie, and wrote an essay on childhood innocence using both these books. I thoroughly enjoyed the BBC adaptation that was released this year, and it brought back so many wonderful memories for me.

13

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

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The greatest love story in English, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a play of star-crossed lovers who take a valiant stand against social convention, with tragic consequences. – from Goodreads.com

Although this is probably the most famous love story of all time, I actually struggled to get on with this play originally when I studied it at GCSE. However when my teacher showed us Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the film, where he put such a unique spin on the tale, I really grew to love it, and to this day his adaptation is one of my favourite films.

12

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world. Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream–a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. – from Goodreads.com

One of my old favourites from GCSE English. I was completely swept up in the tale of George and Lennie, and once again, watching the film cemented my love for the story.

11

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners–one of the most popular novels of all time–that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. – from Goodreads.com

Similarly to Romeo and Juliet, the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy has become somewhat clichéd. When I studied this book at A-Level Literature, I was reminded just how quick we are to judge others, especially romantically, and how Elizabeth is the perfect, head-strong heroine who we could all learn from. Also, to start as we mean to go on, I watched both adaptations by Joe Wright and also the BBC, both of which are favourites.

10

A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller

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In A View from the Bridge Arthur Miller explores the intersection between one man’s self-delusion and the brutal trajectory of fate. Eddie Carbone is a Brooklyn longshoreman, a hard-working man whose life has been soothingly predictable. He hasn’t counted on the arrival of two of his wife’s relatives, illegal immigrants from Italy; nor has he recognized his true feelings for his beautiful niece, Catherine. – from Goodreads.com

Another favourite of mine from GCSE English. A wonderful commentary on immigration that is still relevant in today’s world.

  An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley

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The action of the play occurs in an English industrial city, where a young girl commits suicide and an eminently respectable British family is subject to a routine inquiry in connection with the death. An inspector calls to interrogate the family, and during the course of his questioning, all members of the group are implicated lightly or deeply in the girl’s undoing. – from Goodreads.com

Probably the first “mystery” that I ever read in GCSE English, and ignited my love for the genre. Seeing how every member of the family tied into the story of the dead girl was literary craftsmanship at it’s best. Another honourable mention to the BBC adaptation released earlier this year.

8

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. – from Goodreads.com

Another one from GCSE English with a fantastic movie to go along with it. Many people refer to Frankenstein as the monster, not the man who created him, and I think that says a lot about our morbid curiosity and just how momentous Frankenstein’s creation was.

7

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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Perhaps the single most influential work of English drama, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a timeless tragedy of the conflicted loyalties, madness, betrayal and terrible revenge. – from Goodreads.com

Along with another awesome adaptation from Mr Branagh himself, Hamlet, which I studied at Literature A-Level is my second favourite Shakespeare play. Which brings me nicely onto…

6

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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Promised a golden future as ruler of Scotland by three sinister witches, Macbeth murders the king to ensure his ambitions come true. But he soon learns the meaning of terror – killing once, he must kill again and again, and the dead return to haunt him. – from Goodreads.com

My favourite Shakespeare play! Witches, prophecies, killing, war, all the things that make a tragedy a tragedy in my eyes. With, surprise surprise, an awesome adaptation to go along with it.

Which brings me into my top five:

5

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. – from Goodreads.com

My Gramps once said that education really begins after you leave school, and he was so right. I didn’t actually study The Great Gatsby whilst I was at school. My A-Level Literature teacher, Robert Hastie, gave me his copy of The Great Gatsby that he used to study with whilst at university. I’ve cherished his copy ever since, as it has his own notes and comments in. I recently read and studied this book by myself, and added in my own notes and comments along with his. It’s one of my most treasured possessions. Also, note the awesome film.

4

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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Based on historical people and real events, Miller’s drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town’s most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. – from Goodreads.com

This play/film is pretty much the reason why I’m so fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials, and charts once again the morally complex tale of John Proctor, knowing he will be sentenced to death if he denies his involvement with the devil, or live a life of damnation if he admits.

3

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

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Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation. – from Goodreads.com

This was another book that I didn’t study whilst in education. JD Salinger’s novel is considered to be the corner-stone of YA literature and one of the first young adult books to be recognised in the genre. I love a good unreliable narrator as much as the next person, and listening to Holden narrate his experiences was so entertaining. Salinger captures the no man’s land between childhood and adulthood, and everything in between.

2

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

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The Bloody Chamber is an anthology of short fiction by Angela Carter. All of the stories share a common theme of being closely based upon fairy tales or folk tales. – from Goodreads.com

This anthology couldn’t be more up my alley. I first read this collection of works at university when doing a module on Fairy Tales. Carter poetically and vividly re-tells some of our best-loved folk and fairy tales, with a dark and sexy twist.

Which leaves my number one choice:

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature. – from Goodreads.com

This choice may be somewhat cliché, but for me, the themes and symbols of the novel are what makes this book stand out for me. The moors, the ghosts, the appearance of the double, repetition, nature vs culture, social class and, above all, love. When I first read Wuthering Heights, I found it to be really dense and difficult to get into. But after I watched the ITV series, and once I understood the story, I found I could really unearth the layers of the novel. And that is why this fantastically gothic novel is my number one.

So there we have it. Do you agree with my top fifteen, or would you like to have seen some other books make an appearance? What would be your top fifteen? Let me know in the comments.

 

Top 5 OTP Ships

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In every book, in every TV show, in every movie, I always end up ship-ing at least once. Whether it be a friendship or a relationship, I often see deeper layers to character’s interactions than what is played out in front of me. I’ve (tried) to list my top five OTPs, although let’s be honest, it really could be a top 123,456, but I’ve narrowed it down to these few who always tug on my heart strings.

These ships are in no particular order.

1

Ron and Hermione

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The mother-ship of all ships. The OTP of all OTPs. I ship-ed this for ten years before it became “officially” cannon, and I, in fact, didn’t even know what ship-ing was until I entered online fandom. I simply wanted Ron and Hermione to be together forever and ever and have millions of lovely ginger haired children. Luckily they did. (Well… two…)

2

Tris and Four

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One of the main things I loved about the Divergent series is the fact that there is NO LOVE TRIANGLE. Tris and Four fall for each other and live happily ever after. (Don’t talk to me about Allegiant. Allegiant and I are not friends.) Tris and Four don’t play mind games, they don’t play each other, they come together and stay together and fight for/with each other. That’s what makes me love them.

3

Snow and Charming

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Back in season one of Once Upon a Time, when Misthaven/Enchanted Forest/Storybrooke was much less confusing, Emma and Henry tried to restore the memories of our beloved fairy tale characters and bring back the happy endings. Snow and Charming were MEANT TO BE TOGETHER. It is practically written in stone. They physically share one heart. All the to-ing and fro-ing made me dizzy, but they got there in the end.

4

Mary, Queen of Scots and Francis II of France

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History books don’t paint (literally) Francis, or Mary, in a very good light. Francis, in his infancy, is a weak and sickly boy, who apparently was unable to consummate his marriage to Mary as he had not yet reached puberty. Mary on the other hand, was described more favourably, but later in life was considered to have murdered her second husband Lord Darnley. So imagine my happiness when Toby Regbo was cast as the young Dauphin of France and played opposite Adelaide Kane as Mary in hit TV show, Reign. Their on screen chemistry cemented my deep love for their short-lived romance and no, I’m still not over that episode.

5

Hanna and Caleb

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Spencer had it right when she said Hanna and Caleb draw strength for each other and if IMK doesn’t make Haleb end game then I’m going to have some serious beef. All PLL fans have beef with some aspects of the show already, so don’t go making it worse, IMK. Let’s be honest, in the translation from books to TV show, adding Caleb was one of the best things the show-runners did. What makes Hanna and Caleb even more perfect is that they’re not only romantically involved, but they’re also great friends as well.

Honourable mentions go to: Sirius/Remus, Mary/Bash, Bash/Kenna, Greer/Leith, Carter/Max (Finding Carter), Nathan/Haley and Keith/Karen (One Tree Hill), Aravis/Shasta (The Chronicles of Narnia), Hazel and Gus (The Fault in Our Stars) and so many more!