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Shortly before 1818, a group of Romantic poets and writers travelled from Britain to Geneva. The party included Mary Wollstonecraft Goodwin (later Mary Shelley), Percy Bysshe Shelley (later the husband of Mary) and Lord Byron. Finding themselves in the Swiss Alps and thick snow, what better way to spend an evening in such an idyllic setting than…a disgusting novel-writing competition?! Yes. The Romantics decided to hold a competition to see who could compose the most grotesque and repugnant work. Under Byron’s and Percy Shelley’s view that a woman may not up to the job of writing morbidly, Mary Shelley unabashedly…

Please note the time of going to press: February 2012. The Brontës- a sisterhood of gothic writers.   The daughters of a solemn Irish reverend, the three sisters grew up at the family home based in Haworth, Yorkshire, although the extended family remained on the Emerald Isle. The Brontës wrote in a time before women could vote and many worked as scullery maids who would be fortunate to earn £6 a year. The educated trio of sisters attended a school for the children of less wealthy clergy members and their love and ability for writing began as a childhood game.…

2012 was Charles Dickens bicentenary year. This year, following heavy renovation, his house has been reopened, fulfilling great expectations. Museum: The Charles Dickens Museum. The museumised house Charles Dickens once inhabited. Where?: 48, Doughty Street, Camden Town, London. WC 1N 2LX. Getting there: The nearest underground station is Russell Square (Piccadilly Line), although Chancery Lane (Central Line) also provides a direct walk to the museum. Entry Fee: £6 concessions, £8 non-concessions. Charles Dickens lived at number 48 Doughty Street from 1837 until 1839. There, he wrote ‘The Adventures of Oliver Twist’ and ‘The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby’, which…

Why The Great Gatsby is my favourite romance novel Now,  I’m not an avid reader of romance novels but The Great Gatsby is probably my all time favourite book, and it just so happens to be a love story. Gatsby is probably the ultimate romantic hero – handsome, mysterious and fabulously wealthy (not that that matters, honest). All the characters are flawed, even Gatsby. And if you somehow manage to get past the self-centered and annoying Daisy Buchanan, you’ll probably struggle to forgive her obnoxious, racist, adulterous husband, Tom Buchanan. He also hits women. He’s the perfect antithesis to Gatsby and…

Published in 1847, Wuthering Heights is Emily Bronte’s only novel. Despite initially receiving mixed reviews – with critics describing it as a “strange, inartistic story”, it has since risen to classic status. The story opens with Mr Lockwood visiting Wuthering Heights, a depreciated manor house in Yorkshire. Due to bad weather, he was forced to stay the night, where he begins to discover more about the history of the area. The reader is introduced to Cathy and Heathcliff, former lovers, before following their tumultuous relationship through the years. As a reader, I was fifteen when I first encountered the novel. Assuming…

The Name of the Wind is an epic fantasy, which has you hooked from start to finish. We hear of the protagonist, Kvothe’s, many legendary titles and deeds, only to learn that in reality most of these deeds were accidental, yet they make him into more of a hero. His sharp wit and intellect has you amazed from the beginning, with such determination that he is set apart from the usual heroes who just ‘magically slay the dragon’ as we see the harsh truths of how he achieves these deeds. As with any hero, he has a fatal flaw; his…

On The Road is an important book for a number of reasons. It is credited with beginning, or at least catalysing, the American road-story genre. Much like other books of the same movement, On The Road is important because it was so shocking and graphic for its time. Kerouac spoke explicitly about drugs, sex and “bum” life. These are all themes that were central to the “Beat” movement that the book belongs to. The story is reality thinly veiled with pseudonyms. Sal Paradise (Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassidy) spend their days chasing women, drinking excessively and hitching rides across…

If you’re looking for something great to read this Christmas or just a good stocking filler, Cecilia Ahern’s seasonal novel; The Gift is one to look out for. The story is set in the run up to Christmas and follows three main characters, Lou Suffern, a high-flying businessman who ignores his wife and two young children opting instead for a bigger office and an affair with his secretary. Gabe, the guardian angel; an ominous homeless man who is definitely not everything he seems to be, and an exasperated policeman dealing with a young boy on Christmas Eve who has stolen his mother’s…

The winner of the Man Booker Prize in 2012 has been announced, and Hilary Mantel has done it again. Awarded the prize for her novel Wolf Hall in 2009, Mantel has now achieved the top spot for her novel Bring Up the Bodies. The book is a sequel to the previous Man Booker Prize winning novel, and follows the life and times of Thomas Cromwell, living in the court of Henry VIII. It is a thrilling Historical novel that follows relationships within the Monarchy, adding a fictional flourish to events of the past. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies…

To me there are three types of readers. There’s the book lovers who will read every book ever because reading is everything. Then there’s the forced to read readers who have to read things for classes. And then there’s me; I’ll only read something if I have a prior vested interest in the book or topic of the book. The only things I’ve read in the last few years have been novelisations of video games. So when I heard that Perks was being made into a movie starring both Logan Lerman and Emma Watson I thought I’d give it a…

Scare Yourself: Read a Book This Halloween! Fancy being anti-social, staying in and avoiding the nightlife this Halloween, but still want to get involved with the spirit (no pun intended) of things? Well here’s a little bit of advice for you – what better way to scare yourself this than with a good, old fashioned and grisly horror book?  Yes, the age-old watching-a-scary-film-until-you-shriek-yourself-silly idea is all well and good, but it does all the work for you. Reading a horror story allows you, as the reader, to scare yourself as much as you want, or as little as you want.…

I am well aware that, as a university student, finances are tough. With many popular books costing anywhere from £8 to £15, it is unrealistic to fund a consistent supply of literature. In fact, it is difficult at times to fund the purchase of literature for your respected studies, let alone for leisure. Therefore, I decided that a good idea to promote reading would be to champion great literature which can also be purchased cheaply. The book I shall be promoting is The Liar by Stephen Fry. As a well known public figure, comedic actor and presenter, his role as…

All Hallow’s Read is a recent Halloween tradition invented by best-selling author Neil Gaiman in 2010. The premise is simple: give someone a scary book for Halloween. It’s a great way to get people reading and to share your favourite horror stories (or give away that book that gave you nightmares). It’s also a brilliant way to celebrate Halloween. Now this could just be me and my excessive horror film collection, but show me a scary film and you will not get much of a reaction out of me, other than an appreciation of gore. Give me a scary book…

As a literary genre, Gothic fiction is often classified as combining elements of horror and romance, as well as other features including melodrama and parody. Popular in the late 18th-early 19th century, many critics agree that it originated with the release of Horace Walpole’s 1764 novel “The Castle of Otranto”. Featuring the character Manfred, a lord of a castle, and the inexplicable death of his son Conrad before his wedding, it inspired Clara Reeve’s “The Old English Baron”, and set the tone for many canonised works that followed it. Anne Radcliffe is often credited with developing the “explained supernatural” element…

I am well aware that, as a university student, finances are tough. With many popular books costing anywhere from £8 to £15, it is unrealistic to fund a consistent supply of literature. In fact, it is difficult at times to fund the purchase of literature for your respected studies, let alone for leisure. Therefore, I decided that a good idea would be to promote reading would be to champion great literature which can also be purchased cheaply. The book I shall be promoting is The Liar by Stephen Fry. As a well known public figure, comedic actor and presenter, his…

We at Seren have been saving some summer treats for you, dear readers. We have a ridiculously easy competition to give away the following books: 1. Environmentalism begins at home! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: An easy household guide 2. For those of you who have come to the end of your loans: How To Save The Planet On A Student Budget 3. For the seasonal chef! The Good Table: Adventures in and around my kitchen 4. For the environmental philosopher. On Extinction: How We Came Became Estranged from Nature So the question is: Seren is printed on 100% recycled paper, true…