Sunday, 19 June 2011

"Popular" reviewed by Katy Moran

Katy Moran, the author of Dangerous to Know and the medieval thrillers Bloodline, Bloodline Rising and Spirit Hunter, has reviewed Popular on her blog.

"Meredith Harper rules Mount Olivet Grammar School in Belfast with beauty, charm and despotic poweraided by a small tribe of It-girls all equally as beautiful (well nearly) and just as bitchy. Cameron, six feet tall and gorgeous, is part of the clique now that he has conquered an addiction to muffins and lost the puppy fat. Obviously, it all gets complicated, but not in the way you might think. This is a very, very entertaining look at what it takes to be part of the in-crowd, especially if you’re a socialite in Northern Ireland (being featured in Ulster Tatler, for one: “Inside the magazine, Imogen was posing on the Giant’s Causeway in a ball gown, with Anastasia Montmorency beside her. They had both gone for brooding, with the waves crashing over the rocks behind them (…) in a fabulously poetic way.”). It’s an extremely funny book – I laughed a lot and kept reading bits out loud to people, which must have been very annoying but I couldn’t help myself. 
Popular has the convincing weight of authenticity – at first, I thought Meredith’s friend Kerry was a caricature, but a few chapters in I started to suspect that the author knows someone exactly like her, so I just went along for the ride. Russell does mercilessly laugh at his characters quite a bit, but he chooses his targets carefully. There’s nothing funny about Meredith Harper. There are serious issues, too, which I won’t go into lest I spoil the plot for you. It’s all very well dealt with, though: nothing is clear cut or black and white, just like life. My one complaint – a small one – is that the only genuinely nice characters are boys. The girls are all pretty morally bankrupt to a greater or lesser extent, which seems a bit unfair (on the boys – why can’t they be amusingly wicked, too, instead of just confused? It looks like so much fun.) This didn’t occur to me till I’d finished the book, and didn’t spoil my enjoyment of it. There’s more to come in this series and I’ll definitely be looking out for the next serving of evil glamour."

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sneak Peak!

Only three weeks until Popular is released in the UK and Ireland and as a sneak peak of what's ahead, here are the fourteen chapter titles of the book!

1. "Bus Passes and Baby Pink"

2. "Saruman the Stupid"

3. "The Irresistible Rise of So Beau"

4. "Pray for us sinners"

5. "Mistletoe & Wine"

6. "The Hangover from Hell, the Sweater from Heaven"

7. "PS I love you"

8. "The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre"

9. "Tittle Tattle"

10. "An Uneasy Peace"

11. "The Field of Dreams"

12. "The Curious Case of the Birthday PiƱata"

13. "Emergencia"

14. "Everything that really counts"

You can pre-order your copy of Popular here, here or here

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The return of "Evita"

One of the greatest musicals of all time, Evita is returning to Broadway this spring. Evita, which was made into a movie starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas in 1996, was originally written by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice and premiered in the West End in 1978. It was taken over to Broadway a year later, where it starred Patti LuPone in the title role. It has been performed in countless amateur and professional productions across the world ever since and, to date, it is one of the most financially successful musical theatre productions in history.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Hilarious, Clever and Very Naughty

Article by Emerald Fennell (right)

School is hard. The itchy uniforms, the exams, the awkward snogging and the acne, all make for a pretty rough few years. But it could be worse: you could go to school with Meredith Harper.

I’m glad I didn’t. There is not a chance I could have slipped past her, aged fifteen, with my backpack sensibly perched on both shoulders and my multi-coloured train-track braces without suffering some hideous put down, and I’m almost certain that she would have made me cry on a regular basis. Meredith is terrifying. She is Regina George on speed, or Blair Waldorf with a hangover. But like all good villainesses, she is also completely impossible to resist.

When Gareth gave me the first draft of Popular, I was in the middle of my university exams and supposed to be reading Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, a grim task that I had already been putting off for months. I told myself that I would quickly read the first chapter of Gareth’s book and then get down to some serious study. That serious study never happened. I was completely gripped, and read the whole thing in one sitting, laughing like a lunatic and compulsively turning the pages. My degree almost certainly suffered, but unfortunately Chaucer didn’t stand a chance in the fight against Meredith and her friends: they kicked him in the crotch, called him a smelly peasant and sent him hobbling back to the fourteenth century.

It’s not every day that one of your friends writes a book. Unless that friend is Gareth, in which case, he will have written a novel, a play, a film, and a short biography of Marie Antoinette before the cocktail hour has struck. This is a man who sauntered off stage during the intermission of the play he was starring in to sit a finals exam at Oxford. While the rest of us sweated and toiled in the library Gareth was quickly dashing off a play about the ancien regime with a gin and tonic in one hand, and while we stayed up all night cramming Shakespeare quotes into our frazzled brains, Gareth wrote Popular.

Popular is hilarious, clever and very naughty, just like its author. I’m only sad that I have to wait until next year for the next one! 

Sunday, 5 June 2011

"Popular": Canada

Hey everyone,

Just to let you know that Popular will be published by Penguin in Canada on August 23rd of this year.

So, the summer publication schedule for 2011 so far looks like: -

UK and Ireland: Thursday 7th July

South Africa: Monday 1st August

Canada: Tuesday 23rd August

Australia and New Zealand: Monday 29th August

For British and Irish readers, you can now pre-order Popular on the Amazon, Waterstones and Penguin websites, as well as an e-book for Kindle via

Hope everyone's having a good June so far and for those stuck doing GCSEs and A-Levels, still, good luck and think of summer!
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