Reviewed by Elizabetta & Ilhem
AUTHOR: Alexis Hall
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 248 pages
RELEASE DATE: 26th August, 2013
BLURB: The universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand.
Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.
Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.
But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?
Ilhem and Elizabetta are joining forces for this review on “Glitterland” by Alexis Hall. The blurb pulled us and that title and cover… intriguing. Hall is an emerging author with a strong, compelling voice. Glitterland… what’s it all about?
We have two very different characters, Ash, a serious writer with bipolar disorder, and Darian, a glitzy fashion model from Essex. That these two come from very disparate backgrounds is an understatement. The story is from Ash’s POV and this guy requires patience, He’s gray– just like his name: clinically depressed, in a writer’s slump, an attempted suicide in his past. Then, one night at a stag party… enter Darian, silver epaulettes, silver nail polish, hair slicked up in a fierce pompadour. Glitter-boy. He catches Darian’s eye, how could he not? But is he more than meets the eye?
Elizabetta: Hey Ilhem… I think he’s more than that guy on the cover– he’s a sweet, sunny, sparkle-boy! Ash’s exact opposite, in fact! What did you think about these guys? Did you like them? What did the title say to you?
Ilhem: When I first read the title, I thought of an otherworld where everything would be shiny, sparkling and flashing. Like Darian’s smile and a photo flash, or the silver reflection of a blade, now that I’ve read the book. I thought of superficiality too, because, really, glitter! I was expecting a rom com, I guess, a good old feel-good story. In this regard, the beginning was an amazing shock!
Ebetta: Yes! It was so much more, wasn’t it? Darian, the glitter-pirate, as Ash calls him, ‘sticks’ to Ash in a way, like glitter on skin. He may seem superficial at first, but Ash finds otherwise…
Ilhem : Oooh, clever! I had absolutely not caught on to the sticky glitter! Um…Sorry…Go on, please…
Ebetta : …you mentioned a silver blade… the author is clever with all these metaphors– knives show up a lot for Ash… he used one in his (pre-story) suicide attempt. He is numb, and he needs Darian’s light… Here’s another one for Ash:
“…the truth lay somewhere between, a thin grey line, slender as the edge of a knife.”
Before Darian, Ash tries to find his truth in a knife blade. With Darian, he is dazzled by his beauty. But he’s not always nice to him, is he?…
Ilhem: Let’s get this straight, I do not like Ash. I’ve been in his head for the entire book, followed his every thought, understood his pain and my heart went out to him, but I don’t like him. The author portrayed someone not only consumed by his disorder, but being his disorder, and he also made him interact in a way so that we can see the bipolarity, and then, there is Ash. His actions reveal an obnoxious, conceited and disloyal peacock. That’s not all what he is, but I was mad at him, okay! I didn’t like him and I didn’t need to, but I have hope for him.
I like Darian, his probably hard-won ability to be happy, his position that bipolarity just is. He is ridiculous and ridiculized. He’s beautiful (under the orange) and has a gift for life.
I think that the author played with appearances and superficiality when he portrayed them. He gave us something enormous to see and latch on to, and he made them show against their knowledge who they are.
I’m curious to see if people will take sides and for whom! What’s your final verdict?
Ebetta: I think we both like Darian, I’d have to side with him! I agree with you about Ash, he was difficult right up to the end. But, you know, Darian sees something to love in Ash– he has such a big heart, and hopefully Ash will deserve him!
I like this author’s style, it is exhuberent and humorous, and there is a joy to the writing. On the downside, it seems like he throws too much into the pot… I felt like a glutton at the richly-laden metaphor table. What did you think about the writing style?
Ilhem: I found him heavy handed with metaphors, too. Ash’s POV is distinctively voiced in delirious despair and biting sarcasm, but the author didn’t always find balance. I agree, you can sense an undercurrent energy and a torrent of ideas and images, but cruel choices must be made for the pace’s sake. I laughed though, and there are moments of perfection. Urgent, naked and beautiful:
“He was already halfway out of the kitchen, but I went after him, caught him by his arms, and spun him against the doorframe, leaning up to kiss him hard and urgently. Just once more. Then I’d let him go. “What about a quickie, then?”
“Uh, babes…” He laughed, a little awkwardly against my mouth.
I wound myself around him. Don’t go. Pressed a hand between his legs. Not yet.”
Even if I didn’t like Ash, I focused on his journey and like you, I loved the author’s insights on his characters and the relationships. What struck me was the difference in Niall’s (Ash’s BFF) and Ash’s sterile, destructive co-dependance. Darian’s and Ash’s relationship allows Ash to drop the safety net of the routine, and sparks this oh, so deliciously vibrant wanting! Need and want: in the end, that’s what this story is about for me and I bought the HFN without reserve. I remember how we were nervous that it would turn into a “love cures everything” kind of story!
Ebetta: It’s an honest story in that respect, isn’t it? Also, Darian forces the reader to face their own predjudices. This was about stereotypes too, how we are influenced by outward appearance. Ash accepts Darian’s OTT look, his thick Essex accent, and his basic kindness. Ash comes from a different world, he’s very much a snob, so he had a lot of learning to do.
Ilhem: You’re right, there is a satire about prejudices in there, too. Now, Niall. Dysfunctional, needy yet revelling in abnegation, always involved in impossible relationships where he is used, when he only wants to feel worthy. People resent him but can’t leave him… I want!
Ebetta: We need his story too! I liked the insight into these dysfunctional relationships and the author’s depth of commitment to the characters– he is definitely someone I’d like to read more of. I give “Glitterland 4 glittery stars. And you Ilhem?…
Ilhem: Well, I cringed, I sympathized, I smirked, I fumed and I took sides : 4 stars, it is. I’ll definitely follow Alexis Hall’s work too.
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Elizabetta & Ilhem are official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.
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