Featured Book Review: Glitterland by Alexis Hall
This story is powerful and humbling, and alternately heartbreakingly poignant and laugh out loud funny. It made my chest hurt and my cheeks ache. It’s haunting me a little, because I want to spend more time with Ash and his clever, sarcastically alluring neurosis… and also with Darian and his innocent, vain, chatty, verbage-challenged ‘glitter pirate’ persona. Glitterland, ghels and geezas, is something very special – an absolute ‘must read’ and a GraveTells Fave!
*** This review is spoiler-free! Read on with confidence! ***
When I first read the description of this book, my immediate and emphatic reaction was “Oh hell no, that sounds depressing, dreary, and boring. Next!” (and don’t you dare stop reading this review right here!). At a recent readers convention, I stopped by the Riptide Publishing booth and the editors assured me that this book was worth the read. They were so excited about it, they were talking with hand gestures and seemed at a loss for the words to illustrate just why Glitterland is in a class of its own. So I promised I’d give it a go and you know what? They were right. This story is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It is simultaneously elegant and amusing and sad and beautifully expressive. The characters are not your standard romance blokes, nor does the author try to mold them into something “normal”. Babes, I totes need me some friends like Darian!
Glitterland is a game changer. It is poignant and life affirming, a celebration of what it means to be alive and to make those necessary, healthy intimate connections with people regardless of their IQ or sexual orientation or where they grew up. It’s also sad in some very personal ways that will make you reassess your own friendships and color the way you see your own personal failures. This story shines a light on the debilitating sickness that is depression and shows us both the dark underbelly and the magic highs and how making the right connections can help temper life into an experience you want to keep on living.
Glitterland is easily one of the best books of the year.
This book is incredibly quotable. Below are just a few of my favorites, and I probably over-shared as it is! Hope you enjoy them as much as I did…
What it is to be Ash…
In the past, I walk between green lawns, surrounded by golden stone.
In the past, I am brilliant and I am happy and my every tomorrow is madness.
In the past, words shimmer around me on silver threads and I pluck them like summer peaches.
In the past, the universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand. I am the axis of the world.
In the past, I am soaring, and falling, and breaking, and lost.
Then there are grey walls all around, a sullen haze of medication where minutes and months lose all their meaning.
Afterwards, I performed the halting ceremony of betterness in a crawl of grey days. Somehow, I started writing again, laying words out like cutlery. Niall moved in. And then out again.
And now there was this. And yesterday.
Love Darian. LOVE. HIM!
“Some people fink it’s a bit shallow, but what I fink is that if you really like fink ’ard abaht it, then y’know . . . that’s ahwight.”
“Please stop talking.”
“Sorry, babes, I do run on.” Five seconds later: “D’you wanna see my catwalk walk?”
“Will you be quiet while you do it?”
He sashayed off, starlight catching at his epaulettes. My gaze slid down his spine in a caress as fervent as a sigh.
“Well, whadyafink?” He stopped a few feet away and spun round to face me.
My eyes—which had been riveted to his hips—flicked reluctantly back up. He smiled, a touch shyly, one side of his mouth quirking up a split second before the other. “I’m honestly no judge, but I could watch you walk up and down all day.”
“Awww, babes, that’s proper sweet.”
I stared at the ground, flustered.
“As a special reward, I’ll show you my pose.”
It’s easier to hide the scars on the inside…
I turned the light off.
He turned it back on.
And I turned it off again. My body had too many secrets for me to share them with strangers. And there were too many questions I didn’t like having to answer.
“Ahwight, babes,” he said gently, for once getting a fucking clue.
The darkness came between us, sealing me safe inside my skin with the too-rapid rhythm of my heart. The thin curtains admitted only a faint glow from the street outside, enough to see the shape but not the certainty of things. Essex was just a shadow in the room, the shadow of a thing I wanted, which was itself a shadow of wanting. But it was unspeakably sweet to feel even that, and terrifying to know how quickly it would pass. A moment inscribed on water, a memory that would fade to grey. I was nothing but a ghost hunter, chasing the wraith of the man I used to be. A beachcomber of my own detritus.
Condiment or food? You decide!
“You ’aven’t got no food eeva.”
“No, seriously, look.” He unwound us, took my hand, and pulled me into the kitchen, flinging wide my fridge door.
I pointed at the jar of Branston Pickle. “That’s food.”
“That’s a condiment, babes.”
“It is not a condiment. It contains vegetables. Ergo, it’s a foodstuff.”
“Anyfing what you put on anuvver fing is a condiment.”
“Well, by that twisted logic, maybe.”
When asking for cooking assistance from a friend, it’s important to hash out the sexy scale of the salad…
“All right,” he continued, “how about pear and Roquefort with a honey and ginger dressing?”
“That’s a sex salad, is it? Because, to me, blue cheese does not scream passion. But,” I added, with a play of reluctance, “I suppose I’ll have to trust you.”
“It’s a salad. It doesn’t need a safeword. I’ll send you the details. Also, we should go for a coffee.”
Darian on the appeal of Masterchef…
“Aw, babes, you’re missing out big time. It’s amazin. The stuff they make on there . . . amazin. And there’s this voiceover what’s all like—” He dropped his voice into a low purr. “—‘Barry has prepared a filo of poutine wif a glazed salmon jus, pan-seared girolles, celeriac mash, and a basil and honey cream glaze.’ And, mate, I gotta say I don’t know what they’re on abaht ’alf the time but I feel like I really wanna know, janarwhatamean?”
“I do know that if you try to pan-sear my girolles, I’ll be throwing you out.”
He laughed. “But, yeah, you should totally watch it, babes. Just not the celebrity version cos that’s rubbish cos they can’t cook. And it’s always like MC Hammer ’as made beans on toast and you’re sitting at ’ome finking like, oi, I can do that, fank you very much.”
*uses best Tom Hanks voice* There’s no crying in… the kitchen!
I nodded towards the iPod dock, and he turned it on, filling the kitchen with one of Bach’s cello suites. He hastily turned it off again. “Not what I ’ad in mind.”
I glanced up from The Times. “Not to your taste?”
“Naw, it’s not that, babes, it’s just I don’t wanna be crying on the floor when I’m trying to cook my nan’s cottage pie. Are you like allergic to fun or summin?”
“Yes, I’m in a programme. I have my five year token.”
Writer to runway model, all in a day’s work!
“Ohmigod, babes.” Darian’s reflection appeared next to mine and I spun quickly away. He was wearing ripped jeans, a white shirt split to the navel, and a slim-fitting blue velvet jacket. “You look well nice.” His eyes travelled up and down my body, making me hot and self-conscious and thrilled all at once. “Well nice. Like . . . like Sandy at the end of Grease.”
My mouth fell open. “Did you really just compare me to Olivia Newton-John?”
“I just meant like going from, y’know, prim to all sexed up.”
“I feel . . . weird.”
“You look amazin. Amazin.”
He pulled me against him, hands snaking under the glamour cardigan to make the acquaintance of my arse.
Chloe gave a warning screech. “Don’t smudge ’im!”
Fess up, authors! Who else does this?
“What’s your name?”
“What, the novelist?”
Too late now. “Yes.”
“I dig your books. I enjoy a good mystery. But I don’t know why you keep murdering everybody your detective likes.”
“It’s so I don’t have to bother with character development.