The 5th Annual Aaron Book Awards

31 12 2016

Has it already been half a decade since I’ve been doing this?! Wowzers.

Like the Academy Awards, I’ve changed some of the rules and categories this year. I’ve cut the category of Best Non-Fiction Book because it was too difficult to compare, say, a book about the history of Vancouver, to a book on exercise.

Although Classic has been a category for the past couple years, I’ve added all the titles with the rest of the fiction books (or plays if I elected to read a Shakespeare play as a Classic). This year, I’m going to put them in their own category.

Also, I decided a book is only eligible for the category that I had chosen it for. So for example, Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, is both a Children’s Book as well as a Graphic Novel. In past years, I allowed books to be entered in multiple genres if they were multi-genre works, but decided that this was unfair to other books that were, say, simply novels. In addition, some categories had more nominees than others. So Sisters will only be in the running for Best Graphic Novel since that is the category for which I had chosen it.

With that out of the way, let’s start the show!

Total number of books read in 2016: 42 (a new record! Although some books I didn’t actually read all the way through, so maybe not)

Best Fiction Book/Novel

Winner: Sharp Teeth — Toby Barlow

I feel like I should pick Roadside Picnic because it is considered to be an important work in the sci-fi genre, and yes, it is an intriguing story, but I still have to go with Sharp Teeth because it hooked me right off the bat and was one of the most visceral books I’ve ever read, not to mention the experimental way its written is pretty damn awesome.

Nominees:

Sharp Teeth — Toby Barlow
One Man’s Trash — Ivan E. Coyote
Roadside Picnic — Arkadiĭ and Boris Strugat͡skiĭ
The Slow Fix — Ivan E. Coyote

Best Memoir

Winner: The Glass Castle — Jeannette Walls

A very well-written memoir about a family. Not much else to say except that everyone should read it.

Nominees:

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) — Jenny Lawson
Humans of New York — Brandon Stanton
Paper Shadows — Wayson Choy
Deep Too — Stan Dragland
The Glass Castle — Jeannette Walls

Best Play

Winner: Waiting for Godot — Samuel Beckett

I said it in my review for the book, and I’ll say it again. Man, this was a depressing play about feeling stagnant and stuck. I didn’t think I’d be able to relate so much to an absurdist play like this.

Nominees:

Death of a Salesman — Arthur Miller
The Laramie Project — Moisés Kaufman
The Glass Menagerie — Tennessee Williams
Waiting for Godot — Samuel Beckett
Othello — William Shakespeare

Best Children’s Book

Winner: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — J.K. Rowling

I had no idea all I read this year was Harry Potter. Jeez. Honestly, it’s difficult to pick one of the HP books (Up and Down, although cute, just can’t compete with books about kids dying), I ultimately picked The Goblet of Fire because it was a turning point in the series for me. The first three books laid the foundation for the series, and near the end of Goblet of Fire, there was a sense that the stakes had been raised quite dramatically with the genuinely shocking death of Cedric Diggory. More horrified I was that Cedric’s death happened in front of a freakin’ teenager who was bound to be traumatized after. Goblet of Fire was the book that finally stepped into mature themes, creating foreboding that permeated throughout the rest of the series. No one was safe anymore.

Nominees:

Up and Down — Oliver Jeffers
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince — J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — J.K. Rowling

Best Gay/Queer Book

Winner: The Riddle of the Sands — Geoffrey Knight

Yeah, it’s campy, sexy fun, but I gotta say, it’s well-paced and there’s more (and better) plot than all of the Bourne movies. Plus the sexy guys having gay sex. Woot.

Nominees:

The Hardest Thing — James Lear
Strip — Andrew Binks
The Riddle of the Sands — Geoffrey Knight
The Cross of Sins — Geoffrey Knight

Best Graphic Novel

Winner: The Arrival — Shaun Tan

Extra props for being able to create different atmospheres using only pictures. Truly awesome. As in leaves me in awe.

Nominees:

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets — Hubert
The Shadow Hero — Gene Luen Yang
Bone, Vol. 1 — Jeff Smith
The Arrival — Shaun Tan
Angel Catbird, Vol. 1 — Margaret Atwood
Sisters — Raina Telgemeier

Best YA Novel

Winner: Ghost World — Daniel Clowes

Although none of the nominees really blew me away, at least Ghost World‘s crushing ending was nice.

Nominees:

Ghost World — Daniel Clowes
Gone, Gone, Gone — Hannah Moskowitz
Way to Go — Tom Ryan
You Know Me Well — David Levithan and Nina LaCour
Whatever. — S.J. Goslee

Best Classic Book

Winner: The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath

The Kite Runner — Khaled Hosseini
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — Robert Louis Stevenson
Memoirs of a Geisha — Arthur GoldenThe Legacy/A Town Called Alice — Nevil Shute
The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath

Best Book of 2016

Nominees:

Sharp Teeth — Toby Barlow
The Glass Castle — Jeannette Walls
Waiting for Godot — Samuel Beckett
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — J.K. Rowling
The Riddle of the Sands — Geoffrey Knight
The Arrival — Shaun Tan
Ghost World — Daniel Clowes
The Bell Jar — Sylvia Plath

Winner: Waiting for Godot — Samuel Beckett

This was the most difficult pick I’ve made since I started compiling these lists. Even I’m not sure I chose the “best” one, since all these books were great in their own different ways. I do think that Waiting for Godot managed to convey so many themes in such subtle ways, and of course it was depressing as hell, which I’m always a sucker for.

Congrats to all the winners! What will I read next year?

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I want to write a book.

22 11 2016

It’s a strange feeling, to want to write something as arduous as a book. Usually, the only cravings I’ll get are for chips or chocolate but somehow I found myself wondering why I shouldn’t write a novel — and this is coming from someone who doesn’t usually write fiction. I’ve always found it difficult to craft something entirely made-up; mostly I’m just not sure 1) I have enough plot to tell a story, and 2) anyone will truly believe what I’m writing. Yet I do have ideas for novels, including a YA novel that, the more I think about it, the more difficult it actually seems to write. I suppose I’m kind of going in circles here, but bear with me, this is a stream-of-consciousness thing and I’m not going to go back and edit this so too bad if it’s one big mess of ideas.

I think the problem I have with writing a novel is that it’s daunting. The word count is daunting. The amount of time people spend — years upon years of their lives — is daunting. Creating something good, telling a worthwhile story — it’s all daunting to me. I think part of the problem is that I build up this idea of how to write a novel that I don’t even begin doing it. That’s why I think National Novel Writing Month is so awesome; the idea of writing an entire novel in a month — or rather, that someone, anyone, could, over the course of 30 days, simply write a book — is amazing to me. It doesn’t have to be that hard. And I think this is what I’m slowly learning. Writing doesn’t have to be that hard (if you know the story you’re trying to tell). What it takes some writers up to a decade to write could take others — including myself — a few weeks.

I could do it, I’ve been telling myself. I could, if I truly wanted to.





Whatever

5 10 2016

I really wanted to like this book.

As a fan of gay-themed YA fiction, this sounded like another hit. Unfortunately, there are too many characters, most of whom are half-fleshed out and at times feel extraneous. But the real issue I have about this book is the depiction of the main character; I like that Mike isn’t a stereotype but at the same time, his character isn’t much of anything. He’s overdramatic and constantly whines that his life suuucks beyond all comprehension and although teenagers are bound to think like this, Mike doesn’t feel authentic, but rather someone’s idea of an adolescent male. Mike’s belief that his life is the worst when figuring out his sexuality could at least be understood and empathized if the stakes were high, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Being gay doesn’t appear to be a big deal for Mike and his schoolmates so his thoughts come off as childish and unfounded rather than authentic.

The writing style also takes some getting used to as well, and I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. Whatever doesn’t add anything to the plethora of ideas of what it means to be queer for young people these days. There are better gay teen novels out there.

Also, this is me trying to be like a too-cool-for-school teen with bright colours. I don’t think it worked. But the colours are bright!

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Deep Too

27 09 2016

I’m not sure I fully got this. But it was neat to see what a mixed-genre memoir could look like, especially one from a Canadian author. That’s all I really have to say.

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Roadside Picnic

20 09 2016

As a fan of Stalker, I’ve been meaning to read this for quite some time but never got around to it. It’s much different than the film, which was a bit surprising, especially since the two guys who wrote the book also cowrote the film. I do have to say, although I’m not usually a fan of sci-fi, I found the sci-fi elements in the book to be intriguing and I wish there was some sort of glossary out there that defined all the various alien technology and anomalies. It was pretty cool.

The first third I found difficult to get into. The writing style is a lot different than what I’m used to, and it might be because it’s a work in translation. I almost gave up — but I’m glad I didn’t because the last chapter was everything I wanted the book to be.

I’m trying to show cleavage in the pic, if you’re wondering. I think it just looks weird.

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You Know Me Well

3 09 2016

I’ll always read David Levithan’s books, even if they’re just okay, like this one. I don’t really have much to say about it except that I liked his previous collaborations with John Green and Rachel Cohn better.

Also, my cat knows me well.

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The Cross of Sins

27 08 2016

A little while back, I read Riddle of the Sands, thinking it was the first book of a series. I also read it thinking it was gonna be filled with sex. I was wrong about both of those things. It turned out to be a fun, fast-paced read, with some but little erotic moments. When I was done, I was hooked. I had to find out what this series was about.

Unfortunately, Riddle of the Sands was the only book in the series at the library, so I placed an interlibrary loan that made its way to me much quicker than I thought it would. The Cross of Sins, though not quite as thrilling as its sequel, was still an entertaining read. If I had read this first, honestly I’m not are I would’ve been interested enough to read the second book but I’m glad I did. There were also quite a number of spelling errors in the edition I borrowed. Tsk tsk.

Apparently there’s a book in the series that takes place in China. I hope there will be some hot sex with locals though I’m not at all holding my breath. In the meantime, here’s me at work again.

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