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?

waiting-for-godot





Sexual racism encounter #74

29 11 2016

On Grindr:

Him: I’m Italian Canadian. What’s your ethnicity?
Me: (hesitantly) I’m Chinese. May I ask how old you are?

Five seconds later, the conversation disappears. I’ve been blocked.





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!

img_20161005_232913





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.

image





Riddle of the Sands

18 07 2016

This was a lot more fun and not as erotic as I thought. I also had no idea this was the second book in a series which explains why there was so little setup introducing the (too many) characters and what they do. But that doesn’t matter when there are more twists and turns in the plot that both Hunger Games: Mockingjay movies combined (though that’s not saying that much).

Placed an interlibrary loan for the first book because I’m intrigued by this series now. Whaddya know? There is such a thing as decent gay fiction after all.

image





Back into it

5 06 2016

I think I should start trying to post something every day. This blog is slowly turning into a tumblr featuring me almost naked holding books, like I’m some sort of slutty librarian.

Also, I like this old picture.

aaron_funky





Strip

24 04 2016

I like to think of my reading list as fairly selective, and because of this, perhaps I have high expectations about how good they should be. It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while, I will begin a book and within the first few pages, I won’t be hooked and I won’t enjoy the story for whatever reason.

Many a year ago when this book came out, I read about it in the paper and thought it sounded like an interesting novel (and also written by a local writer too!). I put it on my Later list– it was only now, years later, that I finally got around to it. I think my expectations this time around were fairly low, but Strip just didn’t click for me, and I was once again disappointed (as I was when The Geography of Pluto turned out to be a bore). The writing itself isn’t bad at all, although the writer over-describes things that don’t necessarily warrant so much figurative language.

But mostly, this book just has a really unlikeable protagonist that I found yelling at on a few occasions while reading, particularly when he goes on and on about his ballet instructor legend/lover who abruptly disappears. From all the Daniel this, and Daniel that, you’d think the protagonist was sixteen, not a twenty-something year old. However, I’d say the thing that made reading the first 60 or so pages of this book so difficult was that John, the protagonist, doesn’t tell the audience how he feels about certain events or people or things (aside from the aforementioned whining about Daniel and how he looks down on fellow dancers). This renders the story inaccessible and difficult for the reader to really empathize with anything that happens, not to mention it makes John come across as arrogant and not self-aware. Maybe it gets better when he gets to be a stripper, but I didn’t even get that far (also, for all the pages spent pining and moaning about Daniel, the plot could’ve moved along a little faster).

Sigh. Gay literature, like gay films, it seems, is really hit or miss.

Although you can’t see because the entire photo is blurry, the cover of the book is actually an out-of-focus shot of the backside of a male, so I thought I’d try to recreate it. I’m not exactly thrilled about sharing my ass to the world since I’m not a muscular dancer, but there you go. Enjoy it before I regret it.

strip