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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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?


The Kite Runner

5 04 2016

So… this wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. And maybe the novel is better than the graphic novel but I have a feeling the language is what makes the novel so beloved to begin with. My main problem was that I found the main character so passive and inept that it was difficult to relate or sympathize with him, even when he loses his father or frustratingly fails time and time again to mend the relationship with his best friend and servant. Argh.

As for most people’s reviews saying they wept like a baby because the story was so sad… it reminds me of someone’s comment on Grave of the Fireflies. Lots of people also thought that film was super sad, but one person noted how the sadness in the movie is like a jump scare in a horror film — it’s too obvious. The film is trying too hard to make you feel things that it comes across as forced rather than natural and subtle. That’s why I thought the ending of Tale of Princess Kaguya was infinitely sadder than Grave of the Fireflies. And that’s why I didn’t feel sad at all reading The Kite Runner. It was too forced, trying too hard to be a tear-jerker, which only made me roll my eyes.

This review on Goodreads pretty much sums up my feelings about it:

“The very best part of the novel is its warm depiction of the mixed culture of Afghanistan, and how it conveys the picture of a real Afghanistan as a living place, before the coup, the Soviet invasion, and above all, the Taliban and the aftermath of September 11th created a fossilized image in the US of a failed state, petrified in “backwardness” and locked in the role of a villain from central casting.

Now for the not so good.

== Spoiler Alert ==
… because I don’t think I’m going to be able to complain about what I didn’t like about the book without revealing major plot points. (Not to mention, some of what follows will only make sense to someone who has read the book.) So if you don’t want to spoil it for yourself, read no further, here be spoilers:

My overwhelming emotion throughout the book is feeling entirely manipulated. Of course, one major reason for this is that the author’s attempts at metaphor, allegory, and forshadowing are utterly ham-fisted. When he wants to make a point, he hits you over the head with it, hard — Amir’s split lip / Hassan’s cleft palate comes immediately, resoundingly to mind.

But I feel manipulated beyond that. The members of the servant class in this story suffer tragic, unspeakable calamities, sometimes at the hands of our fine hero, and yet the novel seems to expect the reader to reserve her sympathies for the “wronged” privileged child, beating his breast over the emotional pain of living with the wounds he has selfishly inflicted upon others. How, why, am I supposed to feel worse for him as he feels bad about what he has done to others? Rather than feeling most sympathy and kinship for those who, through absolutely no fault of their own, must suffer, not just once or twice, but again and again?

Of course this elevation of / identification with the “wounded”/flawed hero goes hand in hand with an absolutely detestable portrayal of the members of the servant class as being at their utmost happiest when they are being their most servile and utterly subjugating their own needs, wants, desires, pleasures — their own selves, in fact — to the needs of their masters. (Even when they are protecting their masters from their own arrogance, heartlessness, or downright stupidity.)

I don’t see how the main character, Amir, could possibly be likeable. Amir’s battle with Assef, momentous as it is, is not so much him taking a stand because he feels driven to do so or feels that he must. Rather, he acts with very little self-agency at all — he is more or less merely carried forward into events. (And, moreover, in the end it is Sohrab (Hassan again) who saves him.)

I finished the novel resenting Amir, and even more intensely resenting the author for trying to make the reader think she’s supposed to care about Amir, more than about anyone else in the story.

A couple other points: I’m wondering if one theme of the novel is that there are no definitive happy endings, no single immutable moments of epiphany or redemption. Because Amir’s moral “triumph”, such as it is, over Assef, is so short-lived. He manages to crash horrifically only a week or two later, when he goes back on his word to Sohrab about his promise not to send him to an orphanage.

And lastly, I don’t understand why Baba’s hypocrisy is not more of a theme. He makes such a point of drilling into his son’s head that a lie is a theft of one’s right to the truth. His own hipocrisy there is a profound thing, and it’s a shame the author doesn’t do more with it.”

So after reading the graphic novel, I thought I might just read the novel version. And then I thought more about it and decided, nah. Once is more than enough.

kite runner


26 12 2013

Me and my new purple shirt from American Apparel! Oh, and Divergent, which was ok.IMG_1936


NaNoWriMo: Day 1

1 11 2013

Words written: 407

Words written for my novel: 0

Well, here’s the thing. As predicted, school is getting in my way of writing my novel. I have a one-minute assignment for my lame film production class and I wrote out a short scene  which I think I’ll be filming tomorrow. So that’s what I’ve been doing today. I’m not even sure how to begin my novel. I probably should’ve done an actual outline before November so I know what the hell I’m doing.

I’ll get to it tomorrow. Yeah. Totally.


National Novel Writing Month

31 10 2013

It kinda scares me. Well, makes me a bit anxious because I want to do it, and I feel like I could do it — if I weren’t a full-time student and working part-time as well. I know the point of NaNoWriMo is to try and finish a novel but I already know that if I don’t finish it, i won’t be very happy. I suppose it will depend on how busy I am and how many excuses I will allow myself if I don’t end up finishing it. I’m sure next year I’ll be able to get down to it more, or even dedicating December as my real NaNoWriMo. Anyway.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, find me!

Two Boys Kissing

28 10 2013

Thank you, David Levithan, for distracting me from the boredom and monster that is schoolwork. Also, I love this book, as I do all of your novels. You are awesome.

2013-10-28 23.51.36

I WILL be a writer.

7 09 2013

For some reason, I’ve been feeling lately like I could really be a writer and write books and novels and all that stuff. For anyone that knows me, I haven’t really believed that I could ever finish a book and get it published, so this is a really good feeling. I think part of it is having read Amber Dawn’s memoir, who is a friend and colleague, has made me realize that people can do it — and I can be one of those people.

So yes. I WILL be a writer. And I WILL get a book published — not in five or ten years, but quite soon. I know it. I can feel it.

Can’t let go

17 07 2013

I don’t know about everyone else, but sometimes when I get really invested in a story, when I care about the characters and their ordeals and want things to end well for them so badly, I get attached to a novel to the point where, when I finish it, I’m still thinking about it, replaying my favourite scenes in my head. This doesn’t happen very often, and certainly hasn’t happened in quite some time.

It happened today when I finished Where You Are. Andrew and Robert lingered in my mind, their smiles as they kissed and held each other. I had grown so attached to them and their story, it didn’t feel right returning the novel so quickly to the library, as if there might be a scene I would have to re-read in the middle of the night to comfort myself that one day, I too might find my Andrew (or Robert). It felt like I knew these two, like there was some special bond created when I read their story, like I was now involved somehow. It’s strange, yet comforting. Part of it is the hopeful ending (which I am incredibly glad for) that kept me thinking of what their life might be like further down the road. I suppose the other part is that the story, about two people who genuinely seem like they’re made for each other, really resonated with me.

I like to think this strange attachment is indicative of a good story, to be emotionally invested with the story and/or the characters. I’ve never really considered myself to be a fiction writer– creative non-fiction, poetry, and even writing my TV pilot come more easily to me– but upon reading Where You Are, I wish I could give someone else that same feeling. Maybe I could write a novel someday and do that too.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

20 06 2013

IMG_1760The latest book I had a hookup with.

Hidden — Tomas Mournian

26 04 2013

I finished this book but I didn’t like it nor did I take a picture of me and the book. Probably because I wanted to return it and get it out of my hands.


Here’s a comment I left on the VPL’s page after reading it:

Well, I will have to respectfully disagree with the previous comment. I think there’s a good story here, but the narration of the protagonist is so ingratiating. self-pitying, and overdramatic (even if teens are overdramatic, they’re not this overdramatic) that it becomes difficult to care about Ahmed’s struggles. As well, I found Mournian’s style of writing to take me out of the story (ie, breaking up dialogue with unnecessary action and then finishing the rest of the sentence). Less than halfway through the book I wondered if I should’ve even bothered finishing it because it wasn’t very interesting and engaging. Mournian may have a journalism background but it doesn’t translate well to a novel. Parts are confusing to imagine, particularly the rushed ending. Anyway, this is probably scathing enough. If by about a hundred pages in you’re not sure if you should continue, I would put it down (and I’ll tell you what happens).