Monkey Poop

A Weblog of Unparalleled Eloquence

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Forcing yourself to read
In addition to critiquing each other's writing every other week, my critique group has a monthly (published) book discussion. We read MG to YA and all sorts of genres. Some of them we've loved and others....not so much. Right now I'm in the middle of a "not so much". I have read some RAVE reviews of this book (including one from a friend of mine) and want to know what happens, but reached a stopping point in the novel (where the author introduces a brand new first person POV character whose relationship to the previously 3rd person protagonist is not apparently obvious) and have had so much trouble picking it back up.

In the meantime I've read two other lighter novels (a mystery and a chick lit) both of which I devoured within a day.

My question to you is: should I give up or keep going?

Should I force myself to continue reading, knowing that I might potentially love this book at the end? Or should I just give up now and not torture myself further? There are plenty of other books out there to read, after all, but the fact that I purchased this book rather than just getting it from the library makes me want to finish it. I don't like having unfinished books on my bookshelf (but I don't mind returning unfinished ones to the library).

What do you do when you have to read a book that you don't want to read?

Aqua notepad
A notepad to write on in the shower! Cool! (via Inkygirl)

Here's a demonstration:


Dan Humphrey's Top Ten Book List
Have you seen this list of Gossip Girl character Dan Humphrey's favorite books for 2009? I haven't read any of them, but I have read other books by a few of these authors.

(via bookshelvesofdoom -- man she finds some good stuff!)

And check out my guest post to Livia Blackburne's blog:

Best books of 2009 -- of the ones I read anyway
Okay, so I was going to do this whole post about the best kid's books I read this year, but while I was going through my list on goodreads, I started to get confused about my star rating system. Then I thought, hmm...which books would I actually recommend as something worthwhile to read (five-star or not?). Here's they are, sorted by author's last name (note--these are not necessarily NEW books, just books I read this year):

My Favorite Books This Year

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle, #1)

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


The Hunger Games (Hunger Games, #1)

Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

A Northern Light

The London Eye Mystery

The London Eye Mystery
by Siobhan Dowd

Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy (Sammy Keyes)

Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy
by Wendelin Van Draanen


by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

Rapunzel's Revenge

Bad Kitty

Bad Kitty
by Michele Jaffe


Anne of Green Gables  (Anne of Green Gables, #1)

Anne of Green Gables
by L.M. Montgomery

Nim's Island
Nim's Island by Wendy Orr

Secret Keeper
Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes Mysteries, #3)
The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets
by Nancy Springer

When You Reach Me
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Never Trust a Dead Man
Never Trust a Dead Man
by Vivian Vande Velde

To Nook or Not to Nook

Dear Blog,

It has been a long time since I have posted anything and for that I apologize. I have no excuses other than to say that I just didn't feel like blogging. In lieu of posting a lame comic today, I decided that I would share some interesting e-reader news. The talk this week is that the Nook isn't all it's cracked up to be. Apparently, it has lots of bugs and is very slow (see links below). People speculate that once they've issued updates, it'll be much better though. I already have a Kindle so it doesn't really bother me much.

The next e-reader I buy will have a color e-ink screen and not just a separate LCD one. When I said this to fuhm, he pointed out that Pixel Qi has already starting making hybrid e-ink/color LCD screens which One Laptop Per Child will eventually be using for their $75 laptops so I would hope e-readers would at least incorporate this idea soon if they can't get the e-ink technology itself to be in color. (This screen looks pretty cool. One of the major flaws of laptops is that you can't really use them in the sunlight...)

Your friend,

P.S. Here are some links to Nook-related articles and blog posts(first two via @MichaelHyatt):

NY Times: Not Yet the Season for a Nook
Wall Street Journal: Nook E-Reader Has Potential, but Needs Work
PC World: Reviewers: The Nook Needs Some Work
ZDnet: eBook Readers: Stink, Stank, Stunk

Pixel Qi Screen Image from

New modernized Alice movie on Syfy this weekend
Syfy is airing a two-part modernized Alice of Wonderland movie this weekend. I never actually liked Alice in Wonderland that much (why do so many of my blog posts center around classics I didn't like? this seems wrong), not even the old Disney version, but this movie version could be interesting. Even my husband seemed interested which is a first.

BTW, have you seen the trailers for Disney's star-studded new version of Alice in Wonderland?

New Brontë movies: Ed Westwick as Heathcliff?

Apparently Twilight has popularized Wuthering Heights enough to the point where new film adaptations of both Wuthering Heights (by Emily Bronte) and Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Bronte) are being made.  As you may know, Wuthering Heights is the main character's favorite book in the Twilight series.

From the Guardian article:

Wuthering Heights, directed by Peter Webber, will star 22-year-old Ed Westwick, a British actor best known from the American teen TV series Gossip Girl, as an unusually youthful Heathcliff. Gemma Arterton, 23, will play Cathy.

I actually didn't like Wuthering Heights or the old 1939 movie version of it very much (see my posts about them) but with Ed Westwick aka Chuck Bass in the movie...I just might watch the new movie anyway. :)

While I didn't enjoy Twilight very much either, I would recommend The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, which is often compared to Wuthering Heights (and Jane Eyre -- which I did like).

(via Bookshelves of Doom)

p.s. have you read about the new Twilight inspired covers for Wuthering Heights?

Image by Pyxopotamus/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

South Asian YA Lit Bibliography
amithaknight has a great list online of YA books that depict South Asia and South Asian chacters. Head over there and check it out! She also has lists of picture booksfolk/fairytales, and what she calls "crossover" books (not sure what that means, but the books look interesting nonetheless).

I wish I'd had a list like this when I was a kid!

(via: Reading in Color)

Writing Tips from TV: Lessons from Project Runway
I love Project Runway. Drama + high fashion + catty fighting = Awesome. But probably the most fun part about this show is watching creative minds at work. But what lessons can a writer take away from this show?

#1) Be original and true to yourself.

Sounds corny, but every season, someone learns this lesson the hard way. What happens is, the designers are often given a challenge to make something for a particular brand or for a specific famous designer's line. And there is at least one person who takes their instructions too literally and their designs end up looking like cheap knock-offs rather than inspired creations.

Don't let this happen to you. Yes, you should read lots and lots of books to study your craft, but there is a fine line between learning from a good author and trying too hard to be just like them. Try to create your own voice and style, don't try too hard to be your favorite author.

#2) Even if you sketched out a plan before hand, don't be afraid to make big changes as you go along. In Tim Gunn's words: Make it work.

On Project Runway, the designers are given time to sketch, then time to buy fabric, and then time to sew. Sometimes a designer will start off making what they thought would be a masterpiece based on their sketch, but in practice actually looks like a "hot mess" (catchphrase from a past contestant on the show). Loser always try too hard to stick with the design they have when they know it's not good and end up making excuses to the judges about why their design sucks. Winners aren't afraid to revise their plans completely--even if it wasn't what they originally envisioned.

#3) When receiving feedback, know when to listen to and when not to.

This is hard to do. When Tim Gunn or Nina Garcia tells you that there's a problem with your design you should listen. But what about feedback from fellow designers? Everyone has seen the catty remarks where one contestant will tell the cameras that so-and-so has no talent and has made a terrible dress--which of course ends up winning at the end of the day. On the flipside, we have also seen designers get told several times that they "aren't taking their vision far enough" or that "those shorts shouldn't be large enough to fit two people" and then end up being sent home by the judges because they didn't listen to their fellow contestants' advice.

But how do you know the difference between good advice and bad? This is tricky and I have trouble with this in my critique group. I'm sure I've given people bad advice and I'm sure people have given me bad advice, but ultimately, it's up to the author to decide what changes to make based on feedback. My critique group buddy Peta offers some advice on this in her blog and I think what she says is really useful: if it's one person's advice don't change it unless you agree with it. If it's two people- -think harder about your choices as you keep going. If it's three people--you know something's wrong.

#4) When working as a team, be a team.

They often have group projects where designers have to work in groups of 2-3. They generally have their own designs to make, but have to make them work together as a whole. Losing designers don't collaborate and end up with 2-3 pieces that don't fit together at all. Winning designers do put their own spin on their own dress to make it their own, but they also make sure they end up with a cohesive line of clothes.

When working as a co-author, you need to do the same thing--cooperate with your partner. Incorporate both of your individual ideas into one cohesive final product. (Interested in more tips about writing with a co-author? Check out my "Tips for Writing With a Co-Author" blog series.)

#5) Stand behind your final work

When it's time to face the judges, contestants on Project Runway who are confident about their work are often able to convince the judges of the merit in their often imperfect creations. The judges come away thinking something along the lines of: "This person had a great concept for their design. With a few revisions, here and there, this person's work could be genius." Likewise, when it comes time to submitting your work to agents and editors, don't sell yourself short by sounding too coy or self-deprecating in your query letter. You are the only one who knows the merit in your work and if you don't stand behind it, no one else will.

Have you learned any tips from Project Runway?

Writer Dorothy Crane Imm actually wrote a really great article about this in a past SCBWI Bulletin (July/August '09 issue for those who are members), but I thought I would give my own spin on the subject since I love this show so much. If you can't read her article, check out her recently published story Ghost Walk in Gatlinburg at Story Station.

Leanne Marshall Runway photo from Maddsmadds / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Tim Gunn photo from Photophonic / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Hershey dress (designers were asked to make a dress from materials sent by Hershey's) photo from mkmabus / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


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