New Year, New-ish Goals

A few months before my birthday last year, I composed a lofty post with 40 Things To Do When I Turn 40. Now, here I am facing down 41 and realizing that I never completed that list. There were 14 things undone! So, this year, I’m giving myself another challenge: Knock out those 14 items AND complete 17 more.

(Yes, a ton of these goals are food-related. Because that is just the kind of person I am!)

1. Go axe-throwing.
2. Get a massage (I’ve STILL yet to have one).
3. Get some soul food.
4. Go to an arcade or Dave & Buster’s-esque place for Skee-Ball.
5. Vacation some place warm.
6. Get purple highlights.
7. Make out with somebody.
8. Win the Hamilton lottery (LOL!).
9. Go on a good date!
10. Visit a state I haven’t been to before.
11. Learn how to make samosas.
12. Take a boxing workout class. DONE!
13. Plan that bucket-list trip to Scotland to tour some scotch distilleries.
14. Do pub trivia.
15. Finish writing another book.
16. Finally buy myself a DVD player.
17. Visit a place with historical or natural significance (The Grand Canyon, Washington D.C., etc).
18. Take a salsa class.
19. See Captain Marvel.
20. Try another regional cuisine I’ve never had before.

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Mala’s December 2018 Hot Reads

I finished 120 books in 2018. A few rereads, but mostly new-to-me titles—and not counting stuff I may have forgotten to log. That is 15 down from 2017. Boo!

It’s no wonder I lost my steam in December, going several days without reading anything at all (I know, I know…a terrible place to be!). Luckily, what I DID manage to get to made a helluva impact. Tasha Suri’s debut Mughal Empire-inspired fantasy, Empire of Sand, knocked my socks off and made my year-end favorites list. And Alyssa Cole’s An Unconditional Freedom was phenomenal—emotional, brilliantly crafted, with a story about the past saying painful things about our present—reaffirming why she’s one of the most talented writers working today. I also got approved for an ARC of The Everlasting Rose, the sequel to Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles, and fell head-first into her worldbuilding and exquisite descriptions.

The Reading Rundown
Reindeer Games by Adriana Anders, Ainsley Booth, Andie J. Christopher, et al (anthology, contemporary romance, erotic romance)
The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton (out 3/5, young adult fantasy)
An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole (out 2/26, historical romance)
Better at Weddings Than You by Mina V. Esguerra (contemporary romance)
The Turn by Kim Harrison (urban fantasy)
Rogue Nights by Talia Hibbert, Annabeth Albert, Rebecca Crowley, et al (anthology, contemporary romance)
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri (fantasy)
Unwrapping Mr. Roth by Holley Trent (paranormal romance, erotic romance)


Currently reading: At His Lady’s Command by Nicola Davidson.

On the TBR/wish list:
Internment by Samira Ahmed (out 3/19)
Hired by Zoey Castile (out 2/26)
A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna
Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik (out 2/5)
Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse (out 4/23)
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (out 2/5)

Mala’s Best of 2018 Pop Culture Round-Up

2018 has felt approximately 224 years long, so I honestly don’t remember a lot of the pop culture I consumed and/or enjoyed. It’s like a blur. And that’s funny, because I feel like I immersed myself in film, TV, and books even more deeply than I did in 2017. It’s probably the most productive thing I did—-if you don’t count moving to an entirely new city.

Favorite Books
Lake Silence by Anne Bishop
The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
The Governess Game by Tessa Dare
The Princess Trap by Talia Hibbert
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Tempest by Beverly Jenkins
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri

Favorite Movies
Black Panther
Creed 2
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
The Hate U Give
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
*Honorable mentions to Venom and The Meg, because they were so goddamn delightful.

Favorite Shows
Black Lightning (The CW)
Descendants of the Sun (Kdrama)
The Good Place (NBC)
Murphy Brown (CBS)
One Day at a Time (Netflix)
Something in the Rain (Kdrama)
Siren (Freeform)
Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access)

Favorite Lead Actress: Constance Wu, Crazy Rich Asians; Eileen Davidson, The Young and the Restless; Viola Davis, How to Get Away With Murder; Sarayu Blue, I Feel Bad.

Favorite Lead Actor: Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther; Cress Williams, Black Lightning; Drake Hogestyn, Days of our Lives (Don’t even laugh! 2018 was Drake’s year!).

Favorite Supporting Actress: Camryn Grimes, The Young and the Restless; Letitia Wright, Black Panther.

Favorite Supporting Actor: Michael Mealor, The Young and the Restless; Russell Hornsby, The Hate U Give.

Favorite Scene Stealer: Manny Jacinto as Jason on The Good Place; John Aniston as Victor on Days of Our Lives; Rita Moreno as Lydia on One Day at a Time.

Favorite Ensemble: One Day at a Time, The Good Place, Black Lightning, Descendants of the Sun.

Favorite Canon ‘Ships: Eleanor and Chidi, The Good Place; Anissa and Grace, Black Lightning; Ben/Maddie/Ryn, Siren; Michael and Ash, Star Trek: Discovery.

Favorite Non-canon ‘Ships: The MCU’s Bucky and Shuri, Y&R’s Kyle and Mariah, Y&R’s Kyle and Mattie, Solo‘s Han and Lando.

Favorite Piece of Fan Fiction I Wrote This Year: The Shape of You (Kyle/Mattie) and Quality Reassurance (Bucky/Shuri).

Favorite Twitter Account: Chris Evans as Golden Retrievers, @retrievans.

Mala’s November 2018 Hot Reads

I am ending the year on a fairly strong note, folks! I’m kind of proud of myself! From a slew of strong contemporary romances to mainlining three of Rosie Claverton’s Amy Lane mysteries in one weekend, I really made some good choices—and I’m even excited about what I’ll be reading in December!

The Reading Rundown:
Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews (urban fantasy, novella)
Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett (young adult romance)
Captcha Thief by Rosie Claverton (mystery, romantic suspense)
Terror 404 by Rosie Claverton (mystery, romantic suspense)
Hard Return by Rosie Claverton (mystery, romantic suspense)
Against All Odds by Jezz de Silva (contemporary romance)
The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo (young adult romance)
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (contemporary romance)
The One You Fight For by Roni Loren (out 1/1/19, contemporary romance)
Captive Desire by Robin Lovett (erotic romance, sci-fi romance)
Personal Geography by Tamsen Parker (erotic BDSM romance, contemporary romance)

Currently reading: Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri; Rogue Nights by Talia Hibbert, Annabeth Albert, Rebecca Crowley, et al.

On the TBR/wish list:
Hired by Zoey Castile (out 2/26/19)
An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole (out 2/26/19)
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (out 6/19)
A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna
Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik (out 2/5/19)

Becoming, Part Two

Angelus: No weapons… no friends… no hope. Take all that away and what’s left?
Buffy: Me.
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Figuring out who we’re meant to be can be a lifelong process. I’ve spent years propelling myself around like a pinball, batted between this gig and that gig. A few months ago, I considered getting back into entertainment journalism somehow—frantically DMing someone who works for a media site for advice and unwittingly bungling the whole thing. I also got turned down for a part-time gig at another outlet—with one of those form letters that tells you they looked at your experience and didn’t find it a good fit. Ten years covering TV and books and it’s not a good fit? Whew. It made me realize that it’s not my field anymore. It’s…a younger person’s game. A gig for people who started out in digital, not the people scrambling to find their place after print began its slow crawl to death.

But bigger that that is the fact that I don’t have a hustle. I don’t self-market. I’m terrible at networking. I’m an introvert, so I hate being out there around people, staking my claim and carving a place for myself. I don’t know how to be a go-getter, at least not anymore. More and more, over the years, I’ve pulled inward. I can hardly reconcile the person I am now with the one who used to interview strangers on a daily basis. The person who went to pre-Emmy parties and even stood behind barricades on the Emmys’ Red Carpet. That gutsy 26-year-old who interviewed for a job in New York City in 2004 and moved there within a month. Where is she?

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Mala’s October 2018 Hot Reads

Last month was a little light on romance reading for me, but a goldmine for my other go-to genres! I read some great YA, really compelling litfic-y fantasy rooted in Indian mythology, and some awesome urban fantasy. Rebecca Roanhorse’s UF debut, Trail of Lightning, rooted in Navajo culture and lore, is just brilliant–reinvigorating a subgenre that, at least for me, had begun to feel kind of samey-samey. Her heroine, Maggie, is SUCH a badass. I cannot wait for the next book, Storm of Locusts, which is set to come out April 23, 2019. And I finally got around to Anne Bishop’s Lake Silence, the latest visit to her Others universe. It’s so weird to say this, because Bishop’s books are really violent, but I always feel warm and fuzzy after I’m done with one of her titles. There’s a real softness and kindness woven throughout despite the frequently bloodthirsty content. I hope she’s not done with the terra indigene yet!

The reading rundown:
From a Certain Point of View by Renée Ahdieh, Zoraida Córdova, Nnedi Okorafor, et al (anthology, science fiction, Star Wars tie-in)
Otherworld Chills by Kelley Armstrong (anthology, urban fantasy)
Lake Silence by Anne Bishop (urban fantasy)
The Devourers by Indra Das (literary fiction, fantasy)
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (literary fiction, Mahabharata retelling)
Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert (paranormal romance, urban fantasy, novella)
It Takes Two by Jenny Holiday (contemporary romance)
Mr. Hotshot CEO by Jackie Lau (contemporary romance)
Last Shot by Daniel José Older (science fiction, Star Wars tie-in)
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (urban fantasy, post-apocalyptic)
Sadie by Courtney Summers (young adult thriller/suspense)
Pride by Ibi Zoboi (young adult romance, coming-of-age, Pride and Prejudice retelling)

On the TBR:
Hired by Zoey Castile (out 2/26/19)
An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole (out 2/26/19)
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (out 6/19)
A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna
Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik (out 2/5/19)
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri (out 11/13/18)

Mala’s September 2018 Hot Reads

September gifted me with a great mix of YA fiction and adult contemporary romance. The former included the immensely satisfying Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu, about a girl pushing back at the sexist bullshit pervading her high school and Julie Murphy’s utterly charming Dumplin’, which will soon be debuting in movie form on Netflix. Both books are set in Texas—-resulting in what’s probably the most productive amount of time I’ve spent in Lone Star State!

In the romance realm, I traveled up to Kentucky for Tiffany Reisz’s hilarious and sweet BDSM romance, Picture Perfect Cowboy. The story features characters from her Original Sinners universe in a much lighter context, and it really whet my appetite for BDSM romcom. More funny kink, please! Then I left the States entirely, stopping in South Africa for my first Christmas romance of 2018 —- Therese Beharrie’s adorable Her Festive Flirtation —- and immersing myself in New Zealand’s desi community via Nalini Singh’s steamy arranged-marriage plot, Rebel Hard. Both of these romances feature women of color navigating family expectations and weddings, and they really hit home while also warming my embittered soul!

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