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My Top 10 Books of 2020

2020 was undoubtedly a horrific year in many respects, but there was no shortage of fantastic book releases. In fact, I would say that this was a better year overall for literary fiction than 2019. There is no shortage of literary fiction on my list this year, but there is also one fantastic thriller, a YA fantasy that adults will also enjoy, and an exquisite work of non-fiction. You know it was a good year when American Dirt , Redhead by the Side of the Road , and One by One just miss the cut! 10. The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich Erdrich has a singular voice, and she consistently combines detailed realism with masterful touches of magic and mystery. In this well-drawn piece of historical fiction, she centers her plot around a 1954 piece of legislation that threatened to remove federal protections from the Chippewa tribe of North Dakota, specifically the residents of the Turtle Mountain Reservation. Thomas Wazhashk, a night watchman at the local jewel-bearing factory, puts togeth

My Top 10 Albums of 2020

List time is one of my favorite times of the year. I always like to weigh in with my own favorite albums, and this year, while wildly different in many respects, will not differ in this one. This was a pretty solid year for music, and I'm happy to see that several of my personal choices have shown up on multiple professional critics' lists. Taylor Swift just barely missed my list; her Folklore is my number eleven. And for the first time since I compiled this list, back in 2004, a female or female-fronted act is not taking the top spot. That's one for the trivia books! 10. Miley Cyrus, Plastic Hearts This album is the rare late-year release to make a huge impact on me. Cyrus took inspiration from the 1980s when it came to the sounds and production on this album, not to mention her choice of guest artists: Billy Idol and Joan Jett. "Midnight Sky," with its nod to Stevie Nicks (featured in a remix of the track), is the stone cold classic, a cut that will likely sta

Book Review: Out of Time by Laurie Graves

Laurie Graves is back with  Out of Time , the third entry in her Great Library Series . More straightforward in its progression than its two predecessors, with their skillful time jumps and multiple narrative threads, Out of Time is also Graves's most well-written book yet.  Those of us who thought Graves might follow the standard trilogy pattern, perhaps with a prequel afterwards, were proven wrong in a big way with the last chapter of Out of Time . Unless she is playing a cruel trick on the reader, it appears we are in for much more fantasy, action, adventure, and comedy from Maya Hammond and her cohorts. The book ends with a wallop of a cliffhanger, so look forward to more Great Library entries down the road. This is great news for many of us! Also great news is the return of protagonist Maya to center stage, exactly where she belongs. This character is a fantastic lead: spunky, thoughtful, and compassionate. Readers will miss Viola, but there are a host of great new character

Season's Greetings and Upcoming Post Schedule

I wanted to thank all of you who have followed and/or commented on my blog throughout 2020. There will be some changes to the format and rhythm of In His Own Words next year, and I will keep you updated on those as we all march into a (hopefully safe and healthy) New Year. For now, I wanted to let you know about the dates of my final three posts of this year, so that you can mark your calendars. Hahaha! I'm just having a little fun with you. If you think that I actually believe you're going to mark your calendars with the dates of my blog posts, then you don't know me very well! At any rate, here is what's coming up: Monday, December 7th, look for my review of Out of Time , the latest novel and third entry in the Great Library Series by Laurie Graves. On Wednesday, December 16th, tune in for my annual Top 10 Albums of the Year Countdown. Then, on Wednesday, December 30th, I hope you'll join me as I reveal my Top 10 Books of the Year. Feel free to leave your guesses

My Personal Year-End Lists: A Look at the Process

This is the time when I start thinking about my year-end countdowns of my ten favorite "albums" and ten favorite books. Who am I kidding? I'm pretty much thinking about these lists right from the start of each New Year! At any rate, when I published a countdown of all-time favorite musical artists on my blog a few months ago, my friend Laura asked if I would talk a little bit about my process and how I go about ranking things. I decided that I would do that with regards to my year-end lists. This will be a relatively informal discussion. I've been counting down my favorite albums of the year since 2007. Actually, I first did this in 2004, but didn't start regularly until 2007. I began on Myspace, then Facebook, and now use my blog. Generally, the countdown has consisted of ten albums, with brief capsule reviews that I write. However, there have been variations. In 2012, which was a crowded year for music, I expanded the list to twenty. In 2015, I included fifteen

Friday Free Write: Embracing Life, Goals, and Joys

The older I get, the more I sense the fleetingness of time. What a cliché! It's true, though. I don't feel particularly old, but I am aware of the years flying by. I've never had the goals that most people seem to have (children, a house, etc.), but I have many things that I want to do before I die. And I could die any day, as could any of us. A pandemic certainly heightens this awareness of mortality.  I have a list of books to be read, stories to be written, a novel to be completed, foods I'd like to cook, pounds I'd like to lose (trying, trying!), a blog I'd like to expand, miles to be walked and jogged, countries to be visited (Norway, Wales), people I'd like to help, causes I hope to assist, and more. I take pleasure in simple things and am easily contented. I really didn't grow into my self-confidence until later in life, and I still have periods when it falters and I sink. Ultimately, though, I fought through an adolescence of bullying and many ye

Countdown: Ranking the Tracks on Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA

Welcome to Countdown, a new weekly feature on In His Own Words in which I count down my favorites in various categories encompassing the worlds of music, literature, and film. Last week, I counted down my ten favorite songs by the one and only Cher. This week, I'm ranking all twelve tracks from Bruce Springsteen's blockbuster 1984 album, Born in the USA . There are bound to be some controversial choices on my part, and I think some hardcore Bruce fans will disagree with my top 3. Let's start with a little bit of information on our subject. Bruce Springsteen quickly established himself as one of the most popular and critically acclaimed rock and roll performers of the 1970s, with seminal albums like Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town . In the early 1980s, he stretched his talents with a double album ( The River ) and a stark acoustic album, Nebraska , which is considered one of his best to this day. Then, in 1984, he released his one and only "pop" albu