BEST OF 2014 ~ BOOKS
Written in My Own Heart’s Blood
By Diana Gabaldon
What’s not to like about the latest installment in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series? Like the previous seven tomes, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood has all the elements for a great read; action, history, romance, mystery, familiar characters and a soaring narrative arc. And where lesser authors might grow weary with this kind of winning formula, Gabaldon thrives as she brings something new to the table with each work; mainstays Claire and Jamie have grown over time, because the author’s ability to tell a great story has evolved. And while much can be said in 864 pages, it is in the things left unsaid where the novelist shines this time around, inviting her loyal and growing audience to fill in the blanks with their imaginations.
Diary of a Cornish Fisherman
By Trevor Simpson
After leaving the Royal Navy, Trevor Simpson shipped on as a crewman aboard a small lobster boat in the cozy seaside town of Newquay, Cornwall. From 1962-1967, he kept a journal of his daily activities, recounting his seafaring adventures and chronicling his observations on Cornish life. The result is a warm, witty, wise and poignant portrait of both a people and a place with feet firmly footed in the past, yet aching to catch up to the times. Along the way, readers will fall for the many quirky characters that come and go, bringing colour and flavor to generations of routine. Well peppered with grainy photographs, the work is entertaining and engaging, and will appeal to both landlubbers and sea-lovers of all ilk and ages.
The Naughty Little Book of Gaelic
By Michael Newton
Renowned Celtic scholar and author Dr. Michael Newton lets his hair down with this kinky volume of vile verbosity. Subtitled All the Scottish Gaelic You Need to Curse, Swear, Drink, Smoke and Fool Around, the work delivers as promised, with chapters covering everything from basic four-letter words to insults, hexes and sex. The author does well to place the foul-language within historical and everyday context, citing sources that could lead willing readers down a dirty-minded trail. Fun and fascinating, and layered with gorgeous illustrations from Nova Scotia artist Arden Powell, the book is much more than a mere encyclopedia or dictionary of expletive expressions however – it is notice that we really aren’t that far removed from our potty-mouthed ancestors as we like to think.
A Book of Death and Fish
By Ian Stephen
Scottish author, poet and playwright Ian Stephen employs all elements of scribery in his epic debut novel. The tough and tender tale of one middle-aged man’s look back on life after a terminal cancer diagnosis, A Book of Death and Fish explores the bigger themes of love, loss, reflection and regret, through a series of smaller, personal vignettes. And while the protagonist (Peter McAuley) hovers over what was and what could have been via interactions with family members and friends, the author skillfully avoids being over-sentimental. The result is much more than a mere trip down memory lane; the work offers up powerful and poignant perspectives on the modern world, and in particular, Scotland from the 1960s to today. An excellent, enjoyable and engaging read.
By Stewart Dickson
Leith-born writer Stewart Dickson was both world-renowned and well-respected for his contributions to journalism. His experience and eye for detail serves him well in his first and only work of fiction, Vair, a political-historical thriller that takes readers on a wild ride from the Vatican to the USA, the UK and beyond. Engaging, entertaining and educational, this is a thinking-man’s The Da Vinci Code, blurring the line between fact and fiction, and challenging the audience to consider an array of angles and ideas. With solid character development, strong dialogue and a soaring narrative arc, those looking for a great story won’t be able to put it down. The only shame here is that, with the author’s untimely passing in 2011, there will be no sequel.