So far, this year, I've read lots of sci-fi and fantasy, with a couple of books set in the Cold War and the Second World War. Sounds like cheery reading, doesn't it?
The Day Watch and The Twilight Watch are the sequels to The Night Watch, (Sergei Lukyanenko) and are just as good if not better. (Super Monkey - go and get them now, if you haven't already!). Set in Moscow, they focus on a Cold War-esque stand off between Light and Dark, each side scheming to get the other upper hand. They're brilliantly written, making it easy to visualise the Russian scenery, with lots of cynical post-Soviet humour.
A Hat Full of Sky (Terry Pratchett) features Tiffany Aching's further adventures in becoming a witch in the Discworld. It's a children's book, with plenty of jokes that I imagine would go right over their heads. I'm still reading the descriptions of the Nac Mac Feegles (blue piskies who like nothing better than a fight) with Billy Connolly's voice in my head.
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Geoffrey MacGuire) tells the story of the events that lead up to Dorothy Gale's trip to Oz from the perspective of Elphaba, the witch. Was she evil? Was she a revolutionary fighting for the rights of the oppressed? I can't stand The Wizard of Oz but this was a fantastic read.
Next up was The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (John Le Carre) which I've been meaning to read for years - English spy gets a final mission... Edge of seat stuff. This was followed by Dead Lines (Greg Bear) in which some muppet invents a brilliant new mobile phone (I told you these things were bad news)... and the dead become visible to the living.
While I was in Paris, I read We Need to Talk about Kevin (Lionel Shriver)... and if I previously had wanted kids, I certainly wouldn't now. It's chilling and vividly written. I recently heard the author on a radio show and she was appalled that certain University sociology and psychology courses were using her novel as a text to explore why some women don't want to have kids. This is imagination, rather than experience or research.
On a more cheery note, I followed this up with The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak) - a tale narrated by Death. It's fabulous and I enjoyed it so much I bought a copy for my Mam's birthday. Set in Nazi Germany, it features a small girl who steals books and whose adoptive parents hide a young Jew in their basement. Death has a horrible habit of telling you the ending, but I rather enjoyed reading on to find out how this ending takes place. It's a very sentimental read.
Then it was back to some more sci-fi with Greg Bear's Eon - the prequel to Eternity which I picked up years ago in Egypt, a second hand copy that some scumbag had ripped the last page out of. Greg Bear writes very realistic and strong female characters and Eon features an asteroid with a chamber that goes on forever, so Patricia Vasquez is asked to work out why and how. (I love sci-fi and I especially love novels where the women don't just run around screaming and having to be rescued).
And finally, my idea of Hell... Farenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury) - a near future where all books are burned and TVs are never switched off and advertising is all-pervasive. (We're almost there). It's a superb novel - the FIL recommended it.