Among Others by Jo Walton
I really enjoyed this book, and it's clear why so many people in fandom did as well. Part of me wishes, though, that it was just a story of a young fan coming of age in the late 70s, without the fantastical elements. They sort of almost work, but ultimately I was left unsatisfied. Still, it's well written and has a lot that I loved.
A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Oh, George. Before this was nominated I had pledged not to read any more of A Song of Ice and Fire until the series was completed. I am allergic to endless fantasy series and a bit frustrated that I got invested in this one in 2005 right before it became just that. Still, I loved the first three books and didn't hate the fourth, so having an excuse to read it anyway was not all bad. Except I hated it.
I got a quarter in and then started speed reading and still couldn't get past the halfway mark. Dull, padded out, with focus on characters I didn't care about, or one ones I did doing things I didn't care about. Plus the violence, torture, and rape all cranked up to 11, feeling much more gratuitous than in the previous books.
Deadline by Mira Grant
I also didn't finish this, but it was less of a surprise. I only got halfway through Feed, and didn't really like the first October Day book either. The world itself is interesting enough, although there aren't actually all that many zombies in the first 200 pages. There's obviously a whole ton of research that has gone into the virology angle, a lot of it is on the page. But ultimately I didn't like the characters or find them very well fleshed out, and found a lot of the text very repetitive, so my investment in turning the page was just not there.
Embassytown by China Mieville
This is probably the one which will go at the top of my ballot. Fantastic aliens that felt properly alien, a future and world that was equally distant but comprehensibly so, full of concepts that would have been interesting to explore all on their own, and a story that I really enjoyed. I liked the protagonist, Avice, but have to agree with the reviewer who compared her to a classic 19th Century narrator in that she was a little detached from the action at times.
While the aliens were very alien and there was a lot of Mieville's playing with language and with grotesqueries, to me this feels like his most straightforward adult novel of his I've read so far. Almost straight up SF from the King of the New Weird.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey (Daniel Abraham & Ty Frank)
A bit of a throwback to 80s Space Opera here with a lot of very familiar elements; a fractious Solar System, an alien threat, a vast conspiracy, a cynical alcoholic cop, a crew of tough but highly competent renegades.
It might have been a ripping yarn at half the length, but as it is it's perfectly readable, with some fun bio-horror, but far too long, with too much plodding along by the main characters. It's also quite uneven, I was not at all surprised when I went looking for information on the author (after finishing the book) and discovered it was a collaboration. Plus it only partly wraps up, this is apparently Expanse Book #1.