- The Android's Dream by John Scalzi: One of the funniest adventure stories I have read in a long time. After S read this, she said it reminded her of the Dirk Gently books by Douglas Adams; I can see that, but it put me more in mind of the screwball comedy of Connie Willis. Either way, it's hard to go wrong.
- His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik: I am hard pressed to think of another book I've read in the last three years that sucked me in as thoroughly as this book. Novik has created a fascinating and deep alternative universe and populated it with a cast of winning and compelling characters. My first impression review is here.
- The Orphan's Tale: In the Night Garden by Cathrynne Valente: The first line of my review was "It's hard to know what to say about this book beyond heaping superlatives on it." So maybe that tells you all you need to know. Wheels-within-wheels storytelling at its very finest.
- The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: Charming, fun, an excellent cast, heartbreaking in all the right ways. The sequel is also great. Original review.
- Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey: This book came highly recommended by sources I trust, but I still went into it with some trepidation. But I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the best world building I have ever had the pleasure to read -- the setting is not-quite-medieval-Europe, and the pleasure of recognition of similarities and differences was one of the best parts of the book for me. Some excellent characters and twists, too. I actually liked the second and third books in the series better, but so much gets set up in this book that you really have to start with it. (I've also read the first two books of the second trilogy, which is also enjoyable but not quite on the same level as the first.)
I realize that all these titles are firmly set into the speculative fiction camp, but that's mostly what I've read and loved in the last couple of years. Maybe I'll get some good recs for other genres out of this year's list...