Previously I said I wouldn't do book reviews because of that whole 'I-can't-give-everyone-a-5-star-review-because-no-one-will-take-me-seriously' and 'the-publishing-community-is-small' thing. (Boy who cried wolf and dog doesn't poop in his space kind of deal.)
So, being almost brilliant, I've decided to feature books (two at a time because I like some pressure & tend to take on a lot more than I should), one published years ago and one relatively recently. I'll tell you what worked; what one element or device stood out. Even bad books can have some redeeming quality- I think porn and violent-content publishers use that argument to get past decency standards. But I'm not saying any of these books are bad; some will be great, some will be meh and some I will hate- but I won't tell you. No ratings, just one thing I liked about it.
The Lord of the Rings. It does happen to be my all time favorite book, and I've said so on interviews and such so this is not a deal breaker. It's probably the only time I tell you it's my fave book (other than my own!). The best element of this book (keeping the trilogy together)- is the world building. From descriptions of the inhabitants of Middle Earth (elves, orcs, ents, etc.) to the magic (palantiri, glowing swords, Light of Galadriel) to the rich language (poetry, elvish script, Rhohirrim etymology), Tolkien was the grand master. He incorporated good vs. evil, romance, war, murder and salvation, hope and tragedy, heroes and the lost, humor and darkness. The only things missing (but not missed) are sex, foul language, and teen angst. Like many, I consider Tolkien to be a literary genius. Wish I'd been able to read LOTR instead of some of the boring, dense, so-called 'classics' (D.H. Lawrence comes to mind...) I was forced to read.
The next book with a great device is Alissa Grosso's Popular. It seems like a 'popular-girls-are-so-mean' story, but it employs one of my favorite devices: the unexpected twist. I love surprises! And Alissa made me gasp! (Sorry, not going to spoil it, go read the book.) There's nothing that's more detestable than being able to correctly guess a book. Okay, we all know how any story about the Titanic is going to end- but it's like that for stories about recorded human and natural events; we know how the main thread is going to shake out so the other elements must do extra duty to keep us interested. Two thirds through her book, Alissa threw a curve ball--right over home plate and I never saw it!
So, no stars or smiley faces or thumbs up; just something I liked about two books.