Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Book Review Club (February 2020)

And the Book Review Club is back! Welcome to our first meeting of 2020! To offset some of the recent heavy-duty news (Senate trials, Brexit, Iowa caucus issues), here's a bit of fun Feb. trivia: The 3rd weekend this month is Margarita Weekend. This is Potato Lovers Month and Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month. And now onto more erudite matters...our book reviews. Links below my post to reviews of recommended books by fabulous reviewers!

by Greg Van Eekhout (middle grade, adventure, robot)

COG is one of the best middle-grade novels I've read in a while. And I read A LOT of middle grade. Too much, perhaps, for a supposed grownup...

Okay. You're busy. With finite time for reading blogs. Let's get down brass tacks. What was it about this book that so grabbed me?

Cog, short for Cognitive Development, is a robot who looks like a 12 year old boy. Cog was built to learn. Which is why the reader is treated to fun bits of trivia from time to time. Such as info on platypuses. (#1 I loved the humor.)

When his programmer, Gina, informs Cog we learn from mistakes, he sets out to make some mistakes. He sneaks out one morning, sees a truck barreling toward a Chihuahua and decides to save the dog (#2 Who doesn't love a compassionate protagonist?). Unfortunately, the truck damages Cog who ends up at UniMIND,  a nasty corporation who cares about the bottom line, but not about people or robots. (#3 I love it when adults are the bad guys in middle grade fiction. Just a little personal thing.) Gina is taken away...somewhere. She's in trouble with UniMIND for programming a special talent into Cog. (no spoiler from me :)) Also, uniMIND wants to take out Cog's brain to see what's in there. Yikes.

Cog gets together a band of robots. They break out of the UniMIND building and will help him find Gina (#4 I love a clear goal. #5 friendship! #6 road trip!). The other robots are: a car, a dog, a trashbot and ADA (Cog's sister, who was also programmed by Gina). And, and, and...the stakes get higher and higher (#7 because I love the added tension, and I personally find this tough to pull off). By higher, I mean Cog ends up fighting for everyone and everything as UniMIND threatens to take over.

For me, though, the biggest and best thing about COG (#9) was its message about free will. Everybody has choices in life. People or robots might not always choose what you want them to, but they still get to have a choice. What a powerful message for young readers: You have agency.

Last, but not least, I love a book I can highly recommend (#10)!

(Dear FCC: I actually know Greg, but he wouldn't have any idea whether or not I bought (I did) or read COG. I doubt he even knows about this blog. Although I will tell him about today's review.) 

And now....onto the rest of our reviews. Please click through. You won't want to miss a single one!


Phyllis Wheeler: ROAR LIKE A DANDELION by Ruth Krauss and Sergio Ruzzier (picture book)

Jody Feldman: THE GHOST IN APARTMENT 2R by Denis Markell (MG, paranormal mystery)


Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: SAVANT by John D. Richmond (mystery)

Linda McLaughlin: FORBIDDEN by Beverly Jenkins (historical romance)

Lucy Sartain: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by JaneAusten (classic)

Patti Abbott:  THE CHESTNUT MAN by Soren Sveistrup (thriller)

Ray Potthoff: KILLING ROMMEL by Stephen Pressfield (historical)

Sarah Laurence: DOMINICANA by Angie Cruz (historical)

Scott Parker: ORPHAN X by Gregg Hurwitz (thriller)


Jenn Jilks of Cottage Country: THE LADY WITH BALLS by Alice Combs (memoir)

Margy Lutz: DANCING IN GUMBOOTS by Lou Allison and Jane Wilde (memoir)

Note to Reviewers: Any errors (broken link, missed review, etc), just shoot me an email or leave a comment. Thank you so much for your reviews!


  1. Marvelous review! I can see why you loved it, and why it would appeal to kids too. Humor is so important. Thanks for hosting!

  2. OK, now I want to find and read this book! It sounds like a winner. Thanks, Barrie!

  3. They are so much fun, these young kids novels!
    Thanks for hosting. I was late, I know. Hubby health issues. SIGH>

  4. This sounds like a fun read, Barrie. I read a couple of AI thrillers last year and thoroughly enjoyed them.

  5. I was fascinated by platypuses when I was a kid. I loved plants and animals and learning all about them. Thanks for hosting for all of us to share our reviews. - Margy

  6. You always find such interesting books! This sounds like a good, fun one. Thanks for reviewing! :)

  7. Ten great reasons to give a book a good review. I'm late at getting around to commenting. We've been on the road in our RV since the first of the month. We are slowing down a bit now so I have more time to get online. - Margy


Comments are always welcome!