Book Review Team

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Recent posts by Book Review Team

Author/s    : Mary Delamater, Ray Harris
Publisher   : Mike Murach & Associates
Category   : Web design, HTML and JavaScript
Review by : Jeanne Boyarsky
Rating        : 8 horseshoes

"Murach's JavaScript" literally assumes you know nothing and gets you to coding some fairly advanced JavaScript. The very beginning is too easy for a lot of people as you've probably heard of HTML and CSS by the time you read this book. It's easy enough to skip over though. (And if you haven't heard of HTML and CSS, go back and read Murach's book on that first!)

I like that the book introduces practices such as fluent APIs, closures, and even the module pattern. I like that that book teaches using console.log() in addition to the Chrome and IE debuggers. Personally, I learned about some ECMA 5 features including functional programming methods and the global JSON object.

I would have liked a warning about how to use break/continue well or not misuse it. I was surprised to see the basics of functions introduced in Chapter 10 since they were used in Chapter 9. And the last chapter on jQuery felt incredibly rushed. I know it was meant to be an overview, but I feel like covering less and moving slower would have helped.

There are lots of small applications in the book so you can see how to use what you learn. Many chapters even have multiple applications. And as with any Murach book, the end of chapter exercises/review questions are excellent.


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Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing it on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Bill Jelen, Michael Alexander
Publisher   : Que Publishing
Category   : Other
Review by : Jeanne Boyarsky
Rating        : 9 horseshoes

"Excel 2016 Pivot Table Data Crunching" blew me away. I can't believe that there is so much to be said about pivot tables! The audience ranges from what the book calls casual users to power users. By casual, I think they mean "comfortable with formulas." I'm skeptical when I see such a wide range, but here it is correct. Except for the most advanced users, parts of this book are going to be too advanced for some readers. Including me. It's ok though as it is clear which parts these are.

The book is really good about showing what features are new in different versions of Excel along with the limitations in different versions. There are lots of notes, tips and case studies. There are also many recipies/how tos. It's not fluffy, but parts are conversational. I liked the part about marketings presumed influence on PowerPivot.

I learned a number of things I want to try. Some now and some when I upgrade to Excel 2016. Other features I don't have a use for, but are cool to know that they exist. The only thing I'd change is the ordering. Chapter 14 is useful even if not an advanced user. It follows some very deep chapters so a reader could stop by then.

This book is part of the Content Update Program. You register your book online and get free updates until the next edition of the book comes out. It also means that you get access to the e-book with your copy of the printed book. I also like that the account is shared with informit.com so I didn't have to re-register.

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Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing it on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Al Sweigart
Publisher   : No Starch Press
Category   : Other
Review by : Vijitha Kumara
Rating        : 8 horseshoes

Book composed of two main parts with the first few chapters introducing the Python basics and the majority of the book focuses on real world use cases.

In the first part while explaining language basics it also explains some of the fundamental computing/programming idioms along the way. Book uses simple but effective diagrams like flow charts and most of the code samples have been made easier to understand by ordinary computer users.

Here's the most interesting part of the book, Part 2. It contains lots of day-to-day use cases and how they can be implemented in Python - pattern matching, working with different types of files, image manipulation and GUI automation to name a few.

Another notable thing is that at the end of every chapter you will find practice questions and projects which test the content presented in the chapter. It also provides working instructions for various platforms like Windows, OS X and Linux as needed.

Although the book specifically targets general computer users rather than programmers it seems very much useful for beginners in programming as it talk about lot of practical aspects of programming.

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Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing it on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Craig James Johnston
Publisher   : Que Publishing
Category   : Other
Review by : Jeanne Boyarsky
Rating        : 8 horseshoes

I don't have an Apple Watch. I expressed interest in another Que book and the publisher sent me a bunch of books in the same box. That said, I was curious; just didn't follow along with an actual Apple Watch.

First, I'm really impressed that the publisher put out two editions in six months. The book began by explaining what each button and feature on the watch does. The book was full of helpful tips.

The screenshots of both the watch and iPhone were very clear. As was the explanation about handoffs between the two. I also liked that the book covers what you can do with the watch when your phone isn't with you.

There were a couple of "bugs" in the book. Page 116 talks about what you can do with your iMac. This was obviously a typo for Mac and was correct when used a bit later. And page 20 and 34 both have a sidebar "What are complications" which are pretty much the same. But nothing that got in the way of readability or learning. I also would have liked chapter 1 to be split up until multiple chapters. At 80 pages, it is a third of the book!

This book was rich in information and easy to read. I got a good feel for how the watch works. And was reminded why I don't want a smart watch. But that's clearly not the books's fault. I didn't want one before I got the book. I did learn from the book and am happy about that. If you actually have an Apple Watch, I recommend this book.


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Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing it on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Zak Ruvalcaba, Anne Boehm
Publisher   : Mike Murach & Associates
Category   : Web design, HTML and JavaScript
Review by : Jeanne Boyarsky
Rating        : 8 horseshoes

"Murach's jQuery" assumes you know nothing about HTML, CSS or JavaScript. It starts from the beginning. The first section of the book covers the JavaScript you need to know in order to use jQuery including the DOM. I like that the book showed how to debug/troubleshoot a web app. There was good coverage of the APIs including mobile and HTML 5 web storage. I like the highlighting in longer code examples to see what is important. I learned about JavaScript strict mode and look forward to trying that in a real application.

So why did I only give the book four stars? I had a few issues that got in my way of reading. The book started using $ syntax in non-jQuery JavaScript before defining it. I also thought it was odd that creating a plugin is covered before forms given that forms are common.

I don't think the book was bad, but it's not my favorite Murach book or my favorite book on jQuery.



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Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing it on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Adam Tornhill
Publisher   : Pragmatic Bookshelf
Category   : Design Patterns, UML, and Refactoring
Review by : Tim Cooke
Rating        : 10 horseshoes

'Your Code as a Crime Scene' is aimed at intermediate to advanced Engineers who want to get more from their source repository history than simply who did what and when. As a developer who falls into that category I found it a fascinating read and left me itching to hunt out the criminals in my own applications.

Adam shows how to analyse your change history in new and interesting ways that allow you to uncover your code's dirty little secrets. Files that always change together identify unnecessary coupling. Files with large indentations uncover complex branching. Files that consistently grow on each change point to possible code dumping grounds. Plus a number of scenarios that I hadn't previously considered as problem areas.

The author has also written a powerful suite of tools called code-maat, available for free, which allow you to follow along and practice with the plentiful examples and get stuck in with analysing your own source history. This is a real strength of the book as it becomes of real practical use almost immediately. This 'learn by doing' approach is very valuable. Recommendations to improve each of the problem areas are presented and discussed in a pragmatic manner.

There are very few books that cover this topic and this is a welcome addition to my library. Having a good catalogue of scientific analysis techniques such as these for interrogating your source code takes a good deal of the 'artwork' out of finding problem hot spots. Highly recommended.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing it on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Bryson Payne
Publisher   : No Starch Press
Category   : Other
Review by : Jeanne Boyarsky
Rating        : 9 horseshoes

"Teach your Kids to Code" is a book for parents and children to read together. Except the intro. The intro is for adults only. The book doesn't assume the parent knows how to code. It does assume your kid is old enough to read and type.

The font is big and there are lots of pictures. Both of the screen and just cute entertaining ones. Some were merely cute like the dragon. Others were nice references to things that geeky parents might like - remember logo? There's a turtle. There's a robot that looks like Rosie in the Jetsons. And a toy like Mr Potato Head.

There's a lot of emphasis on play. Both with programs like MadLibs and by experiment with making changes to the code. There's also a lot of emphasis on visuals like making pretty shapes.

There were a couple places where I felt like it was too advanced. For example, the word "exponent" was used without explaining. But a parent who hates math would at least Google that.

Overall, I liked it. The explanations were clear and easy to read. I feel like a kid could actually learn from it. All I need is a kid around to test it with!


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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing it on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Anthony DePalma
Publisher   : Anthony DePalma
Category   : Miscellaneous Java
Review by : Jeanne Boyarsky
Rating        : 9 horseshoes

"Java Interview Guide" was free on Amazon for a week and I downloaded it. It only costs six bucks to actually buy it though and it is well worth the money.

Most of the book is a brief review of key concepts including sample interview questions and answers. Topics include basics, design patterns, reflection and AOP. While this content is succinct, it has what you need to know. Later in the book, there is a lsit of these interview questions together.

There's also a chapter on approaching coding problems. The approach to solving them is good. It shows how to be methodical and solve the problem. I felt like the author defaulted to recursion which is odd. I understand he was trying to show a less optimal approach and then a better approach. But most people would think of a loop for a factorial as the first approach, not recursion.

All in all, I liked the book. It's a great way to practice and prepare for a Java interview.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Joel Murach, Michael Urban
Publisher   : Mike Murach & Associates
Category   : Beginning Java
Review by : Jeanne Boyarsky
Rating        : 9 horseshoes

"Murach's Beginning Java with Eclipse" teaches Java and your first IDE (integrated development environment) at the same time. Like all Murach books, the book is heavy (600+ pages) and contains good review/labs at the end of each chapter. Including those that have you modify existing code. When I feature was introduced in a certain version of Java, the book points out which one.

I really liked the intro including types of applications and keywords. I like the covering Eclipse as needed for specific concepts including perspectives, code completion and the debugger. Similarly, good programming idioms are covered so readers can see patterns. I particularly liked how the code listings highlighted the relevant parts. I also liked the UML class diagram introduction.

This book is equivalent to Murach's Beginning Java with NetBeans book. I was happy to see they added hashCode() something I noted as missing in my NetBeans book review.

I recommend either this or the NetBeans book as an intro book. Eclipse is more marketable than NetBeans so I lean towards preferring this one of the two.

I reviewed the print version of the NetBeans book and the e-book of the Eclipse book (since so much of the content was the same.) I recommend the print book. Murach's books work better in print because of the paired pages format.



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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing it on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Review by : Ulf Dittmer
Rating        : 9 horseshoes

Putting a web platform out in the open means exposing it to all kinds of threats - internal or external, incidental or deliberate, trivial or life-threatening. This book aims to educate the reader as to what might happen to Java web apps (including web services), and how to secure them against all enemies. While a lot of the content is cross-platform (dealing with HTTP, JavaScript, SSL/TLS etc.), the code examples and the proposed remedies all assume that Java is being used, so the book can only be recommended to those working in a Java context. With that caveat, the threats (XSS, CSRF, SQL injection and many others) are discussed in depth, remedies are proposed, sometimes several with varying levels of implementation effort required.

Since prevention is only part of the security effort, the book also touches on detection and response - while preventing attacks seems the best course of action, sometimes attackers will get through despite the best of efforts, in which case detection of a successful attack comes into play, and then some kind of response. The final chapter discusses how one might adapt the SDLC to incorporate secure coding guidelines.

Security is still not an integral part of the education of most developers. This book is an excellent overview of what's involved in securing Java web apps and web services. While there's a neverending string of attacks (these days even discussed in the mainstream press, if bad enough), it is where a Java developer should start fighting back.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Ron Jeffries
Publisher   : Pragmatic Bookshelf
Category   : Project Management, Process and Best Practices
Review by : Tim Cooke
Rating        : 7 horseshoes

'The Nature of Software Development' is aimed at anyone who wants to get the best out of their software development process. As an experienced developer I found it an interesting read but I expect software team managers will get the most value from it.

Ron Jeffries presents some simple, but not necessarily easy, ways to think about writing software. He discusses how to organise your work, and your teams. In doing so he cuts away a lot of the chaff and ceremony that has overshadowed some Agile methodologies in recent times to draw us back to the fundamental qualities that formed the Agile Manifesto nearly 15 years ago.

The book has a strong message, yet it is a light read. Ron uses his natural and conversational language along with plenty of pictures to illustrate his teachings, which makes for a pleasantly relaxed reading experience.

Overall an enlightening read that cuts right to the meaty parts of why we write software and presents recommendations for how we organise our work and ourselves to write valuable software in an effective manner. While at times feeling like a collation of blog posts, it's a worthwhile collation that highlights the fundamentals of what Agile is intended to be. The abundance of illustration is a nice touch but does not present well in eBook format, being particularly uninspiring on the Kindle version. Nonetheless, a good read for software developers and team managers.

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Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Review by : Mohamed Sanaulla
Rating        : 9 horseshoes

Murach's HTML5 and CSS3, 3rd Edition is a one stop solution to solve all your learning requirements for developing the front end of your applications.

The books starts with introduction to HTML and CSS and quickly covers some advanced topics in it like Responsive web design, adding audio and video, using CSS3 features to name a few. The chapter on responsive web design is very useful as it covers concepts really relevant in today's multi screen world.

The book also covers concepts on Javascript and the famous jQuery library including jQuery Mobile. The chapters on designing and deploying websites are very useful for those who have done development but never got it live to the outside world. If the book could include some suggestions for good hosting providers and good domain name service provider then it would have been very useful.

As is the norm with Murach's books, this book is also a highly practical oriented book with all the concepts explained via examples. Ideally I would use this book as a reference and read those parts of the book as and when necessary. The chapter on Responsive web design is highly recommended as I am not aware of such an elaborate coverage of the topic else where.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Anne Boehm, Zak Ruvalcaba
Publisher   : Mike Murach & Associates
Category   : Web design, HTML and JavaScript
Review by : Jeanne Boyarsky
Rating        : 9 horseshoes

"Murach's HTML5 and CSS3" covers HTML and CSS from the ground up. It's a great book for starting out as it shows basic constructs. It's also a decent book even if you know "old" HTML and CSS. The repetitive parts are easy to find/skim. Granted the book is heavy (600 pages) for skimming. There are good guidelines/tips on browser compatibility, SEO and accessibility.

The book has been updated nicely since the 2011 version. Response design is well covered along with tips for testing with different size screens and resolutions. I particularly liked the CSS 3 filters that were included for responsive design. The jQuery section(s) were expanded a lot and grew to include jQuery UI and jQuery Mobild.

I did learn some things from the book and the material was well presented. Unsurprisingly, it uses the standard Murach style. One side of the book is text and one side is examples/bullet points. I also like that the book used HTML 5 and CSS 3 properly rather than tacking it onto an older book as an afterthought.


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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for writing this review on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Dave Thomas
Publisher   : Pragmatic Bookshelf
Category   : Other
Review by : Tim Cooke
Rating        : 9 horseshoes

'Programming Elixir' provides practised programmers an introduction to the Elixir programming language. Particular attention is paid to the features of the language that the author, in his considerable experience, finds the most interesting. In addition to the expected introduction to the basics of the Elixir language, the author presents a deeper investigation into Immutability, Anonymous functions, and organising a project, among others. More advanced concurrent programming topics are covered with sections on working with multiple processes, and OTP (Open Telecom Platform).

A particular strength of the book is the collection of practice exercises that accompany each chapter. These transform the book into more of a personal training session where the author runs you through the learning material and then tests you on your knowledge. This 'learn by doing' approach greatly enhances the overall experience.

The author has deliberately targeted more experienced programmers and the prerequisite knowledge needed to get the most from the book is quite high. Therefore, lesser experienced programmers might find the pace quite hard going.

Overall, Programming Elixir is an inspiring introduction to the Elixir language, and a good choice of title for the curious programmer eager to explore a new language and a new way of programming. The book certainly does live up to its tag-line: "Functional |> Pragmatic |> Concurrent |> Fun". Most enjoyable.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for reviewing this book on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago
Author/s    : Sandro Mancuso
Publisher   : Prentice Hall
Category   : Project Management, Process and Best Practices
Review by : Jeanne Boyarsky
Rating        : 8 horseshoes

"The Software Craftsman" is about doing the right thing. It is also about being a professional. I liked the analogies to professionals in the real world. You wouldn't expect your plumber to ask you to buy him a book.

There's a good bit about agile and other practices such as time management (shout out to Pomodoro getting mentioned.) There are practices and anti-patterns described on many topics from developing to interviewing. Most importantly, I think the book is thought provoking. Such as "your boss has management problems; you have technical problems." I can't say I agree with everything in the book, but even thinking it through is helpful. And I do agree with many parts.

I particularly liked the anecdotes. There was a good one about how the author got sucked into a death march project and what he learned from that. There was also a page turner about interacting with an ivory tower architect. By page turner, I meant that I opened the book at home since I had to stop reading that story when my train stop arrived and wanted to know it ended. That's pretty rare for a tech book.


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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for reviewing this book on behalf of CodeRanch.

More info at Amazon.com
2 years ago