Category: Books (Page 3 of 45)

Kent Beck – Test Driven Development By Example

As my first real dive into test driven development, this book was a great introduction into the practices and the habits that are involved. The one thing that I wish I had done when I started reading is actually trying to implement the examples that are in the book, as I think the practical side would have helped the examples sink in a little bit more.

Saying that, I learn really well from books, and I had no trouble following the code examples from one to another and having the changes written in such small steps certainly helped.

Beck’s explanations were great to help the concepts really solidify and he had a writing style that made the book much more fun to read than I expected it to be.

“Write the tests you wish you had. If you don’t, you will eventually break something while refactoring. Then you’ll get bad feelings about refactoring and stop doing it so much. Then your designs will deteriorate. You’ll be fired. Your dog will leave you. You will stop paying attention to your nutrition. Your teeth will go bad. So, to keep your teeth healthy, retroactively test before refactoring.”

I understand that to most people, TDD is not complicated, it’s just habit, but having never done it before and not having come from an environment where time is given to testing, this book was a great way to learn what I should have been doing all along. And being able to put some of the techniques into practice at work has been great, I think that’s what will really cement the knowledge for me.

 

My rating: 4/5Average rating: 4.06
216 pages. Published in: 2002
Read in Paperbackon 12th October 2017 – 3rd July 2018

Charlie N. Holmberg – The Fifth Doll

Having read the Paper Magician series by this author, I was enticed to buy the rest of Holmberg’s books on a train journey home from London when an offer popped up on my Instagram feed saying that they were all 50% off on Amazon until the end of the night. It may have been train-based delirium, but I decided to buy all her books at once.

But I think I made a good decision. Having loved the Paper Magician so much, I was a little worried that they may have been one-offs like some authors I’ve read who have one really great series and then never quite live up to it with their others. I was wrong about Holmberg, I was enticed from the first page to the last, and I loved the lead character of Matrona.

A strong woman, feeling trapped by her parents and about to enter into a marriage with a man who doesn’t even seem to notice her, she finds herself drawn into this strange world of Russian dolls created by a mysterious man named Slava. He tells her he needs to pass down the secrets of the dolls to her so that there is someone to carry on when he is gone.

But Matrona is shocked to find that the dolls all represent one of the villagers, and when things happen to the dolls, things happen in real life too. Slava wants her to open her doll, and things start happening that Matrona can’t control.

I was on tenterhooks as I approached the last few chapters, I just wasn’t sure that Matrona was making the right decisions and because I was so enthralled with the story, the peril felt so real. I’ve never read a story like this so far, so I just had nothing to gauge it on, no idea whether we’d get a happy ending or not.

The only thing that stopped me from giving this book 5 stars is that I felt like the world-building could have been a bit stronger. I was completely enthralled by the story, but I had a hard time picturing the location, and I would have loved to have felt like I could put myself in Matrona’s place. Russia is a great setting for a book, but I wasn’t quite transported there unfortunately.

But the fact that I read this book in two sittings shows my true feelings really. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump recently, and books like this make me remember why I love reading so much.

My rating: 4/5Average rating: 3.85
252 pages. Published in: 2017
Read in Paperbackon 17th June – 1st July 2018

Claire Harman: Jane’s Fame

I want to start this review by saying that although I was slightly disappointed with this book, that’s more due to me thinking it was going to be something different based on the blurb I read on Goodreads, so don’t necessarily be swayed by the fact that I only gave the book 3 out of 5 stars.

If you’re looking for a detailed biography of Jane Austen and how her books came to be published and then well known, this book would be perfect, however I had thought that I was going to be reading more about Austen’s influence on the world so I was a bit disappointed when I was halfway through and it was still just a straight biography.

Saying that, however, I actually found the book fascinating and incredibly well researched. I love Jane Austen’s books, but I didn’t really know much about her history. Living so close to the Brontë museum means that I know a lot about the Brontë sisters, but I’ve never really read much about Jane Austen (preferring to read her books repeatedly instead).

Maybe it was fate that I checked this book out from the e-library so that I could read more about a woman who was clearly strong-willed and knew exactly what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to put herself out there and do it. It’s such a shame that she didn’t receive the fame that she deserved during her lifetime, but this book does well at explaining the reasons behind that, and the meteoric rise in popularity of Austen in the last 150 years.

Her work was not without detractors, and one of the quotes from the book that stood out to me (for probably obvious reasons) was from Mark Twain:

“I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

I mean, come on Mark, don’t mince your words or anything!

The book was filled with quotes from admirers and detractors alike, and also quotes from Austen books and other biographies, adding to the feel that it was incredibly well researched and written by someone with a genuine appreciation for the author.

Towards the end of the book, we get more into what I was expecting from the book as a whole, showing Jane’s influence on modern day society and I genuinely did find it fascinating. I would probably have given this book more stars if it had been what I had expected, but it just dampened my opinion of it, but I would definitely recommend to any Janeites wanting to learn more about their beloved Austen!

My rating: 3/5Average rating: 3.65
352 pages. Published in: 2009
Read in E-bookon 26th – 20th June 2018

Nick Page – A Nearly Infallible History of the Reformation

I started reading two books about the reformation at a similar time, and they are very very different books. The other (which I’m still reading) is very dry and serious and hard to get into, but Nick Page manages to take a topic (like Church history) which could be quite boring or unexciting and make it a joy to read.

Filled with amusing little sketches and footnotes which frequently made me laugh out loud and interrupt my husband to make him read them too, Page really brought the history to life and made me eager continue learning.

I also really enjoyed the fact-files of major ‘characters’ of the reformation, styled like top-trump cards (if you remember those), they really helped to reinforce the people in my mind, so many names that I’d never heard of but are central to shaping the way that we worship in our Church now.

Starting this book, I am ashamed to say that I knew absolutely nothing of the reformation, I had always thought that the protestant/catholic split was instigated by Henry VIII, but the history of it starts much before that and doesn’t even originate in England. I received a really worthwhile history lesson from this book, and it was way more fun than high-school history lessons!

As much as I was sad for the book to be over, I liked this quote that Page used in his wrapping up chapter:

“One of the key lessons to be learned from the reformation is this: if you ask people to think for themselves, don’t be surprised when they do exactly that”

At 464 pages, it’s a lengthy book, but because of the writing style, it felt like it was over all too soon. I would definitely recommend this to anyone wanting to learn more about the reformation and I’m very glad I’ve got 2 other Nick Page books to move onto next!

My rating: 5/5Average rating: 4.44
464 pages. Published in: 2017
Read in Hardbackon 29th June 2017 – 30th June 2018

Adrian Plass – Blind Spots in the Bible

Please don’t judge this book by how long it took me to read it! It lends itself really well to being read in small chunks so I’ve been reading it a small part at a time while waiting for the shower to get hot, which means it’s take a long time, but it’s also prolonged the enjoyment and given me time to mull over each snippet I’ve read.

The book takes what are mostly familiar passages from the Bible and points out small parts of it that either we don’t tend to notice, or that we notice and tend to avoid. Maybe because the sentence is unobtrusive, or maybe because thinking about it in too much depth would be difficult.

Each one starts with the Bible reading, then Adrian’s commentary of it, followed by a short prayer. Adrian’s commentary (as is the case in his other books) was insightful but relatable, using his own life experiences to add context to the readings. At times full of humour, sometimes satire or just downright honest, I really enjoy Adrian’s style of writing.

It was a great way to dive deeper into passages which I have read many times before and felt like I understood, the different perspectives were eye-opening. It has definitely made me want to go back to other passages that I am maybe too familiar with and try and read them more critically/analyse them a bit deeper to see if I have truly understood what is being said.

My rating: 4/5Average rating: 3.94
160 pages. Published in: 2006
Read in Paperbackon 8th April 2017 – 27th June 2018

Timothy Keller – The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

“The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints”

I was persuaded into buying this book when someone posted it on Facebook as it’s currently only 99p on Kindle. A couple of days before, I’d had a really awkward 30 minute train journey sat next to an ardent (and argumentative) atheist who spent the entire journey trying to pick holes in my faith. All I can say is I really wish I’d read this book before that encounter and not after.

The book is compiled of two parts; a list of commonly held doubts or questions about the Christian faith, and refutations for those doubts, followed by a list of reasons why we believe. It was written in a really accessible and straightforward way, so it would be perfect for non-believers as well as those who just want to know how to speak to them.

I highlighted so many key verses while I was reading this book that it’s hard to pick out just one or two, but I think these are the ones that stuck with me the most:

“C.S. Lewis gives us another metaphor for knowing the truth about God when he writes that he believes in God ‘as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else’.”

I’ve heard this quote a few times in the past, but it’s a perfect explanation to give to someone when they ask you to explain why you believe.

“Sin is not simply doing bad things, it is putting good things in the place of God”

I’ve never really thought about it like this before. The word “sin” to me always brings to mind being ‘naughty’ or disobeying commands, but putting things like money, possessions, fame or popularity in the place of God and worshipping them is exactly the same.

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued and that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time”.

As a Christian reading this sentence, it just reminded me of how loved I am as a child of God and how no matter what I may feel, I can be confident in this identity.

As I said before, this book is still 99p on Kindle at the moment, so I’d highly recommend it if like me, you’d like a bit more ‘oomph’ behind you when you’re talking to people who don’t believe, especially those as forceful as my lovely train companion!

 

My rating: 5/5Average rating: 4.18
332 pages. Published in: 2007
Read in E-bookon 17th – 27th June 2018

Joanna Hickson – Red Rose, White Rose

I’m torn with my opinion on this book, I really am. For huge parts of the book the plot was fast paced and kept me engrossed, but then there were times when it felt like a huge slog to keep turning the pages, and in the end it took me over a month to finish reading because I just didn’t feel that ‘urge’ to pick the book up and keep reading.

I’ve not read much historical fiction like this, so I’m not sure if it’s the genre I don’t get on with or just this book, so don’t take my 3 star review too seriously as it might just not be the genre for me.

Personally, I found the main character Cicely a tad unrelatable, and for the other point of view, Cuthbert, I spent most of the book wondering why we needed his perspective. If the book needed a split perspective, I would have rather had a Cicely/Richard split, so we could have some more action included. Since most of the book centered around Cicely’s marriage, it would have been good to see her husband’s point of view too.

The other thing that really bothered me is that the book jumped huge amounts of time with hardly a mention, and I found it really hard to keep up with what year we were moving from and to, which was slightly disconcerting.

On the plus side, I did really enjoy reading a different type of book to my normal young adult/fantasy books. And although I know that it was fiction, I did like the fact that it was based in history and you could get a sense of life 500 years ago. I’ve never really known much about the war of the roses, so it was nice to learn a bit more (although I’m not sure how much to take as fact!).

I have a few Philippa Gregory books that have been sat on my shelf for ages, so I think I will have to read these soon to try and gauge my opinion on the historical fiction genre in general, maybe trying a few different authors will help!

My rating: 3/5Average rating: 3.73
400 pages. Published in: 2014
Read in E-bookon 19th – 25th May 2018

Roald Dahl – Matilda

One of my ‘Book Bingo’ challenges this year is to re-read a childhood favourite, and how could it be anything other than Matilda? I read this book so many times as a child that my copy is falling to pieces (as you can probably tell from the picture), and I’ve watched the film more times than I can count.

What I had forgotten since last time I read this book was how many beautiful illustrations were in it.

As I was reading, my husband said to me ‘Do you think they’ll ever re-print Roald Dahl books without Quentin Blake illustrations?’, and I think the answer is honestly no. His illustrations are so perfect for the story and they evoke very particular emotions as you look at them. And I think this one may have been drawn specifically for me:

In fact, when I was younger, I used to think this book had been written just for me, as I loved to read just as much as Matilda did (although not quite as young as she was).

Reading the book again was a great way to reminisce on my childhood, and relive the story without all the americanisation of the film. Trying to pick a favourite part of the story is really quite hard, but it probably has to be the end.

When Mrs Trunchbull finally gets her come-uppance, Mrs Honey finally gets her life back, and Matilda gets a guardian who truly cares for her.

This book definitely is (and probably always will be) my favourite Roald Dahl book, it’s just perfect.

My rating: 5/5Average rating: 4.29
240 pages. Published in: 1988
Read in Paperbackon 16th June 2018

Anthony Horowitz – Stormbreaker

It’s been a while since I listened to an audio-book, but since I’ve been spending so long going out walking or on public transport, I thought that getting back into audio-books would be a good way of getting through more books this year.

I saw the Stormbreaker film when it was released ages ago, but have never read any of the book series, and since the audio book was less than 6 hours long, it seemed like a good fit to get back into it again.

The narrator (Oliver Chris) had a great speaking voice, although his ‘Prime Minister’ voice sounded suspiciously like a bad Tony Blair impression! He kept me engaged through the book and never grated on me like some readers have done in the past.

I think it helped that I had already seen the film of this book as I had visualisations for the characters in my head, but I have to admit that I’d forgotten a lot of the plot!

I thought the book was well paced and the action was well spaced out so it wasn’t non-stop, but likewise it was never boring either. The pace picked up towards the end, to the point where I was so engrossed that I ended up staying in the bath far longer than I should have because I didn’t want to get out until it had finished.

I’m just disappointed that book 2 of this series is reserved on my library app until mid-July, so it might be a while until I can continue on in the series!

My rating: 4/5Average rating: 3.97
256 pages. Published in: 2000
Read in Audiobookon 2nd May – 15th June 2018

Robert C. Martin – The Clean Coder

A book about how to be a ‘professional programmer’. I was a bit worried that this book would be a bit ‘dry’ like other techy books I’ve read, but it was written in a way that kept me really engaged. The author added lots of personal anecdotes in his writing which made it easy to relate to, and I’m really glad I was lent/recommended it by my colleagues.

I felt like I learnt quite a lot from this book – even though most of it felt like common sense after I’d read it, some of it I’d never even considered before.  Things like how you should tailor your language when you speak to people to make sure you’re actually on the same page and not just assuming that they know what you mean – saying “I’ll try” for instance means two different things to the sayer and the listener. I’m definitely guilty of using that phrase a little too much in the past.

The book gives tips on how to manage your time, how to deal with conflict, how to avoid burnout, and how to create ‘thriving’ teams. I found the chapter about estimating quite fascinating, I’ve never even considered some of the techniques for estimating that he discussed – much better than a finger in the air!

I’m a little torn between giving this book 4 or 5 stars. For me, the book seemed to end quite abruptly which left me feeling a bit disappointed. One minute I was reading about the authors current choice of ‘tools’, and then I turned the page and it was over. I kind of expected some sort of conclusion perhaps.

At points, some of the recommendations the author makes seem a bit ambitious, but with the way that processes have changed for me at work in the last year or so, the sky is the limit!

My rating: 4/5Average rating: 4.27
210 pages. Published in: 2011
Read in Paperbackon 24th May – 12th June 2018

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