A little over a year ago, my job situation changed slightly as I moved from one capacity into that of the local website manager for our company. I was...moreA little over a year ago, my job situation changed slightly as I moved from one capacity into that of the local website manager for our company. I wasn't in charge of any actual coding, just putting the Wordpress CMS to work and helping to build images and content for the site. I decided at some point that using Wordpress wasn't going to be good enough; I wanted to know how the gears worked.
Under recommendation from a friend, I picked up a copy of "PHP 6 and MYSQL 5" by Larry Ulman and dug in. Then I realized I was going to need some HTML/CSS first, so I grabbed "HTML, XHTML, and CSS" by Elisabeth Castro. And dove into that one instead.
As a relative newbie to web development via code, I thought the book did a great job of walking me through the basic concepts and giving me the syntax needed to make everything work. It explains the differences betweeen plain HTML and XHTML, the reasons for using the latter, and a good intro to CSS and it's benefits over the older forms of style markup.
The problem I had with the book may just be chalked up to my learning style. While she printed plenty of examples and allowed you to download those examples from her site, that didn't really help me. I could have typed out every example, but then I'd be left with a jumble of random pages. In comparison, as I'm starting "PHP 6..." I've found the examples to be more instructional; they provide a good walkthrough and well labeled files that you build upon as you go through the book. I guess I would've rather the book walked me through building a basic site, so that when I reached the end, I had a large completed project I could look at and be proud, while having learned something at the same time.
In regards to reference, I think it's great. I know I'm going to be coming back to it again and again as I track down a variety of HTML and CSS elements, or just need to use the large color board in the back. If you're after a good reference for HTML and CSS basics, check this book out. But if you're looking for something to help you build a basic site while learning to do so, or that helps you build something and pick it apart to see exactly why it works, this one might not be for you.(less)
Confession: I have not read all the Dune books. I apologize if you're leaving this blog in a rage, but it's true. I have 4 of the 6 original books, an...moreConfession: I have not read all the Dune books. I apologize if you're leaving this blog in a rage, but it's true. I have 4 of the 6 original books, and I've meant to read them, I've just never gotten farther than book 3. Occasionally, when I'm browsing the sci-fi section at my local library, I'll stumble upon the "new" Dune books, written by Brian Herbert (Frank's son) and Kevin J. Anderson, and I always wonder if they're any good.
So when I got a copy of Hellhole, the new non-Dune book by Herbert and Anderson, I thought it might be a nice test-drive for the Dune books, at least in the sense of writing style. After finishing Hellhole, I'm not so sure I'm that tempted anymore.
The story revolves around General Tiber Adolphus, a former military leader who led a rebellion against the ruling government of the primary planet cluster in this galaxy. The rebellion failed (due to the government playing dirty) and Adolphus was exiled to a planet in the Deep Zone (an area of colonization) named after the General who defeated him, Hallholme. The people who live there call it Hellhole.
As the story moves forward, you learn more about the people of Hellhole, the General's new plans, and a strange alien civilization that once existed on the planet. If that sounds like a lot, well, it is. Characters come out of the woodwork, and by almost halfway through the book, there were still new characters popping up. I should probably take into consideration that this is the first book of a planned trilogy, but yet it felt like a good amount of Hellhole is a set-up for the rest of the series.
For me, the fact that it's mostly set-up isn't even the issue. I just failed to find a lot of characters I could relate too. The bad guys are definitely evil and easy to hate, and sure the good guys have been jilted and are on a righteous mission, but so many of them felt flat. And when I can't relate to a lot of the characters, the cliffhanger (it's book one remember?) doesn't matter as much. If I don't care about them, there's no reason to hang around.
Overall, the plot isn't bad; there are some interesting stories happening here. Perhaps in the last two books, this trilogy will go somewhere exciting. I'll just have to make sure those books arrive at my library, so I can be reinvigorated about it (or disappointed) at no cost to me except my time.
Thanks to the Goodreads First Reads program (and TOR books) for providing me with this copy. Their provision of the book in no way affected my opinion or this review.(less)
Is it possible to take our good intentions too far? Does forcing morality onto people create a better society, or just a better looking one?
These are...moreIs it possible to take our good intentions too far? Does forcing morality onto people create a better society, or just a better looking one?
These are some of the questions tackled in Superman: Red Son. The first question it asks is, "What if Superman landed 12 hours later, ending up in Soviet Russia rather than Midwest, USA?" The Soviet Union exploits this fact, and with your belief structures largely based on what your parents believe and the culture you're raised in, Superman would come to believe in the Communist agenda.
Inevitably, a belief in communism combined with Superman's morality and the death of Stalin pushes him to a point where he believes that if he was in charge of the Soviet Union, things would be better. And soon more and more of the world comes under his control. But not everything is peachy. Not everyone wants to sign up for the Superman plan of world domination, including the U.S., and a character who's appearance I don't want to spoil.
In the process of telling this engaging story, it wrestles with the questions I listed at the beginning. Can you force morality onto people, and does that make for a better society? Does an alien or higher power have the right to interfere in the lives of humans, or are we better off on our own? These are the kinds of questions humanity has been asking itself for a long time. And while Red Son does it's best to answer those questions, I'm not sure all of it's implications are correct.
Regardless, Superman looks pretty cool in a Soviet military inspired costume.(less)
I don't enjoy horror literature, so I've never had cause to pick up a book by Stephen King. But "The Green Mile" looked different enough that when I s...moreI don't enjoy horror literature, so I've never had cause to pick up a book by Stephen King. But "The Green Mile" looked different enough that when I saw a copy at a used book sale, I picked it up. And then it collected dust for years before I asked my wife what I should read. She looked over my "to read" list and chose it.
If all of his work is like this, I understand why so many think so highly of Mr. King as a writer. Here he crafts a story of the supernatural, but simultaneously, and more importantly, a story of characters.
From Paul Edgecombe to Percy Whetmore to John Coffey, each character comes to life not only vividly but realistically. The pacing is perfect, and the story is enthralling. If I had read this in six parts as it was originally released, I would probably have spent 6 months in agony.
As the story progresses, you come to love the characters (and hate others). You can't help but engage emotionally with them. By the end, I was left with a bittersweet feeling: both smiling and melancholy. I hated to see it end, but appreciated the beauty of it.
If you've put off picking up "The Green Mile" like me because you assumed any book by Stephen King must be horror, don't delay longer. I may never read another book by him, but after this one, I'm not sure it matters.(less)
I found this to be a fun, quick read (though the quickness may be in comparison to my previous read A Storm of Swords).
Scalzi really makes this about...moreI found this to be a fun, quick read (though the quickness may be in comparison to my previous read A Storm of Swords).
Scalzi really makes this about the characters. After meeting the Old Farts near the beginning, you feel for everything they (and primarily John Perry) goes through from beginning to end.
And this is good, because without the distinctness of characters, this could easily fall into a basic retread of Heinlein and Haldeman. Instead, it's less about the mechanics of war, and more about one man's journey through it. I'd really like to know what happens to John Perry, and I'm glad there are a few more books in the series yet to go.
Well done, Mr. Scalzi. You started out as a recommendation from a friend, and you've me over to the fan category.(less)