Monday, December 19, 2016

Book Review: "Every Heart a Doorway" by Seanan McGuire

Nancy is a teen that found a door in her cellar that lead to the Halls of the Dead.  She was there until the Lord of the Dead told her she had to return to the world of the living until she was sure.  Her parents were quite upset that she wasn't the girl they remembered so they sent her to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children in the hope they could get her back.  What they didn't know is that Eleanor West's Home is a boarding school for the children who wandered into portal worlds and want to go back to those worlds.

This is an interesting little story set in an intriguing world.  The plot is the weakest part of the story, basically a series of murders that drive the character interactions.  The characters, on the other hand, are interesting and complicated.  Each one reflects the world they travelled to.  The interactions between the characters are enjoyable.  The universe is also quite complicated with each portal world classified on several dimensions.  The main two are Nonsense/Logic and Virtue/Wicked.  As mentioned all of the students want to return to their world, which adds an interesting tension to the conversations since they all know how unlikely it is they can return.

Overall I do recommend reading it.  Just bear in mind that it isn't your usual fantasy novel.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Book Review: "The Angel's Command" by Brian Jacques

This is a story about a boy, Ben, and his dog, Ned.  They were saved from the Flying Dutchman by the angel who cursed that ship to sail forever.  In the process Ben and Ned were enchanted so they don't age and can communicate telepathically.  They are required to travel the world helping the people they meet.

This novel is split into two books.  The first book, La Petite Marie, tells how Ben and Ned take ship with a pirate crew in Brazil following the angel's instructions.  They go through a number of trials as the pirate captain guides his ship to France where he intends to retire.  The second book, The Razan, picks up at the end of the first.  It takes Ben and Ned along the French Pyrenees joining a teenage thief girl and a young male portraitist with the magic power that his portraits always show people as they really are.  The trio is promptly recruited by an old comte to attempt the rescue of his nephew from a band of particularly evil brigands.

The novel shows most of the good features that can be found in the Redwall stories.  The characters and settings are vivid.  The bad guys are clearly evil and deserve their misfortune.  The good guys are clearly good, though they are sometimes playfully tricky.  The main things this story doesn't have that the Redwall series has are riddles and character driven plots.

Overall this novel isn't as good as any of the stories set in Redwall that I've read.  Still it is a decent, straightforward story and might be good to read with a kid.

Friday, December 9, 2016

News 12/9/2016

Well, I'm in the Honolulu airport again. I'll be visiting with Mom, Paupau, and Mary for the weekend.

I know it has been a while since I last posted. The weeks have a tendency to blend into each other. The weather is the usual. Occasionally it gets cold enough at night that I'll get out a heavy blanket. Sometimes it also gets silly hot for the islands. In the upper 80s usually with no trades so it is humid, too. Recently the temps have been great and I've seen rain every night and often during the day. I've even seen a couple of days that were completely overcast.

Over the summer I know folks saw reports of the time we had two hurricanes pass by the islands in one week. They caused trouble on the Big Island, but both were far enough away that they only made Honolulu hot and humid. We had a storm earlier in the year, Tropical Storm Darcy Darby, that caused the first thunderstorm I've noticed in the islands. Then it headed out to sea and turned into a tropical depression.

Work continues to go well. The projects are interesting though the requirements and design processes take longer than I'd like. We've just finished a larger project that had all five of the C# developers on it. It was mostly a SQL/SSIS project but it did include some interesting automated integration testing. Now we're working on housekeeping, bug fixes, and small enhancements.

I'm working on bug fixes for one of our earlier projects. One great thing is that I've been able to go through and refactor the code. Bringing it closer to current standards, applying some good practices highlighted by Microsoft's static code analysis, and making it easier to understand what the code is doing.

The plan for Christmas is that I'm flying back to Chicago. I'll get in the Friday before and spend Christmas weekend in Indy. Then I'll be back in Chicago until I fly out that Thursday.