Book Review: Web API Development with ASP.NET Core 8

Another book that I was recently sent for review by the PackT people was Web API Development with ASP.NET Core 8: Learn techniques, patterns, and tools for building high-performance, robust, and scalable web APIs.


The author is Xiaodi Yan, who is a fellow longer-term Microsoft MVP and an experienced software developer, focussing on .NET, AI, DevOps and all things cloud-related. You'll also find him on LinkedIn Learning as an instructor.

During the Covid lockdowns, I started to get involved in attending the New Zealand Chinese IT user group meetings that were being held online. I thought it would be a great opportunity to keep trying to improve my Mandarin, particularly with technical content. Xiaodi Yan was one of the people who made me feel most welcome.

The Book

This is a very comprehensive book. I remember the author posting about his relief at having finished it, and I now know why. It's a huge book and it took me a while to go through it. Even though I did so, I think this will be a great ongoing reference in the future when I work on projects that are implementing APIs this way. The structure of the book lends itself to being a great ongoing reference.

I liked to see so many code examples. They really helped with understanding the points that he was making.

One area that I've always felt a bit weak on is dependency injection. I'm a developer by background but spend most of my days working in data, and dependency injection was one of those patterns that came along when I was less focussed on it. He explained it so well.

Lately, with any projects I've been involved with, .NET Core is usually the target. I particularly loved the fact that that's what he targeted in this book.

Like many books, there are a few further edits that might have helped. But overall, it's a masterful work.


What a great book. I can't imagine how long it must have taken to write. And how long it must have taken to get all the required thoughts in the appropriate structure and order to make it such a good reference.

It's not one for my usual data audience, but anyone involved with Web API development should check it out.

9 out of 10


Book Review: Azure Data Factory Cookbook – 2nd Edition

The people at PackT recently sent me a book to review, and I was happy to do so as it was on a topic that's dear to my heart: Azure Data Factory. The book was Azure Data Factory Cookbook and it's the second edition of the book. The authors are Dmitry Foshin, Tonya Chernyshova, Dmitry Anoshin, and Xenia Ireton.


In the past, I wasn't keen on PackT books. When they first appeared, they tended to be low cost books from unknown authors, many of whom struggled with writing in English, and pretty poor editing of the content.

I'm really pleased to see how this has changed in recent times. The authors of most of their books are now people who are knowledgeable about the topics, write well in English, and the editing has improved out of sight.

Not sure how that was achieved, but am really pleased to see that it has.

In terms of production, there are only two comments I'd make:

  • I find the font style, size, etc. still harder to read than an equivalent book from, say, Apress. I find the books harder to read for long periods.
  • I know it's hard to ask for colour, but I have to agree with one of the reviewers on Amazon who commented that the lack of colour make some of the pictures hard to read.

Other than that, the book was large, solid, and well-presented.

Content Style

I like books that are cookbook style. I used to think the same about books on topics like MDX and DAX. There is a place for books that teach the theory but often what people need once they get past the basics, are books that just say "if you're trying to achieve this, do this", and have a big list of recipes.

This book does that. Most of the topics are covered with walkthroughs that step you through how to do a task. I liked that approach.

Topic Coverage

This book covers a lot of topics. Given the title of the book was about ADF, I was really suprised to see the breadth of topics that were covered. The subtitle is A data engineer's guide to building and managing ETL and ELT pipelines with data integration. And that gives a clue to the fact that the coverage is much, much broader than ADF.

I was surprised to see so much coverage of pipelines in other places like Synapse Analytics, Fabric, etc. but more surprised to see coverage of HDInsight and big data concepts. I can't remember the last time I saw anyone using HDInsight. I always thought it was seriously over-hyped while it was being promoted, and still think the same way.

It made more sense to see a bunch of coverage of Databricks, delta tables and integrating ADF with Azure Machine Learning, Azure Logic Apps, Azure Functions and more.  They are relatively common areas of integration for ADF, along with migrating on-premises SSIS packages to ADF.

Note: in general, I don't like migrating SSIS packages to ADF in any way except rewriting them. Most of my customers never complain about the cost of using ADF. The only ones I hear complaining are people who use either the SSIS runtime for ADF or those using dataflows in ADF. (I don't like using those either)


The book is substantial, well written, and comprehensive.

What I really would have liked is more ADF content. I don't want the book to be larger, but for a book with this title, I'd prefer more depth on how to do things in ADF and less on other related but ancilliary topics.

7 out of 10

Book Review: Technology Operating Models for Cloud and Edge

I was recently sent a copy of a new book by Ahilan Ponnusamy and Andreas Spanner, called Technology Operating Models for Cloud and Edge: Create your purpose-built distributed operating model for public, hybrid, multicloud, and edge.

It was interesting to read this book.

I spend more of my time on the Azure side of the fence than the AWS / RedHat side of things, so I have some pretty different opinions to the authors on many of the topics. I've have worked with multiple clouds, so what they were describing was familiar anyway.

I particularly liked their discussion near the beginning of the book that cover what often goes wrong in cloud moves. They talked about issues with:

  • Unclear direction-setting attempts like 'cloud first' left teams unsure of their future or what to do.
  • Moving to the Cloud is mistaken for innovation.
  • Goals to move large amounts of applications to the public cloud in an established enterprise without significant change management are not realistic.
  • High unanticipated bill shock.
  • Lift and shift shortcuts do not leverage Cloud on-demand scale-out/in features and, as a result, do not lead to the desired business demand-aligned pricing.

I regularly write articles on making real cloud transformations not just migrations. Too many people talk transformation, but end up doing migrations, and then enter the well of disappointment. And for their users, things are even worse.

So I liked to see their discussion warning against focusing on technology instead of transitioning people, processes, and culture to enable cloud ROI. And I had a chuckle when I read their recommendation to not start with logos that we want on our CVs. I can't tell you how often I've seen teams makign that mistake.

Robust, Antifragile, Application Lifecycles, and Data

I'm not 100% convinced by the Robust is out. Antifragile is in. discussion. I get why they're arguing that, but I see it differently. Similarly, I view application lifecycles now as very different to the:

  • innovate
  • operate
  • retire

options discussed.

Given my work focus, it's not entirely surprising that I differ a great deal with them in regards to how data should be handled today.

Edge Services and Hybrid Cloud

The authors must be seeing far more edge-based services than I commonly see in the market. They had an interesting discussion on that. Quite a large part of the book is dedicated to tackling edge services.

As for hybrid cloud arrangements, I'm quite pleased to see the lead Microsoft has taken in their Arc-enabled offerings.

Vendor Lock-In

Finally, I see their arguments around avoiding vendor lock-in. This is a topical one for me. I see people worried by this, and ending up with lousy outcomes.

It reminds me of application code that's written to avoid being locked into specific databases. Invariably, you end up with code that's not great with any database. And eventually, code gets added that's specific to one database. So then you have the worst of all possible worlds: poor code that's database agnostic, yet lock-in anyway because eventually, work just had to be done. And the kicker: I've never seen anyone who does this ever change databases anyway.

The same applies to multi-cloud thinking. What the authors don't really discuss, is that it's easy to end up with outcomes that work equally poorly on multiple platforms.

And it's a similar discussion in relation to committing to only use open source software. I understand the sentiment, and I've used many of the services that they mention in the book. I just haven't loved those services the way I do many of the options that aren't open source.

In today's world, your company can get run over by competitors who are quicker to market by using the best aspects offered by a single platform.


Regardless, I'm glad they've written on these topics. Even if you don't agree, it gives you a list of topics to consider.

7 out of 10

Book Review: Pro Power BI Architecture

I was pleased to see Reza Rad's latest book Pro Power BI Architecture: Development, Deployment, Sharing, and Security for Microsoft Power BI Solutions: Rad, Reza: 9781484295373: Books now out the door. Reza is an old friend, fellow Data Platform MVP, and fellow member of the Microsoft Regional Director program.

I was pleased to have been a technical reviewer for this book, and I hope that, along with the other reviewers, we have improved what was already a good book.

Not Just an Update

This is version 2 of the book that Reza produced in 2019 but it is not a book with minor updates. Most of the book is rewritten.

Reza is a book-writing machine. In this book, he has covered so very many aspects of architecture for Power BI. He has provided an emphasis on reliability and ease of maintenance. In particular, I was pleased to see a discussion on environments as that's often omitted in Power BI related books. And a discussion on how to save money by using the right licensing. Once again, that's a topic that's often not discussed.

Target Audience and Style

The book is really for anyone who needs to build Power BI reports (often analysts and developers), but with a view to the bigger picture of how to structure a project so it continues to be usable as it (or the team) grows in size.

I like Reza's conversational style and it shines out in his writing. When I read it, I often feel like I'm sitting in a room listening to him talk. That's a tough skill and Reza does it effortlessly.


Great book and well-written

8 out of 10


Book Review: Chernobyl 01:23:40 by Andrew Leatherbarrow

I've been fascinated by what happened at Chernobyl for a long time. Many of my readers wouldn't know that when I first started university, I was studying nuclear physics and mathematics. Wasn't long afterwards that I headed into computing but, at the time, there were very few degree courses on what's now called computing.

I decided to move on from that study for many reasons, but a primary one was that I could see Australia heading into a pretty solid ban on using nuclear power. The only reactor running in the country was a high flux reactor at Lucas Heights and was used primarily for producing medical isotopes. (It was replaced by a 20MW open-pool lightwater reactor in 2007).

The ban on reactors in Australia has pretty much continued to this day, but there is now some renewed interest. Given the abundance of sunshine, wind, waves, etc. here, you wouldn't think we'd need them now, but over the years, we've continued to mostly use coal. And while we've come a long way with renewables now, we're still far, far behind where we need to be to provide our base load needs from alternatives. For a start, we'd pretty much have to rewire the country.

It does fascinate me that if you ask the average person here about nuclear power though, they quote details of a handful of accidents, and primarily from reactors built in the 1970s. There is an assumption that what would be built in 2023 is the same as what was built in 1971. Even allowing for the difference in severity, if we applied that logic to other areas, we would have, for example, stopped using aircraft long ago (drastically more people have died from aircraft accidents and incidents).  And there seems to be a wilful blindness to the deaths directly and indirectly linked to the use of coal. Perhaps they just aren't as spectacular.


I've seen a lot of material about Chernobyl over the years. I think my standout favourite was a  1996 Horizon documentary from the BBC called Inside Chernobyl's Sarcophagus. I saw it back in 1996 and it was the first time that I really started to understand what had happened there, and more importantly, how poorly the government reacted and how poorly those involved were treated. It had such a wake-up call about how technologies that we thought would work, just didn't.

I'm not sure why Andrew Leatherbarrow's book Chernobyl 01:23:40 recently got me interested. It might have been the renewed public interest in the accident from the recent HBO/Sky miniseries. (I already knew enough about the accident to note the amount of dramatic license taken by the miniseries). I listened to Andrew's book on Audible.

The book was really not what I was expecting. And I say that in a good way.

Rather than just a dry rehashing of facts, it was Andrew's personal story. He had researched the accident for many years, and finally managed to make a trip to visit the site. For him, it was like a pilgrimage.

The book describes not only what he saw when he got there, but also the details of the trip, from the planning stages, to how he and his companions managed to get around when nearby, on site, and more.

I also particularly liked the detail he had on the legendary Chernobyl divers.


Have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

8 out of 10



Book Review: Tripping Over Myself – Shaun Micallef

I've been a big fan of Shaun Micallef for many years. So I was very excited to listen to his new book Tripping Over Myself, A Memoir of a Life in Comedy both to learn more about his background, and to hear his thoughts on it.

I truly appreciate his sense of humour, and as someone who speaks publicly regularly, I appreciate watching his timing and delivery. That's the number one reason why I wanted to listen to this on Audible rather than reading the book. Shaun reads the book himself, and I knew that hearing him deliver the content would add to the value it brings.

And I was right. I thoroughly enjoyed the book.


It's not for everyone. There are many, many Australian references that I think would be lost on anyone who hasn't lived here, and also, who hasn't lived here long enough to understand all the references. Fortunately, that suited me just fine.

Shaun does a wonderful job of seeing the funny side of life. He does poke fun at people, but even more so at himself. I love his self-effacing humour.

Hearing the background about TV shows that I've seen in the past was fascinating. The book does a good job of letting you see how his style has developed over the years.

Mad as Hell

Shaun's most recent TV series in Australia was Mad as Hell. The name of the show was a reference to a famous line delivered by Peter Finch in the movie Network, often described as a satirical black-comedy drama about a newsroom. I remember Peter Finch saying "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" at a crucial part of the movie.

While Shaun was the clear star of the Mad as Hell show, he (and/or the producers no doubt) assembled such a talented team around him. Shaun always produced a masterclass in comedy timing and delivery.

The one exception I'd make to this is his desire to keep impersonating Kenneth Williams. That really, really needs to be removed from his performances.


I don't normally listen to biographies. As I mentioned, I loved it. Well done Shaun.

9 out of 10


Book Review: Leap First by Seth Godin

I'm a fan of Seth Godin, and have always enjoyed listening to him. Recently I finished listening to Leap First on Audible. 
When I started listing to this book, I didn't quite know what to make of it. I always enjoy Seth's anecdotes. At first, the book seemed more like a series of anecdotes than an in-depth treatment of the topic. It seemed to lack a continuous train of thought. I started feeling like I was listening to a collection of anecdotes from Seth, rather than a "real" book.
It's brief: only 2 hours 6 minutes long. I started to wonder if Seth had felt the need to push out another book, when one wasn't needed.

But Later

I was wrong.

As the book continued, a real train of thought did emerge to tie the thoughts together. I ended up quite enjoying it. The book is a recording of parts of a session that he was delivering. The audience was aspiring entrepreneurs and others. And Seth is a great public speaker.

I loved when he called us all out on procrastination, and our failure to "leap".  Other people's reviews were strong. "Highly recommended for anyone who might be stuck or trying to find meaningful work."  This is where the brevity of the book might well be a good thing. I can imagine people listening to it many times, particularly when they feel the need for a "pick me up" in their work.
I loved the stories of authors reading the one-star reviews of their work, and the analysis of why they do that. I've seen that many times and he's dead right.


A brief but interesting book. Don't let the feeling that you are listening to a collection of anecdotes put you off. An message does shine though as the book continues.

7 out of 10.


Book Review: The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being

Ever since I watched Professor Alice Roberts' series on travelling Egypt by Train, I've been quite a fan of her work. (It also means I probably came to knowing about her later than I should have). Since then, I've been working through a number of her books. On Audible, I just finished listening to The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being.

Amongst many other things, Alice is an English biological anthropologist. She also worked as a doctor in the National Heath Service in Wales for a while, but she left clinical medicine to focus on anatomy.

This is an amazingly powerful book.

I can't describe just how many things I learned when listening to it. Alice shows a mastery of so many disciplines (like anatomy, genetics, biology, evolution, and more) and combines them to tell a detailed story of the evolution of the human body. She fills in so many gaps that I didn't understand about why things in the body are the way they are, and importantly, how they came to be that way.

Alice works through each of the major systems of the body, one by one, and describes so much about how they function in humans, and how they function in other animals, particularly those that share a common ancestor with us in the tree of life.

When I was at high school, biology was considered a softer science than chemistry, psychics, mathematics, etc. In fact, in an indication of the appalling gender-divide back then, at our school biology was taught over at the girls' high school and males who wanted to learn, needed to go there. Worse still, because it didn't rate as well as other sciences, it put students in a less competitive situation for university entrance. That meant that if you wanted to be a medical doctor, the worst thing you could do was to study biology at school, as it would reduce your chances of getting into medical school. How ridiculous!

As I've aged, I've now built a complete fascination with biology. I wish I'd spent more time on it when younger. This book hit the mark for me nicely.


I've seen a few comments from people (one or two from the USA) who have some difficulty with Alice's accent and found the book harder because she read it herself. I couldn't disagree with those comments more. I'm so very glad that Alice read the book herself. She has a steady pace, a clear accent, and is obviously used to teaching. Her accent is a pretty straightforward English accent.

The Verdict?

After learning so many things from the book (and it's a long book), I got a hint of just how much more I don't know about this.  At some point, if I have another 11 hours 15 minutes to spare, this is one book that I'll likely listen to again, to try to catch some of what I'm sure I missed.

10 out of 10



Book Review – Make Your Data Speak – Alex Kolokolov

Over the last year, I've come to know Alex Kolokolov more, through involvement with his data visualization challenges. I was really pleased to see he'd written his first book Make Your Data Speak (Creating Actionable Data through Excel For Non-Technical Professionals).

Things I Liked

I really liked the conversational style of the book. It's all structured around  an approach of "Let's see how this happens by example". The tone was really refreshing and should be good to hold people's interest.

I also really loved the approach of starting with a (believable) mess and cleaning it up. The level of the book would probably work best for the "not really comfortable with pivot tables yet" audience but I could see it being useful for people who've worked with these types of problems before, and who have probably made all the mistakes that Alex talked about in the book. Alex did say it's for non-technical professionals and I think that's spot on.

Having QR codes for linking to sample code was a simple but nice addition.

I found myself chuckling a bit when reading the  colours and theming parts. When I see demonstrations of material like this, people often demonstrate truly awful colours, and I think "no-one would do that". Alex has chosen examples that are nasty but believable. I've seen worse in the field.

Similarly, the section on choosing visualizations was detailed and well-argued.

The book finishes with a section on improving data-driven culture in the organisation. That's a good way to end.

Things I'd Like to See Improved

Not much. It's great!

It's important to note that the book focusses on Excel. I did keep thinking about how I'd do it in Power BI instead, but there is a very, very big audience for Alex's take on how to tell data stories using Excel.

I was concerned about how the English would be, from a non-native speaker. Some was a little odd, but Alex has done an outstanding job. In fact, it's so much better than so many books I've recently read from native English speakers. I really did not notice errors apart from a few things that sounded grammatically odd to me. As an example, the chapter "Dashboard Assembling" really should be "Dashboard Assembly" or perhaps better "Assembling Dashboards". Some sentences like "Assembly according to the layout is faster and easier…" is strictly correct but sounded a little odd.

I'd have to say though that nothing really grated on me. And that's quite an achievement. I hope one day I can do the same in Mandarin, but I fear I'll be far short of the level of what Alex has achieved in English writing.

The Verdict?

If you need to learn to tell a story with data and using Excel, this would be a worthwhile addition to your library.

7 out of 10


Book Review: SQL Server Query Tuning and Optimization

I was pleased to be sent a pre-release copy of Benjamin Nevarez's new book SQL Server Query Tuning and Optimization. Last time, I reviewed his High Performance SQL Server book.

This book seems to be somewhat new and somewhat an update, but this time with the main focus on query tuning and optimization. That's pleasing as the main way to get better performance out of SQL Server is to fix the queries. much more so than anything to do with the hardware or server configurations that so many people focus on.

I've known Benjamin for a long time. He's a very skilled SQL Server professional. And again the technical reviewer for the book is another very skilled old friend in Mark Broadbent. Brandon Leach, Ajmer Dhariwal, and Artur Wysozanski were also technical reviewers. Once again, I had high expectations.

And once again, I wasn't disappointed.

The book covers a rich set of topics, including most things you need to know when performing query optimization for SQL Server. It provides a detailed background to each area, and then recommendations on how to proceed.

Once again, it was so pleasing to read a technical book that was well written, used English well, and  wasn't full of technical errors. Nowadays, there aren't many technical books that fall into this category. Several times lately, I've been sent technical books for review, and I've ended up telling the publisher that they don't want me to write a review as those books were so poorly written. It's important to support people who are still writing quality technical books.

Now, were there again areas that I disagreed with Benjamin on?


I just don't share the enthusiasm for the in-memory OLTP options in SQL Server, even for temporary objects. I wish it wasn't so, but I've spent so much time trying them over the years, and let's just say, I don't use them. The SQL Server team spent so much money on their in-memory OLTP and in its current form, even in SQL Server 2022, it just doesn't deliver. I think it's one of Bob Ward (product team)'s dreams to ever have me happy with it, but that's not happened yet. It shines in a few very niche areas, but for most customers, I tell them to avoid it.

Another area that I'd also differ on now is the Data Collector. I really don't think this has much future. Benjamin covers it still in this version of the book, but I'd strongly suggest that customers give it a miss.

Were there again areas where I'd love to see the book improved?


Here are some suggestions:

  • I'd like to see statement terminators in all the code (personal bugbear).
  • The order of the topics in theory makes sense, but again in practice, I'm not so sure. I'm concerned that most developers who pick up this book won't get through the theory, to then find the gold. Perhaps there's a need for another book that just lists all the common issues for query tuning, and then for each one, explains what's going on. Alternately, it might have made for an interesting appendix, to have a list of common issues, and for each to tell you which parts of the book are most relevant. So many developers would be just looking for quick answers, and aren't going to read the whole book to find that.
  • I'd love to see more info on working with captured traces. There is so much value in this analysis, of both the core queries, and the normalized versions of the queries. Nowadays, it's the number one thing I start looking at when doing performance tuning work on systems that I haven't worked on before.
  • I'd like to see the book call out even more on the importance of appropriate application design. In my work, I find that at least 70% of the SQL Server performance-related issues that I run into, are application design issues.

The Verdict ?

Overall though? Again, a wonderful book.   9 out of 10.

It should be released very soon:

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