Book review: NHibernate 3.0 Cookbook

NHibernate 3.0 Cookbook coverPackt Publishing has before asked if I was interested in reviewing some of their books, which I was – this time, however, I asked them if they were interested in me reviewing their upcoming NHibernate 3.0 Cookbook by Jason Dentler.

I did that, because I like NHibernate very much, and I would like to help promote good fresh litterature about the subject. And this book really stands out as fresh, because it covers NHibernate 3.0 which has not even been officially released yet!

My first impressions are good – it starts out with creating a model and the usual XML-mapping stuff, and then it dives directly into modeling an inheritance hierarchy. I think this is pretty cool, because it is a sign that the book has a fairly high level of ambition: It is not just about stuffing away rows in the db, it’s about persisting an actual model!

It covers Fluent NHibernate and Fabio’s ConfORM as well, so it provides a really good foundation to anyone interested in learning the intricacies of configuring NHibernate. And it is pretty true to the model-first approach, which is how I like it.

Then it goes on with a chapter on how to manage sessions and transactions including – among other things – an example on how to manage the session from an ASP.NET MVC action filter (which is not “best practice” from an ASP.NET MVC perspective IMO, as it relies on static gateways, but I digress… the book is not about ASP.NET MVC :))

The query chapter is great, because it covers everything I can think of: Criteria, QueryOver, HQL, both in their normal and multi forms, futures, LINQ to NHibernate, detached criteria, and the new HQL bulk operations, insert and update. If I must put my finger on something, I think that the different areas are covered a little too lightly, but hey – there’s plenty of information on this stuff on the internet, and you could probably write an entire book entirely about how to put HQL to use.

The testing chapter is great as well, as it touches on nice-to-know stuff and some of “the new developments” in the area: NHibernate Profiler, Fluent NHibernate automatic persistence testing, using in-memory SQLite for persistence testing, + more.

The chapter on implementing a data access layer shows a typical data access object and a repository implementation which will probably look familiar to a lot of people, implemented with NHibernate. They both have the ability to automatically perform their operations withing transactions, if one is not already active. This makes the implementations pretty flexible, as they can be used either “by themselves”, or they can implicitly enlist in an ongoing unit of work. Moreover, a pretty nifty named query implementation is shown, complete with automated test that checks whether all implemented named query classes have corresponding named queries in an HBM XML file.

The rest of the book shows how various common tasks can be achieved using NHibernate or some of the many NHContrib projects, like e.g. creating an audit trail by listening to events, creating an IUserType to encrypt strings, using Burrows to manage session, putting NHibernate Search to use, etc… As you can probably imagine, this stuff is covered pretty lightly, but it’s sufficient to give an impression on the huge ecosystem that surrounds NHibernate, which is great.


It strikes me that the book is definitely a “no BS-book” – there’s plenty of code, which is mostly high quality and sufficiently best practice-compliant, and recommendations throughout when there are decisions to be made. If I should criticize something, I think the sheer amount of code makes for an exhausting casual read 🙂 it does, however, claim to be a “cookbook”, so I guess that’s just the way it is.

The book is probably great for developers, who are either new to or semi-experienced in using NHibernate, but have a general high level of experience and skills.

All-in-all a good read, and it’s great that it touches on so many things in and around this huge framework!

Title: NHibernate 3.0 Cookbook
Author: Jason Dentler
ISBN 10/13: 184951304X / 978-1-84951-304-3
Publisher: Packt Publishing

Book review: ASP.NET 3.5 CMS Development

asp-net-35-cms-developmentAnother book from Packt, that I got a chance to review, is ASP.NET 3.5 CMS Development.

First I thought that this would be the book that showed me a genuine reference implementation of a CMS in ASP.NET, giving me the introduction to the concepts of CMSs that I think I need. I have never used CMSs before (besides WordPress :)), so I have only a vague notion of the concepts.

But the book turns out to be more like a beginner’s introduction to the .NET stack, which just happens to be in a CMS context.

The book starts out by explaining how to set up an ASP.NET website with a single page based on a text file that can be edited “online”. Then it moves on and expands the website in all directions by putting the pages inside a SQL Server – and then it walks the reader through the details of setting up the site in IIS.

The book is actually pretty good at explaining all these things in a precise to-the-point manner, but I think it should be noted that the stuff in this book is not production ready. But then again, lots of books contain code samples and stuff that is not production ready.

If you are new to the .NET platform, you could definitely benefit from reading this book. If you are looking for instructions on how to develop CMSs, I don’t think this is the right book.

Conclusion: A nice introduction to the .NET platform.

Title: ASP.NET 3.5 CMS Development
Authors: Curt Christianson, Jeff Cochran
ISBN 10/13: 1847193617 / 978-1-847193-61-2
Publisher: Packt Publishing

Book review: ASP.NET MVC 1.0 Quickly

This book is exactly what its title says: a quick introduction to ASP.NET MVC. A natural implication is that it cannot cover that much material, and it seems Maarten went for breadth instead of depth.

In my opinion, when a book chooses to be a “quick guide”, it should focus more on showing the preferred ways to do stuff. Instead, this book seems to have too much ViewData["stuff"] = fluff going on. Why bother wasting pages showing all the tedious, error-prone, hard-to-maintain ways to do stuff when there is so little space?

If I were to author a book on ASP.NET MVC, I would focus on explaining ASP.NET MVC from the extensibility points and out. For example, System.Web.Mvc.Controller is just one way to implement the IController interface, and so on. I think that would provide a much more wholistic image of the framework, and the extensibility points is where ASP.NET MVC shines. I don’t think Maarten’s book really shows where the framework shines.

I enjoyed the chapter on using existing ASP.NET features though, and, not being an ASP.NET guy at all, I think I learned some stuff there.

My conclusion is that this book is absolutely for beginners, and that the code samples in the book should not be taken literally, because almost none of them are examples on what the community considers best practice.

Title: ASP.NET MVC 1.0 Quickly
Author: Maarten Balliauw
ISBN 10/13: 184719754X / 978-1847197542
Publisher: Packt Publishing