Fantasy, Fiction, History, Non Fiction

Week 2, January 7th, 2024

Posted by Max Bellmann

Week 2 of 2024 – not quite as impressive as Week 1 (will they ever be?). To be fair, I had a few hold overs from 2023 that were finished in early 2024. That plus I have a few very long reads in progress that simply take more time. That said, was able to finish 3 reads.

  • SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham
  • Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo
  • Guests of the Ayatollah, by Mark Bowden

Clearly a list that’s a bit all over the place, one focused on my own personal professional development, one for education on US history, and one for fun. Without further adieu.

SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham

SPIN gets a lot of street cred in the sales realm, but all in I can’t say I was super impressed with this book. It does seem to provide a lot of good questions to ask or pose, and the different kinds of questions… but of course it’s all very situational and not marketly clear which questions have the most importance. The Situation, the Problem, the Implication, and the Need-Payoff. All valuable, but to varying degrees depending on situation. Good to be aware and know when to change course, but the book doesn’t necessarily advise HOW to do this. But at least helps one recognize. 3/5 Stars.

Ninth House, by Leigh Bardugo

This was my first read by Leigh Bardugo which I was quite excited about. I’ve REALLY been wanting to read her Shadow and Bone series, but those are hard to come by from the library due to popularity. I’ll get there. This is also a different story from that series and the Grishaverse, this was dubbed as more adult and dark… which I’m into.

I will say, this was definitely a slow burn. I had almost given up, but at about 40% of the way through things started heating up quite nicely. Crossing worlds and solving mysteries and diving into the occult. I’m glad I stuck around.

Leigh did a good job of creating a unique world of Yale Secret Societies meets murder mystery meets fantasy fiction. She weaves ghosts and magic, mysterious deaths (both from the current [real] world and the past [dead] world). That said, one medium-issue I had was in the repelling of ghosts (aka greys)… you just have to say words that remind them of death and they run away. Dumb in my opinion and used several times throughout the story. And not only is it words of death, but never what you might think… they are coded in old quotes and stories which felt kind of Shakespearean. Anyway, minor compliant but did find that distracting from its dumbness.

I certainly was left guessing throughout as to who did what, and why. Not that I’m particularly good at uncoding pretty much any story, but this seemed harder than normal to crack. And I appreciate that. Leigh also sets up a good cliffhanger for her follow up book, which I will be reading shortly – Hell Bent.

And, without doing any actual research on my own, it certainly feels as though Leigh did her research well on Yale and their Secret Societies. Perhaps she went there herself? In any event, very detailed with the layout of the campus, halls, buildings, streets, and other landmarks of note.

I’ll certainly continue down the Leigh Bardugo rabbit hole and look forward to her other works. As for Ninth House, 4/5 Stars.

Guests of the Ayatollah, by Mark Bowden

This was a recommendation by a good friend (shout to to Skae!) for an excellent historical read. From the same author that brought you Black Hawk Down comes another tale of America vs. the Middle East. This was a pretty wild story, and one that I’d only marginally heard of before diving into this book.

I found a few things interesting about this story, outside of the actual hostage situation itself. First, how seriously damaging this was to the re-election campaign of Jimmy Carter. Essentially, he failed to act appropriately (though acting also could’ve had damaging consequences) and it was a major factor in him not getting the 2nd term not. Also, the prep and planning that went into a rescue mission. Military teams build replica layouts based on the intel they’d received, did many practice runs to determine best approaches along with quickest entry and exit times – which one would HOPE would happen – but the detail provided on that particular piece was fascinating.

All in, this story felt like, to me anyway, a bunch of college protesters got in their heads a bad idea… and after executing the storming of the embassy – sh*t escalated. Luckily no one was killed or seriously injured, though would have to imagine for anyone involved from the American side of things… harrowing to say the least. Certainly odd how some of the Iranians were what you might expect from a hostage situation, whereas others were arguably nice. An odd dynamic.

Definitely a fun read covering all aspects of the ordeal – from the setup, to the actual takeover and hostage situation, to the military prep and response, to the American and Iranian political implications. A solid read, especially for anyone a fan of historical nonfiction. 3.5/5 Stars.

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