Tag Archives: training

Badluck Way

Badluck Way:  A Year on the Ragged Edge of the west by Bryce Andrews

Publish Date:  January 7, 2014

Rating:  * * *

“A memoir of Montana”

The stunning photography first drew me to this book.  The landscape is harsh and beautiful.  The same could be said for the lifestyle on a working ranch, as the author learns.  This book captures the idealism of youth as it meets the practicalities of ranching.  It provides an interesting glimpse into the daily chores and routine on a working spread, which includes working around the demands of both livestock and predators.

Wolves are a large part of this story.  The Sun Ranch was devoted to conservation and sustainable use, in contrast to some of its neighbors at the time, which could cause friction particularly when the wolves recently re-introduced to nearby Yellowstone Park migrated to ranching country.  The author learns that although conservation and ranching are not mutually exclusive, the balance is delicate.

I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.

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Phoenix Island

Phoenix Island by John Dixon

Publish Date:  January 21, 2014

Rating:  * * * *

Lord of the Flies meets The Brotherhood of the Rose meets Dead Poets Society

This is a chilling story of survival and humanity.  Chilling because humans are capable of doing terrible things to each other.  Survival because in order to survive, sometimes humans become inhuman.  Humanity because humans are capable of rescuing each other and upholding each other’s safety, dignity, and sanity.

Carl Freeman, sentenced to 2 years at the Phoenix Island boot camp for juvenile offenders due to fighting one too many bullies, soon learns the judge was unwittingly correct about it being a “terminal” stop:  kids die on Phoenix Island.  Even more terrifying is that nobody on the outside knows or cares because everyone on the island is an orphan.

Carl finds that on Phoenix Island bullying is often rewarded.  He learns that conformity would be easy, but maintaining one’s own identity and morality is both difficult and dangerous.  He learns that friendship is both painful and necessary.  He learns that contingencies, interpretations, could have turned his life into something entirely different.  He learns that he needs to follow his own code of ethics, regardless of the cost to himself.  Ironically, the island ultimately teaches him exactly what the court system wanted him to learn (albeit in a manner the court hopefully would not have sanctioned):  to control his own behavior.

This is a difficult book, but an affirming one.

I received an advance reader copy through NetGalley.

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