Thankful for Mental Health (With Bonus Literary Analogies!)

I joke about my anxiety and depression and OCD here quite a bit, because most of the time I’m in the right frame of mind to view those diagnoses as just another part of me, like being ridiculously near-sighted or having hay fever. When the meds and therapy and the planets are aligned, I can just shrug off my, um, quirks and make it through each day without dreading the next.

Last Thanksgiving, nothing was aligned. This Thanksgiving, I’m on an even keel because I finally did something I was terrified to do before.

I asked for help.

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Audiobook Angst: Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale (audiobook)

  • Title: Flowers from the Storm
  • Author:  Laura Kinsale
  • Narrator: Nicholas Boulton
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Avon, 1992
  • Source: Purchased ($2.99 ebook, $3.49 audiobook)
  • Length: 565 pages (19 hours)
  • Trope(s): Sheltered Spinster, Dukish Duke, Evil In-Laws, ANGST ANGST AND MORE ANGST (did I mention the ANGST?)
  • Quick blurb: Sheltered Quaker woman feels called to help a notorious (but brilliant) duke when she finds him wrongfully imprisoned in her uncle’s asylum.
  • Quick review: Go away and leave me alone. I’m still swooning.
  • Grade: A- for story, A+ for narration

 “It was an Opening,” she whispered.

 “It was…you,” he said.

OH. MY. GOD. You people weren’t kidding about this book. Good lord. It’s going to take me months to recover my equilibrium, and god help whatever books I’m reading and listening to next.

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale (original 1992 cover)The minus on the story grade is for the slight lag in the pacing after the [NO SPOILERS], and I wondered about Maddie being called “Duchess” instead of “Your Grace,” and I couldn’t figure out why her father didn’t play more of a role in her spiritual conundrum, but then I had to replay the last chapter three times because, you know, OH. MY. GOD.

[Gimme a sec, I need to swoon again: *~*SWOON*~* <thud>]

Sorry, where was I? With the wrong narrator, this audiobook would have been a disaster of epic proportions. Nicholas Boulton captured Jervaulx’s anger and anguish — and Maddy’s longing and confusion — so bloody brilliantly I had my headphones on all night for four nights straight. And I stayed up until 3 o’clock this morning and I don’t care if I fall asleep at my desk and drool on my keyboard.

These characters, and all their lovely, glorious angst, will live with me — and I can’t think of much higher praise for an author than that.

Audiobook Adventure: The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

  • Title(s): The Bronze Bow
  • Author: Elizabeth George Speare
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical, Young Adult
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 1961
  • Source: Purchased ($1.99 ebook promo, $1.99 audio)
  • Length: 256 pages (7.5 hours)
  • Trope(s): Coming of Age, Angry Young Man, Revenge and Redemption
  • Quick blurb: Young blacksmith’s dreams of avenging his father’s death are disrupted by the unwanted responsibilities of adulthood — and his encounters with a charismatic traveling preacher.
  • Quick review: Now THIS is how to write historical fiction.
  • Grade: B+ for story, A for narration

He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

This book won the Newbery Medal in 1962, and I can’t believe I’ve never read it before. The historical world-building is utterly enthralling, and narrator Pete Bradbury made the complex characters vivid and unique — I was there every minute, and there were more than a few times I lingered in the parking lot when I arrived at work to listen just a few minutes longer.

The plot went in directions I never expected, and I loved how the secondary characters grew and changed — even more so than the main character. Just when you think Daniel has finally gotten his head out of his nether regions, he has another hissy fit about something and must begin his spiritual and emotional journey all over again. My frustrations with his self-centered cluelessness lowered the grade a bit, but this book might just have a place on the DIK list.

Audiobook Adventure: The Prize by Julie Garwood

The Prize by Julie Garwood

  • Title: The Prize
  • Author: Julie Garwood
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical (Medieval)
  • Publisher: Pocket Books, August 1991
  • Format: Audio CD narrated by Anne Flosnik (Brilliance Audio, 2009)
  • Source: Public library
  • Length: 408 pages (10 CDs, 12.5 hours)
  • Trope(s): Conquering Hero, Dimwit Heroine, Battle of the Sexes, Newlywed Woes
  • Quick blurb: Saxon maiden vs. Norman warrior
  • Quick review: Not a good choice for my first commute-time audiobook, or my first Garwood.
  • Grade: C- for story, D- for narration

He never knew what hit him.

I’m glad that’s over with. Also, I now know who Kathryn Le Veque has been reading for inspiration.

The story….

The Prize is set in 1066 England, with William the Conqueror on the throne in London and his minions crawling the countryside to claim Saxon holdings. One of those minions, our hero Baron Royce, gets clobbered on the head with a stone flung by our slingshot-wielding heroine Nicolaa, a feisty (god help us) Saxon maiden determined to defend her family’s home.

When he regains consciousness, Royce and his men overtake the manor, mostly thanks to Nicolaa’s idiot older brother abandoning her to “go north.” Our spunky (god help us) heroine disguises herself as a nun and claims sanctuary at the nearby abbey where her other brother is recovering from a serious injury. Royce feels all tingly in his manly parts upon meeting the beautiful young nun, but he manages to get them to the convent without disturbing her maidenly essence.

Somehow, Royce manages to figure out that Nicolaa isn’t really a nun, which allows the tingling to burst forth into full-on mental lusting. Nicolaa is too busy swanning about denouncing the Normans and pronouncing things about her family’s honor to notice much about Royce. Except for the fact that he smells good.

After some unimportant secondary character nonsense, Royce forces Nicolaa out of the abbey and on the road to London, where she’ll be auctioned off as the titular “prize” to a deserving Norman lord. Nicolaa insists on bringing along her infant nephew, who she claims is hers by her deceased husband. There is no mention of a wet nurse, so I have no clue how this poor child is being fed, and we get a first glimpse of our heroine utter cluelessness as she flounders to explain the chronology of her fake husband’s death and her pretend child’s birth.

At some point early in the road trip, Nicolaa decides to escape. She does this in the dead of night, with no plan of whatsoever. No food, no weapon, leaving her infant “son” in the hands of god knows who – but she’s sure nothing will happen because she knows the territory. She then promptly falls into a ravine and twists her ankle. She starts to call for help, but – never fear – hero Royce is near. He followed her, because he’s not a clueless idiot.

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More History Geekery: The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg

Why am I geeking out about a Civil War battle, you ask? (I know you’re wondering, admit it….)

Pvt. Edwin Atkinson

Pvt. Edwin Atkinson, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry

This is my great-great-grandfather, Edwin Atkinson, age 22, on the day of his mustering into Company D, 2nd Wisconsin (part of the famous Iron Brigade), in December 1862, in Madison, Wis.. Six months later, he was critically wounded during the first day of fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg.

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