Monday, March 28, 2011

The Second Duchess

Years ago, I met an author in what became a doomed writer’s critique group. The most fortunate thing about it was that I was partnered with her, and it was my honor and privilege to be able to read the first chapter of her work about a duchess during the Italian Renaissance who was based on the famous Robert Browning poem, “My Last Duchess.” It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. It was like slipping through a doorway into a very different and very real world, where I could not only see the ancient stone walls on either side of the narrow, twisting streets, but hear the crowd murmuring and cheering while gathered to catch a glimpse of their new duchess, and the metal ringing as the coins she tossed to them sometimes hit the cobbled street. I could feel the rocking of the barge and sway of the litter in which she was carried to her wedding, and smell the roses, lilies, lavender and thyme she held in her arms. It thoroughly transported me to another world.

The author I met was Elizabeth Loupas, and the story,  

The Second Duchess, 
finally published and released on the first of this month, is bound to become as famous as its immortal counterpart. The tale opens in Italy in 1565 and is centered on Barbara of Austria, the second wife of Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, whose first wife was the young and beautiful Lucrezia de’Medici. 

Barbara, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, is a bit beyond “marriageable age,” and much less attractive than the first duchess, but a politically motivated marriage has been arranged that will save her from being sent to a convent where two of her sisters are already immured, and instead, make her the duchess of the dazzling, opulent royal court of Ferrara. 
It would be a fairytale dream come true for any woman, except that the groom is suspected all across Europe of murdering his beautiful first wife.

Barbara is determined to ignore the rumors about the man with whom she will bed. To even hint at the possibility that the duke may be guilty of murder is treason. But the whispers, insinuations, and threats begin on her wedding day, and soon enough, her own life comes to depend on discovering the truth.  

Elizabeth recreated the royal court to the last  
glittering detail
and brought its inhabitants to  
shimmering, intriguing, romantic life. 
I closed it with a deep sigh of satisfaction and the thought, “Oh. Wow.”

You can buy it at Powell's and other fine bookstores. Of course, you can buy it at Amazon, too, but I'm not recommending them after they sent my copy to the wrong address, where it was lost in the mail, never to reach me. :- (

Definitely 5 bookmarks. For an explanation of my bookmark system, click here.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Extraordinary Knowing

Everywhere that you read a review of Extraordinary Knowing, you’re going to read how author Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer’s world was rocked by an event she couldn’t explain, and why she devoted the rest of her life to researching how it could have happened.

The event that occurred was the theft of her daughter’s harp. It was a rare and expensive instrument, and her daughter was heartbroken. Dr. Mayer, affectionately known as Lisby, did all she knew to do to retrieve the harp. There were the usual reports to the police and searches at pawnshops and so forth, to no avail. Finally, one day, a friend said to her, “If you really want that harp back, you should be willing to do anything,” and that led to a dare that she accepted. She contacted a dowser.
“It’s not just about the water.”  

Lisby lived in Oakland, California. Armed with a map of her city, the dowser, from his mobile home in Arkansas, pinpointed the exact location where the harp was stashed. It wasn’t enough to get a search warrant, so Lisby hung “wanted” posters about the harp on street signs up and down that block, and in a few days she got a call, and in a week, the harp was safely back in her hands. As the diehard skeptic said, 

 “This changes everything.”

Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind
is about the scientific investigation of intuition, premonitions, hunches, ESP, remote viewing, dreams, prayer, the collective unconscious, and the possibility of God’s hand in our lives, or what Lisby calls  

anomalous knowing, 

and why, in the face of empirical evidence and personal experience, science still can’t talk about it, much less admit its existence.
I generally don’t abuse my books, but I found myself dog-earring pages all through Extraordinary Knowing so that I could easily find certain passages again. I have to admit, this book isn’t for everyone. My focus sometimes waned when reading the scientific and statistical data, but then I’d become fascinated again when the author described personal experiences with psychics she sought out in her research, or described the Ganzfeld Experiments. It’s a good book for anyone who is skeptical but open-minded, as well as believers who are interested in real evidence.

4  Bookmarks (for an explanation of my bookmark system, click here)