Hello Lovelies! Please excuse our dust while we do a bit of construction on the blog. We will still be posting exciting reviews, brilliant guest posts, and exciting giveaways but we are in the process of transforming the blog and adding new content and features for you to enjoy.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Review: The Paris Maid

Title: The Paris Maid
Author: Ella Carey

Publisher: 6th April 2023 by Bookouture

Pages: 270 pages

Genre: historical fiction, women’s fiction 

My Rating: 4 crowns


London, present day. I open my phone to find a message from my aunt: a black-and-white photograph with the caption “Paris, 1944”. A young woman stares up at me, her head shaved and a swastika painted onto her forehead. As I try to take in what I’m seeing, my heart begins to race. Could this be my beloved grandmother, branded a traitor?

Devastated Nicole Beaumont, a devoted schoolteacher, questions why her adored grandmother never spoke about her life during the war. Her unwavering love and protection taught Nicole lifelong lessons about loyalty and family, so this revelation rocks her very core. About to start a family of her own, Nicole sets out for Paris in search of answers.

But in war, nothing is simple and what Nicole discovers will alter the course of her life forever…

Paris, 1944. When Louise started working as a housemaid at The Ritz Hotel, she never imagined that the most powerful Nazis in France would make it their home. As she changes silk sheets and scrubs sumptuous marble bathtubs, she listens and watches, reporting all she can to the Resistance.

But when a stranger appears in the hotel’s ornate glass doorway, she has never been so scared—the secret she’s been keeping is suddenly in danger of breaking free.

Can Louise fight for freedom whilst keeping those she loves safe? Or will she be cast aside as a traitor by the very same people she is risking her life to protect?

Inspired by true events, fans of Fiona Valpy, The Nightingale and Rhys Bowen will love this heart-shattering historical novel. From top-ten bestseller Ella Carey, The Paris Maid is a totally gripping story about love, betrayal and a shocking family secret hidden for a generation.

My Thoughts

‘Who could be more invisible than a maid?’

I love Ella Carey books. She is one of those authors who you don’t even have to read details about the book because you know you will read anything of hers whatever the topic. The Paris Maid centers on The Ritz hotel in Paris during WWII with a group of resistance fighters operating right under the Nazis who are guests of the hotel.

It is a dual time narrative. Firstly, the past returns to the summer of 1944 with a number of characters: Louise, a maid at The Ritz who assists with The French Resistance, her family and some Allied fighter pilots shot down and forced into hiding. The contemporary timeline tells the tale of Louise’s granddaughter who is trying to research her grandmother's hidden past.

‘… the Ritz is not just any magnificent hotel. The Swiss-owned hotel is officially neutral, but the reality is everyone is tied to one side or the other, sometimes both.’

This was not one of my favourite books from Ella. To my mind, there were too many characters which did not allow me to bond satisfactorily with any one individual or couple. It also meant you had to pay attention to exactly whose point of view was taking place. I also feel that the contemporary timeline fell somewhat flat and was only there to serve the purpose of historical discovery. Whilst there was a great twist and the epilogue filled in all the gaps, I just somehow wished to have dived deeper with some characters and events earlier in the read. 

The Paris Maid is the latest novel from historical fiction author Ella Carey. It’s an emotional exploration of themes such as love, courage, betrayal, family and provides a unique insight into those who worked at the Ritz Hotel in Paris during the Nazi occupation of France.

‘This was a time of history that seems incredible to us now, and yet that is only a whisper of a generation away … the best thing we can do is to understand, and to honor the members of our family who fought so hard for our freedom.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Review: Knowing What We Know

Title: Knowing What We Know
Author: Simon Winchester

Publisher: 3rd May 2023 by HarperCollins Australia

Pages: 380 pages

Genre: Non Fiction (Adult) | History | 

Rating: 4 crowns


From the creation of the first encyclopedia to Wikipedia, from ancient museums to modern kindergarten classes—here is award-winning writer Simon Winchester’s brilliant and all-encompassing look at how humans acquire, retain, and pass on information and data, and how technology continues to change our lives and our minds.

With the advent of the internet, any topic we want to know about is instantly available with the touch of a smartphone button. With so much knowledge at our fingertips, what is there left for our brains to do? At a time when we seem to be stripping all value from the idea of knowing things – no need for maths, no need for map reading, no need for memorisation – are we risking our ability to think? As we empty our minds, will we one day be incapable of thoughtfulness?

Addressing these questions, Simon Winchester explores how humans have attained, stored and disseminated knowledge. Examining such disciplines as education, journalism, encyclopedia creation, museum curation, photography and broadcasting, he looks at a whole range of knowledge diffusion – from the cuneiform writings of Babylon to the machine-made genius of artificial intelligence, by way of Gutenberg, Google and Wikipedia to the huge Victorian assemblage of the Mundaneum, the collection of everything ever known, currently stored in a damp basement in northern Belgium.

Studded with strange and fascinating details, Knowing What We Know is a deep dive into learning and the human mind. Throughout this fascinating tour, Winchester forces us to ponder what rational humans are becoming. What good is all this knowledge if it leads to lack of thought? What is information without wisdom? Does RenĂ© Descartes’ ‘Cogito, ergo sum’—'I think, therefore I am’, the foundation for human knowledge widely accepted since the Enlightenment—still hold?

And what will the world be like if no one in it is wise?

My Thoughts

‘What is the likely effect on society of making the acquisition of knowledge generally, so very easy, such that there may well be, eventually, no absolute need to know or retain - retain being the operative word - the knowledge of anything?’

What exactly is the value of knowledge when we live in a society where anything and everything is so easily attained? Does that change its value to society? Think about it ….. with no pressing need to remember things, will this have a long term impact on both our intelligence and thoughtfulness? Our reliance on modern technology - everything from Google, to Maps to phone numbers - has taken away what was previously much of our innate learning and capabilities. When I began to truly consider this, I found this book both informed and raised many valid questions. 

Winchester outlines a lot of research - everything from our surrounding our collective knowledge. From the beginning with civilization's earliest writing on clay tablets to the Internet, and now AI (just think ChatGPT). His writing is informative and entertaining as he brings both his holistic and intimate knowledge to this topic. From small known occurrences or ordinary people to the bigger to bigger events such as the atomic bomb that ended WWII.

Whilst there was much to wade through and consider, the concluding page deemed to throw everything preceding into disarray - hmmmm …. interesting. Do machines diminish our capacity for thought or might the opposite be true? That, in fact, machines might free our mind from the mundane for a higher purpose. I wish more had been dedicated to this line of thinking rather than as an afterthought on the final page. 

Winchester asks readers, “Does an existential intellectual crisis loom?” If machines are taking over more roles and what does that leave the role of humans? In this book Winchester undertakes a thorough investigation of knowledge over history. Everything from its creation to how it has been organised, stored and used. This in depth study looks at how we learn, who we learned from and what we are in danger of losing. 

‘What can and may and will happen next to our mental development if and when we have no further need to know, perhaps no need to think? What if we are then unable to gain true knowledge, enlightenment, or insight-that most precious of human commodities, true wisdom? What then will become of us?’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.