Book Reviews: The Forest of Vanishing Stars, When the Stars go Dark & The Ballerinas

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel

Goodreads blurb: After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything. Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel. ( This in an ARC review, thanks to a gift from the publisher, the book comes out on 7/6 )

My take: 4.5 out of 5. First thing I did when i finished this book was to download Book of Lost Names and Winemaker’s Wife into my kindle, as I loved Kristin Harmel’s writing and I can’t believe I haven’t read more of her books! but onto the topic at hand, The forest of Vanishing Stars. This is an absolutely beautiful book. It’s a hard read, as so many war books are, but it is such a different take on it. At first I was a bit hesitant, i didn’t really know where the story was going, but it builds up beautifully. Such detail and specificity in the intricacies of the forest, and such strong emotions that have to be evoked. For a very eccentric and unconventional character, Yona is so splendidly written and so relatable in her emotional discovery. The book is a deep take on the concept of it’s not who you are but what you do and how you behave. my only qualm is I would just have done a little bit more of an ending. Its a tough read but so rewarding. I absolutely loved the explanation of the title, will not ruin it here, but it was just poetically beautiful. A Must Read.

This is partially based on real life accounts, and its one of the things I loved the most about the book, the acknowledgements when she talks about her research and inspiration. An old war survivor had the best quote, so relevant today, and so simple: Be nice if at all possible and not forget the past.

When the Stars go Dark by Paula McLain

Goodreads blurb: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal? Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When overwhelming tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has gone missing. The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna’s childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.Weaving together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this propulsive and deeply affecting novel tells a story of fate, necessary redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives–and our faith in one another. ( This in an ARC review, thanks to a gift from the publisher, the book comes out on 4.13)

my take: 4.25 out of 5. I had this arc for a while, but had forgotten about it. I picked it up this week and could not put it down. I read it in a day, I needed to know what happened. It is expertly written, with each chapter just giving you a bit more thread, without letting it all be out in the open. The story evolution aligns beautifully with the unveiling of Anna’s backstory and its handled expertly. Although I wasn’t surprised by the thriller part as much (i had called it in the middle of the book), it was still very cleverly exposed. However i was totally surprised about the personal story developments and revelations and that was interesting. The characters are deep, the stories are strong and you are absolutely sucked in. This would make an amazing Netlix miniseries by the way.

Once in a while I get a nostalgia for the olden days when we weren’t stuck on our phones and we lived in simpler times, but we get to a story like this and I can say i am very glad that we live in a time with internet, DNA and easily accessible phone lines. Although we are in a new sort of crime age, some things just feel a little bit safer now.

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Goodreads blurb: Fourteen years ago, Delphine abandoned her prestigious soloist spot at the Paris Opera Ballet for a new life in St. Petersburg––taking with her a secret that could upend the lives of her best friends, fellow dancers Lindsay and Margaux. Now 36 years old, Delphine has returned to her former home and to the legendary Palais Garnier Opera House, to choreograph the ballet that will kickstart the next phase of her career––and, she hopes, finally make things right with her former friends. But Delphine quickly discovers that things have changed while she’s been away…and some secrets can’t stay buried forever. Moving between the trio’s adolescent years and the present day, The Ballerinas explores the complexities of female friendship, the dark drive towards physical perfection in the name of artistic expression, the double-edged sword of ambition and passion, and the sublimated rage that so many women hold inside––all culminating in a twist you won’t see coming, with magnetic characters you won’t soon forget. ( This in an ARC review, thanks to a gift from the publisher, the book comes out on 12/7)

My Take: 3.5 out of 5. This one was a bit mixed bag for me. I liked a lot of aspects of it. The ballet world had me hooked of course and i enjoyed the double timeline, that always is very appealing to me. I also loved how openly flawed the characters were. I mean they are not nice people and they honestly accept it and that just made it real and interesting to see their shortcomings through their eyes. How their selfishness dictated a lot of what happened around them. I also appreciated their take on men’s judgement of women. how they want women to be one thing or another, to declare their side, more than to understand their wholeness. The downside, for me the climaxes were not as exiting or awe inducing as I though they were going to be. Its an interesting read on bonds of friendship and for those who love the ballet.

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