Monday, October 4, 2021

Review & Giveaway - - The Matzah Ball

The Matzah Ball: A Novel
by Jean Meltzer
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: September 28, 2021
Reviewed by PJ

Oy! to the world

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is a nice Jewish girl with a shameful secret: she loves Christmas. For a decade she’s hidden her career as a Christmas romance novelist from her family. Her talent has made her a bestseller even as her chronic illness has always kept the kind of love she writes about out of reach.

But when her diversity-conscious publisher insists she write a Hanukkah romance, her well of inspiration suddenly runs dry. Hanukkah’s not magical. It’s not merry. It’s not Christmas. Desperate not to lose her contract, Rachel’s determined to find her muse at the Matzah Ball, a Jewish music celebration on the last night of Hanukkah, even if it means working with her summer camp archenemy—Jacob Greenberg.

Though Rachel and Jacob haven’t seen each other since they were kids, their grudge still glows brighter than a menorah. But as they spend more time together, Rachel finds herself drawn to Hanukkah—and Jacob—in a way she never expected. Maybe this holiday of lights will be the spark she needed to set her heart ablaze. 

PJ's Thoughts:

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading this book. What I discovered was a gem of a story that kept me reading late into the night, laughing, cheering, and shedding a few tears, until I turned the final page with a happy sigh. 

The Matzah Ball is a breath of fresh air in the crowded landscape of Christmas romances and romantic comedies. While Rachel does harbor a secret love of the "magic" of Christmas and is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than twenty Christmas romances - a fact unknown to her family - she is also a character who is grounded in her faith, her Jewish identity, and her commitment to her rabbi father, doctor mother, and the Jewish community in which she was raised. Jacob is also Jewish and though his upbringing was not as strictly observant as Rachel's, the adult man he has grown into is also grounded in faith and heritage. I very much enjoyed the Jewish traditions, rituals, and weekly observances that the author has woven into this book. I learned a great deal about a religion and culture different from mine and I've always believed that the more we know about one another, the more understanding and acceptance will occur.

Religion and culture are not the only representations front and center in this book. Rachel lives with the chronic illness ME/CFS, otherwise known as  Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I applaud the author for creating a main character with this disease and addressing the challenges of living with it straight on. I encourage readers to take the time to read the Acknowledgements and Author's Note at the end of the book for more insight into this disease and how the author was able to bring such authenticity to her character. 

Jacob has his issues as well, though his are more emotional in nature than physical. The way he responded to Rachel's condition endeared him to me and I began to lean more into his corner though he wasn't quite there yet. Neither was Rachel. Did I mention layers? There's plenty of humor in their story and, yes, I found myself laughing out loud many times. But both Jacob and Rachel have complicated life histories that need to be sorted out before they are able to come to each other with a clear understanding and open hearts. I enjoyed their evolution and appreciated the depth that flowed alongside the plentiful humor and antics. 

The entire cast of characters Meltzer has created are so fully developed, so vividly portrayed and realistic that by the time I was halfway through the book they had ceased to be characters on the page and became treasured friends instead. I wanted to hang out with Rachel's best friend, Mickey, travel the world with Jacob's 91-year-old Bubbe (seriously, I want to be her when I grow up), and score a warm hug from Rachel's mother. I also wouldn't mind a few weeks with executive assistant, "Martha Poppins" in residence! 

If you haven't yet discovered Jean Meltzer's The Matzah Ball, I enthusiastically recommend adding it to your fall/winter reading list. I'm hoping there are more stories percolating in this talented author's imagination. 

Do you make a habit of reading the Author's Notes and Acknowledgements in the books you read? 

Have you read The Matzah Ball yet? 

One randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, October 6 will receive a print copy of The Matzah Ball from HarperCollins. 

*U.S. and Canada only
*Must be 18
*Void where prohibited


  1. Sometimes I read author's notes and acknowledgments. I have not read The Matzah Ball and am happy you are offering a copy as I was very interested when it was featured in your birthday month post.

  2. I always read all the extras that the author puts in. It adds to the story. I have not read this story but laughing and crying are the best stories.

  3. I always read the author's notes and acknowledgements since I have it fascinating and interesting to learn about the author and the book background. This book sounds captivating and wonderful. Being Jewish it resonates with me greatly. Thanks.

  4. Yes, I read the extras and acknowledgements that the author includes. This informs me and interests me. The Matzah Ball feature is wonderful.

  5. I do read the author notes and acknowledgements in books. I love finding out more about the books. I've got The Matzah Ball on my wish list.

  6. I try to read the author's notes and acknowledgements.

    I haven't read this book, but it looks so good.


  7. A new to me author as well as this book. I do read the notes, thank yous etc in a book. I believe it tells you the kind of person the author is.

    Hope everyone is well and safe and happy.

  8. I always read the author’s notes! I would love to read this book!

  9. I like to read the author’s notes and acknowledgments, particularly when I really enjoyed a book or learned something new. I haven’t read this one yet but I’m really looking forward to it!

  10. I have not read The Matzah Ball yet and truly hope to. Hanukkah is a big deal in my house. I love reading the author notes and acknowledgements in books as it lets me know more about the author's thinking behind the story.

  11. I don't always read the acknowledgements but I do read the author's notes.And I make terrific matzoh balls or "knadelach" as we say in Yiddish.

  12. I often read the notes and acknowledgements in books as well as the dedications or notes in the front. I will check to see what they are about to decide whether I will skim them or read them thoroughly. There has been some interesting and valuable information in some of those notes.

    I haven't read The Matzah Ball yet, but this is the second review I have read about it. It sounds like an interesting and enjoyable story. It will be interesting to discovers the layers of the characters.

  13. I do read the writer’s notes and acknowledgements. Support is so important when you are putting the ourself out there.

    My middle son’s wife follows the Jewish faith. We love her z as d are interested in learning more about her beliefs.

  14. I do read the notes and acknowlgements. This book sounds good - I love humor as well as emotional stories.

  15. This book sounds very good. Different story. And love when people from your past come back of hero or heroine's life. No I have not read this book but would love to give it a try. TY for the chance.
    C. Petke