Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Nina Riva has led a very complicated life. Her mother died when she was still in high school leaving her to raise not only herself, but her three other siblings while barely making ends meet running her mother’s family restaurant in Malibu. Their father, Mick Riva, a very famous crooner with an incredible career as well as libido, turned his back on his family years ago. But today is the Riva annual end of summer party. The guest list is massive. It’s at Nina’s mansion which sit up on a cliff and overlooks the beach. Well, it’s not really her house, but her soon to be ex-husband’s. That’s way Nina is having a difficult day. Her tennis pro husband has recently left her for another tennis pro. She cringes at the thought of everyone seeing her so vulnerable tonight. But as usual Nina does not think about herself, but of her siblings, Jay, a professional surfer, Hud a photographer and Kit, her youngest sister who wants to follow in Jay’s footsteps. They look forward to this party all year.

But they too are having problems of their own. Jay may have to give up surfing, Hud has been keeping secrets and Kit who at twenty has never been kissed and has decided that tonight’s the night.

Nina’s upbringing was difficult, her mother an alcoholic, her father coming in and out of her mother’s life, Nina having to always be the adult in the room. Then she was spotted surfing by a photographer and her life catapulted her into both fame and fortune. And this seems to be where her problems really began. She was not made for stardom. So as much as she understands the party must go on, she dreads the feeling of embarrassment of the evening when all eyes will be turned to her to see how she is reacting to the news of her husband’s infidelity.

But the evening begins to take an awkward turn from the first ring of the doorbell as the guests arrive, two not expected at all and the siblings will find themselves not only fighting with each other, but with ghosts from long ago. As the evening progresses and the usual chaotic party begins to take a turn into complete pandemonium, with guests literally hanging from chandeliers, the family will have to come together when these revelations come to light. They each will need to come to grips with hurtful memories no one ever wanted to revisit. By the next morning, their lives will be changed forever.

The story, which is told between two times, an hourly accounting of the day of the party leading up to and into the next morning, and the love story of Nina and her sibling’s mother and her father Mick and all the heartbreak it caused.

It is a story of love, loss, greed and having to make tough decisions. It is a story of a family united by Nina’s perseverance always afraid to think of herself for fear her family will be torn apart. And finally, by its conclusion, a united family who will finally all take their individual control back as the create a new family unit.

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt lives in New York City. Her father is a well-known rabbi, her mother a doctor. Rachel’s occupation is a secret from her parents and just about everyone else. You see, Rachel lives and breaths for one holiday a year…Christmas! And to make matters worse, she is a best-selling Christmas author known as Margot Cross whose books have been turned into movies. She can hardly brag about that to her orthodox Jewish family.

Rachel has another secret. One she has kept from her book editors. She was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when she was in college. On bad days she can not get out of bed, and sleeps for twenty hours. On good days she can get up and watch a bit of television. Rachel had to drop out of college, and she needed to reevaluate her career goals, figure out what she could possibly do which would keep her motivated and interested without having to go to work a 9 to 5 job somewhere. That was when she discovered her love of writing, especially creating Christmas stories!

But when her editor calls her into her office to suggest she change her next Christmas novel into a Hanukkah story she is not happy. Although she of course knew all about Hanukkah traditions, none seemed as exciting as the exhilaration of Christmas. But Rachel’s editor was adamant. Either write a Hanukkah story or lose your next contract. So Rachel begins to try and plot her next move. With her parents not knowing what she does for a living, just her real name on the book would blow her cover.

Adding to her stress which does not help her physical condition at all, she learns her years ago summer camp love, Jacob Greenberg was coming back from Paris, France where he mysteriously took off for after their one summer of torturing each other to organize a Hanukkah celebration in New York called the Matzah Ball. Her father was asked by Jacob Greenberg to light the last candle on the Menorah the day of the Ball.

That’s when something clicks inside Rachel. She decides she will write the story of their courtship during summer camp in which he dumped her and pull the Matzah Ball into the story. Which means she must get a ticket to the already sold out event. Which means she has to ask Jacob Greenberg. Who says no. Unless she wants to be a volunteer, which for Rachel would normally be out of the question because of her health, but she jumps at the chance. That’s when Jacob begins his I will get you back for dumping me in summer camp tour.

Soon, they begin to see each other in different lights. Jacob seems caring. Rachel is kind and smart. Is it possible for these two hot heads to finally make peace with the friction they have felt for each other all these years? Perhaps they can not only learn more about each other, but about themselves. As Rachel pours her heart and sweat into the Matzah Ball, she sees the Hanukkah traditions as she never has before. Why did she think there was no story here? But Rachel and Jacob still have some personal obstacles to climb. Can they let go of their past and open up to a new future?

The Matzah Ball is an adorable story, but it is also a remarkable learning experience for those unaware of ME, which unfortunately author Jean Meltzer has, but who has learned to not only live with, but incorporate into her work-life and which hopefully will inspire others with the same disease to believe in themselves and to aspire to accomplish what they want.

Thank you #NetGalley #MiraBooks #TheMatzahBall #JeanMeltzer for the advanced copy.