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Miracles And Menorahs

Miracles and Menorahs

  • Author: Stacey Agdern
  • Genre: Romance
  • Publication Date: October 13, 2020 
  • Publisher: Tule Publishing
  • Series: Friendships and Festivals #1

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Sarah Goldman loves Hanukkah, and she’s thrilled to be appointed as vice chair of the Hollowville Hanukkah Festival. So when the festival is threatened with cancellation, she comes up with an idea: a new slogan and advertising campaign topped off with a metal menorah large enough to fill the center of town. But even though her heart and dreams are large, the committee’s budget constraints threaten to stop her grand plans right in their tracks.

Famous metal sculptor Isaac Leiberman also loves Hanukkah. But his vision of a perfect Hanukkah isn’t a commercial community even — it’s spending time with family, following age-old traditions. He’s not interested in the festival, no matter how many times his grandmother, his bubble, asks him to contribute one of his sculptures.

Then Sarah comes tumbling into his life … can she change his mind about more than just the holidays?

This was one of the books that I was most looking forward to this winter. I had put a hold on it through my local library back in November, and had to wait until mid January for it to be available. I truly wanted to love this book, but it fell flat for me.

I did love the Jewish representation throughout the story, although at times it felt a bit over the top. I liked seeing the Yiddish terms interspersed in conversation, and they were all familiar to me. However, when my family spoke English, we only used Yiddish words if it didn’t translate well or was inappropriate. In this story, a lot of Yiddish was used when it would have been easier to use English words, which seemed strange to me.

I enjoyed the idea of a town coming together to celebrate Hanukkah, although there’s a few people in the town who want to change the festival to be Christmas-themed. Just like the majority of festivals in small-town America. I just didn’t understand why there was such a reluctance to just say the word “Christmas.” Instead, the characters keep saying “the red and green,” which I just found strange. But I could understand the desire to maintain a Hanukkah tradition, especially where so many people are included, even those who don’t celebrate the holiday.

“‘Well, he’s used to towns that are like him, where people all celebrate the same holidays, eat the same foods, worship at the same place, on the same day and in the same way. But he’s come to Hollowville and realized we’re not like that. And, really, haven’t ever been like that.’”

For a romance, I was shocked at the utter lack of romance in the story. For the vast majority of the book, I wasn’t actually sure if I was even reading a romance at all, because I couldn’t figure out what was happening between Sarah and Isaac. They seemed more like friends than like potential romantic partners. There were vague hints towards the characters being attracted to each other, however just when things started to point towards a mutual attraction, they would back off and focus on separate interests. The actual “romance” didn’t even occur until the last few pages of the story.

As for keeping me interested, there was a stunning lack of tension in the story. Normally, I find myself getting hooked early and having trouble putting the book down the further I get. However, the closer to the end I got, the less I actually cared. While Sarah and Isaac seemed nice, I never felt invested in their stories, and neither story felt as though it truly intersected with the other. 

In addition, I couldn’t help but notice how badly this book needed a good edit. There were so, so many spelling and grammar issues throughout the book, and a weird focus on constantly pointing out the undertones in every character’s skin. If I never see the term “pink undertones” or “olive undertones” I will be a happy maydeleh (girl). Honestly, the most interesting part of the entire story was the sufganiyot lattes (a vanilla latte with raspberry syrup). I craved one for days until the snow melted enough for me to go out and get one — it was delicious and tasted like a jelly donut in latte form! Sadly, I just didn’t love the book as much as the sufganiyot latte.

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