#aww2019 · 2019 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · new release · romance

New Release Book Review: While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

Title: While You Were Readingwhile you were reading small.jpg

Author: Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus

Published: July 1st 2019

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia

Pages: 384

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance

RRP: $24.99

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words are messy. Love is messier.
A hilarious, insightful new novel from the creators of Books on the Rail

Meet Beatrix Babbage – 29-year-old dog-earer of books and accidental destroyer of weddings.

After ruining her best friend’s nuptials, Bea relocates to the other side of the country in search of a fresh start, including meeting new people, living life to the fullest and finally pulling off balayage.

But after a few months, life is more stagnant than ever. Bea’s job is dead-end. Her romantic life? Non-existent. And her only friends are her books, her barista and her cleaning lady.

​Then Bea stumbles across a second-hand novel, inscribed with notes. Besotted with the poetic inscriptions, Bea is determined to find the author … and along the way, she finds herself entangled in one hell of a love quadrangle.

Funny, poignant and insightful, While You Were Reading reveals that there’s no such thing as perfection, the value of true friendship and, most importantly, the power of not living in fiction, but still reading it … Often.

A love story for book lovers that celebrates much more than romance.


Bibliophiles unite, the team behind the Books on the Rail movement and the co-author’s of The Book Ninja, which was released to great success last year, are back. While You Were Reading is a fresh, very contemporary, fun and sweet romance, complete with moments of mystery. This is a delightful novel that will thoroughly engage all booklovers. Just don’t let the book list at the end pass you by!

While You Were Reading makes the claim that ‘words are messy. Love is messier’. I would like to agree and I enjoyed this love story very much.  While You Were Reading is a double celebration – of the power of romance and the written word. It follows the complicated life of Bea, who commits the ultimate faux pas, accidentally ruining her best friend’s marriage, which was only hours old. Escaping from Perth to Melbourne, in search of a new life, Bea finds life over east a whole new ball game. She meets some new faces and frequents some very different places, from hip bars, coffee houses and plenty of bookshops. Despite the wealth of contrasted experiences from laid back Perth, Bea is lonely. A rare bookstore find, with an intriguing set of personal annotations, helps Bea to overcome her loneliness and at the same time, unravel the mystery identity of the author of the rare book’s inscriptions. Love also enters Bea’s life in a way she did not expect, gently reminding her of the importance of friendship above all else.

I follow the writing duo of While You Were Reading and The Book Ninja rather religiously on social media. I am in awe of their Books on the Rail Project, it does such a great things for readers and authors alike. It is fabulous to see this writing team power on with their second release. While You Were Reading is snappy, poignant and romantic. It is set to a very modern backdrop, complete with plenty of side additions to the main narrative. Expect alternative routes to this story, which compliments the overall narrative. These include plenty of Instagram posts, emails, letters, messages and texts. All these work together to give this novel a very here and now, present time feel.

I felt really, really sorry for Bea, the main character in While You Were Reading. The opening scene is like a social horror movie! Bea ultimately wrecks her best friend’s wedding, through just a simple slip of the tongue. We can all do this, we are capable! Berg and Kalus show us that Bea is simply human at the end of the day, but this terrible act has long standing consequences. Bea is very hard on herself, her confidence takes a big knock and it takes her a long time to recover. She decides to pack her bags and start afresh on the other side of country, away from laid back Perth, to chic Melbourne. I loved the Melbourne sequences. I recently made my first trip to Melbourne from Perth, much like Bea, late last year. I was seduced by Melbourne’s cafes, bars, shops, culture and of course the bookshops! These aspects are portrayed very well by the authors of While You Were Reading.

The mystery of While You Were Reading is tied up nicely to the book side of things and the romance in this story, which I liked very much. I loved the emphasis on the book, Meeting Oliver Bennett (I admit I looked it up in the hope that I could get my hands on it). I also appreciated the bridge that was ultimately crossed between friendship and romance, with a few dips in between. These experiences contribute to Bea’s character growth, which I did enjoy observing. There are some influential characters linked to the mystery, romance and friendship side of things in While You Were Reading. I am sure many readers will find these protagonists completely agreeable. From Bea’s friend Dino, Zach, Martha and even Bea’s social influencer sister, it was a fun cast to play around with. I did feel like I was a little too old for this crowd at times, but I am sure the fun story and agreeable characters will appeal to a large audience type, especially given the popularity of these authors.

Ultimately, While You Were Reading is a strong contemporary love story, very much situated in the present, which pays a great tribute to the book world. It is a predictable comfort read, that will definitely hit the warm and fuzzy spot for booklovers.

While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus was published on 1st July 2019 by Simon & Schuster Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the authors of While You Were Reading, Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus, visit here.

*I wish to thank Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

While You Were Reading is book #100 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge

8 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

  1. Their first book was pretty good and I noticed by checking on Goodreads that it must still be resting on that Mt Everest of yours, Amanda LOL. This one sounds a lot different to The Book Ninja I think so I am excited to read this one day – I have to add the ‘one day’ as it’s impossible at the moment to pick up any book other than my coffee table books, oh, except for my unofficial involvement with book bingo and sadly it’s not helping with reducing that coffee table pile, I’m so way behind I could cry, lol, I was hoping to finish the coffee table challenge this year but I think it’s going to carry on to next year – not happy 😦
    By the way fabulous review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s good to hear you enjoyed book 1. Yes, The Book Ninja was chosen for book club one month last year. I think it was a month when we did two books and I read the other one, not The Book Ninja. Sadly it is still sitting on the shelves, somewhere. I am finding it increasingly hard of late to get any other books in to read that are not review books. I am using them for all my challenges too. So the shelves grow. I am buying very few these days, but more review books arrive day by day, many I haven’t requested.
      I know how you feel exactly about that coffee table pile. I could cry when I look at the review shelf, I’ve recently struggled with being ‘mindful’ while reading, I am constantly thinking to the next book and the one after that!
      I think it is perfectly ok to continue your coffee table challenge into next year, it could be part 2! Even though you are not happy about it!
      As I haven’t read book 1, The Book Ninja, I’m sorry I can’t say how different this one is to the first one. I hope you can enjoy it one day.


      1. Oh, that was me a while back, reading a book all I could think of was I must get the next one off that coffee table (and then I’d be thinking, hmm, which one shall I choose) – very bloody distracting. The only way to stop myself from doing that was to not think of the massive pile on that evil coffee table but to just relax, enjoy what I’m currently reading and when the mind wonders just switch straight back to the book in hand.

        Have you thought about making a small pile of the books that need to be reviewed first? Then only concentrate on those books until they’re all read then start again with a small pile until those are read – might be more manageable that way and perhaps get through faster. Just a thought.
        If only I started with a pile of 15 books opposed to seeing every square inch of the table covered in mile high books it might not have been so overwhelming and perhaps I would have read more books than I have done. Lol.

        Definitely will be part two. I’d have to read 2 1/2 books a week of only books on my coffee table to complete my challenge and that’s definitely not doable 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for all the tips, words of advice and support Sue. I do like your idea of a smaller pile. I’ve moved some near my bed where most of my reading gets done so I don’t feel so overwhelmed by that review pile that sits on a shelf with all my other unread tbr books. It is just too much sometimes, I just want to cry. After work I don’t feel like looking at these books at all!

        I like the idea of part two, don’t be hard on yourself as think you have done really well to achieve clearing these books and the your reduction of other books added to the pile. Great self restraint!


  2. You’re very welcome, Amanda! Good idea having a small pile near your bed, I’m sure they’ll be read in no time then you can add a few more near your bed until well… I was going to say until they are all gone but that’s never going to happen, is it, since review books practically arrive daily at your place! Between mine and your tears we could flood Australia, my tears will meet yours halfway across the Nullarbor. LOL. If we lived closer we could cry on each others shoulders and console each other but, I feel more for you as your pile is endless mine will be reduced or gone soon. And my review books are sporadic, thank goodness. It’s kind of strange but I received one review book about 6 weeks ago and the next day another one arrived and the following day as well, so funny. They usually come piled together. Oh well, happy with all three no matter which way they come, hehe.

    You said after work you don’t want to look at those books at all – do they not look enticing?

    Liked by 1 person

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