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While You Were Reading

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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 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.

400 pages, Paperback

Published July 1, 2019

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About the author

Ali Berg

5 books203 followers
Co-founder & Professional Aussie Book Ninja at Books on the Rail & Co-author of The Book Ninja, While You Were Reading and Fancy Meeting You Here.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 315 reviews
Profile Image for Kylie D.
464 reviews505 followers
June 17, 2019
Well, I did enjoy this book, just not as much as I enjoyed 'The Book Ninja" from the same authors. In 'While You Were Reading' we follow the story of Bea, new to Melbourne with no friends as such, and a job she hates. Her only respite is the café downstairs, owned by barista/poet Dino. Then one day she comes across a book in a second hand bookstore. It's not just any book though, this one has scribbles and annotations from a previous owner, and Bea soon becomes obsessed by finding the writer of the profound offerings. The clues lead her to handsome editor Zach, and then Bea's life goes into freefall.

The main problem I had with this book was that I really wasn't feeling the chemistry between the main characters. It was a bit like grandma's undies where we should have had sexy lingerie. I also fail to see how anyone could become so obsessed with jottings in a book, however lovely they are. Having said that I did like this book, and read through it quickly. I just didn't find it earth shattering.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for an uncorrected proof to read and review. The opinions are entirely my own.
Profile Image for Mandy White (mandylovestoread).
1,935 reviews484 followers
June 29, 2019
While You Were Reading is a book for book lovers - a book about books and those that love books - what is not to love? Set in Melbourne this is a light hearted book that you can get lost in for a few hours. The characters are fun and realistic, while the story will make you laugh and cry at the same time. As a book lover I found this book very relatable in that when you find somebody that gets it, really understands what it is like to love reading you don't let that go.

Bea has just moved to Melbourne from Perth after accidently ruining her best friends marriage - oops! She wants a fresh start but has no friends, no contacts and is not all that outgoing. In fact her awkwardness is something that I loved about her - as I kept thinking "that would be me" all the time. Anyhow, she finds solace in a coffee shop called The Nook - where the barista Dino writes book quotes on her coffee cups - cute!! While exploring the city she finds a book shop and inside she picks up a second hand book. While the blurb sounds good, it is the hand written notes all throughout the book that has her intrigued. She needs to find this Mystery Writer at all costs. Joining Instagram and stalking out the places the writer mentions in the book it is a hilarious journey, in which she learns a lot about herself and what she wants in life.

There is so much more to the story than just this but to find that out you will just have to read the book. You really do need to read this book - I just loved it and was very sad when it was all over. I am now going to go back and read The Book Ninja by the same writers. Do yourself a favour as a famous Melbournian would say - read this book!!

Thanks to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster Australia for my advanced copy of this book to read. All opinions are my own and are in no way biased.
November 1, 2019

**4.5 stars**

While You Were Reading by Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus. (2019).

Beatrix is 29 years old and has just done a runner to Melbourne for a fresh start after accidentally ruining her best friend's wedding. But life is still stagnant with a dead-end job and a non-existent love life. Her only friends are her books, her barista Dino and her cleaning lady. Then Bea stumbles across a second-hand novel inscribed with poetic notes and is determined to find the author. Along the way she finds herself entangled in one hell of a love quadrangle...

When I read The Book Ninja, I felt a kinship to the authors. After reading this, their second novel, I'm pretty sure we are soul sisters hahaha! I really enjoyed this book. I am pretty much the same age as Bea and have the same love of books but completely different life circumstances, and yet I just found her so relatable and was rooting for her all the way. After some intense books I was in the mood for a rom-com type book and this novel hit the spot. There were quite a few times that I had a little giggle out loud. Dino sounded like a super appealing (and sexy!) guy and I developed a little crush by the end haha. Bea's sister Lizzie was an absolute cracker, she was hilarious. Someone out there (I'm looking at you Netflix) should definitely consider making this book into a movie. I also appreciated the small cameo appearances from characters in The Book Ninja, that was a great touch for someone who has read that novel as well. Loved that at the end of the book there was a list of books mentioned as well as 'bookstagrammers' whose pictures featured throughout.
I look forward to future novels from this dynamic duo and can only hope they continue writing these fabulous stories.
Profile Image for Shannon .
1,216 reviews2,107 followers
July 18, 2019
At home with a new baby, I'm in need of lighter, fun books these days and everything about the premise of this one indicated it would be a great fit for me. The protagonist's name is Bae, a name I loved and wanted to give my baby, and it's about a passion for books and reading and sharing those things with others. Sadly, the novel did not deliver on its premise.

Bae Babbage is 29 going on 30 (or perhaps 29 going on 14?) and a bit of a follower. Her best friend Cassandra is a dominating, judgemental type whose marriage, barely five minutes old, is destroyed when Bae reveals to the groom that Cassandra slept with a waiter on her hen's night. With Cass no longer speaking to her Bae leaves Perth for a new beginning in Melbourne, finding herself in a crappy marketing/advertising job (the two blur together) and whose only 'friends' are a woman, Martha, whom she talks to in the ladies' toilets but has never met or even seen, and the barista at the nearby cafe, Dino, who doesn't even seem to like her very much but who writes quotes around her takeaway coffee cup.

Then Bae discovers and buys a second-hand book full of annotations and she soon becomes obsessed by the idea that she can find and meet the mystery author of these scribbles. As she pursues flimsy clues she meets and falls into a relationship with Zach, is fired from her job, creates and hosts a new book sharing event with the help of Dino and Bae's Instagram Influencer sister, Lizzie (second runner-up on the Bachelor and doesn't let anyone forget it), and eventually establishes her own marketing business. But Zach isn't who he seems, Dino's hiding something, Lizzie keeps trying to turn her event into a dating one, and the hunt for the mystery scribbler puts Bae into hospital. But Bae is nothing if not determined!

My biggest complaint with this novel is the writing. It's poor. Being an author requires more than stringing a grammatically correct sentence together. To be truly good, you need style, a voice or tone, you need to understand structure and the timely placing of clues and information that both allows your reader to stay engaged by letting them figure things out, and prevents them becoming lost. I don't know how two people write a cohesive novel together, I really don't, it's not something I'd ever want to collaborate on, and I certainly couldn't tell when one of the two authors was writing or the other. But it read like a hobby, and a lazy one at that. It read like two people having fun putting together a story that really shouldn't have been published - at least, not without some serious editing. Too many niggling gaps, like when Dino kisses Bae and Bae does the whole "let's pretend this never happened" dance because she's thinking about Sunday, the woman who was only ever described as Dino's "silent business partner" (she's the cook at the cafe). This completely threw me, there had never been the slightest sign that a) Dino and Sunday were a couple or b) that Bae thought they were, prior to the kiss. Such inconsistencies are jarring, confusing and frustrating. These inconsistencies are one of the reasons why the novel as a whole felt rushed, sloppy and far from being a 'labour of love' that had undergone revisions and careful editing.

The story is also much too predictable, with too many deus ex machina moments (well, one would be more than enough). The first one - Zach - only makes his real role all that more predictable. The final 'reveal' is a bit of an eye-roll. In a small country town in the middle of nowhere, sure, but in Melbourne? Really?

And finally, the characters. I found it quite hard to get through this novel and finish it because there was nothing particularly interesting about Bae - I don't even really know what she looks like. She's a standard rom-com, 'chicklit' female protagonist - *yawn*. You could have had a checklist of stereotypical characters and ticked them off: ditzy blonde, token gay, broody love interest, handsome decoy, eccentric older lady etc.

I can't recommend this novel, it's really not worth it. I was quite disappointed and even the passion for books that Bae has and the literary references couldn't save it. They were, in fact, muted and lacklustre. The premise - finding the 'mystery writer' - became increasingly flimsy and rather boring; the love triangle (the blurb bills it as a 'love quadrangle' but I couldn't see it) is stale; the writing is of poor quality and overall, there just isn't anything good I can say about this one.
Profile Image for felix.
348 reviews30 followers
August 8, 2019
Oof. Just when you thought this couldn't get worse, it did. Please do yourself a favour and avoid this.

From the very first page I was turned off by the writing style. It was, for lack of a better word, wanky. Even book-ish people don't speak in quotes or book titles. The entire way through this came off as obnoxious, rather than charming, which, I assume, is what Berg was aiming for.

But the real issue here was the plot (or lack thereof). The entire book hinged on a fantastical idea to start with, and every turn it took made it less and less believable. I am happy to suspend my disbelief for one or two minor plot points, but not the whole story. (Also, there were two random subplots - the cleaning lady and the ferret - which added absolutely nothing to the story, but were stressed in such a way that it made them seem important? Idiotic). Random plot points aside, the love interest was 'found' within the first 60ish pages, and after that, the conflict just goes back and forth, and is so predictable but dry that I nearly DNF'ed this. (And, even if you're into this sort of banter, it was written so poorly it didn't even read well).

Bea was an unlikeable protagonist - which is alright - but at least make a moralistic tale about her negative character traits. Berg tried to pass Bea's off as endearing. Each character was disposable, replaceable and completely forgettable. Bea's 'ex-best friend', for example, had a bizarre character arc that was so unrealistic she may as well have not existed. Most of them didn't make much sense plot-wise, and they just took up unnecessary page time. I know contemporary books don't need sublime character development, but good lord.

Lastly, the constant referencing to books was so goddamn obnoxious it made me sick to my stomach. The levels of self-righteousness in these characters was insurmountable. Everyone who 'liked' books in this novel were wankers. It was not sweet, endearing or interesting.

There is something about Berg's writing that is both obnoxious but also poorly formed that just makes her books insufferable.
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,864 reviews262 followers
July 23, 2019
3.5 stars
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.

*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

Profile Image for Abbie | ab_reads.
603 reviews452 followers
August 14, 2019
3.75 stars

Thank you to the authors @aliandmichelle for gifting me a copy of their latest book - and of course for letting me be a part of Bea’s bookstagram account! That’s right, this is a bookish contemporary romcom where the main character Bea finds a heavily annotated book in a secondhand bookshop and sets up a bookstagram account to find the mystery writer. It’s such a cute premise and I’m happy to say that it delivers!
Bea as a main character was hilariously goofy and adorable - the amount of times she put her foot in her mouth always had me giggling, and that scene in the bathroom with the CEO... So cringy but so funny! It’s rare that a book makes me laugh so I always welcome it! I feel like most people will be able to relate to Bea in one way or another - even if it’s just for her love of books! There are SO many books referenced in this one that it’s like a little wave from a friend on the page when you spot your favourite being mentioned - and she loves Donna Tartt. I’m sold!
Was it a bit predictable? Maybe. Does that matter? NO. Sometimes a lighthearted read where you can swoon over a hot coffee shop guy is everything the doctor ordered, and if you want to lose yourself in an escapist book then you do that!! And you damn well enjoy it! I certainly did.
It actually was also weirdly inspiring - Bea’s career crisis was totally relatable and then her drive to do something she actually loves was great to see!
Expect coffee, croissants and a super cute poodle - just a fun read!
Profile Image for Gloria (Ms. G's Bookshelf).
545 reviews113 followers
June 18, 2019
While You Were Reading

The first pages into this book, I began to think that it was probably more targeted to a younger demographic, but once I was further into the story I found myself happily committed.

Beatrix Babbage 29, is a devoted book worm from Perth and she's just accidentally wrecked her best friend's wedding!

Feeling that her life is a total mess Beatrix relocates to Melbourne. Once settled in trendy Melbourne she finds she hates her job and is lonely without friends except for Dino the Barista/Poet at the coffee shop below her office. Dino is the closest thing she has to a friend, she chatters away to him when she orders her coffee a few times a day and he'd write a book quote on each of her takeaway cups.

Beatrix becomes obsessed when she sets herself a mission to find the person who has hand scribbled notes in a book she’s just bought from the local second hand bookstore. She can’t help but wonder about their backstory, their life.

A quirky, fun and delightful read about friendship, coffee, books, betrayal and romance. The story is very entertaining and pure modern day with a clever storyline.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC in return for an honest review
Profile Image for Kristīne.
541 reviews1 follower
May 2, 2021
Kā mans mīļākais SNL varonis Stefons teiktu, This book has everything! Un tur arī slēpjas tās vājums. Pārāk daudz visa kā. It kā par grāmatām, visādi grāmatas mīloši varoņi, grāmatnīcas, pasākumi, citāti uz kafejkrūzītēm, noslēpumainas piezīmes uz grāmatu malām, dzejnieki, redaktori, bookstagrammeri... Ok, tas viss silda sirdi.
Bet galvenā varone ir tik lupata!!! Tiesa, jāuzteic autores, varone bija ļoti konsekventi lupata, tikai pie beigām nolēma mainīties, tātad tas tā bija iecerēts, bet arī tad diezgan grūti noticēt, ka viņai pakaļ dzenās veseli divi vīrieši.

Būtu bijusi jauka, grāmatīga grāmata, ja kāds skarbāks redaktors izravētu šo dārziņu. Bet lasīt var, Austrālija, romantika, Melburna, kafija, un pa vidu ir viens ļoti jauks dialogs, kurā varoņi atzīstas savās jūtās, izmantojot grāmatu nosaukumus, tas bija forši.
Profile Image for Shelleyrae at Book'd Out.
2,419 reviews496 followers
June 25, 2019
After accidentally ruining her lifelong best friend’s marriage, a mere hour or so after the wedding, Beatrix Babbage moves from Perth to Melbourne looking for a fresh start, but it’s more difficult than she envisioned. The only respite from her loneliness is provided by The Nook, where barista/slam poet Grover ‘Dino’ Dinopoli, scribbles book quotes on her coffee cup, and pastry chef, Sunday, occasionally lets her lick the spoon.

Until, one evening while exploring the city, Bea, a self confessed bibliophile, wonders into a bookstore where she discovers a second-hand book. While the blurb piques her interest, it’s the handwritten notations in it’s margins that captures her imagination, and Bea grows increasingly convinced that finding the ‘Mystery Writer’ will be the catalyst that will change her life.

While You Were Reading is a likeable, modern contemporary romance, the second book from co-writer’s Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus, who are also cofounders of the fabulous Books on the Rail project.

Instagram posts (complete with photo’s, follower comments and likes), texts, instant messages, email’s and notes (left for her cleaner) helps tell Bea’s story as her obsession with the ‘Mystery Writer’ leads her in surprising directions.

I mostly liked Bea, and had some sympathy for the awkward situations she found herself in. Her level of self esteem is awfully low though, and she makes some immature assumptions, and decisions. It takes her quite some time for her to find her feet, but I was glad she did.

I did enjoy the romantic plot developed by the authors. I like a friends to lovers trope, and though the obstacles were mostly predictable, there were some interesting elements, particularly surrounding the identity of the ‘Mystery Writer’. I also enjoyed the mini romance plot that played out through Bea’s Instagram comments.

Supporting characters, Ruth, with her pet ferret, and Bea’s sister, Ex-bachelorette star, with her Instagram obsession, add a touch of absurdity. I liked the odd start to Bea’s friendship with Martha, and the supportive relationships Bea formed with them.

I would love to attend a literary pub crawl like that which Bea attends, and the event she organises, Next Chapter: speed dating for books. There are dozens of references to classic and modern books, from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott to The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale, including a cheeky mention of the authors’ first novel The Book Ninja, throughout While You Were Reading. It’s a fun addition to the story for book lovers, and handily the authors provide a list of every title at the end of the book, which I appreciated (quite a few I’ve either read, or are on my TBR).

When You Were Reading is an engaging romance, particularly if you are a bibliophile. I do feel I need to add however, that despite Bea’s age (she turns 30 early on in the story), While You Were Reading, overall feels like it’s probably more suited to a younger barely ‘adulting’ demographic.
Profile Image for Kristy (sometimes_i_read_books).
30 reviews36 followers
July 8, 2019
What a fun, quirky romance this was, full of bookish references, lots of laughs and plenty of relatable moments.

This is the story of Bea, who flees to Melbourne after ruining her best friends wedding in Perth. In Melbourne Bea falls in love with the annotations written in a second hand book and and is determined to find the original owner.

Reading this made me feel warm and fuzzy, it’s a perfect feel good book! Highly recommended for fans of a good rom-com.

Thanks so much to @simonschusterau and @aliandmichelle for this gifted copy.
Profile Image for Nic.
279 reviews20 followers
June 24, 2019
What a gorgeous contemporary romance novel! I’m a complete newbie to Ali & Michelle’s work, having never read The Book Ninja but hearing so many good things about it. What I loved about this book was that the main character was a total book nut, and she starts her own bookstagram account! It was so funny to read the ‘comments’ under her posts, where we see a lot of the same types of comments we all get used to seeing beneath our photos.

The romantic part of the book was really cute and enjoyable too. The love triangle aspect was great too, because there was no ‘obvious wrong’ and ‘obvious right’ choice - there was a bit of a grey area where you weren’t sure where the main character was going to go. The only thing I didn’t love was that the ‘lack of communication’ romance trope was used, which really grates of my nerves when people go months and months believing something because they’ve never actually talked about it properly.

If you are a booklover and a fan of romance novels, you should definitely give this one a go! You feel her love of books coming through the pages, and as someone who also loves books with all my heart (as I’m sure you all do too, or else why would you even be reading this?), it was just really fun to read about a likeminded soul.
Profile Image for Linda.
69 reviews1 follower
May 9, 2019
I felt that this book was quite predictable. There were a number of characters introduced and I didn't find myself 'falling in love' with them or really getting to know enough about them for me to care about their individual stories. It was a quick and easy read but the journey to the ending was not engaging enough for me. I do however think that this will be super popular at the age group it is targeted for.
Profile Image for Certified Book Addicts.
585 reviews20 followers
October 6, 2019
The dynamic duo of Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus return with their second novel, While You Were Reading. Like their debut novel The Book Ninja, While You Were Reading is a celebration of all things literary in the city of Melbourne. I enjoyed getting to know the quirky protagonist, Bea, as she embarked on an adventure that was peppered with quotes and references to books. Through Bea, the authors explore themes such as literature, love, making mistakes, moving on and forgiveness.

When readers first meet Bea, she is about to make one of the biggest mistakes of her life, one that will shift her life from her home town of Perth to Melbourne. At 28 years old, Bea is bridesmaid for her best friend, Cassandra. On Cassandra’s special day, Bea reveals a shocking secret to the groom, Matt, that will finish their marriage before it began. Filled with regret, Bea hightails it to Melbourne to leave the past behind and start again.

In Melbourne, Bea’s life is not what she expected. Her life is all work at a marketing agency and no play. Dino, a poet and barista at The Nook, is the closest thing Bea has to a friend. I appreciated that Bea’s move was realistically portrayed as difficult, that it was not all sunshine and roses. While it is clear to readers from the beginning that Dino was a quiet man with developing feelings for Bea, she is oblivious to it all.

Bea escapes the harsh reality of her new living situation through reading and on a trip to the Little Brunswick Street bookstore, comes across a secondhand copy of Meeting Oliver Bennett by Emma Delcour. Bea is immediately captured by the personal annotations, at times romantic, and underlining that is prevalent throughout the book. A helpless romantic, Bea decides to find the owner of Meeting Oliver. I admired Bea’s optimism and courage as she tries to find the mystery writer that will turn her life upside down.

While You Were Reading is the perfect for fans of The Book Ninja and anyone who loves the world of literature.
Profile Image for Elsa.
Author 4 books81 followers
July 19, 2019
While You Were Reading is the follow up to Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus hugely successful ‘The Book Ninja’. I am happy to report that this book didn’t disappoint and celebrates two of my favourite past-times, books and coffee! After accidentally ruining her best friend’s wedding, Bea Babbage escapes from Perth to Melbourne to start a new life. Bea is a passionate bibliophile and spends most of her spare time reading in the Nook, a small coffee shop where she gets to talk about books with Dino, a poet and barista working there. Bea is remorseful over how things ended with her best friend and to mend her broken heart she wonders one evening into a bookstore where she discovers a second-hand book with intriguing and beautiful handwritten annotations in its margins that captures her imagination. Bea decides she has to find the previous owner of the book and is convinced that the mystery annotator is the key to changing her life but her search leads to a complex love triangle in her own dating life.

I liked the use of social media in this book. Bea is a part of the Bookstagram community so I was able to relate to her Instagram post. 'While You Were Reading' is full of bookish references, quotes and literary gatherings. There's even a pet dog named Agatha Christie!! Similarly, like ‘The Book Ninja’, this book celebrates reading. What I enjoyed most about this book is how the co-authors have successfully illustrated how reading can be used to overcome depression and anxiety. The main character, Bea uses reading to rebuild her life after heart break. If you enjoy books and coffee then you’ll definitely enjoy this book!!
Profile Image for C.
504 reviews7 followers
August 17, 2022
Review also on: https://clife.blog/2022/08/25/book-re...

I really enjoyed Ali’s other book: Book Ninja.
This novel is a super cute romance comedy.

Sometimes a light hearted cuter read is what you need sometimes. The characters all had personality and blended well with the plot!

Bea attends her BFFs wedding and lets a dark secret slip to the groom and her BFF does not forgive her for this. But at the same time you feel like saying to Cassandra “YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE DONE IT!” Bea was drunk so of course she isn’t making conscious decisions so don’t totally blame her.

Soon enough, Bea takes a new job and thinks a change of scenery will do her good. She comes across a second hand book full of annotations and inscriptions. And she is on the hunt to find out who wrote these.

As you read it you are taken on an adventure. This novel was easy to devour so quickly I couldn’t help it!

Great light read that will make you smile.
Profile Image for Kirra.
514 reviews18 followers
July 1, 2019
Ali and Michelle, co-authors of The Book Ninja, return with a great new contemporary novel about a woman in a new place and job, without friends after a terrible fallout with her best friend. Bea then finds a second-hand book with the most intriguing and compelling hand written notes through it. Finally, she has some excitement in her life on her fresh start and is determined to find the previous owner of this book! 

Our main character Bea is an woman just turned thirty and  definitely a relatable character in terms of having all those embarrassing moments and constantly saying those things aloud that you shouldn’t let through the filter. She's loveable in a charming, sometimes dorky way and her passion for all things book related gave me a great connection to her as I found her inner thoughts really entertaining too.

Read the rest of my review here
Profile Image for Erin.
667 reviews7 followers
July 1, 2019
After an on-the-fence reading experience with Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus’ first book - The Book Ninja - I was a little hesitant about this one.

I needn’t have worried, because I loved it!

This book, while still having rich literary references, bookish themes, and name dropping places of (my heart and home) Melbourne, is completely different from its predecessor.

Bea is likeable, nay loveable. She’s an absolute mess, but that’s what makes her awesome. And the cast of characters around her were equally delightful. I mean Ruth with the ferret was hilarious!

There’s good humour, and warmth, and the book snobbery (against kindles and certain genres) was way less, and gone by the time the story got into full swing.

I really enjoyed this book, and now look forward to more stories from these two authors. Many thanks to Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus, Simon and Schuster (Australia), and NetGalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Renee.
29 reviews
April 21, 2019
Another great book from Ali and Michelle! I stayed up late, read any opportunity I could get so I could follow Bea’s adventure. As a perth girl who moved to Melbourne, I connected with Bea immediately. The book made me laugh out loud many times, as well as surprise me with twists and turns. I also loved the nod to characters from The Book Ninja, very nostalgic and sweet!
Profile Image for Tala  Lolias.
248 reviews62 followers
July 17, 2019

I'm not a huge fan of Australian authors or Australian inspired books but this was super cute and it portrayed Melbourne extremely well.

I couldn't pick a better character such as Bea that was super quirky, loved books and coffee. Cant forget the coffee. I love that authors are picking up on the bookish vibe and writing more in regards to that!

Profile Image for Danielle Alder.
21 reviews9 followers
September 23, 2019
Words can’t explain how wonderful this novel was. I was hooked on the first page, didn’t want to put it down. I fell in love with the characters. I am sad I have finished this book but I think may be in my top 5 romance books I love. I hope the authors get recognised for all the hard work they put in it. Loved how they help support other books/authors and instagrams in this book. I loved how at the end they have listed all the books and authors mentioned in this book so now my TBR pile has grew more but oh well I am excited. I loved how they have given a shout out to the Instagram accounts as well, they have one more follower for me so I am sure with greatness my TBR list is getting bigger by the minute but oh well books are a wonderful thing.
Also I loved the idea of the speed date for books I so loved that idea. I have never heard of it before and honestly it needs to happen in every town would love that. Also the idea about the book being publish with the mysterious author and a week later of being released announcing the author. Wow that would be amazing idea as well. I would totally be into buying the book reading it and figuring out who’s hard wonderful work it could be.

Overall I have really loved it and will recommend it 110%
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Nyssa Sutherland.
79 reviews17 followers
July 1, 2019
While You Were Reading is a quirky, lighthearted novel just perfect for a weekend read. A delightful contemporary romance about finding your true self, and real friends that warmed my heart, and had me staying up late till the last page.

Full of bookish references, and plenty of Melbourne haunts, there's lots to love including very relatable bookworm Bea, who is trying to rebuild her life after moving to Melbourne for a fresh start. Picking up a second hand book at a local bookstore, she falls in love with the handwritten annotations in the margins, and begins a quest to hunt down the author. Finding herself in a job she hates, lacking in friends, she turns to the local Barista Dino for motivation and moral support, who supplies her apt handwritten bookish quotes on her daily coffee cups.

I absolutely enjoyed The Book Ninja, and I wasn't sure that While You Were Reading would be able to live up to the first book by Ali Berg and Michelle Baus, but I'm very pleased to be wrong. I've added them both to my must-read author list, and will be keeping a keen eye out for their next novel.

* This eBook ARC was provided by Simon & Schuster (Australia) through NetGalley for an honest review.
Profile Image for Louise.
404 reviews6 followers
June 29, 2019
This book was WOW. Set in Melbourne, it follows Bea Babbage who recently moved to the city from Perth, trying to find herself whilst tracking down a mystery writer.

I loved every page of this book and I felt a connection to Bea and the other characters. The plot itself also got me hook, line, and sinker and I loved EVERY page of this book.

The book references and relatableness of the coffee addiction Bea made this book very well rounded!

I was thankful enough to receive an advanced review copy via NetGalley.

You can find this review also published on my blog: chemicalbookdragon.blogspot.com :)
Profile Image for Sophia McQuillan.
64 reviews5 followers
August 17, 2019
I absolutely loved this book! It is a book that made me laugh out loud and become completely invested in the characters. The story line was supported by an insatiable love of books. This a book for people who love books and share in that community!

Beatrix Babbage accidentally wrecks her friend’s marriage and moves to other side of the country, UNESCO City of Literature: Melbourne and cultural capital. It is here her life turns around.

Highly recommended! I’m bringing it to the The Last Chapter in Melbourne!
Profile Image for Kathleen.
75 reviews1 follower
June 25, 2019
5 stars seems silly for a romantic fiction right? Wrong! This is the second book from the lovely ladies who wrote “the book ninja” and this one is just as enjoyable to read as their first one!

I also love the list of books at the end that were spoken about in the book. Oh and the mention of Willow & Wine!!!

Can’t wait for number 3 from them!!!
Profile Image for Natalie.
15 reviews1 follower
July 5, 2019
The coffee addict in me had to purchase this cute book, especially when it’s set in Melbourne and my neighbourhood the Mornington Peninsula.

This amazing book is about a hot mess of character who ruins her friendship with her best mate and up and leaves her home town to move to Melbourne to start a fresh new life, when she comes across a secondhand store and falls in love with a book.
Bea then goes on an adventure throughout the book as she makes her mission to find the author that has left little inscriptions in the secondhand book and I cannot not love this light hearted story anymore.

I love how the authors had incorporated bookstagram into the story and Dino had my heart from the start, he gave me a lot of Luke vibes from Gilmore girls and that just made me want to rewatch Gilmore girls. 😂

Profile Image for katiekate.
72 reviews
July 2, 2019
This book is super cute and I loved it! It’s lots of fun and a perfect rom-com for book lovers! The main character even starts a bookstagram account and it’s funny to see the comments she gets on her posts. I highly recommend this one!
Profile Image for Sharon.
298 reviews29 followers
July 1, 2019
Fun, breezy and full of bookish references, While You Were Reading is the second novel by Books on the Rail founds Berg and Kalus. Fans of The Book Ninja will enjoy the crossovers, abundant literary references, romance and humour.

After booklover Bea unintentionally ruined her best friend's wedding in Perth, she dropped everything and moved to Melbourne as penance. What she didn't expect was to fall in love... with a book! Full of insightful marginalia, Bea's second hand treasure sets her on a quest to discover the mystery marginalia writer's identity, and she finds herself becoming rather romantically entangled in the process.

Littered with instagram posts, hashtags and texts, not to mention the many name drops of recently released books, this is very much a novel in the now. Bea's encounters with Melbourne hipster culture - cafes, poetry slams - inspire her entrepreneurial side, and we watch her go through the ups and downs of bringing her projects to life. The balance between her career and relationships is managed well, and her self doubt and misplaced trust in others is highly relatable. I enjoyed the depiction of some pretty quirky but strong women showing up for Bea, as well as Bea's growth to be able to change the terms of some of her existing relationships. At times I cringed (she's just so young!) but I also laughed and cheered.

The plot has several parallels to Berg and Kalus' debut, and even has protagonist Bea stop by the book shop The Book Ninja features as a key setting - a nice nod for fans. I can see how the 'start a blog or instagram' premise appeals, but wonder whether Bea's bookstagram is a bit too close to Frankie's blog? Actually, the instagram posts weren't integral to the main story, and as such felt a bit unnecessary to me. They did, however, allow readers to pick up the thread of a relationship that budded in the comments of Frankie's blog, with @StephenPrince and @NotOffenceBut returning to further link the worlds of the two books. The plot is mostly predictable, but still an enjoyable ride with a few surprises along the way. Fans will also appreciate the many Harry Potter references strewn throughout.

A fun, flirty read - it will be interesting to see how it stands the test of time.

Recommended if you liked: The Book Ninja

I received an advanced e-book copy of While You Were Reading from Simon & Schuster Australia via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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