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Audiobook Review: Just Like Magic

Published October 4th 2022

Author: Sarah Hogle

Narrator: Tavia Gilbert

Audiobook Length: 11 hours 2 minutes

From the author of Twice Shy comes a sprightly Christmas novel, a rollicking romp through the absurdity of family holidays and the hope of new love. 

Bettie Hughes once knew the comfort of luxury, flaunting a ridiculous collection of designer shoes and a stealthy addiction to CBD oils. That is, until her parents snipped her purse strings. Long obsessed with her public image, Bettie boasts an extravagant lifestyle on social media. But the reality is: Bettie is broke and squatting in Colorado, and her family has no idea.

Christmas, with its pressure to meet familial expectations, is looming when a drunk Bettie plays a vinyl record of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” backwards and accidentally conjures Hall, an unexpectedly charming Holiday Spirit in the form of a man. Once the shock wears off, Bettie knows she’s stumbled upon the greatest gift: a chance to make all her holiday wishes come true, plus a ready-made fiancé.

But as the wiles of magic lose their charm, Bettie finds herself set off-kilter by Hall’s sweet gestures. Suddenly, Bettie is finding her heart merry and light. But the happier she gets, the shorter Hall’s time on earth grows. Can Bettie channel the Christmas spirit and learn to live with goodwill toward all men? Or will her selfish ways come back as soon as the holidays are over?

Just Like Magic is my third attempt at a Sarah Hogle novel. Every time I read the synopsis, I fall in love with the concept; however, the execution never quite clicks with me. I decided to give her another try with this novel to see if the third time is the charm, however, it still was not for me. Bettie Hughes is a social media influencer from a prominent family who has now fallen on hard times. As the holidays approach, she gets drunk one night and accidentally plays “All I Want for Christmas is You” backwards which summons the Holiday Spirit, Hall. Through the novel, he tries his best to reawaken Bettie’s holiday spirit.

It is an interesting take on a holiday novel as the main character is resistant to change no matter how hard external forces try to influence her. Bettie is a horrible, entitled, and self-centered person, so it was very difficult to connect with why a reader should even care if she got her holiday spirit back or not. Her goal with Hall is to seek revenge on those she believes has wronged her, which begins a set of chaotic events. Hall is a younger version of Buddy the Elf, complete with optimism and an endless amount of holiday joy. Through Bettie’s journey there are some humorous moments that made sense and others that just seemed to be thrown in the story to make it more absurd. I think a lot of these moments could have been written with more care as it came across as the author trying too hard to create a humorous shock value moment.

The concept itself is original as redemption (and even holiday) stories have been done before, but Hogle did manage to make it her own. The pacing does seem off as a lot of the story begins with Bettie as a horrible person before the reader even gets a glimpse about why she is a certain way. As the story is all over the place and I wasn’t a fan of the characters, I had to almost force myself to keep going to see if things improve. While it did pick up and I enjoyed how everything came together in the end, it felt like it was too late. The ending itself was well-written, but I think the first part of the novel will turn off a lot of readers and tempt them, like me, to almost DNF. For me, it was unfortunate as the rest of the novel was okay, but the beginning was a struggle. Other readers, though, may love it from the very beginning, so my opinion may be in the minority. As this is my third attempt, though, I think Hogle’s novels are not for me.

2 thoughts on “Audiobook Review: Just Like Magic

  1. I ended up DNFing this one when I got it as an ARC. It was too absurd and all the characters were major jerks. I didn’t care to read more than like….20%? Maybe? I’m glad it picks up towards the end, but I just didn’t care to waste my time finding out. Great review.

    Like

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