BLOG TOUR! #REVIEW of While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

words are messy.

love is messier.

G’day friends! Today is a glorious day in Melbourne, still kind of cold but the sun is shining and the skies are blue with beautiful fluffy clouds. I think it is a fabulous Melbourne day for the review that I’m about to write! What better way to talk about a book set in Melbourne than on a fantastic Melbourne day?!

For the first day of the While You Were Reading BLOG TOUR I come to you with a full-length review. While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus, is their sophomore novel, after their debut The Book Ninja hit the shelves last year. While You Were Reading tells the adorkable story of Bea Babbage, a hardworking but extremely awkward bookworm, who loves nothing more than sticking her head in a book and being carried away by its words. Here is the synopsis:

Meet Beatrix Babbage โ€“ 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. Beaโ€™s job is dead-end. Her romantic life? Non-existent. And her only friends are her books, her barista and her cleaning lady.

โ€‹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 thereโ€™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 โ€ฆ Often.

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

narrative, characters and thoughts

The synopsis of this book drew me in immediately, mostly because I relate to Bea so much. This ‘relatability’ continued throughout the development of the story, mainly as I saw myself in Bea, in her interactions with people and in her absolute love of reading. We meet Bea Babbage at her best friend, Cassandra’s, wedding, after Bea let it slip that Cassandra did not remain faithful to her then-fiance and now husband, on her bachelorette night.

To say it was awkward and slightly hilarious, would be an understatement.

As a result, Bea moves from Perth to Melbourne, feeling out of sorts as her ‘best friend’ won’t talk to her and her job is unsatisfactory. It is when she decides to poke around the local bookstores, namely in and around Brunswick St., where she finds the book that kickstarts a very strange journey towards love; not just romantic but I would also say self-love. It is within this book from a second-hand bookstore, The Little Brunswick St. Bookshop, where she finds these wonderful annotations which opens her heart and soothes her soul. What follows is a journey in trying to figure out who the mystery writer is which takes Bea all over Victoria.

That is the overarching plotline of this novel, but it is somewhat overshadowed by the ‘drama’ which unfolds in Bea’s life; namely, the love triangle. Upon settling down in Melbourne, Bea found herself a consistent customer at a cafe called The Nook, where its owner and barista, Dino, became somewhat of an acquaintance to Bea. On a night out for her birthday, Bea then falls for Zach. The ‘love triangle’ aspect was one that I did not really enjoy, as I felt that Bea came across as both indecisive and as a doormat. I say this first, because Bea eventually finds out that Zach was actually hired by Bea’s ex-best friend Cassandra, to make Bea fall in love and then get dumped. After what is an extreme betrayal on both sides, Bea takes Zach back after Zach comes and ‘rescues’ her after she falls from a tree in Fawkner Park.

She just kind of shrugs and agrees to Zach’s claim in the hospital, and lo and behold, they’re back together. That was an aspect that really frustrated me because I felt that it didn’t really make sense in terms of the narrative and of the characters themselves. I also felt that the ‘climax’ between Cassandra, Bea and Zach, when everything came to light, was quite underwhelming. I felt that there should have been more, more in terms of the scene, the conversation, more of an exploration of Cassandra’s motivations.

I really loved when the story focused slightly more on Bea’s blossoming female friendships, when she takes her career in her own hands and absolutely slays as an independent publicist with the help of her new-found friends. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Bea grow ino herself and into acknowledging her own self-worth. It was the romance element where I found that I slightly disengaged from the narrative as in both romantic plotlines, there was not a significant amount of development in the characters and in the romance. There was little to no ‘getting to know eachother’, little exploration of the characters’ relationship, and very little chemistry between Bea and Zach and Bea and Dino.

From the beginning, Bea and Dino interact as though they are prospective romantic partners and I was surprised when they kept on dancing around each other. Dino’s character was very much the closed-off, how-do-you-not-know-i-love-you kind of personality. He writes poetry and is extremely sensitive, which is why he is so closed off with other people. When Bea goes with Zach, there is a level of why-didn’t-you-choose-me type of thing from Dino, and again, Bea is placed in the middle. Which is made worse by Bea’s lack of decisiveness in who she wants. I’ve always said that if a character can’t decide between two romantic partners, then she should just not choose any of them.

More than that, I felt that the ending of the story, where Bea ‘finally’ chooses Dino, and when Dino ‘accepts’ that after Bea constatnly choosing Zach, there is no time spent on their actual relationship, which I would have loved to have seen more further explored so I could feel emotionally invested in their actual relationship.

I think the standout character of this novel was Ruth’s ferret, Prince Phillip, because he was hilarious.

Though, the overarching storyline of the ‘mystery writer’ was slightly predictable, I thoroughly enjoyed how it played out, if that makes sense. Finding out that the mystery writer was not a man nor even a possible romantic partner, was refreshing as the ‘love quadrangle’ in the synopsis scared me to my core. I knew there was a connection to be had between the mystery writer and Dino, and it was super super cute and I really loved how that connection was interwoven with the narrative, as well as also providing us with a little more depth to Dino’s character. It was a nice little touch to cute read.

Overall, I enjoyed While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus, as I liked reading Bea’s character and her absolute love of books. Although I didn’t super enjoy the romance, it was still a good read. I laughed out loud and I cringed because Bea gets in the most awkard situations which is such a mood, not going to lie. I would rate While You Were Reading a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars.

That’s it for today friends! Until next time, happy reading! And make sure to check out the other bloggers on the blog tour! Check out @simonandschusterau on twitter and instagram for the details!

All the love,



NOTE: I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to Rachael Versace from Simon and Schuster Australia for giving me the opportunity of reading and reviewing While You Were Reading for the blog tour!

About the Authors

Ali Berg

Ali Berg is Co-founder of Books on the Rail with Michelle Kalus. She is also Creative Director and Co-founder of Hedgehog Agency, Melbourne.

Together they wrote The Book Ninja, published in 2018 by Simon & Schuster Australia, which has been sold to nine different territories around the world.

Their second book, While You Were Reading, is published in 2019.

Michelle Kalus

Michelle Kalus is a primary school teacher and Co-founder of Books on the Rail with Ali Berg.

Together they wrote The Book Ninja, published in 2018 by Simon & Schuster Australia, which has been sold to nine different territories around the world.

Their second book, While You Were Reading, is published in 2019.

Twitter: @thebookninjas

Instagram: @aliandmichelle

Facebook: @aliandmichelle

Website: and

Purchase Links

Amazon –

Dymocks –


Readings –

Kindle –

iBooks –

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