Book Reviews

JUST LIKE MAGIC BY SARAH HOGLE // spoiler-free book review: all you need for Christmas is this whacky, heartwarming & festive romance ft. a longing for the living holiday spirit!!!

Took me long enough to get to this one but I have gotten off my lazy ass and gosh am I in love.

Let’s just get into the holiday yelling because there is a lot of it!!!!!

Title: Just Like Magic
Author: Sarah Hogle
Page count: 360
Date published: 4 October 2022
Genre: Adult magical realism romance



Bettie Hughes once knew the comfort of luxury . . . before she lost all her money. Long obsessed with her public image, Bettie boasts an extravagant lifestyle on social media but in reality, she’s broke and her family has no idea.

Christmas, with all its pressure to meet familial expectations, is looming when Bettie plays a vinyl record of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ backwards and accidentally conjures up Hall, the Holiday Spirit, in the form of a charming and handsome 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 some of Bettie’s wishes lose their charm, she finds herself thrown off-kilter by Hall’s sweet nature. Suddenly, grumpy Bettie finds 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 return as soon as the holidays are over?




Big thanks to Penguin Putnam for the eARC via Netgalley! All thoughts and opinions are my own.


STAR RATING: (4.5 out of 5 stars)


If you thought I was a bad-mood reader, wait till I try and read a seasonal book on time. Even when I’m disappointed in myself *hides in shame*

Anyway, at least I read this at Christmas time – just a year later since I backed out after December 25th last year lol. So a year late to this one but I knew I was saving her for the right time.


This was the most outlandish and unhinged book I’ve possibly ever read in my life and I LOVED EVERY SECOND. I’m an unhinged book girlie at heart and this book FED all of my heart’s crazy desires. You think you’ve read batshiz? Yeah, I don’t think so. Imagine being very rich and suddenly dirt poor. Then, as one does, you play Mariah Carey at a deep dark time to cheer up a bit. Except when she gets played backwards, the Holiday spirit appears. A bit like A Christmas Carol if you ask me, and we love contemporary reimaginings of old books. Hall aka Hall-e-Day is literally like: Want to know why I’m here? This really dumb reason but it is fine, thank you to Mariah Carey for your annual holiday contributions. I told you that you have never read anything more whacky *wink wink*

Okay anyway, let’s get into why this book is so great and I can’t not do that without screeching over the writing. I already KNEW that Sarah Hogle was the master of the pen but this just even further cemented that fact. Who knew warm gooey Christmas books could also be effortlessly funny? And I don’t mean haha it’s Christmas family joke-joke corn, I mean the writing itself is full of belly-cramping wit AND festive jokes. Just go read the book okay?

Ugh and the setting!!! Ironically, I devoured this at the beach and was experiencing the opposite weather. Still, I did imagine I was in a Gothic house (family preference) on the side of a snowy small-town mountain and it was GLORIOUS. Do you know how many times I resisted the urge for a hot chocolate in the middle of summer? Too many if you ask me, but I wasn’t about to overheat myself more than necessary,,,

The magic was so much fun. I think you definitely should go in not expecting fantasy and suspend your disbelief in that regard. Instead, just believe in the festive fun and pretend Santa does grant wishes. Not that I say otherwise, of course, he is real.

But the best part was the crazy family dynamics that reminded me a teensy bit of The Family Stone and I live for the chaos. Reason: I relate. But this family in particular took me through all of the emotions and I welcomed that rollercoaster. Possibly? It was fun I guess. I hated Bettie’s family and then I didn’t then I wanted to strangle Bettie for being stupid. Got whiplash a bit.

Bettie in particular is such a flawed character which I did not expect and so thoroughly appreciated. She makes a lot of bad and immature decisions at the beginning and it is so frustrating to watch BUT her character development absolutely paid off. What I loved most was how much I saw myself in Bettie,,, I relate to feeling like the odd one out in my own family which you learn comes from miscommunication a lot of the time and it was such a refreshing take, especially in a Christmas rom-com.

This leads us to Hall and how badly I want that ray of sunshine in my life right now and speaking of, what a wonderous pairing of literal forced proximity grumpy/sunshine and mayhaps the bestest take on this trope ever known to romance. Just my opinion *wink wink* Okay Bettie and Hall are SOOO cute what the heck? I’m just a sucker when it comes to rooting for the human and semi-non-real humans for some reason *cough* Flo and Benji from The Dead Romantics *cough* Can’t explain myself but they were so much fun. Where is my Christmas angel to procure giant gingerbread houses out of thin air? Gimme some of that. Agh I just loved watching their antics and giggly banter and the SLOW FREAKING BURN CHEFS FREAKING KISS

I want a Hall of my own, please!!!!

Before I go, in summary, here are the comp titles:
🎄 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
🎄 The Family Stone (2005)
🎄 The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Henceforth, I shall go and play Mariah backwards and conjure myself a Christmas spirit. Stop laughing at me and just go read this whacko holiday book before it’s too late and give yourself all the merry feels xoxoxox


“He folds me into a hug, and I go very still before ultimately melting into him. “I know you’ve probably heard this advice before, but you don’t have to forgive the people who are bad to you. However, if they’re not ever going to give you the apology you require in order to move on, then you have to let it go for your own sake. The best revenge is making peace with a past you can’t change and figuring out how to make the future a happier place for yourself to live in. That’s how you come out on top.”


“I will always support you, even if it doesn’t look like it. Sometimes support looks like disagreeing with you or telling you that you’re on the wrong path. But your heart is in my heart, always, and all I want for you is a good, healthy life.”


“You’re a powerful woman, Bettie Hughes.” His lips twist. “When you kissed me, I legitimately think it rewrote my DNA. And ever since, I’ve been dying to kiss you again.”


“Plenty of people have said pleasant comments to me over the course of my life. I don’t remember any of them. My brain keeps only the worst experiences intact, transferring them all to long term memory storage while compliments and praise rot away.”


“What would it be like to be part of a functional family? Sounds like a myth.”


“I’ve always known Mariah Carey was powerful, so her ability to summon the personification of festive cheer honestly tracks.”


“That’s the most beautiful happiness I’ve ever seen.”


“I don’t want to be this scared and bitter person keeping all my grudges alive like a muscle that never stops clenching.”


“I’ve been people-watching since the Neanderthal days. So far, you’re my favorite person to watch.”


Skip to content