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Brooke's Pick: Just Like Magic by Sarah Hogle


What’s a girl to do when her Christmas spirit levels are sinking to a disastrous low? Why accidentally conjure the Holiday Spirit in human form while playing Mariah Carey’s "All I Want for Christmas is You" backwards, of course! If this sounds like the start of a wild and wacky holiday read that you can’t wait to get your hands on, then you’re in luck because Sarah Hogle’s novel Just Like Magic is here to whisk away the blue Christmases of yore and introduce you to a magical holiday romp through the tinseled halls of a down-on-her-luck social media influencer’s holiday season.


Bettie Hughes is famous for being famous. Her grandmother was an acclaimed film star in her day and her prestige has trickled down to her descendants, all of whom seem to have their own successful projects going on … except for Bettie. Bettie WAS a thriving social media influencer, but now she is barely surviving. She has burned through all of her money and is barely scraping by. When an attempt to buy Christmas gifts for her difficult-to-please family ends in disaster, Bettie has a few too many drinks and unwittingly conjures the “Holiday Spirit.”


The Holiday Spirit is named Hall (short for Holiday) and he is here to make Bettie’s Christmas season merry and bright. Armed with unlimited wishes by way of Hall, Bettie, however, seems more intent on destroying the lives of anyone who has ever wronged her instead of decking the halls and singing Christmas carols fireside. Can Hall show Bettie how wonderful the Christmas season can be if she would just let a little holiday spirit into her life?


Full of magic and mischief, Hogle’s novel was a fun and festive way to kick off my annual holiday reading sprint. Delightfully amusing, Just Like Magic isn’t going to give you all of those warm and cozy Hallmark Christmas movie feels, but where it lacks in comfort and joy, it makes up for in laughs.


Bettie is a despicable character akin to a Scrooge, but maybe worse because is there anyone more vapid and disingenuous than a social media influencer? But not only that, Bettie grew up on a mountain of privilege, yet can’t see the forest for the trees and is stuck in a self-flagellating shame spiral where she bemoans her life choices but doesn’t acknowledge the huge safety net she has beneath her, if only she would maybe make an effort at being a better person so that her family would actually want to help her out.


Hall, on the other hand, is an utter delight, bringing forth everything merry and bright and trying his darnedest to make Bettie see the light. It was a lot of fun to envision the Holiday Spirit as an actual person, and Hall was just as holly jolly as I expected him to be. The holiday hijinks he uses to warm Bettie’s cold, cold heart certainly put me in the Christmas mood and set the tone for the holiday season.


Just Like Magic is recommended to readers who are in the mood for a hilarious Christmas story with utterly repulsive characters (Hall being the exception - Brooke, Public Relations Librarian


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