The AU Review’s resident bookworms share the books they couldn’t put down

The Books Team here at The AU Review is growing, and what better way to get to know the nerds behind all your favourite lit reviews than through the books they can’t stop raving about? Buckle in bookworms – this list is going to be killer!

Jemimah Brewster – Every Version of You by Grace Chan

Jemimah: I recently re-read Grace Chan‘s Every Version of You for book club and I found it just as impactful as when I first read it. This book asks some very difficult and prevalent questions about the limits and edges of technology, the self, identity, relationships, personal history, and mortality, all in the context of the virtual versus the real. It’s a deep and thoughtful book that has had me thinking about it for months, and it’s great for a book club or a buddy read because everyone has their own opinions and interpretations on the themes of the story. So if you ever read it, come talk to me about it!

Jemimah is a reader and reviewer living in Gippsland, Victoria on Gunaikurnai country. She writes short stories full of queerness and Halloween vibes, reads YA, thrillers, and anything cosy, and runs a queer book club. Find her on Substack at The Brew and Instagram @jemofthebrew.

Read more of Jemimah’s reviews here

Annie Mills – All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Annie: I recently got around to reading Martha Wells’s The Murderbot Diary series, starting with All Systems Red, and ended up really enjoying it! I’m a big fan of science fiction in general, but I especially love books that explore the experiences of nonhuman characters like aliens or robots. It provides such an original, enjoyable, and deeply relatable take on what it means to be a ‘person’ over what it means to be ‘human’. I always love seeing science fiction that explores its concepts to their fullest, and this series does that perfectly – while still being a light and fun read. I’d recommend checking it out if that sounds like something you’d like!

Annie is a science fiction and fantasy fan at heart, but will read pretty much anything if given the chance, from fascinating nonfiction to trashy horror novels. Currently living in WA, she loves to read authors from around the world but has a soft spot for her fellow Aussies.

More reviews from Annie coming soon

Anna Blaby – Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson

Anna: I had the chance to get my hands on Pamela Anderson’s autobiography Love, Pamela published earlier this year. As a die-hard fan of all things love I usually go for rom-com fiction but the combination of a celebrity name and a few pages long forward in poetry form got me intrigued. I quickly got hooked on all things Pamela! Even though the book is very dark at times there are also so many positive and empowering stories in it. Pamela’s poetry is deeply personal, bringing forward a fresh and unique voice. Love, Pamela definitely satisfied my need for romance and actually got me interested in reading more autobiographies and non-fiction. The book offers such an inspiring experience while diving deep into the relationships, career and family life of the controversial Baywatch star. Arty and multi-dimensional, Love, Pamela is a true celebration of a woman who is, like many of us, can be many things at once.

Anna is a mum, a writer and a great storyteller based in Melbourne. Her life-long passion for reading and writing saw her complete a Bachelor’s degree in creative writing, publishing her work in many blogs and magazines, and more recently reviewing music and literature.  She is hoping to one day finally write her own book.

More reviews from Anna coming soon

Lyndon Bower – Dead Poets Society by N.H. Kleinbaum

Lyndon: My favourite book that I’ve read in the last year is N.H. Kleinbaum‘s novel, Dead Poets Society. As an English major and poetry lover, the passion that Mr Keating has towards the subject and his students makes my heart whole. I enjoyed the simplicity of it despite the multiple layers of what it is to be a young person, a student, and figuring out one’s self-identity, and worth.

Lyndon lives in Tassie, and is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English, Writing, and Classics. Naturally,  he is passionate about English studies, ancient civilisations, and education. His favourite genres are historical retellings, thrillers, and coming-of-age.

Read more of Lyndon’s reviews here


Branden Zavaleta – The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories curated by Jay Rubin

Branden: If Haruki Murakami has been your only window into Japanese literature, this is the perfect introduction to the country’s best and beloved (there’s even a preface by Murakami). The six themes — Japan and the west, loyal warriors, men and women, nature and memory, modern life, dread, and disasters — cover practically everything, and the authors are just as varied. Mishima brushes elbows with Kawakami, and even old Akutagawa makes an appearance. It really is the perfect (non-intimidating) primer (and the cover is cute too).

Branden Zavaleta studied psychology at Curtin University, and is an Australian freelance journalist. His work focuses on the arts, in all its forms, and can be found in The AU Review, The Curb, GamePro, Far East Films and more. Aussie Indie Artists, his column in The AU Review interviews emerging artists, and supports their work.

Read more of Branden’s reviews and interviews here

Sarah Robbins – Play It As it Lays by Joan Didion

Sarah: I love Joan. This is the first fiction I’ve read of hers, and it’s equally poignant and haunting. An eternally relevant and expertly crafted story that explores a woman and a society in crisis. It’s set in the vast and unforgiving California desert, with this spareness often reflected on the page – some chapters are only a few lines long. Within these lines is the story of Maria’s decaying life. She’s ambivalent, half-pursues careers and relationships, and ultimately decides that it’s all meaningless. But it’s less about the plot and more about exploring the ideas of alienation, emptiness, and loss. Sounds super grim I know, but Didion uses her incredible command of language to make all these themes beautiful and thought-provoking.

Sarah is a lover of stories in all forms, whether it’s films, books or yarns with friends at the pub. She is a screenwriter and script assessor.

More reviews from Sarah coming soon

Sarah Duggan – People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

Sarah: I took an unintentional break from reading and was finding it difficult to get back into it, but People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry drew me in and ticked all the boxes for me. It’s a simple friends-to-lovers tale, but Henry’s style is such a lovely breath of fresh air in an otherwise over-saturated genre. The novel is set in various locations around the world as it tells the tale of two friends who holiday together every year, slowly falling in love and everything in between. The dialogue is fun but realistic, the characters are likeable and the settings are interesting and diverse. It’s an easy, light-hearted and delightful read and I recommend it highly!

Sarah is twenty-six and lives in Victoria. She’s always loved to read and worked at/managed a bookstore for four years. She can’t go past a good romance novel, but loves a bit of fantasy and YA too. Sarah is also a mum so she has an appreciation for children’s literature as well!

More reviews from Sarah coming soon

Emily Paull – Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby van Pelt

After reading last year’s favourite book, Lessons in Chemistry, I went searching for something that would scratch that same itch and discovered Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby van Pelt at my local library. It’s a book that is hard to put into any one genre but I’ll try my best to sell it to you. The story is about a woman who works cleaning an aquarium in a small town. She’s older; her husband has passed away and her son went missing a long time ago. She has a group of friends who worry about her being isolated, but she is almost annoyed that people seem to pity her in this way. One day, she strikes up a remarkable friendship with Marcellus, who is an octopus living in the aquarium and may just hold the keys to many of the questions she’s trying to answer in his tentacles…

Part of the book is actually told from the point of view of the octopus and he’s sassy and brilliant. I just loved it. It’s great for book clubs or just to read when you need something spectacular. I think the B-format is about to come out in Australia so I’ll definitely be getting my own copy and going in for a reread.

Emily Paull was a bookseller for almost ten years before returning to university to get her Masters in Information Science and retraining as a librarian. She is also an author of short stories and historical fiction, with her debut novel due out in March 2025. Books are pretty much her whole life.

Read more of Emily’s reviews here

Jodie Sloan – Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Jodies: Earlier this year I finally read Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica and not a week has gone by where I haven’t thought about this brutal little tale. Not too sure what people think when I tell them a book about humans farming other humans for meat in the not-to-distant future is one of the best books I’ve ever read, but Tender is the Flesh isn’t just gut-wrenchingly dystopian and desperately sad – it’s also beautifully written and absolutely gripping.

Jodie lives, reads, and writes in Brisbane/Meanjin, and has cemented herself as The AU Review’s resident spooky bitch. Horror, Gothic, and twisted fairytales are her bookish go-tos, and when she’s not reading, you’ll likely find her sipping sparkling at a local wrestling show.

Read more of Jodie’s reviews here

Simon Clark – Here Be Leviathans by Chris Flynn and The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

Simon: I’m going to use my editorial powers and break the rules and mention more than one book. The brief was to talk about a book you’ve read in the last year that you’ll rave about. So I’m kicking things off with Here Be Leviathans, the 2022 short story collection from Chris Flynn. It’s an absolute joy of a collection; full of imagination, emotion and unique characters, most of whom are not even human. When you’ve finished with that one, you should then proceed immediately to your nearest bookshop and pick up Flynn’s preceding novel Mammoth.

More recently, I’ve been finally getting around to reading N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth series. I’m about a quarter or so of the way into Book 2 The Obelisk Gate and I’m really enjoying the world building on offer. A little bit fantasy, a little bit science fiction, but just full of all these interesting little details that keep you guessing, whilst also immersed in the world.

Simon is the Books Editor at the AU and has contributed to the site since 2009, writing about music, books and theatre and the arts. He has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. He tries to read quite widely, but does love a good dose of literary fiction, fantasy and fiction in translation (especially from the Nordics and South America).

Read more of Simon’s reviews here

Jess Gately – Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Jess: I’ve read a lot of very clever, exciting and thought-provoking books in the past year so it’s hard to choose just one book, but Legends & Lattes filled a need I wasn’t really aware I had until I finished it. I’m generally someone who loves a fast-paced read, and while this story of an adventuring orc settling down to run a coffee shop doesn’t exactly sound or feel like it’s fast-paced, I couldn’t believe it when I looked down and realised I was already halfway through the book. While its themes might not seem particularly ground-breaking — encouraging us to reflect on the importance of friendship, found family, and new beginnings — the playful use of Dungeons & Dragons-style myth and monsters, combined with quirky characterisations make it an absolute must-read for fantasy lovers. This book is the perfect cozy fantasy to refuel your heart and mind. I can’t wait for the prequel coming out later this year, Bookshops and Bonedust.

Jess Gately is a Perth-based freelance publishing professional with a deep love for speculative fiction. She has a Master of Arts from Curtin University in Professional Writing and Publishing where her thesis looked at the editorial approach to fictional languages in sci-fi and fantasy. She likes to share even more books than she can review on Instagram and Tik Tok @jess_gately

Read more of Jess’s reviews here

Jess Gately

Jess Gately is a freelance editor and writer with a particular love for speculative fiction and graphic novels.