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Frog Prince makes NZ Booklovers 2023 Awards Shortlist

Delighted to have made this list!

NZ Booklovers Awards 2023 Shortlist Announced

The NZ Booklovers Awards 2023 shortlist, announced today, features a mixture of well-known writers and debut authors.

Books by Fiona Sussman, James Norcliffe, Paddy Richardson, Simon Wilson, Jane Ussher and John Walsh, and Rangi Matamua and Miriama Kamo are among the diverse titles nominated for the NZ Booklovers Awards, along with exciting new writers and outstanding debut books.

With four categories now on offer, six books are shortlisted in the new Junior Fiction category; seven are shortlisted in the Children’s Picture Book section; eight are in the Lifestyle category, and due to this year’s superb quality, nine books shortlisted in the Adult Fiction category.

NZ Booklovers Director Karen McMillan says the awards, now in their fifth year, received a record-breaking 136 entries, and they are consistently the highest standard the judges had seen.

‘This year, the standard of books entered was of the highest calibre across the board. It was a true pleasure to read so many outstanding books, but the challenge was whittling the entries down to those shortlisted. A tough task with much deliberation by our judges,’ Karen McMillan says. ‘Our fiction award celebrates the best in storytelling, a book that is well-written but where the story is key. Our lifestyle award celebrates non-fiction books that can enrich our daily lives. For our children’s book awards, we looked for picture books and junior fiction books that engage young readers and foster a love of books. We are thrilled to see the excellent books that New Zealand authors have created. These are superb books that Kiwi families will read and treasure. Thank you to our fabulous sponsors for supporting the NZ Booklovers Awards so that we can celebrate these wonderful New Zealand writers.’

The NZ Booklovers Awards 2023 shortlisted titles are:

NZ Booklovers Award for Best Adult Fiction Book 2023, sponsored by Lighthouse PR

A Message for Nasty by Roderick Fry (Awa Press)

Barefoot by R.V. Bayley (Eden St Press)

By the Green of the Spring by Paddy Richardson (Quentin Wilson Publishing)

Harbouring by Jenny Pattrick (Penguin Random House NZ)

Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant by Cristina Sanders (The Cuba Press)

The Darkest Sin by D.V. Bishop (Macmillan Publishers)

The Doctor’s Wife by Fiona Sussman (Bateman Books)

The Frog Prince by James Norcliffe (Penguin Random House NZ)

The Slow Roll by Simon Lendrum (Upstart Press)

The Best Adult Fiction Book Award is judged by author, reviewer and judge of the Ngaio Marsh Awards Stephanie Jones, publishing professional Rachel White, and NZ Booklovers Director and author Karen McMillan.

The Best Lifestyle Book Award is judged by journalist and author Andrea Molloy, former magazine editor and lifestyle journalist Peta Stavelli, and publisher, home renovator and foodie Iain McKenzie.

The Best Junior Fiction Book and Children’s Picture Book Award are judged by creative writing teacher, assessor, mentor and reviewer P.J. Richardson, writer and former editor Heidi North, and early childhood kaiako and journalistRebekah Lyell.

About NZ Booklovers is an online home for people who are passionate about books. Working alongside publishers, NZ Booklovers showcases both New Zealand and international titles. It provides reviews, author interviews, book news and competitions.

Director Karen McMillan heads up a talented team of contributors and reviewers, fellow readers and writers who are passionate about books and believe literature inspires and enhances people’s lives. The NZ Booklovers Awards are the brainchild of Karen McMillan to support the local publishing community and New Zealand authors.

Judges’ comments:


A Message for Nasty by Roderick Fry: ‘An eye-opening, gripping novel that packs an even bigger emotional punch when you learn the story is based on the author’s grandparents. It brings vividly to life the occupation of the Japanese in Hong Kong during WWII, especially for young women, and the extraordinary story of a husband and father willing to go to any lengths to rescue his family. The author captures the broad horror of the war, the helplessness of the civilians and their desperate struggle to survive against the odds.’

Barefoot by R.V Bayley: ‘This is a gem of a novel, a story of love and loss. Set in Wellington just before WWII, a young couple meets and falls in love, then are separated by the demands of war. Adelaide hangs her hope on the letters that John sends from the front. John, meanwhile, is in Egypt with the troops living a totally different life. This book captures the upheaval of being separated by war and the terrible damage it wreaks both emotionally and physically. It is a gentle and poignantly told story, which will resonate with many people who had family members who experienced this.’

By the Green of the Spring by Paddy Richardson: ‘Paddy Richardson is now one of New Zealand’s most accomplished fiction writers. The glorious, devastating By the Green of the Spring rates with her best work. It’s possible that some readers will know little about the history of Somes Island. Richardson’s exploration of this dark moment in New Zealand’s history connects with her 2014 novel Swimming in the Dark, which also considers (sensitively and inventively) aspects of the German experience in relation to Aotearoa. The skill set Richardson forged in her earlier psychological thrillers – her ability to play with tension and suspense while creating emotionally rounded, complex, and believable characters – carries over beautifully into her historical fiction, which seems to elevate the form entirely; no one emulsifies historical fact and imagination better, and she knows how much to show to make the reader’s heart ache but holds enough back, so the novel ends on a note of hope and possibility.’

Harbouring by Jenny Pattrick: ‘This historical novel is a magnificent piece of storytelling that seamlessly brings history and fiction together. Opening in 1839, Martha and Huw escape a grinding life of poverty in Wales to start a new life in Wellington, New Zealand, but they struggle in this burgeoning society. Hineroa, a young Māori wahine whose life is dominated by oppression, faces different struggles. The story takes unexpected turns before a connection between the main protagonists begins to emerge. Harbouring is an immersive read with suspense and energy that brings our nation’s history to life.’

Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant by Cristina Sanders: ‘A refreshing and compelling story based on a real-life event, but with the unique bonus of telling it from a woman’s perspective. Mrs Jewell is the sole female survivor out of a group of 15 shipwrecked in 1866 on the Auckland Islands when their sailing ship is sunk in a storm. Much gold goes down with the ship, some of which is intended to start life anew for some miners and their families who were on board. Aside from the struggle to stay alive on the freezing island, the desperate desire to find gold brings tension and conflict within the group. This is a remarkable story which is difficult to put down.’

The Darkest Sin by D.V. Bishop: ‘This is the enthralling follow-up to City of Vengeance, which won the NZ Booklovers Fiction Award in 2022. Once again, D.V. Bishop creates a captivating story set in 1500s Florence, with detective-protagonist Cesare Aldo investigating a report of intruders at a convent. The author skilfully brings the dangerous streets of this Renaissance city to life, so much so that the reader feels they are walking the streets alongside Aldo. And what a protagonist! Human, vulnerable but principled. Aldo is on the way to becoming one of the most beloved flawed heroes in the crime thriller canon, like Rebus and Bosch.’

The Doctor’s Wife by Fiona Sussman: ‘When Stan’s wife is diagnosed with a brain tumour, their good friend, Dr Austin Lamb, steps in to help. But things turn dark when Lamb’s wife is found dead at the bottom of a cliff. With elements of dark humour, suspense and a few plot twists and turns, this story appeals on many levels. Great characters, an exploration of human frailty, friendships and loyalty, and the suburban setting make it feel like it could very well be happening in your backyard. Fiona Sussman is a previous winner of the NZ Booklovers Fiction Award, and this is another superb novel to join her list.’

The Frog Prince by James Norcliffe: ‘A thoroughly engrossing, clever reinterpretation of the Brothers Grimm, balanced beautifully with a present-day suspense story reminiscent of some of the early provocations and explorations of Ian McEwan. A vague sense of menace builds over the course of The Frog Prince, leading to a brilliant and satisfying pay-off. Norcliffe seems to be a history buff. The novel is studded with little nods to WWI history and poetry, even as he infuses the contemporary story with wit and rolls out a cast of well-drawn, idiosyncratic supporting characters.’

The Slow Roll by Simon Lendrum: ‘Intricately composed and with a tone that tightropes between dry and a little melancholic, thanks to the protagonist’s, a quasi-PI named O’Malley, battle with bad memories and existential sorrow. Lendrum dexterously weaves an engrossing narrative with timely sparks of social commentary like the “stupid, stubborn logic” behind Auckland’s sprawl. While the influence of the likes of Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke is evident – a couple of their protagonists are even name-checked – Lendrum forges a story, and a hero, all his own. The O’Malley/Claire dynamic is irresistible, and the intense, high-stakes third act, coming not long after superb car-chase and knife-fight set pieces, shows Lendrum’s remarkable range.’

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