Winners of the 2024 NZ Booklovers awards announced

Main photo by Blaz Photo on Unsplash

Looking for some great reads this Easter? Here are five award-winning books of the just announced NZ Booklovers Awards.

El Flamingo by Nick Davies wins the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Adult Fiction Book 2024, published by YBK Publishers New York.

Synopsis: With no role in sight and nothing to lose, actor Lou Galloway heads to Mexico to drown his sorrows. But after a mezcal too many, he is mistaken for a rogue assassin known simply as ‘El Flamingo’.

Before he can escape, he meets Maria-Carla, an enigmatic beauty with incredible perfume, and is swept into the dangerous world of Latin-American espionage. From Mariachi weddings to Colombian salsa bars, Lou has only one choice—to assume the identity of El Flamingo. One thing is for sure. This is the role of his life!

What the judges said: “El Flamingo is a delight from start to finish, with a storytelling style that is deceptively easy to read but is likely the result of numerous drafts. Davies has done a terrific job of blending the genres, nailing the tone and characterisation, and having great fun in the process.  El Flamingo is an exhilarating debut, so perfectly paced and plotted, and with a central character to fall in love with. Lou Galloway is an unforgettable character full of self-deprecating wit. His strong, clever narrative voice is what makes this novel so engaging. This is a tale infused with heart and soul, a sunset-noir novel with an exotic Latin-American vibe that has it all: action, suspense, intrigue and a compelling love story.  This outstanding novel is fresh, surprising and fun. It is all killer and no filler when it comes to impeccably crafted writing, characterisation and pace. This is storytelling at its best.”

Flora: Celebrating Our Botanical World. Edited by Carlos Lehnebach, Claire Regnault, Rebecca Rice, Isaac Te Awa, and Rachel Yates wins the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Lifestyle Book 2024, published by Te Papa Press.

Synopsis: ‘Flora: Celebrating Our Botanical World is an extraordinary tribute to Aotearoa New Zealand’s botanical heritage, curated from Te Papa’s extensive collections. This expansive and visually striking hardback invites readers on an immersive journey into the world of flora. Flora is undeniably impressive, with immense aesthetic appeal. Visually delightful and highly informative, it is a culturally significant celebration of our botanical heritage. Flora transcends traditional boundaries by intertwining botanical wonders with a diverse range of art forms, including decor, fashion and photography.

What the judges said: “More than a mere collection of images, Flora explores botanical themes through 12 truly insightful essays. The depth of its content, complemented by its elegant presentation appeals to a broad audience. Flora’s sheer scale and visual allure not only elevate its impact but highlight its curation by an expert, cross-disciplinary team. Flora has surpassed its ambition of inspiring readers to feel a sense of mīharo, of wonder, for plants and flowers in all their representations. Flora emphasises the cultural imprint of flora and transforms the book into a true taonga, a treasure for all to enjoy.”

Catch a Falling Star by Eileen Merriman wins the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Young Adult Book 2024, published by Penguin Random House.

Synopsis: This is the prequel to acclaimed New Zealand YA author Eileen Merriman’s wonderful novel Catch Me When You Fall returning to trace the backstory of love interest, Jamie Orange. Magnetic and troubled, Merriman creates a dramatic and wonderfully rich narrative around this young man as he navigates some pretty hefty dynamics personally, and relationally. Jamie’s charismatic confidence dazzles friends and crushes alike…until it doesn’t, leaving relationships fraying under the weight of his unpredictable behaviour.

What the judges said: “Of the many excellent aspects of Eileen Merriman’s writing, it is the realism that she creates within these fully formed characters that stands out. The ability to accurately capture the nuances of language and the roundness of her central characters that really sets her apart as an author. A wonderfully evocative story with strong messaging around mental health and wellbeing.”

Below by David Hill wins the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Junior Fiction Book 2024, published by Penguin Random House.

Synopsis: When Liam dares his classmate Imogen to come on a forbidden tour of the railway tunnel being drilled through a nearby mountain, he hopes she’ll quit protesting about it damaging the environment. As the pair reach the huge tunnelling machine deep beneath the ground, everything goes horribly wrong. With nobody knowing where they are, and the water beginning to rise, the former arch-enemies have to work together to survive. Below walks the fine line of being compelling without being too scary for the intended audience.

What the judges said: “David Hill has crafted yet another excellent read that combines a pacy plot with an ecological theme.  It is a page-turning thriller about courage, teamwork, friendship and caring for the environment, and showcases Hill’s extensive research that he puts into every one of his stories. With Below, Hill delivers a rich cast of characters and a gripping read for junior readers 8-11.”

Dazzlehands by Sacha Cotter, illustrated by Josh Morgan, wins the NZ Booklovers Award for Best Children’s Picture Book 2024, published by Huia Publishers.

Synopsis: A cow goes moo, a chicken goes cluck, a pig goes… Dazzlehands? What the..? The latest from the author of The Bomb continues his riff on celebrating diversity and individuality. Dazzlehands dazzles from the get-go, with its bright pink and silver cover and the intrigue of a pair of bejewelled trotters thrust skywards. Whose hooves are these? And why are they so sparkly?

What the judges said: “Reminiscent of the stubborn back-and-forth in Green Eggs and Ham, this playful tale is funny and fun to read aloud; perfectly ludicrous and imaginative in the way that picture books should be. Morgan’s rainbow-bright illustrations are entertaining in their own right, with many of the pictures telling their own story. Great to see a Māori main character too (the farmer).”

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