Archive for Bookbag

More Reviews as The Empire Strikes Back

Posted in reviews, star blaze with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2010 by keithmansfield

Another week and two more reviews. I’m still waiting for someone to say something bad about Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze, but so far so good.

It was really touching that The Bookbag didn’t want to read the second book because they enjoyed Johnny Mackintosh and he Spirit of London so much. The Book Zone (for Boys) said exactly the same thing. I might have said before that I pitched Johnny Mackintosh to Quercus, my publisher, as “Harry Potter meets Star Wars” so it was wonderful to read The Book Zone’s description of the dilemma as to whether or not to read the second book:

“Ever since reading (and being disappointed by) Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator I have often felt a little pessimistic before reading sequels to books I had thoroughly enjoyed – will the author manage to recreate the magic with their second book? … However, with Star Blaze my pessimism was totally unfounded – in the same way that The Empire Strikes Back improved on Star Wars: A New Hope, so too does Star Blaze improve on its predecessor, and that is praise indeed. And the parallels don’t end there – like Empire, Star Blaze is also a much darker book in places than the first in the series.”

Sometimes in my school talks I’ve polled the kids on their favourite Star Wars films and then re-enacted a key scene from The Empire Strikes Back, much my own favourite of the series, precisely because it’s so much darker. Real life isn’t often black and white and I prefer a level of ambiguity in the books and films I read and watch. I don’t like the goodies winning through too easily and, if they get there in the end, it shouldn’t have been straightforward – there need to have been some tough choices along the way. I had been thinking the third Johnny Mackintosh book needed to be a bit darker to reflect this, but maybe I’ve already got there if The Book Zone’s picked up on this.

There were some further gems in the review:

“There are so many things I loved about this book that I don’t really know how to start … the characters are very well developed…. all of them, not just Johnny … The world building is also outstanding … On top of this, there is also enough action to rival the glut of boy secret agent books we have seen in recent years, and the plot twists and turns so it is difficult to second guess exactly what will happen next.”

I’m not sure there’s any greater satisfaction for an author than when someone really gets your book, so a huge thanks to The Book Zone. The pressure’s on to make sure number three isn’t full of silly Ewoks like The Return of the Jedi!

Also this week, Justine Crow of the brilliant Crystal Palace indie bookshop The Bookseller Crow on the Hill gave Star Blaze a mention on p.10 of the latest Families London & SE Magazine :

“While we are on the subject of world domination, coming out this month is a new adventure for medium sized readers starring the space-buckling hero who thinks nothing of zooming off on his private spaceship, The Spirit of London, to save Earth, though clearly jetting round the galaxy is gonna play havoc with his GCSEs.”

It’s always been important to me that Johnny’s life is grounded here on Earth, facing lots of the same problems as his readers. I did cut a whole load of stuff out of Star Blaze that showed how Johnny learns the national curriculum, and am delighted Justine realizes those exams aren’t going to be plain sailing.

Here come the reviews

Posted in Book news, reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by keithmansfield

Naturally, authors never read reviews. It’s purely an accident I have a Google alert set up to tell me when anyone, anywhere writes something about Johnny Mackintosh. It would be madness to pay too much attention as there are bound to be people who don’t like a book – happily, though, this has been a sane week and people have had only lovely things to say about both Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze and also Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London.

The Bookbag has given Star Blaze a whopping five stars and said such nice things that I’m reluctant to repeat them here. Well, go on – you twisted my arm. Their reviewer, Jason Mark Curley, liked Johnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London except its title and made my year by saying it was “reminiscent of Rowling”, my writing idol. This one he seems to have enjoyed even more.

“it must be hard to write a sequel to a book that was so good and get it right … I enjoyed the first book so much that I didn’t want to spoil it by reading a duffer of a follow up. I really shouldn’t have worried; Star Blaze is everything that its predecessor was and a lot more besides … shades and echoes of those sci-fi novels I used to read as a kid: Asimov, Clarke, Moorcock and Dick. … great characters, action, mystery and adventure … A great read; go get it. And, more please Mr Mansfield.”

I am blushing as I type and will gladly buy anyone claiming to be Jason a beer should they approach me in a pub. Earlier in the week, the Bridgend County Council posted some user reviews of books in their libraries and the second one they showed was Johnnny Mackintosh and the Spirit of London. A young reviewer by the name of Master Dylan James Morgan wrote:

“Awesome! The book cover just makes you want to pick it up straight away because it is so colorful and looks exciting. Flying around in a spaceship disguised as the London Gherkin! WOW!!! This is the first Johnny Mackintosh Book and I hope there will be more to come.”

I hope Master Morgan discovers Johnny Mackintosh: Star Blaze soon!

The first Star Blaze review of the week was from the lovely people at Chicklish. Even though I’d love everyone to read Spirit of London first, I’m delighted Alexandra picked up that you could read the second book independently and still enjoy it as I worked very hard on that. She’s also given a great short summary:

“In Star Blaze, Johnny becomes involved in a deadly plot against the Earth’s sun. Exploding the sun into a supernova should be impossible but intergalactic enemies have found a way. Only Johnny and his sister appear to know what’s happening. Can they save the day? … You can read this novel without having to read the first in the series. Definitely a hit for sci-fi fans.”

Chicklish is a great site run by authors Luisa Plaja and Keris Stainton.

If you like either of the Johnny Mackintosh books, it really helps spread the word if you post reviews online, with Amazon of course being particularly visible. If you hurry, you can be first up for Star Blaze!

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