Read Stray by Andrea K. Höst Online


On her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing: alone, she will be lucky to survive. The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? What is the intOn her last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walked out of exams and into a forest. Surrounded by the wrong sort of trees, and animals never featured in any nature documentary, Cass is only sure of one thing: alone, she will be lucky to survive. The sprawl of abandoned blockish buildings Cass discovers offers her only more puzzles. Where are the people? What is the intoxicating mist which drifts off the buildings in the moonlight? And why does she feel like she's being watched? Increasingly unnerved, Cass is overjoyed at the arrival of the formidable Setari. Whisked to a world as technologically advanced as the first was primitive, where nanotech computers are grown inside people's skulls, and few have any interest in venturing outside the enormous whitestone cities, Cass finds herself processed as a 'stray', a refugee displaced by the gates torn between worlds. Struggling with an unfamiliar language and culture, she must adapt to virtual classrooms, friends who can teleport, and the ingrained attitude that strays are backward and slow. Can Cass ever find her way home? And after the people of her new world discover her unexpected value, will they be willing to let her leave?...

Title : Stray
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780980878998
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 278 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Stray Reviews

  • Chichipio
    2019-04-23 00:08

    Andrea Höst will NEVER be a successful YA writer! Remember, you've read it here first. You won't believe what she did… The nerve!You see, she created a smart, resourceful heroine who doesn't spend her time either whining or swooning. *gasp* And she has a personality! *double gasp* Un-freaking-believable. I know, I know, I'm shaking my head slowly, too. But wait, just like in an infomercial, this is the part where I say "there's more!" Although, in this case, there's less. Sit down and breathe deeply, relax. OK, here it goes: There. Isn't. A. Love. Triangle. Say whaaaa? In fact, there are only hints of a possible romance. I know, crazy, right? And if at this point you're wondering if she went completely crazy, then let me tell you that the answer might very well be YES because she also left out any mention of phony angels, Lilith and sparkling vamps, and there aren't any sentences like "I want you but we can't be together because I'm too dangerous" and hardly any stalking at all.I know you must have run out of fingers ticking off all the things that make a YA book these days. I mean, what else is out there? There must be a reason why there are so many YA books recycling the same plot and characters over and over. Well, apparently, the reason is just good ol' money-grabbing laziness. This book is proof that there are other subjects and types of characters besides the overused usual suspects.First, a brief summary of the book. Cass, a 17 years old girl walks through some sort of wormhole and ends up in another, deserted planet. She doesn't know how she did it or how to go back, so she sets up to survive until a better alternative comes along. After a couple of weeks, some strangers show up and rescue her. They're psychic, more advanced than people on Earth and have some very cool toys, but unfortunately they also have huge problems. They're at war and the elite soldiers are like space ninjas! Don't read the tag unless you want the plot really spoiled: (view spoiler)[Cass's walking through a wormhole, though a first for someone from Earth, is not a rare event. Over a thousand years ago, these people's experiments with inter-world traveling went seriously wrong and one of the many effects is the creation of these gates. They shift, so there are accidental crossings. Another, more dangerous effect is the apparition of some very nasty creatures. Cass learns that finding a world is very difficult and, even if you find it, forcing a gate to open there instead of using one that opened naturally attracts the creatures. She also discovers that though she doesn't have any psychic power, her presence enhances or distorts other's powers. (hide spoiler)]Without certain means to go back to Earth, she settles on trying to make the most of her situation by helping her rescuers. Not that she has much choice, but still, I like the way she thinks. She rolls with the punches. It's hard to make a character likable when she's not in control of her life. Most of her decisions are made for her, but she manages to react well and adapt to make the most of it without indulging on a self-pity fest of endless whining.Most of the other characters are still kind of a mystery. It takes a while until we learn which of them are the more important ones and even so, they're very reserved for us to get much on them from Cass's perspective, especially while she's not completely accepted as part of the group. But we have two more books to go, so I guess that the next one will show us more about them now that the board is set. Still, the little bit we do know is all show and no tell, which gives this aspect of the book extra points.The book is written in diary format. Cass has a blank notebook in her backpack when she steps through the wormhole and she starts to use it as a way of keeping her sanity. At first, especially because she's totally alone, the format is very noticeable and I'm sure it won't work for everyone, though having some experience writing diaries, I found it believable. A little into the book, however, when she starts interacting with people, the format takes a back sit while the story itself comes to the front and I hardly noticed it, except to keep track of the date which was kind of neat.There's a glossary at the end and it really came in handy because there are a lot of support characters and powers. After a while, though, you learn which ones are the important ones, but still it's nice that you can know the names of everyone if you feel like it. Imagine a glossary like this on Ender's Game, for example.I like sci-fi, but I'm not obsessed with nerding things out by dissecting the genre into a gazillion sub-genres, defending one of them to death while condemning other (which has only a minor variation) to hell just to show how much I know. So I won't even try to define this in those terms. The most I could say is that it's not space opera. (view spoiler)[Captain Obvious, are you there? Challenge accepted! (hide spoiler)] If you're looking for some sci-fi to read, I'd definitely recommend this (the fact that you can get it super cheap on smashwords doesn't hurt, either) but don't ask me whether is soft or hard or whatever. They have nanites, space ships, wormholes, a few gaming references and other cool stuff—use that to decide.A little warning. This book is part of a trilogy and the type of ending is right in the middle between giving each book a proper ending and just cutting a book in three parts semi-randomly. So now you know, there's no big climax, but we're not left mid-sentence with a cliffhanger, either. For me it worked like this: I want to read what happens next but I'm not mad about the fact that it's not out yet.Wow, I was just quickly rereading this, trying to catch the various articles and prepositions that usually don't make it from my mind to my fingers when I noticed something: WTH was I smoking when I started writing this? The tone of the first paragraphs makes me seem like a teen ferret on crack. I knew I shouldn't have skipped the medication that lets me subdue that part of my brain. Being a ferret sucks!

  • Flannery
    2019-04-04 21:14

    How useful would you be in an apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic situation? My best friend and I had a discussion about this for a while the other day. (Well, to be honest I have this discussion all the time.) While we obviously tally people’s skills up in the positives column, we were in agreement that two of the biggest advantages a person can have is their ability to just go with the flow and their tendency not whine or complain about things. The reason I bring this up is because the first third or fourth of this book is about a teenage girl, Cass Devlin, walking home from school and suddenly finding herself in a completely foreign place. As she walks around, the thinks about what is going on in a very logical manner. She thinks about where the sun is located, how long the days are, what kinds of wildlife is around, what she might be able to eat, how to actually make things from raw materials. Gosh, thanks for that Andrea K. Höst, because my reading partner and I were so excited to read about a character who actually thought about all the things a person should be thinking if they are somewhere they have never been before. I’ve read several books since I finished this one (as has my reading partner) and we’ve repeatedly said, “Ugh, Cass Devlin would never do something like this.” I also enjoyed her sense of humor about her entire situation and the new society she finds herself a part of.The interesting thing about this book, and this could really be a positive or negative depending on the reader, was how it was very in-depth setup for the rest of the series. What this book needs is a kickass editor to contain the awesome. Here is a very scientific graph I’ve made for the occasion:Wouldn't we all like to have that problem? I’d get overly excited if I were the author, too. It is clear that Ms. Höst has mapped out this world, its inhabitants, the powers, technology, and the history...and I was into all of it! At a point, while I never lost interest, I was looking for a little less description of every single power, its amplification, and the different spaces the teams went to. (this sentence probably makes very little sense but I don’t want to ruin the plot of the book for future readers) Several of the characters intrigued me and I wished we got to know a few of them more in depth rather than tens of them by name only. In the end, this book has the potential to be a five-star read for me if it was completely edited. (There were a couple affect/effect, hanger/hangar-type errors but overall, the writing was fun and there were very few errors for a self-pub) However, the final product as it is was quite enough to make me buy the remaining two ebooks in the series to see how it all pans out and definitely enough to recommend it to a lot of people.Surprisingly, there is no concentration on romance, at least not in this installment of the series. There are a few hints and several possibilities but it was nice not to have that weighing down the plot. Instead of Cass wondering about what X or Y dude thinks of her, she actually wonders about how everything in the world works, how she might get home, and the ramifications of her choices. Crazy!To the author, if you are reading this at any point (which you might be!), please write a survivalist or post-apoc novel! I will read it and love it. Until then, I'll continue with this series and enjoy those ones.I never would’ve found this book without Goodreads. My pal Chichipio has an aversion to buying books that cost more than $5. Sure, I often yank his chain about this habit but this is it, Gonza, your REVENGE. I really loved this book, so thank you. (be sure to check out his much more informative review)

  • Dichotomy Girl
    2019-04-13 23:56

    11th Read: In preparation for In Arcadia, because I really need the refresher, ROFLUpdating this with the new GR Re-read Function, and as anyone can see, I have a serious obsession / comfort read thing going on with this book, LOL10th Read:12/15/20169th Read: 9/27/20168th Read: 07/06/20167th Read: 1/8/2016 - I have such a weird obsession with this book! 7 times in 2.5 Years is crazy even for me!6th Read: 8/18/20155th Read: 5/28/20154th Read: 02/27/15 So, I've been sick the past week, and these books are totally comfort food to me. I am a book re-reader. My absolute favorite series' I usually reread every to every other year. But it is a bit unusual for me to read a series 3 times in a years time period. I don't even know that I can put my finger on the why. You know how sometimes you just want to sink into a familiar world? This one is so comfy to me....3rd read: 8/28/20142nd Read: 2/7/14Ok, So I enjoyed this quite a bit more the second time around. (I would say definitely a solid 4 stars). Having read it previously, I found the descriptions of the Ena, and Ionoth, and Spaces, seemed to sink in a bit easier. (I think I just basically, came up with a mental picture in my brain, and thought "this is how I'm going to think of it")I still think the sheer amount of Setari she runs around with is a bit confusing, especially as they are mostly called by their last names, but occasionally mentioned by their first names, and THANK GOD, there is a list in the back of the book of all the squads and members. And I thinkthe world building this time around made for a much more enjoyable read.Original Read 7/31/133.5 StarsStrengths:1. Strong MC2. No love Triangles3. A few mentions of a kinda-crush, but no major romance arc.4. Interesting world building5. Refuses to categorize peoples, societies or worlds as black and white, but as the much more realistic shades of gray.6. A very realistic portrayal of the problems and difficulties that arise when you don't know the language / understand the culture.Weaknesses:1. The world was a bit confusing at first, and I think it might have been explained better. I didn't get it long after it made sense to the MC2. The sheer number of characters was also a bit confusing. Because she was constantly working with 12 different squads made up of 6 people each, they tended to all run together in my head after awhile.I very rarely read indie authors, but this one had been on my radar for 2 years, so when it went up briefly as a free download on amazon, I was glad I could finally read it. I will definitely be checking out the remaining books in this trilogy, and other books written by this author.

  • Sh3lly ☽ Guardian of Beautiful Squids and Lonely Moons ☽
    2019-04-19 02:03

    Kindle freebie: July 23, 2016. It looks like I bought this already in 2015. My friend Sam says it's a good light YA sci-fi read. PG-rated, light on romance. It's got aliens! I have to try it.

  • Melissa McShane
    2019-03-30 00:51

    This book shouldn't have worked.The diary structure means that there's an unavoidable amount of 'telling' going on at first (Höst comes up with an excellent workaround later). The main character, for all she's pretty good at surviving, has to get rescued a lot. There are SO MANY characters you really need the appendix to keep them straight. And the plot, while good, is subservient to Cass's life, which means there are long stretches where the plot goes away in favor of the interpersonal relations Cass has with everyone else.And I just spent a week reading this and its two sequels, completely unable to stop myself except to come up for air when it got really intense. (Which is why it took a week.) So I'm going to review the whole trilogy here rather than try to remember what happened when and in which book.Most of why it works is because the heroine, Cass, is just so engaging and has such a strong, likeable voice. Höst really is a master of the epistolary style (and I consider a diary to fit this description) and doesn't have Cass recording, word for word, conversations until her implanted computer interface allows her to do so. There's never any cheating going on to make sure the reader gets something important; if Cass doesn't see it, it didn't happen. I like that.I'm also very interested in this world, in which the Setari (or in Cass's words "psychic space ninjas") fight monsters in a war of attrition--theirs, not the monsters, who respawn at a frightening rate. Höst came up with some great new psychic powers to supplement the traditional ones, and although I was serious about how hard it is initially to keep track of who everyone is, they're all introduced slowly enough that I rarely had to resort to the appendix. They're also very distinct in character and I was as much interested in the stories of Cass's Setari friends as I was in hers.Cass's unique powers made for good reading and accounted for much of why she kept having to be rescued. She doesn't come across as a damsel in distress, mainly because despite her situation she never stops trying to stay herself. Her choice to actively help the Setari rather than being a passive participant in their fight definitely makes her a stronger character. I particularly like her concern for her friends, who, because of their status in society as something between rock stars and Quidditch champions, have trouble maintaining an identity outside their own group; Cass is both outsider and insider, and they become stronger for it.And, naturally, I am completely in love with Kaoren Ruuel.(view spoiler)[Really, another thing that shouldn't work--she's eighteen, for heaven's sake, and he's twenty, and granted, he's been effectively an adult for over a decade, but that they should not only fall in love but plan to marry and adopt all those kids--it shouldn't work, and yet it does. I am completely smitten with how devoted Kaoren is to Cass, how much they mean to each other, and it totally works for me. (hide spoiler)]I haven't been this swept away by a book in a long time. Frankly, I don't even see the flaws I pointed out at the beginning as flaws, because this is Cass's story, and it's told exactly as it would be if she were real--a loose plot structure, emphasis on her experiences even when the plot is going on somewhere else. It just works. I loved it.

  • Gergana
    2019-04-20 05:04

    Ok, I was planning to review this book once I finish the whole series, but I started chatting with Férial and decided to post my comments here for now (and write a proper review after I finish the third book). Slight spoilers below (nothing related to the plot).Férial : So?Me: Absolutely loved it, but it's very difficult to review. The thing is, I still don't know what to make of my whole experience.- A small part of me is slightly annoyed with the beginning, and there were a few times where the story dragged and felt repetitive, without anything happening. Oh sure, lots of fights and new worlds, but the plot wasn't progressing fast enough for me.-Another part of me (the biggest in size) LOVED IT! It was so so so so good! The space ninjas, the philosophical questions the book raises, the protagonist who was so believable and relatable, I was never annoyed by her and on several occasions I was truly impressed by her behavior. Yes, Cas was special, but I never saw her as a special snowflake, and her take on everything that was happening around her was so realistic. At least for me. And the Samurai-type guy in the end!?! The second book will be so good! The technology that allows people to SEE movies, books and all kinds of information without using a physical computer, the cities that are both cool and disturbing, the politics between the worlds, God, so many things to squeal about!-And the last part of me was thorn - The side-characters were super cool, but felt distant. The world-building was amazing, but sometimes it felt too big and all over the place. The ending was interesting, but also annoying - too sudden and abrupt. The book doesn't follow the conventional story-telling style we're used to and it shouldn't be considered a flow, yet, I wish there was a Climax of some sort. That's why I hate rating books. Stray is not perfect, yet I adore it! It's deep and thought provoking, it's action-packed, imaginative, unique and colorful! I want to give it 4 stars, but then I remember the yawn-worthy moments and then - the moments that took my breath away and made me dream about the future where humanity will one day face similar problems and use similar technology . Stray is brilliant 45% of the time, mediocre around 40%, and slightly boring - 15%. The end

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    2019-04-15 02:02

    Kindle freebie, written in diary form, about an Australian teenager who's walking home from school, turns a corner and finds herself on an alien world. Cassandra is alone in a forest, in a place that looks like Earth but has longer days. For a while she manages to survive on her own, eating berries and such. And then the aliens find her... I picked this up as a freebie a couple of years ago, read the first part and then, for whatever reason, it got sidelined unfinished. But it has some very enthusiastic reviews from some GR friends whose opinions I respect, so one of these times I'll give it another shot. Content note: F-bombs.

  • Sherwood Smith
    2019-04-12 04:06

    This is the first book of the Touchstone Trilogy, a YA science fiction (or science fantasy, for hardliner SF purists who don't count psychic powers as part of sf) story that begins with Cassandra Devlin, an Australian high schooler, walking around a corner and shifting to another world.I am normally not drawn to survival stories. I began reading late one night when it was too hot to sleep, hoping it would knock me out . . . several hours later, I was hooked.The book is written in diary form. Cass is funny, smart, sensible, and thinks herself a perfectly ordinary person. When she meets the psychic ninjas of Tare, she tries to cope the way a smart, sensible, perfectly ordinary person would. As she learns the language she begins learning about the complexity of interconnected worlds, and to get to know the individuals among the Setari--the ninjas. I knew I loved this book when, on her birthday, she did something neither she nor the expected, which changes everything.The voice is wonderful, the details from both worlds (Australia and the places beyond) fascinating, and the refreshing change of pace from what have become too-frequent patterns of best-seller YA made this a real page turner. I can hardly wait to start the second installment.

  • Wendy Darling
    2019-04-08 01:17

    Currently free for Kindle in the U.S. and Andrea says it's also free on B&N, Smashie, Amazon UK, etc., too. Grab before it's gone.3.5 stars Love love loved the beginning survivalist part! And the worldbuilding was incredible, though I think some of the humor I liked so much, as well as the characterization, got a bit lost in the last half.I really can't express my thoughts any better than my readalong pal Flannery did, so if you're curious about this book, please check out her review!

  • Caitlin
    2019-04-17 21:48

    Be warned, this is an incredibly scattered review full of tangents and distracting jumps with no transitions at all between paragraphs! Your teachers would all be disappointed in the formatting!It's taken me weeks to finally sit down and write the review for Stray, or overall, I guess, the Touchstone Series. (Caution: This is more an overall review, but it doesn't contain any world-shattering spoilers).It's a rare series. Self-published. World-transcending. And in my top three favorites of All Time, next to the Outlander Series, and the Darkfever Series. Two extreme heavyweights in the literary world (in terms of millions of printed copies, and translated in multiple languages).And it's about a lost Australian teenage girl who runs across Psychic Alien Ninjas—now tell me how that does not hook you? I'll wait why you compile your shoddy list of reasons, so that we can burn your list to ashes later when you've recognized the excellence behind this novel. I'm waiting...Cassandra Devlin. What a heroine. I love how she lets you into her world. And she does it with flare. The novel opens with an apropos “WTF?” And what internet nerd can't appreciate that?Cass is brilliant. She's knowledgeable, emotional, thoughtful, tough when she needs to be, accommodating at the same time, and Resilient—bloody resilient.But my favorite aspect of Cass has to be: she is so AWARE. She's worldly without being overbearing about the information she knows. It's not obnoxious when she talks about Bushfires and Germination, or how she watched animals feed from the fruit first to see if it was something she should eat and survive. She boils wool. Gathers berries, makes a hat of sticks to block the sun. She's just plain SMART. She speaks of old mythological beings, and stories (e.g. Egypt—God Kings, Greek mythology, etc.). She mentions a favorite documentary of mine: BBC's Planet Earth. She's a modern day girl, and the kind you like! She isn't a petty teenager (anymore, though she admits she WAS one).She knows internet-lingo, and uses it. The entire time I felt like I was reading my best friend's diary. It's a very contemporary read. Most adults would not be familiar with terms such as Lolcat, even though they may have seen the memes. Or 'Do Not Want.' They would get a shallow understanding, but not necessarily comprehend the background intricacies that are subliminal to the meanings underlying Cass' thoughts. And that's the thing as well. Cass never treats the reader like we are ignorant or unknowing of something. She just takes us along, and says David Attenborough like we should, and already do, know him (and through her, we're reminded we do). I couldn't help but laugh at Cass' self-awareness (again, brilliant!): She mentions that she may have gone crazy because what is happening to her is extremely wish-fulfillment-y. I couldn't agree more, but for her to recognize it, and then acknowledge it was just amazing.This is a heroine who is tough, but not stubborn. She's not annoyingly trying to overcompensate for being a woman (which YA spends a lot of time telling us it's okay to be female whereas Cass doesn't waste time extolling femininity and defending womanhood—she doesn't have to—Thank You, Andrea K Host!), or not being as strong as the Setari. She's Practical, knows her limits(and so does KOTIS)! She thinks things through, doesn't jump to conclusions: the favored Deus ex Machina into pushing character's relationships into conflict, so that they can have a resolution. Cass also spends time thinking about her family. It's so refreshing to have an author remember that it isn't just the new world that is important to the main character, it's the Old one too. She had family, and friends, an overbearing mom, a precocious little brother, an understanding best friend, and she had school (I loved how she asked about her grades :)). She mourns the loss of them, cries when she's homesick—and she should. Speaking at infantile levels would be extremely frustrating to an adult and there is no other option for her. How do you communicate thoughts, and feelings when you don't know the words for them? How frustrating! I'm a Communication Major (Human Comm.) and I know. I took a Sign Language class in college, and when all I could do (while not speaking) was say 'Yes,' 'No,' and spell out letters with only my hands, it was incredibly frustrating to try to communicate with such a limited language—due to my early, bare knowledge of it. The hot aliens Cass was subjected to I was enviable of. The communication barrier: Abso-frickin'-lutely NOT.There's simply too much that I love about this series that I cannot begin to list them. And if I did, you would be sorry because a.)it would be an extraordinary long list, and b.) you should really read it for yourself.I loved all the secondary characters. That's right, every single one. There isn't one that didn't have a distinct personality, and even the mean ones, the bad ones—I loved. That's tremendous for an author to accomplish. Because even the mean girls are people. There are reasons they are the way they are, and they are multi-faceted. Kajal is a prime example. He's a jerk, but I understood his reasoning especially because Cass could sympathize (Ruuel's arrogance and as usual being amazing at everything would drive anyone with an ego or competitive nature crazy. But on duty, he did his job, and he did it well. The same with Lenton. Cass meets him later on and gets a second impression of him. He's not just a jerk for picking on Zan, he's capable of being someone understandable!At first, the covers threw me, but I had to see what some very popular reviewers had to say on the series. I'm not used to illustrated covers that hide such a richly toned, and mature novel. I expected young YA, and I am oh-so-excited to be wrong.Self-publisher. Goodness, I love this. That kind of bravery, and resolution is commendable. The downside is that Host won't get the same marketing (and even if she was signed to a publishing company, there would be no guarantee anyhow), but Bravo! To be honest, I had to read the series twice (in a week) to understand everything better. There was just so much going on (and I wanted to know everything NOW), that I admittedly missed some things that on the second time around I went 'Oh, so that's what a Stilt looks like,' or 'Wow, so the Ena, and space are connected this way, and Real-space is this and Near-Space is that...etc.'And to all you writers out there, take note: This is how you write a real relationship. A real romance. It takes time to build up. I read somewhere (by a fellow reviewer, I'm sure) that they believe in Insta-Lust, not Insta-Love, and I agree. This is how you flesh out a relationship in the early stages. I have grievances with book 3, and how their relationship went, but I understood Cass' and Ruuel's reluctance to get together initially, and I appreciated how she didn't push him. It could get him killed, and after all, she IS in assignment. That is something truly feasible that could get in the way of them (no matter how accommodating KOTIS can be, later on, that is). Read it!And as one of my favorite Australian friends always says when he imparts information on the world like he did them a favor:You're Welcome. (in advance for convincing you to read it.)But rightfully, I should thank Chichipio, Flannery, and Wendy Darling. Please see their excellent reviews, without which I would not have found, nor read, these books. And lastly, thank you, Andrea K Host, you've added a devoted reader.

  • Laura (Kyahgirl)
    2019-04-25 03:48

    4/5; 4 stars; A-I really enjoyed this book. It was slow going to get into it but I'm glad I stuck it out. The story picks up momentum almost imperceptibly and after about 100 pages becomes 'unputdownable'. The main character of the story, Cassandra, is portrayed as this quietly courageous girl with astonishing ingenuity and moxie. The author tells the story via Cassandra's entries into her diary and does a great job of sticking to that POV. She makes the situation believable and the reader can really empathize with how mindboggling and terrifying it is to walk out of one world and find yourself in another world completely. Cassandra's discovery of an abandoned city and then 'rescue' by high tech humanoid aliens and subsequent processing as an 'intergalactic stray' would be enough to make anyone fall to pieces but she copes and finds ways to fit in. A large part of the book is about Cassandra coming to terms with maybe never going home and the discovery of her newly emerging psychic talents. At the end of this story I was dying to get into the second book and find out how many more talents Cassandra had and how she was going to be able to help fight the 'monsters' cropping up everywhere.

  • Thea Diepen
    2019-04-10 02:14

    So, for about the first twenty pages, my thoughts were: "There is nothing happening. Why is there nothing happening? *sigh* I will continue reading, nevertheless. The description promised cool things."Then something happened, and I was excited and kept reading because I wanted to, not because I was forcing myself to. Except, after the something happened, nothing happened. And I was staying up at all hours reading it. My thoughts: "There's still nothing happening. And yet, I can't stop reading. WHAT WITCHCRAFT IS THIS?"Once I got to the last quarter of the book, things legitimately began happening, and that funny thing called plot actually surfaced. My thoughts: "Oh darn. I just told a friend that I wouldn't be reading the next books in the series, but now I kind of want to."After that, I got to the end: "Dammit, I don't care what she thinks. Where are the next books? I'm buying them."And that is how you get me interested in character-driven novels.(a more thorough review to come)

  • Jacob Proffitt
    2019-04-12 00:11

    So I've been completely blocked on writing about this book. There's just so much I want to burble about that it's been over a week since I finished it and I still can't write coherently about it—which is a crying shame because I really loved this book! Or books.First off: take it seriously when it says that it's a diary in three parts. It is exactly that and it maintains that fictive device throughout. That’s one reason this review has been so hard to write—because it really covers three books rather than one. I’m going to mash them all up and let this longer review stand for all three (without undue spoilers) just because that’s the only way I’ll get this out.The story starts with the heroine, Cassandra Devlin (Cass) slipping from her native Australia after High School finals into an alternate world. No warning, no transition, just Poof! She has her schoolbag, the clothes she's wearing, and that's it. The first chapters are her weeks struggling to survive with worn-down safety scissors and various experiments in ripe fruit detection. This section was incredibly gripping as Höst does an excellent job of thinking through all the aspects of survival for a typical(ish) girl unprepared for a world without modern resources. My favorite part of this is when Cass writes “Definitely not Earth”. How does she know? Simple, her watch shows sundown being a half hour later each night—very clever, very natural, very much how a modern city-bred girl would know (without any other natural indicator like pink skies or something). The diary format works very well during this survival period as Cass is all alone and relating her tale as a way of coping with her situation.If you've ever read an actual diary, you'll know that there's a particular flavor to them that separates them from most other writing—most notably the complete lack of dialogue. Dialogue is hard to write anyway, but writing of actual past conversations is near impossible. Once Cass is rescued, the book gets around that limitation in a very sneaky way that nevertheless works very well. The people rescuing her have technology advanced enough to have created the “interface”—nano computers integrating directly into the human body to provide personal assistance for things like language acquisition, study, and environment enhancement (if you build your rooms with white walls, you can decorate them virtually if the system can handle that kind of thing). A side-benefit is that Cass can “record” important conversations that she can then relate to her diary in a way that doesn't feel at all forced. This allows Höst to maintain the epistolary conceit and still tell a rocking good story (though still with the limitation that we know nothing completely catastrophic happens because we’re reading things at a temporal remove).Höst does a great job thinking through the implications of the Taren interface and how people might use it in reality—i.e. beyond the gee-whiz factor. Indeed, she's pretty careful to humanize the society Cass finds herself in, even as she includes fantastical elements like the interface and psychic phenomenon (I'll get there in a bit). She also does a great job keeping us to Cass' perspective and letting us experience the culture the way Cass naturally would. We don't have any idea that her rescuers think she's a mental defective until she discovers it through a side comment overheard, for example (her interactions have been limited and specifically clinical as she tries to adapt to her new environment and culture so she just hasn’t had opportunity to know).And that's where we get to the real adventure of the story. The Tarens are a world under siege by shadow creatures they call Ionoth. Incursions have been getting more frequent over time on an escalating growth scale with really bad implications if projected into the future. To cut to the chase, they know they have maybe a couple years before a crucial tipping point is reached and they become nothing more than a food source for monsters. The monsters can only be fought psionically, though, so it's a good thing the humans are psionically gifted. The most gifted people are recruited to be part of the Setari—specially trained agents on the front lines of the fight to preserve their world.Cass shows up as a “stray”. Fortunately, this isn't entirely unprecedented—there's even a government program for strays to integrate them better into Taren society. What's unusual about Cass, however, is that she's the first stray they've ever seen that comes from a culture not based on a diaspora that occurred 1,500 years ago when their original homeworld was overtaken. So Cass is special and that includes having talents she wasn't aware of having and that may be useful in turning the tide against the Ionoth. Maybe. Yes, she becomes magical special girl. And that’s where Höst’s talent really shines because Cass is still very real, very human, and very believable even as her situation becomes more and more fantastic.One of the things I loved about Cass is that she is fully a child of our modern world. When she learned to turn on name displays through her interface, for example, she compares it to walking around World of Warcraft, only with fewer shoulder pads. There are references to modern cyber/geek culture throughout the book (like a section headed, simply, “tl;dr” or another titled “Mister Vetinari”), though subtly enough that you won't feel picked on if you don't get them. Cass felt not only like a real person, but like one of “us”—an unabashed nerd with a thirst for new knowledge and perspectives. And the magic of it is that Höst pulled that off without even a hint of the Mary Sue about her (yes, even when Cass turns out to be magical special girl—a fact she, herself, points out in later books).I fell in love with this series. I devoured them one after another and was very satisfied when I finally finished. I'm almost afraid to recommend them to other people because I really don't want to hear it if you hated the story. I don’t think I’m being irrational about this, but that’s always a possibility…

  • Hallie
    2019-04-18 01:06

    Don't pay too much attention to that four, as I've just finished Lab Rat One, which is getting a five, and basically I'm not going to waste much time at all doing anything else until I've finished Caszandra. Which says it all, but very, very briefly on this:1) I thought the survival-story first part was extremely well done - nothing that made you feel it was ridiculous to imagine a 17 year old schoolgirl city-dweller could manage, but also not glossing over any of the huge difficulties such a person would face. 2) The initial section of her treatment as a 'stray' after her rescue, and then as a 'lab rat' were also extremely well done.3) Neither 1) nor 2) made me incredibly drawn to the story, in part because their very well-doneness meant that Cass had no real interactions with anyone. Or at least the ones she did early on were painfully and confusingly ended, leaving her feeling guilty and leading to her labrattery, as she calls it.4) I've already forgotten exactly what happens in which book, having just finished number 2, but I do remember that what happened on her birthday (which is definitely in this) surprised the hell out of me, and it also increased the sense of Cass as more than just a smart kid who can *use* those smarts in order to survive. (Which is admirable in itself, of course.) 5) I love the way all the references to books, TV and films are worked in - they're in Cass's head, as they would be to any teen who loved books and other popular culture, and they're dropped into the narrative just right. An example is when she's put in a Setari uniform (very cool, BTW), and is looking at herself in the mirror, evaluating how she's already changed since she left home, and thinks that putting the uniform on somehow makes it nearly impossible that she'll ever get home - "Like I've visited Faerie and stupidly eaten the food." Or my favourite: "I've spent my life with stories of people who don't walk away, who go back for their friends, who make that last stand. I've been brainwashed by Samwise Gamgee."6) I started marking passages that really worked for me, for the humour, especially, but ended up with a lot. One gets in here though, and it's about Ruuel, who has a bunch of Sight abilities: "... and sometimes I wonder if he goes around deliberately striking dramatic poses, because whenever I let myself look at him he seems to be being particularly photogenic. Though I guess gazing intently into the distance is part of his job description." ::snort::7) With all the positives, even I'm not sure why I've given it a four instead of a five, but I think it's because I felt that it could have been compressed a little bit - there are a lot of squads, and 6 people in each, and a lot of different talents and more combinations of same, and ... well, yes. Also, I kind of wanted Cass to just say "Bugger this! I'm not writing my dialogue in the broken version of their language I can speak translated into English in my own diary, which is just for me." It was effective at making it clear how inferior she felt to everyone, and how seriously they took - or rather mistook her problems learning the language, but it became a bit of a bore reading it every time she related what she'd said. Oops, so maybe I'll be 'very, very brief' about the next one...

  • Sarah Wynde
    2019-04-24 01:18

    I downloaded this as a free book from a Bookbub ad, despite the fact that my TBR pile is immense. That was at, perhaps, 1PM, and I read the first few chapters while I ate lunch. Then I quit working a little early and picked it back up again. Then -- despite the fact that I had plenty to do -- I read, and read, and read some more, and then bought the next book, and read some more. It's almost midnight and I just bought the third book and its sequel. Problems with this book: oh, the information overload in the first half is really tough. It's interesting, but it sometimes felt like wading through a textbook. Plus, so many characters. Trying to keep them straight proved impossible. But as it turns out, that's okay, because I have every intention of finishing the series and then going back and starting again at the very beginning. I might just keep reading this series for the next few weeks, because it is so GOOD! The main character, Cass -- I love her. She's terrific. She's interesting and tough and a survivor and... eh, I'm not even going to go on about it anymore. I'm giving the book four stars because it really did have some slow going in the beginning and I really did have trouble keeping track of who was who for a while, but you should just go read it anyway. And I can't write more now, because I have to go read Book #3. I can't wait to find out what happens! It might be a long night, mostly because my ipad is out of charge and I'm going to have to sit in some uncomfortable position to let it charge. :) Edited to add: I changed the rating to five stars when I got sick in June of 2015 and realized that this book was the only thing I wanted to read. That puts it into a very random category of books that includes Sunshine by Robin McKinley, A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold, and a few others, but means that even though I see that there are things wrong with it, I love it anyway. It deserves its fifth star.

  • Intisar Khanani
    2019-03-28 21:09

    I usually find diary-style books somewhat underwhelming, but it worked fantastically in this sci-fi / fantasy / psychic space ninja story. Can I say that again? Psychic space ninja story. What I loved: first, there were so many commentaries layered into this story. On the surface, intriguing story of an Aussie high school girl who walks through a wormhole on her way home from her final exams, ends up on an abandoned world and struggles to survive, only to be rescued by psychic space ninjas (yay! I got to say it again!) ... who are totally irritated to have found her. Oh I loved that. She's processed as a "stray" and starts trying to find her way in a far-advanced technological world, until an accident proves she isn't without her own psychic abilities... and promptly gets reacquired by the military. And here's where all those interesting issues begin surfacing: what does it mean to be human? What rights should a foreigner have under military purview? Just how do you treat someone who has trouble learning your language--are they, perhaps, just dumb? Or hard of hearing? ... and on and on. But don't get me wrong, this isn't a heavy read. It's fast and enjoyable and the questions and issues raised are dealt with using a touch of humor and left for the reader to think about (or not).The pacing might feel slow here and there, but the narrator's sense of humor and character will pull you along. The only drawback is the immense cast of secondary characters--I sometimes wish that about half were left unnamed because it was a struggle to remember who was who on occasion. But there's a list of characters at the back, which should help anyone who hates that sort of confusion. Highly, highly recommend.

  • Roslyn
    2019-03-26 05:10

    Still 5 stars on this reread.I decided to reread Gratuitous Epilogue in preparation for reading the recently released In Arcadia. Then I realized I didn’t remember what was going on and who was who really, so I started rereading Caszandra, only to realise I was still a bit lost and it would be best to go back to the beginning. So that’s the background for this reread. My reaction to this is much the same as it originally was, except that I think I’m more forgiving of its flaws and even more in awe of the skills it shows in creating a believable complex story with interesting characters in diary form. I do think it could do with a good edit, because there are too many characters and squads to differentiate and a lot of repetition, not to mention far too many typos and grammatical errors.Rereading this made me consider that of the books in the series (although really, it’s one long book divided into three), this is probably the most charming and the most purely surprising. Watching Cass, an ordinary (or perhaps not so ordinary) Aussie teenager, on her way home from an exam, simply finding herself in an alien world and seeing how she adapts to a totally unexpected and intriguing environment is immensely interesting. I couldn’t wait to continue rereading the rest of the books.

  • Carolyn F.
    2019-04-01 22:01

    Am I the only one who was bored with this book? Every scene was played out not once, not twice but several times. I guess to convey the tediousness, but it got to the point where it was too much. And for such a large book, the ending was abrupt to me. There should have been some kind of point where there's a next scene. In a small way there is but it wasn't enough for me. Average book so average rating.

  • Rachel Neumeier
    2019-04-10 03:57

    I read this book, and the whole Touchstone trilogy, immediately after reading the Medair duology by the same author. It's fascinating how this trilogy is completely different from the Medair duology: first person instead of third, SF instead of F, a diary format instead of a straightforward narrative, a contemporary protagonist instead of a straight secondary world type of story. And it is SO GOOD.Cassandra has a very strong, appealing contemporary voice in an amazingly believable SF world that is complicated yet clearly drawn; her situation is tense and believable; and the narrative tension is maintained despite the diary format. Höst manages that format very well – it can be tricky, because the person writing the diary must have lived through the crisis being described, right? If you want to know how to create and maintain tension despite that drawback, well, read this book! We never forget it’s a diary, but we certainly wind up holding our breath over and over, through one crisis after another.Still, despite all the crises, there’s a lot of ordinary life in this story, too. In this trilogy, unlike the Medair duology or AND ALL THE STARS, I could see that some readers might have trouble with the pacing. Cassandra’s diary doesn’t cover every single day she lives through, but we do get a lot of details about her life and about the world she finds herself in and about the “psychic space ninjas” and everyone, and there is a day-by-day feel to the story. Think of Tolkien, and the way we got at least a glimpse of every day that passed. There’s nothing like, “And so, after two years of training, I finally learned how to blah blah blah” in this book, either. None of that “time has passed” stuff. I bet some readers probably feel like the pace is too slow.Emphatically not me, though. I loved the unhurried way the story unfolded, with plenty of time given to Cassandra’s slow integration into her new society. That is exactly why the society felt so real. Without that level of detail, I think it would be impossible to capture that feeling.Plus, Cassandra is just a great character. This is not the kind of story where Cassandra gets transported to a new world and finds herself with Awesome Kickass Super Powers and singlehandedly saves the universe from Evil while every eligible male character falls in love with her. I mean, Cassandra kind of does have Awesome Super Powers, but she is so not a kickass heroine. She is not at all a natural fighter, plus those are definitely not the super powers she would necessarily have chosen, plus those powers comes with a pretty high cost. Plus, the society she finds herself in is really complicated, and not just in good ways, and as you might imagine, having a computer interface in your head comes with certain privacy concerns. So does being really famous in a highly connected society – Höst really deals with issues of celebrity and privacy in this story, in ways that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in SFF before.And Höst also manages something tricky: she doesn’t include a universal translator (well, sort of, but not really) and so Cassandra has real trouble with the language. And so she speaks with a very contemporary fluent voice while writing in English in her diary, but with a very broken phrasing when speaking in her new language. And since time passes over the trilogy, her fluency improves, until by the end her spoken language skills are much better, though still not perfect. I was really impressed by how Höst handled that gradual smoothing of Cassandra’s language skills over time.Okay, one more comment: There certainly is a romance in this story, but it is very believable and slow. The first time Cassandra sees the man she will eventually fall in love with, she barely notices him — so different from the insta-attractions we see all over in YA today. I was very pleased to see how this romance winds up with a long engagement and then marriage and a solid married relationship. Plus, there are important parent-child and sibling relationships that are very well drawn. To get all of this, you should definitely pick up the “Gratuitous Epilogue” once you’ve read the trilogy; it’s a separate short novel that lets the reader see all the various relationship stuff work out.So this makes six books by Höst I’ve read now – six and a half, counting the “Epilogue” – and she hadn’t let me down yet. I was very pleased to buy the other three she has available. Many thanks to The Book Smugglers and Heidi of Bunbury in the Stacks, who brought Andrea Höst to my attention, because I would never have looked at a self-pubbed-only author if not for their reviews, and Höst is now on my auto-buy list.

  • TheBookSmugglers
    2019-04-21 03:50

    Original review posted on The Book Smugglers"I walked into adventure and adventure has given me blisters."On the last day of high school, Cassandra Devlin walks away from her exams and just like that, stumbles into another world. She is only sure of two things: this is not Earth and that she must do everything to survive. She eventually finds an abandoned city where she plans to settle down for the time being.Then one day she wakes up to find herself staring at two people who definitely look human but who don’t speak any recognisable language. They whisk her away to a world technologically advanced, where nanotechnology abounds and computers are inserted inside people’s heads. Now with an inbuilt dictionary that allows her to at least understand those around her, Cass comes to know that she has crossed one of the many gates between worlds and is branded one of the many “strays” lost between worlds.As she spends more time with the Setari – the equivalent to an army that defend this world from attacks – and learns more about not only their special gifts but her own surprising effect on them, she understands that finding a way home might be within her grasp. If only she can make sure that 1) they will let her go and 2) going home doesn’t mean putting Earth in danger.Stray , the first book in the Touchstone trilogy, is a Science Fiction story of a displaced teenager. Written in epistolary format, it chronicles Cassandra’s adventures as she writer in the notebook she had been carrying in her backpack when she crosses over. Writing is I believe, what keeps her going, giving her footing, allowing her to express her thoughts and feelings in her own language- this is fundamental to the story and to her mental health once she discovers that having a computer implanted in her brain means that anybody can assess her at any time.The first few entries essentially tell a survivalist story: following Cass as she get to grips with where she is, attempting to understand what could have happened to her and trying to find food, water and shelter. It’s a really clever narrative too, effectively depicting both the sense of wonder and fear that Cass feels as well as her impressive surviving skills which stem from very clever decisions based on common sense.The latter entries chronicle her days with the Setari, the attempts to understand one another including the necessity to learn their language and the intense physical training she undergoes. It’s awesome that her internal dictionary doesn’t automatically mean that she can speak the language which means she spends most of the story going back to basic schooling – frustrating as it is since back home, she had just graduated.All of this punctuated by the fact that Cassandra is in reality a lab rat for these people – despite the fact that she does indeed creates several bonds among them (and when she does, so does the reader).The question is: are any of those, real bonds at all or born out necessity from both sides? Because one of the more interesting aspects of Stray is the question of narrative reliability: Cassandra’s loneliness, her sense of displacement leap from the pages and even when she does not say these things outright those are very real in the manner that she connects with characters. She sees one of the main female characters almost like a mother figure, for example, which is speaks to how much she misses her family. But her usefulness to the Setari is very real as well and the fact that there is such a high level of control over people’s lives does put forth the question of how much of the decisions she makes are real decisions at all?Those are incredibly engaging, thought-provoking aspects of the story and even the inevitable lull in the narrative when things settle down in the middle of the story offers some interesting observations about Cass and the new life she is living.Finally, I believe that the success of Stray depends entirely on how much a reader will connect (or not) with Cass’ voice and character because so much of the story depends on that. I loved Cass: her no frills attitude, her self-reliance at the same time that she acknowledges the importance of help from others and her extremely observant – and often funny – viewpoint.This is yet another incredibly strong story from Andrea K. Höst, and I can’t wait to pick up the next entries in the trilogy.

  • Jane
    2019-04-05 01:53

    As of July 16th, 2016 it's free on Amazon. Goodreads recommended it to me based on my love for The Last Hour of Gann and now I'm intrigued.EDIT: Read the book. Really liked it. Actual rating 3.5 stars. The following review was originally posted on my book blog The Book Challengers.Goodreads recommended this book to me due to my love of The Last Hour of Gann and while I must admit that I really enjoyed this freebie (so much so that I already got my hands on part 2), I don't really see how these two books can really be compared. The Last Hour of Gann is brutal, it's full of violence and things you normally wouldn't want to read about. Stray, on the other hand, is a story in a diary format of a girl who somehow stumbles into a parallel world/universe through a wormhole. There's some violence, but due to the diary format it seems pretty meek and it would be an exaggeration to call it graphic.The world our heroine Cassandra stumbles into is a truly wondrous scifi world. At first it doesn't seem all that wondrous, but then she's rescued by an alien race (I am still wondering if it's the best word to use here) who are pretty humanoid, but differ from humans in some slight ways. For instance, they have these special abilities they use to fight the bad guys. Their society is pretty advanced in a way - everyone has an integrated interface in their brains that allows you to change the way buildings look like around you, allows you to attend school in your head, send e-mails, contact someone directly, and this interface also allows the government to record everything you do. Kind of cool, but also kind of creepy or what?But what I really liked about our heroine Cass was the fact that she didn't whine, she didn't cry at every obstacle (or at the very least she didn't write it down), she tried to make the best of the situation she was in, and most of all, she was a realistic girl with realistic expectations of the world she had stumbled into. Plus, it didn't hurt that there was no instant love-triangle thingy going on. Sure, there were a few hints about a possible romance or two, but nothing further than "this guy is kind of cute". Also, I adored the fact that she really struggled in learning the new language (just like Amber did...).On to the next one!

  • Jen
    2019-04-21 21:52

    Holy cow, this is one of the BEST books I have ever read! I can't believe it was a Kindle freebie. Actually, considering the next two books in the trilogy aren't free, I can see why, so as soon as you finish this one, you buy the other two. And it is WORTH it, let me tell you. The main character has a great sense of humor that I instantly connected with. It also has a sci-fi bent to it, which I love. She's not the perfect hero, she's surrounded by them, but she is still special herself. I absolutely loved this book and while only part-way through it bought the other two and the "Gratuitous Epilogue". I have since finished the second book and am trying to drag the last one out, because the epilogue is more of a short story than a whole book and I DON'T WANT THE STORY TO END. You will NOT regret reading this book. It's fantastically written, imaginative and while it does get adult with some violence and "bedroom" acts, the scenes are more left to the imagination than described. And they don't really happen until the second/third book. May not be great for younger readers who aren't mature, but a definite good read for teens on up. I hope the author writes more, because she is a fantastic writer! *re-reading review* Ok, I'm in a book slump and am re-reading the Touchstone Trilogy because I'm not finding much to keep my mind from wondering and me from chucking the book and moving on to a new one. !!! O, one thing I completely forgot to mention is the use of sign language in the book. I am learning it now (not due to the book, but seeing it in the book has re-emphasized my desire to learn it) and now I see it everywhere. It is so important to learn new languages and sign language is dear to my heart, because of those who need it. I absolutely LOVE how Host has introduced such important themes and ideas in her books without beating you over the head with them. She has a delicate touch on such important topics.

  • missEvi [can't commit to a book]
    2019-03-27 01:48

    I can’t even beging to describe my conflicted feelings about the trilogy.It started out as a survival story, continued as a complex science fiction, turned space opera. Cassandra, the main heroine, finds herself in a new planet that looks like earth but it’s not. Then the adventure takes her to new planets with different characteristics and people who have powers, think x-men powers. The author manages to create a very unique world building. Very solid but with so many details that you frequently feel kind of lost. I had to check the glossary in so many occasions that it kind of took the spark away. And don't get me started with all the new names!! So many characters that are introduced constantly throughout the story. I felt confused so many times, and read so many paragraphs again and again trying to understand what it’s happening… Still the story and the unique voice of the Cass couldn't let me put it down. I read all three back to back in 2 days. I actually read 2.5 in 2 days and afterwards I just couldn't any more. I loved the story in the 1st and 2nd book. But after that point, with all the completely-out-of-character decisions of the heroine and the need to still look at the glossary… I just couldn’t anymore. Well the glossary I was used to, but the behaviour of the heroine not so much. I kept screaming in my head at the author who took this amazing heroine and forced her to many so many rushed and stupid decisions.Still book 1 and 2 are an amazing but complicated read.Book1 4*Book2 4*Book3 2*

  • Larisa
    2019-04-13 04:10

    Первая книга захватывает постепенно, исподтишка.Сначала очень страшно читать об одиноком пребывании Касс на Муине. Лезут в голову мысли: "Я бы так не смогла, загнулась бы гораздо раньше".Потом появляется надежда. Ура! Здесь есть люди. Касс спасли, ей не грозит смерть от голода и от холода...Но тут про этих людей столько всего открывается, что просто голова пухнет от попыток уместить все эти подробности: кто, куда, зачем, почему. И когда оказывается, что у Касс открываются особые способности к усилению других способностей, и ей приходится отправляться с отрядами сетари на борьбу с ужасными ионотами, снова становится страшно. Уж так-то я бы точно не смогла!А девочка живет, завязывает дружбу с одними сетари, начинает чувствовать симпатию к другому, учит новый язык, пытается смириться с новыми жизненными обстоятельствами... И по-прежнему не знает, удастся ли ей когда-нибудь вернуться домой... Хорошо, что у Касс всегда при себе прекрасное чувство юмора и самоирония.Отличное начало захватывающей серии, от которой чем дальше, тем больше невозможно оторваться!

  • Pauline Ross
    2019-04-09 04:48

    I loved this book, loved, loved, loved it. It’s the first book in ages to keep me up until the wee small hours because I absolutely positively had to know what was coming next. Here’s the premise: almost-eighteen year old Cass is walking home from her suburban school one day after her last exam before graduation when - pop! - she finds herself in the middle of a not-Earth forest, with no way back. For a while, she is on her own, walking through this world with its odd mixture of Earth-like creatures (deer and otters) and other more alien types, surviving as best she can. She’s a pretty resourceful type, but even so it’s a marginal business. But luckily some super-ninja soldier types from a technologically advanced society turn up and rescue her, and after that things get seriously weird.Cass is an unusual sort of heroine. She’s clearly intelligent, but she’s not the kick-ass type of female so beloved of the current sci-fi and fantasy scene. She seems quite passive, going along with everything that’s asked of her, even though she’s basically being used as a military tool, but then her new ‘friends’ don’t abuse or hurt her (at least, not intentionally!) and, frankly, I’m not at all sure what other options are open to her. Being useful and helpful (at least until you know your way round and have got a better grasp of the language) is just plain common sense. I loved the way that Cass gradually brought her hosts to see her as a person, with needs and feelings of her own, and not just a passive piece of kit (‘Military equipment doesn't salute’ she comments drily at one point).The book is written in the first person in the form of a diary, which works very well to tell us what’s going on in Cass’s head. It also brilliantly conveys the sense of disorientation she frequently feels, and the ‘otherness’ of an Australian girl parachuted into a culture which has many similarities with Earth but is also scarily alien. Fortunately Cass has a great sense of humour, and sees the funny side of many of the peculiar situations she finds herself in. This is one of the great perks of portal-type stories, that the transported character can toss around all sorts of slang and in-jokes and cultural references: (‘I tried very unsuccessfully to explain Clint Eastwood, and then moved on to Johnny Depp, and now all of First Squad except Maze have sworn to find a path to Earth so they can watch Pirates of the Caribbean’).As a piece of science fiction, this is fairly light on the sciencey bits. There’s nanotechnology, and a universal interface system (brain-embedded internet, basically), but the Ena (‘A dimension connected to the thoughts, memories, dreams and imagination of living beings’, it says in the glossary) which surrounds Cass’s new home, the monsters (Ionoths) living there and the psychic abilities of the Setari (the ninja soldiers) seem closer to fantasy to me. As with all the author’s work, there are plenty of deeper themes for those who like to look beneath the surface: about being an outsider, being treated with respect, duty versus freedom, the greater good versus the individual. Not to mention the pleasures and perils of a permanently wired-in internet.This is another terrific piece of writing by one of my favourite authors. I was a little concerned about it being a YA book, but no need - there’s no love triangle, and the very small amount of angsting over boys is actually very funny. The only (minor) grumble I had was the sheer number of characters involved, a situation not helped by Cass’s early problems with the language, so that she spells names wrongly in the early parts of the book. But there’s a full list of characters at the back, plus a very useful glossary, which rather wonderfully explains all Cass’s Australia-speak and geekisms alongside the in-book terminology. This is very much the first book of the trilogy, so although there’s a mini-resolution, this doesn’t have the feel of a stand-alone book. Be prepared to invest in the whole trilogy (available as an omnibus), not to mention the fourth part, entitled ‘Gratuitous Epilogue’. Five stars.

  • Lida
    2019-04-11 03:56

    Freebie on Amazon!The story is told in diary entries, which made me want to read the whole trilogy in one sitting, it all reads like one story. The beginning is a bit slow, but I soon got immersed in this alien world with the psychic powers.Cassandra unknowingly passes through a portal between worlds while returning from her last of high school exams (talk about being unlucky, couldn’t this have happened before all the exams?!) and gets transported to a different world, albeit one very much like Earth. She survives by herself the best she can until she gets rescued. By aliens. And then she becomes the stray, an inconvenience that must adapt to their world. Until she proves to be something more, something unique. And then becomes a lab rat; one scanned and rescanned, poked, tested, and made to participate in the aliens’ fight.The world described is reaaaaly similar to Earth, I’m talking alien malls here. But apart from the consumerism of aliens and the silly similarity of their culture to Earth’s, the story got really exciting when it got to the Setari. They are this elite sect of psychic fighters that travel through gates between phantom worlds and killing these nasty alien creatures. They have psychic powers and can manipulate the elements! And they made for a crew of pretty awesome side characters. Cassandra having these unique enhancing effect on other’s psychic powers becomes part of the Setari, a pet and an assignment. Cassandra I liked, she didn’t give up or whine, and was really mature. Sometimes too mature; and stoic; and accommodating to everything they wanted; and was very graceful to her loss of privacy, constant monitoring, testing, lack of freedoms or choices (at least in the beginning). A couple of temper tantrums would have been understandable, because the things they put her through are not normal damn it.Ah, and she gets a huge crash on Ruuel, a Setari captain, but more on that on the second book.Review of Lab Rat One Review of Caszandra

  •  Simply Sam ツ
    2019-03-29 04:09

    ***3.5 STARS***This book was cute and a lot of fun to read. It is very PG and very, very, VERY light on romance. So don't go into this book looking for it to go in that direction. If you do, you'll be sorely disappointed. For now at least. The potential is there, though, so I will be looking for some progression on that front in later books. AKA Ruuel ;) However, if you want just a fun, quick YA light scifi this may be a good fit. The narrator is 17/18 and it is told strictly from her POV in the form of journal entries. However, she reads more like 13/14 (to me) but maybe that's just because she was thrown onto another planet and is having to learn everything over, most specifically the language and interface/nano tech stuff. It did take me a little while to wrap my head around the way the wormhole/slip space/Ena/whatever you want to call it was all set up, the weird units of time measurement, and the creatures/Ionoth/Ddura. I'll admit, it threw me off at times, but by the end I'm pretty sure I got the gist of it. It's still more of a "bigger picture" concept to me, though, but I'm good with that for now. There are also a lot of secondary characters to keep up with not to mention all the different psych abilities. Weirdly enough it reminded me of Japanese cartoon, like it would make a really good anime complete with space ninjas/samurai. I kept trying to envision the characters and world and it was very Last Airbender to me (that's about all the anime I know so there's probably a better reference out there!). Anyhow, I'll probably be picking up the next one :)

  • Jessica
    2019-04-19 01:05

    3.5 starsI wasn't sure what to make of this at first -- the beginning survival stuff seemed slooooow. But even though I have no attention span lately, I wasn't ready to put it down. And I find that I need to pick up the next book RIGHT NOW.Can't tell if it's science fiction or fantasy. There's potential romance hinted at but nothing remotely gratuitous. Thoughtful characters. Creative worldbuilding. Slow-burning plot. I feel like I'll have more to say when I've finished the trilogy.The downside: So far all the characters are disconcertingly straight and Abled.

  • Clementine
    2019-04-06 22:04

    I see a lot of promise in this series, although the first book did fall a bit short for me.I have a hard time with diary-style narration. I understand its use a narrative mechanism, but I often find it gimmicky and a bit limiting. The tone of a diary is generally very casual - and while I don't want to read a YA sci-fi novel full of formal language, often the casual nature of a diary creates a feeling of being talked down to rather than of immediacy. I know first-person, present-tense isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I find it much more effective at achieving the same results, without having to sacrifice narrative style or build in awkward explanations of how the character happened to have a blank book with them in the first place.Now that that's out of the way, I will say that I thought Cass was a refreshing narrator. She is very much her own person, and isn't plagued by the male dependency and irrationality that so many female YA protagonists suffer from. And although there are hints of her attractions, there was no romance and no contrived, overwrought love triangle. This is always a huge bonus to me - while some romance can provide realism and depth, too much of it takes away from the main plot and is usually wholly unnecessary. If I wanted a romance novel I'd buy a damn romance novel! (And if I wanted a story where the heroine is stripped of all autonomy, intelligence, and personality as soon as she falls in love, I'd read the vast majority of YA dystopian. Oh, wait...)It's obvious that Höst planned this series out meticulously: the language, the history, the technology, the conventions. This is impressive, and her worldbuilding is interesting and adds a lot of depth to the story. I felt like she tried to cram too much in, and ultimately felt like the book was a very long - but necessary - intro to the rest of the series.Most unfortunate for me was a lack of emotional depth. While I did enjoy the fact that Cass really has her head screwed on right, it just didn't make sense to me that she was so, well, cool in her private diary - the one place she can truly be honest - in the face of everything she's experienced. I'm definitely not a sci-fi girl at all, and for me what would make a novel in this genre compelling and unforgettable is not amazing technology or nonstop action, but relatable emotion that universalizes the human experience and provides insight and depth.I think that the rest of this series will probably be a lot better. This book definitely did seem to be more of an intro. It showed a great amount of potential, although I had significant issues with it.

  • Charon
    2019-03-26 04:17

    This is the giveaway I won and this is my little attempt at writing a review:One minute Cassandra is on her way home from school, the next minute she finds herself in a place with plenty of vegetation and animal life, but no people. With no idea how she got there and therefor now idea how she can get back home, the only thing she can do is try to survive and find a human settlement. Eventually, she does find an empty village from where she is recued by the Setari, a kind of elite soldiers from a technically advanced planet. Being rescued doesn't come with a trip back to Australia though, since her rescuers claim to have no knowledge of earth. Instead she is taken to their home planet, where the Setari find out, that Cass has some very useful talents ..I had a good start with this book and the story pretty much drew me in from the first page. But by the time I had reached the middle of the book the story had become kind of slow and drawn out. Well, maybe slow isn't exactly the right word, because there are always things happening ... it's more that there's this sense of aimlessness once Cass starts her training with the different Setari squads. Also, I totally lost track of all the different characters. There are just too many unfamiliar names mentioned and eventually I just gave up and figured that I would notice sooner or later, who the important characters are, which worked fine.Anyway, I had no idea where this would be going or if it would be going anywhere at all and I did get a bit bored with the story at that point. The story gets back on track eventually though and just when I got an idea of the direction it could be taking and when someone who might be important showed up on the scene the book ends. It's been a while since I read a book that was written entirely in diary form and it's not my favourite type of narrative. For the most part, it worked all right for me here though, because Cass is a character who isn't too self-absorbed and who isn't prone to rambling either. All in all, I liked the book. It feels like proper science fiction and not like a poor excuse to sell me an unoriginal cliché love story, which is the impression I got from way too many YA books recently. I was torn between a three and a four star rating and decided on four stars in the end, because this book left me wanting more.