Stray : Touchstone Part 1

Rated 4.55/5 based on 20 reviews
In this planet-hopping Girl’s Own Adventure, an Aussie teen must survive a world without technology, and then another with far too much. Rescue is only the beginning of her problems. More
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Words: 102,790
Language: English
ISBN: 9780987056405
About Andrea K Höst

A Swedish-born Australian writer working in fantasy and science fantasy.

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Review by: Annie Jean Brewer on March 05, 2015 :
I was intrigued by the description so despite not reading very much fiction decided to give it a try. I found it a bit slow BUT even with that I identified with the main character. Overall an enjoyable read and I am rather curious as to what happens next.

I must confess I was surprised by her decision near the end. It seemed too mature for the character. I don't want to include spoilers but I honestly expected her to jump on the offer, consequences be hanged. Of course, in this case there WOULD have been repercussions, which the character pointed out later.

I'm giving it four stars because I did feel it was a bit slow and I thought she was OOC at that one point. In all fairness I must admit I read through to the end and am considering the purchase of Book #2. I can't say that about many novels.
(review of free book)

Review by: Elizabeth Miller on April 13, 2012 :
Very nice sci-fi fantasy story about a teenage Australian named Cassandra, that while walking home turns a corner and ends up on another world. Well written and funny. Done in a diary form it was an excellent way to spend an afternoon in the sun.
(reviewed 9 months after purchase)

Review by: Nicole on Jan. 08, 2012 :
It was a nice change reading a SFF adventure without cookie cutter YA roles and relationships. Kudos on the strong, smart, and resourceful heroine Cass. I kind of didn’t like the journal style at the beginning, but it really did become less conspicuous and more engaging as the story progressed. A lot of the book read like an anthropological ethnography of another culture, which was pretty cool, but at times could be a little encumbered with descriptions.
I really liked the nerdy references peppered throughout the book (e.g. Stargate, computer games and gaming analogies, etc.). It was an imaginative book; a fun and intriguing sci-fi universe the author created. By the end, I was ready for the next book. I won this eBook through a LibraryThing member giveaway.
(reviewed 6 months after purchase)

Review by: Nicole on Jan. 08, 2012 : (no rating)
It was a nice change reading a SFF adventure without cookie cutter YA roles and relationships. Kudos on the strong, smart, and resourceful heroine Cass. I kind of didn’t like the journal style at the beginning, but it really did become less conspicuous and more engaging as the story progressed. A lot of the book read like an anthropological ethnography of another culture, which was pretty cool, but at times could be a little encumbered with descriptions.
I really liked the nerdy references peppered throughout the book (e.g. Stargate, computer games and gaming analogies, etc.). It was an imaginative book; a fun and intriguing sci-fi universe the author created. By the end, I was ready for the next book. I won this eBook through a LibraryThing member giveaway.
(reviewed 6 months after purchase)

Review by: Madame Diotte on Jan. 02, 2012 :
A thoroughly enjoyable novel, in a "I can't put this down until the end" way. A truly original and refreshing perspective, The characters, especially Cassandra, have a lot of depth and are suitably intriguing. I really felt for them and was moved almost to tears at one point. A truly amazing sci-fi/fantasy novel that I highly recommend!
(reviewed 5 months after purchase)

Review by: wayne michael on Dec. 17, 2011 :
different than most books i read. unique style and creative world(s). i hope you enjoy it as much as i have.
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)

Review by: Madelyn Bader-DeWitt on Nov. 17, 2011 : (no rating)
I thought this looked interesting. Cassandra's diary covers her unwanted adventure into a new world and universe when she inadvertently walks through an invisible 'worm-hole' into another world. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, because the young lady in question was intelligent yet rather ordinary. There were no 'magic' know-how fixes or instant knowledge. Everything that she did had consequences, including things done to her. The society in which she finds herself, and how she deals with the issue of being a 'stray' in her new world are quite realistic and reasonable.
I'm looking forward to the next volume, and will probably purchase all three once they're available, for my granddaughters.
(reviewed 90 days after purchase)

Review by: Dave Versace on Oct. 15, 2011 :
‘Stray’ is the first volume of the three-part diary of high school student Cassandra Devlin, who stepped through a wormhole to an alien world and became friends with psychic ninjas saving the universe from interdimensional ghosts. That’s the gist of it anyway, though a short synopsis does no service whatsoever to this charming science fiction adventure. YA reader-friendly, ‘Stray’ is partly an exploration of the tribulations of the refugee and partly a good old-fashioned superhero story, albeit told from the point of view of the underpowered kid sidekick.

Cazsandra, as the aliens call her, proves herself more useful than expected to the youthful Setari (the psychic science-ninjas with cybernetic telepathy). Cass is a clever and resourceful protagonist, but she’s also lazy, often homesick and occasionally lacking in common sense (The cat! The cat!). Her struggles - to adapt to her new surroundings, to learn the local language and customs and to cope with being cooped up and monitored for science - are fascinating. Her realisation of what it will cost her to get back home is tragic.

‘Stray’ is written as a series of diary entries covering the first five months of Cassandra’s journey. The diary format may not work for some but I found it helped to have the complexity of the setting and the small army of supporting characters parcelled out into digestible chunks. As a narrative device it also provides some distance for both Cass and the reader from the more traumatic aspects of her plight, making it a lighter and more accessible read than the homesickness misery trap other stranger-in-a-strange-land stories sometimes fall into. Highly recommended.
(reviewed 7 months after purchase)

Review by: Jacqueline Lademann on Oct. 02, 2011 :
I loved this book. It is one of the best Sci-Fi novels I've read in ages, and I love Sci-Fi. HIGHLY recommended!!!!…-1-andrea-host/
(reviewed 51 days after purchase)

Review by: Lexie Cenni on Sep. 15, 2011 :
Honestly I expected something different going into this book. I hadn't read any reviews, as I had enjoyed Host's fantasy Champion of the Rose (which when I think about it had a lot of science fiction elements, just as this had a lot of fantasy elements) and had won this in a giveaway besides. Told in diary format, which one of my least favorite formats, This Cassandra's journey from November to March and is the first in a trilogy.

Part of why I enjoyed this book so much is that its one of my favorite plot devices (ordinary girl shuttled off to an unusual world where she finds out she's special) while at the same time Cassandra was immediately relatable for me. Cassandra isn't extraordinarily gifted in any way, not athletic or a outdoorsy survivalist or terribly crafty. She is extremely resourceful, knows how to make years of pop culture work to her advantage and maintains an appropriately sarcastic level of commentary throughout her diary entries.

I'll fully admit that if Cass hadn't grown on me I wouldn't have finished this book. Diary style books tends to make me feel like its just one huge info-dump (which in ways it is) and as a reader we never actually experience anything. Even as later on Cass finds it easier to relay conversations and events, we were getting everything second hand. Its hard to feel immersed in a world like that. Cass was engaging, that's the only way I can describe her. She admits her faults (at one point she tells her diary that she cuts out all the hysterical crying and sobbing she does during the day since that would make for boring reading wouldn't it?), but remains practical about what she can get done.

The world of Muina, and later Tare, that Cass winds up in is like our world but not really. There's a higher focus on psychic abilities--with a definitive break in society between those who are 'elite' (the Setari) and those who are not (everyone else). The Setari spend much of their lives training to become as perfect as possible in order to protect everyone from the Ionoth (monsters) and are regarded as super stars. I found the entire civilization rather fascinating, though its rather rigid and militaristic (with I suppose good reason) and I wouldn't have fared half as well as Cass I don't think.

Host sets a good pace throughout the novel, giving us plenty of time to see 'Survivor-Cass' and then 'Lab Rat Cass'. We read about a lot of day-to-day activities, which get kind of repetitive after a while interspersed with learning new things about Tare and Cass. It seems like an awful lot happens to Cass in the 5 or so months she's gone from Earth, but to put it in perspective the Taren years is only 4 months long, their equation of time is slightly off from ours.

Unfortunately we see very little of the world outside of the Setari stronghold. Cass' early wanderings before the government takes a keen interest in her don't last long and her brief excursions to go shopping are pretty unremarkable overall. I would like to know more about their culture, but with the developments in the latter third that seems unlikely.

Overall this made me eager for the next book, Lab Rat One and excited for the third book, Caszandra coming this December.
(reviewed 35 days after purchase)

Review by: Hongske on Sep. 14, 2011 :
I absolute loved this book. This is a very well written story in first-person-perspective, reminiscent of Arthur Conan Doyle's style in the Sherlock Holmes stories. I don't usually like journal-styles, but this one really pulled me into the story and was hard to put down. You empathize with the characters, especially Cass, as they amble along the story. The descriptions of the different settings made me feel like I was experiencing the story myself, and the futuristic world she eventually finds herself in is rather realistically written: I could imagine being in a world like that (could even imagine our world evolving into that). You can almost feel Cass' emotions as she goes through her adventure: When she got frustrated I wanted to throw things around and when she was overjoyed at learning something new I felt like jumping. All in all, a brilliant read and I'm looking forward to reading the next part!
(reviewed 37 days after purchase)

Review by: Quin With a Purpose on Sep. 12, 2011 :
I love the first line that grabs you and lets you know, you are in a for a different journey. I love it more when there is enough interest to make me read the last sentence and REACH FOR THE NEXT BOOK! I read it, and wanted to find out where the journey continues. So I immediately grabbed the next book off the e-book shelf. It took me a long time to get to the review, well honestly, I was gifted over 15 books in a week, and so the book reading process was the priority at first, but again, have a responsibility to read so many and inserting the 2nd book of the trilogy, through personal purchase, says stacks about a book. There is anticipation for the 3rd.
(reviewed 36 days after purchase)

Review by: Joshua Gilmour on Aug. 30, 2011 :
This book is well written and chock full of scifi culture references. It is a quick fun read for anyone who enjoys a survival show, or what the idea of a real life wow would be like, as well as what the future of computing is bound to be. Oh yeah... and also superheroes... yeah can't forget those! If you like any of those things, this book has all of them and you should read it.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Ray2 on Aug. 30, 2011 :
I snagged a copy of this through a give away. I chose this book because it was about a normal person being unexpectedly thrown into a different world. I wasn't sure how I would like the strict "diary/journal" format (not usually a big fan of it), but it was likely the best way for this story to be written. I was able to learn as Cass did which made me feel more emersed in the story than what sometimes happens. I often found myself as frustrated as I imaged Cass was at her lack of knowledge, but instead of being a distraction it made the story more realistic. I am really looking forward to getting my hands on the next two books which I will be buying. Well worth the money in my opinion.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Mimu on Aug. 29, 2011 :
As soon as I started reading this book I found it very hard to put down. I absolutely loved the way Cassandra, the main character, wrote her journal. I could relate to her hopes and dreams of finding a way home but also the utter urgency of survival, especially early on in the story. The themes of transition and finding out who you are under adversity gently flowed through the book. The supporting characters were well written and I will be interested to see how they are fleshed out in the sequel. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing other stories written by Andrea Host.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Hannah Hummel on Aug. 29, 2011 :
I must say right from the start that I am a huge fan of fantasy, not so big a fan of Sci-Fi. But I was taken from the start with this book. The main character, Cass, is very well written.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: Julie Witt on Aug. 29, 2011 :
I got this book free of charge from the Library Thing Early Reviewers Program in exchange for my honest review.

From Goodreads:
"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."

I was really excited to read this book based on the premise alone - a girl is walking home from school and turns the corner into a whole new and completely different world. I wasn't disappointed! The book is very interesting, and I liked it very much. The world Andrea Host created was amazing - the detail, the people, even the environment were like nothing I had ever read before. The heroine, Cassandra, was a very strong 17-year old with a good sense of humor and a good sense of right and wrong. She was dealing with the total unknown but she did the best she could to deal with her current circumstances without giving up her dream of finding her way back home.

The book is set up in a diary style, with Cassandra recording her day to day life in her new surroundings, which I wasn't sure about at first, but which worked perfectly for this book. The descriptions of her feelings, the people she met, and the things she did were spot on. The only problem I had with the book, and the reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5, was that some of the descriptions of the computer heavy age she found herself in were just too much all at once. Before I had time to understand one thing, a new one was being described, and then another, etc. Even without understanding everything, I was able to follow the story, it was just a bit frustrating at times. If I understood computers more, this probablly wouldn't have been as much of a problem, but even without understanding everything, I was able to follow the story quite well.

One other little problem I had was that I was sent the e-book to review, and the Glossary of mostly "alien" terms was an Appendix at the end of the book, so I couldn't refer to it as I read. It would have helped if this had been at the front of the book so I could review them before I started reading.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series.

Fun quotes:

"My watch says 6 pm. It should be full light, but the sun's fading fast, so I'm not even in the same time zone. An hour or two ahead would put me where? New Zealand? How far ahead is New Zealand? Of course, having been raised on a diet of Doctor Who, Buffy and Stargate, I've no need to stop at New Zealand. I could be in an alternate Australia, any part of the planet at any time, or a different world entirely. Or in a mental straight jacket, giggling."

"I'm out of tissues for toilet paper, too. History notes just aren't ... up to scratch."
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)

Review by: carod on Aug. 29, 2011 :
Stray: Touchstone Part 1 by Andrea Host is a YA science fiction novel. Cassandra Devlin, an 18 year old Australian high school student just finishing her last exams, wanders through a "gate" or wormhole on her way home from school and finds herself in a strange forest. She walks for days, trying to survive and figure out where she is. Eventually she finds an abandoned village and makes works to make herself a comfortable home. She is rescued by "psychic ninjas" or Setari from the technologically advanced planet Tare, and there her adventures really begin.

I enjoyed this book very much. It is written in the form of a diary, which allows you to stay with Cass and learn about what is happening as she does. You get to understand and appreciate her as a character more and more as the story unfolds. Initially, I found her almost too calm, much like Alice after she tumbled through the rabbit hole. But she admits after the first few entries that she hasn't been describing all her emotional meltdowns and fears as they happen. This made the character even more believable. The author cleverly makes Cass a SF & F fan and an online gamer. This allows her to make educated guesses about what has happened to her and to cope with all the new things she encounters. It gives her a language to describe what she is experiencing. Spider Robinson is another author who has used this device well and Host's writing reminds me somewhat of his work. There are also many cultural references which add richness to the story, and which Cass uses to cope with her surroundings.

There is a very useful glossary as well as a dramatis personae in the appendix. This is especially helpful to understand the Australian and gamer slang as well as the invented language. There are many characters who are sometimes referred to by first names and sometimes last names, which can be confusing. However, one of the things I enjoy about SF & F is world building which includes invented language and mythologies. Host's world is rich and interesting and full of mysteries that keep you wanting to read and learn more.

I became so involved in Cass's story that I had to download the sequel as soon as I finished this book. Sadly I have to wait until December for the final book of the trilogy. I highly recommend this book for YA and adults who enjoy SF & F. Some strong language but no other content that would be unsuitable for younger readers.
(reviewed 19 days after purchase)

Review by: Amanda R. on Aug. 25, 2011 :
I really enjoyed Stray:Touchstone Part 1. Even thought it was in diary format it sort of didn't feel like it. When I was at the last page, I was wishing that I had the second one in the series already. Cass is a teenager that wanders into a different world on her way home from school one day by going through an invisible gate. For weeks she is by herself then she is discovered by the Taren Setari. From there her life changes even more as they realize she enhances the abilites that the Setari have. It's more science fiction than I am used to but I enjoyed it.
(reviewed 18 days after purchase)

Review by: MrsFlicker on Aug. 19, 2011 : (no rating)
Andrea Host effectively uses a diary format to bring science fiction to young adult readers. Her use of computer interfaces with the brain and the concept of planet “jumping” is done in such a way so as to keep young readers going in a sense. The ideas she presents and the plot that she constructs are en vogue enough with this virtually-active, computer-minded generation. Her story of Cassandra’s trials and tribulations were involved to the point to keep an adult reader reading. This, mixed with the science-fiction aspects of the story will surely keep younger readers reading and asking for more.
(reviewed 12 days after purchase)

Review by: zeppelin25 on Aug. 19, 2011 :
This is a story about a young Australian girl who accidently stumbles into a portal and ends up in another universe. It reads as her diary. I enjoyed the character of Cassandra and didnt find the writing hard to follow at all. There is a lot involved- a new language, new characters, different worlds... but after awhile I got used to it. I really enjoyed this story and thought it was a unique entertaining concept. I will definitely read the next one!
(reviewed 12 days after purchase)

Review by: Jenny E on Aug. 02, 2011 :
This sucked me in and I read all night in spite of the early morning I had planned. Now I've bought the next one and am about to do it all over again. The diary format didn't distract me anywhere as much as I expected. I was immersed by about page 5. Non Australian readers may want to google some of the figures of speech, but overall it should be readable by all.
(reviewed 9 days after purchase)

Review by: RachelF on June 30, 2011 :
A well-written adventure story. It's written like a diary instead of having chapters, which is really different at first. If you keep going you'll get used to the way it is written though and the diary entries help show how much time has passed, as well as letting you hear what Cassandra thinks about all the strange things she is encountering.
Definitely worth trying.
(reviewed 19 days after purchase)

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