Book Smugglers Publishing Guest Review

“I walked into adventure and adventure has given me blisters”

Something a little different for today…. a guest post from reader, friend-of-the-blog and book pusher Estara , whose taste in books matches our own and whose recommendations have graced our TBR for years. Estara is here today to talk about her love for The Touchstone Trilogy by Andrea K. Höst, a series we just released in paperback!

Cover art by Kirbi Fagan

Please give it up for Estara!

“I walked into adventure and adventure has given me blisters.” — STRAY

What can I say that Rachel Neumeier and
The Book Smugglers haven’t said more eloquently about the appeal of Cassandra Devlin and her journey from her normal life as a teenager in Sydney to find a place – as well as a chosen family & friends for herself – on a world not her own.

Not much, to tell the truth, so what I will try to elaborate on here is why this particular series by Andrea K. Höst brings me so much reading joy in all kinds of situations, but particularly when I’m under stress in real life. When I first discovered it, I had to read the full series (ALWAYS with the Gratuitous Epilogue included) four times that year – and it continues to be THE read to escape into when real life turns rather rough.

Now I’m fairly certain that the fact that I tend to jump into a story and immerse myself in my reads – to the extent that a lot of the finely crafted details pass me by – is actually helpful in keeping a story fresh for me. This has always been the case for my reading and over the years (I’ll be 51 this year) the books that have stayed on my shelves are the books I reread.

So even after the 12+ reads I’ve done of the series so far I still find subtle emotional shifts between the characters that I have overlooked in previous reads or I finally take in Andrea’s exploration of the idea of what realistically might be like if you had such advanced nano-technology that “always online” was part of your identity as a person.

But the quote I picked out at the start (which quite a few people have picked out on Goodreads) is probably why I opened my heart to Cassandra even when she was wandering through the wilderness, trying hard not to panic: she reflects on herself and her situation, but she never lets herself be intimidated into freezing or giving up for good.

Now I agree with Thea that we readers only get half the story’s true horrors, and as Cass herself says:

“I’ve never been the type to keep a diary, so this pile of words is strange to look back over. The first thing which leaps out is how calm I sound. That’s a big bluff. I just haven’t written down all the shouting and crying I’ve done. I don’t want to write pages about how it feels to wake in the middle of the night, stiff and cold in my grassy nest, to listen to SOMETHING moving around in the dark and hope that if it bites I die quick.”

What we get is quite enough for me, thank you very much, I’ve got a lovely visual imagination and especially regarding the Ionoth, and the fights in the Ena are gruesome enough for me (while certainly being spectacular, as Tare media has realised for years).

The lab rat situation that lends the name to the second book and especially the harrowing teleporter-tag which Cass has to survive in that book read tense enough for me even filtered through diary entries – because Cass’ voice speaks to me. And in fact, many reviews have pointed out that this – Cass’ voice – will be the deciding factor for the reader.

Fortunately AKH is aware of that and the previews at Amazon or Smashwords, particularly of the Trilogy edition, allow the intrigued prospective reader to really decide well in advance of a purchase whether Cass’s voice works for them.

We also get the dialogue filtered through Cass – although the nano-technology every person on Tare is implanted with actually makes it believable that Cass can quote people word-for-word and notice subtle developments on second viewing which passed her by in the moment itself.

This way I can believe her portrayal of the clueless experimentation partners – who have no idea of what she is and what she can do – evolving into individuals during her constant contact with them. That the work Cass puts into making them respect HER as an individual (to enable ensuring her survival, an increase in personal freedom and eventually joining a community worth living and fighting for) is true to the people she meets because the diary is for Cass, first and foremost, for a long time. It’s her sounding board when no one understands her and it helps her structure her impressions.

So I never feel that Cass falls into the cliché of being “the divine saviour of her new world whom everyone loves and adores” which gives me a stale aftertaste whenever I come across it whether in male or female form: she struggles and keeps on struggling and so do her Setari friends, even when the most obvious crisis is over (check out the Gratuitous Epilogue and In Arcadia for happy end shenanigans and more).

Reading her trials and triumphs just encourages me not to give up myself, especially regarding work-related stress or when I am in a situation that feels unbearable at the time – and so I recommend this to other readers who love Cass and her voice as a book to reread more than once. You’ll probably find more amazing bits and pieces than you got the first read-through, too.

Personal ties: what clinches my love for Cass and why she continues to inspire me, even at my age. I cheer for her realizing her dreams, even when she had to scrap the old ones she had back on earth.

Love of books:

“I blame Doctor Who. Mr Spock. The Scooby Gang: both the ones in the Mystery Machine and the ones with the stakes. 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.” — by far the most liked AKH quote on Goodreads

Books have influenced my own development at least as much as my parents and school did, and continue to do so. And if you read through Touchstone, you’ll see that books, even the Tare version of books, get mentioned again and again and media in general help Cass orient herself in her new world – even as the problems of a reality tv series being based on her life get highlighted as well.

Romance: [cut and paste into the linked Rot13-translator if you want to read this spoiler-quote from Cass!]

“V unq na hacynaarq anc guvf nsgreabba naq qernzrq bs Ehhry. Ur jnf fgnaqvat nybar va gur qnex – yrivgngvat whfg nobir gur fabj – jngpuvat gur ubevmba. V pbhyq frr uvz pyrneyl, rira gubhtu gurer qvqa’g frrz gb or nal yvtugf, naq uvf snpr jnf irel fgvyy naq crnprshy. V znqr zlfrys jnxr hc. Vg jnfa’g n cebwrpgvat qernz, ohg V’z abg fher vs gur zbavgbef jbhyq unir cvpxrq hc hfr bs zl Fvtug gnyrag. Naq vs V’q ybbxrq ng uvz nal ybatre V zvtug unir ernpurq bhg naq gevrq gb gbhpu uvz. V’ir qrpvqrq V pna jnag uvz nf zhpu nf V jnag, ohg ab zber yvggyr yncfrf. Abguvat juvpu znxrf uvz unir gb qrny jvgu zl srryvatf, be rira guvax nobhg gurz. Ohg V’z abg tbvat gb fgbc rawblvat ybbxvat ng uvz.” –Unlock the spoiler quote here:

It took me three years to confess my first crush to the intended person. I was 18 when I managed it ^^ – late bloomer, I know. This is exactly what I would have done, had I been in Cass’ shoes and why I totally felt for her embarrassment when it looked like the dream experiences went both ways.

~The first version of this article was published during Rachel Neumeier’s Andrea K. Höst appreciation week, slightly edited and republished with her permission.

How to Get the Books

All three of the Touchstone paperback books are available now on Amazon!

Stray | Lab Rat One | Caszandra

Add the books on Goodreads: Stray, Lab Rat One, Caszandra.


  • “I walked into adventure and adventure has given me blisters” – Headlines
    January 9, 2018 at 10:55 am

    […] post “I walked into adventure and adventure has given me blisters” appeared first on The Book […]

  • Estara Swanberg
    January 9, 2018 at 5:06 pm

    Oh dear, none of the links made it ^^ and I already see four messed up grammar and spelling mistakes and one superfluous bracket. Shame on me, shame on me *sigh*.

  • Ana
    January 10, 2018 at 4:41 am

    OMG Estara, as I was setting up the post, WordPress crashed MULTIPLE times and I think it saved the first version without any of my edits, without links… and I didn’t notice it until I read your comment! I have saved the correct version from the dashboard and it should all be fine now. DAMN YOU WORDPRESS.

  • Estara Swanberg
    January 10, 2018 at 9:21 am

    Phew, yah, I used WordPress for my personal blog from 2004 to 2014 (version 1.5 ^^) so I can totally understand. When it works it is lovely, let’s leave it at that ^^.
    I still see one superfluous “)” after Gratuitous Epilogue (I wanted to add In Arcadia, which didn’t exist in 2014) and in the very last line the html-link to the original article. I’ll just add that here 😀

  • Li
    January 12, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    Ah, great post – makes me want to do a full re-read now!

  • Estara Swanberg
    January 13, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    @Li – dooooooooooooooooo eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!!! – since you are the OTHER reviewer who made me get AKH books in the first place (apart from the Booksmuggler Champion of the Rose review, with the gorgeous Julie Dillon cover).

  • uiouo
    October 14, 2020 at 12:58 pm

    This is the really great post here i love it very much get hearts play online most of people can see online for more enjoyments

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