Monthly Archives: January 2017

Lab Rat One (Touchstone #2)

Title: Lab Rat One

Author: Andrea K. Höst

Series: Touchstone #2

Cassandra Devlin is still adjusting to being on another planet. Well, technically, planets, since she’s been the instrumental force in re-opening Munia for Tare’s people to recolonize. But the mystery of what killed the original inhabitants of Munia and drove the survivors to other planets hasn’t been solved. The rifts and the memories of monsters that populate the spaces are growing worse. And even though her abilities make her irreplaceable, no one’s really sure what to do with her. Can she survive long enough to find a place in this crazy new world?

This continues smoothly right from where Stray left off. If you haven’t read that book first, stop reading this and go do that.

I like how well-drawn these characters are. Cassandra really isn’t more than a typical teen in so many ways, and she’s having a lot of trouble keeping up with the Olympic-level athletic Setari. Having weird enhancement abilities doesn’t give her a free pass–she’s worked as hard as her body will tolerate, and still isn’t very good in a fight. I liked that the Setari exercise so much, amusingly enough. They’re not magically able to make themselves fit and trim either, and being injured requires rehabilitation even with some of the fast-healing nanotechnology they’ve invented.

It shows in other ways too. The awkwardness of the monitoring comes back, especially when Cassandara starts thinking about a possible relationship. The little pieces of daily life, like television shows and shopping, intersperses with the more intense periods of missions, invasions, and general action.

I was also impressed the story firmly stays away from becoming a dystopia, where Cassandara needs to rebel against Evil Authority and reshape society. Instead she’s doing the work to fit in where she can, puts up with a lot of stress and discomfort, but still has limits she won’t cross.

The one thing that I wasn’t so keen on was the way the major relationship worked out in the end. It just seemed too much, too fast.

**SPOILERS**

Not that it didn’t make some sense to skip a few things, but going from a cool working relationship straight to sex in the span of about ten minutes felt really bizarre. No clearing the air, no trying to offer a bit of a relationship before sleeping together, just sex. I liked his character a lot, but I hadn’t thought he was someone so quick to jump between the sheets.

**SPOILERS END**

Overall if you liked Stray this is a very good followup. The character dynamics are very strong, and although the greater mysteries are unfolding very slowly, there’s plenty of action and excitement along the way. I rate this book Recommended.

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Stray (Touchstone #1)

Title: Stray

Author: Andrea K. Höst

Series: Touchstone #1

Cassandra Devlin isn’t doing anything spectacular when she simply walks into another world. But wishing won’t get her back home. Now she’s got to survive in an alien world. Surviving in the wild is a lot harder than she’s thought, but nothing can prepare her for what she discovers.

I don’t want to spoil too much in the summary, as I didn’t read a whole lot about this going in (other than knowing multiple people who were crazy about the book), and I found a lot of the plot surprising in good ways. So I’d like to leave the opportunity open for others to be surprised too.

I really liked how detailed and character-oriented this is. It isn’t a survival/adventure story like Hatchet or My Side of the Mountain, where the main character is at least moderately prepared to face raw Nature. Cassandra has a backpack, a few school supplies, clothes that are in no way suited to wandering around forests, and no hope of return/rescue. And as she eventually realizes, no hope of counting on what she does know to be true, either, as she encounters creatures and things that cause her to accept she’s no longer on Earth.

I’m not terribly fond of the diary format, but I do like how raw and honest Cassandra is through it. Due to the format her reactions to events always feel a bit delayed, since we’re reading about them after the event is over.

The various “spaces” was also hugely interesting to me. I’ve always liked alternate dimensions (and various powers), and other worlds, near-space, real-space, and various abilities to manipulate things was a lot of fun. The technology levels also make an intriguing contrast to most of the lost-in-another-world stories I’ve read, and there are some interesting conflicts as Cassandra works through its implications for her personally.

MINOR SPOILERS:

Also: psychic space ninjas. Which is funny in all sorts of ways.  I liked the military feel, and the organization, and how Cassandra both fits into their daily routines and completely interrupts them. And I’m impressed that the book doesn’t cheat and try to ignore most of the squad members, even though it will probably take me a dozen readings before I can truly recognize them all. The major ones have enough personality to recognize right away. I really like Maze, or how Zan’s friendship comes out in all these understated ways.

END SPOILERS.

Overall this was a very good read. I am fond of stories about humans transported to another world, and this one really nailed a lot of the practical issues. At the same time, it’s a fascinating new world, and I’m interested to see where it goes next. I rate this book Recommended.

The Thief’s Daughter (Kingfountain #2)

Title: The Thief’s Daughter

Author: Jeff Wheeler

Series: Kingfountain #2

Owen has grown into a strong and capable young man, one of the few King Severn trusts. But such trust comes with burdens. The king is a hard master, and he continually tests the loyalty of those who are close to him. Owen has served faithfully for years, but he’s not certain he can withstand this latest trial. When war threatens, Owen must choose between his childhood love and his king.

I liked how this unfolded. Owen has grown up a lot since the first book, leaving that shy boy behind for a much more confident young man. At least, confident until it comes to telling Elysabeth exactly what he feels for her. I was impressed at how seriously Owen takes virtue and honor. He has multiple opportunities to indulge his own desires, some with little risk, yet he puts the well being of others above his own comfort. That was a refreshing change.

Elysabeth has also grown up, although she hasn’t changed as dramatically. If anything, time has tempered some of her wild side. But she’s still a woman unafraid to act her own way, which makes a lot of her interactions as a diplomat funny. That is not how I expected her to handle negotiations, although in retrospect that’s probably exactly what I ought to have seen.

And I did like the way it ended, with loyalty and love shaking out in some interesting ways. In order to be true to one, Owen must neglect the other. But if he rejects even one, can he keep his own soul intact? The consequences don’t get a lot of time to play out here, but that’s what the sequel is for. . .

Overall this is a very good followup to The Queen’s Poisoner. It expands the world and the political situation, and better yet this time around Owen is strong enough to be a major player in the events around him. I rate this book Recommended.