Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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The Touchstone Trilogy – reliable comfort read

Okay, people, let’s start with a guest! My first guest for Andrea K Höst Week is Estara, who has been that best and most cherished sort of reader for Andrea — the enthusiastic reader who pushes books on friends, acquaintances, relative strangers … everyone, really. Estara is so far ahead of me with Goodreads reviews that I know I’ll never catch up. Welcome, Estara!

Touchstone

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

What can I say that Rachel and the Booksmugglers haven’t said more eloquently about the appeal of Cassandra Devlin and her way out of 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 (I was going to say odyssey, but Ulysses gets back, eventually – Cassandra doesn’t, and it’s stated very clearly she wouldn’t even if she were offered the chance).

Not much, to tell the truth, so what I will try to balance here is why this particular series of Andrea Höst’s works so incredibly well for me 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 – I’ve since restrained myself to three times a year, except in especially harrowing circumstances…

Now I’m pretty sure 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 fairly helpful in keeping the story fresh for me – this has always been the case for me with reading and over the years (I’ll be 47 this year) the books that stay on my shelves are the books I reread. Books I haven’t reread after a certain amount of time are gotten rid of.

So even after the 8+ reads I’ve done of the series so far I still find subtle emotional shifts and hints between the characters or explorations of the idea of what it realistically be like if you had such advanced nano-technology that “always online” wasn’t a choice but a 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 (the fact that the whole series is diary entries makes that very clear and easy to follow) but she never lets herself be intimidated into freezing or giving up for good.

Now, to be sure, I agree with Thea that we readers only get half the story of the 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 the Ionoth and the fights in the Ena or against those massives (while certainly making good tv-fodder, as Tare media has realised for years) are gruesome enough for me. The labrat situation that lends the name to the second book and especially the incredibly well-described teleporter-tag which Cass has to survive in that book read intense enough for me after the fact, because Cass’s voice speaks to me – many reviews have pointed out that this 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 taste-tester to really decide well in advance of a purchase of whether Cass’s voice works for them. We get the dialogue filtered through Cass, as well – although the instant replay ability of the nanotechnology everyone is implanted with actually makes it believable that Cass can quote people word-for-word and realize 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 but develop into individuals during her constant contact with them – and the work Cass puts into making them respect HER as an individual (to enable ensuring her survival, an increase in personal freedom and eventually a community worth living and fighting for) – is true to the people she meets because the diary is for her, first and foremost, for a long time. It’s her sounding board when no one understands her and it helps her structure her impressions.

And that’s why I never feel that Cass is the God-given savior of her new world whom everyone loves and adores – men and women both (although it turns out that she is a catalyst for sure) which can make me get a stale after-taste when I come across such a character – whether male or female: 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) not only for happy end but also for lack of privacy and problematic public interest and fear of Cass & Co.).

Reading her trials and triumphs just encourages me not to give up myself, when I am in a situation that feels unbearable at the time – especially regarding work-related stress – and so I recommend this to other readers who love her voice as a book to reread repeatedly. 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 (and I cheer for her realizing her dreams, even when she had to scrap the old ones she had back on earth).

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 reality tv series based on her life get shown in a realistic light, as well.

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

“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.

* * *

Thank you, Estara — and I agree with every word. The Touchstone Trilogy is one of those rare stories where I read the whole thing again right after I finished it the first time — and I just re-read most of it again a month ago. Cass’s voice is awesome. And that coding a spoiler thing is awesome. I’ll have to figure out how to do that myself.

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18 Comments The Touchstone Trilogy – reliable comfort read

  1. Elaine T

    I am very grateful for Rachel for praising Host’s work here some time ago. I started with AND ALL THE STARS, and then read the standalone (at the time) CHAMPION OF THE ROSE, and then careful portioned out my reading so I wouldn’t blast through all Host wrote and run out too soon. Just read TOUCHSTONE recently, and agree with everything Estara wrote.

  2. Rachel

    Elaine, I also save books for later so as not to run out. I have quite a few by Rumer Godden that I haven’t read yet — and one of Octavia Butlers, SUCH a tragedy that she died so young — and two of AKH’s.

  3. Chachic

    Estara, I love how enthusiastic you are about pushing the books that you love. You were the one who sent me And All the Stars as a gift, which encouraged me to read it last year. Thanks again for recommending Andrea’s novels, she’s now a favorite author. :) I’m really looking forward to rereading the Touchstone trilogy.

  4. Estara+Swanberg

    @Elaine &Rachel: that’s a much better way to really get all the lovely details and you still have undiscovered books before you – I haven’t got the strength of will when I discover an author that I totally glom on. But that’s why I’m so happy rereads of her books work so well for me.

    @Chachic: I’m just so happy to spread the joy. I’ve discovered so many great books by word-of-mouth or word-of-webpost these days, which I would have missed out on. It’s a deep pleasure to see others fall in booklove and spreading their joy, as well – especially when it’s so effectively visible as with Rachel and you or Sartorias.

    @everyone: mea culpa for all the punctuation mistakes still left, although I checked the post on my old blog before I passed it on to Rachel.

  5. Rachel

    There were punctuation errors? Some got introduced when I put it into wordpress, don’t ask me why, but I thought I read through it more carefully than that! Sorry if I missed something, Estara! ‘Scuse me while I go look over it again.

  6. Sherwood Smith

    I liked Cass so much that even though I never have been able to get up any interest in Dr. Who, and I was too old for the Scooby group, I still adored that she quoted favorite books.

    Nodding in agreement all the way through, and a high five to Estara for turning me on to AKH.

  7. Rachel

    I loved her just as much on the re-read, too. AND all her references to books. Including, yes, the “brainwashed by Sam” line.

  8. Estara+Swanberg

    @Sartorias: I never got into Dr. Who myself, heh – apart from seeing some episodes of the old series on Brit TV and therefore understanding some Eddie Izzard jokes, but I used to think a lot in terms of “what would … do” at that age and especially in my early teens.

    @Rachel: I saw some broken lines and missing brackets and some commas I should put have in to make understanding easier, I think.

    OH and there is this GREAT TUMBLR that a reader of the Booksmuggler article linked to for a fan who is doing gif-quotes for STRAY right now here: http://survivorcass.tumblr.com/ – I forgot to link that in the article or my first comment.

  9. Jan

    I found out about AKH last year (from Li at Me and My Books blog whom I think you turned on to AKH, Estara!) And I’m also saving books to read so I don’t run out too soon! I read and loved the Touchstone series at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. The Dr. Who quote is one I really liked and used in my review, I think.

  10. Rachel

    Estara, hah, missing commas ye shall always have with you, believe me. Gif quotes! Thanks for the link!

  11. Estara+Swanberg

    @Jan: it’s such a pleasure to see the booklove spread. I’m sure that you’re inspiring someone else to pick up the books who will then go on and handsell them to their friends, as well. I find it heartening that even underdog books without big publishers can find the audience that has been waiting for them, if only they knew.

    @Rachel: oh for the help of an editor for everyday life, not just for books or magazine articles, heh.

  12. kyahgirl

    Estara, what a lovely post! I think you might have been the shameless pusher who first pointed me in the direction of The Touchstone Trilogy. I loved it and all the other books by AKH that I’ve read. She has an amazing talent for portraying young people who are intelligent, resourceful and strong, yet not textbook ‘superheros’. Cass really touched me.
    Last year I even sent Andrea a note after a visit to the Rocky Mountain backwoods that was so remote there were no sounds or sights that any other human could have made. While there Cass popped into my head and said “see!! see how weird and scary this is; see what I had to deal with!” (Except of course it was worse for her, at least I knew what planet I was on :-)
    I’m glad you’re doing this special week Rachel. Looking forward to reading the other posts.

  13. Rachel

    Kyahgirl, hi! I think Estara gets the credit for shoving this one into a lot of peoples’ hands!

  14. Estara+Swanberg

    @Kyahgirl: aww, thanks. Well, I surely exploded into fanatic love after that first readthrough – the first time I have recommended a book to at least ten people on my GR friends list and went evangelizing at every reasonable opportunity (I hate it when people drop in to advertise a book which has nothing to do with a discussion, myself, so I don’t do it unless it can make sense within a conversation).

    But of course, because the books are that good, a lot of people eventually picked them up ^^.

    @Rachel: Oh, and if you’re all crediting me with starting the ball rolling then the original credit belongs to Booksmuggler Ana, who reviewed Champion of the Rose, where I read the review – and to Julie Dillon and that evocative cover, which is what made me click on that particular review of Ana’s – I’m not into horror or YA much, so those reviews of the Booksmugglers I hardly ever read.

  15. Cassie hobbs

    I loved, love, LO VED this book! Not only because my real name is Cassandra, (always hide behind Cassie) but this book had me from the first couple of pages and I am relieved to see I am not the only one who could Not put it down. I bought the others books as soon, As I could and now that I have read them all I will go back and re read them. Not something I often do. I must say to the author Please don’t get discouraged, as long as Good books are out there people will buy them. Please make another book to the touchstone series. I know Caszandra has more to say!bjust a little word about myself I am a 54 year old black women with grown children and a husband and 3 cats. Please write more about Caszandra!

  16. Rachel

    Hi, Cassie —

    Honestly, these books are so good I think almost everyone is probably in the right demographic to love them! Luckily Andrea Host doesn’t seem the type to get discouraged easily. Have you read the “Gratuitous Epilogue” that continues the trilogy and ties off loose ends? Because it’s delightful.

    Also, sorry it took a couple days to get your comment out of moderation — I have very poor internet access from home during the summer.

  17. Frances

    Just found this link. I am a 61 year old mother of four and grandmother of four ( and a half). I loved the Touchstone Series. I’m not even sure why. But, I would love to read some of the story from Ruuel’s perspective. I agree with all the other observations. Love Cassandra.

  18. Rachel

    Hi, Frances, glad you stumbled over the link! Yes, I was just thinking of re-reading the Touchstone series myself.

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