Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor review

Strange the Dreamer

Hi Everyone,
I’m back today to review Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. A book so magical and lovely it’s hard to describe, but I will do my best with no spoilers.

Strange the Dreamer is book one of what I believe is a duology (2 book series.) It mainly follows the story of a young man named Lazlo Strange. He grew up as an orphan raised by monks in Zosma, but he’s also had a complete fascination with the mysterious lost city known as Weep. Then miraculously the day arrives where he has an opportunity to find out what really happened to the lost city.

Like I said this is spoiler-free because I don’t want to ruin what is probably going to be my favorite book of the year. So, I won’t be talking about the details of the plot, but more about the structure, characters, and the writing itself.

The Basic Plot of Strange the Dreamer

At its heart Strange the Dreamer is a fantasy story, but not a typical one.

Our main character is not your typical hero. There isn’t a lot of magic, only a few distinct powers certain characters have. One character is even determined to find out the scientific workings of the world.

It’s a unique magical adventure.

We start in Zosma with Lazlo working as a junior librarian, when a man known as the God Slayer comes to town looking for people for a secret mission. They won’t know what they are to do until they get to Weep.

While that is the basic plot, there is a lot more to the story that I won’t go into, you’ll just have to read it.

Strange the Dreamer Characters

Each character is fully fleshed out, their personality traits make them each distinct. They each feel like a real person, and you will have an opinion about each of them, good and bad.

Our main characters stand out in the crowd, but the side characters don’t fall by the wayside. This is particularly the case on the journey from Zosma to Weep. We get a good glimpse at a lot of side characters and their individual journeys to this point.

You feel what they feel, and sometimes you just want to give them a big hug or slap them.

Laini Taylor’s Writing

If you’ve never read a book by Laini Taylor I highly recommend you rectify that immediately.

I swear she could make the dictionary a compelling magical story.

Her writing is lyrical and beautiful, you want to savor it but you also don’t want to put the book down. The words simply dance on the page and fill you with happiness.

I will read whatever she puts out next simply to read more of her writing, doesn’t matter what it’s about.

Go Forth and Read

If I haven’t made this clear enough, I thoroughly loved this book and give it a million stars.

If I haven’t managed to convince you yet to read it, I highly recommend you still give it a shot. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Thank you for reading! If you have read it let me know what you thought in the comments!

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Hi Everyone,
Today, I would like to share my thoughts on the book series Memoirs of Lady Trent, which I’ve really enjoyed so far. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan is book one in the five book fantasy series. I recently finished book three, Voyage of the Basilisk, and with each book, I’ve just loved it more.

The Series at a Glance

I came for the dragons and found there’s actually a lot more to this series than expected.

These books are the fictional memoirs of Isabella, Lady Trent. She is the world’s premier dragon naturalist. The series chronicles her many adventures in search of dragon’s to study.

There are five books in the series; each book focuses on a specific expedition in Isabella’s life. The title gives you a clear picture of what will take place, at least once you start reading.

While on the expeditions we follow as Isabella discovers more about herself, love, friendship, loss and the politics of the world.  I don’t want to give any spoilers, but there are some wild rides.

A Natural History of Dragons

Book one starts at the beginning of Isabella’s life, long before she became a widely known dragon naturalist. We watch as she grows into a young woman. Unlike the sequel books, it takes about halfway to get to the “expedition” portion, but it is still well the worth the wait.

It is primarily set in the country Scirland, which is a clear parallel with Victorian England with all of its traditional rules. The only clear difference is the dragons, obviously.

Isabella has an innate love for these creatures without having much knowledge of them, at this point nor does anyone else. When she is still young, her father gives her a book called A Natural History of Dragon.

She reads it over and over again, growing her love and need to study them further, which *spoiler alert* she does.

Now Go Read it

If it isn’t clear, I highly recommend this series. If you like stories about people’s lives, struggles, romance, adventure, or dragons, then you should pick this up. It has something for everyone.

Even if you aren’t sure, the books are only all just over 300 pages (which are really short for fantasy books) so it’s not a huge commitment.

Have you read these? Let me know what you thought in the comments, even if you didn’t like them!

Review and Experience of Art School 99 in Somerville

Hi Everyone,
First, I’m sorry I missed a blog post on Tuesday. I was struggling with some writer’s block and started 3 different posts, but just couldn’t commit to one. Today, I’m back with a review of Art School 99, which is an independent art school in Somerville, MA.

I took three classes, one last Friday, then this past Wednesday and my last class was yesterday. However, this studio’s classes schedule is super flexible. I could have taken all three in a week or spread them out over a few weeks if I wanted.  It was completely up to me, which I really liked. Other art classes tend to be much more structured than at this studio.

She is planning to offer even more classes this fall, which will allow for even more flexibility.

Some of My First Impressions

First, let’s talk about some of my first impressions on Art School 99.  I talked a bit about this in my blog post last week about how I found my art class.

I was super excited for this class. It was the first time I’ve taken an art class in a ridiculously long time, so I was way over due.

My very first problem had nothing to do with the school itself, but it’s location. If you’re familiar with Somerville it’s a 15- minute or so walk from Sullivan T station (Orange line,) or a short bus ride from Central Square T Station (Red line.) I ended up using both to get there taking more than an hour each.

The first class was the only one I ended up actually being on time for, due to the long commute early in the morning.

Once I got there, I met the instructor, Alexandra, at the door and we made our way to her studio space. Her studio is only one of many at what is known as Joy Street Studios. It’s a relatively small space, I can’t imagine she is able to host any large classes.

First Class

Now, what did I actually do that first class? Honestly, it didn’t feel like much of anything.

The goal for this class was to gauge where I was skill-wise. I started with a few basic drawing exercises for composition. During this part, I felt a lot of pressure to do well, which I think prevented me from really letting my creativity run wild. So, I sat there trying to think of what to draw for way longer than I should have.

After the drawing exercises, which was probably about half the class, it was time to get out some paint. We then went over some color theory using primarily the color wheel. While I’ve been taught this many time, I did learn something new. In painting, green is a primary color, even though it isn’t one on the color wheel.

And that was the end of class one, I decided which I was going to go to next, then headed back home.

Second Class

In the second class, it felt like I did a lot more, even though I was actually there for less time because I was late.

We started this class with some basic brush technique for blending acrylic paint. Super simple, but super important.  I spent some time doing this on the canvas I brought, (you pay for the use of her materials, but canvas’ are extra) blending blue and white until the canvas was covered.

Then, she taught me what is known as glazing.  This is where you use a glaze, a translucent mixing liquid, with a very small amount of paint.

After learning these two techniques, it was time to start on my painting. I first tried to sketch something from the view in the window, but it just turned into a mess. Naturally, then I went to Pinterest for help. I found a good reference photo that wasn’t too complicated and got to work.

With the instructor’s help, we decided the colors for the background would only be white and gray (I can’t remember the specific gray, but it has a blue undertone.) I used the same canvas that I used for the exercises and just painted over my previous work.

I ended this class with a completed background ready for the rest of the painting.

Third Class

Again, I ended up being late to this one, but it was alright because I still had plenty of time to finish my painting.

This was easily my favorite class of the three. I felt I learned the most during this session, not only through instruction but by doing.   The instructor also gave me some tips and sometimes you just need the right paint color to make your life easier.

I think I had the most fun with the skirt of her dress.  There are at least 4 different shades of red I used to try to create some dimension.

One important thing I learned during this class is, painting is really all about layers. It took about three or four layers to get to the final product you see.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, I felt I really learned some new skills when it comes to painting and I had some fun, which was the goal. I was a little skeptical at first, but each class got better and better, and I imagine if I return to this studio it’ll be even better.

All things considered, at normal price it is still a bit expensive considering the value of the classes. While I enjoyed my time, I’m still really glad I got the Groupon deal.

This studio has a super chill atmosphere and there isn’t a lot of pressure, which I liked. There will be even more classes offered in the fall, which gives me, even more, options if I decide to go back.

If it wasn’t so far I would say I would most likely go back, but due to where it is I’m not sure.  It will depend on when the fall classes are, I might go to one every once in a while.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales review

Captain Jack Sparrow is back, again.

It has been six years since we’ve had a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, (On Stranger Tides) which left something to be desired. So, going into Dead Men Tell No Tales, my expectations were pretty low.

Basic Synopsis

In the new Pirates, we follow Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) on his quest to find the Trident of Poseidon, while being pursued by the undead Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) seeking revenge. Jack is joined by familiar Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush,) along with newcomers Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) and Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites)

You may be thinking, wait, Turner, did I read that right? Yes, the Turners are back.

Henry Turner is the son of William Turner and Elizabeth Swan. Also, don’t worry this is an important plot point but isn’t really a spoiler, it’s revealed in the first scene of the movie.

Overall thoughts

I was pleasantly surprised.  It may be just because, I went in with pretty low expectations, but I definitely enjoyed it. There were moments throughout the movie I laughed out loud.

The overall feel of the movie brings it back to the original Pirates. There’s a curse that needs breaking, creepy undead guys trying to kill Jack, and a young Turner playing the hero.

I thought our new characters fit in pretty well with the established characters that we know and love. However, it did feel like Henry was only really a Turner in name; the other characters kept brushing him to the side. Though the casting was on point, he looks so much like Orlando Bloom!

Comparison to the Previous Movies

Like I previously stated, this movie has a similar feel to the original.  However, it did lack in explaining a few things. Most notably, we never get to fully understand why Captain Salazar and his crew were cursed. Unlike in Curse of the Black Pearl, we had a very clear explanation.

I would have liked at least an explanation as to where Elizabeth was this whole time.

Slightly controversial, while I don’t think it’s the best Pirates movie by any means, I do think it’s better than On Stanger TidesOn Stranger Tides felt very different from the first 3 and didn’t have a strong driving force.

In Dead Men Tell No Tales, there is a stronger driving force throughout the movie, while it isn’t perfect, it’s way better.

After Credit Scene

In Pirates fashion, there is an after credit scene.  If you didn’t know, yes, after every Pirates movie to date there has been a short scene after to the credits.

I won’t tell you what happens, cause spoilers, but what we see could be hinting at a few things.

  1. This may not be the last Pirates movie like we thought
  2. Someone and/or something may not be as gone as we were lead to believe


Grade: B

Rated: PG-13 for sequences of adventure violence, and some suggestive content

Release Date: May 26, 2017

Check your local theater for movie times.