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"Strange the Dreamer" Book Discussion and Passion Fruit Cupcake Recipe

I wish to inspire readers, teachers, and book clubs to bake along with their reading and promote discussion about the books we've enjoyed.

Cupcakes pair well with this book.

Cupcakes pair well with this book.

Book Synopsis

Lazlo Strange is a librarian who dreams of visiting the lost city of Weep, whose true named slipped from everyone’s minds about fifteen years ago. It has been his life’s work to find not only the true name of the city, but to unravel all its secrets and travel there one day. An opportunity arises when travelers from that land come seeking help with a problem they have endured for same length of time.

In an isolated city, a girl with blue skin, cinnamon-colored hair, and a magic ability that affects dreamers, lives in a tower with only four more of her race—three other girls and one boy. They have been raised by ghosts and a small girl whose body is frozen as a child, just as much as her mind is in their brutal past, and the horrifying Carnage she endured and saved the others from. Each child, now growing, has their own magic as well, which has kept them alive these last fifteen years, though in a boring, isolated way. Only Sarai has a connection to the outside world, and it is she who will attempt to seek answers that don’t end in violence or death.

With elements of ancient Judaism intertwined with sci-fi and a heavily post-apocalyptic fervor, Strange the Dreamer is a frightful lesson about the sins of the father visiting subsequent generations and the effects of genocide, fear, and hate against the power of knowledge.

Discussion Questions

  1. What pumps through the second heart of the faranji? What happens to a person when it is all used up? What powerful connection did it hold?
  2. What were Lazlo’s first trio of fears? What did they become, and why did they change?
  3. How did the “godspawn” survive? What was each gift they had, and how were they used? Do you remember each of their nicknames?
  4. What was the One Rule?
  5. How was Sarai’s gift “a kind of escape, but it mocked freedom”? In what ways was she a prisoner?
  6. What prevented the citizens of Weep from going up to the citadel for 15 years?
  7. What was the first gift Lazlo was ever given? (Hint: in the desert by Calixte before entering Weep). What would it be like to have never received a present until you were an adult? How does this help us better understand Lazlo?
  8. What did it mean for Sarai to be seen in Lazlo’s dream? What did this lead to as a result? Why did Lazlo have that ability?
  9. Why had Sarai been “ashamed at first, and afraid it was weakness on her part, to be unable to hate” the humans as she “should”? Why had she been wrong to hide her empathy and to infuse fear?
  10. What power annihilated the name of the city?
  11. Why did the people of Weep hate the inhabitants of the citadel “more because we’re theirs”? Why was it so difficult for sparrow to understand that the way the children were “begotten” was part of why they were so despised?
  12. Did Sarai really betray her kind, and choose others over them in not allowing them to die, or was Minya’s perception distorted? Did Sarai show mercy or betrayal, salvation or doom? How had Minya manipulated Sarai?
  13. Do you think that if the children “had been embraced instead, and raised with love, they wouldn’t have become tormentors,” as Lazlo stated to Sarai? Or are some children doomed to their own nature, like Minya? How does this contribute to the old argument of nature versus nurture in who children grow to become?
  14. If “Azoth of this world does not affect mesarthium,” then what, or who, does?
  15. What was the second salvation of Weep? What was “the act destined to become legend”? Have you ever witnessed one, and did you know it would be as it was happening?
Plum passion fruit cupcakes with passion fruit frosting. Yummy!

Plum passion fruit cupcakes with passion fruit frosting. Yummy!

The Recipe: Plum Passion Fruit Cupcakes With Passion Fruit Frosting

Plums grew in the citadel and often fell onto the people of Weep. The residents of the citadel also often ate plum jam on snow for dessert.

Brother Cyrus told Lazlo, who also later dreamed, that the window ledges of the residents of the city of Weep had cakes left out on them, “free for the taking.”

“Great Ellen used to make them a birthday cake each year: one to share, to stretch the sugar and white flour...”

In the dream of Weep, there were “cakes set out on window ledges, their icing glittering with crystal sugar…”

I chose to interpret the yellow globes of fruit growing on the vines lobbed to Lazlo in his dream where he first saw Sarai as passion fruits, especially since passion flows through the second heart.

These ingredients were combined to inspire the recipe for this piece: plum passion fruit cupcakes with passion fruit frosting and sprinkled with crystal sugar. The strawberry baking emulsion (not flavoring oil) was added to enhance the flavor of the passion fruit juice, because that juice flavor can get lost in the sweetness of the powdered sugar, and adding too much juice will ruin the frosting consistency. While the baking emulsion is optional, you’ll definitely want to add it for the extra depth of flavor, and be able to tell a huge difference with it there.


  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup, plus 1 tbsp passion fruit juice, divided
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/4 cup vanilla or plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh plums, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp strawberry baking emulsion
  • 2 drops pink food coloring, optional
  • Sprinkling sugar, optional for topping


  1. Preheat your oven to 325° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter with the granulated sugar for one minute on medium-high speed. Add the 1/4 cup passion fruit juice, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and the Greek yogurt (or sour cream). Drop the speed to low and slowly add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. When there is no loose flour, kick up the speed to medium-high and whip for one to two minutes until fluffy.
  2. Drop the speed back to medium-low and add the eggs, one at a time. You may need to stop the mixer after to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula so all of the egg gets mixed in. Stop the mixer and fold in the diced plums with a spatula. Bake in (blue cupcake wrapper) paper-lined cupcake tins for 14-16 minutes. Remove from tins after ten minutes and allow to cool completely before frosting (at least ten more minutes).
  3. For the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, cream the 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter on medium-high speed for half a minute. Add the remaining tablespoon of passion fruit juice, the strawberry baking emulsion, and the last teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix for one more minute on medium speed. Drop the mixer to low and slowly add the powdered sugar, about half a cup at a time. Mix on low until the powder disappears, then up speed to medium-low for one minute. Turn off the mixer and add the food color by inserting a toothpick into the color and letting it grab a few drops’ worth, then sliding the toothpick through the frosting. Place into a piping bag with a rose tip and pipe onto fully cooled cupcakes. Keep refrigerated. Makes 16 frosted cupcakes.

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Similar Titles

  • The sequel to this book and continuation of the story of the city of Weep and Lazlo the Dreamer is Muse of Nightmares.
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron is just as fast-paced and filled with fascinating books as Strange the Dreamer, as it uncovers long-kept mysteries about an enigmatic author who disappeared, just as his books are doing.
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is a YA suspense, fantasy fiction filled with children with incredible gifts, hidden away in a secret location on a British isle, found by a boy commissioned to protect them.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert is a sci-fi novel with a trek across a desert, revenge, family loyalties, and a little mysticism.
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is an adult political fiction that also deals with a powerful, new blue metal that changes not only the inventor’s life, but those around him as well.
  • Another story about an orphaned librarian teenager translating strange languages and obsessed with unraveling a mystery is Alphabet of Thorn by Patricia McKillip.

Notable Quotes

“Forbid a man something and he craves it like his soul’s salvation.”

“Worry spurs preparation.”

“The library knows its own mind. When it steals a boy, we let it keep him.”

“The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around.”

“As for fairy tales, he understood that they were reflections of the people who had spun them, and flecked with little truths.”

“Fear kept them careful.”

“Hate off nothing but itself—but not forever.”

“Mirth worked its mundane magic, leaching the tension...And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.”

“For what was a person but the sum of all the scraps of their memory and experience: a finite set of components with an infinite array of expressions.”

“He had loved the library, and had felt, as a boy, as though it had a kind of sentience, and perhaps loved him back. But even if it was just walls and a roof with papers inside, it had bewitched him, and drawn him in, and given him everything he needed to become himself.”

© 2018 Amanda Lorenzo


Naude Lorenzo on October 03, 2018:

This cupcake sounds delicious, can't wait to try it, Excellent book too.

Keep up the good work Amanda.