Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Closings and an Upgrade

From all of us here at the Mississippi Valley Library District, we wish you glad tidings and good health in the new year!

There are several events happening over the next two weeks that we want to make sure you know about:

  •  The library will be closed Tuesday, December 23 through Thursday, December 25.
  •  Our primary software will be undergoing a big upgrade on Friday, December 26 and many of our services (placing holds, renewing items, etc.) will be unavailable.  We WILL still be able to check out to you if you have your library card on-hand (unfortunately we won't be able to look up anyone's account until the upgrade is complete).
  •  The library will be closed Wednesday, December 31 and Thursday, January 1, 2015.

Our outside book drop and our website are available 24/7!

Posted by Kyla Waltermire, Adult Services Librarian

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Classics

Season's Greetings and Happy Holidays! It's the most wonderful time of the year and here at the library we are surrounded by the imaginative stories that help make the season merry and remind us of what matters most through the busy hustle and bustle.

Here are some touching and memorable quotes from a few of our favorite Christmas stories. 

Posted by: Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Friday, December 19, 2014

Staff Holiday Recipes - Ham Pinwheels

This incredibly simple yet equally tasty appetizer is something even the most culinary inept individual can manage and the perfect snack for crowded holiday get-togethers.

Ham Pinwheels

¼ pound thinly sliced ham
8 ounce tub cream cheese
4 kosher baby dill pickles
32 toothpicks

1. Pat all 4 pickles dry with a paper towel and slice each into fourths.
2. Lay one piece of ham on a cutting board and spread a generous layer of cream cheese on top. Slice ham in half.
3. Place ¼ of a pickle on top of ½ of the ham slice.
4. Roll ham around pickle, trim off any excess pickle and cut roll in half.
6. Repeat steps 2 through 5 until you run out of pickles. Spear each with a toothpick and serve.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 32 appetizers

Recipe: Spoon University
Posted by: Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Staff Holiday Recipes - Red Velvet Cheesecake

This magnificently marvelous recipe for Red Velvet Cheesecake is presented by Ashley just in time for the Holiday kitchen marathon. 

Red Velvet Cheesecake

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter
1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese,
2/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. Stir the milk, food coloring, vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract together in a small bowl; set aside.
2. Beat the softened butter and 3/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Beat in the egg until smooth. Pour in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing until just incorporated. Pour the batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.
4. Once the cake has cooled, cut half of the cake into cubes, and set aside. Cut the remaining cake into 1/2-inch strips, and place onto a baking sheet.
5. Return the cake strips to the oven, and bake until they have dried out, about 15 minutes. Turn the strips over halfway through cooking so they dry evenly. Once completely dry, allow to cool to room temperature, then crush into fine crumbs.
6. Combine the cake crumbs with the melted butter until evenly moistened. Press into a 10-inch springform pan, and refrigerate until the butter has hardened, about 45 minutes.
7. When the crust has nearly hardened, whip the whipping cream until stiff; set aside. Beat the softened cream cheese in a bowl with 2/3 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream until evenly mixed. Pour half of the cream cheese mixture into hardened crumb crust. Spread the cake cubes evenly over the cream cheese mixture, then spread the remaining cream cheese over top. Refrigerate at least 4 hours until the cream cheese has set and the cheesecake is firm.

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 Minutes
Ready In: 8 Hours
Servings: 12

Recipe: Ashley Hylsky, Library Clerk
Posted by: Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Monday, December 15, 2014

Staff Holiday Recipes - Theo's Turkey

Today Theo brings us his signature recipe for a Holiday staple.


Theo's Turkey


2 tbs. dried parsley
2 tbs. rosemary
2 tbs. sage
2 tbs. thyme leaves
1 tbs. lemon pepper
Bell pepper
Orange or apple
1 can of chicken broth
Butter or margarine


1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Wash off the turkey (remove the gizzards and neck part) and smother it with butter or margarine.
3. Create herb mixture (parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme leaves, lemon pepper) and put it into the cavity of the turkey and sprinkle it all over the turkey.
4. Stuff turkey with celery, onion, orange or apple, carrots, bell pepper
5. Put turkey into oven bag
6. Pour chicken broth over turkey
7. Bake it covered for three hours until it's no longer pink.
8. Uncover turkey and continue baking for another hour.

For best results, wash, season and stuff turkey the night before Thanksgiving or Christmas and put turkey in the fridge so it can marinate. Then, put it in the oven the next morning

For more seasonal recipes check out one of our holiday cookbooks. The library has a great selection of holiday recipe books that can be found in the nonfiction section both on the main floor and children’s floor. We have a large variety of seasonal reading so also be sure to browse our holiday displays. Happy Holidays!

Recipe: Theo Tate, Library Clerk
Posted By: Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Friday, December 12, 2014

Staff Holiday Recipes - Hot Hot Chocolate

Today Grahm brings us a recipe for hot chocolate with a cayenne kick to keep you warm this winter.



1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. Stir together sugar, cocoa, cayenne pepper, salt, and water in saucepan.
2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.
3. Add milk; stirring constantly, heat to serving temperature. Do Not Boil.
4. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and enjoy.


For more seasonal recipes check out one of our holiday cookbooks. The library has a great selection of holiday recipe books that can be found in the nonfiction section both on the main floor and children’s floor. We have a large variety of seasonal reading so also be sure to browse our holiday displays. Happy Holidays!

Recipe: Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk
Posted by: Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Monday, December 08, 2014

On This Day In...1980

Beatles frontman John Lennon was killed on this day in 1980. Lennon was shot in the back four times by fan Mark David Chapman. After the shooting Chapman remained at the scene reading The Catcher in the Rye until police arrived and arrested him. John was forty years old and had just released what would be his final album Double Fantasy three weeks prior to his murder. 

Key Library Checkouts:

Nowhere Boy - This 2009 biopic covers Lennon's years as a troubled teen reeling from a profoundly messed-up childhood and features his early attempts at starting a band, as well as his first ever meeting with Paul McCartney.

Backbeat - Released in 1994, this film chronicles The Beatles time spent in Hamburg, Germany. At this point The Beatles were a five piece band with Pete Best on drums and Stuart Sutcliffe on bass. Sutcliffe was Lennon's best friend in the band, but the rest of the group felt his lack of talent was holding them back.

Lennon Naked - Taking place in the late 1960's after John was a huge superstar this biographical movie deals with Lennon's attempts at reconnecting with his father, while completely ignoring his own son Julian.

Staff Holiday Recipes - Stocking Stuffers

Today Alison is sharing some of her favorite holiday memories.


As you may know, I spent many Christmases in Scotland.  We celebrate in many of the same ways you do this side of the pond, but here are a few traditions that I still like to enjoy in my celebrations in the US.

My Granny on my mother's side is from Germany, and we would all wait impatiently for a big cardboard box to arrive to her house from her brother.   He would post (somewhat illegally) German cheeses and meats which our parents really liked, but what I was looking for were the Pfeffernüsse and lebkuchen.  These little spiced cookies taste great dipped in a cup of tea, or with a glass of cold milk.  My daughter has come to enjoy these, and Aldi sells them so we are enjoying far too many of them already.

Something else we always had at Christmas was a real tree.  Granny would light real candles on hers (safety caution - maybe don't try this at home!), and she would give us children a little sprig of burning tree to hold so we could smell the aromatic fir scent.  Gorgeous!  So we always have a real tree in our house with a matching live wreath on our front door.  We typically buy a tree twelve days before Christmas and take it down twelve days after.

On our tree we placed Christmas crackers.  When it was time for Christmas dinner, there was a cracker at every place setting.  When our Mum finally sat down to eat, we would each pull a cracker with the person opposite and we would immediately put on our paper hats and read the terrible jokes inside!  We also had foil wrapped chocolates hanging on our tree.  We would eat them the day we took the tree down, as a small reward for the undecorating chore.

Like children here, we put our stockings out on Christmas Eve.  My Auntie Linda made all of the children in our family a felt stocking with their name sewn on, and although she has been gone for a few years now, we still use our stockings and make them for the new great nieces and nephews she would have adored.  Typical things to get in your stocking are an apple, an orange, chocolate coins, and small trinkets.

Advent calendars were a festive staple too.  For the twenty four days preceding Christmas, we would open a little door on our calendar to see a picture from the nativity scene. At this time, many of the calendars have chocolates inside, which my six year old enjoys greatly. Nowadays, my brother and I like to tease our mother about our hard life with no chocolates in our calendars!

These are some of the special traditions my daughter Felicity and I observe to remember our family across the ocean at this time of year.  Thanks to online shopping and stores like World Market, it is quite easy to buy international delicacies to enjoy over the holidays, abating my homesickness (for the most part)!


For more seasonal recipes check out one of our holiday cookbooks. The library has a great selection of holiday recipe books that can be found in the nonfiction section both on the main floor and children’s floor. We have a large variety of seasonal reading so also be sure to browse our holiday displays. Happy holidays!

Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk and Alison Donnelly, Children’s Librarian

Monday, December 01, 2014

If You Like the Podcast "Serial"...

Telling the story of a teenage girl's 1999 murder in serialized weekly episodes, the show Serial has become podcasting's first breakout hit. Far beyond its 1.5 million listeners per week, the show has created a huge buzz with tons of media coverage, endless online conspiracy theories, and several other podcasts dedicated to dissecting every episode. Serial was created by the makers of public radio stalwart This American Life and so everything is done with great professionalism and class, but what really makes this podcast work so well is the powerful combination of true-crime and teenage melodrama. This is like the entertainment version of double stuffed Oreos and diet Coke, hitting some sweet spot in your brain that instantly craves more.

Fortunately, our library system has lots more items that fit this category available for checkout. Here are just a few examples:

Under the Bridge by Rebecca Godfrey - The beautiful Pacific Northwestern town of Victoria, British Columbia is a nicer and better place to live then approximately 99.8934% of the globe. Still, in 1997 a fourteen year old girl was beaten to death here by a group of her peers. Godfrey's book on this case was a bestseller and won British Columbia's National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction in 2006.

Bully - This 2001 film is based on the book Bully: A True Story of High School Revenge. Director Larry Clark, as is his style, piles on loads of drugs, nudity, and general seediness. The film's best and most haunting scene however, uses the teenage murderers' actual courtroom dialogue.

Pretty Little Killers by Daleen Berry and Geoffrey C. Fuller - Originally released as an e-book under the title The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese, this new print edition adds an extra 100 pages about this sad case of a sixteen year old girl stabbed to death by two of her friends.

Catch Me If You Can by Frank W. Abagnale - Of course, true crime doesn't have to be all death and murder. Abagnale's first-person narrative of his life as a teenage conman details how he wrote $2.5 million worth of bad checks while passing himself off as a pilot, doctor, and lawyer. This biography was eventually made into a film starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Staff Holiday Recipes - Heart Attacks

Sometimes around the holidays you need to give in and just treat yourself to whatever your heart (and taste buds) desire. Today Diane is sharing a devilishly delectable dish that is sure to satisfy any seasonal craving.

Heart Attacks


1. Little Smokies (little hot dogs)
2. Bacon
3. Butter
4. Brown sugar
5. Garlic salt


1. Start with the number of smokies that you want and wrap each one in bacon. 
2. Put them in a dish and apply butter. 
3. Next sprinkle brown sugar and garlic salt on to season them to your liking. 
4. Bake in the oven until bacon is cooked and the inside of the smokie is hot. 
5. Enjoy! 


For more seasonal recipes check out one of our holiday cookbooks. The library has a great selection of holiday recipe books that can be found in the nonfiction section both on the main floor and children’s floor. We have a large variety of seasonal reading so also be sure to browse our holiday displays. Happy holidays!

 Recipe: Diane Wolfe, Administrative Assistant
 Posted by: Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Friday, November 21, 2014

Staff Holiday Recipes - Pecan Praline Cookies

Today's recipe is a traditional family treat from Megan Harris.


Pecan Praline Cookies

This is a recipe that I can remember making with my great grandma as a kid. They're so simple, but so good. It's a nice way to remember someone I love and miss at the holidays.


  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 20 graham cracker squares
  1. Line ungreased cookie sheet with graham cracker squares.
  2. In saucepan, melt margarine and brown sugar.
  3. Bring to rolling boil and boil for 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in chopped pecans.
  5. Pour over graham crackers and spread evenly.
  6. Bake in 350° oven for 10 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool, and break squares into halves.
  8. Enjoy!
Recipe: Megan Harris, Library Clerk
Posted by: Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Book Review: The 13th Gift

The 13th Gift: A True Story of Christmas by Joanne Huist Smith

Many of us are familiar with the Christmas carol “The 12 Days of Christmas.” In this moving true story, Joanne Huist Smith tells how her family received a mysterious gift 13 days before Christmas with a note reading, “On the first day of Christmas your true friends give to you, one Poinsettia for all of you.”  The gift is not exactly welcome as the family is struggling with loss and grief, yet as the gifts continue the Smith family is slowly lifted from despair to hope.

It is a quick read full of emotion and real life. It is a poignant reminder that in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle there are many grieving the loss of a loved one. For these the joy of Christmas past can open a whole new depth of grief and loss. In spite of this sad backdrop, this is a story of the 13th gift. It is a story of joy and hope and paying it forward.

In concluding the book Smith writes, “… one of the greatest gifts we all possess is the ability to give. Wealth isn’t a prerequisite; compassion and a kind heart are all you need. What better way to honor our loved ones, past and present, than to reach out and change a life for the better? And, the holidays are a perfect time to look outside of ourselves and be a true friend.” One of the many lessons of this book is expressed by Megan, the youngest in the family, who was moved to say that every day can be Christmas.

If the spirit of Christmas is giving, then this book captures that spirit and more importantly inspires the reader to look for and respond to opportunities to give. This book would make a great stocking stuffer and is well worth checking out from your library.

To request the book, click here.

To request the audiobook, click here.

Submitted by: Jim Ritter, Library Clerk

Friday, November 07, 2014

Staff Holiday Recipes - Thumbprint Cookies

Happy Holidays! One of the best parts of this magical time of the year is the festive food we enjoy at family gatherings and on cold winter nights throughout the season. Through the holidays will be sharing some of our staff’s favorite recipes and we encourage you to try them yourself! Of course a lot of the time these kinds of dishes are tied to a tradition or memory so the staff may also reflect on what their choice means to them or why it is their favorite. Have fun trying out the staff’s favorite recipes and for more seasonal meals and treats check out one of the library’s many holiday cookbooks!
Our first recipe is from Kyla Waltermire. Kyla's recipe is for a delicious seasonal staple, Thumbprint Cookies.

Thumbprint Cookies

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine (room temperature)

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 to 1/4 cup water (as needed)

Your favorite jam/preserves (I prefer apricot and raspberry)

Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Cream together the butter/margarine, sugar, and vanilla extract. It helps to have the butter at room temperature and add it in gradually. Add in the flour, salt, and water, adding water a little at a time until the mixture just barely sticks together. Roll the dough into small balls approximately the size of a walnut. Place the balls on a cookie sheet and press the tip of your thumb into them to form indents. Add the jam to the indents. Bake at 350 degrees for about 6-10 minutes. Allow to cool before eating (it doesn't take long--almost instant gratification). Makes about 4-6 dozen, depending on the size of the cookies. Bonus: these freeze and rethaw very well!

Recipe: Kyla Waltermire, Adult Services Librarian
Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Friday, October 31, 2014

On This Day In...1993

Actor River Phoenix died of a heroin overdose at the age of 23 on this day in 1993. The star of films such as My Own Private Idaho, Stand By MeThe Mosquito Coast, River's acting career began at the age of 10 after a turbulent early childhood thanks to his parents' involvement in the religious/sex cult Children of God. In addition to acting Phoenix was a vegan, an animal rights, an environmental activist, and a dedicated musician whose "little hippie" band Aleka's Attic released a handful of songs on various soundtracks and benefit albums.

Key Library Checkouts:

The Thing Called Love - This was the last film Phoenix completed and it is actually pretty hard to watch knowing of his drug problems. River mumbles through his lines with his head down and eyes half shut as if his character has EV-D68. Making matters worse, the film's story of young musicians trying to make it in Nashville provides material that almost any young actor trying to make it in Hollywood could just crush; it barely even requires acting. Sandra Bullock especially stands out as the character with the most spunk but the least talent.

Last Night at the Viper Room by Gavin Edwards - Published last year, twenty years after River's death, this biography is comprehensive, well written, and compassionate. A definite must read for Phoenix fans.

Posted by Grahm Underwood, Library Clerk

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Top Ten Best Horror Movie Franchises

The air is getting crisper, the leaves are starting to turn, and Halloween is right around the corner. Countdown to Halloween with us with our picks for the top ten horror movie franchises, then stop in the library to check one out today!

10. Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th is the source for some of the most clichéd horror stereotypes. In nearly every film in the franchise a group of oblivious, lustful teenagers visit Camp Crystal Lake and get picked off in gruesome ways one by one by the hockey mask wearing machete wielding Jason Voorhees. The movies are often intentionally cheesy and sometimes border on outright parody. Through twelve movies Friday the 13th has cemented itself as a B-movie powerhouse with Jason making trips to Manhattan, space, and hell along the way. None of the films are particularly good but in this case that is kind of the point. 

9. Scream
While other films had flirted with it before Wes Craven’s Scream was the first to fully embrace a self aware, sometimes self deprecating humor. The franchise’s niche is messing with horror clichés as in each movie the iconic Ghostface plays upon genre tropes and taunts his victims with horror history. The movies are decent but it’s Ghostface himself who is the real draw – for more than fifteen years now his “screaming ghost” face has been a staple in every store’s Halloween section. 

8. The Mummy
The Mummy has proved one of the most enduring faces of horror for more than half a century now. First appearing in Universal Studio’s The Mummy in 1932 with the legendary Boris Karloff in the title role, the character has gone through numerous incarnations, appearances, and studios. Hammer Studios first rebooted the Mummy with their 1959 film starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee and more recently Universal again rebooted the franchise in 1999 with Brendan Frasier in the lead role. The recent Mummy films have essentially been action movies but have nonetheless managed to keep the series alive and relevant. 

7. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre might very well be the most horrifying and scary series on this list. Starting in 1974, well before any of its mask wearing slasher peers, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has offered nothing but undiluted terror since its inception. The first film is a true masterpiece of horror and is one that even the most seasoned genre fans might still squirm at the thought of watching  in the dark. After a few wacky sequels the series came back in to its own with the 2003 remake starring Jessica Biel, a film nearly as terrifying and horrific as the original. Unfortunately this year’s less than stellar Texas Chainsaw 3D marked a significant step backwards for the series.

6. Nightmare on Elm Street
In both concepts and execution the Nightmare on Elm Street series is among the most creative and unorthodox horror ever made. The series’ dream world setting allows for just about anything to happen and filmmakers have stretched their imaginations to often silly lengths for new shocking ways for their sleepy victims to meet their demise. Lead antagonist Freddy Krueger has endured nearly thirty years as one of the most recognizable characters in horror with his scarred face, striped sweater, brown hat, and blade fingers. None of the films have been anywhere near the quality of the original 1984 masterpiece but the series has at least continued to move in interesting, unpredictable directions (except for the disastrously boring 2010 remake).  

5. Evil Dead
Evil Dead is unique even amongst its B-movie peers. The series has run the gauntlet from outright horror to slapstick comedy and back again across only four movies. The wise cracking, chainsaw-for-a-hand Ash played by cult legend Bruce Campbell offers something not common in these types of films: a superhero. The second film perhaps best bridges the franchise’s horror and comedy with the third being nothing short of a parody and this year’s remake reversing all the way back to its grizzly, gruesome roots. The classic setting of a haunted cabin in the woods has never been captured so perfectly in any other film.

4. Halloween
John Carpenter’s original Halloween is the granddaddy of slasher horror. Preceded only by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hitchcock’s Psycho, Halloween inspired an entire genre of copycats in the 80s including Friday the 13th. The first film is widely regarded as one of the all time horror greats and the direct sequel is solid but unfortunately from there the series descends into a slew of lackluster sequels. It wasn’t until Rob Zombie’s reboot in 2007 that the franchise got back on its feet but luckily Zombie’s film is one of the best remakes ever made.

3. Dracula
Dracula is one of those rare characters that are so iconic there is little that can be said about them. The first film to bear the name was Universal Studio’s 1932Dracula starring Bela Lugosi as the Count and this incarnation has remained the most enduring image of the character. However it was the silent film Nosferatu in 1925 that first took inspiration from Bram Stoker’s novel and actor Max Schrek’s appearance as “Count Orlok” has made a bit of a comeback in recent years. Hammer Studios picked up the franchise in 1958 with Christopher Lee making his first appearance as the fanged nightmare. Lee would go on to play Dracula in six more Hammer films – a record number of appearances for an actor in the role. There have been countless other movies starring the character, most notably Francis Ford Coppola’s version in 1992 starring Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, and Keeanu Reeves as well as Wes Craven’s disappointing Dracula 2000.

2. The Living Dead
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968 is without doubt one of the most influential and widely copied films ever made. Before Romero brought us the undead, shambling, hungry-for-brains zombies that are so popular today zombies in films had still always been associated with voodoo or witchcraft; more brain-dead servants than brain-hungry monsters. Romero continued the modern zombie revolution ten years later with 1978’s excellent Dawn of the Dead. This entry ratcheted up the violence and brought the rotting grave walkers in to color for the first time. Romero’s films are characterized by social messages and topical references and while each entry has marked a decline in quality for the series (all the way up to 2009’s abysmal Survival of the Dead) the franchise has at least retained what sets it apart and makes it significant. 

1.  Frankenstein
If there is one face of horror more enduring and iconic than Dracula it is his longtime pal Frankenstein. The first film was released in 1931 and is credited with launching the entire Universal Monsters brand. If not for the overwhelming success of James Whale’s Frankenstein there may never have been a Dracula, Wolf-Man, Mummy, or any of the other immortal monsters offered by the studio. The first film remains to this day arguably the best horror movie ever made while others will contend that same point for its sequel The Bride of Frankenstein. There have been more than fifty films to feature the character since and an infinite amount of appearances in cartoons, shopping aisles, and on candy wrappers have assured the green faced goblin’s immortal standing in the horror hall of fame.

Halloween is the time for horror. Whether you like scaring yourself silly with the most intense picture you can find or sitting back with an oldie just to get your fill of shadows and cobwebs, make sure to find some time for the ghosts and ghouls this time of year! 

Written by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

*This list was originally published last year on the Collinsville Library blog.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Brief History of Xbox

              Microsoft made a foray into the gaming world in 2001 with its first system, Xbox.  Even more than the PlayStation, the Xbox was touted as an adult gaming machine. Most of the system’s notable titles were rated Mature and even the box’s bulky shape, rough patterns, and stark green and black color contrast contributed to its edgy persona. Released just three days before Nintendo’s Gamecube, Microsoft aggressively assailed Nintendo as a “kiddie” console and looked to cut in to Sony’s reputation as the mature alternative.
                The Xbox was released alongside a (at the time) little known title called Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo is a first-person shooter (FPS) in which the player interacts with the world through the point of view of the character and the game play revolves around fast paced, tense shootouts. There had been first-person shooters before, notably Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64, but Halo would go on to be a revolution in mainstream gaming and an entertainment juggernaut.
                Xbox was one of the first game consoles to feature online capabilities and it indisputably did more to advance this trend than anyone else with its Xbox Live service. Xbox Live is a subscription service through which users can play any of the system’s games online as well as download new content for those games after their initial release. It also operates as a virtual hub with access to nearly limitless digital media including movies, music, and games. In subsequent years, Xbox Live has evolved into a a sort of home media mothership with possible connectivity to other media services like Netflix and YouTube. Streaming services, movie rentals, apps, social networking, and even exclusive, independently produced games are just part of what Xbox Live offers today. Back in 2002, Xbox Live’s ability for players to easily and smoothly play competitive games such as first person shooters and sports titles, with convenient features like voice chat and friend lists, alone produced a new standard for online gaming.
                The Xbox would outperform the Gamecube but never come close to reaching the Playstation 2 in total sales. Still, the system was considered a success and powerfully established Microsoft as a force in the video game market.. With a successful first system and the company’s bottomless coffers behind it, the Xbox brand was just getting started.
                The Xbox 360 released in 2005 and cemented Microsoft as a top dog in the industry. While its success was partially eclipsed by Nintendo’s phenomenon the Wii, the 360 would claim the mature gaming crown from Sony’s PlayStation 3 and, largely through the evolution of Xbox Live, present the brand as the leader in gaming trends and culture. The Xbox 360 was received especially well in North America and with titles like Halo 3, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, and Gears of War, coupled with the system’s advanced online capability, the Box endeared itself to “hardcore” and competitive gamers like no other system.
                Even while the Xbox 360 is still alive and well (and will be until at least 2016 according to Microsoft), its newer, more powerful predecessor, the Xbox One, is now the flagship system for Microsoft. The Xbox One, in addition to standard enhancements such as improving graphical capabilities, expands upon the 360’s focus on the Live service and the motion sensing technology known as Kinect. The Xbox One took a nasty beating in its nearly concurrent release against its most direct competition the PlayStation 4 but it is not yet even a year old and is consistently gaining ground on Nintendo’s Wii U. Compared to Sony and Nintendo Microsoft might still be the new kid on the block but Xbox is already a proven rival peer and certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Posted by Terry Pierson, Library Clerk

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book Review- Before Amen

Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado

It is hard for me to imagine that I would ever be disappointed by a book by Max Lucado.  I have read all of them and enjoyed each one very much until now.  In his newest book, Before Amen, Lucado explores the power of a simple prayer.  While I agree with the author that prayer is indeed powerful and that God answers prayer, this work comes very close to promising that the book's "pocket prayer" is virtually guaranteed to get an answer.  This led not only to my disappointment but also may lead the reader to a misunderstanding of the nature of prayer and the ways God answers.

Still, there are some gems in this book.  Lucado uses his own relationship with his daughter to point out how God invites us to approach Him as little children approach their own parents with complete trust.  Kids ask because they understand that their parents are usually good to them.  We as God's creation ask Him because He is good, and able to provide all that we need.  Many of us are most likely to pray when we or one of our loved ones is sick.  We pray, "Lord heal me, heal him/her."  Lucado points out that Jesus hears these prayers, is moved by these prayers, and answers them with immediate healing, gradual healing, or, for those who have faith in Him, ultimate healing.

This idea of ultimate healing leads nicely into the chapter on forgiveness.  In a brief, clear look at the Day of Atonement ritual of Judaism, Lucado illustrates how the guiltless scapegoat takes away the sin of the sinful.  Lucado encourages us to place our sin on the true sin-bearer and be assured that our sin is forgiven.  In the chapter "They Need Help," Lucado uses several examples from scripture to illustrate the importance of praying for others and for being persistent in those prayers.  In another (rather disappointing) chapter Lucado provides an alphabetical list of things that he is thankful for.  The encouragement to be thankful in all things and at all times is well taken, but the method comes off as gimmicky.  In the final chapter, Lucado explains why so many of our prayers are offered in Jesus' name.  It is a good reminder of the power and privilege we have because of Jesus.

This book, like many of Lucado's previous works, comes with an included study guide written by Lucado's daughter.  The study encourages the reader to delve deeper into each chapter by using the acronym "P.R.A.Y." (Personalize, Reflect, Abide, and Yield).  The acronym tool was not my favorite, but the study itself includes many helpful Bible verses to explore and some good questions to help the reader develop a richer prayer life.

If you are looking for a quick introduction to prayer, then Before Amen may be of some help.  For a true Lucado treatment of prayer, though, I recommend The Great House of God, which is an excellent study of the Lord's Prayer.

Submitted by Jim Ritter, Library Clerk