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Game on!

Game reviews by Brandon, Elizabeth, Justine, Kristin, and Stacy. 

Hello everyone! To celebrate the start of the new year, we hope you’ll enjoy these reviews of our favorite games we played throughout the weird year that was 2020! 

 Today's theme

Our favorite games of 2020 – not limited to games released in 2020, but games we played in 2020! 

Final Fantasy VII and Fall Guys 
Final Fantasy

"Promise has been made; they are coming back" When the ominous narrator announced this at the E3 teaser trailer in 2015, I immediately became both excited and terrified. One of the most influential games of my childhood was being remade. How could they possibly meet my expectations? Well, not only did they meet my expectations, but they far surpassed them. A fast-paced combat system acts as a brilliant reinvention of the battles we know and love. Phenomenal graphics showcase Midgar just as you remembered it from the days of the PS1. Most importantly though, the story acts as a loveletter to fans of the original, while also bringing meaningful twists that make for a compelling story once again, over 20 years later. Now excuse me while I put on “One-Winged Angel” for the one hundred and ninth time. 

Fall Guys
I’ve made it no secret that I’m a huge fan of games with a strong storyline and a great single player campaign. However, I find myself listing a multiplayer game with no story whatsoever, as my second favorite game of the year. You ever see those game shows with people dodging ridiculous obstacles and trying to make it to the end of the course? Well, imagine that, only with 59 other players at the same time, and everyone is some kind of weird jellybean...thing. You could also call this Endorphin Rush: The Game. The vibrant graphics and groovy music will hook you right from the get go, and the zany gameplay will keep you hooked. There is technically an option to pay for additional in game currency, but all of the best rewards are locked behind gameplay achievements, which is very refreshing to see. Survive each round and you will truly become, top jellybean...thing. - Brandon 

 Hades by SuperGiant Games  


Zagreus, the protagonist of Hades, looks like he’s going to be moody or mean. He’s all fire and brimstone, with flaming feet and a skull on his shoulder. Nope! He’s not mean at all! Zagreus is just a teenager who likes petting his three-headed dog, talking to friends, and escaping from hell while fighting various terrifying creatures.  

Hades is a roguelike game: try to escape, die, start over, rinse, repeat. In Hades, though, every time you die, you get more story: you can help heartbroken couples reunite, bond with your family, make friends, and even romance a few characters should you so choose, all while solving the mystery of Zagreus’s past. That’s why my brother has beaten this game multiple times, while I get to gloat because I know plot secrets. Plus, there’s a God Mode if you really get fed up, so you can enjoy the story without all of the pain of dying again and again. (And pet Cerberus, of course! The bestest boy.) - Elizabeth 

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn 

For most, the Fire Emblem franchise might be a little annoying because they’ve only ever known it as that series of characters in Smash Bros. Ultimate that takes up half the roster. For diehard fans like myself, the JRPG series so much more than that, and I spent this year reliving my childhood by replaying one of my old favorites and playing its predecessor for the first time. Two ultra rare Nintendo games, Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for the GameCube and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn for the Wii are fan favorites for those who were lucky enough to get their hands on them back in 2005 and 2007 respectively. Nowadays, most people end up having to enjoy them on emulators or shell out hundreds on eBay to get their hands on them due to their limited availability, which leads me to the hope that one day the Switch will get a port or a remake so everyone can enjoy them as much as I do!  

Path of Radiance 

Path of Radiance was a true delight for me as a first time player. While I basically knew the story and have replayed its sequel, Radiant Dawn, to the point of wearing out my copy, I had never gotten to play the first game in the series until this year. It was incredibly satisfying to hear the GameCube theme as I booted up the ancient little box. The endorphins were flowing before the game even loaded! Unlike current installments, Path of Radiance features “perma-death,” meaning if any of your units die in battle, they stay dead unless you reset. There’s also no way to save your progress before making a move mid-battle, so strategy is paramount. I found the game extremely difficult even on the easiest mode, but the challenge was welcome. The thrill of winning a battle without losing any of my favorite characters was unparalleled. Seeing the main protagonist Ike as a teenager, as many know him from Smash Bros., gave me a new appreciation for the character. In the sequel he’s powerful and sure of himself from years of being a mercenary, but in Path of Radiance he lacks confidence and has to be babied on the battlefield until he’s strong enough to fend for himself. Charting his growth as a character was a joy! 

Radiant Dawn

Radiant Dawn for me is a safe refuge, like coming home. I’ve replayed the game so many times that I have my strategies mapped out to a science and I can practically play in my sleep. I have so many fond memories of playing the game with my brothers and comparing strategies, and some not-so-fond ones of them accidentally saving over my save file and having to start over. The nostalgia hit me harder than ever as I replayed the game, enjoying the story as much as I did the first time and finally understanding references to Path of Radiance that didn’t make sense to me before. Perhaps I have rose-tinted glasses on when it comes to Radiant Dawn, but despite its flaws it remains one of my favorite games of all time and it’s always there for me when I need respite from the stresses of real life. It’s a wonderful end to Ike’s story and without it, we’d never have Ike in Smash Bros.! What a sad day that’d be. - Justine 


Welp, I started a bunch of games this year and finished almost none of them. Hades was neat, but Elizabeth covered that. I finally got into The Witcher III, but I have so much content left it doesn't seem fair to review it yet. Ori and the Will of the Wisps was everything I hoped for, minus the dark level which was--augh. Why do games still have dark levels? They're never fun. The new Pokemon expansions were neat (overworld following!), though short. I picked up the Fire Emblem Pop Star game (?) over the Thanksgiving sale and it's surprisingly well-done. Phasmophobia is hands-down the best play-with-friends game I've found in ages.   

Overall, though, if I had to review the one game I liked best this year-- based on play time alone, consistently, all year-- it'd have to be Overwatch. 


I just never seem to get bored with this game. I have over 275 hours on Ana and I still love playing at least a few nights a week. The games are fast-paced, unlike the hide-and-wait style of games like Valorant. The roster of 32 characters with unique powers and abilities also feels so much more dynamic and vibrant in contrast to standard military shooters. There are, after all, a talking gorilla and hamster on cast. I love the emphasis on team dynamics and coordinated gameplay, and the focus on narrow tightly-tuned maps instead of sprawling battle royale expanses. You're meant to always know where your allies are and to work closely with them, and the combos feel very rewarding to pull off.  

I never really understood the draw of watching sports before this, but Overwatch is an eSport I could actively follow-- especially a support streamer like mL7. This must be what little kids feel like watching NBA games and then playing on the neighborhood basketball hoop. I watch matches played by a top-tier Ana player then jump into a game myself and try to emulate him-- with an overall very average level of play, true, but every now and then I get lucky and pull off a pro move and get that feeling like, "--and the crowd goes wild aaaaaaa." This game is endlessly fun and I love it.  -Kristin 

The Cat Lady and The Longest Journey 

2020 should have been the year of completing my backlog of video games – what, with the outside world shutting down and then there was that whole being locked inside for a good few months out of the year. Yet – despite the extra time being home, I recall only completing maybe three games out of the large handful of games I started; Final Fantasy VII, Sonic Generations, and The Cat Lady. Of course, it would be easy to go on and on about the new Final Fantasy VII remake or my nostalgic love for Sonic Generations - but instead I am going to talk about The Cat Lady.  

The Cat Lady

Mature Content Warning: The Cat Lady is a puzzle-based indie psychological horror and is not a game for children. Developed by Harvester Games and released in 2009 The Cat Lady follows Susan Ashworth, a chronically depressed, middle-aged woman with no friends, as she returns to the land of living with the new power of immortality to rid the world of five evil psychopaths. One thing I reallyreally liked about this game was how easy the controls ended up being – you need nothing more than the arrow keys on your keyboard, and escape to exit/pullup the start menu. This allows the player to fully immerse in the game and the story that it’s characters are laying out. The other thing I really liked about this game were the topics it hit on. Unlike most video games that focus on big picture items such as saving the world/the human race, this game deals with topics that are a bit more personal and harder to swallow. Some of the themes of this game include depression, suicide, murder, and cancer. If you’re looking for a game that will make this year feel less of a depressing garbage fire, probably look again. This game was immensely triggering and hard to get through – but it hit on topics that I personally feel are important to explore in a way that is engaging, interesting, and meaningful.  

The Longest Journey

Earlier this month I finally picked up and started playing the 1999 game, The Longest Journey developed by Funcom. This is a game that has been on my list for the past 10+ years and only now do I finally own a laptop capable of running older PC games. I was a huge fan of the sequel Dreamfall: The Longest Journey when that was originally released back in 2006, and I helped support and kickstart the third and final installment, Dreamfall Chapters, a couple of years ago. I am looking forward to being able to start 2021 with The Longest Journey and I’m very excited to use 2021 to play through and finish the entire series! - Stacy 

Tell us what you think!
What games did you start, finish, or set aside in 2020? What games are you looking forward to the most in 2021?  
Posted by [email protected]  On Jan 02, 2021 at 9:37 AM
Read It!

APL Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2020

“Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are.”  

While we spent more time at home than anywhere else in 2020, books were able to transport us to anywhere in the world (or beyond)! Some were educational. Some were for entertainment. Some were an escape – to a far away world, or a different world just around the corner; into the future or the past; the start of a grand adventure or embracing the mundane everyday – every book took us somewhere. As we start to reflect on the year that has come and gone, our staff share some of their favorite reads.  

Elizabeth’s Pick: “Raybearer” by Jordan Ifueko 
Let’s talk about magic. Picture the first book you remember that made you feel like you’d stepped into another world. The colors felt more vibrant, right? You could imagine the world’s history, picture the wide halls and secret places, wonder about the magic, cheer for the brave young teen who wanted nothing more than to protect their friends and help good triumph over evil. 
That’s “Raybearer”, and I want this to become the next wildly popular fantasy series. Here’s a short, spoiler-free summary: Tarisai must compete to become one of Prince Dayo’s trusted, telepathically-bonded-for-life council. However, if she’s chosen, she’ll be magically compelled to kill the prince, her first true friend.  
Not persuaded yet? Here's what waits for you in this book. Do you like kind and clever heroines who fight for justice despite being cursed? Here you go. How about a detailed fantasy world full of fairies, alagbato (djinn/genies), and magical powers? There’s a country in this book where children are born to walk through the land of the dead, and a country filled with shapeshifters. There’s a corrupt dark secret in the empire, a secret backstory for the heroine, and everything else you long for in a fantasy world. Plus: it's the first in a series, so if you like it, you have plenty to look forward to! It’s on Hoopla right now. Stop reading this review and go get it! 

Erin’s Pick: “The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman 
In a tranquil retirement village called Cooper’s Chase, four unexpected friends meet weekly to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. When a local businessman is found dead, the Thursday Murder Club makes it their mission to solve the crime!  
This book was an absolute delight! It was funny and smart with endearing and compelling characters, even the minor ones. The plot was twisting and turning and Osman writes with such a tenderness and affection for, not only elderly people, but humanity in general, you just come away feeling good inside. I really loved this one. Very excited for the next one to roll out. I'd love to retire to Cooper's Chase!  

Megan’s Pick: “The Mother Code” by Carole Stivers 
When a virus runs amok (sound familiar, anyone??), and threatens the whole of humanity, a group of scientists scramble to genetically engineer embryos who are immune to the disease. However, with the speed the virus is overtaking the world, there are serious concerns about anyone remaining alive to raise these children. Enter a new type of AI – the Mother Code – specifically created to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing needs of a human, from infancy to adulthood, while keeping the child safe throughout it’s life. 
I love all science-fiction, but what I really find impactful is when an author creates a world that allows us to examine our current existence and norms, and nudge things down a path of future possibility in a realistic manner. The scenarios created are all logical steps forward, and the characters are regular humans; flawed, but trying their best to do what’s right for the future - no superheroes in this tale.  
This narrative jumps between timelines, from the onset of the virus to the future, where the immune children are being raised by Robot Mothers. The transitions between past and present are smooth, and following the storyline between timelines is deeply satisfying - all of the hints and clues click together to form connections between past and present. Overall, Stivers presents us with a refreshingly hopeful outlook on humanity’s relationship with technology, and our future as a species.  This is Carol Stivers’ second book, and I’m looking forward to her future stories.  

Nicole’s Pick: “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens 
This book was one of my favorite reads of 2020. I had heard so much hype about this book for the last couple years that when my book club suggested we read it, I was looking forward to it yet skeptical at the same time. This book has long wait lists at the library, has been given multiple awards and has even managed to stay on the New York Time’s Bestseller list for 32 non-consecutive weeks! However, I must say this book was totally worth the hype!   
The story follows the journey of Kya Clark, also known as the Marsh Girl around town, and her experiences of growing up alone, love and loss, and finding herself along the marshes of Barkley Cove where she is the lone suspect of a murder case. The story takes us back and forth between the present day in 1969 where the murder takes place and 17 years before that where we see Kya grow up from a small awkward girl into a beautiful wild woman. There are twists and turns you don’t see coming, and a sweet budding romance that is perfect for a coming of age story. I couldn’t put this book down, it kept my attention until the very end! 
Those who enjoy romance, suspense and a strong female lead will definitely enjoy this book. 

Sara’s Pick: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins 
One of my favorite reads from 2020 was “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”, Suzanne Collins’ prequel to “The Hunger Games”, following the life of Coriolanus Snow. It has been a long while since I had visited Panem, and I was honestly skeptical when I heard this prequel was being released. I loved “The Hunger Games” trilogy with our heroine Katniss so much – would I really care about Snow as a young adult? Yes. Very much, yes.  
"The Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds" was just as enthralling as the original trilogy; I could not put it down. I've read many books before the Hunger Games and after, but there is something about this series that makes it hard to not consume all in one sitting. From a dystopian future to a unique cast of characters, from the (sometimes terrifying) biological inventions that come from the Capitol and the underlying commentary of human nature – it all make this series so good! Collins did an astounding job expanding on the world of Panem and setting the scene for what would become the world we know in the trilogy. Knowing how corrupt Snow becomes, it was interesting to read his backstory and get a glimpse of how a young Coryo, our protagonist in this novel, becomes the villain President Snow. 
Overall, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is an engaging read and a truly great addition to “The Hunger Games” series. From beginning to end, there were twists and surprises that kept me guessing and immersed in the world of Panem as Snow worked his way through challenges to discover his ultimate fate and future.

Stacy’s Pick: “The Bear” by Andrew Krivak 
This book was by far my favorite read of 2020! This novel follows the story of a young girl and her father as she grows up in an almost-apocalyptic maybe-not-so-distant future. It focuses mainly on how she learns the stories of her passed mother, learns what civilization used to be like, and how to live, adapt, and survive alone in the mountains. 
One of the biggest reasons I loved this book - as someone who has gone through the loss of a parent, I resonated strongly with the main protagonist as she overcomes losing hers. The feelings and thought processes the girl goes through as she learns to accept her loss felt very reminiscent to how I felt. Although the situations were very different, the feelings are universal after a close loss such as that. While it was a difficult situation to digest, I love books that make me feel raw emotions. 
On a lighter note, this book very much reminded me of an adult version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books. In a very simplified plot, this is a story of a child who grows up in the wilderness with two parental humanoid/animal figures. One of my favorite books/Disney movies since I was child, I was very very excited to be able to pick out hidden references and allusions (which may or may not have been intentional).  
As hard as I try, I can’t seem to put a finger on what genre this novel is. I would say it’s something between a dystopian novel, a coming of age story, and a survival tale. Though limiting this novel to just one of these three genres feels like an injustice as they all impact one another.  

Tessy’s Pick: “Wild Seed” by Octavia E. Butler 
“Wild Seed” was almost the first book of the year for me, and it was the second time I read this particular book. I love reading Butler’s science fiction works, and “Wild Seed” and the first novel in her “Xenogenesis” series, “Dawn”, always stand out for me.  
“Wild Seed” is the earliest book in her “Patternist” series, and the book I recommend readers start with (even though it’s the fourth book in the chronology). The “Patternist” series is a secret history that starts in Ancient Egypt, and through biological engineering, a group of telepaths emerge and gain dominance in society. “Wild Seed” is the beginning of this story, with two African immortals vying for power as they live through the centuries. Their choices are the incipience of the timeline.  
“Wild Seed” in particular is extremely interesting as you watch the power struggle between the two immortals, along with the gender dynamics and taking into consideration the powers that make them immortal. Doro is a spirit that can take over other people’s bodies, and in the process killing them. Anyanwu has complete control over her body, she can heal herself and change it into anything living. Eugenics and biological engineering come into play as well. However, the reason I love this book (and Butler’s other works) is for the Afrocentrism and Anyanwu as a strong black female protagonist, which can be hard to find in science fiction even now.  

Virginia’s Pick: “Frontier Follies” by Ree Drummond 
Having lived in Oklahoma for over a decade – I can relate to Ree’s stories of living out on a ranch and the liveliness that comes with it. O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A, where the wind comes blowing down the plains! 😊  
In this relatable, charming book, Ree unveils real goings-on in the Drummond house and around the ranch. In stories brimming with the lively wit and humor found in her cookbooks and her bestselling love story, The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Ree pulls back the curtain and shares her experiences with childbirth, wildlife, isolation, teenagers, in-laws, and a twenty-five-year marriage to a cowboy/rancher. 
A celebration of family life, love, and (mostly) laughter, “Frontier Follies” is a keepsake to curl up with, have a good laugh, and remember all that’s wonderful (and funny) about family. 
Posted by [email protected]  On Dec 26, 2020 at 8:18 AM

Game on!
 Game reviews by Kristin, Brandon, and Stacy

Hello everyone! We hope you’ll enjoy these reviews for free games to amuse, or frustrate, you!  These are a all browser games and none of them will cost you anything to play.

Today's theme
Games that make you go AAAAUGH

Game One
A browser-based game available here


The premise is simple—on your keyboard, the letters Q & W extend the runner’s thigh muscles, and O & P control his calves. What results is the most uncoordinated, undignified series of face-plants you could possibly imagine. What’s particularly great is, when you’re making even a teeny bit of progress, the music picks up like in an inspiring sports movie. Pro strat: If you get in a kneeling position you can wiggle your way a good distance… until you hit the first hurdle. And yes, if anyone recognized the style, this game was created by the same designer who created Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy.   -Kristin

This game broke me as a human. Not only did QWOP go splat, but so did my pride - Brandon
Game 2
Fly Sui 
A browser-based game available here

Fly Sui
This infuriating game is about catching flies with chopsticks. Each fly you catch gives you more time. Catching them is nearly impossible. In college, some friends and I got really competitive and played this for days, posting screenshots of each new high score. After a while, you get into a meditative trance. You don’t just see the fly, you see where the fly will be, like seeing through the Matrix. You don’t just catch the fly, you are the fly. Best score we saw was 11.   -Kristin

I refuse to believe anybody can score in this game. I chop, but they don’t stop! The constant buzzing, I can’t escape it. I just wanted to catch one fly! - Brandon

Wow. This game. I didn’t think there could be a game more frustrating than QWOP until this. My inability to catch flies with one mouse click it somehow stings more than the confusing controls of QWOP and other like “I Am Bread.”  - Stacy

High scores: (after 10 minutes)
Kristin – 4
Brandon – 0
Stacy –  2
Game 3
Winnie the Pooh’s Home Run Derby
A browser-based game available here

Winnie the Pooh Home Run Derby

If you haven’t heard of this game, buckle in for some internet history. This game became a viral hit back in 2013 due to its insane difficulty. The controls are slow, it requires preternatural reflexes and when you get to higher levels the pitchers cheat with things like invisible or warping balls. The final boss is Christopher Robin, who was difficult enough to inspire dozens of memes depicting him as an Eldritch horror. Pro strat: Click the ‘Status’ button on the home screen to upgrade your abilities, such as Contact to make it easier to hit the ball. I only learned you could do this while writing this review, so no wonder I couldn’t get past Piglet the first time around.    -Kristin

This game, I remember this game. It lures you into such a false sense of security. Pleasant music, vibrant colors, and the frame rate seems to hold up! The menu is very responsive, and it’s natural to think you are in a for a good time. The true nature of this game begins to reveal itself in about five minutes in. The hit detection is way off, the music repeats constantly with no variety and worst of all, the pitchers all just stare at you, with their cold eyes. They challenge you, they dare you to take them on. Are you up for the challenge? (No, no you are not. I’m lucky I tied with Kristin)   - Brandon

Probably if I had known about the updates, I would have gotten farther than Piglet! But alas, Piglet was where my skills ended. I find the only way I could get home runs was if I blocked out the music and unfocused my eyes and only focused on the sounds of the pitcher throwing. Even then, it was a chance if I actually got a hit! - Stacy

High scores: (after 10 minutes)
Kristin – 11/12 vs. Kanga
Brandon –  11/12 vs Kanga
Stacy – 5/5 vs Lumpy
Tell us what you think!

Shatter one of our records? Let us know! Post your victories (or defeats) in the comments, we love to hear about it.
Posted by [email protected]  On Dec 18, 2020 at 1:08 PM
Game on!
Game reviews by Elizabeth, Kristin and Stacy.

Hello everyone! To celebrate fall and the season of all things spooky, we hope you’ll enjoy these reviews of our favorite horror video games!

Today's theme
Games that intend to frighten, scare or disgust – if we’re lucky, maybe all three!

Game 1
We Were Here
Available on PC
We Were Here
“Now, I don’t mean to rush you. Take your time. I might be dying, but it’s fine.”

We Were Here is an escape room that taps into that truest of horrors: trusting other people. Do you want to survive a room filling with water, get out of a locked tomb, or avoid freezing to death in the bitter cold? You’d better communicate with your friends! One of you is locked in a series of dangerous rooms; the other is locked in a room with clues. However, the clues are cryptic – even more than the typical escape room, and I say that as a fan. As you progress through the puzzles, new rooms unlock for each of you, until (hopefully) you’re standing in the entrance hall, looking out at the snow and freedom once more.

Most of this game isn’t horror. Spooks lurk at the edges of this escape room. You walk past old tombs and rattling chains, hear faint shrieks from the walls. Most of the time, you’re far too focused on surviving the next puzzle to worry TOO much about the terrible Things out there that might get you. But I promise, there is an intensely spooky scene. During one puzzle, a horrifying monster with glowing eyes inches closer and closer to the player while tinkling bells play in the background. Will you survive? That depends entirely on your partner, who is probably stammering over how to direct you as the lights flicker on and off.  During my first time through the escape room, the terrifying creature definitely did catch up with the puzzle-solver: a shriek over the mic let everyone know exactly what had happened.

We Were Here is free to play on PC. If you like it, it’s the first of a series. - Elizabeth

Game 2 
The Open House
A browser-based game available

The Open House

This quick browser-based horror game went low-key viral in March of 2020 when a handful of streamers played it live. The game starts by masquerading as a generic real estate listing that offers a 3D tour, but don't be fooled--the home has a gory history bleeding through the seams. The Open House depends on atmosphere, ambient noise, and some jump scares to entertain, but it's still a fun ride. All said, the game takes about 20 minutes to complete, and that's factoring me getting lost at the end trying to figure out how to progress (hint: hit tab).

While not the scariest game on the planet, this game is above all free and browser-based, so if you're looking for a quick scare to get you in the Halloween spirit, give this a try. It's especially great to play in the dark with friends for some good laughs.  – Kristin

Game 3
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Available on Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4 & Xbox One

Resident Evil 7

New to Resident Evil? Haven't played games 1 through 6? Worried you won’t know what's going on? No worries! Resident Evil 7 is almost entirely unrelated and unlike the previous games in this series. For new players, this is great news! This self-contained story makes it fairly easy to just pick up and learn the story as you go. There aren’t any repeat or important main characters you’re supposed to know that randomly show up to move the story along. Honestly, the only benefit I could see to having played the previous games beforehand is that it might make you a little bit more prepared for what the overarching storyline is.

If you are a returning player to the Resident Evil series and want a game more similar to the first few games – this might not be for you. However, if you are looking for something scary, intense, and appetite losing, than look no further! This is the first and only Resident Evil game to play through a first person perspective rather than an over the shoulder 3rd person perspective, making it feel more similar to games such as Outlast. Rather than focusing on solely horror, this game focuses a lot of its attention on world exploration. This is also one of the few games that doesn’t reference the previous games and characters, making it truly an outlier in the Resident Evil series.

I highly highly highly recommend this game to fans of first person horror video games. This game is both interesting in story and plot, the game mechanics are so smooth, the exploration never feels tedious – and for those of you with VR, you can even experience the horrors of Biohazard as if you were actually there! Well, for those who are brave enough to go through THAT ordeal. - Stacy

Tell us what you think!
Played one of these games we listed? Know of another horror game we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by [email protected]  On Oct 24, 2020 at 9:48 AM
Read It!

Review of "Nothing to See Here" by Kevin Wilson
by Nicole S.

Hello again! As promised I will be giving my review from our latest book club pick which was "Nothing To See Here" by Kevin Wilson. One of my awesome friends from Wisconsin suggested this book! 

Nothing to See Here

As you can see from the cover, it looks to be an interesting book. It was published this past year in October and became a New York Times Bestseller and A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick. This story revolves around two women, Lillian and Madison who in their teenage years became inseparable friends despite their vastly different backgrounds. Lillian, in the midst of a scandal, is forced to leave her school unexpectedly and the two friends drift apart. Then out of the blue Madison writes a letter to Lillian begging for her help. Madison’s stepkids are moving into her house and she has asked Lillian to be their caretaker. These stepkids, twins - a boy and a girl, are incredibly unique. Whenever they get agitated or deeply upset, they spontaneously combust, with flames that ignite from their skin. Yes, you read that right. They burst into flames! With Lillian’s life already a disappointment, she figures she has nothing to lose and agrees to care for these fiery children. The more she learns about these children, the more she realizes she needs them as much as they need her. What could go wrong? 

This book was available as both formats, book and audiobook, and being partial to listening to books, I opted for the audiobook version. My friends in my virtual book club opted for the print format and all of us genuinely enjoyed this book. It is categorized in fiction as magical realism, for the elements of fire that ignite from the children’s bodies that does no harm to them whatsoever. The premise is what peaked our interest - we wanted to find out why and how these children could burst into flame! But then as we continued in this story we all agreed that there were also elements of what being a family truly means, and that not all families are created, some can be chosen too. The main character, Lillian, is a down-to-earth and relatable character. She grew up with an awful home life and has been searching for something – anything - that will give her true happiness. Madison, on the other hand, has had her life handed to her on a silver platter, and doesn’t understand what hardship is truly like; until she meets her husband’s kids. We understood the love and respect Lillian has shown Madison throughout her life, but had a hard time viewing it reciprocated. We knew that Madison trusted Lillian to know her family’s “flaming” secret so to speak, but it was hard for us to gauge whether Madison truly valued what Lillian was willing to do for her.  

A couple of my friends in the book club have families of their own so it made this discussion interesting especially when we asked them how they would handle having children spontaneously combust. Obviously it would be hard and they would need the proper safety measures to ensure their house and everything will still be standing if one of their kids happened to have a meltdown. But they said it would also take a lot of patience to try to learn and understand how and why their kids would get agitated and the best ways to calm them down. This seemed to be very similar to Lillian’s approach with the kids. Madison’s was the opposite. She wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. But then again, these were only her stepkids.  

All in all this was a real page turner and you wanted to keep reading to find out what happens to these children, and if Lillian ever finds true happiness and meaning in her life. This book has characters you will grow to love and others you like to complain about. If you read this book and enjoyed it, you will enjoy other books that Kevin Wilson has read such as, “The Family Fang” and “Perfect Little World”. 
For books similar to “Nothing to See Here,” check out “Dear Edward” by Ann Napolitano, “Ask Again, Yes” by Mary Beth Keane, and “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett. 

Check back for my next review for our book club pick, “The Kitchen House” by Kathleen Grissom.  
Posted by [email protected]  On Sep 25, 2020 at 1:52 PM

Game on!
Game reviews by Elizabeth, Justine, and Tessy.

Hello everyone! If you’re looking for games that are longer in length, heavy with plot, and driven by story – these games are for you! These games are our all-time favorite story driven games; we hope you’ll enjoy these reviews and recommendations!
Today's theme
Story-Drive Role-Playing Video Games

Game One

Dragon Age 
Available on Xbox 360, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Microsoft Windows, OS X, and iOS

Dragon Age

If you love story-based fantasy games, and you haven’t yet stumbled across Bioware’s Dragon Age series, I recommend it will all of my heart. Let’s give this review a bit of perspective with a game of “Would you rather?”. If someone asked me if I had to choose between two video game series, Witcher and Dragon Age, and the one I didn’t pick would be wiped off my computer and mysteriously crash every time I every tried to install it again... I would choose to keep Dragon Age. Without hesitation. Pausing for the gasp of shock, how could I denigrate one of the mostly highly rated game from the past few years that is a book series and a TV show? Yes I’m still holding to my decision. Both games are a three part series moving from bad graphics to gorgeous, with ever elevating game-play, complexity, and just all around awesomeness. Both have lore so expansive I could build them libraries, with a dash of fluff (or not so fluff) romance, and elements of the ever sought after “your-choices-matter-somewhat"". But where Dragon Age pulls ahead is their character customization and game companions. You are the gruff and grizzled warrior Warden, the flirty and light-footed Carta rogue, or the crusading Vashoth Qunari mage. And (unless you cheat via Wiki) that character is only grudgingly aiding you in your quest while that one adores you, but that one over there holds a secret that might ruin your entire mission. That sense of emersion and personal stakes is a necessary element to a story-based RPG that you’ll be investing hours and hours of your life into, and is the only reason why you won’t fling your keyboard/controller away in disgust at all of the side missions (that both of them have an abundance of).   

Now that I’ve hopefully intrigued you, here are a few basics. Bioware’s Dragon Age series currently has three games, with rumors of the fourth game having been confirmed at Gamescom 2020 with early production teasers. The game series takes place in the fantasy world of Thedas full of rich history and magic, and if you gave me this entire blog post I would outline the lay of the land for you with a color-coded map and a lot of arrows and doodles. Suffice to say, in the first game, the stakes are pretty clear. You are the accidental hero tasked with gathering your team and uniting the kingdom of Ferelden (in Thedas) against a tainted evil, the darkspawn. What are darkspawn? Where did they come from? How do we kill them? Well the first game will involve lots of the latter and fans are hoping Dragon Age 4 will clear up the first two questions. After a variety of endings where evil is still vanquished (for now), we move on to Dragon Age 2. For those familiar with Bioware’s other story-based RPG, Mass Effect (also amazing but with spaceships), Dragon Age is a bit different since each story has its own main character, probably because your choices can lead to your death. So, in Dragon Age 2 you get stuck as a human (a mistake Bioware hasn’t made again), and fleeing with the aid of a dragon from the darkspawn invasion from the first game, you start your life anew in Kirkwall, a former slave city, and hope the giant statues outside the docks aren’t an ominous foreshadowing of your future (they are). From there, you’ll inevitably get involved in epic plotlines, even though you’re just trying to ensure that your family and found-family survives (good luck with that). A chain-reaction is sparked (you contribute) and a war breaks out that sweeps you right into Dragon Age 3, where once again you are an accidental hero tasked with saving all of Thedas, but this time from demons. At least you get a castle where you can stand on the ramparts and think heavy leadership thoughts this time. In the first game I tried it with the pond, and it just didn’t have the same effect.  This is all a gross oversimplification of an amazing game series (And I didn’t even get to mention the romances! That would be an entirely separate blog post!), but I hope its enough that when the series goes on sale as Dragon Age 4 looms on the horizon, you’ll give it a chance, and end up loving the series just as much as I do. – Tessy

Game 2
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Available on Nintendo Switch
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses for the Nintendo Switch isn’t just a game. It’s an experience. It’s easily in my top 5 favorite video games of all time and is a must-have if you’re a Switch owner looking for an adventure worth your time and money. You play as Byleth, a professor at an Officers Academy called Garreg Mach Monastery where you must choose between teaching one of three houses: the Black Eagles, the Blue Lions, or my personal favorite, the Golden Deer. Each house consists of 8 students you train in combat, taking them on monthly missions to face off against bandits, those who oppose the monastery, and even monsters! Your objective is to keep your students alive and build bonds with them as you lecture, host tea parties, give them gifts, and most importantly strategize well in turn-based battles. With so much to do, you can easily sink 80 hours into the game before completion, and with such amazing re-playability, you can spend weeks or months playing without tiring of it. Each of the 4 routes is unique, containing completely different storylines and characters, and you’ll want to experience them all for a whopping total of 320+ hours of gameplay! For me, Fire Emblem is an easy 5/5. The art direction is phenomenal, the gameplay is addictive, and the story and characters are unforgettable. You won’t be able to put it down or play it fast enough, and you’ll have a hard time finding a game that will measure up.  - Justine

Game 3
Available on  Windows, macOS, Linux, and Nintendo Switch.

Hey, you can't talk story games without visual novels. Visual novels are the ultimate story games: instead of jumping, fighting, shooting, or solving puzzles, you read paragraphs of text, occasionally making choices and influencing the story along the way. Visual novels have a bad rap for being all dating games: (a) dating games are fabulous, I have no shame and (b) that's about as silly as calling every book in the library a textbook.  

Eliza, a 2019 visual novel by Zachtronics, is a game all about dialogue, but there's no dating here. You play as Evelyn, a young woman in a grey hoodie with exhaustion permanently etched on her face. Once, tech genius Evelyn created a virtual counseling AI named Eliza. Then, she burned out, quit her job, and vanished for 3 years. Now ELIZA is everywhere, and Evelyn has returned to her old company to work on the lowest rung on the corporate ladder. As an ELIZA proxy, Evelyn sits in a room with desperate people and reads ELIZA's therapy script -- and only her script -- as words appear on screen. She's a human face for an AI assistant. When bosses and friends realize Evelyn is back in town, they start offering her paths forward: advanced work on ELIZA, developing an alternate AI, or abandoning the tech industry completely. Is ELIZA making the world better or worse, and what will you as Evelyn do to shape the future? Eliza is a thoughtful story with no easy answers, and it's even more relevant this year than last (thanks, 2020). It's currently available on Windows, mac, and Linux, and will be available on Nintendo Switch in October.  - Elizabeth
Tell us what you think!

Know of any games we missed? Let us know in the comments!
Posted by [email protected]  On Sep 18, 2020 at 3:24 PM
Read It! "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" by Suzanne Collins
by Sara

It’s been a long while since I visited Panem, but I recently took a trip back when reading “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

When I first heard Collins was releasing a prequel to her bestselling series "The Hunger Games", I wasn't sure what to think. I absolutely loved "The Hunger Games". When I first read it, I remember devouring it (pun intended), reading non-stop until I finished the trilogy. While I was excited for more from Collins, I had mixed feelings about the story. I wanted to know more about the revolution and the start of the games in Panem – how did they get to the dystopian world where Katniss, Peeta and Gale had to fight to survive. But I didn't think I'd enjoy reading about a young Coriolanus Snow - who would later become the villainous President Snow in Katniss' world. After the first few chapters, I was proven wrong. 

"The Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds" was just as enthralling as the original trilogy; I could not put it down. I've read many books before the Hunger Games and after, but there is something about this series that makes it hard to not consume all in one sitting. From a dystopian future to a unique cast of characters, from the (sometimes terrifying) biological inventions that come from the Capitol and the underlying commentary of human nature – it all make this series so good!  

Coriolanus, the heir to the once-prominent Snow family, is a student at the Academy. His family has fallen on hard times like many did after the war, but he finds a potential way to land on top when he is selected as a mentor in the 10th Annual Hunger Games. This mentorship is harder than he anticipated once he realizes the tributes are like him – a young person, not animals – and he sparks a connection with his tribute, Lucy Gray of District 12 – making him question everything he has known.

Collins did a great job incorporating pieces of Snow and Panem’s history that fans already knew from the original series into this prequel, tying them together seamlessly. Aside from getting an early look at Snow’s slow corruption and eventual rise to power, fans will appreciate the subtle explanation of Snow’s ever-present rose on his lapel, his relation to an future rebel and his deep-rooted connection to the Games, both from its inception to making them into what Katniss would face 64 years later. Other not-so-subtle connections are the mockingjays in District 12 and the origin of “The Hanging Tree” song. This story finds a way to weave itself into the series and set the grand stage for what was to come decades later in the Panem timeline.

One of the best parts of this book are the characters. Having read “The Hunger Games”, I thought I would have a hard time rooting for Coriolanus Snow. But for most of this book, he isn’t quite yet the Snow that you know (though there are definitely glimmers of his maniacal mind throughout). I actually found myself rooting for him, wanting him to the get “happily ever after” he thought he wanted – at least until his slow and steady corruption becomes evident. His tribute, Lucy Gray of District 12, is a likable character from the start, especially once the reader gets to know her – in many ways like Katniss, but softer. I found myself rooting for her, wishing she got a different ending.

His classmates gave more insight into the youth of the Capitol and the disparity of life in the Capitol versus the Districts, which made it easier to see how Katniss’ world came to be. One in particular, Sejanus, a boy from the Districts whose family rose to prominence during the war, is very interesting to watch. He struggles with his new identity as Capitol while not wanting to let go of his true identity as District, leading him to make hard decisions that affect more than just himself. Sejanus shows that maybe there aren’t as many differences between people as there appear, but instead people put up the barriers to divide. 

Head Gamemaker Dr. Volumnia Gaul gives even possibly the greatest insight into how Panem becomes the world we see in the original trilogy as she alters creatures of all kinds – even humans – in her lab. Her pushing of Coriolanus – both in his studies and even life after the Academy – gives insight into the views of the Capitol and how their desire for power is derived from chaos versus control. Her constant presence in Coriolanus’ life and mind seem to be a driving factor that takes him from Coriolanus, a young man trying to find a place in the world, to Snow, the man that would become a tyrannical president through less than respectable means. 

Overall, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is an engaging read and a truly great addition to “The Hunger Games” series. From beginning to end, there were twists and surprises that kept me guessing and immersed in the world of Panem as Snow worked his way through challenges to discover his ultimate fate and future. Without giving too much away, the ending left me absolutely shocked…but, as Tigris and Coriolanus both say – “Snow lands on top”.

Posted by [email protected]  On Sep 11, 2020 at 2:27 PM
Read It!

Review of "Ink and Bone" by Rachel Caine
by Nicole S.

Hello! I was very excited to share this book club pick with you because I enjoyed it so much I had to get my hands on the rest of the series! I had suggested the book “Ink and Bone” by Rachel Caine to my friends for the virtual book club because it was one I had been wanting to read and had many fellow librarians highly recommend the book.  

The premise for this book was incredibly interesting to me because it revolved around the idea that the Great Library of Alexandria never burned down and now the Great Library holds all the power in society. What a concept! The Great Library is found in every city and they govern the knowledge and power. Through alchemy, the library shares knowledge and great works of history to the public however the personal ownership of books is considered forbidden. The story follows Jess Brightwell, who still believes in the value of the library despite his family’s business in the black market selling illegal books. Jess has been accepted to train at the library, which excites him, but his father wants to use it as an advantage to spy on the Great Library. Jess will have to decide where his loyalties lie – and even more so when its discovered that his friend has invented something that could change the world and the Great Library’s hold on knowledge.  

I enjoyed this book from cover to cover. Having understood the library’s value at a young age, it was such an interesting idea to have the Great Library be the one to hold all of the knowledge of the world and the power as well. What was a little hard to grasp was the setting and description of the world in this story. We start out in London in the year 2030 however the technology and buildings are described as it is still only the start of 19th century. That sparked a long discussion in our book club about why they had a hard time picturing this book as in the future. Since knowledge isn’t equally distributed to the masses that means even the earliest inventions we were accustomed to learning about didn’t exist. Instead of these inventions there is the discovery of alchemy, which is used throughout the Great Libraries as a way to transmit messages, items and even people back and forth.  

I also could find myself relating to the main protagonist, Jess Brightwell. He views books not as commodity or black market value but for the content and knowledge held within the books. He highly respects the values of the Great Library, or at least the values the Great Library used to hold, in high regards. As time progresses we learn that the Great Library isn’t what we initially view it to be and how it has evolved into something. Better or worse? I will let you decide if you end up reading this book! If you end up enjoying this book as much as I did you are in luck because it is the start of a series! There are 5 books in total to “The Great Library” series.  

If you like having the library as a big setting in the story check out other books like “The Invisible Library” series by Genevieve Cogman and “Sorcery of Thorns” by Margaret Rogerson

Look for my next post as I review our next book club pick “Nothing to See Here” by Kevin Wilson.   
Posted by [email protected]  On Aug 21, 2020 at 1:13 PM

Game on!
Game reviews by Brandon, Elizabeth, Kristin, Stacy, Justine, and Sue.

Hello everyone! We hope you’ll enjoy these reviews for free games to entertain you! These are a mix of browser and smartphone games, and none of them will cost you anything to play.
Today's theme
Tired of slime and bubble wrap? Check out these oddly satisfying games!

Game One
Little Alchemy 
A free game available on your app store (Apple/Android) and web browsers  

Little Alchemy

Nothing exists except the four elements- air, earth, fire, and water. By mixing two of these rudimentary ingredients at a time, you can create new objects from scratch. (For example: “water” + “earth” = mud.) You can discover over 500 different items! This game isn’t just about the finish line, but it’s about the journey, too! I didn’t expect to chuckle as many times as I did playing this game. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how simple yet elusive the combinations can be. You might have to think outside the box at times, but if you get stuck, Little Alchemy offers hints to help. You can play this charming, clever game at your own pace. Try making one of my favorite combinations: “bread” + “fire” makes... “toast”! - Sue

Game 2
A free game available on your app store (Apple/Android)
Blendoku isn’t your average puzzle game: there are no numbers or letters. Instead, you get to play with colors! The level gives you a couple tiles to start with, and you’ve got to drag the remaining tiles onto the playboard. The colors must blend seamlessly to adjacent tiles. The result is an aesthetically pleasing color palette. I find the bright hues and mellow sound effects soothing. I prefer taking my time, but if you’re feeling competitive, you can solve the puzzles as fast you can and see if you can beat your own personal record. - Sue

Game 3
Soap Cutting
A free game available on your app store (Apple/Android)
Soap Cutting

If you’re like me, I can watch soap cutting video clips non-stop. While those videos can be uber gratifying, they result in lots of waste. Now, we can enjoy all the satisfaction of cutting soap without the waste or the mess! In this game, you get to slice colorful bars of soap into perfect, tiny cubes. The combination of crisp sound effects, smooth graphics, and just the right amount of haptic feedback brings this app to life. You might even discover some hidden prizes as you’re slicing away!

Tell us what you think!

 What game is your favorite? Tell us some of your other favorite games in the comments!
Posted by [email protected]  On Aug 13, 2020 at 2:33 PM 11 Comments
Check It Out!
a movie review by Deana

Featured movie

Eleanor's Secret
What's the basic plot?
Nathaniel and Angelica are moving into their Great-Aunt Eleanor’s house after their parents inherit it. Nathaniel who everyone calls Nat doesn’t know the secret from the books that his great-aunt left him. When he finds out that his dad needs money to repair the house, he offers the books that he never wanted in the first place to pay on the repairs. Little does Nat knows that the books have a special magic that only he can protect.  This French film has also been translated into English, with both versions available on Kanopy. 

Why you might like it
Nat and his sister Angelica have just moved into their great aunt’s house near the beach. We find that Nat isn’t interested in reading books since he can barely read, yet his great-Aunt has just left him all of her fairytale book collection. Nat cherished these books when she read them to him on their summer visits. Angelica his sister has been given a special doll that she thinks has no value or use for in her life. As we journey through the secrets of the fairytale books, Nat and Angelica will race against time to keep their great Aunt’s secrets in the family. Just when their dad decides to sell the books to Mr. Pickles, a neighbor who has always tried to get Eleanor’s prize fairytale collection, Nat, Angelica and a few friends go on an adventure through wonderland. Will their great aunt Eleanor’s secret disappear or can Nat, Angelica and friends save the day? You may enjoy this movie if you like animated films, family adventures and fairytales. It's a heartwarming story of adventure. 

Reasons you  might not like it
If you’re not a fan of family animated films, this may not be the movie for you. This movie isn’t a high tech 3-D animated version that so many of us are used to watching. The colors aren’t as brightly vibrant and the visual graphic art designs can be quite simple. But it’s a film that will warm your heart as you take an adventure through the looking glass of fairytale characters trying to save the day.  
Who's in it?
This film features the voice over talents of:

Paul Bandey                                  Jeanne Moreau  

Pascal Berger                                Julie Gayet  

Christine Flowers                         Lilane Rovere  

Joanne Forrest                              Pierre Richard  

David Gasman  
Where to watch it
Every title I recommend is available for you to watch instantly, for free, using our digital library services. 

”Nocturna” can be accessed using Kanopy , with a direct link here:

Don't have a library card? Don't worry! You can sign up for a virtual library card here. 

Posted by [email protected]  On Aug 07, 2020 at 2:15 PM
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