Cristina Henriquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans is a heartbreaking and beautiful novel. The narrative alternates between Alma Rivera, a mother and new arrival in the United States from Mexico, and teenager Mayor Toro, who came to the US from Panama as a young child. As Alma’s daughter, Maribel, and Mayor begin to develop an unlikely bond, the lives of the two families soon become intertwined. This book shines a light on the challenges and motivations of many who’ve come to America and tried to make a good life here. The book can be found at Excelsior Bay Books. —Raela Schoenherr
Raela Schoenherr is an editor at a Minnesota publishing company. She loves to talk books on Twitter at @raelaschoenherr.
This month, I want to focus on a category often overlooked during the holiday season as we gravitate toward champagne. Dessert wines are the perfect way to end a wonderful meal, whether you pair them with dessert or serve them as the dessert itself. Sherry comes in many different styles with varying sweetness levels (usually with the same alcohol level as port wine, about 20 percent ABV). Lustau East India Solera Sherry is medium-sweet, very rich and full-bodied; serve it chilled or at room temperature. It’s creamy, sweet and perfect for sipping—or paired with caramel, vanilla or milk chocolate. $29.99. Wayzata Wine and Spirits. —Kevin Castellano
Kevin Castellano is the general manager of Wayzata Wine and Spirits and a respected lake-area wine and liquor expert.
Alter Bridge has always relied on a well-worn blueprint to fuel their arena-rock bombast—big riffs, big choruses, big solos. For the most part, it has worked well. Anthemic, if sometimes rote, lyrics have made the band a sing-along crowd pleaser, and Mark Tremonti’s guitar work lends an edge of musicianship credibility to more hardcore listeners. But on The Last Hero, the limits of that blueprint are starting to show. The record rarely reaches the highs of previous efforts, and aside from a few of highlights (including the brooding “The Other Side”), it feels like the creators were working from a checklist. The album is available online and at local book and music stores. —Alex Skjong
Alex Skjong has written for a number of publications in the Twin Cities, Chicago and Atlanta.