The holidays are a time for cheer, but cold winter nights are also great for cuddling under a blanket with a page-turner that will keep you up late into the night. Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, beginning with first entry In the Woods, and still going strong with five releases to date, is about as good as psychological thrillers can get. With stunning writing, and an eerie and intense vibe that doesn’t edge too far past creepy, French’s series is some of the most intelligent and addicting crime fiction you could hope for, at a time when so many are trying to be the next Gone Girl. –Raela Schoenherr
-Raela Schoenherr is a fiction acquisitions editor at a Minnesota publishing company.
Leave your preconceived notions about the “snobbery” of sparkling wine at the door. This fizzy, festive wine really can be perfect for everyday enjoyment—not just for special occasions. One of my favorites is François Montand Blanc de Blanc ($14.99), a sparkling French wine from Burgundy made in the same style as true Champagne but at a fraction of the price. The wine is brut in style—it’s dry, typical of classic sparkling wines—and pale gold in color, with fine bubbles and a creamy, fruity bouquet. It’s always available chilled at Wayzata Wine and Spirits, and perfect for a host or hostess gift. Pair with buttery foods like lobster or fried chicken—or even buttered popcorn, a favorite sommelier pairing!
-Kevin Castellano is the general manager of Wayzata Wine and Spirits and a respected lake-area wine expert.
After a tumultuous period in the band’s history, rife with management issues and creative uncertainty, Soilwork is finally settling into what seems to be its true groove. On Soilwork’s new release, The Ride Majestic, the linchpins are all here: soaring melodies (on “Father and Son, Watching the World Go Down”), breakneck beats (on “Alight in the Aftermath”), and Björn Strid’s voice, able to match the intensity or calm of each track masterfully. But evolutions are always less exciting than revolutions, and following 2012’s stratospheric double album The Living Infinite was never going to be an easy task. Yes, The Ride Majestic is a gloomier, more challenging echo of its predecessor, but a dip in quality it is not. –Alex Skjong
-Alex Skjong has written for a number of publications in the Twin Cities.