January 2016: Read, Drink, Listen


Why would anyone want to murder Henry the hippo, the star attraction at FunJungle, the world’s largest zoo? That’s what 12-year-old Teddy wants to know in Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs. As he delves into the mystery of Henry’s death, Teddy discovers that the hippo racked up plenty of enemies during his time at the zoo. When Teddy joins forces with Summer, the ultra-wealthy daughter of the zoo’s owner, the adventure becomes more than he bargained for. Kids will love this fast-paced story, chock-full of zany characters and wild chase scenes. Belly Up won the Maud Hart Lovelace prize in 2015 for grades six through eight. —Lynn McCarthy

Westonka Library

Lynn McCarthy is a librarian at the Westonka Library.


Just as its name suggests, Force of Nature Red 2013 is an ultra-lush, big and bold red wine. Force of Nature wines come from Paso Robles, Calif., and do an excellent job of reflecting their climate. The group offers many great reds, but the blend is my favorite—with medium tannins, it pairs well with steak, red-sauce pastas, and especially chocolate, which can be a tough food to match with wine. This red blend is predominantly merlot, and finished off with equal parts cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petit syrah. For zinfandel lovers, this one also closely resembles a full-bodied, juicy zin. —Kevin Castellano

Wayzata Wine and Spirits

Kevin Castellano is the general manager of Wayzata Wine & Spirits and a respected lake-area wine expert.


Like a kid discovering a sugar rush and a guitar for the first time, there’s a certain bratty and effervescent quality to V by Wavves. Most of the songs bounce along with wailing distortion, punctuated by lyrics that could easily be found in a high school student’s notebook, eventually coming to a halt just three minutes later. That might sound like criticism, but there’s a helluva lot of fun that comes with that brand of sugar rush, too. The simple song structures allow the poppy vocal melodies to take center stage, and, while there’s not a ton of variety here, just like a kid tearing into a chocolate bar, the fun is easy to find and hard to deny. —Alex Skjong

Barnes & Noble

Alex Skjong has written for a number of publications in the Twin Cities, Chicago and Atlanta. He is a music lover first and an unreasonably tall human being second.