Read, Drink, Listen: January 2018

Read // Jane Harper

Fast-paced crime novel The Dry is Jane Harper’s debut and a promising start to a series following her federal agent protagonist, Aaron Falk. Set in the Australian outback, it has echoes of both a Western and a hard-boiled detective novel. Falk is an agent with the federal crimes division in Melbourne, but upon his reluctant return to his small hometown for a funeral, he’s drawn into a murder investigation, dredging up the old wounds and accusations that drove him from town 20 years ago. The narrative reveals the events leading up to the crime, as well as the unsolved death of Falk’s childhood friend. Harper’s descriptions of the oppressive heat leave the reader almost as anxious for a reprieve as the townspeople.  —Raela Schoenherr

Drink // Merlot

This month’s wine is smooth and easy-drinking, yet rich. Merlot has gotten a bad rap over the last several years, but it’s making a great comeback. California and France are great places to start for good-value merlot. Le Hameau Merlot is a terrific wine with some handy notes right on the bottle. It’s rich, velvety and lively, which means it’s great with soups and stews, pot roast and roasted veggies—a truly great pairing for your winter table. You’ll also find some wonderful herbal undertones and cherry fruit. And, perhaps best of all, as your wallet is recovering from holiday shopping, you can pick up a bottle for just $10.99. —Kevin Castellano

Listen // Demi Lovato

I don’t normally take to the homogeneous themes of pop music, but Demi Lovato’s new record Tell Me You Love Me is certainly worth checking out. The former Disney star’s sixth album succeeds where many other pop stars fail. Lovato can sing the heck out of her songs. Trust me. I recently saw her perform live, and she has serious chops. Lovato is an edgy good-girl-gone-bad-now-good-again and her candidness about her struggle with mental health and addiction is refreshing. While the production is safe and familiar, the R&B spirit, a la Aretha Franklin and Christina Aguilera, showcases Lovato’s talent and provides legitimacy to her claim as a modern pop diva. “Sexy Dirty Love” features a synth bass line Stevie Wonder should approve of, and “Games” has Destiny’s Child written all over it. Turn up the volume in the car, pop a piece of bubblegum in your mouth and just let yourself enjoy Tell Me You Love Me. —Sean Schultz