“The Lager Queen of Minnesota” by J. Ryan Stradal 

The story begins with two sisters whose father has left the family farm to only one of them. Helen, the younger daughter, sells the farm and uses the entire proceeds to purchase one of the most successful breweries in the country.

The older sister, Edith, makes wonderful pies, but struggles to make a living. She can’t help but wonder how different her life would be if she had a portion of the money her sister secured for herself. People say that “Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, while Helen has a heart as rigid as a steel keg.” The two sisters have not spoken to each other since the sale of the farm. 

Helen arranges a marriage for herself with the heir of a soda company, Blotz, and before her wedding she already knows that their new beer slogan will be “Drink lots. It’s Blotz.” 

There is a lot of loss, pain and heartbreak in the lives of the sisters. And then, the third woman in this drama comes of age, Edith’s granddaughter, Diana. She knows that her grandmother lacks the toughness to run a business, but she is still strong, hard-working and a good mid-Westerner. Diana decides to throw her efforts into crafting IPA from the ground up.

Edith doesn’t want Diana to go into the brewing world, but won’t stop her from following her passion and dreams. And, Diana understands how to manipulate people to purchase more of her product. At the Upper Mississippi Beer Festival, she challenges them to drink the entire glass in under a minute and it’s free. But, the alcohol content is too much, and they lose every time. 

My favorite character is Edith, has the most qualities of grandmothers that were in my family. Stradal quotes near the beginning of the novel “Edith was only 64 years old, but if she died right then, she would’ve felt the most important things a Minnesotan, woman or man, can feel at the end of their lives. She’d done what she could, and she was of use. She helped.” 

If you’ve traveled to Wisconsin or Minnesota you know all the characters that Stradal has created for this novel. If you’ve read Fannie Flagg, you know these people. They are dealing with family discord, business challenges and every day bumps in the road. Stradal describes their hopes as not just “dreaming about an unlikely ideal … but believing they have the guts to change things.” 

If you like craft beer, like the Midwest, and like books, you’ll want to join others who enjoyed this read. 

~ Reviewed by Lizz Taylor, Poor Richard’s Books 


“Cork and Knife: Build Complex Flavors with Bourbon, Wine, Beer and More” by Emily and Matt Clifton 

Not professional chefs, the Cliftons have been writing a cooking blog for a number of years called Nerds with Knives. Each brings a unique take on food flavors, with Emily coming from New York City and growing up in the kitchen of Korean and Puerto Rican friends. Matt is from Britain and enjoys the sweet desserts and warm comfort foods of his childhood. 

They soon discovered that many of their favorite recipes had one thing in common: booze! Their philosophy is that alcohol is a natural product of food fermentation and that the liquor cabinet can be an extension of your food pantry. Some of their helpful advice is to never use “cooking wine” from the grocery as by law it must contain salt and tastes terrible. 

The chemistry of their dishes involves the low boiling point of alcohol, and the fact that it evaporates more quickly than water. This plays nicely with their suggestion of vodka and beer batter for Ultra-Crispy Fish. White wine creates an acid that can brighten the flavor of a dish similar to a splash of vinegar. But hold up on using Chardonnay as it’s often aged in oak, which would changes the taste of the dish! 

Booze such as stout beers, bourbon and rum can add complexity to both savory and sweet dishes. And, alcohol is also a preservative as we all know the traditional holiday fruit cake forgotten in the fridge. 

Might I suggest the following menu: 

Pretzel Pigs in a Blanket with Cheddar-Stout Dip Blue Cheese Burgers with Whiskey Onions Pilsner Sauteed Red Cabbage Cheesecake Bars with Pecan Crust and Bourbon Caramel 

They say “you eat with your eyes first,” but our noses are next in line.” I’m planning on making the Reverse-Seared Pork Tenderloin with Peach Bourbon Glaze.

~ Reviewed by Lizz Taylor, Poor Richard’s Books 


“The Last Mrs. Parrish” by Liv Constantine


“(A) wicked debut thriller … you’ll relish every diabolical turn.”— People


This debut novel is filled with jealousy, greed, betrayal and revenge. Everything you need for an entertaining and exciting mystery/thriller.

Amber Patterson feels she deserves more — more money, a better lifestyle and more power. Daphne Parrish has these things including a handsome husband. Amber is beyond envious and weaves a plan to take what Daphne has, including her husband. What Amber doesn’t know is that Daphne has her own deep and painful secrets about her lifestyle and marriage.

This story is told from the point of view of both women. It has many twists and turns as all the secrets are revealed. By the end of the novel, you’ll be reminded of the old adage “be careful what you wish for.”

Liv Constantine is the pen name for bestselling authors and sisters Lynne and Valerie Constantine. Separated by three states, they use FaceTime and emails to collaborate on their novels.  

~ Review courtesy Paul Sawyier Public Library 


“The Other Woman” by Sandie Jones


“One of the most twisted and entertaining plots.” — Reese Witherspoon


Everything is going well for Emily, she has a good job, great friends and wonderful family, and then she meets Adam. Soon, they are seeing each other almost every day and Emily’s friends worry that she is letting things move too quickly. But, Adam makes her feel safe and loved unlike her previous relationship.

When she pushes him to meet his mother, Emily quickly finds out that, Pammie, comes before anyone else in his life. From their first meeting, Emily realizes that Pammie is not a fan of hers when she makes her look bad in front of Adam. As Emily and Adam move forward with their lives, Pammie becomes more obsessed with destroying Emily.

An overbearing mother, an unsuspecting son and a woman so in love she will do whatever it takes make this a clever, disquieting and entertaining read.

Sandie Jones works as a freelance journalist and has written for publications including the Sunday Times, Woman’s Weekly and the Daily Mail. “The Other Woman” is her debut novel.

~ Review courtesy Paul Sawyier Public Library