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Ashe County Reading Challenge Book Club Guide: December 2023 Meeting Notes

December 2023

RCBC December 2023 Meeting Notes

Books Discussed (Click on the underlined titles below to link to our Cardinal website.)

Grave Undertaking by Mark de Castrique

  • You may remember this author from past RCBC meetings.  Mr. de Castrique is an On the Same Page festival author and a native of Charlotte, NC.  He often sets his characters within the mountain regions of our state.
  • Grave Undertaking is the second book in the Buryin’ Barry series.  Barry is a retired police officer from Charlotte, NC, who moves to the Appalachians to take over his father’s funeral home.  (Barry’s father is suffering from dementia, and per our reviewer, de Castrique communicates the reality of this diagnosis with compassionate discernment.)  In Grave Undertaking, Barry, in the process of moving a grave, finds himself entangled in a murder mystery that just might involve his girlfriend.  Get ready for a surprising and heartwarming ending to this murder mystery!
  • De Castrique also writes the Secret Lives and Sam Blackman series.  You can find their sequences and a list of his standalone novels here.

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

  • Louise Erdrich’s debut novel, and the first book in the Love Medicine series, this novel follows the lives of Native American characters in the North Dakota Ojibwe reservation over half a century.  Elements of magic, intrigue, betrayal, and love echo throughout as each chapter narrates the perspective of a different member of the reservation.  The book has been described as an epic dramatization of Native American culture that characterizes the fight to maintain Native identity.
  • Louise Erdrich is a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner.  She also owns Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, MN.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin  

  • From the author of Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, this novel unwinds the story of an easily angered, bad-tempered widower who is methodically isolating himself from those who surround him.  A.J. Fikry has lost his wife, owns a failing bookstore, and has had his prized possession stolen from him.  Life seems pretty grim until a mysterious “package” arrives at the bookshop that changes his world for the better.  A story of love, redemption and second chances.  One reviewer would give this novel more than five stars!  
  • Now a major motion picture streaming on Hulu and available on Amazon Prime.

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

  • An Oprah’s Book Club pick, this novel explores the psychology of family through the struggles of four sisters, Julia, Sylvie, Cecelia, and Emmaline.  The book is set in Chicago and follows the girls and their relationships with each other (and their dogmatic, Catholic mother) through generations.  When one of the girls becomes pregnant out of wedlock and is disowned, the dynamic of the family relationship radically shifts.  Naplolitano beautifully portrays the evolution of familial relationships through decades of strife, aching hurt, and hardship.  The book showcases how families can learn to love not despite of, but because of, who each member is.
  • This book has been characterized as an homage to Little Women.
  • Our reviewer declares this book would fit into multiple Reading Challenge categories.

Holy Bible by multiple authors

  • A chronological reading of the bible has given one reviewer a different perspective on the familiar stories of Chrisitanity.  A recommended chronological reading order can be found here and  here.  An excellent choice for the Reading Challenge category “ A book set in the Middle East”.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

  • Published in 1970, this charming and romantic classic follows the epistolary relationship between a freelance writer in New York, and a used book dealer in London.  What makes this story so unusual is the two main characters never meet.  Two reviewers vow this is not a novel to miss.  A sure win for book lovers everywhere since a love of books is at the heart of the story.
  • The book has been made into a major motion picture streaming from Amazon Prime starring Judi Dench, Anthony Hopkins, and Anne Bancroft.

Shady Palms by Frank Cerabino

  • The first book in A Condo Caper series, Mr. Cerabino pulls from his personal experiences to write about the hilarious shenanigans that happen in a Floridian condominium community.  What makes this book so fun is the illustrations!  A great book for the category “A book that made you laugh out loud”!
  • Other books by Frank Cerabino can be found here, including Viagra Falls 😆!

What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama

  • A best seller from a Japanese author, this charming book follows a librarian who can not only read books, but souls.  She possesses the uncanny ability to know exactly what her patrons need, even if they do not.  As each patron’s story is told, the librarian manages to find a book for each that will change their lives for the better.  A must read for library lovers everywhere!
  • One reviewer commented that she learned a lot about Japanese culture through this book, including an introduction to the famous Japanese castella cake.  You can find a recipe for this cake here.  Yum!

The Little Liar by Mitch Albom

  • A powerhouse author delivers another powerhouse novel following the lives of two Greek brothers and their friend Fanni.  The book takes place in Greece during the Holocaust and follows the lives of the characters as they journey to America.  One of the brothers is tricked by Nazi soldiers into unknowingly lying to his friends and family, which ultimately leads to losing them to Auschwitz.  Upon this realization, the brother becomes a pathological liar despite having never told a lie since birth.  What comes next is a complicated history of deception, and the dogged power of love to forgive and mend old wounds.  Interestingly, the book features the personified character of Truth.
  • This book has a 4.65 rating on goodreads!


This meeting was such a success, it was suggested that we have another book swap mid year 2024!  The group decided to have a “Christmas in July” book swap.  Details forthcoming…