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On the cover of Joe Meno’s How the Hula Girl Sings, two hands cradle a sweet little bird dressed in a floral-print skirt against a soft-blue background. How pretty, I thought, if a bit strange. Then I realized the bird was dead. In my reading, I learned that its eyes had been gouged out, and taking a closer look, I can now see that. My revised cover judgment emphasizes the strange over the pretty. Hula Girl is the story of a man who, in the first two pages, robs a liquor store and runs over a woman and her baby. Flash-forward to his release from prison three years later, and Luce Lemay is working at a gas station, visiting brothels, and falling in love with his ex-girlfriend’s sister. His landlady fills his room with boxes of partially decomposed animals, including the bird from the cover. Reserve your judgment until you hear Meno read with Marlon James and D.C.’s Billups Allen at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 1307 19th St. NW. Free. (202) 785-1133. (Rebecca Corvino)