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March 25, 2010 Edition

Red’s Hot Honky-Tonk Bar, by Pamela Morsi


Red is the abrasive, obnoxious, tattooed owner of a run-down bar in San Antonio. Once a teenage single mom, she’s now a young grandmother with no idea what to do with the grandkids that fate (and her deployed daughter) has dropped in her lap. Being dubbed Abuela Mala by six-year old Daniel and taken to task for a lack of seatbelts by nine-year old Olivia within the first 20 minutes of their meeting doesn’t start things off on the right foot, and her young stud muffin’s refusal to leave them all alone just irritates her more. But Cam’s involvement turns out to mean more than she ever imagined, and though there are no easy answers, by the time Red’s daughter returns to the States, Red has found herself part of a family again.

God Emperor of Didcot, by Toby Frost


In this delightful, name-dropping space opera parody, the tea must flow! Urn, the main source for the Empire’s tea, has been taken over by Edenites intent on disrupting the movement of tea to Earth, and without tea, humanity will lose its motivation and moral fiber. Space Captain Isambard Smith and his crew have been assigned the job of getting things back on the right track, a task made more difficult by their new allies: tea-obsessed nomads, a very polite alien horde, and a super-elite 5-member commando unit. This rollicking good story works well as a stand-alone, but is Frost’s second novel featuring the square-jawed, stiff-upper-lipped Smith. (The first is “Space Captain Smith.”) Brew yourself a cuppa, sit down and hang on for the ride.

The Longshot, by Katie Kitamura


Cal is 29, getting old for an MMA fighter, but it’s all he knows how to do and he’s determined to push ahead. He’s the only fighter to go up against the legendary Rivera and lose by a technical decision instead of a knockout. That was five years ago and now he’s hurtling toward a rematch. Cal’s coach Riley is the only person who understands how hard this will be for them both, and how important. With three days to go, Cal and Riley arrive in Mexico for the weigh-in and the wait. Kitamura, a journalist specializing in MMA, shows a deft hand at bringing the immediacy of the ring to readers through her spare writing style punctuated with essential, telling details.

September Fair, by Jess Lourey


This newest installment of the Murder-by-Month series centers around the Minnesota State Fair, where Mira James, part-time journalist, part-time librarian, is covering the show. She’s already avoided the haunted house and is coming to terms with an appointment with a Neil Diamond concert when the lights go out during the butter head-sculpting. When the power comes up again, this year’s newly-crowned Milkfed Mary (really high school senior Ashley Pedersen) is dead right there on stage, her face an unnatural shade of crimson. Mira has a niggling feeling that she’s seen something that could help police find the murderer, and while she waits for her brain to tell her what it was she wanders the fair collecting deep-fried recipes for the newspaper and listening to rumors about stolen boyfriends and embezzled funds in this laugh-out-loud mystery.

Benny and Shrimp, by Katarina Mazetti, translated by Sarah Death


Is it better to be a “single girl, thirty-something” or a “young, childless widow”? Desiree is furious at her husband for dying young enough that she has to find out. The young librarian is also not happy with the smelly, three-fingered farmer who always seems to be at the cemetery when she visits her husband’s gravesite. Benny, mourning his mother’s death, is likewise irritated by the pale blonde mouse who sits by a grave, writing. But one day the two share a smile, the next day a few words, and soon the two find themselves unaccountably smitten with each other. But it may be that their worlds are too different: Desiree (nicknamed Shrimp by Benny) is a vegetarian who’s never seen a live cow before, while Benny has worked 15 hours a day running a farm since leaving school. Quiet and quirky, it’s the characters and the countryside that will draw readers into this debut novel.

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