Hey everyone! Today is a very exciting day because I have chosen as one of the tour hosts for Mia P. Manansala’s debut novel – Arsenic and Adobo! I’ve always had my eye on this book ever since its official announcement, and even though I’m not a big Adobo fan (hello, my fellow Sinigang people!), I was super excited to see a book with a promise of featuring our Filipino cuisine that isn’t in a cookbook.
I would like to thank Caffeine Book Tours for selecting me as one of the tour hosts, and don’t forget to also check out the other tour hosts’ content by using following the hashtags #ArsenicandAdoboTour and #CaffeineBookTours on Instagram and Twitter!
The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….
When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.
With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…
Title: Arsenic and Adobo
Author: Mia P. Manansala
Publication date: 4 May 2021
Age group: Adult
- authors of color (filipino-american author)
- poc representation (filipino-american, pakistani muslim american, korean-american, mexican-american, japanese-american, black american), and lgbtqiap+ representation (lesbian, bisexual, queer)
Trigger and Content Warnings
- indications of evidence planting and police intimidation
- drug use
- domestic violence (implied, not on the page)
“I also know that when things go down and life is against me, my family will always have my back. We all take care of each other in our own way. Yours is the same. How many people can say that and actually mean it?“Arsenic and Adobo, Mia P. Manansala
I received a copy of this book from the author and Caffeine Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
My Filipino heart soared and was very entertained! Nothing will attract me more to a book if it features a Fil-Am main character with her entire family still deeply immersed in the Filipino culture that is written by a Filipina author. And of course, the dog on the cover.
Arsenic and Adobo is a light and cozy mystery story about Fil-Am Lila Macapagal going back to her home town to help save her family’s restaurant business. Little did she expect that she and her family would find themselves in a lot of turmoil when Lila’s ex-boyfriend suddenly drops dead while eating at their restaurant. I’m not well-versed in the mystery-thriller genres since I only read a few books in it, but the author really a good job in keeping things light and easy to read, while still providing a good mystery thrill. It was pretty straightforward and a bit predictable at times, but it is enough to keep you guessing on what is really happening. While the mystery context of the book surrounded around drug use and trafficking, I do appreciate that the author had given a sensitivity warning for it as it may affect other readers. I may not be that particular to it, but the knowledge of the book hitting a bit too close to home with regards to the Philippines’ current illegal drug propaganda and action by the government might affect others.
One of the absolutely great things about this book was how the author had depicted out the representation of the Filipino, Pakistani-Muslim, Korean, Japanese, and Mexican cultures. It was so amazing that a small town in Chicago held a hidden gem full of diversity within its borders, and how these cultures made and became part of thethe community. As a Filipina, it was very satisfying to see our culture so blended nicely into the story, and that even with Lila growing up in the US, her family’s culture was still deeply ingrained into her. Any Filipino reader will really enjoy all the references and easily get it, such as:
The food. This book is very food-based, descriptions of all the Filipino food was so spot-on that it just made my mouth water and crave for the dishes – all the way from the famous pork and chicken adobo to all the kakanins. Even the way Tita Rosie and Lola Flor preparing a huge amount of food for house guests and making them have take-outs after is just so classic Filipino. What was even more amazing that Lila named her dog Longanisa and my heart is just exploded. This book got me more distracted from the mystery-solving, and more focused on the food.
The strong yet flawed family values. Filipinos are known for their close-knit family ties, and Lila’s relationship with her family (and extended family) was clearly depicted on the pages. But like any other Filipino family, there are some not-so-good qualities to it such as the nosy titas and judgmental and close-minded relatives. Despite the many faults of the people within the family, a lot of Flipinos could definitely relate to Lila’s relationship with her own and see themselves in her shoes.
The language. If there is one thing I didn’t struggle with this book, it’s the language. The mix of the Filipino language with the English language within the characters’ conversation was prevalent, and the story just flowed even easier for me. Even the curse words and exclamations typically used by many Filipinos were on point! I actually admired that the author provided a glossary full of terms and their pronunciations for non-Filipino speakers because I’ve read my fair share of books that had a bombard of the native language in the text, and I have to make the effort of looking for its definition and pronunciations by myself. To provide that ease of access to the native language was very commendable.
Over-all, it was a very highly entertaining read that will keep your mind guessing and making your stomach grumble louder. It’s been an exceptional debut novel from the author, and I can’t wait to see and read whatever she comes up with in the future.
About The Author
Mia P. Manansala is a writer from Chicago who loves books, baking, and bad-ass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture.
She is the winner of the 2018 Hugh Holton Award, the 2018 Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, the 2017 William F. Deeck – Malice Domestic Grant for Unpublished Writers, and the 2016 Mystery Writers of America/Helen McCloy Scholarship. She’s also a 2017 Pitch Wars alum and 2018-2019 mentor.