June 10, 2021

Friends with ARCs: Arsenic and Adobo (+ Q&A with Mia Manansala)

I'm so excited to bring you this year's posts for Mabuhay! My best friend Rachel and I have done this feature almost every year since 2014, both as a celebration of Filipinos in literature and to share a little bit about Filipino culture just in time for Philippine Independence Day on June 12th. (Click here if you're interested in checking out past posts we've done!) We're kicking off this year's double post plan by sharing our reviews for Filipino culinary cozy mystery Arsenic and Adobo, and a mini Q&A with the author. Don't forget to visit Rachel's blog to see more Q&A goodness and her thoughts on the book!

Arsenic and Adobo is the first novel in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series, a brand new culinary cozy mystery from author Mia Manansala. The book’s premise is fairly simple: Lila Macapagal’s daily life of figuring out a way to save her Tita Rosie’s struggling restaurant and dealing with matchmaking titas is upended when a nasty food critic (also her high school ex) drops dead in the restaurant moments after a heated confrontation between them. The Macapagals are now the prime suspects in a murder mystery, and, on top of that, their landlord is just about ready to kick them out and shut down the restaurant for good. It’s up to Lila to figure out what actually happened and who is to blame before it’s too late.

I said this in my Goodreads review as well: I’m no cozy mystery connoisseur. Arsenic and Adobo happens to be the first one I’ve ever read and, for a time-time cozy reader, I’d say it was an overall positive experience (though I’m not convinced that this is the genre for me). After some light Googling, I’ve learned that cozies are generally characterized as crime fiction where: 1) sex and violence don’t happen on page, 2) the detective is an amateur sleuth and 3) the setting is usually a small, socially knit community. Arsenic and Adobo certainly hit all those marks! I liked getting to know a little bit about this small town and the folks in it. And it was fun following Lila as she tried to unravel the mystery (which felt reminiscent of my younger years reading Nancy Drew), though I didn’t necessarily feel very strongly about the mystery, the details or the resolution. The highlight, though, was seeing a fairly realistic portrayal of the Fil-Am experience integrated into the book, especially when it came to the food (I had cravings while I was reading, thank you) and the familial dynamics (I’m always amazed when authors write relationships in ways that make me think of my own family). In conclusion, I did ultimately find Arsenic and Adobo pretty enjoyable while I was reading it! 

What’s your favorite Filipino dish? It’s probably not going to surprise anyone that I picked a dessert dish and not a savory one for my answer! I do enjoy a lot of different Filipino desserts, but I love mais con hielo a lot. It mixes two of my favorite things - sweet corn and milk. Plus, it’s very refreshing, especially in the summer!

Pub Info: May 4, 2021 by Berkley | Add it on Goodreads
I received an e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley. All reviews and opinions are my own.

We're very lucky to have Mia answering a few questions for our blogs today!  

photo credit: Mia's website
What are your three favorite Filipino dishes?

Just three? This is tough. Off the top of my head...
  • Kare-kare (with lots of bagoong!) 
  • Sisig (Alexa's Note: I, too, love sisig so much.)
  • Sinigang
  • All the sweets! (I know that's more than three, but I love our sweets so much.) (Alexa's Note: Ditto.)
Do you have a go-to local Filipino restaurant?

Honestly, there aren’t many in Chicago that I’m familiar with. My dad was an excellent cook, so we never really got Filipino food when eating out as a kid. And the one that I really liked, Isla Pilipina, closed last year. However, my mom really loves Ruby’s Fast Food, which has homestyle Filipino food served counter-style. Pretty sure she goes there at least once a week.

What made you decide to write in the cozy mystery genre?

It’s one of my favorite genres to read! I love that they provide whodunit logic puzzles with fun, often humorous stories. I also love that food often plays a large role in many cozies since it’s my favorite thing in the world. My mom is the one who got me into cozy mysteries, so I enjoy being able to share this with her.

Thank you so much to Mia for answering our questions!
Don't forget to check hop on over on Rachel's blog once you've read the Q&A here.
And we'll be back tomorrow for one more Mabuhay! post, so don't forget to come and check it out.


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