Bess’ Book Recs: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been burnt out on cozies (and writing myself, apparently) for a while now. Cozies just weren’t hitting what I needed so I’ve been reading a lot of YA, romance, and fan fic. But when Mia’s book came out I figured I had to give it a shot. I mean, my friend wrote it! That’s cool!

And it turns out Arsenic and Adobo is exactly what I’ve been wanting in a cozy. I didn’t even skip the middle half to see what happens in the end. (I can’t be the only one that does that, right?)

Here are just some of the things I loved in this book:

  • Nisa being naughty on the back cover. Whatever that dog is licking, I hope it’s pet friendly! (Can dogs have red wine?)
    • Technically, the whole cover. I like the cartoon-y style; it’s a good signal for me that I might like what’s inside.
  • A content warning at the beginning, with links for education on the sensitive subject in question.
  • The non-English words aren’t italicized. That’s saved for important things like when a character realizes they’re in love with someone else in fan fic. (Oh.) The conversation about whether or not to italicize non-English words in books is one I’ve been following for a while, and this video pretty much settled my opinion, so this was exciting for me to see in practice.
  • Relatable millennial problems. Like “independence and happiness” vs “familial obligation” and “struggling to maintain friendships and achieve self-actualization.”
  • Actually, a whole relatable protagonist. Lila is authentically imperfect, lets people down, messes up, has interests and passions and hobbies and you don’t hate her or try to gloss over it. I 100% was living in her skin instead of watching everything happen like it’s a play.
  • Nisa again, mostly because her refusing to run at that one point reminded me of our foster dog years ago that Kevin had to haul home in a very similar manner in a thunderstorm.
  • Vegetarian recipes! You don’t always get those in the back of a cozy, so I’m always stoked when it happens.
  • Not-overwhelming but still comprehensive glossary.
  • Dentist love interest! Love interests are usually Sexy Macho Men with Sexy Macho Men jobs, so it’s refreshing that one of Lila’s datemates is Attractive Dentist Next Door and it’s not weird.

Things I wasn’t as crazy about:

  • Why is Lila the only one everyone’s looking to to take care of Tita Rosie? There are a squadrillion people around nagging her to take care of Rosie, so why aren’t any of them making her take breaks and picking up the slack and whatever.
  • The detective. This isn’t a criticism of the book, it’s fabulous writing. I just hate him on a personal level and would like to kick him in the shins.
  • I’m nervous about Lila falling into old family patterns at the end of the book. It’s presented as a fresh start, but I’m holding my breath to see whether she does achieve a healthy family-self balance or swings too far the other way after Chicago.

I’m super excited for the second book in the series, Homicide and Halo-Halo, in a way I haven’t been for a cozy in ages. I hope there’s a LOT more Nisa and Dr. Jae and I genuinely don’t know who I’m rooting for in the love triangle and I hope Detective Park trips over his own shoelaces, ideally in front of Tita Rosie, who I suspect is going to forgive him way too easily because she’s a softie.

This book really was a breath of fresh air in a genre that’s been kind of stale for me recently. I highly, highly recommend it if you’ve been feeling the same.

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