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3.8 out of 5
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  • Murder of an Ex

    After a disastrous breakup with her fiancé, Lila Macapagal has moved back to Shady Palms, Illinois, and is trying to help her aunt save her Filipino restaurant. One issue the restaurant is having is Derek Winter, Lila’s high school sweetheart who has becoming the local food critic and has written several nasty reviews of Tita Rosie’s Kitchen. When he comes back for yet another meal, he winds up dropping dead in his meal. Now the police are looking at Lila as a murderer, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen is closed until further notice, and Lila feels like the only hope of a happy ending is figuring out what is going on herself. Can she keep herself out of jail? This is a solid debut. The mystery starts off quickly, and Lila learns plenty of secrets on her way to uncovering what really happened. The climax is suspenseful and creative. The characters are all strong. We even learn a bit more about Derek that makes him a little sympathetic although not completely likable. The rest of the cast is strong. A few supporting players blend together, but that is done on purpose, and we see glimpses of their individual personalities. We do have the beginnings of a love triangle here. Some of Lila’s friendships are so strong already, they help make those characters more real for us. I did feel a few of the themes of the book weren’t quite as well developed as I would have liked. Hopefully they will be explored more in further books. If the descriptions of food make you as hungry as they made me, you’ll be happy to see the four recipes at the end of the book. This is a strong debut, and I already can’t wait to find out what happens next to the characters.

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  • Delectably delicious read with a siding of mystery

    Lila Macapagal is a third-generation American-Filipino of the Macapagal family. She is back home to help her Aunt Rosie and Lola Flor at their restaurant to save it from bankruptcy and also escape her "rocky past." What she finds herself is right smack into a struggling restaurant, her ex-boyfriend, and a whole load of secrets that could have been the reason Shady Palms is named as such. Arsenic and Adobo is a delightful read that dives into the beautiful world of Filipino food, culture, and traditions, with a whodunit storyline to keep readers on their toes. It is Book 1 in the A Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery series. The writing is excellent and fun to read. The story is from Lila's POV and light enough to be "cozy," yet full of suspense and roadblocks that are more sophisticated than the typical "cozy mystery." I think it's a level up due to the longer suspects list and complex plot twists. Aunt Rosie's, Lila's Aunt's, shop was not the only target of the deceased awful restaurant reviews - there were other possible culprits. With everything, being charged put such a problematic situation for Lila and her whole family. They were all tight on cash, plus bailing her out since being charged with the murder of Derek, her ex-boyfriend/Shady Palms food critic; things were looking very bleak for Lila and her relatives. Things I love about the book:- 1) the various cultural references brought by the author with a short vocabulary refer to others who might not know. If not mentioned in the glossary, the characters discussed it more in detail in the story. I love how the story brings in Filipino beliefs and cultures without having it "right in your face." Instead, Lila's life shows us what family and relatives (even non-blood related) mean in the Filipino tradition. I related to all of them with ease, but Lila gives a good explanation for readers who are not familiar. Bottom line: family is whoever and whatever you want that definition to be AND family is everything! 2) the complex plot that twists and turns to the unsuspected. Just when I thought I know who the killer is, I am blind-sighted with another problem and have an iron-clad alibi that brings me back to square one. Many things were unfolding as Lila started investigating to help her Aunt and the restaurant. Somehow, she constantly gets caught in the middle of the crime scenes, strengthening the case against her and her family. I had to smack my head so many times due to her "unfortunate luck." 3) shocking revelations that seemed far-fetched, but once each party "confesses" to the crimes, it makes more sense. I had to revisit a few things in the book that I seemed to have missed, like Lila. Don't worry - Lila had to piece it together like us, and she was in shock with everything. 4) the steamy love interest going on in the story. Not only is there one man vying for Lila's attention and being protective of her, but there are two! Although there is some "connection" going on, these events did not detract from the book's main point - who murdered Derick Winters! 5) lastly, I appreciate the author included a set of recipes at the end of the book mentioned and made by Aunt Rosie, Lola Flor, and Lila. It was interesting to check out and maybe try out! In summary, Arsenic and Adobo is a promising debut literary offering of the author. It is an excellent sample of the author's potential that I am sure will go far as the series progresses. This book gives a realistic, truthful insight on the Filipino family dynamics - related or otherwise. Filipinos reading this book will keep nodding in agreement on each character's personality. The older generation will side with Tita Rosie's words, while the transplanted/migrant younger Filipino generations will relate to Mia's questions and defiance to the culture's sometimes too submissive trait. This book is beyond the cozy mystery book that I have encountered since there were was suspense, drama, internal and external conflicts, plus a foodscape to various cultures, aside from Filipino dishes! I cannot wait to see what is next in Lila's "plate of adventures" as the series starts that I am sure will flourish even more!

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