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Book 21: Homocide and Halo-Halo by Mia P. Manansala

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Death at a beauty pageant turns Tita Rosie's Kitchen upside down in the latest entry of this witty and humorous cozy mystery series by Mia P. Manansala. Things are heating up for Lila Macapagal. Not in her love life, which she insists on keeping nonexistent despite the attention of two very eligible bachelors. Or her professional life, since she can't bring herself to open her new café after the unpleasantness that occurred a few months ago at her aunt's Filipino restaurant, Tita Rosie's Kitchen. No, things are heating up quite literally, since summer, her least favorite season, has just started.  To add to her feelings of sticky unease, Lila's little town of Shady Palms has resurrected the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant, which she won many years ago—a fact that serves as a wedge between Lila and her cousin slash rival, Bernadette. But when the head judge of the pageant is murdered and Bernadette becomes the main suspect, the two must put aside their differences and solve the case—because it looks like one of them might be next.

a pre(r)amble

as you can tell from all of my previous posts, I tend to lean on some of the heavier genres when I read. I'm finding that for this year, my urge to jump from one intense book to the next isn't as prevalent and I've fallen into using an "every other" approach; filling in the spaces with softer more enjoyable books. I had never heard of the term "cozy mystery" before this series but I had realized I had read so many before and I didn't know what the sub-genre was called. in reading up on it before writing this post, I realized it was the sub-genre that got me into reading mystery in the first place and what would ultimately lead me to the career and life I have today. some time between 6th or 7th grade, I stumbled on a book in a barnes and noble by Mary Higgins clark (and trust me, I'll write a whole post dedicated to her one day) and I immediately dove straight into her entire backlist.

...but that's another story for another time.

okay, let's get to the point...

last year, I saw posts online about arsenic and adobo [ 🔗: bookshop] and my heart leaped! I wanted to focus on reading more books written by aapi authors and I wanted to find more fiction written by filipino authors and about filipino characters. I dove into arsenic with fervor and I loved being able to fully immerse myself in a story so rooted in the culture I grew up in.

ultimately, reading this book felt like home.

at the beginning of homocide and halo-halo, the author's note comments that she wrote this book while going through a rough time in her life and also noting that Lila (the protagonist of the series) was also going through her own struggles. of course, there isn't too much graphic content, since it is still a cozy mystery, but Lila (the protagonist) does deal with ptsd throughout the book as a result of the events in arsenic and adobo. as someone who has experienced and still sometimes experiences ptsd, I truly appreciated how thoughtfully it was portrayed through Lila and, in her, I recognized my own struggles with my mental health and my own barriers to wanting to seek out therapy initially (click here to see my YouTube video about how I found my therapist). the book touches on some of the personal and cultural stigmas around mental health and it was so incredibly well done.

overall, I liked the flow of the plot and it really kept me guessing! I really enjoy Mia's writing style and her sense of humor and it really was something I looked forward to reading after a long day. (something I think I'll talk about in my next post)

I really enjoy this series a ton and I can't wait for blackmail and bibingka to come out! (I've already pre-ordered it!; 🔗 pre-order link: bookshop).

... now if you'll excuse me, I've got some reading to do.

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