I love how Manansala gives us a Filipino-American cozy, balancing diaspora tension with humor, romance and mystery. As a Fil-Am reader, we deserve this shape of joy, too. We deserve to be heroes across genres. While I love and deeply need the explorations of Filipino and Filipino-American identity through literary fiction, I’m also so grateful to find representation across the bookshelf. We deserve to witness our families and cultures through the mediums of mystery and humor, too, and Manansala does it so well. She weaves a compelling, propulsive murder mystery that’s specifically Fil-Am, and it’s so cathartic to get to see so much of myself and my family in Lila --- except for the murdered food critic ex-boyfriend, of course ... Manansala writes her with nuance, compassion and complexity, making her feel very relatable. Lila makes assumptions she has to learn to check, makes mistakes, and has miscommunications with her best friends. She has a lot to balance --- between her family, her love life and the multiple attacks within Shady Palms --- and reads so real throughout the novel ... Expect multiple twists, a layered plot, and a light, fun and compassionate read centered on family, community and food.
Chicago-based, self-described 'procrastibaker' Manansala clearly loves her characters – even the bad guys – imbuing so many of them with rich, detailed, diverse stories of their own ... Clever with the never-saw-that-coming twists and turns, Manansala nimbly stays at least a few steps ahead, never letting complacency settle on the page. Just desserts await at the book’s end – literally and culinarily!
Mia P. Manansala stirs up a lively mixture of Filipino culture, food and family bonds with an appealing heroine in her well-plotted, poignant and often sweet debut ... Manansala makes full use of the cozy, or light, category of mysteries while also delivering a realistic story. She also includes a few recipes that readers will want to try ... Amusing dinners further show the bonds among the characters and how food can express a character’s personality.