Homicide and Halo-Halo

Mia Manansala begins the novel with an author’s note that she wrote this during a dark time in her life, while dealing with the effects of the pandemic. Her protagonist chef, Lila Macapagal, is struggling with some issues of her own, after her ex was murdered in the previous novel, and she herself escaped a close call with death . Lila is again dealing with a murder in her town, while acting as a judge in the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant. The pageant was developed to give the winner a generous college scholarship, and Lila herself was a previous winner. But when the pageant’s major sponsor turns up dead by a river, and her cousin Bernadette is the main suspect, Lila cranks up her detecting skills to prove Bernie’s innocence.

I enjoyed this novel as much as I did her first one, Arsenic and Adobo. The glossary and pronunciation guide to the Filipino honorifics and words used throughout the novel was a definite plus, as well as the recipes included at the end. After reading the food descriptions, I was dying to try some of the dishes mentioned, so I need to find a good local Filipino restaurant!

An additional bonus is the inclusion of chapters one and two Mia’s next book in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen series, Blackmail and Bibingka. I’m looking forward to reading it…

On A Night of a Thousand Stars

When Santiago Larrea, a wealthy Argentine diplomat, is appointed Argentina’s ambassador to the United Nations, he travels to Buenos Aires with his wife, Lila and daughter Paloma. But just before they leave, a conversation between Santiago and an old university friend stirs up Paloma’s interest in her father’s younger years in Argentina during the military dictatorship in the 1970’s, a taboo subject in their house. After they arrive, Paloma meets Franco, a young man, whose parents were desaparecidos, men and women forcibly disappeared by the state and killed during the dictatorship. As Paloma investigates her father’s years as a student, she discovers troubling facts about her parentage, and places herself in danger. This is not an easy book to read, as the author reveals the tragedies, including torture, endured by several of the characters. This is a debut novel by Ms. Clark, who grew up in Argentina during the turbulent times addressed in the novel, and interviewed sons and daughters of the “disappeared” to learn their stories. It’s a very compelling read…

The House in the Cerulean Sea

A friend recommended this novel to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though it was published in 2020, it is very timely, as it deals with accepting others just as they are. It’s a fantasy, about a caseworker, Linus Baker, who works for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. Linus is assigned by Extremely Upper Management to an island where six exceptional magical youth are living. Talia is a dwarf; Theodore, a wyvern; Chauncy, a jellyfish; Sal, a boy who can shift into a pomeranian; Phee, a forest sprite and finally Lucy, the son of the devil. As scary as the children seem at first, Linus becomes their protector as the some town members voices their disapproval of the children and call them abominations. It’s a tear jerker at times, but well worth the read.

The Magician’s Assistant

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. It was quite literally about the magician’s assistant and I couldn’t quite understand the point of the story. I had assumed (incorrectly) that it would have more magic and excitement. Instead I found it rather boring and the protagonist a bit unlikable which made it a difficult read. Had I not gone into it with a certain expectation it could pass for a decent story, albeit one that I still don’t understand the point of. 2/5 stars.

–An anonymous Winter Reading participant

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

This is such a neat book. My daughter told me about it, and I found it on the shelves here. It’s an uplifting tale about how we are enough just the way we are. Written and illustrated by the British writer Charles Macksey, this short book of kindness is enough to lift anyone’s spirits, and is especially timely given what’s happening in the world today… I highly recommend it.