Friday, June 17, 2016

Interview & Giveaway ~ BANANA MUFFINS & MAYHEM by Janel Gradowski

Banana Muffins & Mayhem (Culinary Competition Mystery, #5)
by: Janel Gradowski
Series: Culinary Competition Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Release Date: June 14, 2016
Publisher: Gemma Halliday

Culinary competitor Amy Ridley is as excited as anyone in Kellerton, Michigan to have DIY Home Improvement star, Phoebe Plymouth, come to town for the first annual Cabin Fever Cure event. However the TV personality’s sour attitude quickly curdles people’s opinion of her. When she’s found dead, at the business owned by Amy’s husband, Alex, the heat is on to catch the killer before his professional reputation is ruined!

When Amy seeks help in preparing for a vegan baking recipe contest, she also finds assistance from an unlikely team of sleuths who want to help her catch the murderer. But things go from bad to worse when Alex and his business suddenly suffer a series of less-than-random attacks. Are the murder and attacks related? Amy vows to figure it out before her and her husband’s lives are ruined…or ended permanently!

“I so regret eating spicy beef with broccoli last night,” Carla said as she steered the stroller around the corner. “Poor Macy’s stomach is gurgling so much that I could hear it when I changed her diaper.”

“I don’t get it. Your dinner last night made Macy cranky this morning?”

“Yes.” Carla wrinkled her nose. “I don’t know the exact science behind it, but she basically ends up eating whatever I do through my breast milk. Chile peppers and cruciferous vegetables were not a good idea.”

That was something Amy had no clue could happen. It seemed as though every time she talked to Carla she learned a new fact that further demonstrated her immense lack of knowledge on pregnancy and child-rearing. The mysterious road of parenthood wasn’t a route Amy had any desire to explore. She had convinced herself it would be a trip into the haunted forest of bad parenting doom. But that wasn’t the most frightening thing in her life at the moment. She had been studying the stores on the other side of the street, whose Dumpsters were in the same alley that ended in Quantum Media’s parking lot. Why had Alex’s business been the unlucky “winner” of a gruesome dead body? But Carla’s odd comment about Chinese food snapped her straying thoughts back on track to the conversation with her best friend. “That’s interesting…challenging, I’d think, to figure out what is safe to eat that won’t upset Macy’s tummy.”

“Yes, it is. I feel like I’m on some sort of strange fad diet invented by sadists.” Carla sighed. She nodded at Quantum’s building. “How are you doing after finding another dead body?”

“Okay.” Amy involuntarily shivered. Her mouth said she was fine, but her body was conveying how she really felt. Creeped out. Phoebe had looked like an actress in a zombie movie. Ick. “Worried about the detective who is handling the case. Has your hubby said anything about her? I got some bad vibes from her yesterday. She didn’t seem very personable.”

Carla stopped walking to cover Macy’s legs back up with a plush pink blanket. The stop in motion led to an immediate cry of indignation. She slipped a pacifier into the baby’s mouth. “You do realize homicide detectives aren’t supposed to give you warm, fuzzy feelings. From what I’ve heard from him, Lauren is very professional and analytical. Before she was even assigned to this case, he told me he thinks she’ll do well, that she has good instincts.”

“I hope so. I know Alex isn’t involved, but it’s scary that a body was found on his business’s property.” She looked over her shoulder, up at the second floor where Alex’s office was located. “I’m sure everybody is on edge there this morning. Not an environment conducive to creativity if the employees are all wondering if they work with a homicidal maniac.”

Hi, Janel.  Welcome to back to Read Your Writes Book Reviews.  How are you?
Thanks for having me back, Kim. I’m doing great! I’m working on the next Culinary Competition mystery and enjoying the summer with my family.

Random question.  How do you come up with the titles for your books?
The titles are always a combination of one of the featured foods in each book, often the focus of whatever culinary competition Amy is competing in, and the action surrounding her solving the murder.

Banana Muffins & Mayhem is the fifth book in your Culinary Competition Mystery series.  How has Amy Ridley evolved over the course of the series?
Amy has been tackling a lot of life issues, beyond finding murderers, from marriage troubles to making decisions that will affect the rest of her life. Her personality has softened a bit since the series began, there’s a little bit less snark, but sometimes she just can’t help herself and her feistiness comes out. She has also proved that she can solve crimes by using healthy doses of intelligence and common sense.

Amy is a former hairdresser who entered a cooking competition, won, became hooked and started entering competitions as her pseudo full time job.  She’s married to Alex, who supports her wholeheartedly. Tell me about Alex and how they met.
Amy and Alex met when she was still a hairdresser. He was installing signs in the salon where she worked. They began dating and soon married. Over the years they have supported each other as Alex grew his media business, and she pursued her cooking dreams.

In Banana Muffins & Mayhem (I just love saying the title.) Alex has to deal with a murder on his premises.  In the past Alex hasn’t played a major role in the series.  Does that all change in this book?
The murder is affecting both Alex’s life and business, so he definitely plays a greater role in this book. There is a lot at stake. While he doesn’t approach solving murders the same way as his wife, he does his best to figure out who is turning their lives upside down.

The series has focused on Amy and her best friend Carla.  In fact, the stories have been told from each of their points of view.  In Fudge Brownies & Murder, Carla had a baby.  How does this change the series?
As any parent knows, having a baby changes a lot of things. Carla and Amy are still best friends, but they don’t see each other as much. Even though they aren’t hanging out as much, Carla still plays a role in helping Amy solve crimes.

I loved that you’re starting to show more of Amy and Alex’s personal lives together.  You know, more of their romantic side.  Does this continue and what can readers expect from this story?
Stressful situations are a real test in any marriage. Readers will see how Alex and Amy react to the stress of being involved with a murder. I think fans who enjoy their relationship will be happy with the outcome.

So, you know me.  I’m always asking what’s next.  I’m a huge fan of this series.  Please tell me it’s continuing.
The Culinary Competition Series is continuing! I’m working on the sixth book right now. I hope readers will love it as much as I do.

Janel, thank you so much for sitting down with me again. Congratulations on the new book!
Thank you, Kim! It’s always so exciting to release a new book. Thank you so much for having me on your blog and being a part of the book tour!

Purchase Banana Muffins & Mayhem from:

The Culinary Competition Mystery Series:
(Click on the book covers for more information or to purchase from Amazon.)

Pies & Peril ~ Review
Christmas Canapes & Sabotage ~ Review
Chicken Soup & Homicide ~ Review
Doughnuts & Deadly Schemes ~ Review
Fudge Brownies & Murder ~ Review

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.

Places to find Janel Gradowski:

It’s a Treasure Hunt!!!  Follow Janel’s Banana Muffins & Mayhem Blog Tour to find all the letters and solve the word(s).

June 14 - My Cozy Book Nook - Interview, Review
June 15 - Book Babble - Review
June 16 - Life's A Stage - Guest Post
June 17 - Read Your Writes Book Reviews - Excerpt, Interview
June 18 - Joy's Book Blog - Review
June 20 - Knyttwytch's Crafts and Stuff - Guest Post
June 22 - Savvy Verse & Wit - Review
June 24 - Romancing The Book - Review, Interview

The Treasure Hunt letter for for this tour stop is: (B).

Collect all of the letters to spell out the Treasure Hunt word then use it to gain extra entries in the Grand Prize giveaway. You can find all of the blog tour stops and enter the giveaway at



  1. You just had to bring up banana muffins when I am starving. :)

    1. Yeah. You really shouldn't read Janel's books when you're hungry. Amy loves to cook and bake and she's always mentioning food. Plus, there are recipes in the back of the book.

    2. Thanks for the warning :)

    3. I've learned the hard way.

  2. What a great title and clever idea for a treasure hunt!

    1. Yes. I love all the titles to Janel's books. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Wonderful synopses and review! Thanks for joining in on the fun...

    1. Hi Kathleen.

      There wasn't a review of the book. Just an excerpt and my interview with Janel.

  4. Thanks for interviewing me and being a part of the blog tour! I had a lot of fun answering your questions. :)

    1. You're welcome. I need to thank you. You answered some of my burning questions. I'm looking forward to reading the book. I might need to make sure I have a banana nut muffin or two handy, while reading.

  5. Such a wonderful interview, with great questions! A great read - which reminds me, I can't wait to read Banana Muffins & Mayhem :)

    1. Thank you so much Estrella.

      I'm in the middle of reading the book now. I'm definitely learning a lot more about Amy.


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