Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Book Review of “Haunts Haven”, by Joan Sowards

Why is it that in a Church with over 13.5 million members spread throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and many “isles of the sea”, all LDS novels continue to be set in Utah (or occasionally Idaho)?

Oh, wait. They’re not! Finally, an LDS novel that I can relate to! Haunts Haven, by Joan Sowards, is set in my own home state of Arizona. I can’t tell you how excited I was to read a book with references to Tucson and Sierra Vista, places I’ve actually been to…more than that, lived in, having received my university degree from the University of Arizona. Although the story takes place in the mythical town of Cassady Springs, still, I felt like I was reading about “home”. This link bonded me much quicker to the story than the endless LDS books I’ve read recently, all set in Salt Lake City or Provo or even rural Utah. I understand why so many authors set their books in Utah. It’s the “write what you know” philosophy. Though I can’t help but think, as well written as some of these books are, that it wouldn’t hurt to stir things up a bit by stretching out into the “write about what you know through research” philosophy and reflect the LDS diversity of membership that lives out in what we call “the mission field”.

Of course, Joan Sowards was also undoubtedly “writing what she knew” by setting her book in Arizona, since she’s a third generation Arizonan herself. Still, I find myself saying, “Thank you, Joan!” It was a refreshing change of location and culture for me. (Even if I’m a bit prejudiced because it is, in fact, my own location and culture, too.)

But the Arizona link is not what drew me to this story. That was just a very pleasant side-benefit. What really grabbed me was the book’s subtitle: Haunts Haven: An LDS Ghost Story. How many LDS ghost stories are running around on the shelves of LDS bookstores? Until now, I’d have been forced to say “None!” Now, happily, I can at least say, “One!” And Joan pulls it off in a way entirely plausible to an LDS audience. If you’re looking for an LDS novel with an unusual twist, you will want to check out Haunts Haven.

Note to non-LDS readers: The LDS theme is in no way heavy handed and should not affect your enjoyment of this book in the least. There are, however, a few mentions of doctrine, such as temple sealings, that might be unfamiliar to you. If you find yourself curious about any LDS terminology used in this novel, you can find a handy glossary to answer your questions at

Summary of Haunts Haven:

When Callie Wilford inherits a century-old inn in southern Arizona, locals tell her of a ghost who “guards” the inn. But Callie doesn’t believe in ghosts, and she plans to turn the inn into a bed and breakfast. Then things start to happen—strange, spooky things—and she begins to wonder if there is some truth to the ghost stories. If that weren’t bad enough, Callie discovers a mysterious grave in the cellar. As she confronts the inn’s tragic secrets, she also faces her lonely past and learns to embrace her heritage. But it takes a handsome cowboy and a charming rancher to prove that Callie’s long-guarded heart can love again.

Haunts Haven is available at and Amazon. Also check out Joan Sowards blog, Haunts Haven. (And for an extra treat, visit Joan's music website at

For the FTC: As soon as I heard our shared publisher, Walnut Springs Press, planned to publish “an LDS ghost story”, I was knocking on their e-mail door, begging for a chance to read and review it. They most kindly sent me a complimentary copy, for which I most sincerely thank them.

You (my readers, not the FTC!) can win a copy of Haunts Haven by doing one or more of the following things. Do all three and receive THREE chances to win!

(1) Send an email to Type “Haunts Haven Review” in the subject line, and the words, “I don’t believe in ghosts…but I might after I read Haunts Haven!” in the text. And INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS.

(2) Become a follower of Haunts Haven's publisher (and my own), Walnut Spring Press, so you can keep track of the wonderful new titles they are bringing out this year, as well as previous titles they’ve published. Then email me at to tell me that you’ve become a Walnut Springs Press follower. Type “Haunts Haven Entry #2” in the subject line. (I won’t know if you don’t email me.) AND INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND MAILING ADDRESS, PLEASE.

(3) Send an email to, with “Haunts Haven Entry #3” in the subject line, and “Arizona Rocks!” in the text…even if you don’t live in Arizona. (Arizona really does rock, plus we actually HAVE a lot of rocks! Makes for cool hiking trails.)

Please don’t combine your entries into a single email, or you may only be counted once for the drawing. Deadline to enter is January 22nd, midnight PST. Winner will be announced here on JDP NEWS on January 23rd.

Thanks and good luck!


Joan Sowards said...

Thank you, Joyce, for such a great review on Haunts Haven, and having a contest centered around it. I'm honored that a talented author such as yourself would take the time to review it.

And yes, Arizona rocks! It's worth writing about.

Joyce DiPastena said...

It was an honor to read your book, Joan. I'd have bought a copy, if Amy hadn't offered to send me one. (Sorry about the lost royalty on that one!)

Rachelle Christensen said...

I entered all 3 ways. This sounds like a great book!

Mozette said...

I've been following your blog for a little while now; and have loved reading it. And so, I thought it would be nice to give you an award (along with a few other blogs too). Accept your award at 'My Reading List'


Rachel Harlin said...

I can't wait to get my hands on this book!

C. LaRene Hall said...

This sounds like my kind of book. I can hardly wait to read it.