Joan Sowards, Author

Monday, December 4, 2017

Shadows of Montsegur, A Tale of the Cathars

A religious people are pursecuted for their belief, driven from their homes, and must run from an extermination order issued by those who fear them.

Sounds all too familiar. 

There is truth in the saying that history repeats itself.

The year is 1144. Andreva de Beringer is joyful upon her uncle’s summons to leave the abbey in Toulouse, where she is novice, to care for her grandmother, but she arrives in Lavelanet to find a village gripped by the turmoil and terror of the Inquisition. While Andreva strives to hold on to her family, her faith, and her love, all around her Good Men (believers in the Cathar religion) must fight for the same—as well as for life itself.

In the right place, but at a dreadfully wrong time, and under the wrath of the Inquisition, might this faith-filled but naïve girl be forced to witness the massacre and burning of every Cathar man, woman, and child, and also lose the young farmer she loves?

The venturesome reader, students of history, and those who cheer for the rights of mankind can learn from this seldom-told tale of medieval history at its darkest.

Is this so different from what is happening to our religious freedom mean today?

Available at Amazon and your favorite digial ebook sites.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Salem Witch Haunt by Theresa Sneed



I cho
I chose to read Salem Witch Haunt to learn more about my ancestress who was hung during these infamous trials in Salem. Author Theresa Sneed gave life to these historical events and explained how the revengeful "circle girls" made up the accusations toward these older women. I was amazed at how their community could believe these awful lies, and actually condemned these women to death. It must have been a scary time and place in which to live!

Living in Salem, Massachusetts amidst the legends and annual re-enactments of the 1692 Salem witch trials, Bess Martin, a Danvers high-schooler, gets caught in a strange storm and finds herself back in 1692. She is taken in by kind people, including Hezekiah who is the ancestor of her best friend, Trent. Bess witnesses the pandemonium and events building up to these famous trials and hangings, including those of her own 11th great-grandmother, Susannah Martin. Though the story witnesses these sad events, it has a delightful twist at the end, and leaves us with possibilities of sequels.

The story portrays Bess' interesting experiences adjusting to the time period, witnessing events of the times, and her developing romance with Hezekiah.  My only complaint was that I wanted to see and learn more about Susanna North Martin, whom the author and I share as a common ancestor. I felt, as a reader, that I could only observe her, and I wished so much to get into her life and her thoughts. But I guess I need a book that focuses on her. Theresa? Nevertheless, I found Salem Witch Haunt worth the read, and I appreciate Sneed's thorough research of Salem, 1692. 


As my tradition, here is a quote from the novel. Hubby chose a random number, page 16:


"Come on, Seth. It's getting dark."

A loud wail left his throat. She [Bess] jumped back, a little irritated. "Come on. Now!" She grabbed for his hand, but her fingers slipped past his. "Come on!" Again she tried, but her hand passed through his. "What's going on?" She placed a hand on his shoulder, but it passed straight through him. She fell back, aghast. "Seth?" Her voice broke. He is dead! Her knees buckled beneath her, and she slipped to the ground and wept.





Theresa Sneed has several books published—traditionally and professionally self-published, with many more to come. Included is her No Angel series, Earth Angel series, The Sons of Elderberry series, and Escape series. 

Her website

Read more about Salem Witch Haunt at Amazon.

Leave a comment and be eligible to win a copy of Clairvoyance!

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Triple Date Dare by Lauraine Henderson

Triple Date Dare is Lauraine Henderson's debut novel, and a great story for being her first! The author lives in Oregon, and I met her round about way. My son called and asked if I could go several miles to pick up his friend and her bicycle (in my little Prius) and bring them to the Mesa Arts Center for a concert they were producing. We jammed the bike into the car, and then had a lovely discussion on the way to Mesa. Amy told me her mother had written a novel and asked if I would like to read it. I'm glad I did!

Laura Nelson is a cute and quirky young mystery writer, working on her second novel. She goes to an Oregon beach house, owned by her sister-in-law's parents, for peace and quiet and lots of writing time. She finds everything but.

The village of Sunset Bay has a lot of interesting characters, and Laura keeps up with all of them, especially the handsome police officer, David Harrington, who she continually keeps off-balance.

Triple Date Dare is a contemporary, inspirational tale of redemption and romance. Laura's past life comes back to haunt her as she tries to leave it all behind and make a better life for herself.


Officer David Harrington has a dark past of his own. He's sworn off women to keep his privacy. Any girls who might hint she would like to date him, he accepts, but he has a devious "triple date dare" plan that, up until Laura Nelson moves to Sunset Bay, has been successful in scaring them off. But for some reason, spunky Laura is tough enough to endure through his rigorous dates, confusing him, and leaving him falling for her.
The Triple Date Dare is fun, clean, and romantic. It made me long for ocean waves and beach villages. So, as my tradition, here is an excerpt from page 20. The police have come to investigate why the lights are on in a closed-up summer home.


[The police officer] stepped closer, and Laura caught a whiff of his musky cologne.

“Go get the ID, and put on some clothes. I’m taking you down to thestation for questioning.”

“I have clothes on!” she countered as she looked down at her pajamas.

“Well, at least enough for what I was doing,” she muttered quietly
as she put her foot on the first step to go upstairs.

Having a temper tantrum probably wasn’t the way to handle this,
she thought. He made her feel like a little kid, except when she got a whiff of his cologne. Then she felt all woman.

“You can tell us all about it down at the station. Get going.”

Suddenly Laura turned to face David again. “This is ridiculous. I

have permission to be here!”

Buy Triple Date Dare on Amazon

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Secret Obituary Writer by Amy Martinsen

What if obituaries told the truth?

The Secret Obituary Writer is a fun story about Lizzy Langston, a young woman who writes obituaries--not the glorified ones which the family submits to the newspaper, but the stories behind what made people who they were.

Lizzy had started out as a paper deliverer, and on her own, wrote stories about the recently-deceased. including anonymous tips submitted from others, and inserted them into the paper. Readers loved them! After Mr. Jonas, the newspaper owner, discovered who was writing these bonus epitaphs, he hired Lizzy to continue composing them for the paper itself.

After the old farmer, Amos, died, apparently from a heart attack while driving his tractor, cryptic messages begin appearing in Lizzy's email box, claiming that the man died in a more mysterious way. She and an assigned detective, Jackson Clark, begin on a journey to discover the truth, and also find romance amid the shrouds of mystery?

I thoroughly enjoyed Martinsen's characters, the plot, and the premise of revealing the good in people after they've passed on. Secret Obituary Writer is a fun, light read, and I would recommend it to all who enjoy clean romance and a quirky story. 
The only thing I found amiss was justification for Lizzy and Jackson's trip to Germany, but as the story panned out, it made sense in the end.

This story is fun all the way through. To prove this, I asked my hubby for a random number and was given 106. So here is an excerpt from page 106.

I tried to muffle a laugh. “I heard that, Lizzy,” Mr.Jonas said.


“Now if you’ll take your shirt off, I’ll tape these wires to your chest and put the pin on your shirt.” Jackson sounded so professional.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Mr. Jonas muttered.

To give him some privacy I faced forward again, but never having seen a person get wired, I couldn’t resist a peek in the rearview mirror. I should have resisted, though. Who knew Mr. Jonas was so hairy?


Amy Martinsen
Congrats to Amy Martinsen for another fun novel! Her first novel is Changing Worlds, also available at Deseret Book.









Buy The Secret Obituary Writer at Deseret Book and Amazon

Leave a comment and your name will go into a drawing to win a copy of The Secret Obituary Writer or Clairvoyance!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Christmas Tree Keeper by Tamara Passy

It doesn't need to be Christmas to read a heartwarming story!

 These are miracle Christmas trees. 

Angela Donovan cringes when she hears Papa Shafer convince her 10 year-old daughter that the trees on his lot are miracle trees. Angela needs a miracle, but hasn't the faith to believe a tree could improve her jobless, single-mom life. But as soon as they choose a tree, good things begin to happen, including meeting Mark, Mr. Shafer's grandson.


Though Mark has concerns of his own, his life is mixed up with figuring out how to ask is girlfriend Natalie to marry him, and buying a house--all which hinges on selling the tree lot. The Christmas tree lot is a tradition in the small New England town where they live. He can't see the forest for the trees (I couldn't resist) and disregards the hard work of his parents, Papa, and his great-grandparents in establishing the tree business, and is blind to the needs of the rest of his business family. All he can think about is himself, marrying Natalie, and getting the house he wants. 


The romance is not what's played up in this story, but the character growth of each player. Mark is so self-centered, I wanted to punch him. The ending is fun, though, and sets us up for the sequel, The Tree Keeper's Promise. I loved the story. In fact, for days after reading it, I thought about it a lot, and wanted to read it again. I will definitely read the sequel!

Hubby randomly chose page 99 for the quote: Mark is talking to two inspectors for the land purchase. He is still trying to keep the sale a secret. Papa approaches.

The man continued, "What? Do you need us to pretend to be customers or something?"

Could you?" Mark asked.

"If it's going to be that much of a problem, we can reschedule."

"Mark, are these good men leaving here without a tree?" Papa asked. He reached out and shook their hands. "Call me Papa Shafer. Is my grandson taking care of you?"

"So far," the shorter man said cautiously.

"Did you find what you're looking for?" 

"Not yet." The other gentleman looked at Mark.

"Papa, they stopped in to see what we offered. They weren't prepared to haul a tree. They're coming back," Mark nodded toward the parking lot exit.

"Sounds good. Don't wait to long," Papa warned. "Christmas will come and go before you know it."

Buy The Christmas Tree Keeper on Amazon.




Tamara Passey was born and raised in Massachusetts around a large family, one that has served as inspiration for most of her writing. She was named Arizona Young Mother of the Year in 2013 and contributes marriage and family articles to FamilyShare.com. 
Mothering through the Whirlwind is Passey's first work of non-fiction. She loves most creative endeavors and when she isn't writing or re-writing, you can find her baking or cross-stitching or walking--though not all at the same time. She lives with her husband and three children in Arizona. 


Comment here and be eligible to win a gently read copy of The Christmas Tree Keeper by Tamara Passey, or Clairvoyance by Joan Sowards

Possible comment prompt: Have you experienced a Christmas miracle in your life?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Scattering Stars by Wendy C Jorgensen

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"One wrong move could jeopardize the future of the planet."

Book One in author Wendy Jorgensen's Scattering Stars Trilogy is full of suspense, intrigue, and romance. This gorgeous cover depicts the Colorado Rockies, the setting for this great story. Sixteen year-old Eve Hunter and her father return to Ridgeway, the town of her birth and where ten years earlier her mother drowned in a strange accident in a nearby canyon. Eve's grandfather, Jarak, is a powerful man who is considered a prophet among  the Colonists at Terra Dyne. Eve attends school at Ridgeway High and notices the close-knit teens from the colony are different in several ways from the other students, and she is certain they all share a common secret. Eve makes close allies, and a few enemies, on her journey as she discovers who she and the colonists really are.

Scattering Stars is a story about faith, choices, and courage. It’s a reminder that we are not on this planet by accident. Instead, we each have a purpose and a mission to perform.

Wendy C Jorgensen
From page 159 of Scattering Stars.

"What are we doing here?" I asked.

"Can't you feel it?" Brad asked, with a hint of anticipation.

"Feel what?" 

"The power. The potential. Whenever I lose track of who I am, I drive through these gates and up to the top of the hill so I can see Terra Dyne. I look over the valley . . . And somehow I know that it all matters, that I matter."

I asked Wendy Jorgensen what inspired her to write Scattering Stars. Here is her reply:

"From the time I saw the movie, Escape to Witch Mountain, I’ve been fascinated by aliens. Not the creepy, lizard-looking aliens, but extraterrestrials who resembled humans and could live amongst Earth’s inhabitants, hiding in plain sight. Within a few years more science fiction movies followed: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Cocoon. I loved them all. When I decided to write my first novel, there was no question as to what I would write about.

On Colorado’s western slope, not far from the towns of Ridgway and Telluride, stands an extinct volcano called Lone Cone that rises to over 12,000 feet. A distinctive and solitary peak, Lone Cone is separated from nearby mountain ranges and surrounded by farms and wilderness. We’ve owned land in this area for many years, and the secluded location seemed a perfect landing site for my aliens."

                                                           The title for Jorgensen's novel is a quote from Jalaluddin Rumi--

Scattering Stars is expertly written and thought provoking. The characters are well developed. The story addresses issues of where our own society may be headed.

Though the ending of Scattering Stars answered all my questions, I found it ended too quick and could have been fleshed out more. But, of course, this left the story open for the sequels--which I am looking forward to reading!

I recommend Scattering Stars to all readers who enjoy a great YA story--with a touch of the world beyond.

Buy Scattering Stars at Amazon.

Leave a comment on this post and you're entered to win a digital copy of Scattering Stars

Your comment will also make you eligible to win a copy of Clairvoyance by Joan Sowards. 


Monday, September 19, 2016

Another Fun Review!

Lauren McAfee, book reviewer for Deseret News Faith has written a review on Clairvoyance.  She is also an assistant librarian in beautiful Cedar City. Thank you Lauren!
Read the review here.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Clairvoyance now in Deseret Book and on Amazon!


My sweet summer tale Clairvoyance is now for sale at Deseret Book stores! It even had the honor of being listed in the Deseret Book summer catalogue that was mailed to your home.

It is also available in hardback and Kindle on Amazon.

After college graduation, Jennifer Weston takes a summer job with a small seaside village newspaper in Oregon. She hopes sea breezes and solitude will heal her heart after a bad breakup with Vince and the pain of her father taking a new bride only four months after the death of her mother. Jennifer resolves to have a no-romance summer.

Soon she is swept up in the lives of the villagers of Windridge, including a suave newspaper man, and a handsome paramedic. Through a well-meaning friend and clairvoyant, Jennifer learns that  some resolves are meant to be broken.


Bridges of the Heart is also on shelves in Deseret Book stores. 

College student, Rachel Lisenby finds life hard to cope with after her mother passes away. To add to Rachel’s confusion, her boyfriend Maxson proposes marriage on the evening of the funeral. She escapes to Utah to think and take time off from the relationship. Over the phone, she tells Maxson she is not ready for marriage, and suggests he start dating other girls. 

After returning to Arizona, Rachel finds Maxson in a relationship with Paige—her rival throughout high school. With time, Rachel convinces herself she is over him, but a strange Southern visitor named Jonathan tells her that she is meant to marry Maxson. Jonathan insists it is her responsibility to apologize to Maxson and set things straight, since she broke up with him. But Rachel refuses. Because of her stubbornness, she is whirled back in time to 1820 to learn that family ties reach into the past, as well as the future. 
With a heart-warming, unique perspective of the early-nineteenth-century American South, Bridges of the Heart is a story about the power of love and forgiveness. 

Available at Deseret Book and on Amazon

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

Don't let Ideal High's simple cover fool you. It is a powerful story of one girl’s positive influence on a Texas high school that has a huge problem with bullying.

After six of her friends are killed in a tragic fire, Taryn Young sets out to improve how students treat each other on and off campus. At first there is much resistance, many saying, “That’s the way things are”, or that demeaning others is the tradition of the school. Even administration denies that the problem exists.

Author Valerie Ipson
This intense story offers mystery, drama, and suspense. I could hardly put it down, and have thought about the story for days after finishing it.


Ideal High is well written and delivers a great message. Parents and teens alike should read it. It will make us better people and more sensitive to our fellowmen, and aware of what is happening around us--if we take its message to heart.

I give Ideal High the Most-Valuable-High-School-Novel award.

Buy Ideal High on Amazon. Visit Valerie Ipson's website.

Back of the book blurb:

There's no way I'm taking Blake's place as president of the student body. As soon as the memorial for him and six of our fires is over, I'm resigning as VP. Really.

Except people say the fire was no accident.

(I say it's way too easy to blame someone who's dead.)

When I read the writing on the wall, literally, the bathroom wall, I know what it means. To get to the truth I have to come out from under my paisley comforter.

But seriously, what stage of grief says I have to be the one to fix what's wrong at Ideal High?

Maybe I'm the one who's broken.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Clairvoyance - Set for a Spring Release!



After college graduation, Jennifer Weston takes a summer job with a small seaside village newspaper in Oregon. She hopes sea breezes and solitude will heal her heart after a bad breakup with Vince and the pain of her father taking a new bride only four months after the death of her mother. Jennifer resolves to have a no-romance summer.

Soon she is swept up in the lives of the villagers of Windridge, including a suave newspaper man, and a handsome paramedic. Through a well-meaning friend and clairvoyant, Jennifer learns that  some resolves are meant to be broken.