Author Archives: Jo Ann Schneider

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29-May-2020

One Wife’s Search for Her Drunken Swede

Liam stumbled along the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe. He stopped to look at the full moon glittering off the surface of the lake, then held up his bottle in salute. “Here’s to another year,” he said softly. The shaking bottle met his lips, and Liam took a swig of…

Liam swore under his breath as he lowered his arm in defeat. When had he run out of rum? Or whiskey? Whatever it had been, it had been good.

Squealing that could only be a teenage girl chased into the water by a teenage boy filled the air, and Liam winced. He should probably get off the private beach before anyone spotted him. He didn’t need to spend the night in the Carson City jail during the summer. In the winter was an entirely different matter.

The act of putting one foot in front of the other shouldn’t have been difficult, but Liam scowled as he willed his body to obey his simple commands.

Ever since he’d given up his memories he’d had a hard time staying coordinated while drunk.

“Stupid woman took more than I asked her too.”

Then again, didn’t they all?

After only falling down twice, Liam made it to the edge of the private beach and managed to get to the main road before a light ten times the brightness of the sun hit him in the face. He threw a hand over his eyes and groaned.

“Dang it, Liam, the kids on the beach thought there was a murder down there.”

Liam started to raise his empty bottle in greeting, but thought better of it. “Down where, deputy Smith?” It probably wouldn’t help to play stupid, but he may as well try.

The deputy snorted and the light went out. Liam briefly entertained the idea of bolting, but where would he go? It’s not like he had a place to call his own.

“Come on, Liam,” the deputy said. “Someone is looking for you.”

“Looking for me?” Some of the buzz from the alcohol burned away. His mind snapped into action as the possibilities rolled through his head. “Who?”

“Don’t know. The sheriff put out an APB on you. Said we’re supposed to bring you in.” Deputy Smith walked slowly toward Liam. The man had never done more than give him a fine or take him to the holding cells before, but now the hair on Liam’s arms stood on end.

“I—I don’t want to go in,” Liam said. He took a step away. “It’s a beautiful night. Why waste it indoors?” He took a second step back.

“Come on, Liam, either you come quietly, or I can make you come.”

Liam snorted. He had at least thirty years and fifty pounds on the scrawny deputy. One didn’t grow up carving ice out of mountains and not end up nice and strong. Old man strength was nothing to scoff at.

“Please?” Deputy Smith asked, in what sounded like a sincere voice.

“No,” Liam said. “Unless you have charges I don’t have to go.” He’d seen enough cop shows on television to know that much.

Deputy Smith sighed. “I can get the charges, but that means you’ll go to jail, and no one wants that. Just come in. For questioning.”

“Questioning about what?” Liam’s eyes darted back and forth, looking for a secure escape route.

“Nothing you’re in trouble for.”

Liam narrowed his eyes. Was this kid stalling? Just as he turned to look behind him, something sharp bit his back, and a wave of pain rolled through him. The bottle shattered on the asphalt just before Liam hit the ground with a thud.

Had someone just tazed him? He could see the stars. Or was that a hallucination?

Gravel crunched as someone approached. “You were always difficult, my love.”

The voice started out garbled, but quickly cleared up.

Liam winced. He’d given up most of his memories. He thought he’d gotten rid of all the ones of her. One more thing the witch hadn’t done right.

Greta’s long, white braid fell over one shoulder, and her bright, blue eyes stared down at him. “I’ve been looking for you, my love.”

Liam didn’t have enough control over his body to speak. She had to get away from him. He’d left for a reason. A reason he couldn’t remember, but knew was dangerous enough for him to throw his whole life away and come here.

Greta squatted down—impressively stable for a seventy year old woman—and stroked his cheek. “Do you know me?”

He managed a sort of jerking nod, and got one word from his lips. “Go.”

She shook her head. “No, my love.” She reached into a bag hanging at her side and pulled out a scroll the length of a hardback book and the diameter of a tennis ball. The red parchment glistened in the moonlight.

Liam’s heart went cold. “No,” he said.

Greta smiled a sad smile. “I’m sorry, my love, I know you thought hiding would keep me safe, but it hasn’t, and now you’re not safe.”

What was she talking about?

“Forty years of marriage makes us stronger together, no matter what.” She patted him on the cheek and looked at Deputy Smith. “Can we get him in the car?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Cold gathered in Liam’s stomach.

If Greta was here, then his sacrifice had been in vain. The scroll would return his memories—things he knew were best left forgotten.

***
This is as close to a Nordic Romantic Comedy set in Lake Tahoe that I could get!

Genre – Nordic Romantic Comedy
Character – The Town Drunk
Setting – Lake Tahoe
Random Object – The Scroll of Forgotten Memories


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Book Reviews: Nantucket Inn and Rika Outcast

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Book Reviews Week 5!

Romance book of the week: Nantucket Inn by Pamela M. Kelley. This one has been lurking near the top of several romance categories since it came out a year ago, so I thought I would check it out.

Science Fiction book of the week: Rika Outcast by M.D. Cooper. I’ve met Mal Cooper, and I’ve been looking for something not strictly military sci-fi to read. This one has a lot of military components in it, so plenty of action, but without the strict structure. Sort of.

Nantucket Inn

This book is about a widow and her four adult children. The series lends itself to continued use of the same characters. There are two “happy for now” endings at the conclusion of this book, but no real “happily ever after.”

Instead of a romance novel, this one is really a romance series where your favorite character may or may not find true love, or they might go back to their loser boyfriend instead. Read the next book to find out what happens.

These books are still doing really well, so it’s a style a lot of people must like. I prefer a solid resolution and a “happily ever after” for the characters in my romance books.

My author brain twitched at the writing. There was a lot more outlining what was going on rather than having me see it through a character’s point of view, so that bugged me.

Three-and-a-half stars

Lisa Hodges needs to make a decision fast. Thanks to her dead husband’s gambling addiction, their savings is almost gone. In her early fifties with a large, waterfront home on Nantucket to support, Lisa hasn’t worked in over thirty years, has no in-demand skills and is virtually unemployable.

Her only options are to sell the house and move off-island, or, she could use her cooking and entertaining skills and turn her home into a bed and breakfast. She desperately needs it to succeed because she has four grown children with problems of their own and wants to stay close to them. 

Her oldest daughter, Kate, has a fabulous career in Boston–working as a writer for a popular fashion magazine and engaged to a dangerously handsome, photographer, who none of them have met.

Kate’s twin, local artist, Kristen, has been reasonably content with her on-again off-again relationship with an older, separated businessman. 

Her son, Chase, runs his own construction business and is carefree, happily dating here and there but nothing serious. 

Youngest daughter, Abby, is happily married to her high school sweetheart, and they’ve been trying to have a baby. But it hasn’t happened yet, and Abby wonders if it’s a sign that maybe their marriage isn’t as perfect as everyone thinks.

Come visit Nantucket and see how Lisa’s new bed and breakfast has an impact on almost everyone in her family. It’s the first book in a new series that will follow the Hodges family, friends, and visitors to Nantucket’s Beach Plum Cove Inn.

Rika Outcast

This book promised a kick butt female character and lots of action. It delivered.

There’s a prologue sort of thing at the beginning that isn’t really needed unless you want the gruesome details of how Rika gets made into a mech soldier, but the author does a good enough job in the rest of the book that you don’t need it.

Rika’s character arch is good, but loses its own way a few times in the story. A couple of the women were too sweet/tender to me, which is strange, but there you go. The guys crack me up.

The story could have used another 10k words to flesh it out a bit, and the story seems to end at one point, then goes on. A better bridge between the sections would have helped.

All in all this was a fun read. A bit more swearing than I prefer, but I’m sensitive about that and won’t hold it against the author.

Four stars

A cyborg killing machine, created by the Genevian military and cast aside when the war was lost.

Now she slings cargo on Dekar Station, falling deeper in debt as she struggles to make enough money to keep her cybernetic body functioning. The local gangs would love to have her join their ranks, and the takings would pay her bills, but the only thing Rika hates more than what she’s become, is killing for others.

But morals don’t buy repairs and she’s at the point of utter desperation when her loan holder cashes in her debt and sells her to the highest bidder.

When Rika wakes, she’s in a warehouse on a planet she’s never heard of, and a trio of mercenaries are reassembling her body. Their mission is to kill the world’s president, and her mods and abilities are just what they need to get the job done.

Whether she likes it or not, Rika is in the business of killing once more as she joins the ranks of the Marauders.

There you go! Book Reviews Week 5!
Tune in next week for more reviews.


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22-May-2020

Giant Monsters vs A Toddler
Who is your money on?

Frank waited at the mouth of the alley, watching the fog swirl in the moonlight. A car drove by, upsetting the fragile balance and scattering the mist in its wake.

A light hiss sounded behind Frank. Sneakers on asphalt. Frank turned and saw the silhouette of a man approaching, a single orange prick of light flared as he took a drag of a cigarette. The man stopped, and Frank took a step out of the shadows.

“You Francis?” the man asked.

“Frank,” he said in a flat voice.

“Sure. Whatever.” The man took a step forward and squinted down at Frank. “So, the rumors are true. You’re a dwarf.”

Frank snorted. This guy was stupid enough not to be able to tell the difference between a four-year-old and dwarf. “Did you bring what I ask for?”

“Yeah, I got it.” The man reached into his jacket, but didn’t pull his hand free. “You got my payment?”

“Of course.” It’s not like this was Frank’s first clandestine activity. “Can you guarantee me that this will be the winning ticket?”

“On one condition.”

Frank narrowed his eyes. “And what would that be?”

“You tell me your age.”

Frank sighed. He’d spent the last six months, right after he’d emaciated himself from his idiot parents, building his reputation. If he told this man his age all that work might go down the drain. “That wasn’t part of the deal,” Frank said.

“The deal changed. I had to pull a lot of strings to get this ticket. Call in all my favors and—”

“And you’re getting paid handsomely for it,” Frank interrupted. “Enough that you can retire.”

The ground under their feet rumbled enough to make Frank take a step, reminding him and the man that the concept of retirement was a farce unless someone could figure out how to stop the giant monsters that had risen from the earth, as if from a bad Japanese film.

Frank was that person, if this dolt would give him the ticket.

“What do you need a robot for anyway?” the man asked.

Frank pointed in a random direction. May as well give this guy something to gossip about to his criminal friends. “To stop them.”

“The monsters?”

“That’s right.” Frank smirked.

“How do you expect to do that?”

“I expect you to give me the ticket, then you’ll see.” Frank wasn’t surprised when the man snorted in disbelief.

“The best minds on the earth are working on it.”

“They’re trying,” Frank said. The ground shook again.  He needed to get out of here before the police “rescued” him and tried to put him into child services again. He didn’t have time for that. He sighed. “Fine, I’ll tell you my age, but in return, you escort me to get my winnings.”

The pause that followed lasted longer than Frank had anticipated.

“What cut do I get?” the man asked.

“Cut?”

“Yeah. I help you save the world, I’m sure you’re going to paid for it. I want a cut.”

Frank rubbed his forehead. Of course there would be a reward, but if all of the governments fell before then, then there wouldn’t be much left.

Still, Frank could use a man to pose as his father when he went into public, and this guy was at least twice as smart as his own dad, rest his soul. Frank had told his parents they needed to run from the coast, but they wouldn’t listen. “Okay, tell you what, you work for me and I’ll pay you one percent of what I earn.”

“Ten.”

“Don’t be absurd. Two percent.”

“Five.”

Frank sighed. “Four. Final offer.” If they lived, they’d both be filthy rich.

“Done.”

Frank held out his hand. “Ticket.”

The man stepped close enough for Frank to see his face. He was older than Frank had thought. Deep lines etched his face, and thick peppered gray hair topped his head. Maybe Frank would say this guy was his grandpa.

“You really think you can use this robot to stop the monsters?” the man asked.

Frank reached out and took the ticket. “I can.”

The man shook his head. “A kid is going to save the world?”

“The adults are too busy panicking to do it.” Frank checked his watch—a huge thing that he’d had to make a custom band to fit his scrawny arm. “We’d better get going if we’re going to make it to the drawing.”

***
That was fun!

Genre – Giant Monsters
Character – Super Genius 4-year-old who adopted himself
Setting – A foggy, moonlit street late at night
Random Object – Winning Grand Price Raffle Ticket


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Book Reviews: Her Bodyguard Swap and Constitution

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Book Reviews Week 4!

Romance book of the week: Her Bodyguard Swap by Laura Ann. I picked this one because she’s pretty popular in clean romance, and I haven’t ever read anything by her before.

Science Fiction book of the week: Constitution. I chose this one because this series is often lurking in the top 50 of Amazon’s many science fiction lists.

Her Bodyguard Swap

I really liked the premise of this one. Three brothers—triplets—all ex-military come together to start a security company. There are several other characters involved with the company, and I’m certain if you continued reading the series that you’d find romances for them all.

This story was cute and fun. The guy, Ridge, does one too many stupid things for my taste, but his poor decisions (all in the name of love) did drive the story forward. The girl is okay.

He’s admired her for a while, and her side of the romance is completely dependent on the spark that she feels the first time she sees him. I’m not a huge fan of love at first sight, so this felt flat to me.

The reveal of who the internet troll is was totally forced. Mysteries should have clues, not just whack you in the face at the end of the story.

That being said, this one is cute and clean and easy to read. I’d say four stars.

She’s falling in love with her bodyguard,
now if she could just figure out who he is!

Everly Madison loves life as an online music sensation. But it turns ugly when an internet troll posts threatening comments on her videos. When she hires a bodyguard to keep her safe, her hunky new protector makes her soul sing.

Ridge Lockwood gave up the military to help his two identical triplet brothers establish a security firm. But when one of their first clients is the online singer-songwriter he’s admired for months, Ridge is devastated when one of his brothers is assigned the case instead of himself. Determined to spend time with her, he takes matters into his own hands and pulls out the old, ‘switcheroo’.

As Everly becomes confused about exactly who she’s falling for, the predator’s actions begin to escalate. Can Ridge defend her while still hiding his secret? Or will he come clean, risking not only his company’s reputation, but the woman he’s fallen desperately in love with?

Constitution

This book is a cross between Independence Day and the more recent Battlestar Galactica. It reads like a movie, relying on jumping from scene to scene and character to character to keep the reader engaged.

I like that style, and mostly enjoyed the book.

I was surprised how short it was. There is a trend in Indie publishing to keep books shorter so readers don’t get bored, and so the author can divide their story into more books, which will make them more money.

Neither of these things is bad, but the characters suffered in this story due to the short(ish) length. The character are mostly stereotypes with little to no character arcs. There was just enough to keep me interested.

All in all this one tells you about the action instead of letting you feel it through the characters. Not my style, but considering the book has over 3,000 positive reviews, it’s a style a lot of people like.

I’d give it four stars.

The year is 2650

75 years ago, an alien fleet attacked Earth.

Without warning. Without mercy.

We were not prepared.

Hundreds of millions perished. Dozens of cities burned.

We nearly lost everything.

Then, the aliens abruptly left.

We rebuilt. We armed ourselves. We swore: never again.

But the aliens never came back.

Until now.

There you go! Book reviews Week 3!

Tune in next week for more reviews.


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