Joni Parker's Blog

July 16, 2018

The Pearl is the tallest building in the world. Built in Hong Kong, the retail spaces on the lower levels are open but the residential levels above the 96th floor are still empty. The problem is getting insurance to cover the residential areas. Will Sawyer, a building security analyst, is called in to assess the Pearl. His family moves into the building on the 98th floor for a month as a way to sweeten the deal. Based on Will’s findings, the building meets all acceptable standards for safety and security. However, before the next step can be taken, a known mobster moves in to stop the owner and retrieve the information stored on a hard drive. The 96th floor is set on fire. Will is pushed to the brink to save his family from the fire.

Really suspenseful and a lot of action. Dwayne Johnson stars as Will Sawyer and he does an excellent job in the role. He’s become a much more convincing actor, more than a good looking guy with a lot of muscles. The computer graphics were something. Nothing like hanging out of the 98th floor to get a view of the city. It could make some people with a little queasy and bring on a fear of heights.
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Published on July 16, 2018 07:31 • 36 views • Tags: dwayne-johnson, skyscraper, will-sawyer

July 11, 2018

Published in 2018.

Former FBI Director James Comey provides an insightful memoir on his life of government service and the influential people in his life. As a high school senior, he and his brother encountered to Ramsey Rapist, a man who had attacked a dozen times beginning his spree in Ramsey, New Jersey. He thought they were going to die that night and made him realize that his life has meaning and he had to stand for something to make a difference. His path led him to law and he became a United States Attorney, working for the federal district in Manhattan. His first case dealt with the Mafia. His other case work included Martha Stewart and the Clintons. His success drew the attention of higher ups in the Department of Justice where he became Deputy Attorney General in the Bush Administration. He left government service for about eight years and returned under the Obama Administration as Director of the FBI. Comey provides unique insights to working under both Presidents.

Then the election year of 2016 came around. First came the Hillary Clinton email scandal and then the Russia Investigation. Both hot topics during the election that surprised the nation when Donald Trump was elected as President. As FBI Director, Comey had served only four years of his ten-year appointment and expected to complete his tenure. The President expected Comey to fall in line, but he didn’t. As the Director, his job was to keep the FBI out of politics, but the President felt otherwise. While Comey was on a trip to the field office in Los Angeles, he saw on the news he’d been fired. He received formal notification only after he returned to Washington.

This marked the end of a distinguished career in government service. Not the right ending for such a career. While I didn’t always agree with the man, he deserved respect, more than he received. Maybe it’s funny to fire someone on a reality TV show after a few weeks of ‘work,’ but at least, it was done in person. Not through the media. I couldn’t agree with Comey more when he hoped readers would “choose a higher loyalty…find truth among lies…and pursue ethical leadership.”

I enjoyed reading this book very much. The author includes many serious subjects but also touches on the lighter side of his service. I like his writing style and more than that I like the man. Too bad we don’t have more like him.
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Published on July 11, 2018 09:48 • 51 views • Tags: a-higher-loyalty, fbi-director, james-comey

July 9, 2018

Scott Lang, the Ant-Man, has three days to go to finish his two-year sentence of house arrest. However, he has a vision of Janet Pym, the wife of scientist Hank Pym, playing hide-and-seek with daughter, Hope. But the strange thing is Scott has never met Janet. He calls Hank to tell him and is dragged into a plan to go into the quantum work to find Janet. Hank needs one more part to complete a device to locate Janet but he’s betrayed to the FBI by the seller. In his escape, he shrinks his lab, actually the entire building, and flees with his daughter to the Muir Woods. Scott returns home just before the FBI invades his house, looking for him. The pursuit to find Janet is complicated not only by the greedy seller but also by an old rival, Bill Foster, who wants the quantum drive for himself.

This movie was great fun. Dr. Pym has given the Ant-Man a new suit that not only allows him to be small but also large. At one point, he’s eighty-five feet tall. However, it’s a prototype and doesn’t always work well. The Wasp who is Pym’s daughter, Hope, teams up with the Ant-Man to fight off the bad guys so her father can work. They make a good team. The special effects in this movie are great and used with a sense of humor.

Paul Rudd stars as the Ant-Man or Scott Lang, Michael Douglas is Dr. Hank Pym, Evangeline Lilly is the Wasp and Hope, and Michelle Pfeiffer is Janet or Mom.
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Published on July 09, 2018 07:24 • 59 views • Tags: ant-man-and-the-wasp, evangeline-lilly, michael-douglas, michael-pena, michelle-pfeiffer, paul-rudd

July 5, 2018

Wow, this is quite a psychological thriller. It bordered on horror for me. The story takes place in San Francisco and begins with two young women stuck in traffic on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Brynn is relaxing, listening to music, but her friend, Lucy, is about to lose it. She has a fear of bridges. Suddenly, Brynn gets out of the car and runs to the edge of the bridge. She jumps to her death. Stunned, Lucy remains in the car and waits for the police to arrive. Detective Frost Easton of the San Francisco Police Department arrives and begins his investigation. It gets really weird after that.

Brynn was treated for her phobia of cats by psychiatrist, Dr. Frankie Stein, who’s psychological methods had been criticized by her own community. Brynn’s phobia was cured, but did something else happen during her treatment? Dr. Stein refuses to release any information to the police citing HIPAA, but when she does, she becomes a suspect.

Interesting book. I’m not sure if Dr. Stein’s methods of treating phobias is used in actual practice, but it could. I don’t know much about it. The author certainly makes it sound feasible.

Published in 2017. This author has written thirteen other books, several of which have won prestigious awards in the thriller/suspense genre. I’ll be looking for them.
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Published on July 05, 2018 07:48 • 56 views • Tags: brian-freeman, psychological-thriller, san-francisco, the-night-bird

June 28, 2018

Published in 2018.

Embers from a campfire quickly are kicked up by the wind and spread fire quickly on Meredith Mountain in Montana. Fire crews are dispatched, but they aren’t enough to stop it. Residents of the nearby town of Fort’s Clark watch with trepidation. The local weekly, the Guardian, sends Stuart Campbell out of cover it and his reports and photographs make headlines across the country. Fortunately, it begins to rain and the fire is brought under control. However, fire fighters uncover a grisly discovery in the ashes. A dead body. No one knows who it is but a red sneaker is found in a tree not far away.

Stuart’s Aunt Alice joins the newspaper staff as a part time billing clerk after retiring from teaching school. She volunteers to help her nephew edit his work and soon, finds other duties as well, which includes identifying the victim of the fire.

The author provides quite a bit of information about fire wildfires and coincidentally, drug use. They aren’t intimately related, but they do cross paths. And a note to all of us who live in the Western U.S., this is fire season. It's already started in California and will only get worse.

This is a short book based on the number of pages but it read like a longer one. I wasn’t totally captivated by this book, but I did read it all.
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Published on June 28, 2018 08:02 • 47 views • Tags: burning-meredith, elizabeth-gunn, wildfires

June 27, 2018

My book, "Gossamer," was selected as a 2018 Book Excellence Award Finalist in the YA category. Wow! This is the third book in my series, "The Chronicles of Eledon," to receive this award.

Link: https://bookexcellenceawards.com/2018...

Synopsis: Lady Alexin, Eledon's Keeper of the Keys must continue to prove her powers when her grandmother, Lady Lestin and her friend, Lady Opaline of the Gossamer Elves are kidnapped by rebels and held for ransom. Alex attempts a daring rescue, only to discover that there is far more to this plot that she immediately suspected and the betrayal extends to the highest levels of the High Council of Elders.Threatened by rebel factions, suspected by Council members and under attack by deadly spiders, the young warrior has only her wits, her fighting skills and the powers of the Keys to help her. But will they be enough to save them all?

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01...
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Published on June 27, 2018 07:54 • 21 views • Tags: gossamer
Published in 2018. This book does have a murder mystery although it’s secondary to the recipes provided. In this story, Hannah Swenson, owner of the Cookie Jar bakery, thinks her husband has gone on location to shoot a film for the television studio where he works. However, she has been unable to get in touch with him and he hasn’t called. She assumes he’s busy and goes on with business at her bakery until her husband’s assistant is murdered. Hannah can’t resist getting involved in the investigation and hopes that it will also provide answers about her husband’s whereabouts. In the meantime, she and her sister Michelle bake up a storm.

There is one recipe in here that is not related to baking. But they all sound interesting. I’ve tried one of her recipes from another book and loved it. As a matter of fact, it’s become one of my favorites. So, I’ll have to try some of these as well.

So far as a mystery goes, it’s okay. The prose could be better, but the style is basically the same as the author’s other books. I thought Hannah should show more concern when she realizes that her husband is missing, but she hardly seems to notice. Although the police are aware her husband has dropped out of sight, she doesn’t get in touch with his employer until after the murder of his assistant and doesn’t file a missing person’s report. In fact, she pays more attention to the fact that her cat’s behavior has changed. But, oh well, it’s the recipes that are important here.
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Published on June 27, 2018 07:44 • 55 views • Tags: hannah-swenson, joanne-fluke, raspberry-danish-murder

June 25, 2018

Three years ago, Jurassic World Park was destroyed and abandoned by its human creators and monitors. The dinosaurs who survived face a new threat as the volcano on the island threatens to explode with cataclysmic consequences. The U.S. government refuses to intervene to save the creatures but a private interest will if Claire and Owen lead the way. Of primary importance is to find Blue, the raptor Owen trained from birth. However, the rescue doesn’t go as intended.

Anyone who’s a fan of this series should enjoy the continuing adventures. And based on the ending, there will probably be another one. I did enjoy it. I know all the creatures are created with computer graphics, but wow, do they do a good job on them.

Chris Pratt reprises his role as Owen, the animal behaviorist, who is needed to find and lure Blue out of the jungle, and Bryce Dallas Howard returns as Claire. She’s needed in order to activate the tracking system that was installed on all the animals when the park was in operations. They make a good team.
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Published on June 25, 2018 08:11 • 103 views • Tags: bryce-dallas-howard, chris-pratt, jurassic-world-fallen-kingdom

June 21, 2018

Published in 2016. For a planned mission to Mars in the future, NASA is setting up an experiment in Arizona where four men and four women will live for two years without any support from the outside world. They must grow their own crops, take care of the selected animals, monitor their air and water quality, and survive. This book focuses on the experiences of three people—Dawn Chapman, Ramsey Roothoorp, and Linda Ryu. Dawn and Ramsey are two of the eight selected to live inside the dome with Mission Team Two, but Linda remains on the outside, a potential candidate for Team Three. By the way, Team One was a disaster, lasting only a few months inside the dome. Team Two is out to prove it can be done.

This book was a challenge to read because it had long paragraphs and few breaks. But the action was maintained through each chapter and different narrator. By the same token, I was fascinated by the style. It’s not for me, but it kept me interested in what was going on. Not only did it cover some of the technical issues of living in this artificial environment, it also delved into the human issues—teamwork, rivalry, food rationing, communication with the outside world, and sex to name a few. Normally, I’m not into that, but this case was different. I guess because there was a mission involved and I wanted to see if they would succeed or not.

I most identified with Linda Ryu, a second generation Korean-American, swept up in the ideals of the mission, but also taken down, because she wasn’t selected for Team Two. Her reaction to her non-selection was probably how I would have taken it too. Part of her reasoning for wanting to be inside the dome was to lose weight. All of the Terranauts lose weight while inside, actually some are close to starvation.

For those of you who are thinking about volunteering for missions of this sort, this book is for you. While it sounds adventurous to live on Mars, in truth, you must become a subsistence farmer and work your butt off every day. There are few days off and very little time to sightsee. Basically, this is a survival test and if you don’t work, you won’t survive.
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Published on June 21, 2018 07:52 • 106 views • Tags: mars-experiment, nasa, t-c-boyle, the-terranauts

June 13, 2018

Courtland “Court” Gentry, also known as the Gray Man, has been hired by the CIA to locate a Chinese cyber whiz, who just defected. He’s located somewhere in Hong Kong, but no one knows where. And everyone it seems is aware that he’s defected. The Chinese, the Americans, and even the Russians. All have their own reason for wanting the young man, but who will get him? Court is only there to find him and an extraction team will be sent in. But his mission is immediately compromised when he’s followed from the airport by two Chinese agents, but he takes care of them. At the same time, the Russians are moving in, one step ahead of him, led by the beautiful and dangerous, Zoya Zakharova, code named Banshee.

Wow, this was quite an adventure. I could hardly put it down. The story begins in Hong Kong, moves to Vietnam, and concludes in Thailand. The author does a great job setting up the conflicts but still saves room for Court to come in. It takes a timing to get it done right.

This book was published in 2017 and this is the first book by this author that I’ve read. He’d previously collaborated with Tom Clancy on a few books and this is his first book on his own. He was also at the Tucson Festival of Books in March this year and I attended a seminar he was on with Joseph Finder and James Rollins.
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Published on June 13, 2018 07:29 • 35 views • Tags: china, computer-whiz, gunmetal-gray, hong-kong, mark-greaney, vietnam