The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life: Two Survivors Reveal the 13 Golden Pearls They’ve Discovered by Dr. Allen Lycka and Harriet Tinka

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life by Dr. Allen Lycka and Harriet Tinka is a very inspirational and thought-provoking book written by two people who lived through extremely traumatic and trying experiences. The authors learned from those experiences and grew to understand that they did not have to allow what happened to them to influence the rest of their lives negatively. Instead, they both chose to move on and have successful careers and happy lives, and decided to collaborate and write a book to help others also live “fantastic lives.”

The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life is subtitled “Two Survivors Reveal the 13 Golden Pearls They’ve Discovered.” Those “golden pearls,” or life lessons, aided them to get past the traumatic events in their lives and to move on. The self-help book that they wrote, detailing what those 13 golden pearls are, is full of revelations that the authors hope will inspire readers of the book. The negative things that everybody experiences in their lives, to one extent or the other, do not have to define who we are as people.

I really liked it that Dr. Allen Lycka and Harriet Tinka opened up in The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life and revealed the nature of the traumatic experiences they went through. Dr. Lycka was diagnosed as having Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and he was told he only had six months to live. Harriet Tinka was a fashion model and a Woman of Distinction who lived through the terror of being kidnapped by someone she knew, stabbed by the man, and left for dead. Dr. Lycka and Harriet Tinka could have let these things embitter them and alter the course of their lives and careers for the worse. Instead, they moved on, grew, and didn’t let the negative things they went through define them.

What are the 13 golden pearls that the authors discovered and relate to their readers in The Secrets to Living a Fantastic Life? Being an author myself, I don’t want to reveal too many “spoilers.” I’d rather that potential readers of the book get the pleasure of checking out what the pearls are on their own, by reading Dr. Lycka and Harriet Tinka’s book. They reveal what the pearls are in a captivating and entertaining manner by both telling stories from their own lives and also by utilizing a myriad of quotes from famous authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson and celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney, Christopher Reeve, and Bruce Lee.

I will mention a couple of the pearls that I loved reading about the most, though, and those are the importance of forgiveness and laughter. I will talk more about a few of the other pearls with Dr. Lycka and Harriet Tinka in an interview that they graciously agreed to do with me, which can be read elsewhere at this same site.

GREEZERS: A Tale of Establishment’s Decline and Fall by Simon Plaster (Review #2)

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Henrietta, a former newspaper reporter, answers a want ad and is given the opportunity to play amateur sleuth when she is hired by erstwhile lawyer Leroy “Lero” O’Rourke to help in his surveillance case involving the prominent DeGrasso family. What starts out as a simple case turns complicated when Henrietta and Lero find themselves in the middle of a high-stakes competition. The race is on as to who might take over the reins of the family owned lube business when the ninety-five-year old family matriarch, Nanette DeGrasso, gives up her position of leadership either due to retirement or death. There are two main contenders for assuming control of the Oklahoma City based company. Charles DeGrasso, Nanette’s son, considers himself not only ready to undertake the role of Chief Executive Officer but also firmly believes that he has been the rightful heir apparent for decades. However, Joe DeGrasso, Nanette’s nephew, is of the opinion that he is a better choice as the successor, and he has already launched a business venture that could impact the company’s bottom line if customers embrace it. With the venture off to a disappointing start, will sales revenue increase? What risks, both personally and professionally, are the two competitors willing to take in order to achieve their dreams of running the family business? As Henrietta and Lero get pulled deeper into the intense family rivalry, how much will the stumbling blocks they encounter hinder their efforts to bring the case to a satisfying conclusion?

Regaining Paradise: Forming a New Worldview, Knowing God, and Journeying into Eternity by Paul Corson

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Do you feel a sense of incompleteness? A longing to return to a place you have never been to? Regaining Paradise: Forming a New Worldview, Knowing God, and Journeying into Eternity might not have the answers to all of your questions, but it will help you find the answers you are searching for. Prepare yourself to be taken on a “hero’s journey” by Paul Corson on the vehicle of imagination.

Regaining Paradise is about regaining what we once all had, but then slowly grew out of, the light of Paradise. A light that many of us have turned a blind eye to. In a world in which materialism gains ever more ground, it is a challenge to see beyond the mirage of the tangible. But, as Paul Corson notes, the solid is mostly intangible energy. The author has peeked behind the veil of our reality and not just seen but experienced what lies beyond. If you accept his invitation to journey together, so will you.

Although Regaining Paradise heavily draws on the author’s personal transcendent experience, that is not the only source of inspiration. The curious nature of the author comes across in the rich references that embellish the book, from a great variety of fields: literature, mythology, philosophy, psychology… the list goes on.

The Greatest War Stories Never Told: 100 Tales from Military History to Astonish, Bewilder, and Stupefy (The Greatest Stories Never Told) by Rick Beyer

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A really great read! The book is made up of many stories of strange but true happenings during wars. Some of these go back to 371 B.C. and some are as recent as 1991. The stories cover all sorts of happenings, some of which we are all aware of happening but we didn’t know the whole story behind the happening. It is a non-fiction book but reads almost like fiction when the stories are told….some are hard to believe.

In 371 B.C. the Spartans from Greece lost a major battle to Thebes in the battle of Leuctra. As good as the Spartan army was at that time the Thebes army of 300 soldiers really outclassed and outfought the Spartans. Strangely those three hundred soldiers were composed of 150 couples. That is right ….the Thebes had an army of 300 gay folks and this “band of lovers” knew how to fight!

Late in the 1200’s the Chinese built the best weapons in the world and were using them to expand their empire. However the weapons eventually did move to other parts of the world. And that begat problems for the Chinese. Their problem was that their ammunition was not as effective as others began to use. The reason was they had fewer domesticated animals!

Harbor’s Edge by Sanne Rothman

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Sanne Rothman’s young adult thriller, Harbor’s Edge, piques the curiosity while romancing the imagination, with a story that offers mystery, the supernatural, budding romance, and an intelligent 14-year-old heroine on a profoundly insightful journey to self-discovery.

The story is set in beautiful Hawaii with which author Sanne Rothman does a wonderful job of detailing the beautiful environment. She brings forth both its timeless natural beauty as well as artfully presents intriguing aspects of Hawaiian life and culture especially with her incorporation of the lore of the dark and ancient sea monsters called The Mo’o, the legend, and mystery of which is initially contemplated by Harbor early on in the story.

Initially, as the story unfolds, we meet Harbor, a young, resilient, intelligent teenager who finds her life shrouded in mystery and sadness. Having lost both her parents under mysterious circumstances, she fights with feelings of abandonment as she seeks to solve the mystery of what truly happened. She lost her F.B.I. agent father to a cold-blooded murderer and her mother, who disappeared without a trace, leaving her and her younger sister Fig in the care of their TuTu (grandmother). TuTu owns a popular, local restaurant, featuring Hawaiian hamburgers and Harbor works at the restaurant in the drive-thru which allows her the opportunity to practice analyzing the faces of customers based on techniques from her father’s FBI profiling manuals. She works on her skills at analyzing faces in the hopes of finding clues to her father’s murderer and clues to her missing mother.

The Boy Refugee: A Memoir from a Long-Forgotten War by Khawaja Azimuddin, M.D.

Reviewed by Danita Dyess

In The Boy Refugee: A Memoir from a Long-Forgotten War by Dr. Khawaja Azimuddin, he chronicles the devastating effects of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Back then, Azimuddin, a Pakistani, was only eight years old. His detailed account of the civil unrest chronicles two years of emotional, economical, familial, and political upheaval. About 100,000 Prisoners of War were entangled in a never-ending battle between the Bangladeshis and their quest for independence and the Pakistanis who have assumed total control.

Azimuddin had two older siblings – his sister, Maliha Apa and brother, Khusro Bhaijan. His mother, Ammi, was the daughter of an influential civil servant. Their spacious home was surrounded by a pond and trees filled with bananas, apples, and coconuts.

His father, Pappa, had been educated in India. Now he was a bishari, upper class group of society. Pappa worked as a plant manager for Adamjee Jute Mills, the world’s largest manufacturer of jute and cotton products. He oversaw the Bengali workers, the poor class residing in shantis. The two classes are about to erupt in a war. Why?

The boy that liked to play cricket, ride his bike, and pet his pigeon, Kabooter, explains. He says the history of the two factions began when the East and West Pakistan were separated by geography. When the British left, two countries formed – Muslims represented Pakistan (Bengalis) and Hindus represented India. Now the Pakistani army killed mill workers. So the mukti bahini murdered Pakistani officers and civilians.

So the story unfolds with Abdul, a loyal servant of Azimuddin’s family suddenly leaves. He had heard about the slaughtering of five Bengali men. Also, Mujibar Rahman was a political leader who won the election but was denied the presidency. The Awami League supported him and protested the conditions. Bengali workers vacated their jobs at the mill.

Travels Through the Years: A Life Story by James McGee

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Travels Through the Years: A Life Story is a wonderful retelling of James McGee’s life as he takes readers on an inspirational and fascinating chronological journey from childhood through adulthood, marriage, fatherhood, and retirement. McGee spent his childhood in the small town of Lomita, California, before he took a gap year during college to travel. This marked the beginning of a lifetime exploring all 50 states in the United States along with 86 countries. During McGee’s travels, which were tied into military service and business and leisure trips, he became acquainted with relatives and visited ancestral and historical sites in conjunction with cultural places of interest. McGee has written captivating descriptions of the people and places he encountered and provides great insights into the different lifestyles he was exposed to in all of the locales that he visited either once or multiple times. The recollections of personal and family history will tug at people’s heartstrings, especially the sudden loss of his beloved wife and son. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one will relate to McGee’s difficult, unpredictable, and slow j.urney through the grieving process and the changes one goes through while struggling to cope with devastating loss. He writes about the mechanisms that helped him through his bereavement, which can provide inspiration to others who have lost someone they love.

The book is extremely well-organized, and the chapter titles and headlines within the chapters make the text easy to navigate and also give readers the opportunity to engage with subject matter they may want to revisit. Black and white family photographs add extra meaning to the story. Readers will appreciate the reference material at the end of the book as it is helpful in providing a snapshot of the wealth of material that is covered in the book. In the Postscript there are quotations that fit in marvelously with McGee’s intimate thoughts about his life together with a list of books that were an indelible part of the journey. The Afterword is comprised of his reflections on life experiences as well as opinions on differing topics from the years 2002 through 2020. Appendix 1 lists the 86 countries he visited and the year(s) that he traveled. Appendix 2 is a chronological summation of all the jobs he has held throughout his working and retirement life. Appendix 3 lists the places where he has lived and the timeframe. Following Appendix 3 are past reviews of books used in the writing of this remarkable book that will take readers on a spellbinding journey through the past and into the present.

McGee eloquently articulates his feelings and insights in this beautiful life story that is inspiring, thoughtful, and encouraging to all who set aside the time to read the book. Readers will also find the personal and family history along with the descriptions of places, whether historical or modern, of great interest. Reading this story is a genuine treat and will embolden people in their own travel plans, and those who prefer armchair travel will find the book delightful and a great way to learn about the history, traditions, and hospitality of many cultures.

Big Numbers (Austin Carr Mystery Book 1) by Jack Getze

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Austin Carr is having some problems with his life. Because of monetary problems and a split with his wife, he is living in an old truck-mounted camper. The camper is parked in the lot of a bar where he spends a lot of time and the owner of the bar wants him out of the lot but seems to always succumb to Carr’s charm. Carr has also given him a few stock tips that paid off and he is hoping for more help in exchange along the way to pay for the parking.

Mostly Carr gets along well with Luis who is the bartender at Cruz’s bar and grill so that keeps him pretty well fixed for food and beverages. However Cruz still is very watchful because he isn’t happy with the camper truck in the lot.

It seems as a stockbroker he isn’t doing overly well although he has one client, Gerry Burns, who has been putting quite a bit of work Carr’s way. One day Gerry comes in to see Carr and first complains a bit about the market, like everyone else is doing in this particular slowdown. But then he drops a bigger bomb when he tells Carr that has pancreatic cancer and supposedly is dying.

Smoke Screen: A Novel by Sandra Brown

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Somewhat interesting story about a fire at police headquarters in Charleston. Actually four of the city’s top officials have been described as heroes for their part in getting people out of the building. However there were several deaths and one was a man who was being held on charges. Later it is learned that he had some information on someone in the governing hierarchy. And perhaps the fire was set intentionally to create a cover up for his death.

Britt Shelley, a very well-known television reporter who does many on the spot interviews, gets involved early on but in a strange way. It seems that she wakes one morning and the man next to her is not only one of the men who is looked on as a hero from the deadly fire but he is also dead! Britt claims she was given some sort of date rape drug in her drink and has very little memory of the entire night. She had met him for an interview about the fire.

GREEZERS: A Tale of Establishment’s Decline and Fall by Simon Plaster

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Greezers is Simon Plaster’s latest and perhaps greatest satirical novel featuring the memorable character, Henrietta, named after a town in Oklahoma, Henryetta, who, previous to Greezers, had the desire to advance her journalistic career and one day earn a Pulitzer Prize. In Greezers, a tale of a chain of lube shops, fast food, and succession, Henrietta seeks a change in her life, and gets a job as an assistant to Leroy (“Lero”) O’Rourke, a private detective. She thinks that as a journalist, she has done a fair amount of deductive reasoning, and that will stand her in good steed in her new career. But what lengths will she go to in her pursuit of truth, justice, and the American way? Let’s just say that in Greezers, chock-full of popular culture and musical references that fans of the series have come to expect, Simon Plaster has Henrietta putting her “assets” out on stage for all to see, even having her briefly working at a strip club in her efforts to surveil a subject, Harry DeGrasso, who is a potential heir of the Trinita Coal Oil & Tar Company.

You may wonder why Greezers is called Greezers. It’s because the book is about the plots and schemes of potential successors to the Trinita Coal Oil & Tar Company’s chain of Greezers lube shops to one day take over control of same from the Company’s elderly 95-year-old matriarch, Nanette GeGrasso. While her son, Charles, being the Executive Vice-President of the Company, looks like he would be the obvious choice as the heir apparent, he has fallen out of favor with his mother, and he has familial rivals who also would like to dethrone Nanette, like her nephew, Joe DeGrasso, who is also an Executive Vice-President. Nanette acts scornfully towards all of the potential successors, with the exception of Harry, who is her grandson and a junior executive in the Company, under both the watchful eye and thumb of Charles. Charles, however, does not think that Harry is trained fully enough or is nearly as experienced and worthy as he is, and he believes that he, rather than Harry, should be the one to take over after his mother dies.