Category Archives: Current Events

Beirut 39 edited by Samuel Shimon

The book is a collection of short stories, novels and poems written by 39 Arab writers under the age of 40. 450 young writers across the Arab World, Europe and America submitted their writings, but only 39 were selected to be published. The presentations have been translated from Arabic to English by various translators. The books takes the reader into the regions of the Middle East and Africa. The reader feels, hears, tastes the culture of the Arab World. One will live the horrors of war, destruction of their home land, corrupt regimes and experience the pain and frustration of a nation constantly at odds with the rest of the civilized world. These 39 young writers have put their very souls into their writing, hoping to be recognized and published. One cannot but relate to the discipline of the Islamic religion – the call to prayer morning/noon/night, and the pride of the many who constantly practice their belief – the piety of true believers.

The is book is one that will cause the reader to pause and thank their Heavenly Father that we live in a land where we have freedom of worship, speech, etc, without fear of retaliation or imprisonment. These young writers brings one face to face with a civilization far removed from our own – one of suffering, lack of freedom and fear of the unknown.

I recommend the book. It will enlighted you and open your eyes.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com. She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns

Richard Stearns is President of World Vision U.S. He came from a poor beginning. With proper education and hard work he quickly climbed the corporate ladder to become CEO of several companies – the last being Lenox – the china company.

With a single phone call Stearns’ life changed drastically. God had a purpose for his life and it wasn’t selling china. After much prayer in which he asked God if He was sure, he accepts the position of President of World Vision.

Stearns explains why there is a hole in our christian belief. We are responsible for our choices. Stearns is an hero. The book challenges all Christians to move out of the cloister and into the world for God’s sake. God has the power to transform the world through us. He expects more from us. Stearns points out that thousands of children die daily from lack of fresh water. AIDS is rampant in Africa – parents dying and leaving children as orphans to care for themselves. What are we as Christians doing about world hunger, human trafficking, etc. He points out that churches need to get involved – individuals need to get involved. Sponsor a child – pay for a well, etc. Tears will stream down your face as you read about the suffering in the world that we Christians ignore.

Read the book to discover the full power of Jesus Christ and change your life. The whole gospel is a world changing revolution that begins with you and me. What are you going to do about world hunger, AIDS, etc? When you finish the book, ask your self the question – How can I help – what am I doing to do? Will you plug the hole in our gospel? What does God want you to do?

Highly recommend this book. It will change your life in ways you can’t imagine Stearns keeps you turning the pages. A hard book to put down.

To learn more visit www.theholeinourgospel.com.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com. She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Mornings In Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

This is the story of a young Palestinian girl named Amal borne in the refugee camp of Jenin. Her family had been evicted from their home during the 6-Day war between Palestine and the soon to be State of Israel. One must read the book to follow her journey from Jenin to a Jerusalem orphanage to Beirut, Lebanon to America and her decision to return to Jenin.

Mornings In Jenin
by Susan Abulhawa
Bloomsbury USA
Feburary 2010

Young Yasser Arafat had just formed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the world would soon label him a terrorist. Tears will be streaming down your face as you experience her fear in being constantly under Israel’s guns/planes/tanks, the watchful eye of the Israeli solders, and the war crimes of Ariel Sharon. You will hear the voices behind the headlines of the massacres in Lebanon. Who are the terrorists – Israel or Palestine – the PLO or Israel’s Prime Minister. Will she survive her return to Jenin?

The author was born to refugees of the 6-Day War and has first hand knowledge of what it is like to be a Palestinian under Israel’s thumb. The story will keep you turning pages to learn how she survives the death of her family, her marriage, the birth of her child and the hardships she endures in America trying to fulfill her father’s dream of getting an education. You will experience the family’s struggles to survive through over 60 years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

A must read book for all ages. When you have finished I believe you will come away with a different view of the Israeli government that is supposedly an ally of the United States.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Once an Arafat Man by Tass Saada

Once an Arafat Man is the amazing story of a Palestinian sniper, well located within the PLO – he was even a chauffeur for Yasser Arafat – turned chef in the US, who then converted to Christianity and returned to his homeland to help those he once hated.

Likes: illuminating insight into the perspective of the Palestinian’s plight from refugees from their homes to unwelcome residents of neighboring Arab states. This story takes you deeper than the typical world news headlines to understand the the hatred and perspectives of the people of the Holy Land and offers hope into what the power of love and faith can achieve.

Dislikes: conversational tone/style of the book is abrupt and sometimes lacks smooth transitions between topics and events. Recommended for anyone interested in the middle east conflict on a personal level or the issues surrounding converting from Islam to Christianity.


Joel Freyenhagan is the husband of a wonderful wife and is the father of three children. His wife blogs at BooyaBooks.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Buried Alive by Roy Hallums

Roy Hallums is a retired U.S. Navy Commander working as a civilian in Iraq. His company, Saudi Arabia Trading, provides food for the American Army in Baghdad. With the collapse of Saddam Husein’s regime, kidnapping becomes the growth industry in Iraq for anyone with a car and friends with AK-47s. Anyone is a target: foreign correspondents, wealthy Iraqis, foreign diplomats. In 2004 Roy Hallums is kidnapped by such terrorists and this book is his story told with his own words.

His family was not notified of his kidnapping for several months and only learn of the incident by seeing the video that aired on the Internet and Al Jazeera television. The family goes into denial – he is suppose to be in Saudia Arabia; not Baghdad. Since the US government does not negotiate with or pay ransom to terrorists, the government agencies, expecially the FBI, were not very helpful to the family, always citing national security.

One must read the book to learn how Hallums survives the beatings, starvation, filth, moves from safe house to safe house, the threat of being killed, promises of being released, all the while forced to make videos surrounded by hooded men with AK-47s, and always having his face covered so he couldn’t see his kidnappers. For months Hallums is in total darkness, literally buried alive in a hole in the ground, covered over by concrete. And as Hallums see other captives come and go, some he is sure has been ransomed, others he is not sure if they were executed or freed, he is sure he will die any day, he thinks no one is really looking for him and he is doomed. He survives as he forces his mind to take mental trips, praying and asking God for his rescue.

The book clearly depicts the cruelty of one human being to another. The book keeps you turning pages to learn how he survives day to day, and how he survives the drama of when or if he will he be rescued, ransomed by his company, or be executed.

Recommended book for all readers, especially those interested in the Iraq war. As you read Hallums’ ordeal, you will become sad, find tears steaming down your face, and most of all, you’ll find yourself praying for his rescue.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com. She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Tea With Hezbollah by Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker along with Carl Medearis, his guide, and Samir, their man with the contacts, travel from Egypt to Syria and many points in between in an effort to sit with many of the ideologues of the Muslim world. The authors state that the goal is to find out what the important Muslims at each of the stops, be them Hamas or Hezbollah or unaffiliated (officially) think about Jesus’ teaching on loving our neighbors as ourselves. Dekker calls the book a travelogue and it is a fitting description as the book documents their travels in the Middle East, more than actually deals with the issue at hand, which is to say that the question of how important Muslim thinkers and influencers think Jesus’ teaching fits with their agenda and actions. Each of the conversations that Dekker has with each of the Muslim leaders is shared verbatim in transcript form so that there can be no issue of out of context quotes or agenda driven choices of quotes.

There are parts of this book that are absolutely fascinating. The history and perspectives were, in many cases, completely new to me even though I consider myself well read on current issues. On occasion, Dekker would go into depth on the history of a specific area and how the temples to such and such god were taken over by the Jews, then the Christians, then the Muslims. I also found the transcripts to be fascinating in that I gained insight into the background and character of those being interviewed. Unfortunately, I found that the book didn’t actually answer the question posed in the introduction.

I found most of Dekker’s worrying about going into the dangerous areas to be whiny. I get that he was scared, but he went for a book so I found that I didn’t connect emotionally with his plight. If he had gone for a more altruistic reason I may have cared more. I also found the story of Nicole to be distracting. Sure it was an interesting aside, but I read this book to hear from the leaders of the Muslim world about the idea that we are called to love our enemies and I just didn’t get that. In fact, the biggest let down in the book were the interviews. Dekker had an opportunity to discuss non-violence and love with very influential Muslims and he spent most of the interview asking inane questions like, “What is a joke that makes you laugh?” and “What kind of car do you drive?” The important questions came only at the end and little or no follow-up was made to them. I understand that Dekker is trying to humanize our so-called enemies so that we can do a better job in loving them, but I felt at times that humanizing them with the shallow questions did less to answer our concerns than to fill the pages of a book. An interesting read that ultimately fails to deliver on its promise.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Rediscovering God in America by Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, takes us on a walking tour of the nation’s capitol – Washington, DC. The touch begins with The National Archives, Washington Monument, the Memorials of Jefferson, Lincoln, Vietnam Veterans, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Capitol Building, Supreme Court, Library of Congress, Ronald Reagan Building, The White House, World War II Memorial, and last but now least, Arlington Cemetery and the grave of President Kennedy with the eternal flame. Gingrich give a small dissertation of the history of each and the trials and tribulations encountered in the building of these historical buildings.

This book, in part, is a history lesson of America. Gingrich clearly describes our founding father’s faith in God. From our first president, George Washington through George Bush II, God has played a mayor role in decisions made by these men, Washington at Valley Forge, Roosevelt’s “fire side chats”, Eisenhower’s prayer on the beaches of Normandy on D-day, Kennedy’s famous speech -“ask not what you country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.

Our country is founded on the principle that “all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights…” The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and Bill of Rights all stress the importance of the invisible hand of Almighty God. The novel is not written as political, but spiritual. Gingrich points out that our founding fathers knew that power came from God and that a nation cannot survive without God. Faith of our presidents and their devotion to God is clearly depicted in their speech3es, scriptures carved in and on all the monuments and buildings that make up our nation’s capital. He also points out that our founding founders established our nation to be a nation “under God”.

The secular Left’s relentless effort to drive God out of America is succeeding at an alarming rate. The Supreme Court ruled we can no longer say “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The writer points out that we are allowing five people to completely change the structure of America.

The book is not intended to be political, acknowledge any particular religion, but is spiritual in context. Ir clearly warns us that we must stand up for God and our believes or lose our rights as a nation under God.

Callista Gingrich’s photography throughout the novel is outstanding.

I am reminded of Jefferson’s immortal words in the Declaration of Independence that all ” are men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” and the inescapable truth that freedom is strictly from God’s grace. Don’t let it slip away.

Good read – will renew your faith in God. Gingrich did an excellent job.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com. She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Israel Under Fire by John Ankerberg and Jimmy DeYoung

John Ankerberg and Jimmy DeYoung come together to create “Israel Under Fire: The Prophetic Chain of Events That Threatens the Middle East,” a book that promises to explain the Biblical predictions concerning the current events in Israel, how what happens in Israel affects the rest of the world, and answers the age old question, “Will there ever be peace in the Middle East.” To come to these answers Ankerberg and DeYoung interview – on location in Israel and the Middle East – many of the policy makers and experts who would be close to the situation, such as, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel and Reuven Rivlin, the Speaker of the Knesset in Israel.

Ankerberg and DeYoung are less authors than interviewers for much of the book (and interviewees, as I will explain.) The authors claim that the book will answer questions and give a Biblical basis for the current events in Israel. To accomplish these goals the authors provide a brief history how the modern state of Israel came to be and what exactly is currently happening in Israel. On these points, I found that the authors were successful. Unfortunately, this was only one part of the book.

In the second part of the book, the authors interview current world leaders and here is where I feel the book goes awry. I had two issues here. First, the authors advertise on the back cover that they interview Adnan Husseini, Yasser Arafat’s cousin and Palestinian Authority spokesman. While, it is true, it is a little misleading as he is one of three world leaders advertised yet he appears in only one very short section with only a couple of questions, while the others leaders, Jewish pundits exclusively, are interviewed extensively. This is far from balanced coverage.

Second, the authors didn’t just interview pundits they agreed with – they also interviewed each other. I understand that the authors may be experts in a field but their opinions should be bolstered by other expert’s opinions, statistics, reports and the like. Author’s opinions should not be proved by their own opinions. The issue of lack of documentation and proof isn’t just relegated to their opinions in interviews. Unfortunately, the authors take comments and opinions from pundits they agree with for granted, moving right past controversial quotes that cry out for data that reinforces the opinion. The only reference in the book to an outside source (other than the Bible) is on page 156 (of 174).

In the third section of the book, the authors attempt to tie current events with Biblical prophecy. I would expect that anyone, after reading this book, even someone who has no experience with Biblical prophecy or current events, would be able to walk away understanding the “prophetic chain of events that threaten the Middle East.” What I found in this section, though, was confusion. To explain a complicated book like Revelation, I would expect we would start at the beginning and work our way through the (purported) time line from start to finish. I would expect that current events would be tied in to the timeline to show how the events fit into the puzzle. I would expect that the authors would show how these events work together to fulfill prophecy. Unfortunately, Ankerberg and DeYoung did not make a convincing connection for me.

While I did find the first section of the book interesting, this book left me unsatisfied in my search for connections between current events and Biblical prophecy. Revelation itself is already difficult to understand and I found the authors didn’t accomplish their goal of making it accessible and understood by the reader.

As much as I would have liked to, I cannot recommend this book to anyone but Bible prophecy buffs.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Jesus Freaks (Voice of the Martyrs)

I love testimonies. I love listening to people I know – people I trust wont lie or mislead me – telling me about how God has worked in their lives and how God has come through for them. Testimonies build faith and hope. I was really looking forward to reading this book for that reason. I wanted to hear the testimonies of Christians in horrific situations refusing to recant or exchange their savior for the empty promises of the world.

Reading about situations that I can’t even imagine and how characters in the book respond was inspirational! The problem is that since this book suggests that the stories are real I was expecting authentication.

When I watch religious TV (rarely) I see people who claim miracles. I hear preachers saying that their ministry healed a bazillion people this year alone! I see people jumping around on stage and the “healer” saying that they couldn’t walk previously. My first thought is always, “show me the proof.” If these “healers” heal so many people wouldn’t there be some kind of evidence? Wouldn’t there be documentation of the before and after of each of these “healed” people showing miraculous change?

I’m not saying that I can’t believe in miracles. What I am saying is that I want to be discerning in who I trust and what I believe.

This book, unfortunately, ended up like the TV healers to me. So many of these stories were far fetched, had only first names or even no names, were about people and situations decades ago and seemed to have no way of knowing what was written was true. I remember stories that were written about a person who was in jail who had no way to communicate to those outside yet somehow the authors of this book were able to know the inner thoughts of the soon-to-be-martyred Christian. The authors also knew what the jailers said and did. How? Where is the evidence that this isn’t just an inspiring work of fiction?

Situations like the above example aren’t the exception in this book. Unfortunately, instead of testimonies from people we can trust with information we can verify what we get from this book is simply nothing more than stories.

If I am going to spend my time reading Christian fiction, I could go with Ted Dekker or Janette Oke or Francine Rivers (depending on genre preferences) and get a better story that also includes Christians in situations that give opportunity to prove out their faith.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.