Free Books in Exchange for Reviews by Narelle Atkins

Today I want to welcome Narelle Atkins to this blog. I have asked her to tell us how a book alliance can benefit us all.

Narelle Atkins - ICFWNarelle: The digital age of publishing has provided new opportunities for authors to publish their books. No longer constrained by limited shelf space, online booksellers have the ability to list an ever expanding number of books, both print and electronic, in their online catalogues.

Readers can visit their local book stores and browse the shelves, looking for their favorite authors or a new author to read. They can purchase online and are encouraged by book sellers eg. Amazon, to post online book reviews. They can join groups eg. Goodreads, or The Book Club Network, and share information about books online with other book lovers. Online and in-person book clubs provide more opportunities for readers to discover new authors.

The increasing range of available books is good news for readers. The challenge for authors and publishers is how to make their books stand out in the marketplace. What marketing and promotion strategies can they utilize to reach the target audience for their books?

Authors and publishers provide free review copies of new releases to help promote their books. Reviewers can sign up with publishers to receive advance reader copies of upcoming releases. Authors often have ‘Influencers’ who receive a review copy of their book on the understanding they will help promote their book in a positive way.

Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool. We tend to listen to our friends when they talk about books they like and dislike. Their opinions can sway our book purchasing decisions.

A blog alliance is another way authors and publishers can promote their books.

Bloggers who are interested in reviewing books can join a blog alliance. Depending on the rules of the blog alliance and their geographic location, blog alliance members can request books to review in either print or electronic format. Blog alliance members choose the books they are interested in reviewing, and post a review on their personal blog during the book tour week.

Last year I co-founded the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance with avid reader Jenny Blake. We tour fiction, non-fiction and children’s books, and we welcome international members. We are looking forward to touring Shirley Corder’s non-fiction book, Strength Renewed, on April 15th – 19th.

Readers now play a bigger role in spreading the word about books. They have opportunities to receive free books in exchange for sharing their opinions online. They have the ability to tell the world about their favorite authors and books they love. I encourage readers to consider how they can become involved in the exciting new world of book marketing and promotion.

Shirley, thank you for hosting me on your blog today.


NARELLE ATKINS writes contemporary inspirational romance and lives in Canberra, Australia. She recently sold her debut novel, set in Australia, to Harlequin’s Heartsong Presents line in a six-book contract. Her first book, Running to Love, will be a February 2014 release.
She has published Bible Studies on Smashwords and blogs regularly at

Narelle is a co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA)
To learn more about Narelle, please visit her website.


Introducing AusJenny by Jenny Blake

Jenny Blake, aka AusJenny, is the co-founder of the Australian Christian Readers’ Blog Alliance (ACRBA). Here she speaks about her dreams for the alliance.

Jenny BlakeShirley: Hi Jenny, thank you for joining us today. Let’s start with a bit about yourself. Have you always lived in Australia?

Jenny: I am a born and bred Aussie. Born in a small town just over the border in Victoria and then when I was almost two we moved to a farm this side of the border in South Australia. We then moved into the town and I have been living in this area of the South East of South Australia ever since. I was a carer for my elderly mother ’til she moved into a nursing home and then passed away last year. I am now looking for work in the administration area. I studied Business Administration.

I am also a cricket fanatic. I love watching it live and will often listen online to my state team playing. Last year at the Adelaide test I got to share the lift with South African Cricketer Morne Morkel and that was the highlight of the trip. I am also an avid reader.

Shirley: Oh how wonderful to spend time with one of our cricketing giants, Morne Morkel. We always watch the cricket here in South Africa when we’re able to. (When it’s in Australia, the matches are usually in the middle of the night for us. I’m keen, but not that keen!) So, what was your favourite book or author when you were a child?

Jenny: I received a book of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales when I was about 6 and it had the story The Snow Queen and I loved it and it became my favourite book and story. Then I discovered Enid Bylton and The Faraway Series which I read so many times. I loved her books.

Shirley: I am with you re Enid Blyton. I loved all her books, especially The Faraway Tree series. I made sure all my children and grandchildren read the books too!

Shirley: What about today? What is your favourite genre now?

Jenny: I would have to say Historical. I love learning history. While I love historical I am not a big fan of English regencies, I don’t like the class system. I love the American west and the pioneer era. I love Gilbert Morris’s House of Winslow series.

Shirley: I’m also not keen on English regencies. I haven’t analysed why though. What prompted you to start the Australian Christian Readers’ Blog Alliance?

Jenny: This came about from an online chat with Australian author, Narelle Atkins. Wwe wanted to promote Australian books to other readers and also to promote other authors from outside America who do not have as much access to blog alliances. With more books coming out we thought we could do something to promote the books. I am in a couple of other blog alliances and have seen how they work and how successful they are and have also seen how many American Publishing Companies are no longer sending books to overseas reviewers so we felt there was a market here. The chat lead to the alliance starting.

Shirley: What is your vision for this group?

Jenny: Our vision is to promote good fiction, non fiction and children’s books to readers around the world. We want to see the group grow with more reviewers and eventually offer more books a month to the reviewers. Currently we have more fiction readers and would love to see more non-fiction reviewers. We want readers around the world to see there are good quality books available outside America. We also want to help promote these books and authors.

Shirley: That sounds really good. As a non-American author myself (although Strength Renewed is published in the USA), I find this encouraging.

Jenny, if you could spend an evening with three famous living authors who would you choose and why?

Jenny: Hard question but first I would have Gilbert Morris as I love his books and he is an amazing author. The way he tells a story and includes facts is amazing. Second would be Cheryl Wyatt as the first book I read of hers mentioned cricket. I found she loves cricket and its our goal one day to go to a cricket game together. Third . . . this is really hard as there are a few I can choose from, but I am going for Jillian Hart. I have gotten to know her on Goodreads and we click. I think she would be a great addition to the evening.

Shirley: Do you write as well as read? If so, what sort of writing do you do?

Jenny: No I am not a writer. I love reading but as for writing I am not good at it. I am not good at descriptions. Even when reading a book most of the time if quizzed at the end of the book I could not tell you the colour of there eyes or hair unless it was mentioned several times, I don’t take in the details of clothes etc. I can write concise letters and documents and enjoy writing reports but to write a book it would be a very short story with very little detail. I will say I have always had an extremely active imagination just cant capture it in words.

Shirley: Well, we’re glad that you are so enthusiastic about books, and that you’re prepared to do so much to promote them. Where can we find you on the Web? And what can we expect to read when we get there?

Jenny: I can be found at my blog, Come Meet Ausjenny. I have book reviews, blog alliance posts there, and each Thursday I have a special “Getting to Know You” or focus on an author interview. I also have occasional giveaways on my blog.
If your readers are interested in knowing more about ACRBA, they can find out all about the alliance here. We are always on the lookout for additional readers who are prepared to do regular reviews, and in particular we’d love some more non-fiction reviewers.

Shirley: In closing, what are the requirements for a reader to become a reviewer with ACRBA?

Jenny: We require an established blog with an active readership. To satisfy this requirement you will need to have been blogging for a period of six months to show you are committed to posting and that you are posting a minimum of two posts a week. We will consider your request if you have been a blogger for less than six months but are actively posting several posts a week. We want the alliance to enhance your blog and not be the reason for your blog.

Shirley: Thank you so much Jenny. I have been with the alliance since it started, and I have really enjoyed reading new books by hitherto-unknown authors. I think I’m right in saying up until now all the books I have reviewed have been Australian, which we don’t get in our bookstores as far as I know.

Thanks again Jenny for giving of your time and sharing a bit with us about your book life and in particular the book alliance.



Tangled Secrets by Carol Preston

In tragic circumstances Beth and her brothers are left in England to grow up without their parents. When Beth’s childhood dream to be reunited with her father in Australia finally eventuates she finds that dreams do not always come true.The reality she faces is a tangled web of disappointment, deceit and mistakes. Further abandonment follows.
Will she ever find true love? And will she discover she doesn’t have to be alone before it is too late?Set in the early colonial days of New South Wales and based on real characters in the mid-1800s.Revisit Charlotte and Thomas from Charlotte’s Angel and Mary’s Guardian, and meet new characters in this new novel by Carol Preston. Mary’s Guardian was a finalist in the fiction section of CALEB 2011.
 Carol lives in Wollongong, NSW with her husband, Neil. As well as writing novels based on her family history, Carol has a private counselling practice and enjoys reading, gardening, spending time with her four grandchildren and bushwalking. She has pursued with great admiration the lives of her ancestors in Australia and has greatly enjoyed writing novels based on their stories and the inspiring history of the Australian people.
For more information about Carol’s books and her other interests she can be contacted on her website.

Soul Friend by Jo-Anne Berthelsen

Soul Friend
Soul Friend is an honest and intimate portrayal of the author’s own journey with her wise, spiritual mentor and the warm, life-giving relationship that developed between them during their fifteen years of meeting together.
This story is written in the hope that it will inspire many not only to seek out such a spiritual friendship for themselves but also to provide such a friendship for another.Beautifully written, this honest and insightful memoir is an inspiring celebration of the ancient art of spiritual companionship. Dr. Rick LewisSoul friendship is a very under-emphasised resource of Christian discipleship, particularly for Christian leaders. Jo-Anne has written honestly, beautifully, sensitively and powerfully. Read an interview of the author by Shirley.
Jo-ANne Berthelsen
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor, and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne loves communicating through both the written and spoken word.
She is the author of five published novels – Heléna, All the Days of My Life, Laura, Jenna andHeléna’s Legacy, with a sixth, The Inheritance, due for release in 2013. Her first non-fiction work Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey was released in October 2012. Jo-Anne loves music, reading, mentoring younger women, and sharing with community groups about writing. She is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren.

Interview with Jo-Anne Berthelsen

Jo-ANne Berthelsen
  Today, we’re spending some time getting to know Jo-Anne Berthelsen, author of Soul Friend.

Jo-Anne, welcome to my website. Thank you for agreeing to an interview about your new non-fiction book, Soul Friend. First off, please tell us, what is a ‘soul friend’?

Jo-Anne:  The term ‘soul friend’ comes from Celtic Christianity around the sixth and seventh centuries in Britain and Ireland. It basically refers to a friend who cares for your soul, who is concerned about how things are between you and God. A true soul friend is prepared to walk beside you in your journey with God, listening to you, praying for you and sharing his or her godly wisdom with you when needed. Other terms I have used in the book similar to ‘soul friend’ are ‘spiritual friend’, ‘spiritual mentor’ and ‘spiritual companion’.

Shirley:    What made you decide to write this book?

Jo-Anne:  For around the past fifteen years, I have had the privilege of meeting with a very special lady, my spiritual mentor, Joy, who is now eighty-three years old. Through writing Soul Friend, I wanted to encourage others to seek out a similar spiritual friendship for themselves and/or to be prepared to provide that friendship for another.

Also, by sharing honestly about my own struggles, I hoped to encourage those going through similar situations as I have during my years of meeting with Joy. And last but not least, I wanted to honour Joy for the part she has played in my life and to enable the wisdom she has shared with me over the years to bless others.

Shirley:    How did you meet Joy?

Jo-Anne:  We met at a prayer training school, where she was the facilitator of the small group I was in. I loved the gentle, wise, insightful way she led us as a group and I wanted to learn more from her. I also saw we had several things in common. For example, we grew up in the same church denomination, we both loved music, and we both had a passion for prayer in its various shapes and forms. So when I was required to find a mentor as part of my theological college course, I immediately thought of Joy to fill that role.

Shirley:     Prior to Soul Friend, you have had five inspirational novels released. How difficult was it for you to change from writing fiction to non-fiction?

Jo-Anne:  At first it was strange, not being able to let my imagination run wild and invent twists and turns in the plot or bring in another character! But I soon discovered there were various techniques I had imbibed in my novel writing that made my non-fiction writing easier to tackle. For example, I think this helped me pace the story better, use sections of dialogue with more confidence and even dig deeper into my own character. Now I can’t decide which I prefer writing—fiction or non-fiction!

Shirley:     Jo-Anne, as a South African I’m interested in knowing how difficult it was you to get published in Australia? Do you have a number of possible publishers? Are all your books published with Wombat books?

Jo-Anne:  Here in Australia, there are very few Christian publishers and fewer still who will consider publishing novels, which is what I have always written, prior to Soul Friend. It took me around a year to find an Australian publisher for my first novel, Heléna, and in that year, I tried around six publishers here, both Christian and secular. Of the three Christian publishers around at the time, one was not interested in novels, one folded while I was still enquiring, and the third, Ark House Press, ended up as my publisher—just when I had almost given up and was beginning to try for an overseas publisher!

I stayed with Ark House for my first five novels, but have now swapped to Wombat Books, which wasn’t around when I first started. My next novel will be published again by Wombat, or rather its Christian publishing imprint, Even Before Publishing, in August this year.

Shirley:  I love the fact that you have written the book in narrative non-fiction. This is my favourite genre for writing as well. Did you ever struggle with what to share in the book and what to withhold?

Jo-Anne:  This was a huge issue for me, Shirley. I was prepared to be as vulnerable as possible about my own journey and the various struggles I have faced in recent years, without sharing things that would be unwise to share, because I wanted to help my readers as much as I could and also to write with complete integrity. But when it came to writing sections that involved other people, that was another matter!

My aim in writing my books, fiction or non-fiction, has always been to encourage my readers in some way, to build up rather than tear down. So I did not want to hurt or offend anyone with what I wrote. In one section of the book in particular, I did withhold much more than I included—to the point that one of my manuscript readers who knew my story challenged me strongly about it.

In the end, however, I worked long and hard to convey enough of the situation and how I felt about it, without maligning anyone else. I hope I succeeded. Also, I took great care overall to include only those things that my spiritual mentor Joy was happy to include. This book is, after all, about my shared spiritual journey with her.

Shirley:     I see the book was published in October 2012. That was the same date my devotional book for those in the cancer valley, Strength Renewed, was released. How are you finding the post-publication phase? Do you find it easy to promote your book?

Jo-Anne:  Soul Friend is my sixth book to be published, so by now I am fairly used to the post-publication phase. However, since this is my first non-fiction work to be published, I have had to think about different ways to promote this book and other possible markets.

There are some aspects of promotion I love. I am very blessed in that I am used to speaking in both Christian and secular settings and across a variety of church denominations. I was part of a local church ministry team prior to becoming an author and speaker and was privileged to speak often in that role. Also, I believe my high school teaching experience has helped greatly.

So I love speaking, but I still have to work at finding all the speaking engagements I can, as well as at all the other aspects of promotion, such as having a good internet presence, doing book signings in stores and searching out new ways of keeping my books visible out there in the market.

It can be exhausting and also difficult to balance with ongoing writing, but I do what I can and my publisher endeavours to help as much as possible, as well. However, I also have a little prayer team who pray for me wherever I speak or sell my books, which is a wonderful gift to me.

Shirley:     Do you know yet how Soul Friend is being received?

Jo-Anne:  While it seems to be selling quite well in the bookstores (for Australia!), what warms my heart the most is the feedback I have received from some readers who have shared how easily they related to many of the issues I cover in Soul Friend and how much the book has ministered to them. That is like gold to me and confirmation that I included the things God wanted me to include in the book.

I am always delighted to pass these comments on to my lovely mentor Joy to encourage her at age eighty-three and show her she is still ministering to others through the many interactions we had that are now in my book.

Shirley:    That’s wonderful. Well I really wish you all the best. I pray that Soul Friend will go from strength to strength, and that many lives are transformed as a result. Thank you so much, Joanne, for sharing your time with us in this way.

Jo-Anne: Thanks so much for inviting me to share with you.

Shirley:     You can visit Jo-Anne at:




Unexpected Christmas Hero by Kathi Macias

Unexpected Christmas Hero

What a delightful read! I hated to put it down, even to eat.

By using a young woman and her two children as the main characters, Kathi Macias immediately draws her reader into their desperate situation. I ached for them to have a warm meal, or a proper bed to sleep in. I felt quite cross with Josie at times when she turned down offers of shelter, even though I understood her point of view. I don’t think I could have been that brave. The idea of this young woman and her children curled up in her little “spot behind the cleaners” terrified me, especially with the approaching winter.

I ached for them to have a warm meal, or a proper bed to sleep in. I felt quite cross with Josie at times when she turned down offers of shelter, even though I understood her point of view. I don’t think I could have been that brave. The idea of this young woman and her children curled up in her little “spot behind the cleaners” terrified me, especially with the approaching winter.

Despite it having a Christmassy title, this is a book for all year round. As I followed the story, I became increasingly aware of the tragedy and despair of homelessness. Josie had done nothing to deserve this, and it made me realise how often this is probably the case. I will never look at a homeless person in quite the same way again.

It also made me aware of the even more helpless situation for the homeless person in South Africa, where we do not have the regular soup kitchens and shelters that are described in this book. Oh, that Unexpected Christmas Hero will come to our country so I can encourage people here to buy it. Maybe someone somewhere will catch a vision and start a new work.

The real-life miracle that occurred at the same time as the book’s release was so very exciting, and made to an even more thrilling read. For those who don’t know, the man the publishers chose for the book cover was indeed homeless. As a result of this book’s promotional material, friends of the family recognised him, and today he is reunited with his own family. This book has already brought change and transformation into the lives of many, and I believe it will continue to do so.

Kathi Macias

Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored nearly 40 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. She is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences. She won the 2008 Member of the Year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) and was the 2011 Author of the Year from Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband.


The Greenfield Legacy by Rose Dee, Amanda Deed, Meredith Resce and Paula Vince

Mattie was in love with Billy, but she was too young to wed. When Billy was conscripted to fight in Vietnam, they made a decision that affected their lives and their future. But so much pain resulted that Mattie never really healed. Every turn Mattie made affected her daughter and her granddaughter in ways she didn’t even realise. But forty-six years later, is it time for things to be set right?

Navy is a young woman who has never known her family. But what could be a wonderful opportunity is met with jealousy and apprehension from her cousin Brooke and her aunt Connie, especially with handsome Aidan around. Each must look past their struggles and find forgiveness and trust and perhaps even love.

This absorbing family drama, set in South Australia’s beautiful McLaren Vale wine region, is written by four of Australia’s outstanding Christian fiction authors who have brought you best-selling and award-winning novels.

My Review

This is an unusual book for two reasons. It has been written by four authors, and it has four main characters. Each character is written by one of the authors, and the four stories are brought together in a skilful way. The story is clever and clearly shows the impact one foolish decision can have on future generations. A harsh, judgemental father triggers turmoil that disrupts the lives of four women and their families. The story reveals the hardship and bitterness than can occur as a result of unforgiveness and family secrets.

It is almost like reading four novellas interwoven to make one story. I found this book difficult to get into as the story jumped back and forward between the characters, and I battled to figure out who the characters were and how they related to one another. Once I discovered the Character List at the end of the book, I found it easier to follow. As the characters developed in my mind, I began to relax and enjoy the story. Being from South Africa, I appreciated the Australian descriptions and context, and I wondered how often the same story occurs undiscovered in our own country.

I would definitely recommend this book for an intriguing read although I would like readers to know about the Character List before they started reading. Thank you, ladies, for a brave idea cleverly implemented.

About the Authors
Writer's get away. 006

Left to Right: Rose, Meredith, Paula, Amanda.

ROSE DEE was born in Ingham, North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her first novel. Rose, who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree, decided to try her hand at writing two years ago. The result of that attempt is her first novel, ‘Back to Resolution’. Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and desire to produce exciting and contemporary stories of faith for women. ‘Beyond Resolution’, and ‘A New Resolution’ are the second and third books in the ‘Resolution’ series. Rose resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband, young son, and mischievous pup, Noodle.
South Australian Author, MEREDITH RESCE, has been writing since 1991, and has had books in the Australian market since 1997. Following the Australian success of her “Heart of Green Valley” series, an English Publisher has taken the first three books in this series, and has released them to the British and American markets. ‘The Greenfield Legacy’ is her 15th novel published. Apart from writing, Meredith also takes the opportunity to speak to groups on issues relevant to relationships and emotional and spiritual growth. Meredith has also been co-writer and co-producer in the 2007 feature film production, “Twin Rivers”. With her husband, Nick, Meredith has worked in the ministry since 1983. Meredith and Nick have one daughter and two sons.
Award winning Australian author, PAULA VINCE, loves to evoke tears and laughter through writing fiction. She has a passion to provide inspiring stories that highlight her own beautiful country.
AMANDA DEED grew up in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne in a Christian home, and found faith at an early age. She has followed her passion to serve the Lord through music and literature since her teen years. Now married, with three children, Amanda enjoys the variety of being a mother, finance administrator, musician and historical romance writer. Her debut novel, The Game, won the 2010 CALEB Prize for fiction, and Ellenvale Gold was a finalist for the same prize in 2012.

Congo Dawn by Jeanette Windle

Author Jeanette Windle grew up as the daughter of missionaries in the rural villages, jungles, and mountains of Colombia, now a hot-bed of hostility and political unrest. She is therefore the ideal author for a suspense thriller like Congo Dawn, with its international intrigue, corruption, and unforgiving brutality. read more

God’s Poetry by Anne Hamilton

Book God's Poetry

Short Book Description:
What’s in a name? Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But is that true? Are names simply labels to be swapped around indiscriminately? Or are they more significant? God’s Poetry is about identity and destiny as well as the ancient concept of the power of names to body forth purpose and meaning. It’s also about why most of us never come into the calling prophetically breathed into what we are called.
Genre: Non Fiction

My Review: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” claimed Shakespeare. Anne Hamilton would not agree.

God’s Poetry is in no way a book of poems, and it took me a while to understand where the author was coming from. The book is an extraordinary mix of historical facts, astonishing revelation and mind-blowing research woven together with what at first appear to be unrelated anecdotes. Yet the message is clear. The author believes that as we understand the meaning of our names, so we are able to find our true identity, and pursue our true calling as children of God.

On one hand, I found this book extremely well written, and therefore easy to read. On the other hand, I found it to be extremely deep, with some complicated examples that had me reading and re-reading as I tried to follow the author’s reasoning.

Anne is clearly passionate about names, and has been since a young age. I therefore think this would be a wonderful book for a person with a similar interest. If I had the time, I would like to take each example and thoroughly research it for myself. The author has done a great amount of research and presents her information in an unusual but appealing way.

I’m not sure I’m totally convinced by some of her hypotheses, but her point of the importance God attaches to names is a valid one—and she’s done the research, not me. I would recommend this book for someone with an interest in the topic, who is prepared to spend time digging into the many fascinating facts and theories Anne has to offer. And the cover is gorgeous!

Anne Hamilton
About the Author:
Anne Hamilton, a longtime writer and mathematician, has a number of publications to her name. Anne has a trilogy of short books about how maths integrates with God’s great creation called The Singing Silence The Winging Wor an The Listening Land. She has just had published her 27 year project a young adult fantasy Many-Coloured Realm.