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SPIRIT Issue #10 July






REVIEWERS SPEAK UP! Jennifer Robinson




A Literary, Lifestyle, Business & Entertainment PublicatioN

Editor-In-Chief Life is a balancing act. Too much of anything isn’t good. Slowing down to a comfortable pace is a luxury that many of us feel that we can’t afford. Financial demands are often the root cause. Although we aren’t machines, a fair amount of humans behave like it. We have to make money to survive. In many cases, that’s getting harder to do, so we feel stuck in a fast-paced lifestyle. Many of us are pressured to live one—not because we don’t desire a more balanced existence—but because we’re being pushed like we possess super human powers. If and when that happens, our health and relationships can suffer. When I speak of relationships, I even mean the one that we have with ourselves. When reading a book becomes a luxury, exercise seems like a time killing activity, cooking a nutritious meal seems nearly impossible, and going to church becomes a luxury—because we’re so worn out from a long week— something has to give. What will it be? How long can we keep up a rapid pace? I experienced the ramifications of living an unbalanced life when I was young, inexperienced and overly ambitious. I was determined to become a lawyer at any cost. I packed my bags, moved across the country, and pushed myself many days and nights studying, drinking caffeine, eating frozen dinners and resting little. When an extremely unfortunate event occurred at the school that I attended, my body relented. One evening, the room started spinning around. I passed out on my apartment floor. When I awoke, I could only manage to call my father for help. I sprawled out on the floor the entire night, next to the phone that was off of the hook. That was one of the first times I ever felt like I was not going to make it. What happened is a very long story. I spent a year in bed. In fact, I almost died. I was in and out of the hospital facing testing for all sorts of illnesses that I’d never heard of. I was told that I’d never be the same again. Quite honestly, according to my neurological assessment, I wasn’t supposed to be able to perform the most basic tasks. It took years of rehabbing my body to even come close to doing something as simple as walking across the room easily. My heart never fully recovered from the reality of not becoming an attorney, but I also learned that some things are beyond our control. Nothing is worth dying for. Nurturing our mind, body and spirit is critical to our existence. Since we finished celebrating the 4th of July, why not celebrate ourselves? Obligations and goals greet us in many forms. We won’t always be able to live a perfectly balanced life. However, making the effort on a daily basis is worth a lot. Live with passion. Live with conviction. Live with purpose. Keep your mind, body and spirit well fed. Then, get up and go doing something meaningful. That’s when you can make the greatest impact while carrying out your legacy. We never know when life will be over. Every day counts. Even the days that we’d rather forget. In this issue, we’ll celebrate our powerful nature by learning how Chris Hicks, author and founder of The Baltimore Books Festival stood up and made a change. Ray Lewis is not only a Super Bowl champion, but he’s giving back to others in Baltimore. News about Ray’s Summer Days will show us how we can use our position as a platform. We don’t have to be famous to do

it either. Evangelist Christian Downs will remind us to nurture the spirit. SiStar Tea and Jennifer Robinson will offer industry tips regarding book reviews. Please keep in mind that the opinions expressed by past or current guests do not necessarily reflect Grove Street’s personal philosophies. We are happy to offer information that can be left up to individual interpretation. Finally, I will also share book news and reviews of two l books that I read. If you’ve read The Pact, I had the pleasure of attending Dr. Sampson’s book signing as well. Also, let’s take a moment to reflect on Francis Ray’s wonderful literary career. Although she has transitioned to a better place, her words will endure. And that’s the greatest legacy that any writer can leave. Thank you for taking another journey with us. Let’s go!


What are three of your favorite sayings? “Everything happens for a reason. Be patient and take your time. Don't be scared to try.” —Author Chris Hicks —Founder of Baltimore Urban Book Festival

CHRIS HICKS Author Chris Hicks is native Baltimorean who also owns Ravenwood Barbershop. I caught up with the founder of the Baltimore Urban Book Festival ( that will take place on July 14, 2013. It is also referred to as BUBF.

Grove Street: How long have you been writing? What ignited your passion for writing and reading? Chris: I have been writing for almost four years now. I had an idea in my head and just had to put it on paper. During that time, my intention was just to write it down, not actually publish it. After I finished completing the book, it only made sense to publish it. One thing led to another. Now, I’m here. Grove Street: Please tell us about your book festival. When is it this year, where will it be held, is there a cost to attend, and what inspired you to start an urban books festival? Chris: Our festival is Sunday July 14, 2013. It will be held at Frederick Douglass Isaac Myers Maritime Park and its free admission. What inspired me to start the festival was that after participating in other festivals around the country, I noticed that Baltimore didn't have one for African Americans, so I just took it upon myself to start one. Grove Street: Who is your target audience? Chris: We really don't have a targeting audience. We promote on a large scale designed to reach everyone. We feel like the more people who are aware of the event, the better the turn out. But 90 percent that come out are African-American. Grove Street: Is this the second or third year for the festival? Chris: This is the third year for the BUBF.

Grove Street: Do you think that the industry needs to be more unified in terms of author collaborations, supporting each other, events based on genre, etc.? If so, what are some proactive measures that you feel can be taken? Chris: Yes indeed. There has to be unity and most importantly leadership. That’s how the industry gets passed down from generation to generation. It starts with us, the authors first. We set the standards and the trend. A lot of us don't realize it, but that's the truth. Grove Street: What makes your festival different from most that you've attended? Chris: What makes our festival different is the number of participating authors. We usually have about 30 authors every year, not 60 or 70 all under one roof. I do this because I want everyone to get as much exposure and sell as many books as possible. It’s hard to do that with 80 different authors at one event. Grove Street: When you started your endeavor, what was your biggest challenge? Chris: Funding! Funding! Funding! Grove Street: Moving forward, what additions/ improvements would you like to see happen with future festivals? Chris: We are working to bring in entertainment with the festival, such as jazz bands/neo soul and mainstream R&B artists. Grove Street: Based on previous turn out and response, what would you say about AfricanAmericans, in terms of reading and book buying habits? Chris: The readers are out there, trust me. The perception that African-Americans don't read books is not true at all. We read. Grove Street: Is there a youth component? Chris: Yes, we will have story telling sessions, a free book giveaway table, face painting, and children authors all on one floor. We call it the "Kids Corner." Grove Street: What is the festival's website and social media information? Chris: Our website is Twitter: bubf13 Grove Street: Any additional comments that you would like to share with readers and authors? Chris: Remember this: the word "urban" doesn't mean black, ghetto or hood. It means "city."

THE JOURNEY TOWARD BALANCING ACHIEVEMENT AND LIFE The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by bestselling authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan had the literary feel of a thought provoking business book with a dash of self-help. The very first litmus test that I used was why these men were qualified to offer advice on business and life. The advice giver is often as relevant as advice given. Thus, I assessed what the duo has accomplished themselves. Gary Keller is chairman of the board and cofounder of Keller Williams Realty, Inc., and Jay Papasan is former editor at HarperCollins. He is now vice president of publishing at Keller Williams, in addition to being a speaker and corporate trainer. Ultimately, I was convinced that both authors employed techniques in their book to achieve their own goals. As experts in their professional fields, I was eager to extrapolate tips regarding how to become my very best. Despite their great influence, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results is an incredibly simple, easy read. To me, the most powerful aspect of the New York Times Bestseller lies within the premise of the book: stick to one thing. Some readers may take the advice to focus time and attention on one goal literally. However, on page 35, the authors suggest that “achievers always work from a clear sense of priority.” That may be the golden nugget of this read. Upon reflecting on the book, I regard “one thing” like a tree root. The one thing may consist of many branches that represent other areas or topics. How to prioritize better leads to optimal efficiency. Regardless, many people misunderstand how to time block to focus. That’s what The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results points out—how to develop an important skill to do so, step by step.

While pondering advice regarding how to prioritize my to-do list, I appreciated the comparison that was drawn between what I “could do” as opposed to what I “should do.” If multi-tasking is a lie as suggested, the biggest idea of the book becomes one of practicality. In today’s life, many of us do not have the luxury of doing just one thing, but we can build powerful habits to remain conscious of balancing life with our goals. It’s easier said than done. Regardless, “the one thing” is reiterated throughout each chapter. For some readers, the reoccurring theme may seem unnecessary. To me, it makes the lesson impossible to forget how to goal set in the present and future. Forming positive habits are important for those who want to become better organized. The authors practically illustrate how the path to productivity has become muddled with lack of focus, by overextending ourselves, and doing many things that aren’t truly necessary. The book leads to a focused question: What’s the one thing I can do such that everything else will be easier or unnecessary? By page 106, the authors build a powerful method or framing our lives within the context of areas that matter most, while maintaining the integrity of the single question. I regard the book as an exercise and reference tool to train one’s mind to become and remain organized. The reader must do the work to ignite the flow of the path; we already have the answers to our unanswered questions. There are many facets of this book that require personal exploration. I highly recommend this read to entrepreneurs, authors, professionals and anyone who feels overwhelmed by too many obligations or goals. continues the discussion, offering more steps that can be taken through accountability. There is no magic formula in this book that guarantees success—or in any book for that matter— but it offers meaningful insight to take practical steps toward goal achievement while working within limitations of our flawed humanity. Reviewed by: Andrea Blackstone


Ray Lewis pictured with his trainer, Monte Sanders “There’s no losers. Just being out here, everyboy wins. Just to see how active they really are. Challenge them. They want to do it. We just have to put them in the right places to do it. Any time they’re out here, they’re always awesome.”

—Ray Lewis


By Andrea Blackstone

Ray Lewis has done a lot more in the community for disadvantaged youth and families living under the poverty line than many sports enthusiasts may realize. In addition to an annual back to school and Thanksgiving giveaway, and a Christimas toy drive, the retired Ravens linebacker has been part of an annual youth fitness clinic for nine years. June 15, 2013, Ray Lewis held the event in Patterson Park from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. On a sunny day, youth assembled on a field to engage in a variety of fitness drills. Ray’s Summer Days combines fitness with fun in the summertime, all for a good cause. Celebrities and other athletes also participated to help raise money for Ray Lewis’s Family Foundation, which helps disadvantaged youth and families in distress. In the previous year, over $100,000 was reportedly raised. Fundraising festivities began with a VIP Kickoff Party that was hosted by Patron. A celebrity bowling tournement at Perry Hall Bowling Lanes was hosted by Under Armour. The youth fitness clinic was the the highlight of the weekend. It was followed by a paintball tournament to raise additional money later that afternoon. The fitness clinic offered youth ages 6-14 a chance to engage in fitness, discuss nutrition and engage in fun movement. Monte Sanders also played an integral role in facilitating the day. Volunteers from Baltimore and New York were also in attendance. Author and enteprenuer, Temeko Richardson, donated $20,000 to sponsor a number of out of town youth to attend the fitness clinic and a football camp. Participants of Ray Lewis’s Kids of Character program were awarded iPods, laptops and iPads. Kids of Character work in the community to assist others in their community who are in need of spiritual, financial, emotional or physical support. Participants focus in areas including: academics, community/neighborhood, leadership/citizenship, health/wellness and fitness/athletics, financial literacy, family strengthening and spiritual strengthening. After fitness activites ended, youth gathered on the field to listen to a heartfelt talk that spanned from fitness to ingredients for success. “I want to thank the parents for getting up and bringing their kids this morning,” said Monte Sanders of Sanders Optimum Fitness. “It doesn’t take a lot to exercise and have fun. You don’t have to be on the basketball team, the football team, or the cheerleading squad to be healthy. Sometimes you can just get active. You’ll be healthy and you get to live a long life. Drink water, eat the right things, like more fruit and vegetables. If you incorporate these things in your life, you’ll be okay, whether you make the team or not,” he continued. Most valuable players were recognized for their attitude and effort. The well-respected celebrity fitness trainer and expert fitness commended people who started to exercise and achieved results. Youth were given a healthy meal toward the close of the clinic.

Ray Lewis remarked, “Don’t let PlayStation take away what real life is about. Real life is about being outside. It’s about getting outside, having fun, making sure that your body is in the proper shape.” “The number one thing we always look at is how to make someone else better. It starts with our kids. With the world now, social media and video games, kids are missing the essence of life. The esssence of life is being outside. You don’t always have to be in a sport. The bottom line is to be active and take care of yourself. Childhood obesity, different cancers and all of these different things right now— catch them early. Keep these babies outside. Keep them active and just jumping around, and I think we have a better chance. There are no losers. Just being out here, everybody wins. Challenge them. They want to do it. We just have to put them in the right places to do it,” Mr. Lewis explained.

“God, family and education. Remember that for the rest of your life and you will be okay.” —Ray Lewis

DR. SAMPSON DAVIS “Me and my two friends made it (academics) cool. We were told that we weren’t going to be able to become doctors, that we weren’t good enough, that we weren’t smart enough, but we did. We made it happen.” —Dr. Sampson Davis


You’ve probably heard of Dr. Sampson Davis already. In case your memory needs refreshing, the talented medical wonder is one of three fatherless boys from inner city New Jersey who made a pact to become a doctor. All three made it. Their remarkable success led to working at Princeton, Columbia University, St. Michael’s Medical Center and other medical facilities. In 2000, the life-long friends received the Essence Lifetime Achievement Award. They have appeared on Oprah. Dr. Sampson also is the youngest physician to receive The Scroll of Merit, which is the National Medical Association’s highest honor. Dr. Sampson was a recent guest on the Dr. Oz Show and speaks on a frequent basis. Despite Dr. Sampson’s busy life, he still pens books. In his most recent literary journey, Dr. Sampson—who practices emergency medicine— takes readers behind the scenes of the same hospital where he was born. “To be more of a solution of some of the negative in the community was a deep honor for me, because I remember being that kid growing up. There weren’t too many role models to emulate,” he remarked, during his book signing at Barnes and Noble in Virginia. Fans and book lovers listened to him express his tremendous connection with the community, and how his roots connect with his current position. “The book came about as I was in the emergency department seeing medical cases arise. What I mean is, I was inundated with seeing people with uncontrolled high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, stabbing victims, domestic violence, and obesity. I felt like, what can I do? How can I address these issues? Nobody is going to sit down and hear about the signs of high blood pressure. You’d fall asleep by the time I finished the first one. If I could put out material that’s both educational, that’s empowering, but most importantly entertaining, people would embrace that. So that’s what Living and Dying in Brick City is about. The book is a narrative. It speaks about real life scenarios, real life patient encounters that I come across, but in an entertaining way, and in a chronological way.” Not having insurance, how better to use the health care system, taking care of loved ones, a call to action—these are all snapshots of Dr. Davis’s book. When an attendee asked what he is doing to mentor youth, the doctor explained how helping youth from Newark, New Jersey is still important to him. “I wanted to give back what I didn’t have growing up. Am I walking the walk? I have a foundation—The Three Doctors Foundation. I just celebrated my 13th year. The foundation actually started when I was in residency. I was the poorest philanthropist that I knew, because I had student loans. I paid it forward because a lot of people helped me. No one has gotten anywhere in life without help.”

The doctors offer educational, mentoring and health outreach programs to communities in need. They also speak as a group. Thus, it makes sense that Dr. Sampson would pen a book that is a call to action. He stated that it will educate, entertain and empower. Attendees also asked questions about mental health care. Dr. Sampson replied, “When it comes to our community, that’s something that we don’t talk about. It’s taboo. The reasons why we don’t talk about it is a lack of understanding. Mental illness is a huge issue. If you look at some of the violence in our community today, there’s a correlation with undiagnosed mental illness. We see it play out in gang shootings. These are all individuals that may be suffering from depression, antisocial behaviors, or bipolar disease. These are all real issues that exist. One out of ten of us will suffer from depression in our life, whether it’s situational or organic. We have to talk about it and encourage others to take action. Mental illness still has a stigma because we don’t talk about it.” Aspiring writers were also curious about Dr. Davis’ writing process and how he navigates through the publishing industry. “It’s tough, it’s difficult. I can give you a quick sort of journey. It took nine months to do The Pact. Brick City took five years. It’s more difficult and tough to get books out there now because the world has changed. It’s the same sort of fight that the music world has. The music stores are closed down. The book stores are closed now. If you can’t give me the news today at this immediate moment, I don’t want to hear about it tomorrow. Personally, I sit down at a computer and just type what I feel at that particular moment. When I come back to edit it I sort of make sure I said what I needed to say.” After Dr. Davis explained the role of a literary agent, he explained that The Pact was sold to Penguin Books off of the idea alone. “Brick City, I had to write the whole book almost. What I like about it is that it’s therapeutic for me. I enjoy that part. It’s a journey, but it’s one that’s worthwhile. I tell myself even if it doesn’t make it to the bookshelf, I did it for myself. It feels good seeing it reach that point itself.” Dr. Sampson Davis was a breath of fresh air, reminding people to have faith in their passions and dreams, regardless of ethnicity or place of origin. His book signing left a big impression on my heart and mind. I’m sure that I wasn’t alone. Special note: I read Brick City immediately after I purchased it. It is an insightful page-turner that makes a perfect gift for a student or person seeking motivation. I will post my review in the book blog.

Christian Downs Christian Downs is a national evangelist who is located in Maryland. I felt compelled to add a spiritual component to this issue, so please enjoy the interview. Grove Street: What is your professional background? Christian: My background profession is 15 years of military service, and 8 years of working as a generator technician. In July of 2008, the Lord saved me and filled me with the Holy Ghost. By January of 2011, I was called, anointed and appointed by my pastor to become a national evangelist. Many have asked what does that mean. It means I go where my pastor cannot go, because of his job to watch over the flock. Grove Street: Do you feel there’s a difference between an evangelist and a minister? Christian: The answer to that question is two-fold. An evangelist and minister aren’t different in the aspect that they are both called to serve. They are called to serve God with all their heart according to His will, His way and His word. That is where the ministry dwells. Everyone who serves God is not called to have an office of ministry. The difference between an evangelist and minister lies here. The evangelist holds an office of ministry, according to Ephesians 4:11. The evangelist’s job is to serve Christ with all his/her heart as well. They have been called to a higher calling to preach the gospel. When holding the office of evangelist, they are supposed to help the pastor perfect the saints for the work of ministry which will edify Christ. The evangelist’s job is also to reveal sin and also preach the good news of Jesus. Grove Street: How can we utilize our faith to cope better with stress and daily pressure, like finances, work and personal challenges? Christian: The best way to cope with stress of daily pressures is very simple. We must remember the promises of God which will help our faith to grow in Him. The Bible says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called

according to his purpose. If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:28, 31. Then the Word lets us know that we are more than conquerors because Christ loves us. Yes, there are many pressures in this daily life. Let us remember that our God doesn’t put on us more than we can bear. When it comes to stress and pressures, we have to ask ourselves these two questions. Is what I am going through in life a trial by fire to help grow my faith in Christ? Are these pressures coming about because I have gotten off the path of Christ? Just remember this: press for the mark in Christ Jesus. Your faith will carry you through anything. Grove Street: What is your opinion of people getting help for mental health issues like depression? Does needing help mean faith is less strong? Christian: Now I know this is a touchy subject, especially in the church. There is no such thing as mental issues, especially when it comes to living for Christ. I would tell anyone who feels that they have a mental issue to get help. Seek Godly counsel—counsel from someone who is walking upright with the Lord. Speak to someone who can help build you up in your most holy faith. We have found many who claimed to have mental issues were just attacked in their mind by Satan. Grove Street: Does someone needing help mean their faith is weak? Christian: Not necessarily. It just means that they need their minds renewed, according to the Word of God. They need to surround themselves with people who will not look down on them. These people will help strengthen them in mind and spirit. Grove Street: What are your top two scriptures that readers should keep handy to keep them energized? Christian: My first set of scriptures is found in I Peter 5:6-9. The second group of scriptures is found in James 1:2-5. These scriptures remind me that no matter what I am going through, all I have to do is remain humble under God’s mighty hand, keep the faith and let patience work. In due time, God will exalt me. All things will work out for Him to get the glory. Grove Street: How can humans reconcile hurtful events and tragedies? Christian: Wow, this is tough. There is just no easy answer to help someone through the pain. We all know time heals all wounds, but it takes a little more time, when it’s a loved one that we have lost. This might sound strange coming from an Evangelist. The first thing I would tell anyone is to mourn. The Bible shows over and over again how people mourn over losing a loved one. Yes, even Jesus wept because he felt the pain. When we mourn, it is all part of the natural process of getting past the pain. Don’t dwell there. As you’re mourning, ask the Lord to give you peace about it, including situations one doesn’t understand. We all have asked, “Why now?” Do mourn but praise God. Pray for peace in the situation. Grove Street: What are a few signs that let churchgoers know that they have found the right church home? Christian: When seeking a church home, they should ask themselves a couple of questions. Did I feel an anointing and the love of Christ? Is the message that is preached balanced between the love of God and the wrath of God? Do they tell you the price you pay for going against Christ, while telling you the reward you receive for serving him? Are the leaders of the house concerned for your soul and growth in Christ? Do they teach you how to be a committed follower instead

of a “fan” of Jesus? If you can answer ‘yes’ to all these questions, then you have found the right church. You must be honest—even with yourself—when asking these questions. Grove Street: Please share news about your upcoming church events. Christian: You can find out about our church events at: We have Sunday school for all ages at 9:00 AM. Morning services begin 11:00 AM. I would like to invite everyone to our service, if even just to hear the testimony of our pastor who had a stroke and brain aneurysm. In 90 days, the Lord fully healed him without medical assistance. I also would like to add that I will be having a revival at the church on August 24 and 25th. On the 24th the service will begin at 7:00 PM, and on the 25th at 5:00 PM. Please come out. Get revived and healed. Get your children covered for the upcoming school year, too. I can be reached at

Note: The church is located in Millersville, Maryland. I know that we have Anne Arundel County readers, so please share the information about Christian’s revival.

Jennifer Robinson Avid Reader/ Book Reviewer/Owner of Highly Favored Creations

Grove Street: How many books do you read a month, or do you consider yourself an avid reader? Jennifer: My love for words and reading developed way back when I first began sounding out words. I would have to say, that for that reason, I have become an avid reader. I generally read anything from textbooks to comic books, to novels, etc. If it is written, then I am interested. Grove Street: What is your favorite genre? Jennifer: This may very well be one of the hardest questions for me to answer, trying to narrow down a favorite genre. I really and truly can’t pick just one. I enjoy reading narrative fiction; J. California Cooper would be an excellent example of that particular writing style that I like. I also enjoy family type drama-like, or real life issues as written my Kimberla Lawson Roby. Grove Street: Do you feel the quality of books have declined? If so, how and why? Jennifer: I do not feel that the quality of books has declined, but what I do think is that as with everything else, times are changing, as well as people and what they have an interest in. I think this is one reason why street lit has made such an impact on the literary world. Authors and readers are now from a younger generation and they experience so much from what’s happening out here in the streets, much more so than earlier years. Therefore, there is a higher demand for that type of book. There are definitely still great writers out there, but I just think that they have a very different voice. Grove Street: What message would you like to share with authors? Jennifer: There is a difference between writers and authors. In my opinion, anyone can be an author, but it takes a very talented, dedicated person to be a writer. Readers really love it when

they read your work and your words are so vibrant that they are basically jumping off of the page at you. Readers really appreciate books that, while we are reading, we can practically visualize each scene being played out for us. Grove Street: I know that you have also reviewed books. Personally, how do you craft a book review? Jennifer: I like to keep it simple, giving as much insight as possible about what I’ve just read. I don’t try to retell the story. I just want others to know my view points. If I think it’s a good read I am going to suggest it to others by hopefully saying something to make them want to read it. By the same token, if it wasn’t such a great read, or if it was poorly edited, I also mention things like that, too. I think that in reviewing it is very important to give your honest viewpoint. Grove Street: Do you feel that Amazon (or online) reviews influence your decision to purchase a book? Jennifer: I know for me they do. When I am browsing for something new to read that’s one of the first places I go. Sometimes I may still read a book that was poorly reviewed, especially if the reviewer is just saying they didn’t enjoy the topic or storyline. Grove Street: Do you have any suggestions to authors who may be upset about a reviewer's comments? Jennifer: After having had a few authors outwardly bad mouth me for poor reviews, the only thing I have to say is if you are confident that you have done your best work, and you really want an honest opinion of your work, why get upset? Take the good with the bad and use it to finetune your craft. Grove Street: Is there such thing as a "5 star author?" Jennifer: Yes, I believe so. 5 star authors in my opinion are authors that have been around and they have been very successful in the business. I think that authors such as J. California Cooper, Pearl Cleage, Maya Angelou and Zane would certainly make the list. Grove Street: What are you reading next? Jennifer: Breaking All My Rules by Trice Hickman. Grove Street: Please give us a shameless plug about your creations. Jennifer: Along with reading and writing, I have another interest which is crocheting. I started Highly Favored Creations in January 2013. I can be found on Facebook at!/profile.php?id=100004920515247

These are some of Jennifer’s lovely creations. She’s always making new ones. Be sure to look her up.

SiStar Tea Book Reviewer/Book Club Member/Book Lover

Grove Street: Are you a part of a book club? If so, what is the name of it? SiStar Tea: Yes. ARC Book Club, Inc. Grove Street: How long has it been up and running? SiStar Tea: On September, 2013, it will be nine years. I have been part of ARC Book Club five and a half years. Grove Street: How long have you been reviewing books? SiStar Tea: A little over five years. Grove Street: Why did you start? SiStar Tea: I love to read. After a while I wanted someone to discuss novels with. I went in a search of a physical book club that had meetings. I found tons that were online, but that wasn't was I looking for. I came across a review with a tag line: ARC Book Club, Inc. I did a search for the book club and contacted the president, English Ruler. We talked through email and hit it off. After having a meeting with members, I was invited to join. I was ecstatic to have found what I was looking for. Five years later, these women are family. They are more than friends. English was the one who suggested that I start reviewing books. She and Locksie Locks, the co-founder, gave me pointers. It took off from there. My first review was posted April 2008. Richard Jeanty’s book was my first review. Grove Street: Why are book reviews important? SiStar Tea: I think they are very important because they give authors pointers on what works and what doesn't. Reviews should highlight the good and point out areas that an author needs to work on. They are just as important as word-of-mouth. They can make or break a book sale. Grove Street: Do you feel that anyone can be a book reviewer, or should there be some standards involved? SiStar Tea: Yes, anyone could do it (and they do…LOL) if they follow the standards. No, not everyone is good at it. Like anything, it takes work to find a formula that works for the reviewer. He or she should say more than, “I didn't like the book” or “This book is fiyah” as they spell it now. It should not include spoilers or be about the author. A review has to give pointers and be able to tell the readers why you like the book or why you didn't.

Grove Street: What is your opinion of authors paying for book reviews? SiStar Tea: I don't like it. I often wonder how can you get an unbiased review if you’re paying for it. On the flip side, I can see why a reviewer would feel the need to be compensated for their time and effort. Grove Street: What is proper book review etiquette on the part of the reviewer and author? SiStar Tea: First, the author needs to be aware of the reviewer’s or book club’s submission process. Most reviewers will contact the author stating that the book was received and will be assigned to a reviewer. Everyone’s time frame is different. This must be made known up front, before the book is sent, to ensure that the author is comfortable with the wait. It can be 3-4 months, depending on the reviewer’s schedule. If something comes up and the reviewer can't finish on time, the individual should communicate with the author. The author should not contact the reviewer before the agreed date. The author should also investigate to find out if the book reviewer reads the genre. Find out where a review will be posted. (What good is a review on site with no traffic?) The reviewer has a responsibility to read and post an unbiased review after reading the complete book—good, bad or indifferent. Also, the author is responsible for making sure they send the correct version of the book. Don't tell me after I posted the review, “Oh, I sent an earlier printed copy. Those issues have been fixed.” Sorry. I reviewed what was presented to me for review. No reviewer has time to go back and re-read a book. Authors, please don't hit up reviewers saying, “Oh, I see you review books. Here is a link to buy my book. Can you buy it and review it? It is customary, when asking for a review, to send a copy of your book. (Again, find out their submission process first.) It’s not that we don't purchase books. We all do. With most of us, it's an addiction. I speak for only myself when I say that when I purchase a book and read it, I am under no obligation to review it. I write some for books I've purchased if it spoke to me in a very positive or a very negative way, but it's no guarantee that I will review purchased books. I will send an author a copy of a review—good, bad or indifferent. All reviews I write get posted on Amazon, and Grove Street: Have you ever had an experience with an author becoming angry over a review? SiStar Tea: Yes. I have. Grove Street: How did you handle it? SiStar Tea: I kept the review up and simply stated I reviewed what was presented to me. My thoughts aren't always in line with masses and vice versa. I can't please everyone. I simple state what I didn't like. Either take it to heart or don't, but if the masses are saying the same thing, maybe the author needs to listen. I’m not talking about what friends and family are saying. At the end of the day, my reviews are my true and honest thoughts on the novel that I read. Grove Street: Do you offer book reviews for all genres?

SiStar Tea: I personally don't read poetry. (I prefer live show or spoken word.) I don't read tell all books. I am not crazy about short stories, but I will read them. If someone contacts me about these genres, I put them in contact with someone in the book club who does read them. Grove Street: How may you be contacted? SiStar Tea: My email is The book club’s website is Grove Street: What is your opinion of reviewers who prefer to only review books within a certain genre, but the author was unaware when requesting a review? SiStar Tea: I personally feel that you have to read more than one genre. There is a wide world out there. One genre isn't going to touch the tip of it. Hmm. That is a tough one though. I can mostly say I blame the author, because they should know who they are sending their book to. If the reviewer only reviews one genre, I'm sure that's a known fact that is easily researched. But, true enough, a reviewer should not accept a book if he or she has no intentions of reviewing. Grove Street: Do you have any pointers for authors or aspiring authors that you would like to share? SiStar Tea: There are so many, but I'll keep it short. (I hope. LOL.) Do not take short cuts. One must go through all of the steps of editing. Be sure to get the correct editors. Know the difference. Please research editors. Have a proofreader read after the editors, and then re-read your manuscript. Research whatever your topic is. Don't just throw anything in your book. Make sure you can back up your words. Nothing is worse than reading a book based on your hometown and streets are wrong, or sites are placed in the wrong area, etc. Study your craft. Don't look at this as a get rich scheme. It will show in your writing. Be humble. You can't please everybody. Take what you can, and if you can't use it, thank the reviewer anyway for their time. Don't go around cursing out reviewers because of a low rating. (These are the reviews you will learn the most from.) That is not cool. Believe it or not, reviewers stick together. You will lose in the long run. Don't get involved in author beefs on social media. That's a major turnoff, and you will lose readers.

SiStar Tea ARC Book Club, Inc. VP Director of Membership

I wish to extend thanks to all of our guests this month. Another big thank you goes out to author Shelia Lipsey for her continued participation. Her teen novel, House of Cars, is now available for pre-order. Another thank you goes out to author Judi Emm who joins us from Canada. Please remember to share news about The Baltimore Urban Book Festival. We now have a Facebook page, so please join Grove Street there: . Would you like to subscribe to our blog? Please do so at The Reader's and Author's Nook. That landing page will offer snippets and tidbits that link to the Grove Street e-zine. It would be much appreciated if you share our information with friends or fellow readers. You may like us through Issuu, too. Search for our issues using the keyword “bloggertime” or keyword “Andrea Blackstone.” All of our issues may not appear. However, we are in the process of moving our content to our own website. I appreciate your patience and support. Stay tuned for more news about what we’ll be doing on our own website. Each issue of Grove Street is brought to you, compliments of Surge Marketing Group, LLC. is the place where you can find an array of creative publishing and marketing professionals. We also provide manuscript critiques, developmental editing services, press releases, and promotional services at affordable rates. Do you have an opinion about something that you read? Please email feedback to or Best wishes,

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