{ Books }

The Best of Spring Reading

Spring reading can be the very best. Too early for mindless beach books. Too late for those dense, ponderous books of winter. Cincy asked Stephanie Porter, Book Team Leader at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in the Rookwood Pavilion, to share a list of spring releases she's looking forward to reading.

"Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)"
by Jenny Lawson

Available April 17.

If you're an inveterate Web surfer, you know Lawson as "The Bloggess." Sassy, outrageous and filled with just enough familiarity to make readers blush with recognition, Lawson takes a journey through her life's most mortifying events. Chapters include: "A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband" and "My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking."

"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk"
A novel by Ben Fountain.

Available May 1. Author Event at Joseph-Beth in May.

Fountain is best-known as a short-story writer. But with his first piece of long-form fiction, he has created what author Karl Marlantes calls "The Catch-22 of the Iraq War." A savage and sometimes caustic parody, Fountain follows the survivors of the Bravo Squad on a tour of Texas, dubbed a "Victory Tour" by an adoring media. War heroes. Cheerleaders. Superfans and groupies. Imagine the fun.

"The Lola Quartet"
by Emily St. John Mandel

Available May 15.

Mandel's newest novel is moody, intense and sometimes painfully introspective. But she is one of those storytellers whose work is as compelling as it is irresistible. "Lola" follows a disgraced journalist saved from bankruptcy by becoming a seller of foreclosed homes, a descent that Mandel interweaves with Django Reinhardt, economic collapse, love, compulsive gambling and the unreliability of memory.

"The Mom 100 Cookbook: 100 Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket"
by Katie Workman

Available April 3. Author Event at Joseph-Beth in May.

Workman is the founding editor-in-chief of Cookstr.com and mother of two school-age kids. Witty, clever and dazzlingly practical, Workman shares secrets "” and recipes, of course "” to being the Mom with an endless supply of healthy dishes that families will actually eat. English Muffin Pizzas is an eminently popular breakfast dish. Cheddar and Cauliflower soup is one your family will actually eat. And a recipe for "The Best Streusel Apple Pie Ever."


{ Baseball }

Grab a Bat for a Good Cause

Looking to channel your inner child? Look no further than the Reds Community Fund Summer Wiffle Classic.

That's right. Wiffle ball.

Kids of all ages can sign up for the sixth annual tournament to be held July 28 at Mason Sports Park. Teams of three to five players are fielded in youth and adult divisions.

The tournament is a fundraiser for the community fund, the nonprofit arm of the Cincinnati Reds, says Brian Blinn, the 35-year-old volunteer tournament director from Mason. So far, the Wiffle Classic has raised $75,000 for the fund, which underwrites expenses for hundreds of youth baseball and softball teams.

"They work with underprivileged kids, just getting them into baseball, keeping them out of trouble, giving them an outlet," Blinn says.

"They're involved with fixing up fields in some underprivileged areas where their fields might be in pretty rough shape."

"We limit the speed of the pitch," Blinn says. "We want people to come out and have fun. People have fun when they can come out and hit home runs."


{ World Choir Games }

Behind The Scenes, Two Busy Recruiting Choirs

The office is the very definition of "nondescript," tucked away in a forgettable, two-story building in that no-man's land along Wooster Pike between Mariemont and Terrace Park.

This is, though, the heart of the World Choir Games.

It doesn't have the prestige of the downtown Cincinnati office. But it is from this modest space that more than 180 North American choirs have been recruited into the World Choir fold. That's half of all the participants.

High school choirs, college choirs, show choirs, gospel choirs, jazz choirs, massive community choruses, small ensembles "” they'll all be here July 4-14. And for that, we can thank the two people who work here: Lori Lobsiger, Director of North American Markets, and M. Kim Mann, the Games' Choral Relations Representative.

Day and night, they're on the phone to choral directors all over the continent, wooing, cajoling and educating them about the World Choir Games.

"Since this is the first time the Games have been in North America, there is a tremendous learning curve for people," says Lobsiger.

Once they agree, that's just the beginning. Then come the questions.

There are the predictable ones "” "Where will we perform?" "How much rehearsal time will we have on stage?" and "Are there restrictions on what we can wear?"

This is the easy stuff.

Then there are the questions about cribs. And babysitters. And spouses. And pets. And hotels. And restaurants.

"Weather, time zone, public transportation, what churches are nearby. People don't want anything left to chance," says Mann.

And that, of course, is what Lobsiger and Mann are there for "” to not only make sure choirs are recruited, but that they are completely comfortable by the time they arrive.

"We still have a few "¢dream choirs' we'd like to recruit," says Mann. They'd love to sign up the P.S. 22 chorus from Staten Island.

"And I'd really like to get Rosie O'Donnell's chorus, too," adds Lobsiger. "Wouldn't that be a crazy addition?"

For more information, www.2012worldchoirgames.com.

"” D.L.

{ Religion }
 Praying the Steps, A Tradition With Meaning

Every Good Friday, thousands seek sanctuary from the outside world by "praying" the 96 steps to Holy Cross-Immaculata Parish in Mount Adams.

The tradition of praying the rosary or other prayers while climbing the steps dates back 152 years.

"I think our world is striving for serenity," says Father Martin Moran, parish priest.

And so, the church is happy to provide the pilgrims with a little peace and quiet.

"It's eerily still," says parish member Jim Steiner, a 72-year-old retired pediatric dentist. "You just go introspective. I think about a lot of things that happened to me over the course of my life. I think of relatives and friends."

There's no right or wrong way to pray the steps. Those making the climb are not just Catholic. They're an eclectic mix of faiths, races, professions and ages, including multiple generations.

The tradition begins at 12:01 a.m. Good Friday. Moran greets the pilgrims at the bottom of the steps and leads them in reciting the rosary as they climb.

"If there's no one ahead of you, some people can pray the steps in about a half hour to 40 minutes. However, most of the time there's an hour to two-hour wait just to start the steps," Moran says.

The event draws 4,000-8,000 people, depending on the weather. At the end of their pilgrimage, they're greeted with refreshments and a prayer card.

"The great thing about it is, everyone has a different impression of why they do it," Moran says. "And every year, they come back."

For more information,
visit hciparish.org.

"” C.K.