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Piper Castillo, Times Staff Writer

Piper Castillo

Piper Castillo grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and received her English degree from Florida Atlantic University. As a community news reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, she covers Oldsmar and Palm Harbor. She also writes the "Nightstand" column for the Sunday book pages and thinks the only thing better than a good read is a day in the sun with her family.

Phone: (727) 445-4163

E-mail: pcastillo@tampabay.com

  1. What's Kerry Cohen reading?



    Kerry Cohen

    Cohen, a writer, psychotherapist and faculty member for the Red Earth MFA, a low residency program in Oklahoma City, recently edited Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship With Shopping. It is a collection of essays by 30 women. Since we spoke to her during the holiday shopping high season, we asked if she had a takeaway on gift buying. "I would say when you shop, rather than focusing on that brief, short-term gratification to instead think about what would be the more thoughtful (purchase) and the kind of thing someone will use or grow from or grow through. Of course, I want to say that the best thing is to buy books as gifts,'' she said. Cohen, 44, lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, James Bernard Frost, and their four children. She is also the author of Loose Girl, Dirty Little Secrets, Seeing Ezra and the young adult novels Easy, The Good Girl and It's Not You, It's Me....

    Author Kerry Cohen recently edited Spent: Exposing Our Complicated Relationship With Shopping.
  2. Christine Wigfall Morris, Clearwater's first African-American librarian, dies at 92

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER — It was easy for two of Christine Wigfall Morris's great nieces to recall their countless visits to her library. "We would walk there after school, but we knew we were not there to play,'' said Carla Johnson, 45.

    "She wouldn't even let us read comic books,'' added Louisa Perry, 52. "We had to read a real book and then do a book report. Millions. I wrote millions of book reports for her.''...

    Mrs. Morris continued to visit the library near her home up until the last several months.
  3. Belleair Causeway to get new $700,000 bait house


    BELLEAIR BLUFFS — Just like he does whenever he goes fishing at the Belleair Beach Causeway, A.J. Marino, 63, stopped at Publix on Saturday morning and purchased $10 of frozen shrimp.

    "There's no place to buy bait, so that's what I have to do,'' said Marino, who has fished the Intracoastal for more than 30 years. "I wish we could get something open here again near the bridge.''...

    A computer-generated image shows the 800-square-foot bait house that will be built on the northeast side of the Belleair Beach Causeway in the coming months.
  4. What's James Anderson reading?



    James Anderson

    Anderson is a former publisher who oversaw Breitenbush Books, a publishing house he founded in Portland, Ore., in 1975. Early next year, Anderson, 62, will see his own book published when Caravel Books releases his novel, The Never-Open Desert Diner. Anderson describes the book as "a literary noir hybrid.'' Set in the high desert of southwestern Utah, it is the story of Ben Jones, a truck driver whose life takes a mysterious turn when he comes across a woman playing a cello....

    James Anderson will release the novel The Never-Open Desert Diner early next year.
  5. What's Diane Roberts reading?



    Diane Roberts

    Roberts, who grew up in Tallahassee and is an English professor at Florida State University, is a former member of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian and on air for National Public Radio, as well as online at contextflorida.com. She's the author of three books, including Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife. Her new book on college football will be published by HarperCollins in October 2015....

    Diane Roberts, who grew up in Tallahassee and is an English professor at Florida State University, is a former member of the Tampa Bay Times editorial board.
  6. Florida Botanical Gardens lights up the holidays



    With so much flora — both exotic and native — the Florida Botanical Gardens on any day is a sight to behold.

    There's the angel trumpet tree and the mile-high bamboo on the tropical walk. There's the black-eyed Susan and the Arabian jasmine in the vinery. There are the roses and the bougainvillea in the wedding garden.

    Add more than 750,000 twinkling lights, dozens of artistic displays of brightly lit reptiles, amphibians and other critters, as well as a 7-foot gingerbread house, and the 30-acre Florida Botanical Gardens off Ulmerton Road becomes downright enchanted....

    The Holiday Lights in the Garden extravaganza kicks off at 5:30 p.m. today and continues through Dec. 31. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in the Palm Garden for nightly entertainment, up until the big day, that is.
  7. What's Alafair Burke reading?



    Alafair Burke

    For her latest project, novelist Burke is collaborating with bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark on a new suspense series about Laurie Moran, TV producer of a show that features cold case murders. We caught up with Burke, 45, on Nov. 18, the day of the release of The Cinderella Murder, the first book in the series. Burke, whose father is crime fiction writer James Lee Burke, is a former deputy district attorney in Portland, Ore., and is now a professor of law at Hofstra University on Long Island, N.Y. She is also the author of the Ellie Hatcher series, the most recent of which is All Day and a Night, as well as other books. ...

    Alafair Burke released The Cinderella Murder earlier this month.
  8. Oldsmar sticks with red-light cameras

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — The City Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday to keep its red-light camera program despite the risk of lawsuits stemming from a recent court decision in South Florida involving American Traffic Solutions, the same vendor Oldsmar uses.

    Several weeks ago, the 4th District Court of Appeal, based in West Palm Beach, dismissed a citation against motorist Eric Arem, ruling that Hollywood officials gave too much authority to ATS in issuing the infraction....

  9. Tarpon Springs High band's trip to Macy's parade is subject of documentary


    TARPON SPRINGS — This is a band that's used to the spotlight. After all, Tarpon Springs has been to Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, among other venues.

    And yet, the lights have perhaps never been brighter for the Spongers.

    After all, it's hard to top being the best in the nation. Last week Tarpon Springs won the Bands of America Grand National Championships at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis....

    Members of Tarpon Springs High’s band, from left, Hannah Gomez, Ashli Suiters, Alan Dorsey and Jessica Conant react while watching themselves during a screening of the documentary Journey to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at the school on Monday.
  10. Bike trek by Palm Harbor man helps disabled veterans (w/video)

    Human Interest

    PALM HARBOR — Rick Watson realized he would spend many days alone, away from any help, when he decided to make the 1,700-mile trek on his bicycle from the Lincoln Memorial to Lincoln, Neb.

    However, for Watson, a 61-year-old Palm Harbor real estate agent, the reasons for the trip outweighed any fears he might have had. It was a chance to catch up with family and a chance to fulfill a longtime goal, to honor several veterans in his life by raising money for Homes for Our Troops, a charity for disabled veterans. It was also a chance to honor his niece's husband, Steve Rader, a cyclist who was fatally hit by a truck last year in Wisconsin....

    Rick Watson recently completed a 1,700-mile bicycle ride from the Lincoln Memorial to Lincoln, Neb., to raise money for Homes for Our Troops, a group that builds houses for disabled veterans.
  11. What's Tim Duffy reading?



    Tim Duffy

    It was Guitar Gabriel, a blues musician in Winston-Salem, N.C., who first took Tim Duffy's heart. Others followed, like Willa Mae Buckner, Preston Fulp, Mr. Q and Macavine Hayes. In 1994, Duffy, along with his wife, Denise, created the nonprofit Music Maker Relief Foundation after recognizing that blues men and women across the South were struggling in poverty and needed financial support. In the past two decades, Music Maker has helped 300 blues artists, issued more than 160 CDs and presented concerts in 40 states and 17 countries, all in support of preserving the American blues tradition. To mark its 20-year anniversary, the organization has released We Are the Music Makers, a book and CD set that includes stories and 65 photographs gathered by Duffy, 51, along with two discs showcasing Music Maker musicians. We caught up with Duffy, a guitar player who holds a master's degree in folklore from the University of North Carolina, at his home in Hillsborough, N.C. For information, visit musicmaker.org....

  12. What's Rick Steves reading?


    Rick Steves

    The PBS host, author of 50-plus travel guides and recipient of the European Union's 2013 Outstanding Friend of Europe Award, will make a stop Wednesday at Ferguson Hall at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa (strazcenter.org). We caught up with Steves, who studied European history and business at the University of Washington, by phone recently and asked him about his appearance. "There is a challenge for me going from Seattle to Tampa, which is traveling from one corner of the country to the other,'' he said. "It has to do with packing the lessons I've learned over the years in a very practical, entertaining way, but I bring lots of slides and it's right up to date with four months of travel to Europe this year.''...

    Rick Steves, who tells tourists they need to travel like temporary locals. photo from www.ricksteves.com
  13. What's Deborah Frethem reading?



    Deborah Frethem

    Local author and storyteller Frethem has been busy this Halloween season promoting her newest book, Haunted Ybor. "I actually moved here ten years ago from Minnesota to do ghost tours,'' said Frethem, 65. "But I love history and, with all that is here, one thing led to another and I began writing the book.''

    And what does the author consider the most haunted place in Ybor City? "The Cuban Club,'' she said. "There's all kinds of things going on there. The most prevalent story is of (Albert J. Kolby), who was shot there. People have seen him as an apparition of a man in a suit. He was also known as El Fumador, the Smoker.''...

    Deborah Frethem, author of “Haunted Ybor” and “Haunted Tampa: Spirits of the Bay and Ghost Stories of St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Pinellas County”
  14. Cheeseheads keep business booming at Culver's burger chain in Largo


    LARGO — Parrish Sandefur admitted he worried about the success of his restaurant before it opened. Not too long ago, he and his wife, Alicia Sandefur, opened up the first Culver's in Tampa Bay on East Bay Drive. Although the quick service restaurant was a go-to eatery for him and his family for years back in Wisconsin, he wasn't sure if people in Florida would recognize the chain.

    "Culver's is really well-known in the Midwest, but when we first moved here, I was just meeting people who were from, well, Florida,'' he said....

    Friends Jewel Ahrns, 92, left, and Gladys Malone, 92, of Largo settle in for a pair of butter burgers and shakes during a recent lunch at Culver’s.
  15. Dia de los Muertos Fiesta brings Mexico's traditions to Dunedin



    The city is noted for its Scottish heritage, however, on Saturday, Dunedin's Celtic roots will take a backseat to the community's growing Latin community. For the sixth year in a row, downtown restaurateurs Javier and Tina Avila are holding their Dia de los Muertos Fiesta in Pioneer Park. Dia de los Muertos is Spanish for Day of the Dead. • Although the event is planned close to Halloween, don't think the celebration, which will cost the Avilas $10,000, is about goblins, black cats and zombies....

    Tina Avila works on an altar she built in preparation for Saturday’s Casa Tina Dia de los Muertos Fiesta in Dunedin. This will be the sixth year that she and her husband Javier have helped the community celebrate the Mexican tradition, which honors the deceased.