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

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  1. What's Tavis Smiley reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Tavis Smiley

    We have no idea what the outcome will be for Smiley, one of the contestants on ABC's Dancing With the Stars, but we do know he spent more than seven weeks preparing in secret for the reality show. Smiley, 50, also has just released a new book, Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year. He hosts a late-night TV show for PBS and two radio shows, The Tavis Smiley Show for Public Radio International and the online program Tavis Talks on BlogTalk Radio....

    Tavis Smiley has just released Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year.
  2. What's Rick Wilber reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Rick Wilber

    We recently caught up with author and editor Rick Wilber, a journalism and mass media professor at the University of South Florida. He will discuss his newest work, Field of Fantasies, an anthology that incorporates baseball and fantasy literature, at this year's Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 25. Wilber, 66, has written more than 50 short stories and several novels and is the author of My Father's Game: Life, Death, Baseball, a memoir recounting life with his father, major league baseball player Del Wilber. As editor of Field of Fantasies, Wilber read about 150 works before narrowing it down to 23, by writers that include Stephen King, Jack Kerouac, Karen Joy Fowler, Ray Bradbury and T. Coraghessan Boyle. "To read in this subgenre was reading all kinds of stuff I love, so it was an excuse to read way too heavily.''...

    Rick Wilber
  3. What's Lee Grant reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Lee Grant

    In her memoir, I Said Yes to Everything, Grant, 87, looks back at her life, her early years shaping her craft at the famed Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, her first marriage, which led to her being blacklisted from Hollywood for more than a decade, her second — and lasting — marriage to a man 10 years her junior, and her children, Dinah and Belinda, as well as her life's work as an Academy Award-winning actor (for the film Shampoo in 1975) and director (for the documentary Down and Out in America in 1986)....

    Lee Grant,87, reflects on a very full life in I Said Yes to Everything.
  4. What's Sarah Smiley reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Sarah Smiley

    Smiley, 37, is a syndicated columnist and author of three books, I'm Just Saying, Going Overboard and Dinner With the Smileys, which has just been released in paperback. In it, the author chronicles a yearlong project of inviting guests to join her and her three sons, ages 4, 9 and 11, at a weekly dinner while her husband, a Navy pilot, was stationed overseas. Guests ranged from neighbors and teachers to politicians and professional athletes....

    Sarah Smiley, 37, is a syndicated columnist and the author of three books, I’m Just Saying, Going Overboard and Dinner With the Smileys.
  5. What's Jonathan Tropper reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Jonathan Tropper

    If you haven't read it yet, you have until Sept. 19 to read Tropper's hilarious novel This Is Where I Leave You before it hits the big screen with Jason Bateman, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne and Tina Fey. The story centers around Judd Foxman, whose father, Mort, has died. Mort's unexpected dying wish was that his family sit shiva, the seven-day period of traditional Jewish mourning. In addition to dealing with his dysfunctional family for a week, Judd is also reeling from his wife's infidelity. Tropper is also the co-creator of the Cinemax show Banshee as well as the author of Plan B, The Book of Joe, Everything Changes, How to Talk to a Widower and One Last Thing Before I Go. We recently caught up with the writer, who is much more serious on the phone than you'd expect, while he conducted business in Los Angeles. ...

    Jonathan Tropper has written numerous books and is co-creator of the Cinemax show Banshee. His novel, This Is Where I Leave You, comes to life on the big screen on Sept. 12.
  6. What's Gail Gutradt reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Gail Gutradt

    Gutradt's work has appeared in the Japan-based Kyoto Journal, Utne Reader and Ashé Journal, and this month she published In a Rocket Made of Ice: Among the Children of Wat Opot, a first-person account of her time spent at an orphanage in rural Cambodia. The author, who describes the orphanage for children and women affected by HIV and AIDS as "a workshop for souls,'' has made four trips to Wat Opot since 2005 as a volunteer. Her first article for the Kyoto Journal, "The Things We've Gone Through Together," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2008, Gutradt was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment between trips to Wat Opot. During a phone interview Aug. 7, we asked her to share the experience of being with the children once they learned she had cancer. "Because they had so much experience with illness, they understood what it's like to be looking at the whole thing. They are caretakers and seem to heal each other in so many ways,'' she said. The cancer returned in 2012 and Gutradt, 68, continues to undergo treatment near her home in Bar Harbor, Maine. But this has not stopped her from planning to return to Wat Opot. "The other day I was talking with my oncologist, and it came up that I'd like to go back. The doctor told me, 'Hey, go back for a month. Do it.' I hope to go in January,'' she said....

    Gail Gutradt’s work has appeared in the Japan-based Kyoto Journal, Utne Reader and Ashé  Journal, and this month she published “In a Rocket Made of Ice: Among the Children of Wat Opot,” a first-person account of her time spent at an orphanage in rural Cambodia.
  7. What's Amy Grace Loyd reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Amy Grace Loyd

    Loyd's 2013 novel, The Affairs of Others, was released in paperback this month. It is the story of a young widow, Celia Cassill, whose quest for a quiet life is interrupted when a new tenant brings turmoil into the building.

    Loyd is a former fiction and literary editor at Playboy as well as the former executive editor at Byliner Inc., a digital publishing house. She also worked in the New Yorker's fiction department and was associate editor for the New York Review Books Classics series....

    Amy Grace Loyd is author of 2013’s The Affairs of Others.
  8. What's Deborah Harkness reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Deborah Harkness

    Harkness is a history professor at University of Southern California, a wine enthusiast responsible for the blog Good Wine Under $20, and the author of the newly released The Book of Life, the final novel in her All Souls Trilogy. The books follow the romance of historian-witch Diana Bishop and scientist-vampire Matthew Clairmont while on their search for a mysterious alchemical manuscript. Harkness, 49, recently spoke with us by phone while on book tour in San Francisco....

    Deborah Harkness is a history professor at the University of Southern California and the author of the newly released The Book of Life, the final novel in her All Souls Trilogy.
  9. Five Questions with new pastor at Mt. Olive

    Religion

    Five Questions | Pastor Leroy Hardy

    CLEARWATER — As if parenting six kids and running a business is not enough to keep him busy, Leroy Hardy has recently taken on a new role — pastor of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church. The church, with 100 registered members, has roots that go back about 90 years in the South Greenwood community.

    As a teenager, Hardy served as an usher at Shiloh Missionary Baptist in Dunedin where he first met Clem Bell, that church's pastor, in the mid 1970s. "Leroy has become a successful businessman, husband and father, and now he has the big challenge of taking what he has learned in all his other roles and implementing them into his pastoral role,'' said Bell, 64. "Mount Olive is getting a man with integrity."...

    Leroy Hardy, 48, is the new pastor of Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Largo.
  10. Church of the Bayou members serve the community as a family

    Religion

    TARPON SPRINGS — On a recent Tuesday, Church on the Bayou Presbyterian Church was bustling with activity.

    In one classroom, workers for the Shepherd Center were holding an orientation for a mentoring initiative for women. In another, a yoga class was in session.

    In the library, the church's missions committee was working on the Hurricane Relief Bucket Project, an initiative designed to ensure that the Florida Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Network has enough clean-up supplies for whenever they're needed....

    The Rev. Kathleen Dain leads the congregation during Sunday worship at the Church on the Bayou in Tarpon Springs. The church membership doesn’t exceed 100 members, but they still strive to serve the community, as through the Hurricane Relief Bucket Project.
  11. What's Kim Stolz reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Kim Stolz

    Since Unfriending My Ex was released in June, Stolz, a former MTV News correspondent and America's Next Top Model contestant, has heard many crazy stories concerning social networking mishaps. The book is Stolz's humorous take on how social networking has changed our society and on the pitfalls of obsessive connectivity. "Just last night at a signing a woman told me about how she was starting to get to know a new guy. They were texting back and forth, and she texted him at 2 a.m. telling him to come over to her apartment. It turned out she erroneously texted her dad,'' said Stolz, 31. The author holds a degree in government and intergovernmental politics from Wesleyan University and currently works as vice president of equity derivatives sales at Citigroup. We caught up with her by phone recently while she was in Los Angeles on book tour. ...

    Kim Stolz released Unfriending My Ex in June.
  12. Senior Center of Clearwater will close in September

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — The five friends gathered around the wooden table for their biweekly game of pinochle at the Senior Center of Clearwater. But before they could shuffle the first deck of cards, they received sad news from Robert Wittenberg, the executive director of Senior Citizens Services Inc.

    "I wanted to let you know, in September, the center will close,'' said Wittenberg, 69. "But we are not abandoning you. We will do everything in our power to relocate you wherever you'd like to go because we value your participation.''...

    A donation box sits inside the Senior Center of Clearwater. The number of visitors to the center has decreased. 
  13. What's Rebecca Rotert reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Rebecca Rotert

    In her first novel, Last Night at the Blue Angel, Rotert moves between 1960s Chicago and 1950s Kansas to tell the story of Naomi, a self-absorbed nightclub singer, and her young daughter, Sophia, who is caught in her shadow. Rotert received her master's degree in literature from Hollins University in Virginia, where she also received the Academy of American Poets prize, and is currently a teacher with the Nebraska Writers Collective. We caught up with her by phone from her home office in Omaha....

    Rebecca Rotert is author of Last Night at the Blue Angel.
  14. What's Andrea Brunais reading?

    Books

    Nightstand

    Andrea Brunais

    Brunais sets her new novel, Mercedes Wore Black, against the backdrop of the 2014 Florida governor's race while introducing the reader to Janis Pearl Hawk, a journalist who heads out to uncover corruption involving murder, public money and the fate of a pristine Florida bay.

    Brunais, a former editorial writer and editor for the Tallahassee Democrat and Tampa Tribune, is currently working as communications director, outreach and international affairs, at Virginia Tech. She is scheduled to sign her book at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Inkwood Books, 216 S Armenia Ave., Tampa....

    Andrea Brunais
  15. WWII flier, Italian still allies after all these years

    Veterans

    PALM HARBOR — Frank Bolek arrived in Lesina, Italy, as part of the U.S. Army Air Forces 325th Fighter Group in December 1944.

    Bolek's assignment with the 325th, known as the Checkertail Clan because of the black and yellow checkered pattern on the tails of their aircraft, was to escort B-17s and B-24s on bombing missions against the Germans.

    On farmland not far from the town's center, the U.S. military built a temporary airstrip. Every morning, the 22-year-old would climb out of a tent he shared with three other pilots and into the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang....

    Tom Ricci, whose family hails from Lesina, Italy, visits with Frank Bolek in Palm Harbor. Bolek was based in Lesina in 1944.