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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 north Pinellas County. 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 Georgia Hunter reading?



    Georgia Hunter

    She was a teenager when she learned she came from a family of Holocaust survivors. Ever since, Hunter, 38, has felt a desire to both explore and share her family's history. After years of compiling memories from relatives and traveling thousands of miles, to France, Brazil, Poland and beyond, Hunter is seeing the release of We Were the Lucky Ones. It is a historical novel based on her family's experiences....

    Georgia Hunter, who comes from a family of Holocaust survivors, has written “We Were the Lucky Ones,” a historical novel based on her family’s experiences.
  2. What's Linda-Marie Barrett reading?



    Linda-Marie Barrett

    Last year, author Sherman Alexie canceled his visit to Asheville, N.C., a result of his stand against the state's law banning transgender people from the bathroom of their choice. At the time, Barrett, the general manager of Asheville's Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, sent an op-ed to the New York Times. She expressed respect for the author and the need for protest, but Barrett, 53, also stressed how the cancellation caused her store to lose much-needed revenue through book sales as well as how readers lost "an opportunity to connect a beloved, charismatic author with fans in a city who would have been empowered by his outrage over the law.''...

    Linda-Marie Barrett has been with Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, N.C., since 1988.
  3. Oldsmar's Canal Park could be getting a major face lift

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — Canal Park is widely known as home to the city's Supercross track, one of only a handful of Olympic-style BMX facilities in the U.S. Now city officials are aiming to bolster the park, sandwiched between Tampa and Curlew roads, even further.

    Lynn Rives, the city's leisure services director, recently shared at a City Council meeting conceptual plans for a redesign of Canal Park created by the Tampa design firm Stantec. Council members encouraged Rives to continue moving forward to develop a new master plan....

    This area on the south western area of Canal Park will eventually be home to rv campsites. - The Oldsmar city council has approved a design to Canal Park that will bring in 50 camping spaces along with RV camping for BMX and other special events. Also a new soccer field will be added.
  4. What's Stuart Woods reading?



    Stuart Woods

    We caught up with Woods by phone from his home in Key West about a week before Below the Belt, another in his bestselling Stone Barrington series, hit bookstores. An avid waterman, the author, whose 79th birthday is Jan. 9, started his career in the advertising industry. In 1981, his debut novel, Chiefs, was honored with the Edgar Award, and he has gone on to pen more than 60 books....

    Stuart Woods has written more than 60 books, including the bestselling Stone Barrington series.
  5. What's Tippi Hedren reading?



    Tippi Hedren

    Hedren, 86, didn't have time to chat with us about the book Fifty Shades of Grey and her granddaughter Dakota Johnson's performance in the movie version. However, we recently had a quick phone conversation with Hedren, forever recognized for her performance in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and the mother of actor Melanie Griffith. In November, Hedren, who is known for her animal activism and the Roar Foundation, released Tippi (co-written with Lindsay Harrison). The memoir details Hedren's life in the public eye as well as experiences behind the camera, including alleged sexual abuse by Hitchcock....

    Tippi Hedren released the memoir “Tippi,” which was co-written with Lindsay Harrison, in November.
  6. What's Manuel Sykes reading?



    The Rev. Manuel Sykes

    We recently caught up with Sykes, the longtime pastor at Bethel Community Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, one of the area's most prominent African-American congregations. Although an official date has not been set, Sykes has announced plans to retire from the post. His goal is to complete his dissertation for a doctorate in counseling psychology through Argosy University in Sarasota. "I'd like to one day open a private practice. I'd like to counsel pastors,'' said Sykes, 59. "Pastors rarely have a confidential source that is nonjudgmental, and many of them suffer from mental health issues like depression. They need an outlet.''...

    Manuel Sykes has announced plans to retire from his post as longtime pastor at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg. His plan: to complete his dissertation for a doctorate in counseling psychology.
  7. What's Jonathan White reading?



    Jonathan White

    We recently caught up with White, who lives on Orcas Island, north of Seattle. While working with the Resource Institute, a nonprofit educational organization based in Washington, White, an author, sailor and conservationist, sponsored weeklong seminars in the Pacific Northwest aboard the schooner Crusader. His first book, Talking on the Water: Conversations on Creativity and Nature, was a result and includes discussions with the likes of writers Peter Matthiessen, Ursula K. Le Guin and Gary Snyder. During one of the seminars, the Crusader ran aground on a spring tide in Alaska. The experience spurred White into a multiyear investigation of the world's waters and to his new book, coming in early 2017: Tides: The Science and Spirit of the Ocean. ...

    Jonathan White is author or “Talking on the Water: Conversations on Creativity and Nature.”
  8. Largo business conducts presidential cookie poll: The treats have Hillary by 180 cookies


       Frida Alipour's presidential cookie poll has successfully predicted the outcome of the election ever since Alipour started it at Frida's, her bakery in Largo, back in  2004. She conducts the poll by keeping track of the number of cookies sold with either Trump or Clinton decorated on top, When we checked in about two weeks ago, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were neck and neck....

  9. Lakeema Matthew: A muralist celebrates Oldsmar

    Local Government


    As Lakeema Matthew painted with dark blue for the sky and with black for the birds flying upward, she talked about fallen soldier Army Cpl. Frank R. Gross, whose face will eventually grace the center of her current creation, two murals on the band shell at R.E. Olds Park.

    Although he died before they met, she feels a kinship with Gross.

    "Frankie is my buddy,'' said Matthew, 27, holding a paint brush in one hand while keeping her work hat steady from the wind with the other. "I learned Frankie's story earlier this year. He was an artist like me. He's out here with me every day.''...

    Lakeema Matthew describes Oldsmar as “small and quiet and filled with history.’’
  10. What's Emilie Socash reading?



    Emilie Socash

    Socash is currently the executive director of both the Jewish Federation of Pinellas and Pasco Counties and the Tampa Orlando Pinellas Jewish Federation. She previously served as the founding executive director of the Freefall Theatre in St. Petersburg. Socash, an avid reader and writer who pens a regular column for the Jewish Press of Pinellas County, has also, she says, "written, but not published, a children's feminist novel as well as a 'mockumentary' screenplay."...

    Emilie Socash is executive director of both the Jewish Federation of Pinellas and Pasco Counties and the Tampa Orlando Pinellas Jewish Federation.
  11. Oldsmar plans to keep tax rate steady


    OLDSMAR — City officials plan to keep the property tax rate flat, but because of increasing property values, the proposed budget of $30 million includes a redesign for Canal Park, raises for city employees as well as putting $2.1 million in reserves.

    With the rate holding steady at $4.05 per $1,000 in assessed, taxable property, the owner of a home valued at $150,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption would pay $405 in city taxes. The city's taxable value is estimated at 5.63 percent more than this year....

  12. Clearwater Ice Arena debuts new rink on Saturday


    LARGO — In 1986, before Tampa Bay natives recognized Zamboni as more than a foreign word and lightning as more than a reason to run for cover, one of the first ice arenas in the state opened on Icot Boulevard. Its name was Sunblades, and its core customers were snowbirds and transplanted moms and dads craving to instill in the next generation a love for hockey, the sport they grew up with in places not so close to the equator....

    The new skate rental area at Clearwater Ice Arena.
  13. Trader Joe's? Publix?: New construction and new market heading to Woodlands Square


    OLDSMAR — Trader Joe's? Safeway? Whole Foods Market?

    Although the name has yet to be revealed, hurdles are being cleared to give Oldsmar a new place to load up on groceries. Although the specific store has not been identified, other facts have been disclosed, including the exact location. Its home will be Woodlands Square, right next to Beall's.

    The City Council recently approved a development agreement with Woodlands Square Community Reinvestment Partners allowing for the renovation of the shopping center at 3130 Tampa Road. The center, more than 30 years old, is about a half-mile from Canal Park and is most known for AMC Woodlands 20, a popular movie theater last renovated in 2000....

  14. What's Mark Bircher reading?



    Mark Bircher

    Bircher, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and retired Marine Corps Reserve brigadier general, was the first Republican to jump into the race in the redrawn 13th Congressional District last December. Now, as he nears the finish line for the Republican primary, he's up against incumbent David Jolly. Bircher, a commercial airline pilot, also ran for the seat in the 2014 special election after the death of C.W. "Bill" Young. He lives in Seminole with his wife, Jackie, and 12-year-old son, Bill. He attributes his decision to run for public office to his fatherhood. "Frankly, I don't think I started to appreciate government until I was a parent. It gave me a whole new perspective,'' said Bircher, 63. "There's a special part of you that you don't know you have until you have a child.''...

    Mark Bircher is a candidate for the 13th Congressional District.
  15. Oldsmar resident aims for 2020 Olympics ... as a Peruvian

    Human Interest


    Andre LaCroix has had a busy summer. He graduated from East Lake High, has a girlfriend and social life to manage, and, oh yeah, went to Peru in July and won that country's national open BMX championship.

    And if LaCroix has his way, he'll be even busier four years from now. As a citizen of both countries, he hopes to be competing for the Peruvian team in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo....

    LaCroix, taking a break during training, has practiced with athletes from places like Holland, Latvia and Germany on his home track.