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 Jonathan Tropper reading?



    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.
  2. What's Gail Gutradt reading?



    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.
  3. What's Amy Grace Loyd reading?



    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.
  4. What's Deborah Harkness reading?



    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.
  5. Five Questions with new pastor at Mt. Olive


    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.
  6. Church of the Bayou members serve the community as a family


    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.
  7. What's Kim Stolz reading?



    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.
  8. 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.''...

    Senior Citizens Services Inc. will close its Senior Center of Clearwater at 1204 Rogers St. on Sept. 15. It will then move its administra­tive office to Prospect Towers. 
  9. What's Rebecca Rotert reading?



    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.
  10. What's Andrea Brunais reading?



    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
  11. WWII flier, Italian still allies after all these years


    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.
  12. Five Questions with Episcopal priest, fighter of human trafficking


    It was just a few days before terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and Washington, D.C., targets in 2001 that Father Ray Bonoan took over as the rector at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Safety Harbor. "On 9/11, I was still moving in. We decided to leave the church open. So many came and just sat. … All our hearts were broken. I will say it was difficult. As a priest, sometimes you need to be a healer when you are wounded, too.''...

    Father Ray Bonoan has diversified his Episcopal church in Safety Harbor and leads anti-human trafficking efforts from there.
  13. What's Vernon Bryant reading?



    Vernon Bryant

    Bryant, 58, is the branch executive director of the Greater Ridgecrest YMCA, where he has launched the Million Page Challenge, a summer reading program that has young people and adults joining together to read 1 million pages by Aug. 10. He believes that, in order to instill a lifelong love for reading in youth, adults must "show them by example.'' Bryant, a Chicago native, holds a master's degree in public administration from the University of Illinois as well as a master's degree in horticulture from Iowa State University and a bachelor's degree in botany from Eastern Illinois University....

    Vernon Bryant, 58, is the branch executive director of the Greater Ridgecrest YMCA.
  14. What's Cheryl Morales reading?



    Cheryl Morales

    When Morales, the new executive director for the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, first arrived here from Pago Pago, American Samoa, she caught up on her sleep, then she took her two daughters to Gulf Beaches Public Library. "I know it sounds stereotypical that I did that as a librarian but that's where we went, and I registered my children for the library's summer reading program,'' she said....

    Cheryl Morales previously was the territorial librarian in Pago Pago, American Samoa.
  15. New leader for county library cooperative arrives


    When we caught up with Cheryl Morales on June 11, she acknowledged she was suffering from a bit of jet lag. Just days earlier Morales, the new executive director of the Pinellas Public Library Cooperative, had arrived from Pago Pago, where she worked for 16 years as the territorial librarian in American Samoa.

    With a salary of $90,000, she replaces Mary Brown, who resigned last year during an overhaul of the organization's governing board....

    Cheryl Morales, 50, says she’s good at adapting. “All the places I’ve lived, I’ve found I’m adaptive to climate and culture. There are so many different cultures and populations here in Florida. ... It’s a rich place to be.”