An engaging, thorough novel about forgotten heroes of aviation history.

Willa Brown & the Challengers

Perez’s debut historical novel fictionalizes the story of three pioneering black aviators who changed the face of aeronautics.

When one thinks about America’s aviation heroes, the Wright brothers, Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart come to mind. Lesser known are Cornelius C. Coffey, John C. Robinson and Willa B. Brown, real-life African-American historical figures who revolutionized aviation from the late 1920s through World War II. Brown was a schoolteacher in Gary, Ind., with a mind for machines, while Robinson and Coffey were working as well-regarded but underpaid auto mechanics. All had a desire to fly, and their paths crossed at a Walgreens drug store, when Willa, working temporarily as a waitress and cashier, overheard the two young men talking about a plane they had built. They insisted that she come see it, and the rest is history. Coffey and Robinson studied for and obtained pilot’s licenses (despite a stated “no colored” student policy), becoming the first black men in the United States to do so. They ran their own hangar in Robbins, Ill., eventually relocating to Chicago and founding the Coffey School of Aeronautics in 1935 with Willa Brown as Director, making it the only integrated flight school at the time. With the support of powerful parties—including first lady Eleanor Roosevelt—the three continued to break Jim Crow–era boundaries, including the U.S. Army’s race barrier, by managing the first black-operated government-funded flight school during World War II. For all of their accomplishments, it’s hard to believe that more people don’t affiliate them with the history of flight. Perez, a filmmaker, paces the novel well, tackling more than a decade’s worth of change in the field of aeronautics and its place in a racially divided country. But he balances more serious matter with his characters’ joy of flying as they soar at more than 300 mph, doing barrel rolls and loop-the-loops. Although the mechanical detail can sometimes be tedious, the author keeps the story moving with ample dialogue and glimpses into his protagonists’ personal lives. Unfortunately, with so much buildup leading to World War II, relatively little literary real estate is given to the characters’ post-war years.

An engaging, thorough novel about forgotten heroes of aviation history.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-0979088100

Page Count: 402

Publisher: Script & Post Script

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.


Passion, friendship, heartbreak, and forgiveness ring true in Lovering's debut, the tale of a young woman's obsession with a man who's "good at being charming."

Long Island native Lucy Albright, starts her freshman year at Baird College in Southern California, intending to study English and journalism and become a travel writer. Stephen DeMarco, an upperclassman, is a political science major who plans to become a lawyer. Soon after they meet, Lucy tells Stephen an intensely personal story about the Unforgivable Thing, a betrayal that turned Lucy against her mother. Stephen pretends to listen to Lucy's painful disclosure, but all his thoughts are about her exposed black bra strap and her nipples pressing against her thin cotton T-shirt. It doesn't take Lucy long to realize Stephen's a "manipulative jerk" and she is "beyond pathetic" in her desire for him, but their lives are now intertwined. Their story takes seven years to unfold, but it's a fast-paced ride through hookups, breakups, and infidelities fueled by alcohol and cocaine and with oodles of sizzling sexual tension. "Lucy was an itch, a song stuck in your head or a movie you need to rewatch or a food you suddenly crave," Stephen says in one of his point-of-view chapters, which alternate with Lucy's. The ending is perfect, as Lucy figures out the dark secret Stephen has kept hidden and learns the difference between lustful addiction and mature love.

There are unforgettable beauties in this very sexy story.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6964-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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