Cover Image: The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West

The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West

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Member Reviews

This was a good story, and about something I had no knowledge on. I flew through the audio book but just didn’t get attached to Wrens story. I loved Olivia’s though, and loved learning about the early days of flying.

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I love reading historical fiction books based on real badass women, and this was another one of those inspiring books.
I also enjoyed the connection between Wren, a young woman struggling to find her way in the world, and Olivia, the spunky aviator clawing her way into a man's world.
Interesting and entertaining read! Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, for providing me with a copy.

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I'd like to thank the publisher for providing me with an ARC.

I didn't love or hate this book. I think it just wasn't for me. The writing was just okay to me, and I didn't feel drawn into the book very much.

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This was my first novel by Sara Ackerman and won't be my last! I love a duel timeline novel featuring women characters, and this novel is based on a true story I wasn't aware of being reading it! Looking forward to more from this author.

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This was an unexpected delight for me! What worked for me: 1. The dual POV of two females. Both were strong women who fought for their own skills, talents, and rights to be recognized. 2. The history of the pilots, especially female pilots, and the Dole Derby, of which I knew nothing of, and I was more than slightly disappointed to read the author's note and find that Olivia West was fictional. 3. The honor given to the elderly in the living facility 4. *spoiler* the girls get their boys! 5. Relationships went through rough, honest things but lasted 6. The overall feels of this book- positive, inspiring, and hopeful.

I will be looking for more from this author and enjoyed this book!

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Quick and Dirty
-dual POV historical fiction
-1920s early aviation theme
-fearless female lead
-fast-paced, action-packed read

What Worked
What a fun adventure that was! Anyone looking for their next great female-led adventure novel should look no further than this book. Is it perfect? Nope. But is it fun with lots of ups/downs/tailspins? Yes indeed! I really loved the 20’s air race timeline most of all, but the modern (80s) timeline with Ren reinventing herself and embracing her heritage was equally as engaging and entertaining. Olivia, our main character, is spunky, smart as a whip, and eager to make her mark on the aviation world. And nothing, not even unresolved feelings for her first love, will stand in her way! I love a strong female lead more than anything, and Ackerman has a knack for creating tough yet vulnerable FMCs that are easy to love. The novel ended on a high note despite some heavier themes/situations. And overall the fast-paced, action-packed (short) chapters made this novel fly by! (pun intended)

What Didn’t Work
My only real beef with this book is that it reads a bit like a YA novel at times. There are some adult themes briefly mentioned, but overall it felt more like New Adult Fiction or Upmarket Fiction in terms of the prose.

Read This If
Anyone who enjoys a lighter-hearted, pulse-pounding adventure with lots of feel good vibes will enjoy this book!

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This historical fiction is told in dual perspectives and timelines. Set in California and Hawaii. This story was interesting about a female pilot and based on a true event. I have also enjoyed other books by this author.

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Author Sara Ackerman grew up on Oahu, but now resides on the Big Island, and holds the beautiful state responsible for her addiction to writing since the islands have such a rich history and so many untold stories waiting to be shared. She knows Hawai’i well and injects details that bring the setting to life and transport her readers there as they are reading.

Despite being born and raised in Hawai’i, Ackerman had never heard about the Dole Air Race until she was searching for inspiration for her next novel. She happened upon a book entitled The Saga of The Sandwich Islands> in which the race was mentioned. Ackerman says she knew immediately that she wanted her story to be centered around the race. James Dole, the pineapple baron, sponsored the race to make the first crossing in a fixed-wing airplane from Oakland, California, to Oahu. It was 1927, shortly after Lindbergh’s famous flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Ackerman notes that the “real challenge” was traveling two thousand, four hundred miles in a “very rudimentary” craft to a “tiny speck in the ocean,” making it a “real feat of navigation.” Eight planes took off from the California coast but, unsurprisingly, not all of them landed safely in Hawai’i.

There was only one female participant in the race. Mildred Doran was a passenger in the Miss Doran, a plane named for her, even though “there were a lot of capable female pilots at that time. They just weren’t in the race.” In those days, female pilots were “not highly regarded.” Ackerman crafts strong fictional female characters, and places them into actual historical events. She recalls pondering “what it would have been like to be a female pilot in that race,” which is “how Olivia West was born.” Olivia represents “all the women who were pushing limits of their time but not celebrated or even recognized.”

The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West opens in San Diego in 1920, where sixteen-year-old Olivia West has spent months performing odd jobs at the Ryan Flying Company and School of Aviation, hoping for an opportunity to go up in a plane. But Mr. Ryan has been adamant. “A sixteen-year-old girl has no place in a cockpit.” Finally, one Sunday while her father is out fishing, the new pilot, Heath Hazeltine, finally agrees to take her up with him. It is a flight she will never forget on a day that she has no way of knowing will prove life-changing because Olivia finally> gets her chance to pursue her dream. By 1927, she has logged four thousand seven hundred twenty-two hours in the air, and flying has become “her life.” Olivia’s first love, none other than Heath, is gone – he joined the Navy without even saying good-bye, breaking Olivia’s heart, and survived a failed attempt to fly to Honolulu. One day, Mr. Mahoney, the new owner of the airfield, relays news of the upcoming Race to Hawai’i to Olivia and the other pilots, but flatly refuses to sponsor her, despite her skills. Undeterred, Olivia determines to get to San Francisco and apply in person to serve as a navigator after her father spots an advertisement in the local newspaper. “I have to do this,” she tells her parents. In her response to the ad, she intentionally omits one salient detail, simply signing the telegram as “OM West.”

In a second third-person narrative, Ackerman introduces readers to Wren. It is 1987 and Wren is a talented artist – she crafts light fixtures from wood and glass, but has not been able to earn a living by selling her creations, so she toils as a waitress. Eighty-four days ago, Wren discovered that her boyfriend, Joe, had been unfaithful. Wren had surrendered her power to and become dependent on Joe, but moved out of his upscale cottage and now she is facing eviction from her tiny studio because she has not been able to pay the rent. For wren, “being homeless, jobless and manless had never been part of the plan. But maybe that was part of the problem. There had been no real plan.” She receives a surprising call from an attorney with shocking news: she has inherited the estate of her great-aunt Portia Kahawai, a woman she only met a couple of times when she was a child. She was her father’s aunt, but her father has not been in her life for some time. Although Portia did not leave Wren any money, she bequeathed her a property on the Big Island, near Ha’wi’, across the channel from Maui, along with a hand-written note explaining that the land has been passed to her because she is the last surviving woman in the family. “This is a special place and it’s been sitting idle too long. It is time to change that and make something of it.” Like Olivia so many years ago, Wren has no way of knowing that her life is about to be changed irrevocably and profoundly.

In alternating chapters, Ackerman details the two women’s adventures, decades apart. Olivia talks her way into the navigator role and preparations begin in earnest for the race. But challenges abound for all involved, not the least of which are the logistical considerations. Ackerman’s painstaking research into her subject matter is evident as she describes the various conundrums the explorers must overcome, prime among them the questions of how to carry enough fuel aboard the planes and how to refuel mid-flight. The role of the navigator is critical because if the pilot and navigator are unable to see Oahu and the runway there, the plane will run out of fuel and crash into the ocean or on a nearby island. (The route across the Pacific from California to Hawaii is the longest in the world offering no alternate place to land.) Some of the test flights do not go well and the weather fails to cooperate. Despite talk about postponing the race, Dole is determined to stick to the schedule, largely due to the massive amount of publicity it has generated and the funds that have already been expended. Olivia’s life is further complicated, and her resolve tested, when Heath shows up. He will be piloting one of the planes . . . and wants Olivia to give him a second chance. And the race becomes shrouded in mystery. Could someone be intent on sabotage? Ackerman's scenes depicting the flight are expertly drafted -- tense, suspenseful, and competely riveting -- as the pilots and navigtors struggle to overcome numerous potentially deadly hurdles.

Wren travels to the Big Island and discovers that the property she inherited is not just in a remote location. It is uninhabitable. But she has nowhere else to live and no money to procure better accommodations. She sets about renovating the dilapidated old barn, relying on her ingenuity and resolve. The barn is littered with old artifacts, some of which are quite intriguing, especially an old car – likely a 1940 Ford – and an airplane! She enlists a local, Pono Willard, to help her restore both, hoping to sell them. But she becomes interested in the origin and history of her inheritance, and begins searching for answers about not just Portia’s life, but also the lives of her other ancestors. She takes a job as an aide at a local nursing home, unaware that one resident there is the key to all the answers she seeks. Ackerman aptly characterizes Wren’s story as a “coming of age” tale. As the story progresses, the likable and empathetic young woman learns to stand on her own, becomes strong and decisive, and by learning about her past is able to carve out a future for herself.

Ackerman deftly employs Wren’s storyline to explore the mysteries surrounding the race, aspects of which are based on real occurrences. She says she wrote the entire narrative setting forth Olivia’s story first. “The hardest part is to figure out where to weave” the two narratives together without revealing too much too soon, she relates. The two stories advance and integrate seamlessly as Ackerman whisks readers back to 1927 just after revealing a salient portion of the story through Wren’s explorations, providing background details and clues to how her captivating and fully developed characters’ lives have intersected. When all the pieces fall into place, with Ackerman revealing her characters’ fates, the result is emotionally satisfying if, in some aspects, bittersweet.

Once again, Ackerman has penned a cohesive, compelling story featuring strong female characters who exhibit bravery, tenacity, and resilience. Olivia is a woman ahead of her time, insistent upon pursuing her love of flying and refusing to be limited or constrained by her gender. Despite her petite stature, she is powerful and stands strong, refusing to be denied opportunities that are routinely provided to men, demonstrating her prowess, and commanding respect. As Wren’s story opens, she is lost and floundering, and is acutely aware that she has arrived at a crossroads. She is also clever and recognizes that her inheritance constitutes a once-in-a-lifetime chance, even though she becomes discouraged and, at times, contemplates giving up. Ackerman surrounds the two characters with a fascinating and eclectic cast of supporting players, each of whom lends context and color to, and advances the story.

The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West is another mesmerizing and cleverly imagined work of historical fiction from Ackerman and a fitting homage to the brave aviators who risked everything to make transoceanic flight a reality.

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"The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West" is an intriguing dual-timeline story. In the past, a female pilot, Livy West, is a pioneer in the world of aviation, but she is barely accepted by other pilots due to her gender. In the current timeline, Wren Summers is finding that "adulting" is hard. After a disastrous relationship, she is left wondering "what's next?" when she unexpectedly learns of an inheritance from a relative she barely knew.

We follow along as the two women each wrestle to find their place in the world. Ultimately, the two timelines are brought together in a touching way that shows the power of the human spirit to overcome the challenges placed before us as we pursue the things we want most in life.

Thank you to Sara Ackerman for this inspiring and fast-paced read! And thank you too to Harlequin Trade Publishing and NetGalley for an advance review copy.

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TITLE: The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West
PUB DATE: 02.06.2024

I have been a huge fan of Sara Ackerman’s writing ever since the beginning. Ackerman writes stories about incredible women in history based on real life events. I enjoy reading historical fiction because it combines my love of fiction but with a twist - I’m actually learning too about historical events. Lately, I have been binging on Masters of the Air about an Air Force unit during WWII though the story is male dominated and doesn’t highlight the women in the Air Force, so in that vein, this book was the perfect read for me.

The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West is set in 1927 about a fearless female aviator competing in a death-defying race across the Pacific to Hawaii, against all odds along a male dominated field. Then in 1987 Wren Summers uncovers the mystery of Olivia’s story when she inherits a land in the Big Island.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read - the story was immersive and fast paced - an exhilarating read about women pilots and the world of aviation in that slice of history. The lush setting of Hawaii truly brings me joy as well as the bit of romance and adventure.

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This is another fantastic historical fiction novel from Sara Ackerman. I love the dual timelines in this book and the way she eventually brings them together. I was particularly intrigued with Livy's story and how she fought to become a pilot in a male dominated field and participated in the dangerous Dole race. Wren also had to overcome her own challenges in a different era and I liked how much her inheritance came to mean to her. I enjoyed the beautiful descriptions of Hawaii and Sara always makes me feel like I was just there.

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I recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and/or fierce female protagonists. This is a solid 5 stars for me!

While the story of Olivia West, specifically, isn't true, this book is heavily based on a true story. And the author does a great job, upon completion of the book, giving an overview of the actual happenings of Dole Derby and the race across the pacific to Hawaii in the 1920s.

Olivia West is a powerful character. She is inspirational! She will move you, uplift you, and leave you absolutely adoring her! If you're trying hard to, you can see the end of the book coming; but it doesn't change that it truly touches you and makes you actually really proud of how the story ends. Go, Wren!

With short hints of a love story for a number of characters, this book is mostly about driven females discovering their hobbies, dreams, and what they love and going after it! A must read by all!!

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Olivia West is a pilot with a dream- she wants to travel the skies. She finds the Dole Air Race, a flying contest to be the first to fly from the west coast to Hawaii. But she soon finds out that only men will be able to fly and she applies to be a navigator for one of the pilots. She ends up doing a lot of the flying when he becomes incapacitated and she’s excited to have had the chance.

Wren Summers is down in her luck when she finds out she’s inherited a remote plot of land in Hawaii. There’s not much there but a rundown barn. She was going to sell it, but she has found a lot of interesting aviation artifacts hidden in the barn. She needs to find out what these things are from.

I really loved this dual timeline story! I especially loved Olivia; she had big dreams and fought for what she wanted, even against her parents’ wishes. Her ambition was admirable and she was determined to get into the race no matter what. I found Wren’s side a little slow, but it really picks up near the end. I always love all the Hawaiian history and I hope to one day see it in person.

Thank you @_mira_books and @saraackermanbooks for my gifted ebook. Olivia West is out now!

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I loved the dual timeline/pov and how they complimented one another. It had action, mystery, and a little bit of romance. I didn’t expect to like Wren’s timeline as much after the way Olivia’s started but it ended up being such a heartwarming addition to an already strong story based on true events. I can’t think about one without the other. I enjoyed following everything about the race, from the tests they had to pass to the actual flight to Hawaii. The emotions were high during and after the race. I love reading about women who break into more traditional male roles in historical fiction and this one was great.

Thank you @saraackermanbooks @_mira_books_ and @suzyapprovedbooktours for the gifted copy.

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A wonderfully written dual timeline story about an ambitious young Olivia West, who strives to be as recognized as a female pilot as her male counterparts. The second timeline is about a young women at the crossroads of her life, down in the dumps, Wren. Wren inherits some property in Hawaii and her part in the story is finding her way via learning about the very ambitious Olivia and her past. Loved the characters and I would call this book both historical fiction and women's fiction

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Admittedly, I have always been a huge fan of stories about the early days of aviation, in particular when it involves women. I’m pretty sure I read the children’s biography of Amelia Earhart at least a dozen times as a kid.

Olivia West satisfied absolutely everything I love about stories of feminism, ambition, independence, and courage.

It is a due time line, one in 1927 at the start of the famous Dole race from California to Hawaii, the race that opened up Hawaii to the world. Based on real history, the author creates some very compelling fictional characters, one who is Olivia West, a top notch pilot who has to fight her way into the race as a navigator.

The second time line is of Wren, a biracial Hawaiian woman, who is at a crossroads of her life (recently dumped, her work as an artist unnoticed, her lonely family life) and inherits a great-aunt’s property on the Big Island. This jumpstarts the confluence of the two plot lines.

At times the story felt too long. At times the connections felt too convenient, or the love stories a bit saccharine. But I adored ALL the characters and they kept me turning pages voraciously. If you like adventure mixed in with history and love, this book is for you.

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I really enjoyed the characters in this book and the history behind it. It was about a topic, the Dole Air Race, that I had not only never read about, but did not even know about. I loved the strong female characters and the dual timelines. Both were fascinating and their connection was great to read about. Most of the characters in the book were great - strong, well developed and important to the story. The research that went into writing this was clear from the start. My only complaint is that at times the book felt slow and wordy. I found myself skipping over parts - and did not seem to miss much in doing so, especially in the beginning of the book. That being said, once I hit the 30-40% mark, I was fully invested in not only the story but the characters as individuals.

Thank you netgalley for my advanced reader copy.

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Author Sara Ackerman was born in Hawai’i and loves to tell stories set on the island. This one takes place in two timelines, but mostly in 1927 where Liv (Olivia West) is hoping to learn to fly and participate in a race to Hawai’i. The second story takes place in 1987 when Wren inherits land in Hawai’i and discovers a couple of planes in a barn and wants to learn more about whose they belonged to and hear their stories.

The author’s note mentions the idea for this book is based on the Dole Air Race (or Dole Derby) in 1927. In that race, no women officially entered the race as a pilot, one woman was a passenger, but Ackerman wanted to imagine a story in which a woman did. Like this story, some of the planes had difficulties and some didn’t ever make it past takeoff.

It is interesting to think about this history, early flights over oceans and how women were perceived during this time. I enjoyed both timelines and the way that the two timelines ended up coming together.

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The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West is a dual timeline story, based upon real events. in 1927,Olivia West is a teenage girl and the daughter of a fisherman from San Diego who desperately wants to learn to fly. She works, or rather volunteers, doing odd jobs at a flight school hoping one day she would get a chance to train to be a pilot, and eventually gets the chance. She wants to enter a dangerous air race from California to Hawaii, that takes twenty-seven hours. Only men are allowed to enter, so she accepts a position as a navigator. Being a pilot as well, pays off for Olivia and the pilot she was flying with. In the 1987 timeline, we meet Wren Summers, who inherits a remote piece of land on the Big Island. There is no house, just an old barn and some trees. She plans to sell the land, and live on the money she makes. While checking out the barn, she finds a piece of aviation history, and sets out to uncover Olivia's story.

I do enjoy a book where I learn something and this book does just that. The events this book was based on resulted in only two planes completing the race, with some disappearing. Olivia is a fictional character, but the events were real. Olivia is adventurous, perseverant and loves to fly. She won't take no for an answer, so figures out a way to participate. The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West is a mix of historical fiction and women's fiction. As with many dual timeline stories, I enjoyed the past story more than the present, as it had more adventure and kept me on the edge of my seat. I wanted to see how Olivia would fare and if she would make it to Hawaii. There were themes of women breaking into traditional men's roles, friendship, women supporting one another and a bit of romance. The secondary characters added a lot to the story and were all strong characters as well. If you enjoy a good, well researched historical fiction, or a dual timeline story, then I recommend you pick this one up.

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I always appreciate a story about a trailblazer and was rooting for Livy from the get go. It’s frustrating that she had so many hoops to jump through to participate in the Dole Air Race but good for her for her amazing persistence and stamina. I was on the edge of my seat during the harrowing flight. The dual timelines and stories worked well and I really enjoyed the parts of the story that took place in Hawaii. I’m always a sucker for a good canine character and loved Wren’s kind heart for the stray dog she befriended. The author’s note was a fantastic way to close out this page turner.

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