Member Reviews

Historical fiction at its finest! This book was a merge of fact and fiction with a real-life deadly transatlantic race and an imaginary female navigator. Heroine Olivia West’s story was so believable, I was shocked to discover that she wasn’t based on an actual person. That was disappointing because I was invested in her and wanted to learn more about her background. She kept pursing her dreams at all costs and that was admirable. It was bold of the author to write about a totally fictional character based on a true event. The plot was fast-paced and the characters engaging, which kept me turning the pages. Another winning book by this talented author. I can’t wait to read more of her works!

A huge mahalo to Harlequin Trade Publishing and author Sara Ackerman for an advanced reader copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.

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The Uncharted Life of Olivia West
Sara Ackerman

1927 Dole Air Race ~ Dual timeline ~ Historical fiction ~ Strong women ~ California ~ Hawaiian Islands ~ Inheritance ~ Dogs ~ Love ~ Pilots ~ Adventure ~ Romance ~ Death ~ Well-written characters ~ Beautiful settings ~ Macadamia nuts ~ Inspired by real events ~ Highly Recommended

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing for the ARC; all opinions are my own.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. I was really looking forward to this book but unfortunately I couldn’t really get into it like I wanted to. I found the dual storylines awkward at times and think the Wren storyline was not really needed at all. Just having Olivia’s would have been enough in my opinion. Sorry but I can’t recommend this one as much as I wished I could.. it is worth the read if you’re interested in this bit of aviation history.

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This story was engaging as you followed the path of both Olivia West and Wren. Olivia was on a race team for the Dole Derby race to Hawaii. That part of the story was set in the 1920s. Wren is a modern woman who has inherited the estate of her great aunt. Wren's story is set in the 1980s. Wren is an artist who makes lighting fixtures. As she says, they are fantastic, but they don't provide a steady income. She supplements by waitressing and other odd jobs. On the Big Island of Hawaii, she finds part-time work at an assisted living facility and she grows to enjoy the residents.
Thanks to Sara Ackerman for a fun story which is based on a true event.

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With dual timelines and perspectives, THE UNCHARTED FLIGHT OF OLIVIA WEST tells the story of two women separated by generations, but with an unlikely connection. The past timeline is set in 1927 and features navigator and pilot Olivia West. She participates in the Dole Air Race (Olivia's character is fictional but the race took place in real-life) from California to Hawaii. I loved Olivia and enjoyed this past timeline so much more. This book probably would have been four or five stars had it been strictly historical fiction. But, I did enjoy how past and present eventually collide and the stories wrap up.

The Dole Air Race is something I knew nothing about so it was interesting to learn about and I would like to read more about it. So I appreciate the author bringing the event to my attention!

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Trade Publishing | MIRA for providing me a digital reviewer copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.

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Wonderful historical fiction read about second chances, pushing boundaries, passionate women, finding your family roots, romance and stunning Hawaiiani landscapes.

This book was inspired by a plane race from the west coast to Hawaii across 2,400-miles of the Pacific Ocean in 1927. The Uncharted Flight of Olivia West is a dual timeline story about two women - Livy West, an aviator in the 1920s on the West coast and Wren Summers who inherits land on the big island of Hawaii in the 1980s.. There is a big contrast in the lives of these two women. Livy is very passionate about flying and that is all she wants to do. Women flying planes in the 1920s was not widely accepted by the public. In contrast, Wren seems lost and is just trying to find herself.

The two stories come together as you read the book. For me the ending was really special. I also enjoyed reading about Wren as she uncovered the family she did not know. You need to read this one.

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I loved how the characters were connected in this story. This is full of found family. women rising above, and discovering our true power. I highly recommend to any historical fiction fans!

I received an advance copy. All thoughts are my own.

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This was an amazing book that kept me on edge, weaving stories through time that brings two timelines together. A great read and it should be a movie.

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I don't know if this book hit me really hard because I was arguing with my grandma or because I was on my period, but this had me so emotional. I love historical fiction, especially ones that rewrite history focusing on female innovators. While Olivia West wasn't real, learning her story, her determination, her love, her passion. All of it made me swell with intense joy and tears.

I highly recommend picking this up if you need a book that is simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking. You will also learn quite a bit about aviation and the Hawaiian language which was really fun.

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I have read and loved every book Ms. Ackerman has published. She is without question an auto-buy author for me. Unfortunately, this one just didn't do it for me and I did DNF it about 40% of the way through the book . As with all her novels, Hawaii is the focal point, but this time we've left WWII. Learning about the Dole race was interesting, but my lack of interest in planes and the slow pace of the novel was more than I could handle. If you enjoy planes and aviation history, or are just looking for a light novel with a bit of history, as I hesitate the call this a true historical fiction, I would highly recommend.

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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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