Saturday, November 12, 2016

"Out of the Nest" by Gaia B. Amman

Out of the Nest
(The Italian Saga Book 2)
by Gaia B. Amman

Out of the Nest is the second book in Gaia B. Amman's Italian Saga, a series of books following the same character throughout her life. The books are humorous and irreverent, yet insightful, dealing with themes like family, sexuality, friendship, love, and self-discovery, against the gorgeous backdrop of Northern Italy. The author stops by today to share an excerpt from the book. You can also read my review.
Also available: An Italian Adventure (read my blog post), Forget Nico, and Sex-O-S (NEW RELEASE - launches today!).

Italy, 1990. At eleven, Leda is a bookworm and a tomboy who can’t seem to fit anywhere as her world splits into girls and boys. Against the background of the 14th FIFA soccer world cup, Leda embarks on a new series of adventures dealing with hormones, periods, zesty boys and her own fears in what will be the best summer of her life. Set against the gorgeous backdrop of Sardinia, the Dolomites, and Tuscany, this humorous yet insightful journey through first love, friendship, and first kisses will leave you breathless, marveling at the customs of a country most people think they know.

Video for Book 1

OCTOBER 11 WAS THE INFAMOUS day of San Firmino, Saint Fermin (a feast for every freshmen). Tradition had it that, on the doomed day, older students armed themselves with permanent markers and covered freshmen or anyone who’d let them with indecent writings, insults, mustaches and worse.
No one knew when the tradition had started, but allegedly it was due to the resemblance of Fermin to firma: signature in Italian, and the custom, as brutal as it was, was largely overlooked by the teachers.
For the first few years of elementary school, I had taken refuge at Viola and Marta’s side, who at the time had attended Middle School. When my sister had moved on to her private high school in Milan, I was older and stuck with my buddies, avoiding the worst.
This year I didn’t stand a chance; I was on my own and I was a freshman.
Reluctantly, I wore my oldest clothes and went to school ready to face battle. To my surprise, I made my way to our class unscathed, wading among herds of markers, choirs of derision, and cries of defeat. I almost felt sad as if, truly, I had become invisible.
A couple of strangers approached me, marker drawn and the classic grin of the wrongdoer, but my famous glare that I thought had lost much of its power was enough to send them veering toward easier prey.
I dropped my book bag by my desk, when a familiar voice chanted, almost whispered in my ear, “Baaalniii! You know what’s cooomiiing!”
“Nico, one move and I’ll bite your face off.”
I turned around, my icy gaze melting in his amusement. I freaking blushed and pretended to get something out of my bag. In spite of the historical precedent during which, in fifth grade, I had indeed bit off Nico’s arm, the kid seemed fearless. I loved that.
His skit at the gym had almost cost him suspension, but he had gotten away with a warning. Likely the teachers dreaded the idea of keeping him around an extra year as much as he did.
He smiled, “Come on, pen only, you can wash it off later.”
“Well, if I get signed, you do as well, Buddy.”
“Deal! Give me your arm.”
“No way. I know you’re a cheater, Nico! At the same time.”
Me? A cheater? I wasn’t the one leafing through the geography book during the test, you know? I earn my Fs,” Nico said, scornful.
Ouch. That hurt. Strangely, rather than getting all defensive and pissy as I normally did, I felt like I owed him an explanation. “Listen, it’s not my fault if the crazy V took me and your new best bud under her wing,” I explained as I signed my name on his arm.
“I know, I know,” he answered, without contesting that Romeo was indeed his new best friend, which hurt a little too. “I see no one signed you yet,” he noticed while writing on my arm.
“Of course not. Same for you.”
The bell rang and Romeo’s voice surprised both of us. “How sweet! Don’t tell me you guys have something going on. Wouldn’t that be perfect?”
Oh, merda. Can’t I ever be happy for one minute?
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Out of the Nest is a great book that is very engaging to read. The author really transports you into the life and psyche of the main character, Leda, as she journeys through her formative years. I don't typically read this genre of books but these books always hold my attention and I cannot wait to see where the adventures of Leda lead to." ~ Dan Stripp
"The author has a very unique writing style. She transports you back in time to when you were younger. She tells things like they are and isn't afraid to talk about certain subjects. This book is great for teens as it speaks with experience about what thoughts enter their heads, but also great for adults who may have forgotten what teens have to go through. [...] This story was amazing! I couldn't put it down! I would recommend this book to people." ~ Tori Hoffert
"I think this series is a win win for parents with teens, and teens with parents! Super insightful and maybe more importantly, riddled with funny scenes you can't walk away from." ~ Amazon Customer
"I loved the first book, and the second was even better. By better, I'm talking about the writing. I expected to become interested in Leda's (Lee's) life because life brings depth to your years; however, I did not expect the writing to step up to the challenge of conveying complexities as well as it did. There's a fire here, a real commitment to not leaving hardships and joys to the imagination. You will experience them, too." ~ Rodney Garrison
"A tender and sparkling adventure of a girl as she discovers the preadolescent and complicated self. The story details an enthusiastic summer in authentic Italian style. Jokes, friendship, love and fear are just a few of the dimensions of this novel, one you read sinking on the couch, while happily and nostalgically letting your mind wander back in time. Gaia’s work begins as an absorbing novel and becomes a pleasant reminiscence. It's a book for everyone, I sure loved it." ~ Paola

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Set in the small town of Arese, in northern Italy, from 1989 to 1990, Out of the Nest continues the story of tomboy Leda, which began in An Italian Adventure. Leda is now eleven, her parents have separated, she's living with her mother, and her sister has gone off the college. Leda still has a massive crush of Nico but, as her little friendship group slowly breaks apart, she is thrust into new situations and finally makes friends with some girls. During a busy summer holiday, Leda spends time at the pool in her gated community, at summer camp in Tuscany, at the seaside with her father and his new family, and at Torreglia with her mother and her best friend. As the book's title implies, Leda is like a bird who has left the nest and has started exploring the world beyond her family. She experiences her first boyfriend, her first break-up, and her first kiss. But through it all, she never forgets Nico.
The author evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of the many places Leda visits throughout the story. There are references to the music videos, television shows, and icons of the era, as well as to the FIFA World Cup, which was held in Italy in 1990. Religion again features strongly, with Leda still praying regularly to Jesus. As hormones surge, sex is also a major topic of interest among Leda's new group of friends. Still, while television shows depict sex nightly, the children live with the incongruity of the taboo of talking about it.
Leda's story is written as a memoir, so she is wise beyond her years, with a vocabulary to match. Once again, the writing contains some editing errors (mainly in speech patterns and word choice), but these allow us to hear the author's true (Italian) voice. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and I look forward to the reading the next book and another chapter in Leda's life.
Discussion questions are included at the end of the book.

About the Author
Gaia B. Amman was born and raised in Italy. She moved to the United States in her twenties to pursue her PhD in molecular biology. She’s currently a Professor of biology at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York, where she was voted "the professor of the month" by her students. Her research and commentaries have been published in prestigious peer-reviewed international journals including Nature.
A bookworm from birth, she wrote throughout her childhood and won two short story competitions in Italy in her teens. Gaia is an avid traveler and her fiction is often inspired by her life adventures. She is mostly passionate about people and the struggles they face to embrace life. Her highest hope is to reach and help as many as she can through her writing as well as her teaching. She authored The Italian Saga, an irreverent series of humorous and insightful young adult novels taking place against the gorgeous backdrop of Northern Italy.