Friday, January 26, 2018

"Finding Leda" by Gaia B. Amman

Finding Leda:
The Science of Happiness
(The Italian Saga Book 5)
by Gaia B. Amman

Finding Leda: The Science of Happiness (The Italian Saga Book 5)  by Gaia B. Amman

Finding Leda is the fifth book in The Italian Saga by Gaia B. Amman. Also available: An Italian Adventure (read my blog post), Out of the Nest (read my blog post), Forget Nico, and Sex-O-S.

An Italian Adventure by Gaia B. AmmanOut of the Nest by Gaia B. AmmanForget Nico by Gaia B. AmmanSex-O-S by Gaia B. Amman

Finding Leda is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review and an excerpt. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Italy, 1998.
What does it take for a woman to be happy? Not a man, like twenty-year-old Leda Balni was raised to believe.
Weary of gender culture, Leda enrolls in Genetic Engineering. Surrounded by new friends, science, and even a sexy genius, she forgets her troubles until her restlessness resurfaces …
In a whirlwind of Vespa adventures, college exams, Italian culture, rock, philosophy, and chemistry - both the inorganic and the sizzling kind - Leda deconstructs happiness and establishes her own rules to the game of life, but is there room for love?
The question becomes urgent when an old acquaintance from her past resurfaces in all his brooding magnetism, but he is bad news, and smart, rational Leda should know better than succumbing to attraction…
If you love strong female characters and heartfelt advice, don’t miss this witty, introspective, feminist novel, part romance, part self-help, but always realistic and inspirational.
Note: Finding Leda is self-standing and directed at an adult audience, though suitable for teens, but it is the fifth book in The Italian Saga and there are references to Leda's previous adventures. The books are a fictional memoir based on the life of author G. B. Amman, a novelist and molecular biologist born and raised in Italy.

Prologue: The Night Before the Exams
June 26, 1997
Tomorrow, everything will change—forever. I should sleep, but I can only stare at the ceiling, roll over, and sigh. I sit up and rub my face. The sweet summer night permeates my room with its scent of honeysuckle. The crickets are singing over the distant hum of the highway. I wade through the mosquito net that surrounds my twin bed. The hardwood floor is cool against my bare feet as I step to the window to close it before turning on the light.
I will not die exsanguinated by mosquitos on the night before my maturity exam.
I sit back on the bed and turn on the radio. The bed is in a corner, and the back of the chest of drawers is against its long side. I taped a few pictures there: Grandma, a black and white shot of Dad riding a Vespa, and a Polaroid of my best friend Lexi and me, from five years ago. Back then you could still see her face among the piercings, and she smiled, once in a while.
Books, comics, and candles are scattered on both my bookcase and desk, which occupy the other half of the room.
The DJ babbles, “… How many of you are still up, wondering about tomorrow, surviving the longest night of your life? Well, this one’s for ya!”
Notte Prima Degli Esami, Night Before the Exams, by Antonello Venditti, pours out of my boombox, each old note carving goosebumps on my arms, memories flooding what’s left of my overexerted brain:
“… A night of moms and dads with baby bottles in their hands,
A night of Grandmas at their windows
But this night, tonight is still ours…”
I have heard this classic all my life, and I cannot believe now it’s me going through the rite of passage it describes. Tomorrow the infamous maturitá begins, the exam that in a month-long terrifying endeavor will see Italian seniors attempting to graduate high school.
Venditti sings,
“… A night of tears and prayers
Planes flying high between New York and Moscow
But this night, tonight is still ours…”
Tears and prayers… I scoff. I cried all my tears, and I stopped praying a long time ago. Only Grandma thinks I’m still a devotee because her wrath is scarier than God’s. I wish I could call Lexi. She’s up for sure, freaking out just as much as I am, but it’s too late and her parents would kill us both.
I roll over, my gaze wandering from the pictures to the stack of unanswered letters sitting on the chest. They are from my ex, Ange, begging for forgiveness, but there’s nothing to forgive. It was stupid of me to believe it was somebody else’s job to make me happy, somebody who thought I was all wrong. Since I agreed with him, it had been too easy to tag along in a two-year campaign of self-destruction.
Well, screw that. I might still struggle with an eating disorder, but at least I don’t want him around anymore. It’s been over one year since we broke up, and last month he stopped writing. I stash the letters out of sight.
“… Still with the will to change,” Venditti reminds me.
No more high school. No more maiming my soul to have it fit that of a stranger.
Leda Balni, nineteen in two days, terrified, and ready to find whatever it takes to make me happy.

Praise for the Book
“Amman's writing is addictive, candid, hilarious, and evocative as she describes the powerful conflict between irresistible attraction and common sense.” ~ Renni Acre, author of His Huntress
“One of the best - and definitely the worst - thing about this book is it is SO HARD to put down! Sometimes in life, you just can't wait to see what happens ... it's the same with Leda. Well written, engaging, some really good insight and tips for life. FANTASTIC!” ~ Susan Byrde, author of Bruce's Fall
“I really loved this book. It appears this is going to be a series and I'm anxious to see how it goes. I loved the setting, the time period, and the characters. I felt this was beautifully and truthfully written. The author captures the 90's feel very well. I think that Leda's list for happiness transcends time and is just as applicable now. Leda is a smart, strong character who is learning not to be afraid of being herself.” ~ Autumn Friedli, Librarian
“What an interesting premise this was. I liked that we were given history, drama, romance, and much much more. This was a great story about redemption and overcoming life. There are many emotions that this novel takes the reader through along with Leda. You feel her heartache, love, joy, fear, and everything else along the way.” ~ On a Reading Bender

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
At nineteen, Leda has just graduated from high school. She is recovering from an eating disorder and a failed relationship and is ready to begin a new chapter in her life, studying Genetic Engineering at a nearby college. We follow Leda through three years of college, during which time she is on a mission to find herself and discover what makes her happy.
I love the set of rules Leda comes up with throughout the course of the book and the fact that they’re also gathered together at the end of the book for easy reference. There are a few awkwardly phrased sentences but, overall, there is some beautiful writing. The language is rich and full of scientific metaphors and similes. The book acts as a soundtrack of the times and is full of fun references to 1990s pop culture. It also brings back all those feelings of discovering first love. My one complaint is that some of the names are too similar: Leda, Lexi, Elena.
While it’s not technically necessary to read the earlier books in the series (I read the first two), knowledge of Leda’s life in her primary and high school years would greatly enhance the reading experience.

Book Playlist
Check out the Finding Leda playlist here.

About the Author
Gaia B. Amman
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 many of her adventures are an inspiration for her fiction. Mostly she is 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 and her teaching. She authored the LGBTQ sci-fi fantasy Linked: Will Empathy Save the United Terrestrial Democracy? and The Italian Saga, a series of novels that follows Leda’s adventures from childhood, high school, and now college. The books, light-hearted and funny at first sight, deal with issues like sexuality, divorce, friendship, abuse, first love, and self-discovery.