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on November 23, 2011
I strayed from my usual genre of mystery/suspense to read Dani Amore's newest novel, To Find a Mountain, because the product description of this story, based on real life, intrigued me. The story of Benedetta Carlessimo, a young woman--a mere girl, actually--is forced to care for and protect her siblings in a German occupied town in Italy during World War II. This engaging story is of courage, love, honor, and the atrocities of war. Thought provoking, as well as deeply emotional, Benedetta's story will remain with you long after you reach the end. Her bravery will amaze you. If you read only one historical fiction this year, make it To Find a Mountain. You'll be glad you did.
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on March 13, 2012
I bought this for my Kindle at a ridiculously low price. I have not had good luck with many of Amazon's low-price books, but once I started this, I was intrigued all the way through.

I am a veteran of WWII, and was skeptical that an author of a younger generation could accurately depict what the war was like in Italy. Less than half way through, I was swept up in the story, and it felt as though I was right in the middle of the action.

Excellent character development and a riveting story. I will have to try one of her crime stories next.
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on February 4, 2012
Wow, what a story and its based on true events! It had me in tears a couple of times. Dani does a wonderful job of pulling you in to the story and you don't want to put the book down once you get there. Its based on an old lady's story about WWII when the German's invaded her town in Italy when she was a teen growing up. Dani makes you feel the horror, terror, anger and yes even love when the German's move in and take over. This story will stay in your thoughts for a long time afterwards.
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on February 17, 2012
What a pleasant surprise! The story was endearing, gripping, and very real. The author delved deep into the psyche of the poor Italians who were under the often cruel and rare kindnesses of the Germans who seized their village. It is a story of survival, of love. Beautifully edited and written, this is one book that I have to list as a favourite. The story fits with my own family's experiences in another small Italian village just south of this novel's setting. If you want a story with fascinating characters that doesn't wilt and tells it like it was, I strongly recommend this novel. Loved it.
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on February 18, 2013
I didn't notice if this is considered a YA novel, but it would be appropriate for young readers. There is little graphic violence, and even then, it is in small bits with a lot of implication rather than specific detail. There is romance in the way that only teenagers can fall in love with naive disregard for the danger involved, but no graphic sex. There is no profane language (that I can recall).

The story is based on the Nazi German occupation of a very small Italian town. While there are a few evil German soldiers, for the most part the occupying forces are either insignificant to the story or are, deep-down, soft-hearted.

As it stands, it's a superficial look at a bit of WWII history. Unless one knows more about the events of the time, much of what happens won't be any more meaningful that a teen romance in any other setting. The reason for the men 'going to the mountain' isn't explained until part way through the book, and even then, doesn't seem to convey the real tragedy of these men leaving their families. The men would be conscripted and forced to fight for the Germans with a near-guarantee of dying. At the same time, it seems odd that the men abandon their families to whatever fate holds for their wives and children at the hands of the Germans occupiers. The extreme deprivation of both villagers and Germans is glossed over.

For these reasons, I thought this book would be a good introduction to one small aspect of WWII, for a younger reader (junior high). I think older teens and certainly adults would be better served by a more detailed look at the realities of this war.
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on December 7, 2014
I thought the reviews for this book sounded great, so I was pretty surprised that it wasn't very good. I'm hardly a literary snob, but the writing is so poor, I'm a little surprised it found a willing publisher. I finished it in a single sitting, primarily because I hate to not finish a book, and I just wanted to be done.

The good: the story was ok. Using war as a backdrop kept it from being completely boring, but I was hardly fascinated. The author does insert a couple of amusing moments, and I actually laughed once at a moment of sassiness that added uncharacteristic warmth to the otherwise bland story. This book gives me hope that even I could succeed as a author.

The bad: I started to worry when the prologue gave away the ending. I winced when I read about how "we literally grew up around this table" in one of the early chapters. But I thought surely 160+ readers wouldn't lead me into a book that was going to be lousy, right? Surely, it had to get better. I mean, it didn't have to be great- just good. But it wasn't good. The quality of writing is nice for a high school essay, but was surprisingly poor for a published work of historical fiction. The tone was out of sync with the setting, and the author fails to create convincing characters. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that the author skips right over the moments that would potentially allow the reader to become emotionally invested in the story (at long last). For example, we know that the protagonist and a fellow go for a walk and have a conversation that leads her to fall in love with him, but we are excluded from the dialogue, merely informed that it has taken place. The book would have benefitted greatly by lengthening it by roughly 30-50% to develop the story more and let readers feel the protagonist's fear, fall in love with her, worry with her. I finished the book knowing nearly nothing about her love interest, Dominic. There was also so much repetition that some of my criticism really is directed at the editor - I don't need to be told more than once that Roselli is an even smaller town that Casalvieri, and I certainly don't need to be reminded 5 times (!) about a vow to kill 10 Italians in retribution for any German deaths. Most importantly, though, at no point in the story, did I feel particularly moved or invested.

This was a disappointing read that has led me to reconsider whether ratings on Amazon books are even remotely reliable.
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VINE VOICEon April 13, 2012
Dani Amore is a mystery writer. I rarely read mysteries but somehow stumbled on to this great work of Historical Fiction from her pen. This is a very good story of how war affects everyone, including civilians.
The time is WWII and the place is a small town in Italy that has come under the control of German forces. The main character, young Benedetta,leads you through her trials and tribulations in a manner that will draw tears, yet with an innocence that will bring a smile to your face. Every page is an exciting new conflict and how she deals with it.
I sincerely hope this gifted author branches out more and gives us her take on history again.
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on July 6, 2012
WOW. What a great premise. War time Italy, small village occupied by the Germans, young motherless girl coming of age while her dad flees and hides in the mountains with other male villagers. Deprivation, survival concerns for herself and younger siblings. And, finally, contact with the rebels, fear of discovery, and romance. It truly read like a narrative of an elderly grandmother, but not in a good way. Details are scant, the whole thing is pretty PG /PG-13, just like your Nonnie would tell it. There are hints of dark motives, there are passing mentions of savage behavior, but our heroine seems above it all somehow. Ultimately, she takes drastic action, but even in the telling, it seems diminished, IMO.
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on February 1, 2013
...from all the other reviewers that said this was a great book. I found it to be boring, frustrating and very predictable. Am glad I didn't pay any more for it than I did.

The book is about the Germans who take over an Italian city in WWII and of course, above anything else, it is a love story...a far-fetched love story...that ends like a fairy tale.

I require more depth to characters, more story-telling and less predictability. I like a book to leave me wondering and thinking about the characters and appreciating the author. Sorry, folks, this book did nothing for me.
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on November 29, 2014
(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Goodreads’ First Reads program. Also, trigger warning for rape.)

“My children know very little of what happened to me during that time. The parts I have told them are the truth, but I have not told them everything. […]

“They do not know how close to death I came. They do not know how close to death their father came. They do now know how close to death my entire village came – all because of the events that took place in my house the year the Germans arrived.

“My children will learn that wars are fought not just on the front lines, but also in the dirt streets of poverty-stricken towns like Casalvieri, Italy.

“They will learn that their mother killed a man during the war.”

The year is 1943, and Nazi forces have just arrived in the small Italian town of Casalvieri. Located several miles north of Mt. Cassino - the single highest point in central Italy - Casalvieri is, much to its residents’ detriment, a strategic asset in the war for Italy. Seemingly overnight, the town is overrun with Germanesi, demanding food, housing, and – worst of all – male bodies to sacrifice to the German war machine.

Unofficial town leader Alfredo Carlesimo has the dubious luck of living in a (relatively) spacious house positioned on the highest hill in the village – thus providing a convenient view of the Cassino valley below. It’s in the Carlesimo family’s home that Colonel Wolff and Lieutenant Becher decide to establish their command center. While they initially grant the widowed father of three a reprieve from serving on the front lines in order to drum up support amongst the villagers, once his usefulness wanes, he’s sent into battle just like all the other Casalvieri men – or at least those who remain. Faced with death on a constant basis, Alfredo must decide whether to stay and fight, or flee to the mountains with the other able-bodied men of fighting age.

When Alfredo disappears – seemingly killed in an explosion – it’s up to his oldest daughter Benedetta (“Benny”) to care for her younger siblings, Iole and Emidio, as well as keep the household running – and the German soldiers, satisfied. As the war drags on and the Americans threaten to overtake Italy, the Germanesi grow increasingly desperate and, in some cases, driven mad by the trauma of warfare. Can Benny keep the whereabouts of her father secret, even as her blossoming relationship with a handsome young Italian man threatens to be her undoing?

While TO FIND A MOUNTAIN sounds like it should be a sweeping saga, it’s actually a rather sparse story. The entirety of the action takes place over a two- to three-year period, with a large gap between parts one and two. It’s an interesting and engaging story, but is at times curiously lacking in emotion, particularly for a wartime romance. There’s not nearly as much violence as you might expect – most of it comes later in the story, after the town has been occupied for a year plus.

In particular, I expected that sexual violence would be an epidemic – after all, most of the men have fled, leaving the town’s women and children alone with their Nazi occupiers – but we only see/hear of three instances of rape, rape attempts, or rape threats. These scenes are horrific, to be sure, and come with a huge trigger warning – but overall it seems almost sanitized, given the circumstances.

Additionally, the story feels far removed from the violence and genocide of World War II (similar to some criticisms of the film adaptation of THE BOOK THIEF). Jews are only mentioned once, I believe; and even then it’s not in a particularly sympathetic manner. Perhaps this is historically accurate – to the residents of Casalvieri, who were already struggling to survive food shortages and attendant poverty before the Germans arrived, worrying about the well-being of those outside of their community (let alone country) might have seemed a luxury they could ill afford. Or maybe not. Either way, it was a curious feeling – a World War II story almost entirely devoid of Jewish characters or concerns.

Last but not least, the central romance of the story – that between Benny and Dom – suffers from a case of insta love; its prevalence in YA fiction (along with the ubiquitous love triangle) has left me with very little patience for the stuff. Even so, it’s a little more forgivable here: coming of age in an isolated, rural village, it doesn’t take a vivid imagination to see how Benny might fall for the first handsome stranger to look her way.

3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 stars where necessary. While TO FIND A MOUNTAIN does have its weaknesses, I saw in Benny a captivating (if unlikely) heroine. The town itself also proved a compelling character, and it was interesting to see how the residents dealt with food shortages and scarcity during wartime occupation.
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