Disclosure. This post is a review of an ebook I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.
I have received a free e-copy of the book My Gypsy War Diary by Shawn D Brink to review. You may find out more about the author on his website.
Here is the book blurb.
Where is Milo’s Bible, the intruders demanded. They came under cover of darkness, their guns pointed at my elderly neighbor and only friend. And with the break in, an old story came out–young love, betrayal, blackmail, a treasure stolen and stolen again, a tale of vengeance and a life lived in secret. I was just a kid in the 70s, unable to sit still in school, living in my imaginary world of TV and movies. And now this betrayal from half a century ago threatened my life, as I found myself caught between hidden treasure and a band of gypsies who would stop at nothing to get it.
This story set in Norfolk, Nebraska is written in the format of a diary of memories and begins with a very exciting adventure as our hero retrieves an old book from a remote attic but almost gets caught by two people who are after the same book. At the end of chapter 1, you realise this is a flash forward to an event later in the book.
In Chapter 2 we head back to 1978 when our hero aged 7 had just moved to Norfolk and makes best friends with the elderly lady next door, Mrs Scholes. I feel the author made a wise move giving the reader an exciting opening to the book, as the next few chapters are slow mainly describing how he likes to help Mrs Scholes and continually trying to persuade her to attend church, with occasional tantalising mentions of either gypsies or unexplained happenings. Mrs Scholes marks these down to a mysterious guardian angel.
About a third of the way through the book, the story starts to hot up. It is now 1986 and our hero wakes up in the middle of the night to hear two gypsies have broken in next door and are threatening Mrs Scholes with a gun. He thwarts their attempt and the next day hears a jaw-dropping tale from Mrs Scholes, which sets him on the path to what happened in chapter 1. From this point on, the story continues apace with plenty of twists and turns.
I liked how it portrayed a friendship across the generations. And it was inclusive from the point of view as describing ADHD symptoms for the young protagonist. Plus an old tale retold incorporated a history of the Great Depression.
However I did think it strange that the hero was never given a name. I also found the repetition of him trying to persuade Mrs Scholes to attend church rather tiresome, as it seems as if the author is attempting to convey the same message to the reader.
And although the story did incorporate a couple of good gypsies, I was uncomfortable with how on the whole, they were portrayed in aggregate as bad. It did feel as verging towards an ethnic racial sterotype bias.
My Gypsy War Diary is available on Amazon in paperback and kindle formats. A good mystery targetted at YA, but suitable from age 10 up in my opinion..