“Transmutation: Stories” by Alex DiFrancescoo

Genre: Speculative /Supernatural/Transgender FictionTransmutation
Publisher: Seven Stories Press
Pub. Date: June 22, 2021

The ten stories in DiFrancesco’s book fluctuate between tales that are realistic, gothic, and way out there, meaning bizarre. The characters are all in the process of becoming their real selves or changing into something new.

“Inside My Saffron Cave” is a straightforward story.  It centers on a transboy, his mother, and her abusive boyfriend. This is a sad yet hopeful tale showing how in 2021 transgender teens are not as alone with their feelings as they were in the past. Because of this fact, the author has turned a melancholy tale into a positive one. DiFrancesco also gives what feels like an inside look at Battered Women Syndrome.

“A Little Procedure,” has hints of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein,” centering on evil surgical operations. The short is dedicated to Rosemary Kennedy, which gives the reader a big hint of where the story will be heading. After the ‘procedure,’ the female protagonist speaks in a detached and quiet manner. This is deceiving because she has become a puppet-like ‘creature’ with a desire for revenge. So creepy.

“The Pure,” disavows all the folklore that has been written about vampires and the myths of the undead. Forget about Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” Here vampires aren’t scary at all. The female vampire narrator falls in love with a living transgender man. The fun in the story is how the transman is shocked that the vampire has no need and no desire to hurt him. Such an unusual way to point out the good in the world while showing the disservice that misinformation causes.

DiFrancesco is not at all shy to explore the boundaries of magical realism. The writer seems to have a talent for making the unbelievable read real even though our logical minds know it cannot be. The author weaves in trans themes, but this book is for anyone who loves monsters, myths, legends, diversity, surrealism, fun, and even kindness. Finding kindness in these stories was such a pleasant surprise.

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“The Drowning Kind” by Jennifer McMahon

Genre: Mystery & ThrillerThe Drowning Kind
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pub. Date: April 6, 2021

Itsy-Bitsy Review

The book’s genre is marketed as mystery and thriller. It is much more a supernatural tale with a creepy and atmospheric feel. However, the plot is farcical at best. Plus, the novel’s entire story is pretty much told in the blurb. Furthermore, it is easy to figure out how the characters in the 1929-1930s are connected to the characters in the present.  This is why I was surprised that I finished the novel.  What kept my interest is that I was intrigued on how the author changes a haunted house story into a haunted body of water tale. Although I didn’t care for this novel, I may try the author again.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review

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“Deadly Spirits” by E. Michael Helms

Deadly SpiritsI am not usually into books that are a part of a series, or detective stories, which this is, but I respect the author, E. Michael Helms, and agreed to review his novel.  I quickly found myself liking the main character PI Mac McClellan, even though he gives his dog beer.  This was the give away to me that the novel was written through a male’s perspective because it was something my husband used to do his dog, while I thought it was terrible.  Helms has an engaging and very personal writing style. He incorporated his Marine background into his main character, which I especially enjoyed (since I read his memoir “Proud Bastards: One Marine’s Journey from Parris Island through the Hell of Vietnam”).  I could hear the author’s own voice in this novel, and it is a pleasant voice to get to know.

In this novel, the protagonist’s girlfriend is part of a paranormal investigative group which is why this “whodunit” has ghosts with potential supernatural actions that lead to murders.   Our skeptic PI suspects there are more than spirits doing the killing.  There are strong shades of Philip Marlowe in this novel. I could almost see Bogie (Humphrey Bogart) with a cigarette between his teeth. Though, I personally found Mac to be more of a soft-hearted tough guy.  My only criticism is that the characters seemed one dimensional, but that might be because I haven’t read the previous three novels in the series.  All and all, this is a good beach book (if you don’t mind homicide on your beach) with likable characters and enough twists to keep you guessing.  If you are into detective stories, give PI Mac McClellan a try, I do not think you will be disappointed.

I would like to thank the E. Michael Helms for giving me the opportunity to be able to say that he can write and excel in any genre.

Open link to purchase on Amazon.

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