Member Reviews

When it comes to horror books I feel like they're either too much or not enough. I'm pretty picky, and it's hard for me to find that sweet spot. I like a gore, but not over the top, and it can't be too cheesy. I also need some psychological twists throughout as well. Mary hit all those marks for me. While I do love a good tension building kind of book that has you scared to turn the next page, this one was mostly psychological and it was very well done.

The characters were written so well, and I really enjoyed the dialogue. My favorite, oddly enough, was Nadine. She's a vulgar, abrasive, and generally unkind person, but I found myself looking forward to the scenes with her in them because they were written so well and her dialogue was witty, even when it was biting.

I also appreciate the general undertones about the strength and perseverance of women, as well as the chastisement of idolizing serial killers (this reminded me specifically of one of my favorite books of the year, so far, Notes On An Execution, so clearly it is a topic I love to see in books!)

This book really has everything you could ask for in a horror novel - ghosts, gore, conspiracy theories and cults. The only problem with that though, is that the end almost felt like it dragged on. At some points I felt like I was in a Billy Mays commercial - "but wait! there's more!" It was all pretty interesting things that happened, but it didn't feel like it ALL was truly necessary. However, I acknowledge that this book has been in the works by Cassidy for an exorbitant amount of time and I have to respect and appreciate the time and attention that went into fine tuning all the details of the story. There was no stone left unturned and no strings left dangling in the end. I haven't read anything else by Cassidy but consider him a new autobuy author!.

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Mary has spent her life being a wallflower, never standing out or drawing any attention to herself. Middle aged and going through mysterious changes, you know the typical hot flashes, aches, fainting when you look in the mirror and hearing voices in your head. After losing her job, Mary jumps at the chance to return home and reconnect with her roots. However, her plans are thrown for a loop as mutilated and gruesome entities attempt to communicate with her and she is forced to find her connection to a serial killer that died the day she was born.

First, I would like to state I was pleasantly shocked. I had no idea that Nat Cassidy was a male author and the grace and detail that Nat was able to include in his writing regarding society's view and treatment of premenopausal women and women that are no longer "young and desirable" was amazing, to put it lightly.

But the story itself? Gruesome and terrifying, I definitely had to turn on my bedside lamp reading this one. Animal cruelty is definitely a trigger so please keep that in mind if it is something that will upset you. If you are any bit squeamish, this might not be the read for you. For me, this was my type of horror story. Gripping and thrilling and one that terrorizes you from start to finish.

Mary's rage itself is palpable and believable. Her character is fleshed out thoroughly and I was in love with her from start to finish. Figuring out her past as Mary remembers it was a thrilling ride and kept me guessing and the pages flipping.

Thank you to Macmillian Tor/Forge for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Mary was a book that had me laughing, cringing, and creeped out all at the same time. The MC was fascinating and while I haven’t read any Stephen King (I know, crazy!) I could kind of see what all the hype was about when comparing the two and now I feel like I have to check out at least one SK….but I digress.

I loved the Afterword almost as much as the book itself and I so appreciate the author highlighting the plight of the middle aged woman, the invisibility, the usefulness of their womanhood basically gone according to societal standards. This theme was beautifully yet horrifically written and as someone who doesn’t do a ton of horror, I was surprised at how much I loved it. I’d say check this one out if you love horror, know what perimenopause is or have had a 🔥hot flash🔥or two…

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What a weird book. I do not think this will necessarily be for everyone; however, those who find it and enjoy spookier things may love it like me.

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Much longer than it needed to be or should have been. I get that the author idolizes King but not every horror story has to be a King tome in length. This would have worked better as a shorter story. Even so I didn’t find it to be horror, more thriller or psychological with some gory bits. Nothing in it shocked or surprised me, and some of the writing was wonky. The twist wasn’t much of a twist.

That all being said, a horror story about a woman going through menopause is a good idea. The plot works mostly. Don’t get hung up on the fact that it was written by a cis gendered man.

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I didn’t really know what to expect going in, but Mary had me engaged from start to finish. If you are looking for a slow burn horror, with an unreliable narrator, that will make you feel anxious throughout, definitely check this book out.

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This book has been on my TBR for months—c’mon, once you see this cover, it’s impossible to not be intrigued, right?! The ominous cover only alludes to what may be one of the most bizarre and creepy reads I’ve read this year.

The story focuses mainly on the lead protagonist, Mary. She’s turning 50 and has always felt invisible. She’s ignored at work, she’s single and has no prospects, and people tend treat her like she’s invisible. That being said, after she gets a call from her eccentric and cruel aunt, Mary returns to the quiet rural town she had grown up. Mary realizes this is the perfect time to escape New York after being fired from her job, but quickly notices that she has bigger issues at hand. Mary starts to see entities around her—mutilated and graphic, these entities are trying to speak to her. However, Mary has no idea what or who they want.

I read this book in one sitting on my 9 hour flight back to NYC and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a bit longer than I expected, but the story never really has any lull periods. This book kept my attention 100% during full blown jet lag and that’s saying something. I can totally see this book being optioned into film and I’m sure it’ll be utterly terrifying. This book also dives into social topics that aren’t really discussed to much—perimenopause and the treatment of women once they reach a certain age. This book is provocative and intense, so expect a lot of graphic depictions of violence. I can’t wait to read what Nat Cassidy has up his sleeve next.

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What a book! I'll admit, I'm always skeptical of horror novels written by men (cis white men in particular!) because I've been burned too many times by unnecessary misogynist violence. MARY doesn't lack in violence and gore, but the patriarchy is always under fire in this sharp, propulsive novel. I mean, a horror novel about menopause? Hell yeah! Cassidy's foreword and afterword are particularly poignant in giving shape to the novel and clarifying why he took on this narrative despite being a person who has never been subject to misogyny or the hormonal horrors of menstruation and menopause. MARY was a wild, thrilling ride that I absolutely had to read with the lights on!

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Horror is hard. Good horror is rare. This is good horror. It is well written, original, a sharp commentary on society's treatment of middle-aged women (written by a man, no less!). Cassidy, at times, throws a bit too much into the mix resulting in occasional bloat, but it is still incredibly entertaining, surprising and smart.

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I cannot believe this book was written by a man! I totally assumed that Nat Cassidy was female the entire time I read until I finished and looked at the author details. So, this shows me that Nat really did his research on female issues, especially menopause (or perimenopause I should say). My favorite relationship in the book was between Mary and Aunt Nadine. Aunt Nadine is an absolute hoot of a character. I was picturing Mac's mom from It's Always Sunny as I read each piece of her dialogue. The ghosts and gore were quite terrifying, and I can definitely draw the parallel between a Stephen King presentation and this (the author said he loved Carrie). While there were some confusing parts when it came to the townspeople and their beliefs, and what Mary actually "is," I think it all wrapped up nicely at the end. The cactus brutalization during "the sacrifice" I was totally unprepared for and brought a whole different body horror element to the book, but made sense given they were in the middle of the desert. There were a few twists that occurred that were unpredictable, and I liked that! In conclusion, very excellent piece of horror! I can't wait to read more of Nat Cassidy and recommend to fellow horrorphiles!

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The cover and the description really sucked me in, and will likely do the same to other women of a certain age (yes that is me!)
How clever, (I thought) to take what is already a difficult transition in a woman's life and turn it into a horror novel. I thought this was a novel about a woman who had suffered some trauma or breakdown in her life, now trying to cope with menopause and further emotional and physical upset. Mary is about to have her 50th birthday, and she is going through some normal and not-so-normal experiences. Unfortunately, Mary is also an unreliable narrator and this book is full of unlikable characters.
At first, I could somewhat relate to her, the feeling invisible, the avoidance of mirrors. The story has a really strong beginning with creepy scenes and some humor too. Then it sort of peters out and turns into a draggy slow paced festival of weirdness that is too out there even for me. And that is really saying something. I'm not that bothered that a male author attempted to write from the viewpoint of a menopausal woman, in fact, kudos for even trying to understand. I have no problem with male authors writing female characters or vice versa. It just didn't really work for me. It tried to combine too many elements into one plot that stretched on for too long. You may enjoy it more than I did.

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"I'm used to shedding my past the moment it is behind me. It's the best way to keep a clear view of the future."

📚BOOK REVIEW📚 and Happy Pub Day to MARY: AN AWAKENING OF TERROR by @catnassidy. Thank you to the author, @netgalley and the publisher, @tornighfire for the e-ARC.

On the cusp of her 50th birthday, Mary mostly keeps to herself as she navigates hot flashes and body aches. However, after losing her meager paycheck for being "too Jane Eyre and not enough Zendaya" for the NY bookstore she has worked at for years, she gets a frantic phone call from her estranged aunt Nadine in Arroyo, Arizona needing her assistance. Nadine is dying and has no one else to turn to. Not wanting to return to the dusty town of her youth but also not having much of a choice, Mary concedes to help her aunt out for a short while.

Once she arrives in Arizona, strange things start happening to Mary. She can't look in mirrors without fainting and she is remembering more of her sordid childhood and why she has not spoken to her grumpy, rude, ungracious aunt in years. As her memories return, she learns of a town legend - a serial killer that murdered women with bloody sheets over their heads. There is a strange reverence among the townsfolk for the murders and murderer and Mary can tell that they are not telling her everything. Mary can feel in her bones that she is connected to this incident of the past and is determined to figure it out. It does not go how you would expect!

This story has ghosts and monsters, it gets culty, there are murders, there are secret passage ways. There is a LOT going on here but I was in it for the long haul. There were so many twists and turns. I found the concept to be interesting and was both delighted and horrified by Mary and others in the town at times. The dusty, desolate setting made for a desperate, almost trapped atmosphere. You can feel from the very beginning that you are likely dealing with an unreliable narrator but the ways in which that manifests are pretty creepy! There was a point about 3/4 of the way through where I lost a bit of interest but for the most part I kept wanting to know what was going to happen.

There are a lot of intentionally misogynistic and puritan vibes to this story including a plethora of commentary about how aging women are portrayed by society. It is a dusty, suffocating American Gothic that will keep you thirsty for more.

I will leave you with this last twistedly true little quote from the book:

"Nothing feels safer than when someone else is the victim; especially when the next victim could always be you."
#natcassidy #tornightfire #netgalley #earc #booknerd #maryanawakeningofterror #cultbooks #bookstagram #horrorbooks #readmorehorror

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Is Mary a "crazy", peri-menopausal, boring woman or is she something else?

This book is a slow burn that follows Mary, a middle aged woman who is just trying to survive. Out of no where, Mary gets a call from an estranged aunt asking her to be her caretaker. Out of desperation for some sort of human connection, Mary packs a bag and heads to her hometown. Everything goes downhill from there....

This book is wild and I loved it. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but I'm so glad I stuck with it. This is the most perfect type of unreliable narrator. I'm not sure what other horror books made me laugh and afraid at the same time.

My only criticism is that this book is way too long. It took me way too long to read. It did have quite the build up in the beginning that should have been cut down a bit.

Thank you so much to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for a chance to review this gem!

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There's a lot that could be said about this book. I'm not 100% sure where I stand on it right now to be honest. The beginning really does suck the reader in and adds gruesome context to the cover. Absolutely be sure to look up the Trigger Warnings before reading. It can be intense, gory, and has interesting ideas and concepts. That being said, it can also feel fragmented and can drag through in some areas. It could be hard to root for the main character and being in her mind for so many pages can be a drag. Unlikable main characters can be done extremely well, but I feel as if this case needed more work. The twist wasn't very shocking and the ending was almost a let down. So, despite having a lot of negative, there is also quite a bit of positive and I am not at all certain how I feel about this book.

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I can’t fully believe that Mary: An Awakening of Terror by Nat Cassidy is a debut novel! Most horror tends to either have children, teenagers, families, or old folks as the main character(s) – not a middle-age peri-menopausal single woman. That alone got my interest. The ghost, murders, brutality, and mystery kept me fully engaged. Mary, herself, was written beautifully and complex – snarky, always feeling alone or invisible, angry, meek, sad. Reading her thoughts on situations seemed realistic and not just one-tone (I feel like a lot of characters – especially women – get one emotion and then that is all you hear).
I can’t wait to see what else Cassidy comes up with.

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First of let me start out by saying I don’t think this book was for me. I hate the movie Midsommar…..that’s it. That’s the review.
Jk that’s not the full review but it kind of is. I absolutely LOVED the first half of the book. I loved getting to know Mary and her struggles and her family life and what was going on with her. I thought this would be a 5 star read. Then the second half happened. It seemed like this book was way too long with too many “possibilities” of what could happen but then the reveal was something random and ridiculous to me and I just didn’t vibe with it. I found myself skimming through the 50-80% mark because I was no longer intrigued by what was happening. I liked how it all ended but I just wish it all would have went in a different direction. I will definitely be picking up another book by this author in the future being that this was a debut novel because I feel like he has potential to write a real banger for me. Unfortunately, this wasn’t it.

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I'm tempted to say: this book was amazing, you need to read it... and leave it at that.

But I won't.

There's a lot to unpack here. Imagine a woman who has spent her entire life being a nobody, a near-invisible presence, a person who gets up and goes to work and speaks as little as possible and then goes home to sit alone and talk to her little figurines as if they're her friends. That is Mary.

Now, imagine that same woman is actually a much more interesting person than even she knows, a person with a past that she has buried and blocked off in the "memory mansion" of her mind. It's a dark past. Dark, dark, dark. Blood. Violence. That sort of thing.

Now imagine that in the months before this woman was born, a serial killer stalked the dusty streets of the small desert town where Mary's parents lived. Imagine that on the bloody day when the killer was found and killed, his spirit found its way into the newly born form of little baby Mary.

That's right, Mary, plain little Mary, she of the unremarkable face and the forgettable personality, she of the hot flashes and night sweats, sweet Mary is carrying around inside her the spirit of a serial killer.

Oh, and imagine that the town she was born into is populated almost entirely by the members of a strange fringe cult who worship that serial killer.

And then imagine that Mary goes home.

Murder and mayhem and menopause all combine in a book that is so many glorious things it will make your head spin: a thriller, a supernatural horror, a cult horror, a psychological horror, all rolled into one. Well-written and full of moments that are creepy-crawly and claustrophobic and sometimes truly horrific but sometimes kind of funny, this book serves up the story of a middle-aged woman finally letting loose and stepping into her own power in the most wonderfully awful and bloody way possible.

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Inspired by Stephen King's Carrie, Nat Cassidy's Mary initially seems to take more of its lead from Misery, with Cassidy's titular protagonist reminding one more of Annie Wilkes than King's tortured telekinetic. Inspiration only gets you so far, though. Blessedly, Cassidy has plenty of his own ideas, having shaped this story over the course of roughly a quarter-century since he was 13, and Mary stands as its own unique story.

I have to admit, my initial draw was seeing just how crazy Cassidy's protagonist could get. Mary is a quiet, lonely, 50-year-old, perimenopausal woman. She has blackouts while talking to her collection of porcelain figurines (don't worry, they talk back!) and daydreams of killing damn near everyone around her. She's summoned back home by her ailing, mean-spirited, foul-mouthed Aunt Nadine, where Mary's spiraling descent into madness only worsens. Fifty years ago, on the day of Mary's birth, in fact, the career of Arroyo's notorious serial killer Damon Cross ended, but his legacy lives on. Shortly after Mary's return, the killings begin again...

Mary has a lot going on between the covers, and Cassidy's story is richly, deeply plotted and has a lot of thematic depth. The most striking, of course, is the invisibility of women, at least until they can be blamed for something. Cassidy tackles misogyny head-on, and the way it has shaped and formed Mary over the course of her life. When she visits doctors for treatment for her blackout spells and confesses to hearing voices, her complaints are brushed aside as symptoms of menopause. As the story progresses, one can't help but wonder how different a trajectory Mary's life and the small desert town of Arroyo would have charted if only she had been taken seriously and listened to in those opening chapters. Instead, she's ignored at best, or mocked and bullied at worst, oftentimes viewed as little more than an old, pathetic loser.

And then there's the fascination with true crime in general, serial killers specifically, and the way these brutal, psychologically damaged, demented murderers of women are turned into icons and stars. They become the subjects of books and podcasts and movies and have collectible baseball cards made bearing their image and stats. They become immortalized and worshipped. And in the desert of Arroyo is a cult, bearing killer Damon Cross as its prophet...

Like I said, there's a lot going on here, and I've only really scratched the surface with the above. What may be most surprising is how well Cassidy balances all of the various elements, characters, and relationships. That he does so as a cis man writing about a 50-year-old woman, no less, may be a conversation better left to voices other than mine, but I do sense an honest, introspective, and highly empathetic author who's done his homework and has made an impressive amount of effort at being true and loyal to both his characters and his readers.

Mary feels downright sprawling, despite its first-person narrative and limited locations (we spend most of our time in Nadine's house or the Cross House overlooking Arroyo), and it feels welcomingly outsized to its page-count. We inhabit Mary's head, occupying an ephemeral space inside her skull alongside all the other voices guiding her, chiding her, breaking her, and it's a wild ride that alternates between frightening and exhilarating and, at times, even empowering.

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This was such a trip! MARY is a brutal read on just about every level, but the reader has a good idea about that going into the book. The general premise and plot of the book, as well as the foreword at the beginning, had me instantly hooked and ready to experience it!

Some things of note off the top of my head that lured me in / kept me engaged:
-Mary's voice (and rage) seems as authentic as I can tell. I think the author did a great job with this narrative. Some of her thoughts and what she went through ranged from sad to sarcastic to unhinged and more. It was a roller coaster ride with Mary.
-Small town rich in history and holding secrets
-Societal views on women in general and women of a certain age
-Serial killer awareness/behavior

There's a part of me that does not think this needed to be quite as long as it ended up being, but then there is the side of me that does not know what scene(s) this book could have even removed. Everything had a purpose and place in the story, so it's difficult to imagine anything not being there the way it is. But it is a longer book than I usually read.

Definitely looking forward to more from Nat Cassidy!

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There’s something tactful about the author’s note coming at the close of a book, because if I’d known Mary was a horror novel about menopause first drafted by a 13-year old boy I think I would have hit pause on the audiobook from the start. As it stands, this is in fact a horror novel about menopause that saw it’s incpetion in the mind of a 13-year old boy, was eventually written by a full grown man, and apparently run through the gamut of sensitivity readers. It’s laden with gore, and cults, and analogies to real world issues of ageism - all great things in concept, for the genre. And while technically sound, there’s just something fundamentally wrong about this book that is completely separate from the inherent weirdness of the concept.

I just don’t think there’s any context I could enjoy, or even just fundamentally appreciate, a 400 page horror novel about menopause written by a cis man. And I’d think I’d say the same if this book had been written by a woman who hasn’t yet gone through menopause - there’s just something about it that rings incredibly hollow. I won’t fault this book for committing to the gruesome implications of a “horror” novel - it really does go there. There were moments I felt viscerally ill listening to the audiobook, but it feels a bit “just there for the shock factor” then truly necessary for the message. A message, mind you, that I fully thought was about the ageism women face relative to men as they progress in years in life. Menopause is tangnetinal to this, but still distinctly different enough that I’m not sure the author got the intended point across.

There’s also some very weird moments where the 50+ year old female narrator describes her young teenage co-worker in a way that was incredibly male-gazey. I understand a certain level of fixation on this kind of obvious youth when faced with the reality of growing older, but their interactions were implicitly sexualized in a way that I’ve never seen a woman write. Easily the most disturbing aspect of this horror novel, in a book where a women forces literal shards china down another person’s throat to murder them (spoiler?).

If I had to describe Mary in one word it would be “gratuitous.” If I were given a second word, it would be “misplaced.” This is another kind of contentious story that I feel that author wrote with no ill intentions, but just didn’t quite hit the mark by nature of not having the necessary life experiences to get the point across. Maybe if you can set aside the metaphor here and just go in looking for a gorey, gruesome experience you may love it. But it’s a miss for me.

Thank you to the publisher Tor Nightfire for providing an e-ARC via NetGalley for an honest review.

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