Member Reviews

I struggled with Mary, and wound up deciding it's just not for me.

The opening scene was fantastic: intriguing, creepy, and visceral. A small town sheriff is investigating a mansion full of murdered women, and the killer is found to be in the walls. I felt like the author put me in the sheriff's head and filled me with dread. Similarly, the next scene six year later with the little girl (who I assume becomes Mary) eating bugs was intriguing and gross in the best way.

Unfortunately, after that the novel lost me. Once we come to focus on Mary, the protagonist, I really detached from the story. Mary is 49 and female, and that seems to be most of her personality -- we spend a lot of time with her inner monologue about how old and useless she is. I don't know if that's something intended to be specific to this character, or if that's how the author believes middle aged women in general think? It really frustrated me, and I needed more to her character, beyond just her fantasies (and realities) of extreme violence.

I wound up deciding not to finish reading this one, I just wasn't enjoying it. There are some strong elements so I think this was just a book-reader mismatch.

Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Nightfire for my review copy of this book.

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Ah, this one seemed so perfect for me. Unfortunately, it is not.

I liked the writing, in general, and I know that not all horror works precisely for me, but my most significant stumbling block for this one was the immediate introduction of a horror element into an otherwise normal everyday life, one that I feel the author was trying to exemplify the mundane-ness of it, for later reversal. I'm okay with horror elements being introduced fairly early on, but for an over 400+ book, a bit of pacing would have helped tremendously. As it was, it felt laughable rather than horrific, and I found myself immediately skimming those parts (which also began happening frequently). Not great when you're not far in. I'm not sure whether it was this issue that also prevented me from relating to the protagonist, but that lack also didn't help.

I love the cover, the synopsis, the concept. Just wasn't well executed for me. I DNF'd early on, so do not feel comfortable leaving a negative public review.

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Mary was a gruesome tale of cults, the desert, a serial killer, womanhood, and the voices inside our heads. Overall it was put together well and stayed engaging despite dragging a little at the very end.

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After finishing this book I wasn't really sure of WHAT I thought. After thinking about it for awhile, I have discerned that it has its ups and its downs, and that it probably isn't a book that is 'for me' when all is said and done. But I will start with the ups, as there were certainly things I did enjoy about this book. The first is that I thought that Nat Cassidy really captured Mary's voice in an authentic and believable way. He has a fairly lengthy author's note about the hesitation of writing the voice of a perimenopausal cis woman when he himself is a younger cis man, but it felt to me like he did his due diligence to make her as authentic and real and respectful as possible (at least within the context of this story at hand). I also did like some of the unique and creative themes that he brought together, like the unreliable narrator that is Mary, the history of the town and the secrets it is hiding, and the more mystical and spiritual elements of various belief systems (and how groupthink and cults are just a hair away from what we see as mainstream religion in some ways). But the downs were there, and they very well may have been due to personal taste, so take this with a grain of salt: this book is almost too brutal for me. There were a number of instances of violence or moments like that where I was deeply put off, and one moment where I almost put the book down for good because it was so gross and disturbing. Cassidy does put a content warning at the front of the book (yes! We love to see it!) so I could prepare myself a bit, but the splattergore moments were really, really a lot. Again, this may be a personal taste thing, though I do think that I can handle a lot in horror, so who knows if this may be too much for even the more seasoned horror reader. I can't say.

I would be curious to try Cassidy's works in the future. The creativity and creepiness is definitely there. I just may not have the resolve!

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Do you like a slow burn?

Mary’s dream is to fade into the background. Work just enough to be comfortable and to keep to herself, and maybe not sweat through her sheets every night. But everything starts to fall apart on the cusp of her 50th birthday.

She loses her job, her rent is about to double and she gets a call from her estranged and dying aunt begging her to come home to Arroyo.

With no other options on the horizon she packs a bag and goes, because that’s what a good person would do.

But being back to her hometown stirs up some uneasy emotions as well as unsettling nightmares. Blackouts and strange visions tied to a series of ritual murders that took place nearly 50 years prior. Murders that seem to be starting again. Are these the workings of a copycat killer or something more sinister?

Mary is a difficult and unreliable protagonist. I definitely didn’t like her but she kinda grows on you. This book is thick and has a lot going on. A spooky mansion, an unsettling town, familial strife, possession, and I loved every new thread this book threw at me. I don’t even know how to mention much more without ruining some of the surprises packed in here.

This is a book that requires patience but I promise you it’s worth the time.

Thank you to TorNightfire and NetGalley for an ARC.

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WOW. I LOVED this book. The quality of writing was phenomenal. Horror is my favorite genre and not a lot gets under my skin but this book gave me nightmares. Mary was both a loveable and terrifying character. This is the type of book that for me, I thought I could see where it was going , yet it took me on so many chilling twists and turns. I cannot wait to hand sell this at my store and it is in contention for one of my --if not my favorite new horror release this year.

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Once I started this book I couldn't put it down. I loved the character of Mary, it was nice to see a middle aged woman as the protagonist in a horror book! Her development as the book progresses was excellently done and I never knew what to expect next.

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Review: Nat Cassidy’s Mary

“It’s just, the owners think we need staff that’s a little more Zendaya and a little less Jane Eyre.”

Synopsis: Along with the hot flashes and body aches, Mary can’t look in a mirror without fainting, and the voices in her head urge her to do unspeakable things. Fired from her job, she moves back to her hometown, hoping to reconnect with her past and inner self. Instead, visions of terrifying, mutilated specters overwhelm her. Then the killings begin again…

Thoughts:

When I saw the comps for this book—Midsommar x American Psycho x I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—I knew I needed a copy. I’ll say it louder for those in the back: Horror writers create some of the most original stories out there. The creativity blows me away! Some of the underlying themes of this book are bullying, isolation, loneliness, and “being seen.” Exploring those heavy themes through horror feels right, especially in Mary. The creepy ghosts in this one will leave you feeling shook up and on edge. Unsettling imagery fills its pages. I haven't slept peacefully all week!

I read this entire book thinking Nat Cassidy was a woman. Nat’s a man. Not that the sex of an author matters, but I think he does a beautiful job capturing the voice of a middle-aged menopausal female character. My heart went out to Mary, who was never entirely understood, accepted, and loved.

Cassidy provides readers with a list of trigger warnings, so be aware. (I don’t need them.)

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Mary is a woman coming up on her 50th year. She has a mantra she says to herself "be good". Her life is a disappointment to her and it becomes increasingly more disappointing as time goes on. She doesn't remember much about her childhood just that it wasn't all that good. Now, she has to travel back home to care for her ailing aunt who raised her after her parents' deaths but, there's something weird about the town. Honestly, there's something weird about Mary.
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Okay so Cassidy gives us a list of trigger warnings and I advise you to please take them seriously TW: sexual assault, abuse, mutilation, gore. The sexual assault and abuse in this book is intense so please keep that in mind before proceeding with reading the book.
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For me, this was a true horror book. It was twisted, gory, scary, the works. I also found it to be very well written and interesting. I found myself curious to discover what would happen next. I truly enjoyed this book but, I will say it probably isn't for everyone. I would give it a 4.5/5 stars.

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Mary tries not to make waves. She is middle-aged, approaching menopause, and works in the basement of the same bookstore she has worked in for years. But with menopause on the horizon, her body - and other things - start to change. She can't look in the mirror or at other women her age without seeing horrible, upsetting things. She is having disturbing dreams and even more disturbing thoughts, and when she gets fired from her job she moves home to take care of her dying Aunt Nadine. But when Mary returns to Arroyo, things only get worse. Who - and what - is she becoming?

I have such conflicted feelings about this book! The body horror involved is extremely gruesome, animals are killed, people mutilated... though the author provides a content warning for this (and more) at the beginning, so I sort of knew what I was getting into, even if I didn't know the extent of it at the beginning. But even with the violence, gore, and insanity, Mary is still somehow relatable. And even as things get increasingly dire, I kept reading, wanting to know how Mary would react to the things going on around her and what she was learning about herself. None of the reveals are that surprising - things are telegraphed to the reader in ways that lets us know what is coming well before Mary gets there - but what kept me reading was Mary's journey in discovering just what was actually going on. And once Mary figures it out and starts using the powers she has? Oh well damn, I'm there for it. For other readers, I would say to pay close attention to those content warnings - Cassidy means them. For storytelling, I would give this one a four, but the gore and violence pushes the rating down a bit for me.

Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and NetGalley for the ARC and a chance to read early in exchange for an honest review.

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Mary: An Awakening of Terror. Wow what a book. I loved the whole premise and the thought behind this book. A Carrie who never lit the town on fire? Sign me up! There’s some great spooky and downright gruesome moments in this one. I will says whoever, animal cruelty and death will almost surely knock a star off everytime.

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Mary by Nat Cassidy is a provocative, peri-menopausal horror novel that coexists alongside the great Carrie by Stephen King. It's brutal, gory, and keeps you guessing until the twist towards the end, that I did not see coming! 'Mary' is a woman in her 40s who has come to the realization of her new supernatural power. There are moments where it feels like there are unnecessarily long portions in the text that could have been removed without changing the story, but overall, it's still enjoyable for the thrill! Trigger Warning: There is a large amount of violence, as well as animal abuse. I highly suggest this for fans of Carrie with doses of Hereditary moments inside.

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I just finished Mary by Nat Cassidy and these are my thoughts on it,

Mary was so used to being an invisible woman to the world around her. The life suited her, a job in a bookstore, her porcelain dolls, then all that changes after she loses her job. What can a middle aged woman do in the world now?

Then a call comes in from her aunt, the woman who raised her after a house fire killed her parents. A woman who bullied and belittled her, all the while she was being bullied at school. But her aunt is begging her to come home to help her, she is dying. To sweeten the deal she offers to pay for her help. What choice does Mary have anyway. Things are happening to her that she doesn’t understand. Voices in her head, avoiding mirrors and nightmares….

She thinks going home might be for the best but the town seems to still be gripped by a serial killer who was gunned down and killed by police on the day she was born….

This book gave me chills so bad. The writing was beyond gruesome! It was exactly what I was looking for in a horror book! I loved the build up of who Mary was and what was going on with her but the book was really long for a horror and I feel it really could have been condensed down without losing the magic.

Mary, to begin with, feels like a lonely middle aged woman with no real family. Unloved and broken by a world that didn’t seem to understand her. As the book progresses you will find that this wasn’t the case at all as Mary begins to learn and remember what it was like living with her aunt before leaving the small town in Arizona.

The town has a dark edge to it and I loved watching that all unfold and aunt Nadine, being a conspiracy theorist… Loved it. She’s my kind of lady! This book pulled out all the stops to give you the kind of nightmares you haven’t had since you were a child! I was thoroughly creeped out! I loved the serial killer elements too!

The only downside was I felt it was too long. If you really enjoy long books then this one will knock your socks off!

4 stars! Thank you netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge, for my ARC in exchange for you honest review.

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Closer to 4.5

I wasn't sure what to expect going into this one but whatever it was, this wasn't it! Very gory and descriptive so if that isn't your thing, I'd be cautious to read this one (the author kindly puts trigger warnings at the beginning of the novel, I appreciate that). Yes, the book was long and yes, it had a lot going on; I can't say that it bothered me though. While the book is dark dark dark, Mary's inner dialogue also made me chuckle a bit. Amongst all the violence, the evil villains, the culty/religious town, and the supernatural aspects, Cassidy wove in the prominent theme of misogyny and the affliction of life as a middle-aged woman. I know I may not be phrasing it all correctly (I don't find myself to be a particularly effective reviewer as I am generally used to writing reviews for myself and my shoddy memory). This is absolutely a horror book, but there is also an important commentary behind the story. P.S. I loved Nadine. I don't know or think she was meant to be a likeable character but I thought she was fucking hilarious. She was twisted and unhinged and she is a character I won't forget.

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A rare moment in time, Nightfire publishes a book that I absolutely did not get along with. I’m sure that I’m in the minority, so I still encourage horror enthusiasts to try this one out.

This is a DNF for me. I made it roughly 100 pages in.

If you write a 400 page slow burn of a slog where your main character is not only naive, 50 and boring: It’s going to be a hard pass.

An homage to Carrie? Maybe. I can see some of the elements present. But I think that’s where the expectations vs reality really came into play for me.

Disappointing because the opening line of “there’s a corpse in the bathtub” normally would have my FULL attention.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire for the digital advanced reader's copy.

Wow.

Mary is nearly 50, and her life has not gone as she thought it would. She's just been fired from her job, and now she's heading back to her unhappy childhood home to take care of her belligerent Aunt Nadine.

She feels useless and invisible and never Good enough.

She talks to porcelain figurines.

She starts seeing terrifying ghosts.

She may be the worst of all words - the c-word often used to dismiss women. She may be crazy.

This book won't be for everyone. It is incredibly violent. Plus, you spend the entire book peering out at the world from Mary's point of view, and that's a hard, desolate place to be oftentimes.

And yet . . . I found it utterly fascinating and absorbing. I haven't read Chopin's The Awakening, but the quotations used from it were pitch-perfect for Mary's own awakening awareness of who she really is.

Mary is a complicated, layered character trying to survive in a menacing, dread-filled town. Who can she trust? Which of her memories are real?

Enter this world of serial killers, reincarnation, murder cults, secret labyrinths, cyclical trauma, mental illness, and feminist undercurrents at your own risk.

*language, graphic violence, sexual situations

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Thank you to @NetGalley and @TorNightfire for the ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest review. (Posted on Good Reads & my @dark.oracle.reads IG on 6/20)

I’ll probably be in the minority here, but despite all the awesome horror elements present in this novel, it was hard for me to finish. My main takeaway with this one is that it’s just a mishmash of different parts that don’t add up to anything spectacular.

Mary’s internal dialogue is rather repetitive, and I caught myself thinking “yeah yeah, ok we get it…let’s move along now” more often than not. The incessant droning on and rehashing of the same two or three conceptual threads of our main character’s psyche started to eventually bog this story down for me. I dreaded picking this back up every time I tried to finish. Every time I came back to it it was just more of the same.

I’m a big fan of all the elements presented here, but this story is somehow LESS than a sum of all its parts. At its core I thought I could enjoy this novel, but the execution just made me feel like I read about twice as much as was there (and not in a good way, it genuinely felt like work to push through after about 1/4 in.) More than anything it just felt overwritten to hell. This one definitely pushed me into a reading slump.

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While the prose and basic premise were great, I found the plot dull and dragging. There were so many places in the novel where pages could be cut without hindering the story. Mary wasn't a likable character, though I appreciated the middle-aged female protagonist; you don't see that enough in fiction.

Overall, the novel was okay. It wasn't bad and it wasn't great. There were just too many things going on that didn't always connect, and the book was much longer than it needed to be.

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It's been a long time since I've read a horror novel. Not because I don't like them, but because they've become pretty watered down lately and a bit too trigger free. This one was not that. In fact, the trigger warning is very long in the forward. This one had ALL the horror going on. With that said, it was also quite funny. I laughed out loud many times.

I was surprised to find out the author was male. I usually can tell that immediately because they do not write women accurately. This was a pleasant surprise. And so was the triggerful horror!

This one is definitely a slower burn and takes it's time getting to where it's going. I loved it, but if you have triggers or are looking for a quick read, it may not be for you. The author was originally inspired by Stephen Kings Carrie and I definitely got the king of horror vibes from Mary!

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for an early copy of this wonderful bloodfest.

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This book will easily be on my year end list of best horror books in 2022. The pacing of this book was perfect and I read the first sixty percent in one day simply because it had me enthralled from the first page. The titular character was a puzzling joy to follow. Is Mary good or a psychopath? At times, I wasn't sure but you couldn't help but to feel sympathy for her. You want to root for her and have a win. I didn't think a middle aged menopausal woman character would affect me as it did but this is a testament to the author's ability to paint a picture with words and trap you in this world.

Speaking of characters, Aunt Nadine had me in a love/hate relationship with her throughout the book! Bitter, resentful, mean, and nasty but also a foul mouthed, take no prisoners, chain smoking old lady that will not mince her words no matter who you are. She was a unique character that truly stole the show when she appeared on the pages.

This book features many horrific scenes, often very bloody, but the author handles them with a certain kind of love for the genre that showed in his writing.

I would highly recommend this book without hesitation to fans of the horror genre. The secrets are deliciously revealed slowly but surely and each one brings a new sense of creepiness and tension.

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