Cover Image: Mary

Mary

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A snarky and gory peri-menopausal homage to Carrie, Mary: An Awakening of Terror somehow satisfies the craving for 2 styles of horror: brutal violence and provocative commentary. With the titular Mary being an unremarkable woman in her late 40s, there's a constant compare and contrast between society's lack of expectation and desire for unmarried women in that age, and her gradual control and understanding over her supernatural power. I find Nat Cassidy's writing to be extremely engaging, boasting a consistent level of hysterical energy, and at times morbidly sarcastic; which softens the overly generous page count that can probably use some further trimming.

Mary feels 'unhinged' from start to finish, which is meant as a compliment because I appreciate when a story is intentionally straying away from common tropes and formulaic arcs. I did not anticipate the heightened violence (maybe take caution if animal cruelty is a trigger), the fantastical tone of its narrative (the novel starts out ominous and haunting but quickly becomes something more 'lively' and bombastic), and finding a particular antagonistic character ultimately endearing and likable.

Yes, Mary: An Awakening of Terror is a little chaotic, and leans on the 'it really doesn't need to be this long' side, but I thoroughly enjoyed its unique vision and bespoke execution (I'll look at so many inanimate objects differently now) — think Carrie + Hereditary + Silent Hill (primarily the 2006 movie) and you'll get a general vibe of this novel.

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Enjoyment: 4.5
Total rating: 4.57

Mary is one of those people who blend in the background. She was raised by her aunt and bullied at home and school. She left her hometown as soon as she could. Her life remained unremarkable until now.

At 49, her body is changing; with the hot flashes and body aches came bizarre symptoms her doctor chucked up to menopause. Mary is sure that the voices in her head and the horrible things she sees in the mirror are not that simple. When her aunt calls her asking for help and bound by a sense of duty, Mary returns to her hometown, the last thing she wants.

Mary is such a compelling and authentic character. I honestly thought Nat Cassidy was a middle-aged woman using real-life experiences to give her more dimension. Nope, he is a man. One whose writing is as compelling as his mind is wicked.

I find it impossible to talk about Mary without spoiling it. Cassidy indeed took us on a journey that became scarier and more twisted as it went. The atmosphere is superb, albeit dark and intensely gloomy. Mary manages to be unlikable and endearing. While reading the book, I wanted to hug her and yell at her intermittently.

An incredible debut that will haunt you for weeks after reading it.

Disclaimer: In exchange for an honest review, I am thankful to the publishers and NetGalley for providing a copy of Mary: An Awakening of Terror.

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FYI, this book has a very long trigger warning, and I suggest that you read it and decide if you want to read this book or skip it. 

Initial thoughts: Not a lot to say except this book dragged on forever. I don’t know where the author was going with things and I just gave up after a while. There’s some interesting ideas here and there, but the full execution was too much. The book is stuffed with ghosts, reincarnation, murder, etc. and this is supposed to be a homage of sorts to Carrie which I still don’t get.


"Mary" follows almost 50 year old Mary who is called home by her aunt from New York. It's a good time for Mary to leave New York since she just got fired, and found out her rent is going to be so high she won't be able to afford it. But her returning to the small desert town of Arroyo feels Mary with dread. Mary doesn't have a lot of memories after her parents died in a fire, but she knows she was bullied and unhappy. Packing her "Loved Ones" (I hope you like seeing those words) which are porcelain dolls with her, Mary returns to her Aunt Nadine. But being back home brings something ugly and angry back to life in Mary, and she slowly starts to try to investigate the town's history and her connection to a serial killer who was shot dead by the police almost 50 years ago.

So here's the thing, this is gory, but that didn't put me off. What put me off was how boring and fragmented this entire book was. It goes on forever and at times I just gave up trying to work out what was happening to whom and why. I think there was some interesting parts of it (the linkage between Greek mythology and all of that) but it gets buried in this book. Mary is honestly not an interesting character, and I think we were supposed to root for her, similar to Carrie, but the whole book had me going what is going on now. I don't know. I just wish more parts had been explained. Instead there felt like there was a lot of hand waving and plot holes here and there. 

I did like that Mary who is going through peri-menopausal incidents right now is dealing with trying to tamper he rage down. So kind of a reverse Carrie. For people who read that book, we all know that Carrie came into her own after she got her period. But that really was the only similarities I saw. Especially since we had a ton of reveals that showed us who Mary really was as a kid before she got "sent away." Another reviewer mentioned being in Mary's mind for over 400 pages was a lot, and honestly it was. I think it would have been better to break up the book a bit to just give us another POV besides the sheriff at the very beginning of the book. 

The ending was a letdown. There's a twist (that I saw coming) and then we just have more of the same apparently.

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First off, I really, really enjoyed reading Mary. There were some things I wasn’t too keen on, but reflecting back on them, it really didn’t take away my utter joy & horror reading this.

Mary took me a little longer to read than expected, not because the book didn’t keep me invested, but because I was too invested. What I mean is, is that I was left alone for a week, myself, in my house I share with my fiancé, and this book wound me up. I haunted me. The night before my fiancé left for the week,I woke up in the middle of the night needing the bathroom and as I got up to go, the darkness of the room, the hallway, the bathroom, the tub with the the curtain pulled round, freaked me out so god damn bad that I ended up racing back to bed and holding my bladder until the sun shone through our curtains. I’ve never been affected by a book like this before. I’m normally a very ‘It’s not real’ type of guy, but there is something about this book, especially the first 50% that really got under my skin. I didn’t read for that whole week because I knew if I continued reading while I was alone, it would really make my brain play up on me.

From the very first chapter, Mary really pulled me into her jaws. The further I read, the more invested and intense my feelings got for the novel. I quickly became a detective while reading, constantly churning the cogs in my head, trying to piece together the crumbs Cassidy was leaving for us on page, trying to callout what might happen further into the book. (Not really a spoiler alert, but minus one thing, everything I thought was going to happen….Did not happen.)

The balance between horror elements felt well fleshed out & I adored how well they blended in with each other. We have an eerie small town with secrets, a previous past of serial killings, a women on the brink of insanity & unexplained killings beginning to surface, and although that may seem like a lot to work around and to get right, Cassidy really managed to keep the intrigue on all aspects and it’s one of the mains reasons I was so besieged by it.

Mary is an absolute treat of a book for horror fans. For this being a debut horror novel, it’s one hell of a rollercoaster and I can’t wait to see what Cassidy feeds us next.

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This author is talented and I am curious to see what other novels are written in the future. Mary has an interesting premise, and I thought the scary scenes were well done. However, I didn’t feel attached to any of the characters and it’s hard for me to fully invest when I don’t have that feeling about who I am reading about. If you’re a horror fan, it’s worth a read.

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Love, love, love this book. Mary lives alone and thinks she might be losing her mind. Odd things start to happen to her and Mary quickly becomes an unreliable narrator.

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Mary by Nat Cassidy follows Mary Mudgett, a 49-year-old woman who begins to have strange symptoms that doctors have written off as menopause. She (begrudgingly) returns to her hometown of Arroyo to take care of her Aunt Nadine. There, she must face her past memories while she simultaneously seeks to carve out a new identity for herself amid the strange residents of the small desert town.

This book is fantastic. On a baseline level, it is expertly written in a style that is refreshing in its originality. I have never read a book written in quite this way and found myself in awe of it. It is descriptive yet engaging, jarring and yet elegant all the same.

As for the plot, I found that it held an underlying tension and mystery that led to an exciting conclusion. To be honest, there is one scene near the end of the book that almost put me off the book entirely. It had been 5 stars up until that part, and I was so disturbed I wasn't sure I could continue. But, when I sat back to think about it, I thought it is a horror novel after all. So, perhaps that is the point. Some of the scenes in this book will continue to stick with me long after having finished.

I enjoyed the discussion on the perception of women aging, menopause, and the overall "female experience" throughout the book. It didn't feel as heavy-handed and "preachy" as other feminist-inspired fiction on the market right now. I appreciated the tactful way in which it was handled.

I've seen several reviews that put down Aunt Nadine as "nasty" or a whole host of other negative attributes. While I agree that Aunt Nadine says and does some terrible things, I also think she was my favorite character. She provides wonderful comic relief amid the tense atmosphere of the plot. Plus, "It's like plain yogurt came to life" will forever be in my repertoire of insults and descriptions.

Overall, I recommend any fan of horror pre-order this book. I don't think you'll regret it. It is a plot and writing style that feels different from other works in the horror genre, and I found it to be engaging and haunting.

I will definitely be keeping an eye on anything else that Nat Cassidy writes in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!

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Where do we begin. Mary Mudgett just cannot catch a break. She is a Middle aged woman, no companionship, close friends or family. She is almost non-existent and living in a bubble of loneliness.

She ends up being called back home to care for an aunt who is emotionally abusive and treats Mary like garbage. As the story unfolds we start to learn some really dark things about Mary’s past and the town that she grew up in. There’s a bit of folk horror and all out Serial killer brutality in this story.

This book was absurd and clever. I would liken the tone of this book to the movie Fargo (which happens to be among my fav movies of all time). At the core this book is really bleak and explores some depressing truths about how Middle Aged women and their functionality in our society can be sadly viewed. The author gives just the right amount of comedic relief to off set some of the more depressing ideas and had me laughing out loud. I mean there’s a scene in the book where one of the characters uses a sanitary napkin to dress a wound and I was like this is just ridiculous, but I enjoy that ridiculous absurd kind of humor in horror books.

Overall it was a horror story exploring serious themes that I feel the author crafted together nicely. Even his afterword was moving. I will say there was a bit of a pacing issue for me. There was a point towards the middle where I kind of felt like we were going in circles about the same thing, but it really picked up in the 3rd act and wrapped up nicely in the end. Even though I was a little frustrated with one part of the ending, but it did not take away from my overall enjoyment of this book.

I would highly recommend but this is a slow burn so if you prefer faster paced stories this may not be for you, but I would still recommend this because it really was a unique story.

Thank you to netgalley and Tornightfire for this e-arc copy in exchange for my honest review

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Honestly stunned that this wasn't written by an older woman because the perspective and voice was nailed so, so well. This was a little bit of a slow burn at first, but it picks up, WOW. This is unlike anything else I've read - I'm not sure if that's because of the POV (I can't think of very many other books I've read where the perspective is someone familiar with menopause, personally), or the writing itself, but wow. Really enjoyed it!

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I'm a sucker for an older woman protagonist, and this didn't disappoint. It's a well-executed American gothic and overall incredibly gripping. I kept thinking I knew what to expect while reading this, but was really pleasantly surprised by how insane and unexpected this is.

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Thank you to Netgalley, Tornightfire and Nat Cassidy for the ARC. All thoughts are my own

Holllllllllllly shit.

This book blew my mind. It's a wild ride as a horror novel and a wild ride you will take with the main character Mary. If I could give this book more than five stars I would. It breaks down the mold of what a horror novel can be, and does that very well.

First, I applaud you Nat Cassidy. Like others once I got into reading Mary I had to check who the author is- since the book is wrote from the perspective of a 49 Turing 50 year old woman- Mary. It is done so expertly you can imagine my surprise the author is a young man! It takes a damn good writer to pull a story like this off.

Second, lets talk about the book. Mary our main
character starts off her story by not only getting fired from her job at her local bookstore in New York, but gets a call from her aunt Nadine who lives in a isolated desert town of Arroyo. Nadine needs Mary to help take care of her, since she is I'll. Having no job Mary packs up her Loved Ones (her porcelain doll set which just gives me shivers) and returns home.

Well from there things get wild. Arroyo is not like other towns and fifty years ago was plagued by the serial killer Damon Cross. Mary gets reacquainted with the past in a way that will shatter not only her reality but the readers.

Preorder this book! Don't miss out on this one

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wow wow wow wow wow. I loved it. Thank you so much for this read. I am so grateful. I did not wanna put this down at all. Read it in two days.

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Well, where to begin?
I finished this two weeks ago & I’ve just been thinking about what to say. And to be honest I’m still not sure 🤣 It sucked me in pretty quick and I was whipping right through till the middle. I struggled for a bit but than it picked back up.
This was a pretty interesting and unique story. Our protagonist is a middle aged, peri menopausal woman who feels very neglected and overlooked by the world. I think the author captured that feeling perfectly. Although I wasn’t crazy about her being called old so frequently lol
The plot is twisted and definitely over the top. I don’t want to give anything away so we’re just going to leave it at that 😉
Now this is the part that’s a little tricky. The climax was unsettling but I felt like it was missing something. I can’t put my finger on it though. It was one of those books that when I finished, I went back to reread because I thought I missed something.
Overall it was a good book, I guess I just felt like the pacing and the dread were a little lackluster.
•there are multiple trigger warnings in this so check that out if you need to. The author does make note of that in the introduction I believe.
I think I’m going to give this a 3.5/5

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5/5 Stars
This review is Spoiler Free!

In Nat Cassidy's author's note, he begins by describing how as a child, he loved to look at the covers of horror movies to sort of "test" his own limits, (side note, I thought I was the only one who did this, this was literally my favorite thing ever to do as a kid), when he came across the cover of Stephen King's Carrie. The blood-drenched Carrie White haunted him, and he confessed to his own mother that he was scared. His mother explained the story of Carrie in a way that humanized her as a sad, bullied girl. And that story stuck with him.

Mary, a middle aged, peri-menopausal woman, feels incredibly invisible. Fired from her bookstore job, she goes back to her home town to help take care of her ailing aunt. But as she returns, she begins to see things, well - more things. In additions to the horrible visions she gets when she looks in the mirror, she begins to see terrible, bloody ghosts. As she continues to adjust to her old town again, Mary begins to recover more from her own fractured past, and finds more questions than answers.

Wow, I loved this book. I keep joking with my husband that my idea of an ideal horror novel is for it to just feel like an expertly crafted season of AHS. With all the twists and gut-wrenching turns of Mary, this truly did have that feel. Brilliantly crafted, with so much attention to detail, excellent pacing, and phenomenal mythos, this book was totally riveting! I truly wasn't expecting to love this one as much as I did, but this was absolutely brilliant. Terrifying and gory, Mary is a chilling character study that will stay with you.

*I received an ARC from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and views in this review are my own.

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2.5 rounded up. A rare miss from Tor Nightfire as far as I’m concerned. This was very disjointed at best and went on far too long in parts. Ham-fisted discussions of women and aging tied in with random inexplicable violence with a sprinkle of mythology that is in no way connected or brought up again.

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I can’t explain how much I loved this book! Easily my favorite so far this year. Cassidy has really outdone himself, and he gives the challenges of the lead heroine it’s due respect. I didn’t think I’d like a book of this nature that was written by a man but I adore it! I’ll be getting the physical copy when it comes out! (Read this on ebook)

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Not light handed with the metaphor that menopause=social invisibility. Still, what other horror novel is going there at all? I mean, even scientists aren’t studying menopause! Thanks to Tor for the ARC.

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Yes! Yes! I knew as soon as I read the first deeply dark chapter of Mary, I was not going to be putting this one down. I was fully immersed in this book. Mary is a completely blood-soaked book, but there is so much more to the story too. This was a gory horror/thriller/paranormal book all in one.

Mary is a 49 year old woman living in New York. She feels extremely below average. She lives in a nondescript apartment, works in the basement of a bookstore and is told (by a totally dismissive doctor) that she is going through peri-menopause (“textbook case”, he says). Then why is it that Mary can’t even look into a mirror without seeing her face literally rotting away? Why can’t she remember really anything from the past almost 50 years and what’s with the horrific nightmares? She feels like she’s going cr—-…but Mary hates that word. She consults with her “Loved Ones”, her perfect, little, porcelain figurines. They’re all the company she has in her life.

Suddenly, Nadine, Mary’s estranged aunt, calls asking for help. Before she can really even think, she’s on a plane back to her home town. She hopes she can piece together some of her life while she’s in town. When she arrives, she notices things haven’t changed much…BUT something has begun stirring inside of her. Puzzle pieces have started clicking together. It isn’t long before Mary is headed on a rollercoaster of craziness, bloodshed, ghosts, murder and oh so much more!

Mary is an excellent, fast-paced horror/thriller book by Nat Cassidy. I think he did an amazing job writing Mary’s character. I can’t say enough positive things about this. It was so good! (As a side note; Cassidy does include a note at the beginning with all the content warnings. I think this is a great idea) If you love horror and can handle a lot of graphic content, give this a read!

Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge - Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for this ARC.

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Mary is a middle-aged pre-menopausal woman living in New York, all alone (with the exception of her Loved Ones) and with a simple bookstore job to keep her occupied. Strange things start happening: women’s faces, if she looks too long, start to decompose in front of her eyes and even her own reflection gives her a fright; she often wakes up having a hard time recalling what happened before she lost consciousness; and she’s easily irritated and angered by the smallest of offenses, enough to lash out.

When her Aunt Nadine calls (a blast from the past) and asks Mary to come take care of her through her sickness, Mary reluctantly agrees. Upon arrival to her hometown, she discovers her own memory is spotty and unreliable. She starts seeing ghosts of women who were murdered decades ago by a serial killer, and as she starts digging for answers, starts to realize that she herself might be a larger piece to the puzzle.

What I Loved:
- Firstly, the cover is fantastic. It fits the storyline but really drew me in, honestly. How can you not be curious about this book after seeing that cover?
- I really appreciated the author’s note with heads up on content (mutilation, animal death, implied sexual trauma, misogyny). I think all books should provide this.
- This theme of “here’s a woman feeling like something is wrong but is gaslighted everywhere and by every single man” was prevalent (for instance, she makes a trip to the doctor and explains what she’s experiencing, she knows her body better than anyone else and is attuned to it, yet the young male doctor hardly listens and talks down to her). Most women, regardless of age, have experienced this at some point or another and that resonated.
- The main character, Mary, is in her late 40s, about to turn 50 — middle age and all the comes along with it is discussed more frequently but it was refreshing to read a story with a protagonist dealing with life and an age range not often discussed in books. Rarely do we read about older women, and when we do, especially in horror novels, it often seems to be entirely at their expense.
- There was a point where the storyline turned a bit “culty” and I enjoyed that (anything remotely cultish has my attention!).
- There were parts mostly at the beginning and at the end where there was a switch in the form of writing to not just the usual chapters but to interviews, newspaper articles, and so forth. I enjoyed that aspect and just wish that it had been more consistently sprinkled throughout the novel.

What I Didn’t Love:
- While the author did give a heads up that there would be a scene of mutilation at some point in the story, I didn’t find it any less disturbing and did wonder whether or not it was entirely necessary.
- As mentioned before, I wish the other styles of writing had been sprinkled more evenly throughout the novel, incorporating interviews, newspaper articles, etc. a bit more consistently and at pivotal plot points.
- I felt like I kept reading with the hopes that something big would happen or that something “more” would come into the picture (more dread, more something), and I don’t know that I really ever hit a part that gave me that satisfaction. It was an overall good story and had plenty of elements of horror (lots of scenes that were a little disturbing and so forth) but it all felt like it was leading up to something and when we got to that “something,” it wasn’t as earth shattering as I was hoping for and instead I felt like we just kind of coasted through the end.
- The end left me rolling my eyes a little bit, as it turned into a bit of a “here’s the moral of the story” soapbox. (Surprisingly this is the second horror novel I’ve read in a row with an ending like that, and that was disappointing.)

Overall:
I enjoyed the storyline, the main character and her struggles through middle-aged womanhood (but also struggles that many women can relate to a decade on either side of 50), and some of the more supernatural aspects of this horror novel (though some of these elements did not end up as eerie as I had hoped - maybe for the supernatural reason being a simple explanation for why things were happening which ultimately didn’t add a lot of tension or dread). Squeamish scenes were well-written with plenty of imagery that played out like a movie in my head. The cultish aspects that came into play were also a great addition and wouldn’t have been the same without them. I could’ve done without the “moral of the story” soapbox at the end; I’d rather be trusted as a reader to get out of it what I will, and if I miss some of the lesson meant for the reader, that should just be my own loss. Ultimately, this is one of those that you either purchase with the idea that you’re very certain you’ll enjoy it, or it’ll be one that, after reading the blurb and a few reviews, you feel a bit on the fence about and wait until you can borrow it from a friend or a local library.

*I received an advance reader copy from Macmillan-Tor/Forge & Tor Nightfire via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

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I loved this book. Being a 47 year old woman myself, I can totally relate. This was a different, unique type of horror take. Fully believable. Highly recommend to woman especially.

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