Book Buzz Episode 23 – Cackle & A Memory Called Empire

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Air date: Nov. 12, 2023

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A Memory Called Empire

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Hi, this is Jessica Russell. I’m the assistant director of collection services at Sno-Isle Libraries. And welcome to Book Buzz.

Today's reading recommendations are two very different books, but both with strong female protagonists.

First, we’re going to hear from Bekah, library associate at the Camano Island Library, who will introduce us to a mysterious town where people are not what they seem. Over to you, Bekah.


If you’re looking for a semi-spooky atmospheric read with a hefty dose of small-town charm, “Cackle” by Rachel Harrison is the book for you. This book doesn’t fit neatly into any singular genre but if I were forced to describe it, I would call it cozy horror. Does that sound like a dichotomy? Probably. But somehow, this book makes it all work!

A fresh start in a quaint town is exactly what Manhattan school teacher Annie is looking for after a painful breakup. The town of Rowan is storybook perfect and so is her new best friend, Sophie. Sophie is stunningly beautiful, generous, seemingly ageless and her palatial home seems too lovely to be true.

Before long, Annie starts to notice strange things about her new friend. Is it just Annie’s imagination or do the townspeople seem to be afraid of Sophie? Why do spiders flock to her? One thing is for sure — there are some very unsettling sounds coming from her basement.

This book is a light departure from my usual reading style, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. “Cackle” is wise, empowering and fun with strong feminist themes. Somehow it manages to be both spooky and warm at the same time. I think that even readers who typically shy away from horror can enjoy this book.


Thanks, Bekah! I would love to add more books in the cozy horror genre to my to-be-read list. This sounds just perfect for me.

Next, we’ll hear from Hattie, library associate with Library on Wheels, for sci-fi intrigue. Take it away, Hattie.


For an absolute whirlwind of interstellar politics and palace intrigue, you won’t be able to put down “A Memory Called Empire” by Arkady Martine.

In the heart of in the Teixcalaanli Empire, ambassador Mahit sprints from one crisis to the next, just trying to stay alive amidst a sea of shifting allegiances. Mahit investigates her predecessor's suspicious death, navigates a seductive alien culture, and protects a secret that could either destroy or save her home.

The worldbuilding seamlessly intertwined with the narrative will make you simultaneously fall in love with and be terrified of the Teixcalaan empire. Mahit's journey through deception and schemes kept me on the edge of my seat.

The blend of conspiracy, murder mystery, and psychological depth meshes brilliantly; filled with likeable and alluring characters.

With perfectly balanced explosive action and high-culture court drama, I highly recommend this book for fans of “Dune,” Anne Leckie’s “Imperial Radch” series, and “The Expanse.”

“A Memory Called Empire” is Martine's debut novel and the first installment in the Teixcalaan duology. I can’t wait to dig into the sequel, “A Desolation Called Peace.”


Thanks, Hattie! This book won the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novel in addition to many other awards, which is impressive for a debut novel.

Our recommendations this week are: “Cackle” by Rachel Harrison and “A Memory Called Empire” by Arkady Martine.

Join us next time, when we’ll explore more great reading recommendations—interesting books you can find at your favorite local bookstore or at your local library.

Until then, I’m Jessica Russell from Sno-Isle Libraries.

Thanks for joining us for Book Buzz on KSER.

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