[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

With all of the blockbuster, bestselling titles out there, and so many quality stories available, it can be easy for other titles to be overlooked, so this week, we asked our authors and panelists:

Q: What lesser-known books have you recently read that you think deserve more attention, and why?

Here’s what our panelists had to say…

Andrea Johnson
Andrea Johnson Andrea is the redhead behind Little Red Reviewer. She reads mostly scifi and fantasy, adores books that are older than she is and in her spare time enjoys experimenting in the kitchen. Someone at her day job recently told her she sounds taller on the phone.

Just reading this Mind Meld is going to make my TBR explode, isn’t it?

Everyone talks about Kage Baker’s Company series, but it’s a long series that has to be read in a certain order, making it look almost as intimidating as McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga (or moreso, since very few people will tell you what The Company series is actually about). Want just a taste to see if The Company schtick is for you, not to mention Baker’s writing style? Plant yourself in front of the short story collection In The Company of Thieves for a handful of short stories that take place in the world of The Company. There are contemporary tales, a comedy of errors, plenty of history fiction, and even a steampunk story. I can’t think of a better way to get introduced to Kage Baker if you’re not familiar with her work. I always get a little sad thinking about this series, because there will never be another book written in it.

And speaking of long intimidating series and authors who have passed away, I was insanely impressed with Iain Banks’ The Quarry. Lack of the famous middle initial means this isn’t a science fiction novel. It’s just a novel about a man’s last weekend with all his old friends, and his socially handicapped son. We get the story from the son’s point of view. When you hear the name Iain Banks, it’s so easy to jump right to “oh em gee, the Culture novels! You have to read The Culture novels!”. But what if you don’t want to read a Culture novel? What if you tried and you didn’t like them? The Quarry is all the Banks snark with none of the WTF.

On a much happier note is an anthology I just finished the other day – Sidekicks, edited by Sarah Hans. It’s from a smaller publisher, Alliteration Ink, and has very few big names to brag about in the table of contents. But that subject! Everyone loves a superhero movie (or at least that’s what IMDB tells me), but what about their sidekicks, their partners, their helpers, the guy or gal who gets the supersuit dry-cleaned and picks up coffee on the way to the Batcave? Some of the heroes know they’re in a partnership with their sidekick, other hero/sidekick relations are much more complicated. With far more depth and far less spandex than I expected, it was a very impressive collection. The sheer variety of hero/sidekick relationships and types of stories included makes this anthology worth some more mainstream attention.

Wow, I’ve been reading a TON of short fiction this year! My final book that I read recently that I think should get more attention is Clarkesworld Year Four, which includes all the original fiction published in Clarkesworld Magazine. It doesn’t matter how much screen-reading I do, I’ll always prefer a thinly sliced dead tree in my hands. Unfortunately, my propensity towards print makes it difficult to keep up with the all the short story magazines I enjoy, such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Apex. Getting a copy of Clarkesworld Year Four opened my eyes to fact that many magazines publish annual volumes of all of the original fiction that was published in their magazine and/or on their website. Can you say Best of Both Worlds? I get award winning and innovative short fiction, and a book in my hands! All the annual volumes of the short fiction magazines should be getting more attention.

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Faith Hunter, fantasy writer, was born in Louisiana and raised all over the south. Under the pen name Gwen Hunter, she writes action-adventure, mysteries, and thrillers. As Faith and Gwen, she has 25+ books in print in 28 countries. Blood Trade (Penguin/ROC April 2013) is the latest release in her urban fantasy Skinwalker series and features vampire hunter Jane Yellowrock. Her Rogue Mage novels — BloodringSeraphs, and Host — feature Thorn St. Croix, a stone mage in a post-apocalyptic, alternate reality, urban fantasy world. These novels are the basis for the role playing game, Rogue Mage. For more information, visit Faith at her website, Twitter (@HunterFaith)or drop by her official Facebook page to connect with her and other fantasy fiction fans.

Antagonists — The Great Satan, the Axis of Evil, or, as I like to call them, the Big Bad Uglys

by Faith Hunter

I started my book writing career in the police procedural marketplace with two co-written cop novels set in the District of Columbia, and published by Warner Books. They were followed by a number of thrillers: Woman in Jeopardy thrillers, a four book medical thriller series, paranormal thrillers, and mainstream mystery / thrillers. Now I write urban fantasy – the Jane Yellowrock series, under the name Faith Hunter – and because Jane is a bounty hunter of sorts, tracking down BBUs of a paranormal nature, I do a lot of thinking about antagonists.
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Faith Hunter is the fantasy author of the Jane Yellowrock vampire hunter series and a long time professional fiction writer. Oddly enough, she also has a third shift job and considers trips to New Orleans to be really interesting, hanging out of the window like a pup with it’s nose in the wind, camera in hand, while doing vampire drive-bys. Including her other pen name, Gwen Hunter, she has over 20 published books in 20+ countries around the world. Her latest addition to the Jane Yellowrock series, Death’s Rival, was released by ROC on October 2nd, 2012. She is an original creator of and regular contributor to MagicalWords.net, an industry blog for sci-fi and fantasy writers. You can find out more about Faith at her home on the web, FaithHunter.net, or visit her official Facebook page to try and find Jane.

The Top 10 Ways To Know If Your Girlfriend Is A Vampire

By Faith Hunter

I’ve hunted down a lot of vampires in the past few years. Well, on the printed page as my alter ego Jane Yellowrock, but who’s counting all those little voices in my head anyways? As a result, I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying who a potential blood-fiend might be. Today I want to share these potentially date ending, life-ending, and “why-did-I-just-spend-$100-to-go-out-with-her” ideas with you. It’s your lucky day!

10. The red wine that she’s been swirling in her wine glass for the past five minutes during your date looks just a little thick, just a little warm. When it splashes on the white linen table cloth the stain looks juuuuust a little too bright. And she’s not sharing either.

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