RIF’s Favorite Reads of April 2016

Helping you sort out the best from the rest published this month.

Favorites of April

To be or not to be? To read or not to read? To read, of course. As usual, we spent this month with our noses in books, and we suspect you might have as well. With Willy Shakespeare’s birthday, a legendary musician’s death, and both the Bard and Prince’s connections to poetry (sonnets; lyrics), April has been one packed National Poetry Month. And whether or not you’ve been pranked recently—be it by friends on April 1 or by the fickle spring weather—we’re not fooling with our favorites.

Click on our favorites to buy them, and tell us in the comments which were your best April reads!



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Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Favorites of April
There are many retellings and versions of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, but this one is especially skillful and riotously fun. There’s Liz (not Lizzie), a magazine writer; her older sister Jane, a yoga instructor; Lydia and Kitty, both crossfit junkies and Paleo-dieters; and loner Mary. And, of course, the Bennet sisters’ mother is intent on marrying her daughters off, especially with Jane pushing forty. The Bennet family finds itself together in their falling-apart Tudor house in Cincinnati, where a certain Mr. Bingley (star of a Bachelor-type show) and a familiar Mr. Darcy (a snobbish neurosurgeon) are newly neighbored. Old prides and new prejudices come together in this updated Austen by bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld. (Random House)


We Believe You: Survivors of Campus Sexual Assault Speak Out by Annie E. Clark and Andrea L. Pino

Favorites of April

Brought together by the founders of End Rape on Campus, Andrea L. Pino and Anne E. Clark, this collection of essays by survivors of sexual assault is moving, difficult, and entirely necessary. There is a multiplicity of voices in these pages: women and men, musicians and journalists, activists and professionals. The politics of different races, genders, ages, and sexualities are explored, showing that in our current culture no one is immune to the perils of sexual assault. While some of the contributors are named, many are anonymous, but the voices of all are treated with respect. (Henry Holt Paperback)


Dodgers by Bill Beverly

Favorites of April

Debut novelist Bill Beverly’s dark coming-of-age story begins in Los Angeles, where 16-year-old East works for a gang’s drughouse. After a police shootout, East, his younger brother, and two other teenage boys are made to don LA Dodgers baseball uniforms and travel from the L.A. they’ve always known to states where little is recognizable beyond the concrete of gas stations and highways. And even those turn out to be perilous, especially as they’re on a mission to Wisconsin where they’re to kill a witness of the book’s opening scene. East must rise to challenges, adapt to different circumstances, overcome obstacles, and make some tough decisions. (Crown)


Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlen

Favorites of April

Quindlen’s newest novel is all about family: specifically, the Millers, whose very place of residence, Miller’s Valley, has been part of what home has meant for generations. Narrated by Mimi Miller, we’re taken through years of the family’s life, from the 1960s to present day, as Mimi’s definition of home is forced to evolve. The land the Millers have lived on for so long is being bought up by the government and modernized (read: developed into a place fit to built malls and parking lots and new houses) and Mimi is terrified of the change to come as the land is literally flooding the family away. Both the Millers and their secrets are slowly being uprooted by the rising water, and through thick and thin, they discover in equal turn the pitfalls and value of family. (Random House)


Before We Visit the Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Favorites of April

Years of life are encompassed in Divkaruni’s masterful novel, where three generations of women struggle with the desire for education, which is at odds with the obligations to their family. Sabitri is poor and unable to continue studying, but her luck seems to change when a wealthy patron takes her on. But Sabitri herself falls in love—a grave sin when it’s with the wrong person—but her dismissal from her patron’s home doesn’t stop her from getting an education, marrying a professor, and sending her own daughter to college. But generations are similar sometimes, and Sabitri’s daughter goes on to make her own discoveries and mistakes. It’s when Sabitri hears that her granddaughter, whom she’s never met, is thinking of dropping out of college that she rouses herself to tell her own life story in order to redirect her granddaughter’s path. (Simon and Schuster)


Maestra by L.S. Hilton

Favorites of April

The first of a trilogy, Hilton’s book has all the ingredients we need to become immediately infatuated: a fascinating protagonist with layers and layers (and layers), a spirited London art scene full of secrets, and an urgent pace. The move from infatuation to love is swift when we look at the plot. Judith works as an assistant until she’s fired for discovering some skeletons in the closet. She’s also the host at a fancy and elegant bar. But these are roles she’s taught herself to play, stifling her true nature in order to try to live anew as an upright professional. But after being fired, fleeing England on a whim, and surviving a fatal accident in France, Judith begins to find her way back to where she is most in control: alone. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)


The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Favorites of April

Maya is a scholarly princess, cursed as she is with a deadly and dangerous horoscope. When her father asks her to die by poison rather than choose a suitor (as fates say she will bring ruin upon the kingdom no matter whom she marries), she is prepared to do so in order to protect her half sister, whom she adores. “I am expendable,” she tells her father, the Raja, who doesn’t dispute it. But at the last moment, she is whisked away to become the wife of Amar and queen of Akaran, a mysterious kingdom she’s never heard of before, where memories grow on trees and where she comes to realize she can’t trust anyone but her new husband. Her own life is in danger—as her horoscope foretold—and both the world she grew up in and this new Otherworld now hang in the balance of her actions. (St. Martin’s Griffin)


Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss

Favorites of April

In Molly Prentiss’s debut novel, the art world of the early 1980s swirls with color and excitement and impending fame and tragedy alike. Three New Yorkers’ (one newer than the others) lives intertwine in a trendy neighborhood not yet gentrified. In gritty SoHo, James the critic and Raul the artist face terrible losses that begin to poison everything else in their lives; but the men come together, along with Lucy the muse, over how to deal with an orphan sent from Argentina. From James’ synesthesia to Raul’s rising prominence to small-town Lucy’s new life in the Big Apple, this mythologized New York is beautifully drawn, and suspension of disbelief isn’t required; this isn’t make-believe, after all, but nostalgia. (Gallery/Scout Press)


The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

Favorites of April

It is fitting that the one and only painting attributed to fictional 17th century Dutch artist Sara de Vos—hanging on the wall of wealthy Manhattan lawyer, Marty de Groot—is switched out by another woman in 1957 for a meticulous forgery. The other woman is Australian Ellie Shipley, whose life’s goal is to connect her own legacy to that of the legendary de Vos. Spanning centuries—from de Vos’s own time to the painting of the forgery to the subsequent meeting of forged and original painting years later—Dominic Smith’s novel weaves a tale of art and artists, fame and fortune, the fantasy of truth and the truth in fantasy. (Sarah Crichton Books)


The Bed Moved: Stories by Rebecca Schiff

Favorites of April

Slim but packed with 23 stories between its covers, Rebecca Schiff’s first book explores almost everything about everything. From first sexual encounters and later sexual confidence (or lack thereof), to the ways children discover their parents during their lives and after their deaths, from the grief for lost childhoods to that devotion to a dead father, Schiff’s characters are a collection of wonderful weirdos we can all relate to. The women in these stories are allowed to be weak as well as strong (occasionally at the same time) and make mistakes as well as triumph. Collectively, the tales reveal us to ourselves through the characters Schiff draws on so well to do the work of storytelling, and it is unnerving at times to see the way they, and the author herself, understand neuroses we’d thought might be ours alone. (Knopf)


The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Favorites of April

The anticipated sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn, this retelling of the famous story of The Arabian Nights features Shahrzad, who, in the first book, left her lover to avenge the murdered brides of the young king Khalid. Shahrzad’s former honey raised a rebellion in order to rescue her and she found surprising nuances in the personality and temperament of the king she wed. In this second volume, she is torn from her cursed husband and held captive by the rebels. She is the only one who knows that the king is cursed to make the terrible choices he made, and that he isn’t the bloodthirsty monster he’s believed to be. Shahrzad fights with wits and newfound powers to save the one she loves, the one who hates himself: the king. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers)


Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Favorites of April

In intensely beautiful prose, Hope Jahren delivers an incredible memoir dedicated to her development as a scientist. From her earliest days, she spent time in her father’s lab, and never thought that her life would lead her anywhere but to other labs where she could do her own work. A geobiologist who studies plants and seeds, she weaves their existences together with ours, using a poet’s language to discuss scientific fact. She talks of the way plants sweat, of their pigmented veins, and this arresting language connects us humans so fully to the natural world she lives in, where she can see beauty through a microscope. It wasn’t always easy, being a woman in the predominantly male world of science, but here Jahren is now, delivering to the world not only science but literature too. (Knopf)


Fever at Dawn by Péter Gárdos

Favorites of April

Based on a series of true letters, Fever at Dawn is the against all odds love story of a dying Holocaust survivor and a woman with a kidney disease. They’re 200 kilometers apart, at different rehabilitation centers, and their letters are almost accidental. Miklós, the Holocaust survivor, has tuberculosis and supposedly only six months to live, and it is after being handed this death sentence that he decides to write over 100 letters to different women who are also at Swedish hospitals or camps like him, hoping to find a wife. Who would believe that Lili would write back and that they would fall in love? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)


Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

Favorites of April

A period piece of a particular kind, Rindell’s newest novel takes place in the cutthroat world of book publishing—not today, despite the similarities, but in 1958. The main characters are vying to make it, each in his or her own way: the white dude writer of the next Great American Novel (in his opinion) is trying to make his big-shot editor dad take notice; a woman is trying to break through the glass ceiling to rise from the typing pool to editor herself and finds her ambition more threatening than helpful; and a black writer from Harlem is trying to dig up his father’s past, and reconcile his own. None are alike, but all three have similar aspirations of being part of the moving, shifting, exciting literary landscape. Set in early-Cold War era New York City, Rindell lets her characters roam through the city—especially the Village—mostly uninhibited, making decisions and, occasionally, paying dearly for their actions. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

Image credits: Ryan Deshon


About Ilana Masad

ILANA MASAD is a queer writer of fiction, nonfiction, and criticism. She is the founder and host of The Other Stories, an interview podcast featuring fiction writers, and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her debut novel, All My Mother’s Lovers, comes out May 2020.

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