May Reads 2021

Updated: Jun 14

A great month with all books deserving 4 and 5 stars.

The Fair Botanists I actually stopped and started and read several books in between, no idea why and the last, A Song For Bill Robinson I read anywhere and everywhere I could!


In the order I read them, my books for May are:

The Fair Botanists by Sarah Sheridan

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Copper Sun by Sharon M Draper

Into the Mourning Light by Andrea Corrie

A Song for Bill Robinson by C. E. Atkins




The Fair Botanists by Sarah Sheridan

Published 5th August 2021 by Hodder & Stoughton


Official Blurb

It's the summer of 1822 and Edinburgh is abuzz with rumours of King George IV's impending visit. In botanical circles, however, a different kind of excitement has gripped the city. In the newly-installed Botanic Garden, the Agave Americana plant looks set to flower - an event which only occurs once in several decades. When newly widowed Elizabeth arrives in Edinburgh to live with her late husband's aunt Clementina, she's determined to put her unhappy past in London behind her. As she settles into her new home, she becomes fascinated by the beautiful Botanic Garden which border the grand house and offers her services as an artist to record the rare plant's impending bloom. In this pursuit, she meets Belle Brodie, a vivacious young woman with a passion for botany and the lucrative, dark art of perfume creation. Belle is determined to keep both her real identity and the reason for her interest the Garden secret from her new friend. But as Elizabeth and Belle are about to discover, secrets don't last long in this Enlightenment city. And when they are revealed, they can carry the greatest of consequences . .



My Review

I was drawn to this for Sarah Sheridan’s evocative depiction of Georgian Edinburgh, the power of aromatherapy, and strong female characters. Well written and researched with steady pace The Fair Botanists combines a sense of mystery and suspense from a unique perspective. I loved all the characters obsessive preoccupations; the distilling, the gardening, the meticulous recording of events through illustration. I highly recommend this and am already talking about it whenever I can.


My Rating

5 stars



Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

First published July 2019 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Reader


Official Blurb

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she'll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There's just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job. Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia's task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise. And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor's reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.



My Review

This is such a gorgeous story, full of sumptuous imagery. I could feel the rich fabrics and magic being woven through. This is a book to become totally lost within and worth staying up late for. I can’t wait to read the next book.


Now under a new publishing contract with Hodder & Stoughton both this and the sequel are being relaunched.


My Rating

5 stars



Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Published July 2020 by Knopf


Official Blurb

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace. But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.


My Review

I started this immediately after finishing Spin the Dawn. It is still a great book, but isn’t nearly as well crafted. There are plot lines that resolve a little too conveniently and on completion I feel that both books would have been more satisfying of they had been a trilogy. This book certainly felt a bit rushed. However, it was still an enjoyable read and I would recommend.


My Rating

4 stars



Copper Sun by Sharon M Draper

Published September 2006 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers


Official Blurb

Amari's life was once perfect. Engaged to the handsomest man in her tribe, adored by her family, and living in a beautiful village, she could not have imagined everything could be taken away from her in an instant. But when slave traders invade her village and brutally murder her entire family, Amari finds herself dragged away to a slave ship headed to the Carolinas, where she is bought by a plantation owner and given to his son as a birthday present.

Survival seems all that Amari can hope for. But then an act of unimaginable cruelty provides her with an opportunity to escape, and with an indentured servant named Polly she flees to Fort Mose, Florida, in search of sanctuary at the Spanish colony. Can the elusive dream of freedom sustain Amari and Polly on their arduous journey, fraught with hardship and danger?



My Review

Absolutely stunning. I was moved and also felt I learnt a great deal about certain aspects of the history of the slave trade. I had certainly never heard of indentureships before. Told from the perspective of a black slave girl and a white indentured girl this is a journey from ignorance to understanding, slavery and the fight for freedom. This book has deservedly won multiple awards and I urge you to read it. It’s my book of the month.


My Rating

5 stars





Living in the Mourning Light by Andrea Corrie

Published March 2020



Official Blurb

The unexpected loss of a child is something that no parent can ever imagine. This book, told mainly from the maternal viewpoint, explores the tragic accidental death of a 19-year-old. Andrea Corrie gives a direct and honest account of the emotions and the practicalities of working through the shock and grief of losing James, a much loved son, stepson, brother and friend. The message of the book is one of hope; its intent is to leave the reader feeling optimistic for the future, not despondent about the past. The non-linear process of working through grief and sorrow is examined. The book spans the eight year transition from the dark days of early loss in 2005 to a gradual return of living in the light today. Andrea also explores some of the resources available, particularly via the internet, to those who are grieving, as well as discussing the most constructive ways to channel energies into overcoming the agonies of child bereavement. Particular attention is paid to TCF (The Compassionate Friends - a charitable organisation run by bereaved parents for bereaved parents) and the online US based group DSN (Drowning Support Network, a Yahoo group). Members of both groups, along with family and friends have contributed, sharing their own experiences. Issues specific to loss through drowning are discussed as is Andrea's successful campaign to institute safety features at the riverside in Kingston upon Thames where her son lost his life. This book offers reassurance to anyone living with loss, demonstrating that it is possible to return to joyful, meaningful living after the death of a child. Its readership need not be limited to bereaved parents as the subject matter provides useful insight to anyone supporting those who have lost a child, as well as those in the caring professions.



My Review


I’m not one for self-help books and was worried this might be one, but it’s written thoughtfully with insight and has been enlightening and informative. You’d think I’d understand my own grief but I prefer not to dwell on it or try to analyse it. This book has helped me put into words and perspective the losses I’ve suffered.

If you are struggling to sift through your own trauma or trying to support a friend I would suggest you start here.


My Rating

5 stars



A Song for Bill Robinson by C. E. Atkins

Published December 6th 2019 by Pict Publishing


Official Blurb

Tensions are building on the notorious Holds End estate. The local community centre is fighting for survival and the murder of 15-year-old Lewis Matthews remains unsolved… Wannabe teenage singer, Bill Robinson, just got out of hospital after surviving a vicious attack. He thinks he knows who attacked him…and why. When a violent feud escalates between him and local thug Charlie McDonnal, Bill vows to find the killer and help save the community centre by taking part in the local singing contest. Can music bring a shattered community together? And can Bill keep his own demons at bay long enough to win the singing contest and find out who killed Lewis Matthews?


My Review

This is the first in a series and I shall be reading more.

I carried this around during the bank holiday snatching bits here and there as it is so absorbing. It has a very strong cinematic quality, and reminded me of films such as the Full Monty and Brassed Off for its sense of community and strong characters only with a dark edge. It’s also unusual to find a YA novel that doesn’t try to emulate American dialogue. This feels very British and although the characters are insightful and well articulated there is none of that knowing/witty banter that I find so annoying.

If you want a book for your teenager that deals with sex, identity and hopes and dreams in a genuine and beautiful way, then I highly recommend they meet Bill, Summer, Emily, Adam and Charlie.


My Rating

5 stars

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