Monthly Reads - March & Pay It Forward

March was a long month full of cold days and nights so I found there was nothing better than tucking up in bed with a good book and a cuppa. At the start of the month I was still finishing off a couple of reads from February so I was a little behind in getting started with this month's titles. As I mentioned previously I want to 'pay it forward' with my book purchases, passing them on to readers of this blog. If you would like to receive any one of these titles then please let me know which one either by leaving me a comment below, sending me a direct message on Instagram @jenlittlebirdie or emailing me on Sorry, but for postage costs this will be UK only. I'll be randomly selecting a reader towards the end of April but please make sure to leave me some contact details to be able to find you. Last month Debbie was selected to receive my copy of  Celeste Ng's 'Everything I Never Told You' and it will be heading her way soon.

This is what I read in March 2018 -  

The Witch Finder's Sister by Beth Underdown  -  Based on the true story of Matthew Hopkins who persecuted and murdered many women across the South East in his position as Witchfinder General. The story is seen through the eyes of his sister Alice, who has been forced to return home to live with her brother in Essex after the death of her husband and she is also in the early stages of pregnancy.  Once a gentle, quiet child, Matthew is now cruel, vindictive, sullen and troubled. He has been appointed by powerful men to investigate and prosecute women they believe to be engaged with the devil. Alice is shocked at what she discovers about her brother and the power he wields over so many. She does everything she can to stop Matthew and to try to get him to see what he's doing is wrong until she too becomes a victim of his cruelty. This is a haunting and atmospheric read and descriptions of the horrific procedures the victims had to endure are difficult to read yet necessary so that we can understand what happened during this period of history. It's a gripping debut novel that I found fascinating and not one to read on a dark, stormy night! 

Soulful Simplicity - how living with less can lead to so much more by Courtney Carver - if you are interested in simplifying life then you probably already know the blog 'Be More With Less' by Courtney Carver. Diagnosed with MS and struggling to juggle parenthood, home, work and money, Courtney found herself seriously re-evaluating her lifestyle. Her blog is a constant source of inspiration for those looking to declutter their homes, wardrobes and improve their overall wellbeing. I've been a fan for quite some time and was really looking forward to reading the book when it came out. Soulful Simplicity is part autobiography and part self help guide to creating a simpler life. It's not so much of a how to guide, rather a why it works for her and why it could work for you.  It is a book that asks us to think deeply about what matters, to reflect on our priorities and to follow our goals of being happier, healthier and more loving in life. It's a reflective, gentle read and if you are thinking about slowing down and simplifying then it's a great read to help you on your journey. I enjoyed the book as I love reading how others have come to simplicity and how their lives have changed because of it and I found myself completely inspired by Courtney's story. I will say that it's more a book that I dipped into rather read all the way through. I wasn't keen on some of the religious undertones (as I'm not religious in any way) but it does make some great points about letting go of things emotionally and physically, redefining success and making positive lifestyle changes. 

The Year of Less - how I stopped shopping, gave away my belongings and discovered life is worth more than anything you can buy in a store by Cait Flanders - Again, you may know Cait's blog where she has detailed her journey of becoming debt free and the invaluable advice she offers to help others in this area. But her new book is very different from her blog as it is much more memoir than a self help guide to simple living or saving money.  In her twenties, Cait found herself unable to stop accumulating stuff, she binged on junk food and was dependent on alcohol to get through some tough times. Feeling like her life was never good enough, Cait consumed more and more, racking up huge debts on her credit cards on purchases she didn't really need. Realising that she needed to take back control, Cait paid off more than $28,000 in debt and started to save rather than spend.  Disappointed that she couldn't save as much as she wanted to she decided to challenge herself to a year of not shopping, only purchasing the necessities for daily living. During this time she also decluttered her home, learned how to fix things rather than throw them away, researched zero waste living and stopped mindlessly consuming television.  Sadly during the year Cait found herself struggling with her parents divorce, the breakdown of a relationship as well as the death of both of her beloved dogs but found that the new habits she had adopted helped to stop her from turning back to her usual vices.  The book details her progress, her failures and what she learns about herself along the way. Cait's story is unflinchingly honest, insightful, poignant and I found it completely relatable.  It's a book for anyone who wants to rethink their spending habits, simplify life and become a more mindful consumer.