Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Tour, Review & Giveaway: The Bird House by Kelly Simmons

The Bird House by Kelly Simmons
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publish Date: February 1, 2011
Trade Paperback, 280 pages 
FictionISBN: 978-1439160930

My Review:
Why I read this: This is where I admit I was entranced by the tranquility of the cover first and then read the blurb and love family secrets stories so I knew I wanted to read this one.  But doesn't the cover remind you of nice spring/summer afternoons sitting outside watching the birds?  Don't let it fool you -there isn't much tranquility in this book.

My thoughts:
This is one of those books I'm not even sure where to begin.  Just when you think you have gotten to the crux of the situation in this one, the author pulls another surprise out of her bag of tricks.  I read this in one sitting, it reads quickly, easily and elegantly.  The writing is great, the plotting is amazing and the characters are intriguing.  What more can you ask for in a book?

The Bird House, at it's core is about family secrets. We get to see these secrets through the eyes of Ann who is a grandmother now and trying to connect with her granddaughter, Ellie through a school project at first and then just trying to keep the connection going.  Ann has been through a lot as we read her journal in the present and back in the 60s as well.  The journal entries shed light on Ann's life as she is struggling with the family secrets and with the dementia that is starting to creep into her life.

And it seems like the family secrets are destined to keep on as Ann learns things about her daughter-in-law and her son as well, through Ellie and through everyday life.  The insights are what make this book.  The reader gets a glimpse of everything on the surface, how life looks to others and to ourselves at the time we are living it.  Then the insight of reading the journal 40 years later comes into play or seeing the life through the eyes of child, really gets to the heart of what is going on.  I loved the insight.  I loved how it made all the lives that are intertwined in this book three-dimensional and something you could see from several sides.   The lives come to life on the pages of the book.  You feel for each character.  Even when something seems totally wrong, you can see something in it that makes you understand why the character did what they did.

The characters in this book came to life for me, especially Ann and Ellie, who the book focuses on.  Ann's journal entries really help you see the whole person even as she is starting to forget things as she is getting older.  Ellie is a great foil to the aging Ann, not just in the age difference, but in the fact that while Ann is struggling to understand, Ellie just takes things as she sees them and doesn't look any further than that.  And sometimes that is what we need to do as Ann learns, just take things at face value.  I felt close to both of these characters and felt the connection that I like to have when I read books.

Ms. Simmons has a true gift for writing this type of novel.  I look forward to going back and reading Standing Still now as well.  The Bird House to me was amazing, and what I loved even more is it is written on an easy to understand level.  No lofty language or things you really have to study to understand.  No, The Bird House is written as real life and that is what makes the book a wonderful book, to me.

My Rating: 4.75/5.0

About the Book:
Every family has its secrets. But when you are suddenly the matriarch, tending the dark fires of memory, and your own mind is fading, who do you dare to share them with? Your diary, or your eight-year-old granddaughter?

Interweaving diaries penned forty years apart, Kelly Simmons’s captivating second novel, The Bird House, blends the fierce voice of Ann Biddle, a woman struggling to bond with her only grandchild, Ellie, while railing against the ravages of early dementia, with her point-of-view as a young wife and mother. We witness the secrets of Ann’s family and her grand-daughter and daughter-in-law’s through every lens — from the clarity of the rearview mirror to the haze of Alzheimer’s. And we see her grappling through the ‘60’s with sleep deprivation, breast cancer, her own mother’s death, a passionate affair, and a tragedy that leaves her stunned until, four decades later, her whip-smart granddaughter unwittingly sheds a burst of light on the family’s shadowy history.

A subtly tense, darkly psychological tug of war between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, present and past, The Bird House is a moving treatise on family, love, and memories—both lost and found. And proves a worthy successor to her book club favorite debut, Standing Still.

About the Author: 

Kelly Simmons stunned readers and critics alike when she used the premise of a kidnapped woman suffering from panic disorder as a springboard for her debut novel, Standing Still (Atria Books; Washington Square Press). Tied to a bed in a strange motel room, Claire Cooper is forced to lie still and contemplate not only the reason for the assault on her family, but also her marriage, her role as a mother, and the source of her crippling anxiety.  Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review calling it "An electrifying debut. The perfect read for a stormy night." And both Entertainment Weekly and the New York Daily News praised Simmons for her narrative skill and writing style.

The former journalist and creative ad director admits that she's obsessed with the things that she's afraid of.  She says she has a fascination with gritty stuff--crime, police investigations, mysteries, and the unknown.  Fortunately, she uses her talent as an absorbing writer to meld her fascinationinto her novels, shedding a unique feminine, suburban, and maternal light on the things that disturb us all.

Now with her second novel, The Bird House (A Washington Square Press trade paperback original; $14.00, February 1, 2011) she tells the story of one women's inexorable slide into dementia and her growing bond with her granddaughter.  Together they uncover family secrets of both the past and present that have the power to either destroy--or heal.

Simmons has a great talent for bringing her characters to life with all of their flaws and frailties, which makes The Bird House the perfect novel for book group discussion.

Kelly Simmons is a former journalist and an accomplished advertising creative director who specializes in marketing to women.  She is also the author of Standing Still. Kelly currently lives with her family outside of Philadelphia.


The author, Kelly Simmons is offering two autographed copies of The Bird House to two lucky entrants on my blog.  Open to the US/Canada only.  I will run this one through next Wednesday March 23rd at 11:59pm EDT.  Simply fill out the form below to be entered.

If you can't see the form, you can find it here.

Kelly’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, February 15th: Books Like Breathing
Wednesday, February 16th: Lori’s Reading Corner
Thursday, February 17th: Colloquium
Monday, February 21st: Tina’s Book Reviews
Tuesday, February 22nd: Luxury Reading
Thursday, February 24th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Tuesday, March 1st: Amused By Books
Wednesday, March 2nd: Life in the Thumb
Monday, March 7th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Wednesday, March 9th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Friday, March 11th: Life In Review
Monday, March 14th: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, March 16th: My Reading Room
Monday, March 21st: Debbie’s Book Bag
Friday, March 25th: Rundpinne

FTC Information: I received this book through the publisher for a TLC Tour for a honest review.  I have Amazon links on my review pages but I do not make any money from these because of NC laws.  I put them solely for people to check out the books on a retail site.