Book Report - Dragonfly in Amber and Secret Daughter

I'm going to be doubling up on my book reviews, or I'm never going to get through them all! This 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge is fun, but it's hardcore. The next two I checked off the list were "A book with more than 500 pages" and "A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit" with Diana Gabaldon's Dragonfly in Amber and Shilpi Somaya Gowda's Secret Daughter respectively.

First off, a re-read for me of Dragonfly in Amber (aka Outlander Book 2) by one of my favorite authors, Diana Gabaldon. I figured if I had to read a 500 page book, it should be one that I enjoyed and was fast paced. So, instead of taking my chances on something new, I opted for an old favorite. It has been a few years since I read Dragonfly in Amber, and now I'll be all refreshed for when Season 2 of Outlander starts back up. Oh, and just for the record, this book was 743 pages!!
It's been many years since Claire Randall was in Scotland, but she's finally returned with the intent of sharing with her now grown daughter, Brianna, the incredible circumstances that surrounded her last visit there. As Claire struggles with how to tell Brianna about the mysterious standing stones and how they transported her through time and into the arms of 18th century Highlander, Jamie Fraser, she reminisces of her and Jamie's time in France just prior to the Jacobite uprising of 1745. Louix XV is King of France, and Bonnie Prince Charlie is in Paris gearing up to take back the English crown. Knowing he is doomed to fail, Claire and Jamie are doing everything they can to stop the uprising in an attempt to save the lives of their friends, family, and their beloved Scotland.

I've read my fair share of "series" novels, and there are many that start out really, really strong, but can't keep the momentum going into the second book. Dragonfly in Amber is not one of them. I had forgotten how very good this book is. With all the set-up and falling in love stuff already established in book number one, Dragonfly in Amber is a pure adventure story; and a good one at that. There's Kings and courts, street gangs and witches, duels and battles; all of that, plus, you'll be turning the pages as fast as you can to find out how and why Claire ends up back in her present time. It's just as much fun as the first book (maybe even more) and trust me, those 743 pages will just fly by!

Next up was Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.
In a small Indian village that favors sons over daughters, Kavita gives birth to a baby girl. Knowing it is the only way to save her, Kavita gives away her daughter to an orphanage hoping she will have a good life. She never forgets her little girl, and wonders about her daily; even after she finally gives birth to the son her husband always wanted.

On the other side of the world, Somer, a white American doctor married to an Indian man decides to adopt a child after discovering she can never have children. Initially excited by the idea, Somer travels to India with her husband to pick up their new daughter, the same daughter Kavita had to give away. Now, in a foreign place, surrounded by her husband's foreign family, Somer soon realizes she will always be the outsider in their little family of three. Determined to do her best though, they return to America. Somer continually struggles over the years as she raises a daughter who does not resemble her at all, and attempts to balance the world she is comfortable in with the one that continually calls out to her daughter.

I found Secret Daughter to be a really moving story. I'm continually amazed that there are still places in this world that treat women and girls so terribly; where they can so easily kill a newborn child just because it is female. It's insane. I thought Kavita was a really complex character. She was extremely brave to risk everything in getting her daughter to the orphanage, the only way to save her life; yet not brave enough to ever leave her husband and attempt a better life for herself. She knows her place in her world, and does what is necessary to survive. I'm glad the story continued to follow her over the years. It was interesting to see the aftermath of her decision and what her life ends up being like after she finally gives birth to the cherished son.

Somer, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointing character. Having married an Indian man, I was a little confused how she could have so much contempt for that culture. She came off as a little selfish and childish. Yet, at the same time, it irked me that her daughter and husband gave her such a hard time about everything all the time. I mean, despite her shortcomings, she did put her all into raising her daughter and sacrificed a lot. It wasn't until Somer realizes that the things she was sacrificing were in fact the things she needed to make her a complete and happy person, that things eventually fall into place for her and her family. They didn't fall into place in a way that I was expecting though, so I found the ending a bit unsatisfying. Not bad, just not the direction I would have gone.

All in all, I liked Secret Daughter. It wasn't a perfectly told story, but it was a story that needs to be told.

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