The Telegraph
Friday , February 15 , 2013
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Paperback Pickings

Terror and tiny skirts

I Kissed a Frog & Other Stories (Pan, Rs 250) by Rupa Gulab is supposed to be “young, fun and feminist”; and if getting even with former lovers, putting other women down, denying yourself good food and wearing handkerchief-sized skirts to work in order to attract the office hottie is your idea of feminism, then this is the book for you. In Gulab’s “feminist” world, women who are ambitious and take life head-on are self-professed “bitches”. She needs to be introduced to the radical idea that ambition perhaps does not make a woman a bitch; it just makes her ambitious, like anyone else. The easy pace of Gulab’s prose and her reasonably good command over the language are the only things this book has going for it. But these are not enough to disguise the bitter taste that regressive stories — passed off as tales of feminism — leave in one’s mouth.

The Fifth Witness (Hachette, Rs 350) by Michael Connelly is the author’s scathing exploration of a country — the United States of America — that is increasingly at the mercy of its banks. Connelly uses the issue of foreclosures to add meat to his plot. His protagonist is the resourceful lawyer, Mickey Haller, who is making a career out of ensuring that his clients aren’t evicted from their homes by banks, scheming bankers and conniving brokers. Haller’s most difficult client is Lisa Trammell who has staged massive demonstrations against the bank trying to evict her, and has also been accused of murdering a mortgage broker. Haller’s defence of Trammell forms the crux of the novel, but Connelly’s skill at story-telling is evident in the manner in which he makes Haller a perfect channel through the murky jungles of American court rooms and shady neighbourhoods.

Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign against al Qaeda (St Martin’s Griffin, Rs 499) by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker would have readers believe, through “never-reported knowledge” that the US strategy for the “war on terror” has dramatically evolved. Schmitt and Shanker are both veteran security correspondents with The New York Times, and they end this book with the manhunt for Osama bin Laden. They pepper their narrative with stories that show how American counterterrorism works on a day-to-day basis. However, while reading this book, one gets a distinct impression that the US has still not devised a proper policy towards al Qaida captives. This goes directly against the authors’ obvious attempts to portray American foreign policy and counterterrorism tactics as foolproof and free of cruelty and malpractice.

Fit Pregnancy: The Perfect Health Plan for You and Your Baby (HarperCollins, Rs 299) by Namita Jain tells you nothing that your mother or a doctor — or any woman you know who has been pregnant — cannot. One does not need to read this book to learn of “morning sickness” and “glowing skin”. Moreover, pregnant women who wonder about mood swings, cravings and whether “too much chocolate will harm the baby” would be better off talking to their own doctors.