Miss Abernathy’s Concise Slave Training Manual

Written by Christina Abernathy

Peel: A very concise and straightforward piece on training or being a slave.

This is a rather quick read focusing on consensual slave and master relationships. This is not a Story of O, this is more of a how to have a m/s relationship in real life. There are details on service, punishment and reward, preparation, ownership, address, contracts, and the like. She also includes a further readings list at the end, and other resources that are a shade dated now. Abernathy emphasizes how much the slave reflects on the owner, and how much work a slave still is for the dominant. Abernathy tends to switch genders around for different roles, unless the role specifies one. The writing is on the warm and witty side, and the attitude leans towards Victorian.

Nibble: “Courtly love, although it is the source of many of our modern notions of romantic love, diverges sharply from its contemporary counterpart in that love is explicitly defined in terms of the lover’s service to his lady.”

I would recommend this as a practical book to anyone interested in m/s relationships.

My Rating: 7 out of 10 red apple scenes

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library.

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Why Is Sex Fun?

Written by Jared Diamond

Peel: A book looking into how human sex differs so much from other animals, and how it may have evolved to get there.

Diamond looks at many oddities of human nature when trying to answer his grand question- why is sex fun? Some things he examines are: lack of lactation in males, menopause, concealed ovulation, and how humans tend to have sex in private. Diamond’s writing style is rather witty and easy to read. This book only contains theoretical answers to the questions it poses, which makes it far more interesting to ponder.

As a note Diamond is just examining heterosexual sex. Also, interestingly Diamond does not touch on any sensual or emotional aspects of why sex might be fun. This is a smaller book, so he doesn’t go deep into any supporting information.

Nibble: “Men have no reliable means of detecting when their partners can be fertilized, nor did women in traditional societies.”

I would recommend this as a quick and fun popular science book.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 hidden green apples

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library.

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Sex for One

Written by Betty Dodson

Peel: A book focused on taking the shame out of masturbation.

One of Dodson’s fantasies is that everyone will be joyfully masturbating on New Years Eve for world peace. So the book may come across as a bit dated in how sex positive times are now. However sex positivity doesn’t necessarily include masturbation positivity. Dodson combats ideas such as ‘well masturbation’s fine and all, but it’s no substitution for the real thing‘. Dodson includes some of her own nude drawings, which were okay; the most interesting were of sixteen very different looking vulvas. Dodson’s writing tends on the autobiographical side, and is rather humorous. This is not primarily a how-to orgasm or masturbate better book. This is more of a why not masturbate, and how to feel comfortable, instead of guilty, doing so. The book also focuses on sexual fulfillment without relying on your partner and how masturbation is the safest sex.

As a warning, Dodson does tend to write in a cis-normative way.

Nibble: “When I was with a lover, I avoided heavy breathing, barely moved my body, and never broke out in a sweat. In order to have “ladylike orgasms,” I always held back because, basically, I was embarrassed about sex.”

I would recommend this to anyone who is not masturbation positive.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 polished red apples

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library.

Betty Dodson’s Blog

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The Beauty Myth

Written by Naomi Wolf

Peel: A rather modern academic book examining how beauty keeps women restrained in relation to: work, culture, religion, sex, hunger and violence.

I found this a great book to read with a grain of salt. The book presents much more of how the beauty myth operates rather than why, or examining the causality behind the beauty myth. In general much of the book reads as intuitively plausible, minus the quasi-conspiracy theory parts. A few generalizations seemed over the top, such as make-up sellers using cult practices to maximally promote their product. There are notes in the back of the book, but I would have found footnotes much more helpful to know while reading where the information is coming from. The strongest chapters were work, hunger, and sex.

On the other hand, Wolf does tend to beat a dead horse with repeating some of her ideas, especially in the beginning. Wolf also very quickly shuts down any argument with measures of beauty correlating to evolution. But it seems that a tiny bit of beauty reasoning might be found here, since cross culturally similar waist to hip ratios are preferred.

All in all this was a powerful read, showing many cases of brutality and unfairness against women. The book is very thought provoking as to what feminism means, and how to try and promote it without backlash.

If a second edition of this book were produced, it would be interesting to examine how stupidity has been eroticised, how the beauty myth has spread further to males, how gender presentation affects the beauty myth, and looking at the beauty myth with respect to queer people. If the beauty myth does exist, beyond the products existing, then I would like to see the causality and how it was created intentionally to keep women out of power explored more. The current version of The Beauty Myth is written and caters to a very straight, middle-class, white, and cis audience.

Nibble: “Having no fat means having no breasts, thighs, hips, or ass, which for once means not having asked for it.”

I would recommend this to any woman who wants to examine their concept of beauty, and any person who wants to think more about this issue.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 nonconventional blue apples

I borrowed a paper copy from the CSPH library.

Naomi Wolf’s Site

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Trout: A True Story of Murder, Teens, and the Death Penalty

Written by Jeff Kunerth

Peel: Centered mainly on the Trout murder in Florida, this piece of creative nonfiction examines giving the death penalty or life in prison to teenagers.

The beginning of the book reads more like a drama- the stage is set, characters are introduced, and the murder unfolds. Kunerth did a lovely job of building up suspense and I was hooked into the book quickly, and finished it in one sitting. The author also got into each of the character’s heads, and you wonder how close their portrayals are to reality. The story certainly encourages thinking about one’s stance on the death penalty in general, and in cases with an adolescent.

Regardless of where you stand on the death penalty though, the narrative was extremely biased. I would have preferred an unbiased account of just facts, or at least both sides of the argument represented equally. Because of how biased the author was, I questioned how true some of the characterizations it presented were. For example, was the investigator Patterson as manipulative and out-for-blood as he’s portrayed?

Nibble: “But in the debate over what we should do with teens who commit horrific crimes, we have to ask whether we want a criminal justice system that acts like a grieving, angry family.”

I would recommend this as an intriguing read, that’s worth critically thinking over.

My Rating: 6 out of 10 compelling red apples

I received an advanced electronic copy from the publisher, University Press of Florida, via NetGalley.

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The Complete Persepolis

Written & Illustrated by Marjane Satrapi

Peel: This is an autobiographical graphic novel based on a girl growing up during the Islamic Revolution, and later going to high school in Vienna.

The first half of the book was much stronger than the second. The first half is examining the revolution through a child’s eyes, and the second is centered on her. The childlike drawings I found compelling in the first half, especially given the heavy subject matter. My expectations were rather high for this book because of all the hype, and I’m rather surprised now that it’s mentioned with Maus.

I expected to hear a little more about Tehran and less about her, especially as she aged, but the opposite occurred. The first half was a child trying to understand her country and contradictions, whereas the second half was her trying to find her identity. I found a brief wikipedia scan on Iran during the 70s to 90s helpful for context. It was interesting to think about how being related to the former rulers of Iran and being in a child in an upper-class liberal family may have shaped her reaction to the Islamic Revolution.

I had mixed feelings about the protagonist. In the beginning of the book, while she’s a child, she’s rather likable, intelligent, and outspoken. As she aged though I couldn’t help but wish she stood up for herself in a less disrespectful manner, but on the other hand the blatant honesty without giving a rosy hue to her past was very powerful. She does a rather awful self-absorbed thing towards the end of the book, and only seems to feel bad as her grandmother was disappointed in her. As much as I loved Satrapi’s honesty, it was rather hard for me to empathize with her after that.

Nibble: “At the age of six I was already sure I was the last prophet.”

I would highly recommend the first half of this as an interesting view of culture, violence, and revolution through a child’s eyes.

My Rating: 6 out of 10 black and white apples

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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change It

By Charles Duhigg

This book is about how to recognize habits, change bad habits, and establish good ones. The title sums up the book nicely, though it doesn’t give the book enough credit for how interesting it is. The book is packed full of stories about individuals and groups changing certain habits and the effects they produce, from how a football team operates to how some doctors operate. The book is more of a survey of how other people changed their habits rather than how you should change yours; it certainly is not a conventional self-help book. I found this greatly contributed positively to the book’s feel which was neither too preachy nor too repetitive. The message itself was repetitive, but the delivery of it, from various situations, remained fresh. The book included a very interesting view of addiction, and for that alone the book is worth a read. This book also changed the way I view certain coincidences, and how they may be linked. For example, I noticed that when I tend to work out consistently, my procrastination also diminishes. Theoretically one could take the habit cycle from this book, and then apply it to where they want to see success. As a warning the theory is simple, but the actual application of it, in changing long term habits, may be difficult- but certainly possible.

I would recommend this book to anyone curious about how deeply habits affect us as individuals, in groups, and as a part of society.

Nibble: “He tried calculating the exact amount of beer he needed to drink in order to work up the confidence to talk to women at parties, but not so many that he would make a fool of himself. (That particular study never seemed to come out right.)”

My Rating: 8 out of 10 similar apples

I received a free advanced paper copy of this book from the First Reads program via Goodreads. On the front cover, it claims the book will be on sale 3.6.12.

8 Bits of Wisdom

By Andy Schindler

This is a self-help book that operates through old video games designed for the western heterosexual male working an office job. There are slightly amusing bits, mostly in which games the author picks to compare to certain life lessons. I actually found the most amusing part to be the foreword and afterword, which are based directly off the author’s life. I also found descriptions about the games were far more interesting than the tongue-in-cheek life lessons.

There are quite a few generalizations throughout the text which I found grating. Schindler tends to divide people into ready made categories, which is probably more of a result of it being a self-help book. There was also a rather odd piece of advise for raising children- that of using bribery to make them behave. To have someone so blatantly inclined towards only doing what directly and short term-wise helps them, doesn’t sound like the foundation of someone I’d want to be remotely friendly with. As a warning there is coarse language in this book, and it came off as natural but unnecessary.

I would recommend this book to a male who’s not offended easily, is looking for some guidance and enjoyed video games as a kid.

Nibble: “You can change your team makeup as you please, and it is important to remember that you and your friends might be shifting into different categories throughout your lives.”

My Rating: 4 out of 10 nostalgic red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.