Sunday, July 14, 2013

Book Review: Casting the Net

~I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review.~

When I was offered a copy of Julie McDowall's new book, Casting the Net-Volume 1: True Adventures In Online Dating to review, I was a little skeptical of whether it would fit in with my other ramblings.  This is, after all, a sex and marriage blog, but after a few moments I decided that a book about the adventures and misadventures in dating totally goes with sex blog.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

A little bit about it: Casting the Net is a shortish book that chronicles Julie McDowall's first experiences in the online dating scene, from trying out different dating sites to the dates themselves and their aftermath.  Sometimes the tales are hilariously painful, sometimes painfully hilarious, but always entertaining.

What I loved:  The writing style here isn't the typical stiff, formal, and perhaps even self-important ramblings you may expect from a serious autobiography, but instead has a delightful, informal, blog-style.  Of course, that's not surprising since some of the tales began their life in her dating blog.  It reads like your best friend is explaining her latest romantic disaster.

Ms. McDowall's dating choices are truly interesting.  She doesn't just bounce from Boring Man 1 to Boring Man 2 to Boring Man 3, but instead presents the reader with a true cast of what can only be called characters.  How about a lying clown?  A melancholy comedian?  A kinky psychology lecturer/amateur actor that wants to have a baby, like, now?  And that's just to name a few.

Since she dates a wide variety of people, she also witnesses and experiences a range of hazards that come with dating.  She writes about everything from broken dates, hurt feelings, and adult tantrums to accidentally getting drunk because of nervousness, differences in sexual desires, and separate life goals.  Even though she experiences so much, she never once gets on her high horse to give advice.  What lessons we may or may not gleam from her tales is our business.  I like that.

To be honest, for a while I thought the author was a bit shallow.  She clearly gives more than a passing thought about potential dates' occupations.  How terrible!  Why should she care that so-and-so is actually a janitor?  And then I realized that she's not shallow.  She's honest.  If I was currently dating, what the man did for a living would certainly have a bearing on my opinion of him as a potential partner.  I may just lack the conviction to say so out loud.  In her writings, she has no problem saying what she liked and what she would not tolerate.

What I didn't: Here's where it gets a bit tricky.  In the early pages of the book, she talks about dating a clown--I mean a literal clown with big shoes--and says that she was "intrigued, despite his ginger hair." I read such disdain into those words that I thought, surely, she must be talking about his clown wig.  A bit later she says of him, "...on the downside, he had ginger hair."'re clearly not talking about the wig.  I was really, really confused about what the issue with red hair is.  It's stated in such an obvious way that I should just know what the problem is with red hair.  Of course, when I looked over at my redhead husband, I couldn't help but feel insulted.  This was early enough in the book and I was bothered enough by it that if I had not promised a review, I would have put the book down and not read any further.  Any author that was going to be so harsh without reason on redheads was just not OK to me.

Since this is a UK author, I went to some of my friends from the UK and asked if there was an issue with red hair across the pond.  Each friend told me that in the UK, red hair is not exactly considered an attractive trait.  That's baffling to me.  Different cultural ideas, I guess.  But then, the author also has red hair, so I'm still not overly sure what the issue is.

The only other time where my hackles raised a bit was when she mentioned finding a Christian CD in a date's glove compartment and immediately asks him if he's some sort of "Bible basher."  *sigh*  Let me very briefly explain why it bothered me a bit.  If you haven't picked up on this, I'm a sex blogger.  Since I do talk about sex, other bloggers automatically assume that I am not religious at all and proceed to bash my own religion to me.  They assume that religious people, particularly Christians, are automatically evil, stupid, judgmental, or all of the above.  Fighting the (often wrong) assumption of sexuality, personality, and religion gets exhausting.  If I had not experienced so much of the sentiment very recently, I probably would have just rolled my eyes and thought nothing more of it.  Still, I couldn't help wonder how I would react if a date looked in my glove compartment, ignored my Mumford & Sons and Flogging Molly CDs and chose to focus on why I also own Rich Mullens and OC Supertones.

Final thought:  I ended up loving this book more than I thought I would.  It's funny and painful and embarrassing.  Sometimes I wanted to hug her and tell her that it's OK.  Sometimes I wanted to reach through the screen, shake her and screech, "What's wrong with you?!  This is a really, really bad idea!"  But isn't feeling anything, whether it's embarrassment, rage, or delight evidence of a great story?

Julie McDowell is a gifted storyteller and I look forward to seeing more from her.  If you'd like to see more of her, you can visit her site!

~I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review.~

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