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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was completely surprised how very much I liked this book
I very rarely enjoy novels, but I have recently gotten into knitting and thought it might enjoy a knitting-related novel. I certainly did enjoy it, although to be truthful knitting is a minor part of it.

This is the story of Jo, who is told by her husband Nick that he loves someone else and wants a divorce, and when they fight over this, he drives off angry...
Published on April 25, 2009 by Suzanne Amara

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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN
Novels with protagonists engaged in every "crafty" endeavor from knitting and quilting to scrapbooking and wine making seem to be the order of the day and authors like Kate Jacobs, Jennifer Chiaverini, Debbie Macomber and Ellen Crosby have managed to build quite a successful following with these subjects. Enter British author and knitting diva Gil McNeil with her...
Published on April 25, 2009 by Red Rock Bookworm


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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was completely surprised how very much I liked this book, April 25, 2009
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I very rarely enjoy novels, but I have recently gotten into knitting and thought it might enjoy a knitting-related novel. I certainly did enjoy it, although to be truthful knitting is a minor part of it.

This is the story of Jo, who is told by her husband Nick that he loves someone else and wants a divorce, and when they fight over this, he drives off angry and winds up dead in a car crash. This all happens at the very beginning of the book, so I am not giving away a secret! Jo decides to take her two young boys and live in a seaside town and take over a yarn shop owned by her grandmother.

There is not a whole lot of plot to this book---which I liked. I kept waiting for dramatic developments or overwhelming romance or sad happenings, but they didn't arrive. Instead, we are just told the story of the first year of Jo's new life.

Several things made this book for me. First, Jo's sons are so well written about. It's very rare to find an author that can write dialogue of young children that rings true, but this author can. Secondly, all characters are given importance. I started to worry when I realized Jo had several famous friends, because sometimes then a book turns into their story, and starts having all kinds of glamourous happenings and totally loses me. That didn't happen her. The celebrities are well written, but so are more minor characters like Elsie, who works in the shop, and Jo's mother, who lives in Italy and only appears in a small part of the book.

This novel is quite English, and sometimes that is harder reading for an American audience, but I didn't find that to be the case here.

It's mentioned on the back blurb that the author is working on another book to follow this one. I really do hope it gets published. I could picture this being a whole series of books about Jo and her sons and friends and family, and I would love to go along for the journey.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN, April 25, 2009
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Novels with protagonists engaged in every "crafty" endeavor from knitting and quilting to scrapbooking and wine making seem to be the order of the day and authors like Kate Jacobs, Jennifer Chiaverini, Debbie Macomber and Ellen Crosby have managed to build quite a successful following with these subjects. Enter British author and knitting diva Gil McNeil with her contribution to this eclectic mix, The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club.

McNeil has chosen to encumber her heroine Jo Mackenzie with the quadruple whammy of a husband who asks for a divorce then promptly goes out and is killed in an auto accident leaving her with a house he has secretly taken a second mortgage on, little in the way of monetary reserves, no job and two feisty boys to raise.

Jo decides that the solution to her immediate problem is to leave London, return with her sons to the seaside town of her youth and begin life anew as the owner of her grandmother's out of date knitting/yarn shop.

Needless to say, Jo updates the ambiance of the shop, starts a "Stitch and Bitch" group which draws an unusual mixture of clientele, becomes BFF with an A-list movie star, (Julie Roberts knits, could it be her?) becomes a step-mommy of sorts to an unruly dog, and tangles with the town's overbearing PTA maven.

There are no serial killers lurking in the fog, there is no crime to solve nor is our heroine ever forced to defend herself using her knitting needles as a weapon. This is a relatively simple story about marriage, motherhood, coping with the roadblocks life throws at you, building friendships, and the daily routine of everyday life in a small town. In summation: "Move this book to the top of your summer beach read list. It won't tax your grey matter, but it will definitely amuse you for a few hours".
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could Have Used A Better Title, July 23, 2009
First of all the title of the book really bothered me. Too much of a take off of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. But I read the book anyway. And with the British humor that runs though this book, I am glad I did.

Jo Mackenzie gave up a very promising career in television broadcasting to raise her two boys while her husband dashes around the world to cover international stories. On his last visit home he informs Jo that he would like a divorce, but the wanker gets himself killed in an automobile accident and Jo is left with two young rambunctious children and not sure how or if she should actually mourn his loss.

When she find that they are in severe debt and a second mortgage had been taken out on their home without her knowledge; what is she to do but pull up stakes, buy her grandmothers knitting shop and start over again.

With the help of her best friend and the advice of her grandmother and new friends, Jo sets out to make a new life for herself, her incorrigible boys, the neighborhood dog and a glamourous movie star that had befriended her.

Not your typical "Oh, poor me" type of book, Jo is a refreshing character that has learned to make the best of what she has and not to dwell too much on the past. It would be nice if her boys could have a father, but together they are a family and that is good enough.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So Much Potential - So Disappointing, April 16, 2009
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I am a big fan of British Women's fiction, which is usually filled with humor, much as life should be! Even being completely not interested in knitting, the editorial reviews really caught my attention. I love authors like Sophie Kinsella and Elizabeth Young, and expected something similar from this author.

The general premise I had before reading was that it would take the heroine through the emotions of her husband's announcing he wanted a divorce and his immediate death, her struggles with single motherhood, and rebuilding her life, and positive changes along the way. Though I found the storyline promising, when reading my mind would keep asking annoying questions, and the story holes were never patched.

Some examples:

I expected at least one major meltdown from the emotional rollercoaster of having your husband tell you he's having an affiar, then driving off and dying in an accident. It was mentioned a couple times, but we all know there would be at least one sorrow drowning sessions with a friend. But that's probably the 'stiff upper lip' British thing.

The yarn shop seemed to virtually run itself and magically even change clientele from old biddied to younger, hip urban women, even though she had no experience in business and merely changed window displays and stuck a few flyers up. Where's the struggles with rebuilding a business that was previously run by a couple of 80+ biddies? It all perfectly fell into place. So far from reality to anyone who's ever owned their own business!

Stories always seem more hollow when part of the character's transformation is due to having new friendships with celebrities. Real, solid 'feet on the floor' relationships are not with celebs, but with regular people. Yes, celebs can be regular people, too, but really, Jo would have been much more grounded had her friendships been formed with solid role models instead of flighty famous people.

Those kids - oh my!Jo's life could only have been improved if she took some time away from herself to really concentrate on making those kids behave! I never like stories that make the mom's who have their kids under any level of control as the 'bad guys'. Every school does have both parent and children cliques, but it seemed like she had something against every other parent but one. And often, the ones who 'seem' to have good kids are all about apperance, but there are generally quite a few parents that have a semblance of control of their family life and kids, even other single parents.

Language - way too colorful for the audience. I don't know too many women with mouths like that, and those that I do know are not ones I want to read books about. And I always hate double standards - if you're going to use words like that, don't expect your kids not to. You have to be the example.

Where was the romance? A lust filled day with a famous photographer (of beautiful models) who confesses his love for another woman, during a family holiday in Venice where she was meant to be helping her parents entertain guests. Not at all romantic. So the only hint of romance comes at the end, when the really nice helpful guy she's ignored all through the book finally rescues her unruly child. She's a very shallow, self-absorbed character, that doesn't think about the people that truly were there for her.

I usually do not give bad reviews, but this book has just been bugging me for days after I read it. The storyline could have been a great one, but the above and many more issues just loom there, killing it off completely. So my two stars are strictly for the idea, not at all for the places the story went.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I :heart: Jo, October 5, 2009
I am a knitter and picked this book up because I love yarn and I love British chick lit. I am very glad that I did. What a great book to read curled up on the couch.

Jo Mackenzie, like me, is a single mom not by her choice. And like me, she is doing it her own way with the help of her friends and with her rolling her eyes the entire time.

What I love about this book is how real it is. Her husband was a jerk. Her mom is crazy. Her kids are wild. Her friends are great. The PTA president is a witch. You know, the stuff we all deal with everyday.

I hope Gil McNeil has more books up her sleeve. I enjoy her. I have a long list of British authors that I love and she is now on the list.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Take care - you could be knitting twice, September 3, 2010
By 
grace poole "gracepoole" (Armadale, Victoria Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club (Paperback)
Take care fellow crafty people you could be repeating yourself. This book is also available under the title "Divas don't knit". I find it very annoying of Amazon not to warn readers that the same book has more than one title. I liked the book (and the sequel Needles and Pearls) - good light reading and the portrayal of both the children and how mums cope to be touching without being too sentemental or cute. A little predictable but that's the nature of the genre.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I think we really belong now", April 24, 2009
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British author Gil McNeil's book is not a book about knitting, in the most obvious sense. Nor is it the book you would expect from the story outline. Former BBC editor Jo Mackenzie is scrambling to make a new life after her husband asks for a divorce and then dies in a car crash. With her two young boys she leaves London, moves to her hometown at the seashore, and buys her grandmother's fusty knitting shop. She changes a few things in the shop, makes friends as one does in a small town, and rides the wave of knitting's new popularity. A year later she finds life worth living and love worth seeking.

Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club, The is full of absurd characters and irreverent British humor; if you are familiar with the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, you are thinking along the right track. Though Jo is more centered than Patsy and Edina, the AbFab girls, she lives in a world with that sort of outrageous behavior and explosive language. Her encounter with a film megastar, for all the girlish friendship they share, has the surreal quality of Patsy and Edina's status-conscious strivings.

You could never claim that Beach Street reflects real life, unless you are seeing real life distorted in a funhouse mirror. A horrific family Christmas in Italy, a dog that crosses Marmaduke with the Hound of the Baskervilles, kids in the slightly less-sentimental British fashion, a crazy promiscuous friend from the BBC, media frenzies...and through it all, Jo just trying to make a home, survive her family, and get through the anger and pain of her husband's betrayal and death. If realism is what you want in a book, better look elsewhere! As for the knitting theme, the knitting mostly happens in the background and the shop is a focus a lot of the book's action and dialogue, but knitting? not really a lot.

But if you don't mind characters whose language would curl your hair, and if you can just go along on Jo's hectic ride through life, you may find yourself laughing out loud at this book, as I did. You may decide that a bereaved woman who has no time to wallow can get stronger while her attention is demanded elsewhere. And you may decide that a story this absurd and irreverent can show a different way to knit up a fractured family.

This book was published in Britain under the title Divas Don't Knit.

Linda Bulger, 2009
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, December 5, 2009
By 
Camy Tang (San Jose, CA) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed this novel. It made me laugh from the second page of chapter one, which is always a good sign.

While the writing was funny, the storyline itself took a while to get going. The first half of the book was a bit slow, but by the middle things started picking up, and then I couldn't put the book down--as in, letting dinner burn because I couldn't stop reading.

While it is about a woman taking over a yarn shop, the book doesn't really have that much about knitting--but enough knitting to keep knitting fans happy.

At first I thought the book was a bit episodic--highly entertaining, but episodic--until this one paragraph near the end where I had this "Ah-ha" moment and I was like, "Oh, so this is what she's really been looking for throughout the book but didn't realize she needed." And then I didn't think the book had really been that episodic after all.

There were a few too little dialogue tags--sometimes I didn't know who was speaking--and what with the Stitch and Bitch group, the kids' parents, the heroines' in-laws and extended family, there were just a LOT of characters, and at times I couldn't quite remember who was who.

But the main cast of characters around the heroine is absolutely fantastic--I loved Grace the best, with Ellen a close second. The heroine herself is like Everywoman, struggling and doubting herself and doing the best she can. Her kids are hilarious, and she's amazingly tolerant of the little monsters at times, but her love for them also shines through.

In all, a very satisfying read. There are several F-bombs, so I wouldn't recommend this for junior highers, but it's an engaging, humorous women's fiction that made it worthwhile to burn dinner.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming and realistic - Highly Recommended!!, May 21, 2009
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Jo Mackenzie is left to pick up the pieces after her traveling, TV reporter husband suddenly asks her for a divorce - and a few hours later is killed in an auto accident. She is left to act the part of the grieving widow, when she is more angry than anything else. In order to spend more time with her two young boys she sells her London home and moves to the seaside town where her grandmother lives and takes over her knitting shop.

Her grandmother's one employee, Elsie, stays on despite the fact that she is resistant to many of the changes Jo is making, including naming their knitting club the "Stitch and Bitch" group.

Jo isn't lonely at the sea. Whereas in London she barely knew her neighbors, here she is surrounding by a wealth of colorful characters, as well as her celebrity TV-anchor best friend, Ellen who makes the two-hour drive from London often.

As Jo picks up the pieces of her life, she is pleasantly surprised by how content she is. She never expected there would be another man in her life so soon.

Although readers who knit will certainly enjoy this read, knowing how to knit certainly isn't a prerequisite. Anyone who loves charming stories, the sea, and strong women will be enchanted by this novel. The author bio states that she is working on a sequel to The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club. I can hardly wait! This is highly recommended and although this is a wonderful beach read for the summer, it certainly could also be read by a warm fire in the winter. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm Not a Knitter but I'm Hooked!, April 28, 2009
By 
S. D. Fischer (Washington, DC USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club is much better than you might guess from the somewhat unwieldy title. It focuses on how a married mother of two young boys whose husband is killed moments after confessing adultery composes herself and moves on - to a new town and new life, with new challenges.

I liked that the book explores a different scenario - that of a widow who grieves for husband while trying to deal with anger from his betrayal and help her young sons cope with the sudden loss of their dad. She has to build him up for the boys so their positive memories of him are reinforced and even embelished.

The plot is somewhat predictable but the author's character development is very good. You cheer the victories of the main character and her friends, get exasperated by the yarn store clerk Elsie even though she means well, and think hateful thoughts about the "Alpha Mom" head of the PTA whose children can do no wrong. The various characters are easy to keep track of since they were each distinct and fully fleshed out.

I am not a knitter so I was (needlessly) worried that there would be endless detailed descriptions of knitting. There was no technical discussion of how to knit or anything like that which went over my head or made my eyes glaze over. The yarn is described in vibrant colors and textures, and finished products are described well (but not in excrutiating detail).

This was an enjoyable book and I look forward to the sequel.
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The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club
The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil (Paperback - December 22, 2009)
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