Joanne Owen - Editorial Expert

About Joanne Owen

Joanne Owen’s lifelong love of reading and writing began when she was growing up in Pembrokeshire, and very much wished that witches (and Mrs Pepperpot) were real. An early passion for culture, story and folklore led Joanne to read archeology and anthropology at St John’s, Cambridge, after which she worked as a bookseller, and led the UK children’s book buying team for a major international retailer. During this time, Joanne also wrote children’s book previews and features for The Bookseller, covering everything from the value of translated fiction, to the contemporary YA market. Joanne later joined Bloomsbury’s marketing department, where she had the pleasure of working on epic Harry Potter launches at Edinburgh Castle and the Natural History Museum, and launching Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. After enjoyable spells as Marketing Director for Macmillan Children’s Books and Consumer Marketing Manager for Walker Books, Joanne went freelance, primarily working for multi-award-winning independent children’s publisher, Nosy Crow.

Alongside her publishing career, Joanne has written several books for children/young adults. She’s now a fulltime reviewer, workshop presenter and writer, working on YA novels with a strong basis in diverse folklore from around the world, as well as fiction for younger readers (in which witches are very much real).

Latest Reviews By Joanne Owen

The Country of Others
Beginning as a young French woman moves to Morocco after WWII, Leila Slimani’s The Country of Others, the first in a trilogy, parallels a personal struggle to lead a free life with a nation’s fight for independence. It’s a beautiful, immersive story of conflicts between genders, cultures, classes and generations that sweeps you into its lyrical detail and honesty. After the Liberation, a free-spirited French woman leaves Alsace for a new life with Amine, her Moroccan husband, who’d served as a soldier in France. As Mathilde later explains (the novel is not ... View Full Review
Such a Sweet Singing
Complied by novelist and short story writer Kirsty Dunn, with its title taken from a Gertrude Stein poem, Such a Sweet Singing is a soul-stirring collection of poems that have been chosen for their power to empower women. Sharing female voices that sing through the centuries - from Sappho through to contemporary writers - it’s a volume to savour and return to. A book to share and gift.  As Dunn sets out in her lucid, rousing introduction, “we go to poetry to be nourished”, and so she’s selected poems that might nourish women ... View Full Review
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty
Brimming, barely contained, with bone-deep grief and all-consuming awakenings of the sexual and soulful kind, Akwaeke Emezi’s You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty is a uniquely compelling story about bravely risking setting lives aflame for love, for a chance to embrace a new, fulfilling life. Five years have passed since Feyi’s husband died in a car accident. Though still grieving, her life is beginning to shift. She’s getting herself together as an artist in Brooklyn and, with the encouragement of her straight-talking, loving best friend, she’s ready to have ... View Full Review
The Department of Sensitive Crimes
The first in Alexander McCall Smith's Detective Varg series, The Department of Sensitive Crimes introduces readers to the whimsical delights of what might be termed “cosy Scandi crime” (Scandi noir it ain’t), with endearing philosophical musings on life, love, and human nature coming courtesy of detective Ulf Varg. Working in Malmo's Department of Sensitive Crimes, Ulf makes for an utterly endearing, intriguing protagonist. As is often the way with detectives, he has his personal issues, but in Ulf’s case we’re not talking a dark past of addiction, difficult divorces, and strained relationships ... View Full Review
The Talented Mr Varg
If you’re looking to be absorbed and entertained by a series that delivers delightful escapism, endearingly oddball characters, and a gentle sense of suspense, look no further than Alexander McCall Smith's Detective Varg series - Scandi crime delivered in decidedly introspective, whimsically amusing style. The Talented Mr Varg, the second book in the series, sees the eponymous hero further engaged in thought-provoking self-reflection as a result of his psychoanalyst referring him to group therapy. Meanwhile, back at the ranch (namely, Malmo’s police Department of Sensitive Crimes), Ulf finds himself in a sensitive situation when one ... View Full Review
The Cats We Meet Along the Way
When dynamic independent children’s publisher Guppy Books put out a call for submissions from unpublished, un-agented writers in 2020, Nadia Mikail answered with The Cats We Meet Along the Way - a poignant debut with a punch-packing, end-of-the-world set-up, and unconditional love at its heart. Through its deeply endearing characters, this tells a stirring story of family finding a way through loss, loneliness and feeling abandoned to embrace what’s really important. Until the Announcement “Aisha had been a seventeen-year-old student, who treasured her lie-ins and whose mother shouted about breakfast to wake her up. ... View Full Review
When Women Were Dragons
Otherworldly, yet rooted in patriarchal realities, Kelly Barnhill‘s When Women Were Dragons is a storytelling masterwork. Set from the 1950s, it presents a magnificent maelstrom of fire-breathing women who refuse to keep quiet, exposing the trauma of enforced silence, and shining a blazing light on how vital it is to transcend imposed shame and live your own way. “I was four years old when I first saw a dragon. I was four years old when I first learned to be silent about dragons. Perhaps this is how we learn silence — an absence of words, ... View Full Review
The Man with the Silver Saab
An alluring blend of English and Scandi wit and whimsy, Alexander McCall Smith’s Detective Varg series is an addictive joy. The Man with the Silver Saab, the third in the sequence, sees Ulf, of Malmo’s Department of Sensitive Crimes, fall for a colleague as he tries to solve a case involving a respected art historian who’s been implicated in fraudulent misidentification.   As always, Ulf’s hearing-impaired dog, Martin, is prominent. In this instance, the novel kicks off with an unfortunate incident involving Martin and an aggressive squirrel that ... View Full Review
Things I Know
Haunted by her mother’s death, and now uprooted from Limerick to a rural village, 18-year-old Saoirse is desperate to leave school and start her life afresh. Her tremendously tough journey through guilt and anxiety - quite brilliantly related with raw compassion by Helena Close - makes for an engaging, thought-provoking, moving read that sheds light on the realities of depression while offering honest glimmers of hope. Just ahead of sitting her sitting the Leaving Certificate, Saoirse’s ex-boyfriend commits suicide. It’s no secret that she cheated on him with his best friend, and she’... View Full Review
Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl
Brimming with inspiring messages about shedding shame and feeling positive about sex, and driven by a magnificent heroine whose journey to selfhood enlightens as it entertains, Joya Goffney’s Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl is laden with heart, hilarity and a whole lot of helpful information. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also infused with feminist magic - what begins as a 17-year-old’s quest to “fix” herself to get her guy back becomes a joyous journey of self-discovery that sees a sister doing it for herself. “I love ... View Full Review
The House of Marvellous Books
Drawing on her experience of working in small publishing houses, Fiona Vigo Marshall’s The House of Marvellous Books will elicit knowing chuckles and roars from industry insiders - think fractious cover and acquisition meetings, pre-book-fair frenzies, authors’ idiosyncrasies and copious cake - plus there’s plenty of jaunty drama and human interest to satisfy readers from beyond the book world.  Told from the point of view of junior editor Mortimer Blackeley-Smith as he logs the daily downs of his workplace (there aren’t many ups to speak of), The House of Marvellous Books publishing ... View Full Review
The Island House
“Twenty-two acres, a mile round, the island could just be a large field, were it not for the steep hill at the west, the darkness of the woodland to the north, the distinct areas of grassland and shingle, gardens and cliffs. Because of that, that isolation, it is automatically romantic, fat with legend and history”. So the landscape is set for Mary Considine’s beautifully-written memoir of returning to rugged St George’s Island, a place she loved from childhood. When Mary and Patrick’s London life all but disintegrates during a year of tragic ... View Full Review