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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

Featuring over fifty stylishly rendered boards, this is an interactive doodle book with a difference, and certainly takes the lingering trend for adult colouring-in books to the next level. Most of the book comprises unfinished boards for users to transform into their own tabletop games – twenty designs in all, followed by twenty-five sets of rules for players to choose to follow, each of which encourages creativity with suggestions for fashioning your own versions of classic board games. There’s also plenty of options for users to invent their own entirely new games, with a superb “Stuck for ... View Full Review
Beginning with the origins of gardens, this gloriously illustrated expedition through time and place begins in ancient Mesopotamia and explores the luscious gardens of the Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. From here we move to Ancient Greece and Rome, to the beginnings of botany and Roman topiary. The coverage of the gardens of Islam is especially gratifying with the authors’ description of them as being “among the most sublime in the world - soothing, refreshing and deeply spiritual” borne out by the accompanying photography and images of ancient art, tiles, textiles and scripts. Later we ... View Full Review
Gennaro Contaldo’s passion for pasta is positively infectious. He states in his introduction that “there is no limit to the joys of pasta” and this irrepressible exuberance infuses this book from its metaphoric aperitivo pages to its flavoursome finale. Beginning with a useful guide to matching pasta shapes to sauces (as a rule, pair long, thin pasta to light sauces, while short, thick pasta shapes suit heavier sauces), Gennaro devotes much attention to “versatile, quick and easy to cook” dried pasta, with a host of inventive and ... View Full Review
Is it a cookbook? Is it a memoir? No, it’s a super genre-defying anthology that eloquently exemplifies the notion of “comfort food” in its most elemental form. As the author sets out in his introduction, “this is a story book with food in it, and, of course, that other essential embroidery for life, music.”   What follows is a set of personal vignettes - stories about the author’s family, his food travel experiences, his professional insights - peppered with recipes that have accompanied pivotal life moments. One such recipe ... View Full Review
This fascinating follow-up to the author’s bestselling A History of Britain in 21 Women immediately invites a big question: how to select only 21 women from around the globe, through all time? The source material is huge (if underrepresented), and the author sets out her criteria thusly: “What unites my chosen twenty-one is that each has faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve her ambition regardless of her colour or class.” Murray also notes her decision to “include as wide a range of clever, talented and determined woman ... View Full Review
This insightful anthology explores the effects of social and political turbulence on the individual and social unconscious with invigorating verve. Based on a series of progressive “The Political Mind” seminars established by David Morgan of the British Psychoanalytical Society, this collection is underpinned by Morgan’s belief that psychoanalysis “makes a valuable contribution” to the “important endeavour” of redeveloping “a culture that preserves the importance of humanity”, as opposed to embracing neoliberalism “with its emphasis ... View Full Review
Written by Mabel Haynes’s granddaughter following the fortuitous discovery of her grandmother’s connection to Stein, this is an innovative, intimate and complex exploration of an intimate, complex relationship between three women. While this book doesn’t follow a chronological form, its subject could be said to begin with Gertrude Stein’s first novel, Q.E.D., which was never published during her lifetime. Q.E.D. represents Stein’s attempt to deal with her first love affair with May Bookstaver, who was also the friend and lover of Mabel Haynes. All three were ... View Full Review
This consummately fascinating study into the relationship between dance and poetry – the “step” of dance, and the “foot” of verse – presents a complex, intricate interlacing of disciplines. Dappled with personal anecdotes alongside probing evolutionary questions, historical depth and contemporary insights, it is at once thought-provoking and engaging. The author’s experience as both a dancer and poet inform his unique investigation. He ascribes his long-held passion for both to a deep-rooted childhood awareness of rhythm: “Rhythm is common to both pursuits. Increasingly I have come to feel that dance is a language ... View Full Review
At once sweeping and intricate, this dazzling second novel by the author of Booker-shortlisted The Fishermen is stage-managed by an enthralling mythic narrative voice, an Igbo spirit whose physical host is our main protagonist, Chinonso. Chinonso and Ndali are fated from their first encounter when he persuades her not to throw herself to her death. They meet again and fall passionately in love but coming from wildly different worlds - he a chicken farmer, she wealthy and highly educated - their relationship is slammed by Ndali’s powerful family. Though humiliated by them, and advised by his uncle and ... View Full Review
Acclaimed as an editor of unparalleled ingenuity, the late, great Diana Athill was herself a remarkable writer. Her memoirs and this - her only novel - are compelling, candid and affectingly meticulous, with a precise style reminiscent of Jean Rhys, whose work Athill edited and championed. Indeed, Meg, the main character here, with her self-critical wit, lodging house living and misfortune in matters of the heart is somewhat reminiscent of Rhys’s characters. The daughter of a poor pastor and distant mother, Meg found school “hateful and humiliating” and “knew that the adjectives most often used ... View Full Review
Elma Napier's Black and White Sands (Papillote Press) is one of my favourite books of all time. It's the enthralling autobiography of a Scottish-born aristocrat who in 1932 abandoned the trappings and vacuity of high society for a dramatically different new life in the wildly majestic Caribbean island of Dominica. Like the island, Elma's spirit is indomitable (indeed, she was the first woman to sit in a West Indian parliament), her voice witty and engaging as she recounts the trials and tribulations, the joys and jubilations she and her husband experienced while building their home and new lives on their beloved ... View Full Review
This captivating collection comprises intensely poignant profiles of people and places; of domestic life and wild landscapes, especially Scotland’s “dark and stormy waters”, with flashes of crimson running through the poems in the form of fire, a fox, red shoes, a red balloon. Among the cast of memorable characters is Mrs Dungeon Brae, terrifying in both life and death, and The Knitter, who “knits to keep death away” and urgently recounts big life occasions knitting has accompanied her through, all the while “casting on, casting off”. Then there’s the grandmother ... View Full Review