Series Review: Pagan Jones by Nina Berry

Series Review: Pagan Jones by Nina BerryThe Notorious Pagan Jones by Nina Berry
Narrator: Elizabeth Evans
Length: 11 hrs, 15 mins
Series: Pagan Jones #1
Published by Audible on October 20, 2015
Genres: Historical, Romance, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-stars

Pagan Jones went from America's sweetheart to fallen angel in one fateful night in 1960: the night a car accident killed her whole family. Pagan was behind the wheel and driving drunk. Nine months later she's stuck in the Lighthouse Reformatory for Wayward Girls and tortured by her guilt—not to mention the sadistic Miss Edwards, who takes special delight in humiliating the once-great Pagan Jones. But all of that is about to change.

Pagan's old agent shows up with a mysterious studio executive, Devin Black, and an offer. Pagan will be released from juvenile detention if she accepts a juicy role in a comedy directed by award-winning director Bennie Wexler. The shoot starts in West Berlin in just three days. If Pagan's going to do it, she has to decide fast—and she has to agree to a court-appointed "guardian," the handsome yet infuriating Devin, who's too young, too smooth, too sophisticated to be some studio flack. The offer's too good to be true, Berlin's in turmoil, and Devin Black knows way too much about her—there's definitely something fishy going on. But if anyone can take on a divided city, a scheming guardian, and the criticism of a world that once adored her, it's the notorious Pagan Jones. What could go wrong?

The Notorious Pagan Jones sounded very much like a Christina book, with the historical setting, the old Hollywood appeal, and a romantic mystery. While left feeling a bit distant, I did quite enjoy The Notorious Pagan Jones.

One thing that I really enjoyed about The Notorious Pagan Jones was the setting. There are a lot of books set during WWII, but there aren’t nearly so many set in post-WWII Berlin, especially in YA which doesn’t do much historical anyway. Set against the backdrop of the period just before the Berlin wall went up, Berry captures a moment in time that doesn’t often get a lot of attention. She captures a wide range of experiences in both East and West Berlin; it’s not an in depth study, but I thought she did a pretty good job with the set up.

I actually also liked Pagan herself quite a bit. Evans does a great job voicing Pagan. Growing up as a child actor is tough, and, when the novel opens, Pagan’s in a Reformatory for Wayward Girls because she’s an alcoholic who drove drunk and killed her family. The fact of Pagan’s alcoholism is very well done, and it fairly subtly points to what a mess the industry is, without actively preaching. Pagan’s a mess, but she’s sympathetic.

However, plot-wise, I had pretty serious believability issues. Pagan’s rescued from the Reformatory for a role in a movie filming in West Berlin to play a privileged American teen who falls in love with a communist boy from East Berlin. The mysterious Devin Black, sexy 19 year-old, is assigned to serve as her court-appointed guardian (and love interest). Shockingly, spying is going on. Sure, maaaaaybe they would bring her to Berlin because some influential man’s son is a fan and they can use her for invites to parties, but no way in hell would a teen be assigned to be her guardian. I know we wanted that romance, but come on now. The climax is also back to back unbelievable spy stuff. It’s fun, but it didn’t totally work for me.

The audiobook specifically had some problems. Evans does a great job reading for Pagan, and I really liked most of her delivery (Devin does a Scottish accent sometimes, and I wasn’t a fan of that but whatever). However, I took German for seven years, and no one at Audible bothered to look up how words in German are pronounced. As I’ve found in other audiobooks, Fräulein is pronounced like the umlauts aren’t present (WRONG), Mutter is pronounced like American word for mumbling and not the German word for mother, and more complex words like Sicherheit I only figured out through context because the pronunciation was so butchered. JUST GOOGLE THE WORDS. THERE ARE PRONUNCIATIONS ONLINE. IT REALLY ISN’T FUCKING HARD.

On the whole, The Notorious Pagan Jones was a really good listen, though I’m disappointed with the production quality in terms of pronunciation. I liked it enough to proceed to book two.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Pagan Jones by Nina BerryCity of Spies by Nina Berry
Series: Pagan Jones #2
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 31, 2016
Genres: Historical, Romance, Mystery
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-stars

Celebrating her escape from East Germany and the success of her new film, teen starlet Pagan Jones returns to Hollywood to reclaim her place among the rich and the famous. She's thrilled to be back, but memories of her time in Berlin—and elusively handsome secret agent Devin Black—continue to haunt her daydreams. The whirlwind of parties and celebrities just isn't enough to distract Pagan from the excitement of being a spy or dampen her curiosity about her late mother's mysterious past.

When Devin reappears with an opportunity for Pagan to get back into the spy game, she is eager to embrace the role once again—all she has to do is identify a potential Nazi war criminal. A man who has ties to her mother. Taking the mission means that she'll have to star in a cheesy film and dance the tango with an incredibly awful costar, but Pagan knows all the real action will happen off-set, in the streets of Buenos Aires.

But as Pagan learns more about the man they're investigating, she realizes that the stakes are much higher than they could have ever imagined, and that some secrets are best left undiscovered.

City of Spies picks up a while after The Notorious Pagan Jones. Pagan’s had time to film another movie that’s getting excellent critical reviews, and that, plus the movie filmed in book one, has her almost back to respectable in Hollywood. Cue the return of Devin Black, who she hasn’t seen since Berlin. Devin wants her to spy for the CIA (he’s on loan apparently) in Argentina under the cover of filming a terrible movie that could damage her fledgling comeback.

Her mission involves verifying the identity of the Nazi who her mother helped escape the country, a plot element that goes back to book one. The man’s believed to be in Buenos Aires under an assumed name and only Pagan can recognize him. The plot’s a bit more reasonable than in the first book, but it was a bit tough to take in 2017. There are a number of scenes with triggering treatment of Jewish people; all the terrible shit is done by the villains, but it’s still just awful to read, so be aware of that.

The romance continues to be completely bland and uninteresting to me, which is probably a good thing given how this book ends and the fact there isn’t another book coming so far as I know. It was nice that Pagan’s Latina best friend got to come along on the trip, and even better when it’s revealed that she’s asexual and a total boss.

There are a lot of typos in the finished hardcover I got from the library, so Harlequin definitely slacked on the copy-editing. “Nein” was even written as “nien” twice, which yikes. If it were an ARC, I wouldn’t care, but this is the version that people and libraries bought. This also plays into me thinking there will not be a third book. Assuming there isn’t, the resolution here isn’t completely satisfying, though it’s not totally without an ending. It’s just a weird one, and it would be frustrating if I were more attached to the cast.

I enjoyed the Pagan Jones books, but they could have benefited from more editing all around and a more compelling romance.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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