Review: Sins & Needles (#1, The Artist Trilogy) by Karina Halle

My Thoughts

Fiercely unique. Bold. Riveting. Gritty. Stressfully intense.
Evoking such an exceptionally wide range of emotions,
this action-packed and thought-proving story left me breathlessly tense.
I cannot wait to see what happens!

5stars

Synopsis

sins and needles coverEllie Watt is used to starting over. The daughter of a grifting team, Ellie spent her childhood being used as a pawn in her parents’ latest scam. Now she’s much older, wiser and ready to give her con artist life a rest. But returning to the dry desert town of Palm Valley, California means one more temptation than she bargained for – Camden McQueen. Once known as the high school weirdo, Camden is bigger and badder than the boy he used to be and a talented tattoo artist with his own thriving business. Ellie’s counting on Camden still being in love with her but what she’s not counting on is how easily unrequited love can turn into obsession over time. When Camden discovers Ellie’s plan to con him, he makes her a deal she doesn’t dare refuse, but her freedom comes with a price and it’s one that takes both Ellie and Camden down a dangerous road.

My Review

Blown away. My heart is still pounding in my chest and I feel wound tight and stressed out to the max. I didn’t know what to expect with this book… I knew it would be original, but I wasn’t sure in what way and I didn’t know if I would connect with the story, quite honestly. Well, dead wrong. I loved it. I loved the way it made me feel, the feelings it evoked, which ranged from discomfort, to shock to hope and happiness and most certainly to fear and breathless anxiety. You see, what I really love in a book is that it makes me FEEL. The more it makes me FEEL, despite the feeling (generally, anyway), the more I know it’s likely done the job it intended… the more I can’t stop reading… the more I obsess about it and want to discuss it with any living, breathing thing around me. Yup, that’s the mark of a good book for me. This book just flips everything on you. The heroine is not overtly good, she’s so flawed and twisted and naturally reverts to what she knows… the con, the grifting.

“Beautiful, sad, wounded, and lost,” he continued. “A freak, a work of art, a liar, and a lover.”

Before I get in to what will likely be a stream-of-consciousness outpouring of thoughts and feeling, I’ll try and give you a high-level view of what this book is about, but it will be tough because so much of this book is experienced through the events that unfurled and through the plot twists so brilliantly set in place. Basically, it’s the story of a girl that has been wronged by her parents, handed the worst of destiny’s luck when it came to life. She was forced to do things she shouldn’t have been forced to do at such a young age, permanently scarred inside and out. Then, she falls in love with the worst possible person in her scheme for revenge. Now, she’s hunted and chased, never to rest in peace again. When someone from her past comes back in her life, Camden, she makes lousy choices only for everything to be flipped, flopped and twisted, the story shifting beneath you until you don’t know what’s real, what’s not and what you actually want to happen. But at some point, she needs to stop from using her scars as a scapegoat for her own bad choices, for the outcome of her life. This is her story and where it’s going, I can only imagine and anxiously anticipate.

“I have to live with my mistakes, but I don’t have to regret them. I regret my actions but I can’t regret the consequences. We all make our own paths in life. Everyone we meet, everything we do, it changes us. It makes us who we are. And, if we’re lucky, we’re given the chance to make things right again.”

When fate throws Ellie Watt together with Camden McQueen, “the most bullied, most tortured kid” from her high school, life seems to be getting the last laugh because Camden is now this gorgeous, tattooed, interesting and seemingly highly successful tattoo artist. He’s so good to her and he seems to know her. The chapters flip between Then and Now, allowing us to see their connection in the past, see how it fueled and shaped what was to happen in the present. I loved that he wanted to see the best in her… it was what she needed, what I needed, to see the glimmer of hope in her very dark path.

“If I believed in a god, I’d say you should be proud of the way he made you. You’re different, Ellie. your scars, your injury, they make you who you are. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

So when Ellie, being who she is, starts to plot her next con, I just about lost it. I felt so uncomfortable at the events that were unfolding. Being the hopeless romantic and cheerleader for all things good, I was rooting for transformation… for the choice to leave it all behind immediately and embrace love and change wholeheartedly. But now, I realize the road to transformation, if that is where this goes, is not traversed so effortlessly. It’s ugly and messy and gray… it’s two steps back and an inch forward, it’s cruel necessity and fighting against everything you ever knew. What Ellie was trying to do with Camden at the beginning was painful to read. I just couldn’t believe her choices.

“You’re a bad person, Ellie,” he said without a trace of irony.
“I’m not bad. The world is bad and I’m just trying to survive in it.”

But when a plot twist hits, I’ll be honest, I was elated even though it was shocking. The relationship between Ellie and Camden twists and twines even more and it made me question whether what they had was love, revenge or manipulation. And that’s the thing about this book… you can’t seem to find solid ground because everything is not black and white, not good or bad, it lives in all the gray in between where you question it all. And let me tell you, reading a book on unstable ground is scary and exciting at the same time because you don’t know where the story is taking you.

And not only do you question what’s happening, but you are questioning who Ellie and Camden really are and I think they are trying to figure all that out themselves. Camden is such a beautifully flawed, intense and complicated individual. My heart broke for him too, for what he had to endure in his past, some of it a result of the betrayal of his closest friend. I loved that he had so much dimension… one moment he was arrogant and sexy as hell, the next he was shockingly intimidating and the next he was raw and romantic. I just love him.

“Do you think because you can’t see my scars that they don’t exist? That’s the trouble with pain, Ellie. If you’re lucky, you can wear it for all the world to see. Most people have their pain deep inside, in places no one ever goes. Not until it’s too late.”

And frankly, I loved that he pushed her, challenged her, made her own up to her choices and her fears. His approach was not always soft, but I believe it was his way of making her want to be better.

“You’re a con artist. A liar. A thief. An unredeemable soul. You can’t be reformed. You can’t be saved. You’ll die trying to make the world pay for what it did to you. And you’ll die alone.”

And fate be damned, our favorite Latin bad boy is back, pursuing Ellie with ruthless tenacity. He’ll find her anywhere. Their relationship had been, fast, furious and intense, but it was there and there was love, but now… what did he want? What was his motivation? Does he love her? I’m not sure, but he is scary as shit.

“I hope I’m always a part of you, Eden. You’ll forever be a part of me. A world without you in it is a song without the music. You need both to make it whole.”

And then, this quote below, really made me question it all even more.

“I can’t ever lose what I just felt.” He kissed my cheek. “I’m afraid if I did, I’d come looking for you too. I’m afraid I can relate…to him.”

It makes you wonder… if both Javier and Camden loved her that much, can their acts really be justified and therefore are their feelings valid and real? And in that case, from a wider perspective, can actions be redeemed if it comes from a place of good?

This book is action-packed, brilliantly written and evokes an exceptionally wide range of emotions. I was absolutely, undeniably and obsessively glued to the pages of this book. It’s so original not just in story line, but with approach and writing with stellar character development. The end, the cliffhanger, makes you want to jump off a cliff! It wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it was powerful, devastating and I think, likely necessary for the story. I highly recommend this book! Sign me up for membership for the Karina Halle fan club! <3

S&N TEASER

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Reading Order & Links

There are 4 totals books in the series. The first is a novella, On Every Street, followed by Sins & Needles, Shooting Scars and lastly, Bold Tricks (October 2013)

sins and needles

 

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Comments

  1. I think this is the best book review I’ve ever read. I love how in depth you are. I read this book and instantly feel in love with the plot. It is different and was exactly what I was looking for. After I finish this trilogy, I’m going to check out more of Halle’s work because I love her writing and her characters.

    Kathlyn | http://www.kathlynskorner.com/

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