Thursday, 11 April 2013

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

The first thought that crossed my mind after reading the last word on the last page of the book was "Wow! I did not see that this is the direction we're taking!" Karina Halle sure has serious talent for writing 'realistic' and compelling novels. So far I've only read two of her works (this one and Devil's Metal) but I'm liking the journey she's taking me on. She has that addicting style of writing that pulls you in and doesn't let go. I guess the thing that sets her apart from the other writers is that even though her plots are over the top and highly unlikely to happen in a real life (a con artist being chased by her mobster ex boyfriend while ... some other things happen to her that would be considered as spoiler; a journalist going on a tour with a metal band whose member made a deal with the devil...) there are certain realistic elements intertwined in the plot that make the story very likeable and impossible to put down. Yet again I found myself reading this book everywhere I went and simultaneously with everything else I was doing. 

As I already mentioned, Ellie Watts, a con artist, returns to her home town because she's broke and running away from her ex-boyfriend (who sounds like a dangerous deliciousness incarnate) who happens to be a mobster and whom Ellie happened to steal a car and money from. She thinks no one will recognize her after being away from home so long, but Camden McQueen does. Ellie is surprised to see her former weird goth "friend" transformed into a beautiful butterfly (In my books a 'beautiful butterfly' is a hunky tattooed guy with a charming smile and wicked streak, btw) and even though she likes him more each day they hang out she decides on stealing money from his successful tattoo parlor - because this is all she is good at. However, things don't always go as planned and Ellie finds herself in a situation she never anticipated in her wildest dreams and has to find a way to get herself out of the mess she created. 

The story is told from Ellie's point of view and alternates between present and past (when Ellie and Camden were younger), which is a great approach to slowly revealing the missing puzzle pieces to Ellie and Camden's past relationship. Ellie, at first sight, is not a very likeable character. She is a thief and a liar, she is addicted to pills due to her paranoia, and on top of that she thinks she is entitled to act the way she does and do the things she does because of her scarred leg and scarred childhood. 

"I'm not bad. The world is bad and I'm just trying to survive in it."

I didn't particularly mind that, because Karina Halle's skill to create characters flawed to perfection made me fall in love with Ellie and also Camden, even though Camden is not your typical hero one encounters in the majority of the books out there. He has some flaws, or should I say personality traits, that make him more realistic and on the other hand possibly less likeable because he does not match the criteria set by some higher force in the book realm. Camden actually has flaws that are actually not likeable, that's the first deviation, because let's face it - usually the heroes have flaws like "having an adorable crooked tooth", or "being too mysterious-yet-sexy" or "being too tall-but-the-girl-feels-immensely-safe-in-his-arms-because-he-is-covering-above-her" or simply "being too freakin' perfect". 

I'm not going to say there was nothing that bothered me because I would be lying. I didn't like that Ellie and Camden's relationship felt a bit rushed and mainly based on mutual desire (which they acted on ... multiple times). Their relationship was messed up (I am not going any further because then I'd be spoiling) on so many levels, and I am glad there are two more books for Ellie to sort her feelings, beliefs and fears, because she is one helluva broken cookie. So is Camden. But then again I liked how messy, complexed and complicated they were because they make great characters who people want to read more about. And Camden is just the right person for Ellie because he gets her like noone else. Even when he's being a total jackass his words hold a grain of truth.

"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."

"Oh, do you?" You think because of your leg and your scars that gives you a right to punish people? Rob people? Cheat, scam and steal? You think you can use that to justify what you do for a living?"

"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."

"I hate you, Ellie Watt," he whispered, lips coming closer to mine, "because I still love you after all these years." 

Ahh you see how conflicted am I? But the scales tip in their (and book's) favour. The good things outweigh the bad by far.

And there comes the end, where Halle throws us an (un)expected twist that leaves me craving for book #2 like a man in the desert craving books and TV series. May is not just around the corner, people!

The story was well-paced and it had the right amount of suspense, action and surprise elements. The bad guys are exciting and terrifying, and just for the main twist it is worth reading this book. If I said this story was a thrilling roller coaster of epic proportions that would be somewhere close to what I read. And it sure was a ride I immensely enjoyed and would recommend it to anyone who is not afraid of a little bumps and bruises in order to get the good stuff. Believe me, it's all worth it.

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