I originally rated this a 4.5* but as I was reflecting on the book while writing this review I really couldn't find anything that I didn't like about it other than the fact that it wasn't long enough and I found Ellie acting stupidly sometimes but then again, she was young and had to grow up without "proper" adult guidance.
For a relatively short story, this one packs a punch!
I really enjoyed reading [b:Sins & Needles|16029994|Sins & Needles (The Artists Trilogy, #1)|Karina Halle|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347859611s/16029994.jpg|21799599]. For some reason, I was instantly drawn to Javier the moment he was introduced to us and how could I not? He was a hot Mexican with peridot-colored eyes and he was all dark and mysterious. Ellie had a troubled past with him and that's part of the mystery. That was also another reason that pulled me to him. I love people with history between them and we get a glimpse into that history in this novella.
Based on reviews I've read prior to reading this I dived in knowing that my loyalties may be put to the test. They were right. I was just as seduced by Javier as Ellie was. I think he's a far more complicated and interesting character than the book let on. It baffles me how he could lead his work life the way he did and be a different person around Ellie. Was he bipolar or just a really good liar and actor? Was he a bad guy or a good guy who does "bad" things? Does the end justify the means? Did he really love Ellie? These were the questions that boggled my mind as I was reading this.
We were also introduced to a younger, more naive Ellie. She's new to the game and this is when she gets "trained" to con. While I know nothing about the trade (and honestly this subject wouldn't normally interest me), I was really pulled in by her story. It's the same feeling I had when I read [b:Sins & Needles|16029994|Sins & Needles (The Artists Trilogy, #1)|Karina Halle|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347859611s/16029994.jpg|21799599]. The topic was uncomfortable and the characters were hard to like and those are a few reasons why I love this series (and the entire Experiment in Terror series). [a:Karina Halle|4785031|Karina Halle|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1333997846p2/4785031.jpg] is not afraid to write imperfect and complex characters and uncomfortable situations and I LOVE that. Because really, that kind of writing is honest. It's real. Real people make stupid and wrong decisions all the time. Another reason why I like [a:Karina Halle|4785031|Karina Halle|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1333997846p2/4785031.jpg]'s writing is the fact that I never feel emotionally manipulated even when the events in her books call for buckets of tears. I feel bad for saying this but a lot of authors now tend to throw in tragedy after tragedy in their plot to add a ton of drama and to make us "feel" for the characters (See my "it's not the book, it's me" shelf here on Goodreads for some examples). Not only are the events sometimes unrealistic but come on, it's an overplayed tactic and sometimes, it just doesn't work.
Javier is still a mystery to me after reading this. I'm sure we'll get to know him better in the succeeding books. I can't say that I'm on Team Javier now. I'm not entirely Team Camden either but I'm confident that I'll fall in love with him before the series ends.