Monday, May 18, 2015

ARC Review: Hold Me Like A Breathe by Tiffany Schmidt

Title: Hold Me Like a Breath
Series: Once Upon a Crime Family #1
Author: Tiffany Schmidt
Published: May 19, 2015 by Bloomsbury
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants. 

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily. 

And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever. 

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

This book has a lot of promise and many things that I usually enjoy in my books. From the mafia/crime family premise, to the fairy tale retelling, to the complex and unlikable characters. It all should have worked together to create something great, however so much of what I had thought would work didn't really work.

Perhaps my favorite thing about Hold Me Like a Breath was the fairy tale retelling concept. This is a Princess and the Pea retelling, which I have to say was incredibly unique. But more than that it is a really creative retelling that combines a few more stories like Rapunzel. Penelope Landlow is not bruised by a pea, she has an auto-immune disease that makes her bruise easily. She is sheltered in her family compound and treated like a princess, a fragile, fragile princess. The author makes tons of subtle references to both fairy tales including a pretty great one about a very layered bed. I loved the fairy tale references and felt like even the general plot of the book captured the concept of the fairy tale really well and creatively.

Part of that creativity in Hold Me Like a Breathe was the organized crime/mafia concept. This is a world where organ transplants are illegal and the main characters family provides that surgery for a price. It's an interesting concept for sure and one that brings up a lot of really complex issues about morality. It's one of the things that I love about fantasy and dystopia novels. Plus mafia stories have always been so fascinating to me because they are morally dubious characters that you make into heroes. Tiffany Schimdt walks the line of good and evil so well in Hold Me Like A Breathe. These are bad people doing good things but the question is for what reason? Throughout the book it explores this idea and you definitely see both sides of the coin.

And now would seem like a good time to talk about those bad people. I have to say I was a little disappointed in the characters. I've already mentioned that they are dubious characters doing the right thing but for different reasons. These are usually my favorite kinds of characters, complex and dubious. But I think one of the problems is that there really is no clear antagonist. Sometimes that can be a good thing but here it felt confusing. It wasn't that I didn't know who to trust, it was that I didn't know where the man character stood. Which was all the more challenging because the main character was hard to connect with. How many times have I said I like unlikable characters on this blog? Many times. And Penny was definitely an unlikable character. She's naive and sheltered but she wants more than "life in her tower." I admired her stubbornness and persistence and in the beginning I was rooting for her to get what she wanted. As the book developed she definitely proved that she was capable of more than what everyone assumed. However as the book developed her naivete and carelessness got to me. I understand that her sheltered upbringing would result in that kind of naive view of the world but it seemed to come and go depending on when it worked for the plot.

Perhaps the best example of this was with the romance of the book. You could argue that it is a love triangle, there are two guys involved but most of the time they are at separate times. But the biggest frustration for me was the dreaded insta-love. With the first one it made a little bit more sense, it was a person she had known for a long time and we are told she had a crush on. But with the second one it was so sudden and so deep that I just found myself actively fighting against it in my head. It just seemed like the MC's naivete and recklessness. She should be laying low and she falls in love with a person who knocks her over on the street? It just felt like a cliche meet cute from a romantic comedy. And that's how most of the romance felt to me. It was unfortunately one of the things that didn't work.

Unfortunately the romance was also a big part of the larger plot and mystery of the book. Part of Penny's naivete was her inability to understand people and their motivations. It should have given the book some mystery but unfortunately it came off as the bad kind of dramatic irony. The kind where to me as the reader the twist of the book was obvious and the main character seemed intentionally obtuse. I felt like in general the plot good have been flushed out a little bit more. The mafia/crime family concept was one of the best parts of the book but that too seemed a little basic. And while the plot built to an interesting and exciting conclusion the pacing was much slower and after an exciting beginning the middle didn't capture my interest and I found myself slowing down and wanting to skim through the book until things picked up again. But when they did pick up it was engaging. This is my adventure/survival month and that was absolutely what happened here. Throughout the book the stakes were really high for our main character and despite not totally loving her I did want to see how it would all end.

This is the first book in a new series and while it had a lot of promise and a few things didn't work I did enjoy the book. The retelling was really creative and with the combination of organized crime and pretty high stakes for the main character. I'm actually pretty interested to see where the next book goes. Hold Me Like a Breath resolved the main plot line but there are so many unanswered questions at the same time. I'm pretty intrigued.

I give Hold Me Like a Breathe by Tiffany Schmidt 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are a fan of fairy tale retellings then you should pick this one up at your library. I would also recommend this book to fans of mafia and organized crime stories with morally dubious antiheroes that also enjoy YA. It's a creative concept and engaging read despite having unlikable characters and basic plot development.

Have you read Hold Me Like a Breath? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I agree with a lot of what you said. I was not a fan of the insta love and the twist regarding him was kind of obvious. I thought it started off slow and I was not a fan of Penny. I just thought she was too whiny. I did end up enjoying the book though.

  2. I have this on my TBR but a lot of the reviews aren't so great. Maybe I'll borrow it. Great review, so not a fan of insta-love so thanks for the warning!

  3. I'm kind of doubtful with this one ever since I read a negative review of it earlier :( I heard that Penelope kept talking about her platelet counts? I don't know, that's what I heard, but I guess i'll have to see that myself. But truthfully, I'm really interested in reading this. I had no idea it was a retelling of Princess and the Pea, so that's very nice to hear because I love retellings! :D Kind of disappointing to see, though, that the characters didn't work well and that there was no clear antagonist.

    Great review! :)

    Jillian @ Jillian's Books