By: Larissa | March 28, 2015 | (56) Comments

Review: Hold Me Like A Breath by Tiffany SchmidtHold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
Series: Once Upon A Crime Family, #1
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: May 19th, 2015
Genres: Action, Fairytale Retelling, YA
Pages: 400
Source: Received in exchange for review
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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.

I have rather mixed feelings on this one. There are parts of this story which I enjoyed, and others not so much. Initially it was the premise that drew me into this one. A fairytale retelling of the Princess and The Pea? Crime family politics, in the business of black market organ transplants? It seemed like the perfect mixture, my two favorite sub-genres in YA (fairytale retellings and crime novels) coming together.  However, the execution of the aforementioned left a little bit to be desired and frankly I’m disappointed.

I found the fairytale retelling part of the plot to be strong, with subtle nods to the original The Princess and The Pea (and Rapunzel too) while also twisting it and developing it so we got to see more of the “princess’s” side of the story. I really enjoyed the references included and found that the retelling was done in an ingenious sort of way. For example, in the original story the Princess bruises easily. In Hold Me Like A Breath, our “princess” Penny has Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (an autoimmune disease that causes extreme easy bruising) which not only connects to the fairytale but also managed to educate me on something I didn’t even know existed. In that way it spread awareness about ITP and I can tell the author really did her research.

My issues lied in the crime part of the novel. I felt it was because of how sheltered Penny was from the crime ring led to us readers being in the dark about the inner-workings and politics of it. These are the things that I was most interested going into that novel and in the aspect I found myself disappointed. I felt as while we were told the impact/influence the crime family had (and certainly showed the power, there’s no shortage of character deaths in this one), but never really to the levels of political intricacy I felt possible. I feel like there was lost potential with how in depth Schmidt could have gone with the dark nature of  the black market organ transplant families.

I’ve talked about the “princess” a couple times in this review. That “princess” is Penny, the main character. She was an very interesting sort of main character. I can definitely see how a lot of people wouldn’t like her. At first Penny reads as naive, sheltered, overly innocent, prone to making stupid choices and frankly an juvenile child. And you know what? Up the beginning of many tragic events to come, I’d say she is one hundred percent all of these things. In fact, it was her initial personality (annoying, but understandable given her autoimmune disease and treatment of her family) that was my reason for me not feeling any connection for the first 5 chapters of the story. At that point I was even considering DNF’ing, just because I found the story to be going quite slow and Penny was driving me a little crazy.

However, once that first tragic scene happened- damn. I got invested in the story fast, and I think it says something that for the first 5 chapters I was slogging through and suddenly I felt like crying. It was after this event (and several more) where you slowly see Penny go through some brilliant development and really grows into a strong character, despite her and disease and all of the tragedies she’s suffered. I loved her growth so much, and came to appreciate her character by the end of the novel. Penny’s certainly not strong in the traditional YA sense of “badass”, but oh my god. By the end of the novel I wanted to give her a standing ovation for her emotional strength. I think these quotes (spoken by Penny)  really showcase what I’m trying to put into words:

“You don’t get to decide if something is too dangerous for me. That’s never your decision; it’s mine.”


“You don’t get to choose to keep me on the sidelines. I’m not saying I want to go rushing into dangerous situations, but trust me enough to make my own decisions.”

Moving on from Penny, my biggest issue in Hold Me Like a Breath one was the romance. I had a lot of issues with the romance, which is problematic because this one focuses extensively on romance (unfortunately in my view). It’s gonna be really hard for me to talk about this without using spoilers, so I’m going to go about it very generally and then put the more detailed information in spoilers. Speaking generally, I felt myself having no emotional connections to either (yes, there’s two. But don’t worry about a love triangle because one love interest gets suddenly forgotten about in favor of the other) love interests nor the romance they had with Penny. One ran too hot & cold, leaving me honestly feeling confused- even at the end of the story. Meanwhile, the other romance felt too rushed for my liking and convenient. 

View Spoiler »


Overall I unfortunately am torn about Hold Me Like a Breath. I loved the fairytale aspects and strong character development of the main character. I had issues with the romance, initial pacing/direction of the story and unmet potential in regards to the crime ring.

~Thank you Bloomsbury USA Childrens for the review copy~

2.5 Stars
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Larissa was born and still is living in the land of ice, snow and maple syrup. She's 18 years old and really has no idea what to do with her life lately. Larissa's plans are constantly changing--though there’s one thing has remained constant throughout her seventeen years, and that’s reading. It takes her to another world and puts her into impossible situations and that’s why she loves it so much.

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56 Responses to Review: Hold Me Like A Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

  1. Oh gosh, I’m confused as well now xD
    I have an eARC of this so, want it or not, I’m going to give it a try. I hope I’ll have less problems with the romance aspect because I really liked what you said about the desease and her growth! 🙂
    Frannie Pan @ In Clouds of Pages recently posted…Review: “The Girl at Midnight” (The Girl at Midnight #1) by Melissa GreyMy Profile

  2. Kyra says:

    I’m sorry some parts of the book weren’t that good! I’m SO excited for this so I hope it lives up to my expectations. Fantastic review! 😀 x
    Kyra recently posted…Review – The Forbidden Library – Django WexlerMy Profile

  3. The cover is so gorgeous! I plan to read it soon, so I only skimmed your review. But I’m disappointed to see the crime part didn’t do it for you. I’ll keep an open mind and I hope to enjoy it a bit more. 🙂
    Lisa (Lost in Literature) recently posted…Lisa’s Stacking the Shelves & Weekly Recap ~ 3.28.15My Profile

  4. I have an ARC of this one, so I plan on reading it soon. The romance makes me nervous; I have a feeling I’m going to be really bothered by that. But the MC sounds like a person I can really enjoy reading about, so that’s good! 🙂 Great review Larissa. 🙂
    Gabs @ My Full Bookshelf recently posted…Stacking The Shelves 3/28/15My Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Ahhh yeah, the romance element was my least favorite part of the story sadly. It’s even worse that it had a large influence in Hold Me Like a Breath. The MC is certainly what kept me flipping pages, I came to quite liking her. Thanks girl! (:

  5. Megan says:

    Too bad this one failed to deliver on the the crime politics you were hoping for. But the retelling sounds interesting and I always enjoy books that also teach me about something, such as ITP.
    Megan recently posted…Review: FlunkedMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Yeah, I really saw the potential in the crime aspect so the fact it didn’t work out was quite saddening for me. The retelling portion of this novel was quite well done though.

  6. I’m so sorry this book was disappointing for you! I was so excited for the release of this one too, I was debating on whether to pre-order or not but I think I’ll probably just borrow it from the library when it comes out. The romance aspect and the crime part was what drew me in apart from the fairy tale retelling but looking at your review I feel like I’ll be sorely disappointed as well. *sigh* Oh well!
    Betsy @ I Sold My Soul For Books recently posted…Believers: Truth in Deception ~ Blog Tour: Book SpotlightMy Profile

  7. Larissa says:

    Yeah this one was certainly near the top for my most anticipated releases this year.Perhaps the romance aspect will work for you? As you were looking forward to it? It just didn’t work for me at all.

  8. Aw, this is not good news. Though, as weird as it sounds, I think maybe I would be okay with a little less crime ring? I mean, not if it is not there at ALL, but I could deal with it taking a backseat. I do worry about the romance, especially if it is front and center of the story. This one is coming up for me soon but I am definitely going into it with my expectations a bit lower, AND I will try to remember that it starts off pretty slow! Great review, but I am sorry it didn’t work out better for you!
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    • Larissa says:

      Yeah /: Hmm, maybe you may enjoy this one more than me then. I just was expecting a lot more crime ring from this one because it’s so largely empathized in the summary. The romance was definitely where problems arose for me. Thank you Shannon, and hope it works out better for you <33

  9. OH I AM SAD. I didn’t actually know this was also a retelling (!!) I so love retellings, so the fact that it didn’t pull it off makes me cry somewhat. BUUUUT. I’m still going to read it because CRIME (what?! I love crimey books…even though, I promise, I’m a good person) *ahem* And also because I really want to know more about Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura because I’ve never ever heard of it and I like LEARNING THINGS.
    Loved this review, Larissa!! Even if the book was kind of bleh at the end. *cries a little*
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…Weekly Fury #45 // goodbye March – writer’s block – etsyMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Yeah the retelling aspect was actually the good part of the novel. The crime…yeah. If you’re as a big as a crime fan as I am you’ll most certainly find it lacking. I agree with you on learning things (: When a good book can teach me something new I adore it.

      Thank you girl! <33

  10. Valerie says:

    Ahh at least there’s some sort of fairytale aspect to it, I thought it would just be romance 😛 I do have an eARC of it, which means I should read it, butttt haha. AWESOME REVIEW LARISSA. AND I’M GLAD YOU’RE BACK-ish. I hope your next read is betttter 🙂
    Valerie recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #24My Profile

  11. Hey Larissa! Sounds like you had mixed feelings on this one, despite the initial aversion to the character, I’m glad she got some great development along the way. Really powerful quotes! The romance, why does everything have to have romance, even a dark read like this one? You know what, this book reminds me so much of Taken lol. Great review!
    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence recently posted…Chatterbox: Do fantastic endings save a book for you? [Poll]My Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Hey girl! (: I did have quite the range of emotions for this one haha. All over the place really. I thought the quotes were the best representatives of Penny’s growth, definitely. Ugh, and I agree with you. This one definitely would have been better without the romance. It could have focused on the crime ring then haha. Never seen Taken ooops ;p

      Thanks girl! <33

  12. Girl, I just finished this and I really freaking hated it. xD

    I agree–we definitely weren’t given much of an insider’s view on the workings of the crime family, which was a shame, really. It could’ve added a lot more depth to the story.

    I’m not sure I agree with what you felt about Penny, though. 😉 I kind of disliked her and wanted to smack her against a wall from start to end. I get what you said–she became more independent and all in the end, but the way she said things… She sounded immature to me, personally.

    OH GOD DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THE ROMANCE. It was one of the most confusing and annoying thing ever. I didn’t get the thing with love interest #2 at all. It was WAY too sudden and they were all over each other, telling their hopes and dreams to each other even when they’d JUST MET. (???) Agreed with everything you mentioned in the spoiler section.

    Sorry for the rant. Lovely review as always, Larissa!
    Aimee @ Deadly Darlings recently posted…Mini Reviews: New Adult Contemporary EditionMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Haha could have predicted that one [;

      YES. I wanted all the crime in this one, it was one of the reasons I was so excited to read Hold Me Like a Breath.

      Haha yeah, I think you agree with my original views on Penny ;p And yeah I can totally see why you’d see her that way because I did too. I suppose on her own (lol when romance was involved she still annoyed me to a major degree) we did see her become independent like you said. And for me becoming more independent is definitely a form of growth. But yeah in certain situations you certainly do see her immature side.

      YES THANK YOU. I was hoping you’d feel the same because ?????? It literally made no sense. Apparently this book is part of a series too >.< So I'm sure we'll get more relationship conflict!11!!! Yay.

      All good! And thanks Aimee <33 Can't wait to read your review, I know it'll be hilarious.

  13. I was really unsure of this one so didn’t request it and now I’m happy about that decision. I love the cover but something about the summary didn’t hit me right. I’m so sorry you didn’t love it more.
    Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction recently posted…Review of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirMy Profile

  14. Cynthia says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this one more! I have the ARC, but I haven’t read it yet. I was really looking forward to it. Hopefully I will enjoy it. I will remember though to keep going past the slow part for all the feels. 🙂
    Cynthia recently posted…Florence, Italy!My Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Awwww! I was looking forward to this one too, I hope you end up liking it a lot more than I did. And yeah the start was hard for me to push through

  15. Benish says:

    Uh oh.. I’m supposed to read this next, but I’ve been hearing mixed reviews about it, it’s a shame because that cover is STUNNING. Thank you for the honest review though<3
    Benish recently posted…ARC Review: Pretty Ugly by Kirker Butler Review ♥My Profile

  16. Rashika says:

    I am so sorry to see this didn’t work out for you, Lars!

    I am really looking forward to reading it but given what you have said about the romance and the pacing and even the believability of the crime aspects (NOOOO. I LOVE CRIME), I feel like I’ll have to be vary going into this book.

    I do like the sound of the change Penny undergoes and I LOVE that she gains emotional strength. Not everyone has to be badass for me to love them but just that quote where she says it’s her decision shows me that she is/will be a strong character in her own right and I love that! 🙂

    Lovely review, hon and I am sorry this wasn’t the perfect read for you! 🙁 Hopefully the next time you read a crime book/fairy tale retelling mix it will be tonss better! 🙂
    Rashika recently posted…Review: Duplicity by N.K. TraversMy Profile

    • Larissa says:

      Me too man 🙁 One of my most anticipated haha.

      Yeah I’d be a little wary. It started off pretty slow and I never saw the crime aspect rise to its full potential in my view.

      Yeah Penny’s growth was definitely one of the strong aspects of the story. It was quite beautiful to watch her gain this independence after being so sheltered her entire life. And I definitely agree that badass doesn’t always indicate strong

      Thank you boo <33 I hope so too.

  17. Damn, I was quite intrigued about this one because of the mix of the crime and retelling parts of the book.
    But I’m very happy to hear that the growth of the main character was fantastic, even if the romance in the book sort of ended up spoiling it for you!

    Great review Larissa!
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    • Larissa says:

      Yeah, the premise was actually quite unique and promising. The character growth is honestly one of the few things that got me into this novel, it allowed me to keep flipping the pages.

      Thanks girl <33

  18. I’m a little more wary to read this one now! I heard there was sorta a love triangle but didn’t get many details, and I gotta say that it doesn’t sound like my thing at all. I mean, I already hate triangles, but I thought maybe I could handle this one because I heard she got over the first dude… but this sounds much worse. :/

    Thank you for honest review, though! You may have saved me lol!
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    • Larissa says:

      Yeah /: I think the “love triangle” (put in quotations because it’s like a love triangle??? but not??? and honestly makes no sense). I would hazard a guess and since this romance wouldn’t be your cup of tea

  19. Shannelle C. says:

    It sounds amazing, but I’ve seen Aimee and Faye of The Social Potato hate it so much on Twitter. That’s enough to make anyone wary.
    Shannelle C. recently posted…Pretty in Ink: The Winner’s CurseMy Profile

  20. shar says:

    That’s disapointing! This sounds like a really good or interesting book to me, but it looks like it wasn’t portrayed that well. And books with too much romance annoy me. In my opinion, if a book has no plot if you take out the romance, then it’s never really good. Lovely review though <3
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    • Larissa says:

      Yeah it really was /: I think this one really had the potential to be great however it never got there for me sadly. That’s certainly a good (and accurate) view on romance to have. Thank you girl <33

  21. HMMM…. lacking in the romance deptartment can get to me. If a story has romance than i need it done well. I am glad there was plenty of character depth i do need that and I think I can get past the slow beginning. Not sure if the crime ring lacking would bother me since the retelling is done well. I am more for the retelling part than the crime ring part. I hope I enjoy it more than you because I have highly anticipated this read. great review.
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    • Larissa says:

      Yeah if the romance is so present and it’s not working for you? Definitely an issue. I do think the character development was nicely done in the MC, lol not so much the side characters. I hope you do end up being able to enjoy this one more than me (: Thank you girl <33

  22. Aw man. I was really looking forward to this book (mostly because of the cover 😀 what can I say? I’m a book cover sl*t) Moving on. I’m not a fan of love triangles at all! If they are done well, and I mean extra freaking well, then maybe I will like them (I went ahead and read the spoiler..oops). Annnywayyys, this will stay in my TBR but very far down in the list. I mean, there are more books to read that are far more interesting, right? 😀
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    • Larissa says:

      Hahaha! The cover is SOOOO amazing, can definitely agree with you there. Yeah the thing is with this one it’s not even a love triangle? Like it honestly makes no sense, like she meets one love interest and completely drops the other and ugh.

      I agree [;

  23. Aw, I’m sorry the crime part of the book wasn’t as enjoyable as the retelling portion of it. This does sound like an extremely complex story though, so I will definitely be looking into it. Thanks for making me wary of the romance, though. LOVE TRIANGLES DIE.
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    • Larissa says:

      Yeah, guess we can’t have it all /: I would say this one is complex, however the romance overshadows a lot of the plot and makes it pretty shallow in my own view.

  24. Oh no. Man, I was so looking forward to this one but we have such similar taste and I just know I’m going to pick at all the same points you made! (side note: we were made for each other though <3)

    Believe it or not, I actually didn't know this was a fairytale retelling. I should have guessed though. Those things are crazy on trend right now. What did draw me in was the whole crime family aspect. I love a good mafia story. Really brings me back to my quality (emphasis on that LOL) fanfiction reading days (totally off track but I remember reading this absolutely breathtaking fictional piece on korean crime families and the whole hierarchy and I actually think the thing's published as a trilogy now). Point is, I had high hopes for this one. The whole crime syndicate thing is never really explored in YA, and definitely not in such an "inside" manner, as this one seems to promise.

    I was really coming for the whole political side of the crime family, how unstable the whole thing is. It's a shame we don't get to see that. How awesome would that have been though, had it been explored? Man, that had scope to be something great there.

    But I do like my character growth. And the tragically induced ones at that (holy that makes me sound like a sadist). I'm very interested in how Penny will grow and will be looking out for that!

    Pity about the romance though. I hate when it becomes way to overbearing. I don't know about you, but I find it so, so sad that in order to sell YA nowadays, a hot guy (or two, three etc etc) is a necessity. You can have a banging plot but if you've got no love then you got no money (ok I'm going to stop typing like a rap song or something).

    Fabulous review, Larissa! I'm definitely going to have to compare notes with you once I read this one!
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    • Larissa says:

      This one was definitely one of my most anticipated reads for 2015. Sadly was disappointed, however can’t wait to discuss this one with my twin.

      Yeah I agree with you with retellings being on the trend lately. I like them though, especially when they’re more obscure ones. The little references make me happy (: However, like you I was mainly into this one for the crime angle- and was very disappointed by the execution as you likely will be too. LOL gotta love fanfiction though, I’ve certainly read some interesting ones. That Korean one you describe sounds so amazing ahhhh.

      It’s like you get the rose colored glasses view of the crime ring, you only see the parts of the syndicate that the MC is most directly involved in. And given her condition….that isn’t much. It was severely lacking in the political side of things in my view, and honestly felt contrived. Like more “mwhahahaha we’re against the law and have guns” than an complex look at the innerworkings of a crime family.

      I’m with you, my fellow sadist! Haha, really though I find character growth in the face of tragedies the most impactful in my view.

      Ugh yeah, the romance was definitely an issue in this one >.< I agree with you that romance is quickly becoming a "requirement" in YA rather than an extra addition. It's actually pretty sad that sometimes an plot suffers in the face of an honestly unrealistic and overbearing romance. Thanks girl <33

  25. Lyn Kaye says:

    GAH!! I really WANTED TO LOVE THIS ONE because OMG that premise! Organ donations! Black market organ donations! Yes please gimme.

    But if I am just going to get a crappy instalove heaping pile of cliques and worn down tropes, then I’m done and over it.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: The Winner’s CrimeMy Profile

  26. I LOVE the title of this book. I would read this for the title alone, but the premise sounds really cool. I really want to read this book and am hoping I’m going to enjoy it. Thanks for your review.
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  27. Melanie says:

    I’ve been wanting to read something by this author for a long time now! But honestly… reading that romance spoiler of yours is making me very skeptical. I hate hot and cold relationships to begin with and then a messed up love triangle? Ugh… no, I’m good. I think I’ll pass on this one for there seem to be too many problematic things in this one.

    Lovely review, Larissa <33

  28. Raquel says:

    Lizzy 说道:Well,it seems I’d like to add a learning csuroe to my plan list about THIS THING and other tools from Google….OMG, technology!….I feel a little bit dizzy @@@@@@@@….

  29. Until I found this I thought I’d have to spend the day inside.

  30. Nice photos, I love those rosy cheeks.Before I read your questions I was going to say your area looks as white as my area right now. We have had snow all day and more coming tonight.I don't mind the snow and I have no problem driving in it. I lived in Anchorage, AK for years and the snows we get here are not all that much in comparison.

  31. Sally – Jess and Eric had a beautiful wedding. So much love, excitement, and fun all day long. You captured it all in the pictures. Great job!!

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