Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt
Book One of the Once Upon a Crime Family series
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
This book and had a strange encounter. I'm not quite sure if I really liked it or if I was simply reading something that I didn't want to stop reading, but really, I was feeling a bit meh towards the book. I had serious issues with the protagonist, and I feel like the book didn't live up to its full potential, but I think I enjoyed reading it as I was going (for the most part). I'm intrigued and I want to keep reading books in the series. It would be interesting to see the next books from another point-of-view, and not a continuation of Penelope's story (I'm a bit sick of Penelope). How about Garrett! Anyway.
Penelope is the daughter of Malcolm Landlow, who is a mafia boss, one of three crime lords that controls the organ transplant black market. Penelope's older brother is set to take over the Family business when their father is ready to give it to him, and Garrett Ward will be Carter's second, his right-hand man. Penelope has always wanted to feel free like Carter and Garrett - she has a rare autoimmune disease in which even the smallest touch will bruise her badly or cause her to start bleeding. When an unpredictable event happens and Penelope is stranded, she is forced to learn what life is like on her own, with no protection from the outside world. Soon, she's caught up in the Family business for real, and there is no turning back.
The first half of the book was pretty okay. The second half was fine too (ish), but there were very different. The Unpredictable Event is what divides the two halves. The Unpredictable Event is quite unpredictable, and I could not have seen that coming (neither part one nor part two). I kept waiting for Schmidt to be like, just kidding! Everything's fine! It was a hoax! Or something. So that was really dramatic and heartbreaking, and I applaud Schmidt for creating such an immense and story-shaking event, and sticking to it.
I'll get to Penelope in the next part. I didn't like her very much. Her love interest was just that - a love interest. The romance was all over the place, so I didn't like that. I will say that I thought the story was interesting and I was never in danger of getting terribly bored or wanting to put the book down. I had hoped for more crime-related activity, but I was disappointed. I think I'll read the next book(s) if they deal with primary characters other than Penelope. Like, Garrett, Carter's second. He's an intriguing guy, and the ending is definitely open enough for a story all to him.
What I Did Not Like:
Ugh, a good number of things didn't work for me. I'm not sure why I'm giving this one three stars. Maybe I'm feeling optimistic. In any case, I didn't like Penelope, I struggled with the romance, and I was disappointed by the lack of crime-mafia-mob-craziness!
My biggest problem with this book was Penelope. Yes, she has an autoimmune disease that basically has her sheltered, far away from everyone. Her family (and Family) basically treat her like she's fragile (which she is), and doesn't let her out of their compound/grounds. She has to beg her brother to let her go into New York City, or Garrett. Penelope knows little to nothing about the Family and its the current happenings of the business.
The thing is, we're supposed to feel sorry for her (I assume), but that girl really got on my nerves. She does a lot of whining, a lot of complaining, a lot of temper-tantrum-throwing. I let it go in the first couple of chapters, because she has the condition, but then it just got annoying. Condition or not, there's no excuse for being a stuck-up, annoying brat. She's constantly begging her brother to tell her what is going on in the Family, yet she makes no attempt to sit in at meetings and find out herself. All she cares about is going out in New York City, or going to school for senior year (out in the public, instead of having a tutor). Reasonable for someone who has lived her whole life in seclusion, but at the same time, you do have that condition... it's pretty serious too.
I didn't feel like Penelope grew very much as the story went on, which is a shame. I was so ready to see her do something other than moan about how useless everyone thought she was. When The Unpredictable Event happens, Penelope is left to fend for herself in New York City. She literally sits on her butt for days, does nothing to try and help her family (or Family), or at least figure out what's going on. Her whole life, she didn't want to lie low, and now that is exactly what she is doing.
Then there is the romance. In the first half of the book, we have Penelope and Garrett. I really like them together, they're sweet. They were never really TOGETHER, but Penelope had a crush on Garrett for years. Garrett cares about Penelope in ways other than as a friend. Then The Unpredictable Event occurred, and Penelope and Garrett are separated. Enter Love Interest #2, whom Penelope really, really falls for, making what was between her and Garrett seem like sibling affection. I didn't like this. I get that there was one guy at one point in her life, and a different guy at a different point, but I was annoyed that there had to be two love interests at all.
And the second romance was so insta-love-y! Penelope bumps into Love Interest #2, and it's love at first sight. Or fascination at first sight. For both of them. Just like that. Call me cynical, but it seemed too sudden and abrupt for me. I didn't like that transition at all.
The ending is satisfying in terms of Penelope's story (sort of), but there is room for more. I really hope the next book isn't about Penelope, because I'm so over her whiny attitude. Talk about zero character development (in my opinion). The next book should feature Garrett!
And the last thing I will just briefly mention - I expected more crime! More creepy mafia encounters! More underground illegal shenanigans! The lack of the crime aspect was disappointing, because this book was hailed as a great crime novel, right? Or something.
Would I Recommend It:
Ehhh. It wasn't a good crime novel, the romance wasn't that great, and the protagonist as annoying... so probably not. Overall, it's not a bad book, but you really have to overlook some things. Like Penelope's attitude towards everything.
2.5 stars -> rounded up to 3 stars. I think I'm being generous. I'm looking at the ending of this book optimistically - if the next book is about Garrett (or someone else other than Penelope), then I'm in!
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