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Hold Me Like a Breath: Once Upon a Crime Family
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Hold Me Like a Breath: Once Upon a Crime Family

4.2 5
by Tiffany Schmidt

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In Penelope Landlow's world, almost anything can be bought or sold. She's the daughter of one of the three crime families controlling the black market for organ transplants. Because of an autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise easily, Penny is considered too "delicate" to handle the family business, or even to step foot outside their estate.

All Penelope


In Penelope Landlow's world, almost anything can be bought or sold. She's the daughter of one of the three crime families controlling the black market for organ transplants. Because of an autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise easily, Penny is considered too "delicate" to handle the family business, or even to step foot outside their estate.

All Penelope has ever wanted is independence--until she's suddenly thrust into the dangerous world all alone, forced to stay one step ahead of her family's enemies. As she struggles to survive the power plays of rival crime families, she learns dreams come with casualties, betrayal hurts worse than bruises, and there's nothing she won't risk for the people she loves.

Perfect for fans of Holly Black and Kimberly Derting, this first book in the stunning new Once Upon a Crime Family series from acclaimed author Tiffany Schmidt will leave readers breathless.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Ambitious and original, Hold Me Like a Breath captured my attention before I even turned the first page. It's a thriller in every sense of the word, and I can't wait to see what Schmidt has up her sleeve next." —Michelle Hodkin, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the Mara Dyer trilogy

"The tightly coiled suspense and superb romance had me holding my breath!" —Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of DON'T LOOK BACK and the Lux series

"This book swept me off my feet! Deadly family secrets, tense situations, surprising truths, and captivating romance kept me in suspense from 'Once upon a time' to 'ever after'. Hold Me Like a Breath is a gripping modern thriller for readers who still love fairy tales and people who think they've outgrown them. This is an offer you can't refuse!" —E. C. Myers, author of THE SILENCE OF SIX and FAIR COIN

“This is a sometimes violent, sometimes teen-angsty, sometimes sigh-worthy, and pretty dang awesome modern fairy tale. . . Add this to your must-read pile!” —USA Today's HAPPILY EVER AFTER Blog

"Heartfelt and haunting. Penny is a heroine to root for, a princess who creates her own ever-after." —Jessica Spotswood, author of the Cahill Witch Chronicles

“[A] fairy-tale romance with gangster set dressing . . . . [The] swoonworthy story will appeal to romantic-suspense fans.” —Booklist

“Action, mystery, and perhaps some romance combine in this thriller reminiscent of Gabrielle Zevin's Because It Is My Blood and The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer.” —VOYA

“With its unusual premise and memorable combination of gangsters, deadly secrets, and subtle fairy-tale allusions, this novel offers an adventure with broad appeal. . . This first in a new crime-family series will also thrill romance-loving adventure readers and leave them holding their breath for more.” —BCCB

“A fairy tale retelling that involves crime syndicates and illegal organ smuggling--that is a badass way to revamp a classic story.” —Paste Magazine

VOYA, June 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 2) - Teri S. Lesesne
The family business . . . for as long as Penelope can recall, business has seemed to take precedence over family. Her father and brother are too busy to spend time with her. Time spent with her mother makes her feel excruciatingly overprotected. Pen suffers from an autoimmune disorder that makes her fragile. If someone touches her, she can bruise. If her platelet count drops too low, she bleeds profusely. So, she has grown up isolated from the rest of the world and from her own family at times. The family business, finding organs for wealthy clients who do not have the time to wait on a list, has encountered some opposition from other families who want a bigger piece of the pie. When Pen loses her family, she must flee and survive on her own. Perhaps she is not as fragile as others thought her to be. Pen must discover who to trust in order to solve the puzzle of who murdered the rest of her family and why. Action, mystery, and perhaps some romance combine in this thriller reminiscent of Gabrielle Zevin’s Because It Is In My Blood (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012/Voya August 2012) and The House Of The Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (Atheneum, 2002/Voya October 2002). Reviewer: Teri S. Lesesne; Ages 15 to 18.
Children's Literature - Marisa Behan
This first book in the “Once Upon a Crime Family” series reclaims and blends two fairy tales into a modern crime drama for teens. Penelope Landlow, whose family controls the organ donation black market, has an autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise easily and therefore keeps her at home like a princess trapped in a tower. As a teenager, though, she craves independence. Suddenly thrown into the great big world of independence (thanks to her brother and his friend Garrett), she has to learn to survive in this dangerous world, without the help or protection of her family. Her story recalls the “princess and the pea” narrative, inasmuch as her ability to bruise easily makes her more desirable to the opposite sex. Despite her desire to be strong and independent, in all of her interactions with Garrett, her primary love interest, she is unambiguously vulnerable and feminine, which is what he values in her. He loves her for her fragility, not the depth of strength she shows in her trials or the way she successfully outmaneuvers their family enemies. The novel’s plot is gripping, and the intrigue involved in this black market crime reads like a television drama. Although not likely relatable to many readers’ real lives, Schmidt’s novel successfully holds you to the end. Reviewer: Marisa Behan; Ages 13 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Seventeen-year-old Penny Landlow was born into the "family business"; her dad oversees a vast empire of illegal organ donation. Patients pay heartily for this life-saving service. Penny lives on a lavish estate that sports top-notch security and hired staff. She has limited interaction with the outside world, which is compounded by her disease; Penny suffers from a rare condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). Her body destroys its own platelets for no known reason, and the only treatment is healthy blood infusions every few weeks. Her life revolves around her blood tests and infusions. Penny's greatest desire is to go away to college and live like a normal teen, but her doting parents will never allow this. Carter, her older brother, is home from college, along with his trusted bodyguard, Garrett Ward. Garrett's dad is head of security for the business and his three brothers are employees as well. It's assumed that the Ward family will take over the organ business once Penny's father retires. When the Wards are not named as heirs to her father's empire, the action boils over. Her brother, mother, and father are brutally murdered, and Penny is forced into a heart-pounding, adrenaline-fueled race to discover the true murderers and survive the treacherous New York landscape on her own. Penny comes to recognize her limitations and have faith in her ability to make decisions, learning from her mistakes. The plot is contrived in spots, such as when Penny just happens to run into and fall in love with the son of one of the rival organ empires. Loaded with twists and suspense, this is the first in a series, and teens will anxiously await the next book. VERDICT A crime narrative that satisfies a craving for suspenseful romance, entertaining adventure, and edge-of-your-seat survival drama.—Julie Shatterly, W. A. Bess Elementary School, Gastonia, NC
Kirkus Reviews
Many parents are overprotective, but perhaps none more so than the Landlows with their daughter, Penelope, whom they forbid anyone even to touch.They do have good reason for this rule. Penelope suffers from idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a disease that can result in horrific internal bleeding at even the lightest touch. Complicating matters, the family profession is human-organ trafficking, which, though it can help those in need (and who can pay), is highly illegal and dangerous. When this danger culminates in horrific tragedy, Penelope suddenly finds herself alone in a world she's ill-equipped to deal with. Will she be able to handle real life and even save the man she loves from death? Schmidt offers a modern-day retelling of the "The Princess and the Pea" that attempts to cast the princess in a more proactive, less victimized role than is traditional. Penelope does manage to break free of her delicate-flower mode (with a little motivation from some bad guys), but she suffers so many setbacks and moments of doubt that readers will be forgiven for wanting to hurry up the process. The romance at the heart of the book is a sweet one, if slightly convenient, and offers a pleasant break from Penelope's primary struggle between her past and present selves. A decent girl-power twist on an old fairy tale for thriller lovers. (Thriller. 13-18)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
13 Years

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Meet the Author

TIFFANY SCHMIDT is the author of Send Me a Sign and Bright Before Sunrise. She lives in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband, impish twin boys, and a pair of mischievous puggles. Visit Tiffany online at www.TiffanySchmidt.com and on Twitter @TiffanySchmidt.

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Hold Me Like a Breath: Once Upon a Crime Family 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Linda_Grimes More than 1 year ago
I finally had a chance to read HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH, and I'm kicking myself for not carving out the time to do it sooner. Wow! Talk about a gripping tale! The fairy tale allusions made it that much better for me, but you don't have to "get" them to enjoy Penelope's journey from sheltered butterfly to steel-backboned young womanhood. Loved it! Can't wait for BREAK ME LIKE A PROMISE.
Alyssa75 More than 1 year ago
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt Book One of the Once Upon a Crime Family series Publisher: Bloomsbury 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.  Rating: 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!
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars (all kinds of awesome)     I wanted to read Hold Me Like a Breath before I realized it was a retelling. I was drawn to the autoimmune disorder as well as the black market organ market.      I related with Penelope. She is a strong girl with a weak body. Or so everyone around her keeps pounding into her head. She is protected and viewed as fragile and frail. She had such a spark and she wanted to explore and push her boundaries.      She and Garrett had a spark, but she realizes more about her family business and how much he is involved. She has always known something illegal was going on, but she gets the sense that her brother Carter and Garrett are into even more, things dangerous and a secret from their detail oriented dad.      Quickly though, Penny is pushed to her emotional and physical limits. Tragedy hits her family and she is own her own for a bit. Running and paranoid that someone may be after her, she longs for Garrett, Carter, and her parents, but she is utterly alone and heartbroken. She waits for days for someone to come to her, but then she gets tired of the same walls, and begins to venture out. She tries to be unpredictable but she can't help but form some routines and see familiar faces.      When she is literally ran into by a stranger, things get even more dicey. Since her autoimmune disorder makes her bleed easily and not stop and she bruises badly even worse. She is left dazed, bruised and bleeding. But the stranger helps her back to the apartment, and then shows up the next day. She finds herself feeling so safe with him, comfortable, like he can see past the lies she's forced to tell, and see the strength that everyone in her life didn't because they saw her as breakable, and fragile, in the dark. They spend their days together telling half truths, but they form a real and deep connection.     Her past doesn't stay there forever and she discovers shocking things about both boys she's come to care for. She is left reeling again and not knowing who to trust even more so than before.      These last plot twists leads to even more reveals and a whirlwind of Penn trying to figure out who is the most truthful, who needs to be protected, whose feelings are real, and what is next for her in her life turned upside down. I enjoyed Penelope's growth in this one, discovering her true limits physically because of illness and the depths of strength emotionally that she never fully realized when so protected.      I will def be continuing this series! Bottom Line: Good character development in a main character whose life is turned upside down all the while facing serious physical limitations from a blood disorder. 
BooksABlog More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It was absolutely amazing, the characters were amazing, and the whole story itself was mindblowing.