So I finally got around to finishing up my first read of the year and OMG I have so many things to scream about!! Which is why the first part of this review will be spoiler free and the rest of it (will be marked) will be me just letting all those feels out!
I actually got this book from a Secret Santa Exchange I participated in and I sat down one night and thought, Hm I should read this. I mean, the cover looked nice and my SS thought I’d enjoy it. And then I looked for it on Goodreads. There were so many mixed reviews! Many people rating it 2 and below but also some saying it was a decent read with really interesting stuff going on. So then I started it with some trepidation
Hold Me Like A Breath is the first book in a duology. The story is about a girl named Penelope (nicknames vary from Pen, Penny, and Princess) Landlow. She’s the daughter of a Crime Lord but she’s also got a blood disorder called Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). Basically this means that Penny has low levels of platelets, which are the cells that help blood clot, causing her to bruise and bleed easily. Because of this she’s lived a very sheltered and pampered life. The people around her are always careful not to touch her, afraid that they may end up being too rough and…well, that she’ll die
Just that was enough to keep me engaged and interested in more. In the first few pages we actually just see how she lives on her estate, how every room that she frequents has been altered so that if she were to ever bump into something, the damage would be minimal to none. We see how people are afraid to touch her, not just because it’s a rule in her house but also because, depending on her platelets count, a single touch could be deadly. We see that she spends a lot of her time dreaming of leaving her house, of living in the city, and (pretty much) in conflict with her family
Characters: Carter is BAE
We also get to meet her older brother, who is so adorable like if he were real I’d probably want to marry him! I super loved his interaction with Penny because he saw her as a person more than others. While many people always coddled Penny and were wary of hurting her, Carter tried to make her feel normal. If she wanted to go out in the city he’d agree, aware that there was danger out there for her, but also not making a fuss. If she wanted to know more about the Family business, he tried to give her some information, which is more than what many others ever did. And he supported her in her desire to go to a public school, which she was prohibited from doing because of her condition. Obviously the #BestBrotherAward goes to Carter!
But it wasn’t just with Penny that Carter was charismatic. I also loved his interaction with Garrett, who was his bodyguard and also best friend. They were also the same age, which I’m only now finding to be funny because normally you think of a bodyguard and they’re older, right? We mostly hear about Carter and Garrett from Penny’s memories, how they were always together (the two of them and also the three of them when possible), but we also see that C&G are close enough to share a secret. A secret that Penny really wants to know about
Honestly, I wish we’d gotten more of these two (Carter and Garrett) but in a way, it was nice to have them be side characters. I feel like they just came out so well because they were side characters (lol)
Which lead us to Penny. One of the things I noticed from the GR reviews is that everyone really disliked Penny and how useless she was. I have to slightly agree. I mean, Penny grew up sheltered, she never really saw the violence of the Family (mafiosos) so when she would see a gun she’d automatically categorize it as bad, she knew next to nothing about the different Families, and she was always fantasizing about leaving the estate. But there was also something charming about her at the beginning. Seeing how everyone treated her, this is what I expected, but then the action came down and Penny stayed the same. I think that’s what annoyed me, that she never grew out of her sheltered life and little bubble (but more on this further down)
In terms of the plot, I’m conflicted. I mean, there WAS a plot. We start getting hints of it from the very beginning where (most of) the Family doesn’t want organ donation to be legalized because it would hit their market. But also we had some people who did support the Organ Act, which would make it legal to do organ donations. I was a little bit ignorant on this because me and politics and business just don’t go hand in hand. But what I did know is that there could be some infighting, especially considering Penny’s father never picked a side before picking an heir to the business
And I won’t say more because I feel like that would fall into spoiler territory (but I will say what happens further down in the spoiler filled section of this review, hehehe)
But this is where (I think), the story starts to fall apart. Not because the plot was uninteresting (it was actually interesting and the plot twists WOW, did not expect those), but because, for 100 or so pages, the plot takes a back seat to the Romance. Do you guys hear me gagging because I am (LOL). And of course, this leads me back to Penny’s lack of character growth the way I wanted, but again, more on that later
Overall (Spoiler FREE)
Overall, I ended up giving this book a 3/5 on Goodreads. It really had some great things going for it like how Penny had an interesting disease I’d never heard about, the characters were all great the first 200 or so pages, we got to see the differences between Families and family, this was about an illegal organ selling mafia!, and really the whole retelling aspect. I mean, I kind of LOVE retellings. But it also ended up going downhill in the later half of the book. Penny’s character didn’t have good character growth (if any), the plot twists destroyed a few of my favorite characters, and the ending felt rather anticlimactic. Plus the romance, GOD, I just can’t. Let’s just say I didn’t like our new character that is introduced around page 200
I did manage to read this in two sittings (might have been one if I didn’t have to sleep) so in terms of keeping me engaged, it mostly succeeded. I know after a point I did feel like it dragged and huh, am I still reading the same book? I can’t really recommend it but if you do end up picking it up, I’d be really interested to know what you think!
You can buy this book on Amazon for $7.18 (reg price 9.99)
If you’ve read this, let me know what you thought! There is a sequel book that I’m going to read. It goes into Maggie’s story with (or maybe without?) Carter so there’s some curiosity, but I’ll be going in weary.
OK, so I’m just going to spill everything that happens in the book down here! So you know how I mentioned that Carter tried to do everything for Penny? Well, in the book he ends up taking her out for some food after he runs an errand, which he keeps a secret from Penny. Of course, that ends up not being completely true. Whoever he was going to go meet ends up standing him up and then calling when Penny and he (and Garrett) are heading to eat. They end up making a detour and Penny ends up “witnessing” some strange things (Garrett using a gun because GASP bodyguards don’t use guns?! and C&G picking up a mysterious package that she believes to be a body)
It’s also that night that Penny learns about a secret apartment that Carter bought and the next day she finds his body. Carter was KILLED. I sobbed so bad when this happened because no, we didn’t have a lot of time for him, but I really liked him. He was just really charismatic and I loved his interaction with everyone and I wish he’d been there later on in the book. Plus, that letter he ends up sending Penny! My heart shattered again
And just like I’m sure a lot of readers loved Carter, you can tell the characters in the book were lost without him. Penny could no longer look at Garrett without thinking of him, Garrett was guilt ridden, thinking that if he’d been around, maybe Carter would still be alive. Penny’s parents are more careful with her and are harsher about her leaving the estate. But I guess what hurt the most was how distant Garrett and Penny were getting. No lie, I really wanted them to get together but with Carter’s death, Garrett had to now be Penny’s bodyguard and wow. His family belittled him because he was now her “babysitter” and you could tell that irked him. No matter how much he cared about her, there seemed to be a part of him that believed she was a downgrade from his usual duties (or maybe I was reading too much into it?)
With Carter gone there also had to be some shuffling as to who would be the Family heir. You would think that maybe Garrett would be chosen as he’d been the one closest to Carter and probably knew the business well, but it turned out to be Nolan, Penny’s teacher, who got promoted. Nolan, who we also only knew about through Penny and who later ended up being some coward, disappearing when things got bad. But I didn’t dislike this part. I actually found it interesting because now there would be even more infighting, since Nolan was very Pro-Organ Act. But it’s something that flopped when Penny’s family was murdered
Having been smuggled off the estate, Penny now had to live in NYC by herself and try to hide from whoever killed her family. And she actually did a lot of great things out there for never having been out for long. Instead of going to the hotel Dr. Castillo told her to, she remembered Carter’s apartment and stayed there. She knew she could be tracked by her phone so she would turn it on at random locations when she needed a number and then use pay phones only. She contacted someone who she knew she could trust. And I was really excited about where the story would go next!
And that’s when the romance started. A romance with a stranger she bumped into while on the street and who later showed up at her apartment (which he didn’t actually know of since she took him to a fake location, close by but still) to see if she was okay and was all like Oh god I’m not a creeper and I usually don’t come on too strong but I like you. And she was OK with it and went out on dates with him and the plot just STOPPED. Like Penny dear, do you remember your whole family just died and you should be careful of people? Aren’t you supposed to be trying to figure out who killed them? Or I don’t know, something aside from flirting with this guy?! Who, by the way, was adorable but also, I didn’t really care about him. If the author had decided to kill him off, I’d been like OK
After 100 pages of that the book is like, Oh hey, we actually do have some plot!
At this point I’m really disappointed in what Penny ends up becoming because she had so much potential, but the author also butchers Garrett. He’s my next favorite after Carter and he was made out to be the bad guy. I mean, yes, he was being used by his family but he also never struck me as the type to just let things happen (or to be stupid) but I guess the mental strain of Carter dying and Penny “dying” really did him in. I was really sad that things ended up that way
Plus the way Penny acted towards him…Honestly, this really reminded me of what happened with Chaol and Celaena when Nehemia was murdered. Except in this book Garrett’s involvement was a bit more incriminating, since he knew about his family’s (the Wards) plan to kill Penny’s
Also, was it just me or did Maggie’s involvement feel strange? I felt like she was only mentioned one or two times and then we just had to accept she was going to be living with Carter/they liked each other
Overall (Spoiler FILLED)
Overall, this could have been a 4/5 book but I had to dock points because it lost focus about midway into the book. We were doing so well with the plot and the Mafia, the infighting, and the whole organ transplant issue. It was still good once Penny ends up living by herself at the apartment, as she waits for Garrett to show up, and as she starts to move about the city. For someone who hadn’t been without protection, I really liked what she was doing, but then Char (stranger who bumps into her) happens and it goes downhill. The story moves to a more romance based feel. The whole I’m being targeted, I must be careful mentality melts. And it only comes back when Maggie shows up at Carter’s apartment. A character we knew very little about and that we were just supposed to accept as Carter’s kind of girlfriend
The action picks up again (a bit) but it just felt rushed/unclear/convenient and even anticlimactic (even though there was a big fight at the end). And with the Family all dead, this book just turns into a contemporary romance YA story
Because of all of this I ended up giving this book a 3/5 because it was a decent read but if you haven’t read it, you’re also not missing out on much.