Hold Me Like a Breath: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany SchmidtIn a world where organ donation is strictly regulated, Penelope Landlow’s Family helps those who can’t afford to wait for legal organ transplants . . . as long as they can afford to pay black market prices.

With rival families and upstarts jockeying for position, Penelope knows as well as anyone that the Family business is dangerous. With the Organ Act making its way through congress she also knows the Family business is on the verge of a major change.

Thanks to an autoimmune disorder called Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) that causes excessive bruising and bleeding, Penelope also knows she’ll never really be a part of the Family business–changes or not.

With her entire family, and even her lifelong crush, convinced that she is far too fragile for the Family business or anything resembling a normal life, Penelope spends her days dreaming of NYC, shopping, watching C-Span, and wandering her family’s lavish estate.

It isn’t enough.

When disaster strikes, Penelope is thrust into a world of secrets and betrayals she is ill-equipped to understand. As she struggles to make sense of her shattered past and shape her own future she’ll also learn that life isn’t always a fairy tale. Sometimes you have to make your own happy ending in Hold Me Like a Breath (2015) by Tiffany Schmidt.

Hold Me Like a Breath is the first book in Schmidt’s Once Upon a Crime Family trilogy. It is loosely inspired by the story “The Princess and the Pea.”

Penelope is an interesting heroine in that she is spunky while also being painfully naive thanks to her sheltered upbringing. Although she is fragile because of her ITP, Penelope is not easily broken as she demonstrates repeatedly throughout the narrative.

With organized crime, black market organs and murder as part of the plot, Hold Me Like a Breath is not your typical fairy tale romance. Sweet moments of first love are tempered with suspense and action as Penelope tries to make sense of the catastrophe that leaves her alone for the first time.

Hold Me Like a Breath is an engaging mystery and coming-of-age story complete with twists that turn the narrative completely upside down not once but twice. A romantic lead who sees Penelope as a true equal helps move the romance here from saccharine and sweet to rock solid and empowering.

Schmidt blends elements of mystery and romance in this retelling that is as unique as it is exciting. In addition to nods to the source material, this book also builds a world that is developed down to the finest details and includes a diverse cast of characters who readers will look forward to seeing in book two. Hold Me Like a Breath is a clever page-turner with a heroine who learns what it takes to chase her own happily ever after in this sensational start to what is sure to be a marvelous series.

Possible Pairings: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, White Cat by Holly Black, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Heist Society by Ally Carter, The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, It Wasn’t Always Like This by Joy Preble, Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan, Vicious by V. E. Schwab, All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

You can also check out my interview with Tiffany!

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Bright Young Things: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“They were all marching toward their own secret fates, and long before the next decade rolled around, each would escape in her own way–one would be famous, one would be married, and one would be dead.”

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen1929: Cordelia Grey and Letty Larkspur are leaving their stifling Ohio town behind to seek fame and fortune in New York City. With a big voice and hopes to match, Letty knows it’s only a matter of time before she hits it big in the biggest city of all. Cordelia is seeking other things–things she can’t even tell her best friend Letty without looking like a fool–even if Cordelia knows her future is in New York.

Along the way to their dreams the girls will face hardships and separation. They’ll meet cads and swells. One of them will even take up with one of New York’s elite flappers–a girl named Astrid Donal.

Everyone comes to New York expecting big things. But Cordelia and Letty will both have to make hard choices to get everything they want while the Jazz Age is still raging in Bright Young Things (2010) by Anna Godbersen.

Bright Young Things is the first book in Godbersen’s 1920s series. It is followed by Beautiful Days and The Lucky Ones. (Godbersen is also the author of the bestselling Luxe series.)

I love historical fiction. Show me a book set anywhere between 1900 and 1940 and there is a 99% chance that I will want to read it. I especially love the 1920s and flappers. (I even wrote a research paper in high school about 1920s fashion. But that’s another story.) My point in sharing all of this? I am pretty well-read when it comes to 1920s–fashion, social mores, history.

What does that have to do with Bright Young Things? It’s part of why I didn’t like it more. I wanted to love this book and I wanted to be excited about the series. But after reading so many other books set in the period the plot and setting started to feel very familiar.

Most of the characters in Bright Young Things are privileged; they have money, they have status, they get what they want. They’re careless like Tom and Daisy Buchanan. And that is great if you want to re-live the frenzy and decadence of The Great Gatsby. But if you want more nuance or something new, well, that isn’t going to be found in Bright Young Things as it treads familiar themes with the decadence of the 1920s, the thrill of speakeasies and the danger of falling for the wrong boy.

My favorite parts of the story were when Letty struck out on her own and found work as a cigarette girl–something I never read about–which was fascinating and ended all too soon. Besides Letty the other characters felt painfully vapid and superficial.

Godbersen lays all of the groundwork for the series with the sprawling prologue and introduction of characters who will be key later in the story. But I never felt excited enough while reading Bright Young Things to feel any urgency in continuing with the series (if I ever will).

This would be a great introductory read for anyone hoping to start reading historical fiction in general or about the 1920s specifically. If you already know about the period and want to move beyond the basics I’d suggest The Diviners by Libba Bray which delves deeper into a variety of areas during the decade albeit in the midst of a supernatural murder investigation.

Possible Pairings: The Diviners by Libba Bray, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson, New York City: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Vixen by Jillian Larkin, Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters by Natalie Standiford, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

The Shadow Society: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

The Shadow Society by Marie RutkoskiDarcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned at a Chicago firehouse. She was five years old.

Since then, Darcy has been bounced from foster home to foster home–never quite fitting in, never quite putting down roots.

Things finally seem to be different on Darcy’s first day back at Lakebrook High. Her second year at the same school, Darcy finally has friends and even a foster mother who seems keen to keep Darcy around; all simple reasons for Darcy to be happy.

Then a new boy arrives at the school and eyes Darcy as if she were an enemy, maybe even a threat. Conn McCrea is both fascinating and frightening as he insinuates himself into Darcy’s life. As she gets to know Conn she also begins to discover strange truths about herself and a world that shouldn’t exist–a world where the Great Chicago Fire never happened and creatures called Shades have created an organization called the Shadow Society intent on eliminating humans.

Darcy always wanted to be part of something, to belong somewhere. But she may have more than she bargained for with Conn and infiltrating the Shades in The Shadow Society (2012) by Marie Rutkoski.

The Shadow Society is Rutkoski’s first young adult novel. She is also the author of the popular Kronos Chronicles series for younger readers.

Part fantasy, part alternate history The Shadow Society is an evocative novel that is as haunting as it is enchanting. Rutkoski masterfully brings not one but two versions of Chicago to life on the page with characters that are charmingly real and entertaining. While the story is grounded in Darcy’s journey to find the truth about herself, the novel also is refreshingly grounded with strong friendships. (Conn and Darcy’s complicated relationship doesn’t hurt either.)

A well-realized world and completely delightful characters come together with a gripping, surprising plot to create a winning combination in The Shadow Society.

Possible Pairings: Loop by Karen Akins, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Shadow Society by J. Q. Coyle, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, Two Summers by Aimee Friedman, The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye, Iron Cast by Destiny Soria, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Pivot Point by Kasie West, The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot

You can also check out Marie Rutkoski’s Q & A with Andrea Cremer about The Shadow Society here: http://www.macteenbooks.com/ya/a-qa-with-marie-rutkoski-andrea-cremer/#.UKSGDIUZooh

 

Because It Is My Blood: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

**As the second in a series, this book (and the review) may contain spoilers for All These Things I’ve Done. You have been warned.**

Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle ZevinAnya Balanchine knows firsthand that being the presumptive heir to an illegal chocolate empire comes with its fair share of complications. After a turbulent year filled with futile attempts to move beyond her criminal reputation and date a truly ill-advised boy–all while caring for her brother and sister–Anya is hoping that the start of autumn and her release from Liberty Children’s Facility will bring with it calmer times.

Unfortunately, nothing about Anya’s life after Liberty is calm. Her criminal record makes attending (not to mention finishing) high school nearly impossible.

Her little sister Natty has grown up during Anya’s time away. Scarlet, her best friend, seems closer than ever to her odious boyfriend Gable. And Win? The boy who made Anya want to give up almost everything her family stood for seems to have a new love.

Anya isn’t sure where she fits into this world where everything and everyone has moved on without her except that she hopes it has nothing to do with her extended family. Or chocolate.

Unfortunately, as ever, Anya’s wants are overlooked as she is drawn back into the Balanchine’s world of crime, chocolate and intrigue. Taken away from the city and the people that she loves, Anya will have to decide what price she is willing to pay for safety and who she truly wants to be in Because It Is My Blood (2012) by Gabrielle Zevin.

Because It Is My Blood is the second book in Gabrielle Zevin’s Birthright series which started with All These Things I’ve Done.

As exciting as Because It Is My Blood can be, this novel’s strength is in its focus on Anya. She is still impetuous and often acts rashly. But she is also circumspect and calculating–as is fitting of a mafiya princess, even a reluctant one.

While Anya struggles with familiar questions about her family and her identity, Zevin keeps the story original with her surprising turns and Anya’s wry, eloquent narration. Readers will also notice Anya’s continued growth as she moves out from her dead father’s shadow (and advice) to begin making her own decisions.

Zevin also continues to delicately build Anya’s world in Because It Is My Blood with some tantalizing hints of what readers can expect in the latter half of this series. As our heroine moves beyond the island of Manhattan, Zevin develops the politics of 2083 that surround a country where chocolate is illegal and many other items are in short supply.

Because It Is My Blood proves that Anya still has more to learn and even more tricks up her sleeve making this book another absorbing installment in an already gripping series.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Leverage (television series), White Collar (television series)

Thanks to Esther Bochner at Macmillan Audio I also have a clip to share from the audiobook of Because It Is My Blood: You can listen to the clip on my website.

You can also read my exclusive interview with Gabrielle Zevin!

Also be sure to check out the cool trailer.

*This book was acquired for review from the publisher at BEA 2012

All These Things I’ve Done: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle ZevinAnya Balanchine lives in a world where chocolate is illegal, water is scarce and New York City is a ghost of what it once was. Central Park is no longer a park. The Metropolitan Museum is a night club.

Anya’s life has been touched by tragedy, if not hardship, as the daughter of an infamous (and dead) crime boss. With her parents gone, it falls to Anya to take care of her siblings and protect them from the family business.

But when the family business is illegal chocolate, it’s hard to stay on the sidelines–especially when the new boy at school that you might like happens to be the son of the new assistant district attorney. Suddenly all of the decisions Anya has been avoiding need to be made and this time it might not be possible to keep everyone safe.

In a world where so much has changed and family means everything, falling in love could be deadly in All These Things I’ve Done (2011) by Gabrielle Zevin.

All These Things I’ve Done is the dynamic start to Zevin’s Birthright series–happily so since this book leaves readers who are looking for dystopians, noir stories, and even heist stories like White Cat or Heist Society wanting a lot more.

Although the story is  little gory and gritty at times (and maybe even a little bleak thinking about a world where the Met is a nightclub and paper is a thing of the past) Zevin still manages to imbue Anya’s narrative with hope. Throughout all of her travails, Anya manages to persevere. Even at her most ruthless and pragmatic Anya remains a completely sympathetic heroine. Zevin also cleverly reverses typical tropes casting Anya as the hero while her boyfriend stands in as the “damsel in distress” of this story.

The writing here is beautiful and frank, immediately evoking the strange new world Anya calls home complete with details specific to New York and a remarkably well-realized landscape. All These Things I’ve Done presents a taut story filled with tension and suspense that starts off what promises to be a remarkable series.

Possible Pairings: White Cat by Holly Black, Strings Attached by Judy Blundell, Heist Society by Ally Carter, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, Leverage (television series), White Collar (television series)

You can also read my exclusive interview with Gabrielle Zevin!

*A copy of this book was acquired for review from the publisher*

Uncommon Criminals: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Uncommon Criminals by Ally CarterFifteen-year-old Katarina Bishop is a small girl with dark hair and bright blue eyes. She is also the girl that, mere months before, robbed the Henley–the greatest, and arguably most secure, museum in the world.

But Kat isn’t a thief. Not anymore. At least not exactly. Think of a her as more of a return artist, a righter of wrongs maybe.

When Kat is asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald she can’t say no. Not when the Cleopatra has been waiting years to be returned to its rightful owner. Yes, the Cleopatra hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Yes, it is essentially a concrete symbol of the doomed love between Cleopatra and Antony. Yes, there are rumors that the stone is cursed. And a history of jobs involving the Cleopatra Emerald going bad. Really bad.

But Kat is smarter than that. And curses aren’t real, not that the Cleopatra is cursed. There has to be some other, logical, reason for why the world’s most famous emerald is bringing Kat and her crew nothing but trouble, right?

Either way, before this job is over Kat is going to have take a long hard look at who she is and what she does because all of her old tricks–the tricks her family has been using for centuries–are useless this time. This job is going to require something different. Good thing Kat and her crew are anything but ordinary in Uncommon Criminals (2011) by Ally Carter.

Uncommon Criminals is the sequel to Carter’s delightful Heist Society and the second in what she has stated on her site will be an ongoing series featuring Kat, her crew, and her inimitable family.

Heist Society was a smashing introduction to the world (and crew) of Katarina Bishop. The writing was sleek, smart and elegant. The  story was well-paced, original and exciting. It was the kind of book where a sequel could go horribly wrong. Or it could be just as amazing as the first.

Turns out Uncommon Criminals not only held up to the standards set Heisty Society, in a lot of ways it exceeded those standards.

Filled with several surprising twists, a cunning foe, and all of the characters readers loved in Heist Society (like Hale and Gabrielle), Uncommon Criminals is another great installment about Kat’s exploits. At the same time this book also deals with what it means to be a thief and, for Kat, what it means to be a part of her family. The con itself, and Carter’s beautiful writing, are deceptively simple here making Kat’s plans and the writing itself seem effortless.

Uncommon Criminals is a quirky, sophisticated page-turner that will leave readers guessing until its clever conclusion (and eager for another installment about Kat, Hale and the rest of the team).

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, White Cat by Holly Black, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Danny Danziger, The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau by E. Lockhart, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief by Bill Mason and Lee Gruenfeld, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leverage (television series), White Collar (television series), The Italian Job (movie)

*This book was acquired at BEA 2011

Heist Society: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Katarina Bishop grew up all over Europe, but she isn’t an heiress. She has a Faberge egg, but she isn’t a Romanov. Kat is used to looking at a room and seeing all the angles, but that was before she stole a whole other life at the Colgan School only to walk away from it months later without a trace.

That was before everything went sideways.

While Kat was busy trying to steal a new, legit, life the family business prospered. When a powerful mobster’s priceless art collection goes missing it isn’t all that surprising that Kat’s father is on the list of suspects. It isn’t even surprising that he is the entire list of suspects.

The only problem is the mobster wants his paintings back. And he isn’t taking no for an answer.

Kat has two weeks to find the paintings and steal them back with her own heist society and the help of her friend and long-time co-conspirator W. W. Hale (the fifth). Her pursuit will criss-cross Europe and reunite Kat with some of the most talented teenagers in the world–if, that is, by talent you mean skills like picking pockets, hacking computers, and running a con.

Time is short and the job is monumental but Kat has a crack crew and, hopefully, enough talent to pull off an impossible heist (and maybe right a few wrongs along the way) in Heist Society (2010) by Ally Carter.

Carter’s writing is poised to dazzle and enthrall right from the first page. Filled with twists, turns, criminals and even some restitution Heist Society is a sleek, clever, and subtle book that somehow exceeded even my (high) expectations.

Heist Societyis one of the best books I’ve read so far this year and officially in my Ten for 2010 list. I can’t put into words how much I love the cover or how much the writing impressed me. Let’s just say that if I could live in a book, I might want it to be this one. I fell in love with the setting, the characters, and everything else about this little gem.

Stories about criminals and their crimes have been around for years, but never has life on the other side of the law looked this exciting and dangerous all while being glamorous. A must-read for anyone with a little larceny in their soul (or a little love for an old-fashioned heist).

Possible Pairings: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, White Cat by Holly Black, What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell, Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Danny Danziger, The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece by Edward Dolnick, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau by E. Lockhart, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief by Bill Mason and Lee Gruenfeld, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, Leverage (television series), White Collar (television series), The Italian Job (movie)