Cover Image: Stars and Smoke

Stars and Smoke

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publish Group for this ARC! 

Upon reading the summary of this book, I knew it was going to be good. Marie Lu never misses, every single one of her books that I have read were so memorable, but this one has a special place on that ranking. First off, the tropes were everything, like spies, superstars, the body-guard trope (but with the FMC being the bodyguard), secret identities; I devourered this.

The characters were so likable, I loved each one. Winter was so adorable, he had me smiling at the page each time. And Sydney was everything I could have asked for with a strong-female lead. Also, Winter's friends and manager had me screaming, their dynamic with Winter was perfect, they are so supportive of Winter and have a great relationship dynamic with him. As for the relationship between Winter and Sydney, I have no words. It was so cute to read that I was smiling so hard. Their banter and sarcasm was good, and the way that the other characters viewed their interactions made it even better. Also, the way that they viewed each other was so well-written, that as a reader I was enjoying it so much. They had really strong chemistry throughout the book and I was rooting for them from start to finish. Additionally, both Winter and Sydney's backstories made my heart ache for them. I got a little teary whenever each of theirs came up.

The plot itself is very fast-paced, so this book would be a great book if anyone needs a quick and enjoyable read. The formatting was well-planned out. I loved the chapter titles; it was such a cute little preview. Also, I lived for the little Mission Logs. The book is told in third person and alternates povs throughout chapters, so it was nice to read both Sydney and Winter's perspectives.

Overall, this was such a great read and I am so grateful I got the opportunity to read it. The plot twists and characters kept me invested towards the end, and I found myself easily reading this book in the span of a couple of days. Like every Marie Lu book prepare to experience a full range of emotions, trust me, it's worth it! I will definitely be pre-ordering this book for another reread and to tab all of Sydney and Winter's interactions!
Was this review helpful?
As a long-standing fan of Marie Lu, I was excited to read her newest book and it didn’t disappoint! I loved the spy angle and her characters were as three dimensional as ever! I would definitely recommend!
Was this review helpful?
Wow, when I saw that one of my favorite authors had a novel on NetGalley, I jumped to request the book.  It was something that I was very excited to read and was not disappointed.  Also, female bodyguard? This is not the first I have read in this trope, but I am definitely hoping for much more in the future.  Would recommend!
Was this review helpful?
Winter Young is an international pop star who seemingly has it all. But Winter’s brother Artie, died years ago and his Mom has backed away from him ever since.

Sydney Cossette didn’t have it easy. She grew up poor in a small town with a dead-beat Dad. So Sydney got good at pick-pocketing and learned a bunch of languages for fun and was discovered by the Panecea Group. Now she’s one of their youngest and brightest spy’s.

Here’s where things get fun. Panecea has been trying to take down drug lord Eli Morrison for years but they don’t have hard evidence. Eli’s daughter, Penelope, is Winter’s biggest fan and when an offer to do a private concert comes through Panecea decides to take a chance on a pop-star as their newest recruit and pairs a reluctant Sydney as his bodyguard. Can Winter and Sydney stop arguing long enough to actually get the proof they need?

Couldn’t put this true YA down (will buy for Jane when it comes out so she can read - age 12). What a fantastic start to 2023!!
Was this review helpful?
Every single time Marie Lu releases a new book, I immediately scramble to get my hands on it. So to say I was ecstatic to get my hands on an ARC is an understatement. I knew I would love Stars and Smoke, and I was completely right.

Although I do admit that this wasn't my favorite Marie Lu book, I still really enjoyed it. It wasn't meant to be some world-changing fantasy novel filled with complexities. Instead, it was a book written simply for fun. And that's what it was. Pure fun. I loved reading it, and I already look forward to rereading it.

My favorite thing about this was definitely the dynamic between Sydney and Winter. They were so adorable! Constantly squabbling, constantly bickering. They had all the charm of a typical Lu couple, and the tense setting made it even better.

I did slightly miss the typical side characters Lu writes, I feel like these lacked some of the usual depth. Because this is a series of serials though, I expect to get to know them better and eventually come to love them! I can't wait to read Book 2!

Thanks to Netgalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!
Was this review helpful?
2.5 Stars
It pains me to say this, but I didn't love the novel. Maybe it was too YA for my taste?

A pop star was recruited to become a spy. While on a special mission, he started to fall for his bodyguard and vice versa.

The blurb stated that this was a mix between The Hating Game and Mission Impossible. So going in, I thought I would be getting a fun rom-com with some intense fighting scenes. Something that will hold my interest and keep me on the edge oat. Unfortunately, nothing really happens until around the last quarter of the novel, but by then I didn't really care. Also, it wasn't enough to carry the whole novel. I never grew attached to any of the characters, the romance was lackluster, and some scenes were predictable.

Overall, it was just an okay read.

***I would like to thank NetGalley, Marie Lu (the author), Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, and Roaring Brook Press for graciously sending me a copy to review. As always, all thoughts are my own.***
Was this review helpful?
Stars and Smoke marks the beginning of another action-packed series from Marie Lu and I could not be more excited! I had a really fun time watching Winter and Sydney navigate being on this high-stakes undercover mission. This novel made me realize how much I love the action-spy genre. I also really loved both Winter and Sydney's individual inner conflicts. Many of their thoughts were relatable, and it was heartbreaking to see how lonely and unwanted they felt individually. I'm glad that they managed to find their way together by the end of the book, even if it is for a little time. I didn't think it would be possible, but the epilogue of this book made me even more excited for the series than before reading Book 1. I only rate this 4 stars instead of 5 because the plot of the actually "whodunit" part of the mission/investigation was pretty predictable, and I was surprised that Sydney, as an extremely skilled and talented agent part of an impressive secret agency, was not able to figure out who really was at play in their mission.
Was this review helpful?
The premise of this book is so unique. While reading this book, I was instantly taken back to my love of Disney Channel Original Movies, because this would absolutely be a plot of one of those in the early 2000s. I don’t know how Marie Lu has so much space in her brain for her creative ideas but I’m not complaining. I loved this book! It was fun, interesting, and I loved the relationship dynamics. A great book to read for anyone who loves a good spy story!
Was this review helpful?
I enjoyed this book. The plot was well paced and the characters were interesting. I would enjoy reading another by this author in the future.
Was this review helpful?
This is a beautifully written new adult novel (they were a bit beyond "young adult" since both main characters were 19). The complex characterizations were intricately interwoven into the narrative such that you don't feel the information being provided, yet had a firm grasp of each character's strengths, flaws, and fears. The same is true of how the author sets each scene and carries the story. 
There is a huge leap into unreality with the ultra famous popstar recruited to be a secret mission spy and the assigned spy bodyguard who he ultimately falls for. But it's fiction, it's fun, it's adventurous and, again I must say it's well written. Loved the imaginative quality to the design of this story. Thoroughly enjoyed and recommend so long as you're not a stickler for your stories being realistic. This is escapism at its finest with a love story to propel the novel.
Was this review helpful?
Stars and Smoke reads like the k-pop love letter than Lu intended for it to be. It stars Sydney, a down-on-her-luck woman who left everything behind to be a spy, and Winter, the biggest pop star in the world. It's a classic story of a bodyguard and her famous charge, but with the added twist that both are working toward the same spy mission. The story is very fast-paced, and though there are flashbacks to the characters' pasts, these never bog the story down, and add some much-needed empathy when the main characters are at their most antagonistic toward each other. The plot delivers what you would expect for the genre, and it is engaging. Fans of both Marie Lu and the spy genre should both enjoy this book. Their "enemies to lovers" develops very classic to the trope; romance lovers will likely be satisfied with that. Stars and Smoke knows what it is, and should satisfy those who come to it knowing what it is about.
Was this review helpful?
Winter Young is a popular pop star who has screaming fans wherever he goes. And then he's recruited to be.a spy for an underground network. And of course he falls for the bodyguard/spy who is assigned to him. Predictable and not very believable.
Was this review helpful?
Reviewed for NetGalley:

Winter Young, pop star extraordinaire is tapped as a secret agent with another teenage spy, Sydney Cossette, to infiltrate a billionare tycoon’s daughter’s birthday. Say what?

Interesting premise, intrigue and spys that make for a quick, fun read.
Was this review helpful?
Good balance in the writing.  I don't see it going over well with our patrons BUT I see it doing really well with middle school and high school age.
Was this review helpful?
3.75 stars

This was my first Marie Lu book and I requested it because of the blurb. Stars and Smoke is a dual-POV narrative that is a hate-to-love spy thriller involving a pop superstar (the author, in her acknowledgement, writes that she took ample inspiration from BTS, being a huge fan) and a secret agent from a CIA shadow organisation. There's a new world-population-threatening chemical and an international smuggling syndicate, as well as ample time spent in London where the bulk of the action takes place.

Despite some uneven pacing, I enjoyed this fast, well-written story. The main characters are crafted well, with full back stories, and they have believable flaws and issues. The side characters also play their parts competently. I'm a fan of the Mission Impossible movies (which has been listed as this book's inspiration) and all the high-tech gadgetry was fun to read about. The only major quibble I had was how little time we got building the relationship between the leads before they were already apparently "in love". So much of their individual increasing attraction and feelings happened in their respective heads rather than out in the open or felt based upon believable groundwork in person.
Was this review helpful?
This book. This book. THIS. BOOK. It was so much fun and written so well. I would like to listen to the audio too I bet it’s amazing. Can’t wait to get it for my shelves.
Was this review helpful?
DNF @20%. I try not to DNF ARCs, but I have zero interest in either the characters or the plot at this point. It has a flashy premise that I assume was the selling point (superstar! spies! brother with a secret past!), but somehow the execution is failing to make this glamorous premise interesting.
Was this review helpful?
This book was captivating and left me wanting more. 
A fabulous story of a superstar taken on a secret mission and working through spy life.
The beginning felt a little slow, but once the story took off, I couldn’t help but continue turning the pages to see what was going to happen next. 
I loved the unpredictability of what Winter’s relationships would be with some of the secondary characters, and how just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, everything shifted. 
Well written, and highly recommend.
Was this review helpful?
A mega pop star gets drafted to work as a spy for a covert organization and is paired with a psychologically damaged, but highly competent female spy on a mission in high society London.  As ludicrous as this sounds, Marie Lu made it work.  By the time I got halfway through the book, I couldn’t put it down to the extent that it was 1 am before I could finally shut my Kindle and go to bed.  The characters were so well drawn out, I could easily visualize this being made into a movie.  Perhaps, that is the author’s hope and my wish as well.  There is definitely room for a second book in a series and much more to explore with Winter Young.   This may be a YA genre, but this OA (old adult) definitely enjoyed and recommends Stars and Smoke.
Was this review helpful?
A powerhouse author like #MarieLu will definitely be one to get a book checked out in a school library. So I was excited to get an ARC of #StarsAndSmoke from Net Galley. The story follows superstar entertainer Winter Young as he is recruited as part of a super secret spy operation to work alongside 19-year-old agent Syndey Cossette to bring down a global criminal. The story has it all: spies, spy devices, action, mystery, friends-turned-enemies, a few romantic moments, and more. It has a little of something for everyone. The pacing seemed a little uneven in parts, but it's not something teens will notice. Overall it's a fast paced read that will circulate well in a school library. Many thanks to the publishers and Net Galley for the ARC.
Was this review helpful?