Cover Image: Stars and Smoke

Stars and Smoke

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Member Reviews

This book was must "meh" for me. I really liked the premise, which is why I requested it in the first place, but something about it just didn't fit. Maybe it's because even though we're told Sydney and Winter are 19, they act way too old for that...? Maybe it was the feeling that even though the author did her level best to come up with cool spy stuff that the story felt like it was on the outside looking into the world of spies and espionage? Maybe it was that the spy part of the story felt disconnected from the romance track...? I'm not sure. 

Don't get me wrong, Marie Lu is a good writer. She clearly put time and thought and energy into all the pieces of this novel. But the different parts didn't add up to a cohesive whole. I guessed the big plot twist about a third of the way through the book, and after I hit the midpoint I started skimming most of it and still got the gist. I didn't feel like I'd missed much by doing so. Also, I did not buy into the whole emotional scene at the end between Winter and another character. It just wasn't believable after everything we'd been told about that person. I really wanted to suspend my disbelief in that moment for Winter's sake, but the scene didn't feel genuine to the story at all.

Having said that, I really did enjoy Winter as a character. It's cool to see Asian representation, and I'm glad that it wasn't a glaring part of the book but a natural, organic part of who Winter is. I definitely would have read, with a close eye, an entire book about him in a completely different setting and plot.

Apologies to Marie Lu fans (and those who did like this,) but it's not for me.
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Who better to be a spy than someone in plain sight? Winter Young, the world's most popular singer, is recruited because a big bad has a daughter who is a big fan. Sydney Cossette doesn't want to like Winter but being paired with him means a promotion. Turns out they work a little too well together, getting into trouble.

I liked the characters in this one. It's different than Lu's usual stuff but that is okay: fun with action, James Bond style accessories, and K-pop shout outs. I've seen online promos and tags saying "enemies to lovers" but I would not label or promote this book that way. 

After some minor flirting and then imminent death; there is really only one sort of kiss. They come to realize, they can't be together, and work together, too. 
end  spoiler

I feel like it's minor to the plot and the friendship that develops is a bigger deal. I am curious to see what happens in the next one.
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A spy romance with just the right amount of tension and intrigue to keep me reading until the end! I did struggle a little bit getting on board with the romance development, but only because it felt a bit underdeveloped--and because the entire premise was kind of unbelievable to begin with. Once you get past that and let yourself enjoy it, this is a fast-paced, fun read!

*Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book for review.*
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Adventurous and action packed, with a cool twist on a typical bodyguard trope. Even though the main character there are upper YA, the writing style and overall content are accessible for younger YA too (in my opinion. I am not a parent, teacher, or librarian.)

I will note that because of the title/cover, I thought this book would be some kind of fantasy/sci-fi. Instead I would describe it as a contemporary thriller. No fantasy/sci-fi elements.

Content notes: death of parent & death of sibling (in past), gun violence, hospital situations, kidnapping
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I loved both the main characters. Pop star Winter is beautiful and talented, yet he hasn't let stardom give him a big head. His family situation hurt my heart, but I loved that he had such a close relationship with his team. Also, I was here for the queerness he added to the story He's bisexual, and it isn't a throw away comment but elaborated and validated by his past relationship that he's still close to. Then we have Sydney, who is constantly motivated by her past. She's not a warm character but she does thaw around Winter as the feelings between them grow. Their relationship is a slow burn with a touch of steam, with plenty of bickering/bantering along the way.
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Marie Lu never fails me. I loved this book so much! I was a little scared because this book isn’t the normal genre that she writes. I was curious to see how well she could write a thriller book. Well I have no reason to doubt that she can’t write a book in any genre. 

My favorite part of this book is the relationship between the two main characters. Their banter and the way they interact had me screaming (in a good way) I love the tension between them. It really has me as the reader invested into their relationship. 

I also like the way she built their personalities. They are both very different yet I could understand both of their feelings. 

And the trope of a bodyguard is one of my favorites, but this one is reversed with the woman being the body guard, and I’m all for it! I will admit Sydney definitely had me mad at her during some points because of how stubborn she is, but I like how Marie knows how to write a strong female protagonist!

The ending had me needing more of this duo and so I’m eagerly waiting the next book!
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“Where you go, I go. Right?”

This had so much potential. It had a great set up with the spy organization and the backstories of the main characters. I was really interested in their past trauma and how they coped with it. I liked Winter and Sydney individually but I didn’t feel any of the tension or chemistry that there needed to be in a spy romance where they don’t like each other at first. The jump from enemies (if you could even consider them enemies at first) to lovers felt very quick and not genuine. I don’t understand why they fell in love. While I did like the set up for all the spy stuff, the execution didn’t meet my expectations and the plot lacked complexity. As I was reading I never really felt like the stakes were high. It just felt like things were happening and I was being told about it. Overall, I really wanted to like this but it didn’t meet my expectations.
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Fast-paced but totally implausible story of teenaged super spy pretending to bodyguard boy superstar as they endeavor to get close to evil billionaire and save the world.
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Another wonderful story from Marie Lu. I can’t say I’ve read anything by Lu that I haven’t loved. This was a fun spy novel with a chance to have more books added to the story line.
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I spoke about this book in a bookhaul video on instagram. This was actually my first time reading Marie Lu and I understood why she has a loyal following. This was a great read and I am kind of hoping there would be another book where we see these characters again but I also feel okay if this is a standalone.
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I love Marie Lu and this book did not disappoint! A great spy novel with plenty of room for more books to come!
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I love Marie Lu’s writing. Let me start by saying that. I’ve read every Marie Lu book there is. I was super excited to see that she was going to write a spy romance. 

I loved the characters and the story in this one. I’m super excited to continue the series because there were so many hints at more stories to come and secrets left unrevealed. I think the world is really interesting as well and I always love Marie’s nods to her other works. 

The plot got a little far fetched for me at points where I felt like these highly intelligent characters would have put some of these elements together faster than they did so that’s where it lost a star but overall, it was a really enjoyable read. 

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Thank you net galley for the advance reader copy of this novel.   This was a FANTASTIC YA read from one of my favorite YA authors, Marie Lu.   Winter and Sidney make a great team fighting against the evil.   Just enough romance to keep things interesting.   I loved everything about this book except when it ended.  5 stars
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I received a copy of this book for a fair and honest review. I have to say this was just a fun book to read all around. I really like Sydney and how she handles things. She does her best to do her job and not fall for the charms of Winter. Winter is a popstar with some very over the top fans. This is when a secret spy group wants to recruit him to help with a mission to get Eli. That is how Sydney and Winter's path cross. Sydney is assigned to be Winter's bodyguard. It had me laughing at so many points.
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Loved this book from Marie Lu! Fast-paced and fun. Plus we love to see a female heroine kicking butt.
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great book and I enjoyed the characters growth. Loved the friends and how this all worked out. I enjoyed the characters journey to finding oneself and others. I hope to read more by this author again.
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This is a story about stealthy stardom 

If your a fan of the author- this is a much different reading experience! That being said, if you’re in the mood for a blend of espionage and high school drama, “Stars and Smoke” is the perfect choice. Think of it as “Mission Impossible: The High School Edition.”  

Thank you so much Netgalley & Roaring Book Press!
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Everything Marie Lu writes is perfection. The story is so engaging that I cancelled movie plans to finish it in one sitting. The characters were all multi-dimensional and interesting, and I didn't see the ending twist coming. Definitely will be on the lookout for a sequel!
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From the bestselling author of the Legend Series comes a new book about international crime, fame, and two unlikely accomplices. Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu has everything you could want in a YA action book that will have fans wanting more when it comes out on March 28th.

I really enjoyed this story! This book was a combination of action-packed with a touch of romance and it was everything you could want in a YA novel. While those used to adult suspense novels might find this book a bit basic, YA readers will probably devour this book as fast as I did! Both Winter and Sydney were such fun characters to read about and learning more about their pasts was super interesting and made them such well-developed characters.

I sincerely hope that a whole series develops about these two because I want to see Winter and Sydney tackle more adventures together and fall in love!! (That’s not too big of an ask, right Marie Lu lol?)

*I received an ARC from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group (Fierce Reads) in exchange for my honest opinion.
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Thanks so much to NetGalley and Roaring Brook Press for access to an eARC in exchange for my honest review!

Winter Young is an international superstar known around the world for his amazing music, his exciting performances, and his impeccable sense of style. Sydney Cossette is an agent for the Panacea Group who makes it a priority not to be known at all. But when the Panacea Group's next big mission means they'll need to enlist the help of a worldwide sensation like Winter as he's invited to perform for the daughter of their target, pairing him off with the jaded young agent who lacks faith in his ability to carry out the mission without either losing his cool or blowing their cover, things are bound to be interesting. Winter and Sydney, along with his manager and two of his backup dancers and closest friends travel to London for the birthday party of the century, and between rehearsals and party events, they have to piece together clues and search desperately for evidence to stop their target before it's too late.

The way both of these leading characters were written was incredible. They had so much depth and so much heart and so much *trauma* that fed so deeply into who they were as people and how they handled each struggle that came their way, and their slow burn somewhat forbidden romance had my heart racing from the moment their eyes met across the conference room in Panacea's headquarters. The humor between them and the rest of the cast was well timed, the pacing of the story was amazing, and the action sequences were tense and stressful and really delivered. Plus, while I saw the twist coming a few times throughout the story, Marie Lu did a great job of convincing me that I was wrong to think so multiple times, so it was actually a really fun reveal in the end. I'm going to be holding my breath until I can get my hands on the sequel and read more about what Winter, Sydney, and the rest of the gang are getting up to.
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