Cover Image: Stars and Smoke

Stars and Smoke

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Member Reviews

Winter Young is a superstar. Sydney Cossette is a spy for a secret agency. Together, they aim to take down a weapons smuggler. When the Panacea Group finds out that the smuggler’s daughter is a big Winter Young fan, they send him in as a distraction while Sydney gets some evidence. Winter is also a distraction for Sydney though as they soon find themselves drawn together in this dangerous mission. Marie Lu has created another unique and encompassing story. Told through the dual viewpoints of Winter and Sydney, this action packed novel with surprising cliffhangers ending every chapter will keep readers engaged until the very last page.
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Leave it to Marie Lu to get me out of my reading slump!! I love a good spy/heist story, so this was so much fun to read. And a fun new kind of vibe for Marie's books. Loved it!!
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Marie Lu doesn't disappoint! I was gripped by this story pretty much right away, and it kept me hooked up until the end! I loved the two main characters, and I hope we get more of their adventures!
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“‘You may presume that you belong in the spotlight and I operate in a secret world, but perhaps we exist in the same place.’”

A pop star and a spy. Winter and Sydney. On a secret mission to stop a biochemical weapon from getting into terrorist hands. That’s the premise of this book. 

Stars and Smoke. 

A pretty good title! 

This is a YA novel so both characters are 19 years old and good-looking. Another reviewer commented that they got tired of hearing how beautiful Winter was and I would have to agree. It got to be a bit much. And what’s weird is that I still can’t really picture what he looks like. 

Let’s see… 
”he was so beautiful it was hard to believe he was real.”
”she was surprised he wasn’t covered in moths all drawn to his light.”
”There was no one else here, and yet, even now, he looked like a star, like he couldn’t help but burn so bright that even the air was drawn to him, that the moon yearned to illuminate him.”

Marie Lu took pop star quite literally. 

So as with most YA novels, the characters are young and beautiful, have amazing wisdom and skills, and obviously fall in love with each other. 

Having read Lu’s Legend series and The Kingdom of Back, I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book. Stars and Smoke was different because it wasn’t really a world-building book. It took place in modern day London. There was some high-tech gadgetry but otherwise a normal world. 

I still liked it. 

I think what I enjoyed most was the action. I could see this being a rom-com-action-type movie. For some reason I just picture Simu Liu and Scarlett Johansson as Winter and Sydney so they would be older than teenagers but Simu can dance and Sydney is basically Black Widow.

I am a fan of the Mission Impossible movies, however ridiculous they end up being, so I didn’t really care of the aspects of the mission were realistic or not. It also almost felt like the action and the mission superseded the romance which I prefer. 

For a YA novel, the characters weren’t too annoying, the dialogue was mostly realistic, and the action and suspense was really good. Plus it was a clean novel, virtually no swearing and no sex scenes (just one almost one…) so a book that would be appropriate for a teenage audience. 

A slightly more detailed summary is this: Panacea, a secret organization often ‘employed’ by the CIA, recruits Winter, a pop star, to be an undercover spy for their mission because Winter has been invited as the special guest to the birthday party of an evil billionaire’s daughter. Winter is paired with the agent, Sydney, who will be his bodyguard. 

Together they must use Winter’s access to the daughter to get evidence of the billionaire’s illicit activities so that the CIA can finally take him down before the chemical weapon, Paramecium, is in terrorist control. 

The side plot lines are: of course, the romance between Winter and Sydney— forbidden because they live in two very different worlds; and Winter’s early-life-crisis where we feels like his existence is meaningless compared to his deceased brother who worked for the Peace Corp. 

Winter finds out his brother was actually an agent with Panacea, not the Peace Corp, and so we see his grief journey with processing that and trying to follow in his footsteps and get the love of his mother back. 

I didn’t realize this book was in a series. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It seems like a good standalone story and I’m not sure if the characters have what it takes to go the distance, but Marie Lu is a great author so maybe she’ll come up with something good. 

Stars and Smoke doesn’t really end on a cliffhanger so you don’t have to read this one with a commitment to the entire future series which I also like. I have too many series I’m in the middle of… 

I liked the name of the secret organization: Panacea. The word Panacea means ‘solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases’ and is the name of the Greek goddess of universal remedy. I thought this was interesting to think about as both Winter and Sydney have difficulties— Winter, his grief over his brother and his estrangement with his mother; Sydney with a lung condition and the loss of her mom to the same disease— and especially considering this is a series, the role of Panacea in both of their lives may become a remedy for them in different ways. 

One thing that was a little weird to me was that Winter was a male. In Tosca Lee’s book The Line Between—a really good book— the main character is Wynter and is a female. I’m not sure I felt like Winter fit his character, I think he should have had a different name. 

 Overall, for a YA book I really liked it! I think if it was marketed as a an adult book I would have wanted it to be a little different, but I think for what it was supposed to be Marie Lu did a really great job writing this. 

And for this reason… I would recommend this book.

[Content Advisory: 0 f-words, 7 s-words; a couple characters are gay; heavy flirting but no sex scenes]

**Received an ARC via NetGalley**
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What a cute book! I really enjoyed reading this one! This was so many genres packed into one and it worked out so well! A fun little thriller spy romance fantasy (that’s a mouth full) will immediately grab your attention and immerse you in this addictive adventure. A lot of people were comparing it to a YA version of Mission Impossible with some fantasy twists and I’d have to agree! It even has my favorite trope: enemies to lovers! Who doesn’t love that!
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Meet Winter Young – International pop sensation, with a voice like velvet and looks that could kill. His star power has smashed records, selling out stadiums from LA to London. His rabid fans would move heaven and earth for even a glimpse of him – just imagine what they’d do to become his latest fling.

Meet Sydney Cossette – Part of an elite covert ops group, Sydney joined their ranks as their youngest spy with plans to become the best agent they’ve ever had. An ice queen with moves as dangerous as her comebacks, Sydney picks up languages just as quickly as she breaks hearts. She's fiery, no-nonsense, and has zero time for romance – especially with a shameless flirt more used to serving sass than taking orders.
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Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a review copy! In classic Marie Lu style, this YA novel was an escapist romp through a world of performing superstars and spycraft. I loved the backstories of the main characters and the angst they felt even while being at the top of their fields. It was fun to imagine being in one of their shoes while safely ensconced in the comforts of a novel. The romance and obsession with looks was a bit over the top. It was almost as though fandom permeated Lu’s own writing. That said, I enjoyed the quick pacing and the rich extravagances detailed within the story. I think this light novel is great for those who enjoy a little intrigue but want something that doesn’t require a huge investment of time. Enjoy, my friends!
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I did not like this, which is such a shame because I love warcross to a million pieces. Lu was my ride or die. Her books are ridiculously addictive and so fun to read. I understand you have to be in a certain mood for this type of book, and never once was I in it. Plot wise it was exhilarating. So much to work with—spies, mafia, secret organizations. I loved that. If more of the focus was on it than the ill-fated romance, this book might have been saved.
The romance ruined it. Both leads made absolutely no sense and it was so obvious how they were shoved together—both literally and figuratively. They had no chemistry but were ready to die for each other after three chapters. No connection whatsoever. It ruined the book's potential so much. 
Overall, I was not a fan.
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I got this originally as an ARC form NetGalley, but did not finish reading it before it was snatched back, so I bought a copy on Independent Book Store Day and have no regrets!
Lu is a solid YA author who is really good at giving good, action based plots that are perfectly married with rich interior lives for her characters. I love the combination of spy and superstar, and I’m excited this will be a series! It’s also a solid (leaning towards shorter) length, which makes it a great vacation choice too!
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Gallagher Girls who?? Stars and Smoke is a new adult Spy meets rockstar romance with a knife to the throat scene I know everyone will love!!
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Love, love, loved this! Another winner from Marie Lu - this was action packed and romantic, with characters I want to spend many more novels with in the future.
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Having read Lu's other series, I knew I was going to be excited about this because I just love her writing. I did not know that I was going to be OBSESSED with this story line! It is so fun!? It felt so different from her other works--which can sometimes work against authors--but I was pulled in from the very first page. This book was action-packed and exciting! I had such a hard time putting it down for any length of time. Sydney and Winter's relationship was so fun; I love enemies-to-lovers and I thought their banter was perfect!
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As always, Marie Lu does a fantastic job creating complex characters that are fully developed.  This is a well written novel that will leave the reader wanting more.
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"A little like the sun and moon, aren't we? Never in the sky at the same time."

"Technically, the moon can sometimes be seen during the day, so that's not entirely true."

"I'm trying to be romantic, and you're the worst."


Fans of Marie Lu's Legend series will eat up this YA spy thriller featuring a global superstar and hotshot young spy! I feel like Marie Lu has always been such a force in the Young Adult book world, and her novels remain true to the genre in a way that feels both nostalgic and refreshing. She will always be an auto-buy author from me!

While I did enjoy this one, it's probably my least favorite of all of Lu's novels I've read. I liked the characters of Winter and Sydney individually, and I felt like they were well layered and each had their own arcs. However, I wasn't totally sold on their romance. I also thought the story was fairly predictable, which can be expected with YA, but considering this was more of a spy thriller, I was hoping to be taken aback more than I was. 

I'm still planning on picking up the next book because, like I said, Marie Lu is a forever buy.

Thank you NetGalley for sending me a copy of STARS AND SMOKE in exchange for my honest review!

3.75/5 Stars
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I absolutely freaking LOVED ‘Stars and Smoke’ by Marie Lu, can’t wait for the next book, and highly, highly recommend it!
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In this book we meet international pop star Winter Young just as he's approached by an elite covert ops group, to work with seasoned yet young agent, Sydney Cosette. Just as Winter is reluctant to get involved, Sydney doesn't want him involved. But the two ultimately team up to bring down a crime boss suspected of smuggling chemical weapons who has hired Winter to play at his daughter's birthday party. 

I love a good genre-blending read, and this spy thriller with romantic elements fit the bill perfectly. Winter and Sydney made a wonderful pair and I'm so excited to see where they take us in the undoubtable book number two. I find spy novels sometimes difficult to follow on-page, as they are so action-based, but I enjoyed this one and found the descriptions of fight-sequences to be readable. I also am always here for spies and celebrity romances, so to put them together makes for a great combination. 

Thanks to the publisher for my eARC! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

5 stars - 8/10
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“Best of all, no one will suspect you. That’s the beauty of being an unconventional spy.”

I was totally blown away and transported into this wonderful action-packed spy thriller romance. Marie Lu does it again! I admit, it was a different read for me, and not what I expected, but I really enjoyed the storyline. I enjoyed Winter and Sydney working together. I liked the sass between them, the build up, and even the ending was special.

“Let yourself think bravely, Winter Young. You may presume that you belong in the spotlight and I operate in a secret world, but perhaps we exist in the same place.”

Marie Lu had a way of intertwining this adventure story with a riveting spy novel that kept my attention from the first to the last page. Her characters show deep and lasting friendships. The interactions kept me guessing. This was a cool visit into the world of a superstar and the what-ifs of venturing into a battle with the criminal element. The plot twist was incredible. This was a fun, young adult contemporary read.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own, and have been given honestly.
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I'm not sure where to start with this review because I don't have anything great or horrible to write about it was just okay and really kind of a let down from what I expect out of a Lu book. What should have taken me a day and half to read took me over a week because it was not keeping my interest.  I was so excited to read about young spy's but I didn't feel like anything really happened until 60% through the book and the characters were only surface levels until then too. Sorry this book was just not my cup of tea and I'm sad about it because I have loved all of Lu's other books. 2.5 stars

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC of this story in exchange for a honest review.
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I personally had to DNF it right now. This book did not grab my attention when I started it. So, I will defiantly try it again but for right now it is with my DNF's.
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What a fun read! I really enjoyed this book. I loved the concept and I think it was executed well. It kept me entertained the whole time and I couldn't wait to see what happened next. The pop star meets spy aspect was really cool. Overall, I loved it and I am excited to see what Marie Lu does next!
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