Member Reviews

I love Marie Lu's books, and this is no exception. I was interested in seeing how she did with a new genre, and I am not disappointed. I felt like the characters were both very compelling in their own ways and that the pace was great for the story. The romance was well done. The only things that keep this from getting a 5 star rating is the gimmick-y nature of the perfect teen pop idol and scrappy street teen dynamics. It made parts of the story seem stereotypical instead of being a fully unique story. I am very much looking forward to the next installment of this series.

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Winter Young: international pop star with a huge following
Sydney Cossette: youngest member of an elite covert ops group, with an ear for languages and lightning quick reflexes

An unlikely pair, but the two end up working together when a major crime boss asks Winter to perform a concert for his daughter's birthday. Using the opportunity to infiltrate by sending in Sydney as a bodyguard, will the pop star and the spy be able to work together and successfully take down the crime syndicate?

I love spy thrillers, but Stars and Smoke was a stretch. Sydney seemed to have more experience than someone twice her age, which really was not possible. The tech used was really cool and definitely advanced (without spoilers, I can only say that the tech was never around when it was needed). Sydney's character flaws did not make much sense, especially considering the fact that she was trained to stay under the radar. Winter's character development was spotty and did not come together for me. Overall, the plot was pretty transparent and the story was not all that interesting.

As a fan of many of Marie Lu's previous works, Stars and Smoke largely fell flat. YA readers might like the characters, as they both have plenty of characteristics that seem similar to those in the author's other novels.

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I flew through this book. I love everything Marie Lu writes, but this was probably one of my favorites. I loved how fast paced the story was, I loved how well the characters were developed, I liked the strong FMC, and I loved the thriller/spy story line (the story was unrealistic as other reviewers have mentioned but that is part of the reason I liked this book). I liked these the sprinkling of romance as well and am looking forward to reading about the characters in the next installment.

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3.5 stars, rounded up.

A little action and intrigue, a little romance, and a fun ride characterize Marie Lu's upcoming book, Stars and Smoke .

Winter Young is the biggest pop sensation in the world. His latest album tops the charts in 70 countries, and he’s a real heartthrob and fashionista. But despite his amazing success, he doesn’t feel fulfilled anymore. Inspired by the memory of his older brother, who died while in the Peace Corps, he starts yearning for more than fame.

Enter Panacea, a top covert-ops organization. They’ve been trying to bring down a major drug, arms, and human trafficker without success. But the mogul’s daughter is Winter’s biggest fan, so when she invites him to attend her birthday party, it will allow Panacea to infiltrate his home courtesy of their newest recruit—Winter.

Sydney is Panacea’s youngest operative, on her way to becoming their best agent ever. She doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and she’s not thrilled about having to babysit a pop star playing spy. But as Winter and Sydney get closer to their target, she starts to realize there’s more to him than meets the eye, and he finds that her icy exterior is hiding vulnerability.

This was a good, fast-paced read, with memorable characters and a good mix of intrigue and romance. I’ll read whatever Lu writes, and this was an interesting change of pace for her.

Thanks to NetGalley and Roaring Brook Press for an advance copy. The book publishes 3/28.

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Stars and Smoke is an espionage thriller with little espionage and and even less thriller. It isn’t Marie Nu’s best but it was a bit entertaining. Some of the dialogue was forced and typical where I was rolling my eyes thinking “kinda hallmark-y”. I am not sure I will reach for the next book in the series.

Thank you fir the advance copy in digital and audiobook. The narrator was quite good though. I will look for other books she narrates.

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Stars and Smoke is full of tension and thrills. I loved the relationship between Winter and Sydney. This was an exciting book that you won't want to put down.

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Marie Lu is a YA author staple. This was a fun sci-fi that took a new twist on a well loved genre. Very fun!

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I loved this
Fast paced, full of action and heart
Love that the series is continuing
The background characters are wonderful.
I had a great time

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I enjoyed this book. It had an exciting and unique storyline I think teenagers will find this to be a great and enjoyable read.

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My students will be a fan of this one-it was very different from what Marie Lu usually writes, but I think it was a super fun story that will attracted several of my mature YA readers.

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I love everything Marie Lu writes and will forever be one of her biggest fans. This book was no different because I soaked it up like a sponge. I love the fast-pace way this story kept me on the edge of my seat. I enjoyed how the characters were flawed yet believable. I found myself quickly cheering for them. I cannot wait to read what happens next.

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Sydney Cossette is a spy with an elite undercover organization (Panacea). She was the youngest ever to join the ranks and she has a knack for picking up languages. She's tough and no-nonsense and her good looks have her breaking as many hearts as her combat skills breaks bones.

Panacea wants to infiltrate a major crime boss and when they get word that the crime boss plans to hire one of the leading boy pop singers in the world to perform for his daughter's birthday party, they agency recruits the young pop star and they send Sydney as his personal bodyguard to the event.

Sydney spends some time training the singer (Winter Young) and is pleasantly surprised that his movement training for dancing on stage translates well to combat training. She's also surprised that she finds herself attracted to him.

I found this to be a really nice balance of romance and spy/thriller for younger readers.

While the building romance is important to the story and to the development of the characters it never seems to dominate the action. This isn't the typical YA romance where one or both parties tries to deny their feelings for the other, but instead both trying to understand what it is they are feeling - a little surprised at their feelings.

The spy/thriller/action plot drives the story nicely. From the set-up (the recruitment of Winter Young) to the infiltration of the crime lord's home we are brought in to a thrill-a-minute suspense. We take Sydney's view of Winter, wondering if he'll manage to pull off his role in the action, and cheer for him as he steps up and shows that he's more than just a manufactured pop star.

Winter's success does push the bounds of credulity a bit, but of course this is what makes the story and definitely is a draw for the young readers who likely want to imagine that their favorite pop star is more than just a singer.

I don't feel like we really learned enough about Sydney, especially given that this is really her story. However, I recognize that not knowing more about her lends itself to more books in which we're likely to be given glimpses to her past.

I've not read anything by Marie Lu prior to this, but I enjoyed the story and the writing and I can see why she's a popular YA author.

Looking for a good book? Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu is a fun, fast romantic action story that would likely really grab and hold a YA reader's attention.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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an interesting read, including the tropes of mistaken identities and opposite attract. It was a fun read. Especially loved the chemistry between the characters and the writing in the novel.

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I could not finish it and I am so sad because I love Marie Lu.

ML is the queen of YA sci-fi. so when i saw that this was a NA bodyguard romance book, i was surprised. excited because i love MLs storytelling, but still surprised because its totally different than what she normally does.

and that difference is noticeable from the very first page. however, it is still very much quintessential ML storytelling. the characters have that charming snark to them, the plot is imaginative and fast-paced, and the writing itself is bingeable.

my only critique would be the overall vibe/feel of the book. even though the characters are old enough for this to be categorised as NA, there is still a strong YA feel to the story. not quite juvenile, but definitely younger than what i would have expected for this kind of story. but it makes me excited to see ML branch out more and i hope she eventually makes that full leap into adult.

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I will jump at the chance to read anything and everything by Marie Lu. This woman is brilliant! "Stars and Smoke" are the newest addition to an already talented set of books she has put out into this world. I added the book to my purchase list for my middle school library right away. :)

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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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