Member Reviews

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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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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