Member Reviews

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."

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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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Loved this romance! It was such a fun ride and I absolutely loved the fact that Winter was the pop star and Sydney was the covert ops spy.

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Winter Young is the most famous pop star in the world, and Sydney Cossette is an undercover operative for a global spy network. Now the two of them are teamed up on a mission to discover just how corrupt businessman Eli Morrison is and how deep his crimes go. Morrison's daughter is the self-proclaimed number one fan of Winter Young, so when he is invited to a weeklong birthday celebration including him holding a private concert, Sydney becomes his new bodyguard, and the two set out to find out all that Morrison is hiding.

This is a fast paced, engaging read. I finished in just two days, and I nominated this book for the 2024 Texas TAYSHAS award list.

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Thank you to NetGalley, Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, Roaring Brook Press, and Marie Lu for the opportunity to read Stars and Smoke in exchange for an honest review.

Marie Lu does it again: she has an amazing craft for the young adult genre, but also a gift of writing across genres. She has fantasy, historical, dystopian, sci-fi, and with Stars and Smoke she brings us a brilliant spy thriller with a touch of romance.

The novel in a nutshell: Winter Young is an international popstar, his shows always consistently sold out. He is sought out by the Panacea Group, an organization similar to the CIA, to play at a major crime lord's daughter's birthday party (she's Winter's biggest fan). It's the perfect cover for Winter to be an unsuspected spy and get some dirt on the guy before his terror destroys the world (yes, what he intends is THAT BAD).

Sydney Cosette has worked for the Panacea Group for a few years. Her old life was nothing to comment on. She prides herself in being a top-tier spy, and her career is her world. Which is why she keeps a medical secret from her employers. Tasked to be Winter's bodyguard as the two tag-team seeking evidence on Eli Morrison, the disgruntled duo find more interest in each other's company than they expected.

With plot twists and turns like nothing else, Marie Lu once again crafts an amazing novel. The characters are interesting and well-developed, as usual, her craft is phenomenal, and Stars and Smoke is certainly an entertaining spy thriller (a genre of which I generally don't delve into, but hey, it's Marie Lu, so it's an auto-read for me!). Hey guess what? A second novel is in the works, but how can anyone possibly survive the wait for a sequel with this ending?! While I believe I saw somewhere that this is a planned duology, I do not know for sure. Either way, I can't wait for the next one!

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This is a great action/romance novel! It is the quintessential hate/love relationship with the glamour of rockstars and spies. I won't be buying it for my middle-school library, but if I taught in a high school it would definitely be on my list!

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Winter Young is drop-dead gorgeous and ridiculously talented in both singing and dancing. He went from mere high school student, the son of a single mother, to an international pop superstar in a few years’ time. He’s not even 20 yet. But even as he performs to sold-out crowds and has everything he could (supposedly) want, Winter feels unmoored. Something is missing.

Sydney Cossette came from a poor background in a tiny town and had few prospects. Until she was “discovered” by a secret agency that does covert ops around the world. Panacea takes on missions official government agencies can’t. Even at her young age, Sydney has seen a lot of action. She can be anyone, speak practically any language, win most fights. She sure doesn’t have time for romance.

Then Panacea brings in Winter to help with one operation. A major crime boss trafficking in dangerous materials is throwing a huge birthday party for his teen daughter. She’s a huge Winter Young fan. So Winter will perform a concert just for her (and 10,000 friends). And Winter and Sydney will work together to find incriminating information on the ruthless man during the big party week.

Sydney’s not impressed with Winter and his pretty face, fame, wealth and following. And Winter finds Sydney a tough nut to crack. But, of course, as they spend time together training and then performing their mission, they find much to admire in each other. Unfortunately, the danger they’re constantly in is not exactly a great opportunity for romance.

Stars and Smoke is an action-packed thriller that barely slows down. In the moments it does take short, quiet breaks, our protagonists get to know each other. They’re sweet times of connection and vulnerability making this a romance as well. Even amid all the action, there are plenty of opportunities for smoldering and flirting. OK, yes, it’s a great thrill ride that satisfies as an escapist pleasure. (And there will be more in the future!)

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