Cover Image: Stars and Smoke

Stars and Smoke

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Member Reviews

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 ML's storytelling, but still surprised because it's 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.

So overall, this is quite a fun start to what I think will become an adorably action-packed series!

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Marie Lu has written many genre-changing novels and her voice is one I will always trust.

Stars and Smoke is different than any of her other works, but if you’re looking for a comparison, Warcross would be the closest.

Winter Young is the biggest pop star in the world, and he is as smart as he is talented. He puts on a perfect show but has a lot of tragedy and pain in his past.

Sydney Cossette came from Nowheresville, USA and was only too eager to leave her dead-end town after her mother’s sickness and eventual passing. When she was recruited by Panacea, a secret agency that handles the jobs the CIA and MI6 can’t legally deal with, she jumped on the opportunity.

Winter and Sydney are brought together on a mission where she must pose as his bodyguard so they can attempt to take down a very powerful, very dangerous man named Eli Morrison.

Lu’s writing drew me in from the first page and this story was a fun change of pace from the fantasy and contemporary romance novels I’ve been reading. It was predictable at times, but the characters endeared themselves to me and kept me reading.

Thank you to NetGalley for an eARC, definitely check this one out when it releases on March 28, 2023!

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Marie Lu hits it out of the park once again, readers!

I'll dive right in:

The plot:

Are you a sucker for a good bodyguard love story?

Me too.

Sydney is a new member of a covert government operations unit that is tracking a wealthy businessman who may or may not be one of the world's top criminals. The Panacea Group recruits a well-known pop star named Winter Young who is being paid to play at the tycoon's daughter's birthday party in London in order to obtain evidence of his illicit behavior. Sydney's responsibility is to act as Winter's bodyguard and make sure everything goes as planned.

The characters:

I imagined Winter's face as Kun from WayV and you can't do a thing about it. He's beautiful and talented and haunted by the death of his brother. He loves what he does but always feels as though he's not doing enough in his life to make it worthy. I admired his bravery, generosity, and cinnamon roll persona.

Sydney's grit and intelligence make her the ideal equalizer. Her only family members are people she works with. She doesn't enjoy "babysitting" a haughty pop star. She had only ever experienced loss and struggled to reach where she was, so she does not perceive Winter, who appears to have it easy, to be in the same situation.

They both discover things about each other that surprise them.

Overall thoughts:

This book kept me on the edge of my seat. I did not see much of The Hating Game comp because a lot of the misdirected hate came mostly from Sydney. I can see a lot of The Bodyguard, though, which I loved. This isn't a real enemies-to-lovers story or a hate-to-love in a sense. The romance was organic and sweet.

I loved it. I love the cover. I cannot wait to own a copy for myself.

This book goes to show you that no matter what genre Marie Lu writes, she's going to hit it out of the park.

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I love Marie Lu. I still recommend the Legend series to my students, and her Skyhunter duology is one of my recent sci-fi favorites.

This was a bit of a departure for her. Instead of a sci-fi/fantasy romp filled with intrigue and political strife, we get a teen spy/mystery. A teen with a rough childhood must team up with the hottest pop star to try and take down a major trafficker. Of course, things don't go as planned and not everyone is what they seem.

Lu still does a great job of writing strong lead characters and dialogue, but I just wasn't as invested in this book as I have been with her past stories. I liked the Mission Impossible-like gadgets and plans, but some of the reveals seemed pretty obvious. Everything played out a little too quickly and neatly at the end, but I do like that things are left open enough to have future missions.

I know mysteries are the soup du jour in YA right now, but I enjoy Lu's sci-fi far more.

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I've loved every single one of Marie Lu's books so far, and Stars and Smoke definitely did not disappoint! As usual, the characters' banter is top-notch, and moments of humor are interspersed with serious plot points and romantic tension. The characters are fully fleshed out, complete with flaws, and the reader can learn a great deal about them just from descriptions of their body language. Vivid imagery allows the reader to imagine themself in the characters' places. I was also pleased to find that there were several plot twists I couldn't even imagine coming.

My only complaint is that some of the romance in the book seemed somewhat forced rather than flowing naturally like it has in other Marie Lu books. Some of it was fine, but I think the book could have been equally good without the romance aspect. There were also a few questions that I wish could be resolved, but those will probably come in book 2!

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This YA Spy/Romance is so good. I was reading as fast as I could to see what would happen next. I loved it.
I just reviewed Stars and Smoke by Marie Lu. #StarsandSmoke #NetGalley
[NetGalley URL]Edit

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Marie Lu never disappoints! I've had the immense privilege of having read many of her books over the years, and this is as fun and wild as the rest of them. A thrillingly fast read that looks at big questions, as Marie Lu does. Surprisingly, I figured out the plot twist from early on. I am pretty proud of myself!!! The book reminds me of a certain Stephen King's book. I love how the many fears of an artist are explored in this book. Sydney's character was fascinating. The way their relationship is built, their motivations, are superb. At first, you wonder how Marie Lu can pull it off, for they seem entirely unmeetable in their relationshio development, and then you quickly begin to understand them and how and why they fit together and it's perfect. Surprisingly, the book felt less actiony than I thought. It developed more as a preparation and mental game book than action packed scenes, but that didn't take away from the story itself. Marie Lu still managed to pace the book fantastically and up the stakes well. It was a highly enjoyable read.

Some of the lines in Stars and Smoke are just *chef's kiss,* such as the following (not a spoiler):

""I’d say it’s my job to notice you, Mr. Young, she replied. Winter smiled innocently at her. “And?” And you look like the hottest damn person who’s ever existed. The honest answer shot unbidden into her mind."

Chef's. Kiss.

Overall, another fun book by the one and only Marie Lu. Thank you so much for the earc. It's been an honor!

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I always say that this author's writing keeps growing with each of her new works (skyhunter, previously) and the statement stands strong with Stars and Smoke as well. I really enjoyed this book, the characters and their backstories, all the people surrounding them and the love they all share, along with the romance. the plot with secrets spies and undercover missions was very intriguing and made it hard to put down the book.
I think the only reason i'm not entirely gushing is because I wanted more.
Thank you to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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Good read! It's a well written story of action-adventure, with an innocent romance entwined. The author is very good at depicting the scenes and environment in detail, giving you movie clips in your mind. Would recommend reading this story.

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Global superstar Winter Young and undercover agent Sydney Cossette are more than an unlikely pair. Together they need to take down business mogul Eli Morrison, who is currently using his shipping business as a front for trafficking of all kinds. When Winter is commissioned by Morrison himself to perform for his daughter’s birthday party, Winter and Sydney have their in. But how covert can a superstar be? This quirky duo takes on challenge after challenge in this spy-themed action plot.

Before we get further into this review, you should really know that anything Marie Lu writes I’m going to read it and like it. Those are just the rules, and I don’t make them. I had a good time with this story! I like that it’s a standalone. That being said—if Lu chose to extend it down the line, I wouldn’t be sad. I flew through this book as I enjoyed seeing if Winter and Sydney could hack their mission together. It’s not my favorite story from Lu, but it’s still enjoyable. Just not as heart wrenching as I’ve grown used to.

Overall, Stars and Smoke is fun. It’s fast. It gives me my Marie Lu fix for the year. But I’ll be waiting for the next time this woman makes me sob over a YA novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a straight binge, 5/5 😭

The premise is so interesting - a world famous pop star is recruited on a secret and sensitive mission to spy on an international mobster, and he is teamed up with a pessimistic agent who hates him (well, at first), and if they fail their mission, the world is on the path to a nuclear war.

The story is dual POV, narrated by the pop star as well as the agent. Their chemistry was off the charts from the very first scene, and I loved all their interactions, and how they slowly went from antagonizing each other, to friends who share vulnerable secrets with each other, to something more. Individually as well, their stories were motivated well and were developed wonderfully. As for the thriller spy mission, I can just say I was *jaw drop* at every twist and turn, because I definitely wasn't expecting any of those twists (in a good way). The spy plot was absolutely brilliant, so if you like watching spy/mission kind of movies, I'd say this book should be on your must-read list.

I'm so excited that there's going to be a book 2! I can't wait to see more of these characters!

--- ty to the author, the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced copy!

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Loved this! Fast-paced and fun as hell, with great memorable characters and setting. I was drawn in by the idea of a popstar becoming a spy, and this did not disappoint. Winter and Sydney are both absolutely precious - I adore them, and would love to read more of their adventures together. I also loved the attention to detail re: Winter's style, performances, and music. More of this, please! Full review to come!

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I am so excited I was able to get this book to read before the release date. I have read a couple Marie Lu books and really liked them, this book was no different. This book was so fun with action, but heart felt with flawed characters. Though I didn't love this romance as much as others I still felt like it was a cute pair. I just really like Maire Lu's writing style as well, her books just feel smooth and well rounded. I can't wait to see what else she has in store for these characters in the next book.

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Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publish Group for this ARC!

Upon reading the summary of this book, I knew it was going to be good. Marie Lu never misses, every single one of her books that I have read were so memorable, but this one has a special place on that ranking. First off, the tropes were everything, like spies, superstars, the body-guard trope (but with the FMC being the bodyguard), secret identities; I devourered this.

The characters were so likable, I loved each one. Winter was so adorable, he had me smiling at the page each time. And Sydney was everything I could have asked for with a strong-female lead. Also, Winter's friends and manager had me screaming, their dynamic with Winter was perfect, they are so supportive of Winter and have a great relationship dynamic with him. As for the relationship between Winter and Sydney, I have no words. It was so cute to read that I was smiling so hard. Their banter and sarcasm was good, and the way that the other characters viewed their interactions made it even better. Also, the way that they viewed each other was so well-written, that as a reader I was enjoying it so much. They had really strong chemistry throughout the book and I was rooting for them from start to finish. Additionally, both Winter and Sydney's backstories made my heart ache for them. I got a little teary whenever each of theirs came up.

The plot itself is very fast-paced, so this book would be a great book if anyone needs a quick and enjoyable read. The formatting was well-planned out. I loved the chapter titles; it was such a cute little preview. Also, I lived for the little Mission Logs. The book is told in third person and alternates povs throughout chapters, so it was nice to read both Sydney and Winter's perspectives.

Overall, this was such a great read and I am so grateful I got the opportunity to read it. The plot twists and characters kept me invested towards the end, and I found myself easily reading this book in the span of a couple of days. Like every Marie Lu book prepare to experience a full range of emotions, trust me, it's worth it! I will definitely be pre-ordering this book for another reread and to tab all of Sydney and Winter's interactions!

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As a long-standing fan of Marie Lu, I was excited to read her newest book and it didn’t disappoint! I loved the spy angle and her characters were as three dimensional as ever! I would definitely recommend!

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Wow, when I saw that one of my favorite authors had a novel on NetGalley, I jumped to request the book. It was something that I was very excited to read and was not disappointed. Also, female bodyguard? This is not the first I have read in this trope, but I am definitely hoping for much more in the future. Would recommend!

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Winter Young is an international pop star who seemingly has it all. But Winter’s brother Artie, died years ago and his Mom has backed away from him ever since.

Sydney Cossette didn’t have it easy. She grew up poor in a small town with a dead-beat Dad. So Sydney got good at pick-pocketing and learned a bunch of languages for fun and was discovered by the Panecea Group. Now she’s one of their youngest and brightest spy’s.

Here’s where things get fun. Panecea has been trying to take down drug lord Eli Morrison for years but they don’t have hard evidence. Eli’s daughter, Penelope, is Winter’s biggest fan and when an offer to do a private concert comes through Panecea decides to take a chance on a pop-star as their newest recruit and pairs a reluctant Sydney as his bodyguard. Can Winter and Sydney stop arguing long enough to actually get the proof they need?

Couldn’t put this true YA down (will buy for Jane when it comes out so she can read - age 12). What a fantastic start to 2023!!

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Every single time Marie Lu releases a new book, I immediately scramble to get my hands on it. So to say I was ecstatic to get my hands on an ARC is an understatement. I knew I would love Stars and Smoke, and I was completely right.

Although I do admit that this wasn't my favorite Marie Lu book, I still really enjoyed it. It wasn't meant to be some world-changing fantasy novel filled with complexities. Instead, it was a book written simply for fun. And that's what it was. Pure fun. I loved reading it, and I already look forward to rereading it.

My favorite thing about this was definitely the dynamic between Sydney and Winter. They were so adorable! Constantly squabbling, constantly bickering. They had all the charm of a typical Lu couple, and the tense setting made it even better.

I did slightly miss the typical side characters Lu writes, I feel like these lacked some of the usual depth. Because this is a series of serials though, I expect to get to know them better and eventually come to love them! I can't wait to read Book 2!

Thanks to Netgalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

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2.5 Stars
It pains me to say this, but I didn't love the novel. Maybe it was too YA for my taste?

A pop star was recruited to become a spy. While on a special mission, he started to fall for his bodyguard and vice versa.

The blurb stated that this was a mix between The Hating Game and Mission Impossible. So going in, I thought I would be getting a fun rom-com with some intense fighting scenes. Something that will hold my interest and keep me on the edge oat. Unfortunately, nothing really happens until around the last quarter of the novel, but by then I didn't really care. Also, it wasn't enough to carry the whole novel. I never grew attached to any of the characters, the romance was lackluster, and some scenes were predictable.

Overall, it was just an okay read.

***I would like to thank NetGalley, Marie Lu (the author), Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, and Roaring Brook Press for graciously sending me a copy to review. As always, all thoughts are my own.***

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Stars and Smoke marks the beginning of another action-packed series from Marie Lu and I could not be more excited! I had a really fun time watching Winter and Sydney navigate being on this high-stakes undercover mission. This novel made me realize how much I love the action-spy genre. I also really loved both Winter and Sydney's individual inner conflicts. Many of their thoughts were relatable, and it was heartbreaking to see how lonely and unwanted they felt individually. I'm glad that they managed to find their way together by the end of the book, even if it is for a little time. I didn't think it would be possible, but the epilogue of this book made me even more excited for the series than before reading Book 1. I only rate this 4 stars instead of 5 because the plot of the actually "whodunit" part of the mission/investigation was pretty predictable, and I was surprised that Sydney, as an extremely skilled and talented agent part of an impressive secret agency, was not able to figure out who really was at play in their mission.

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