Book Review

ARC Book Review: Stars and Smoke (Stars and Smoke #1) by Marie Lu

Rating: ★★★★
Audience: YA Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Roaring Books Press
Release Date: March 28th, 2023
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Meet Winter Young—rookie backup dancer turned global pop phenomenon. His star power has smashed records, selling out stadiums from LA to London. Now he’s bringing his swoon worthy assets to a whole new arena…

Infamous criminal tycoon Eli Morrison has just one weakness—his daughter, Penelope. And Penelope has just one wish for her nineteenth birthday—a private concert with Winter Young. When covert ops organization The Panacea Group approaches Winter with this once-in-a-lifetime chance to infiltrate Morrison’s inner circle, Winter must use his fame, cunning, and charisma to pull it off—only he won’t be on his own.

Posing as Winter’s bodyguard is the fiery Sydney Cossette, Panacea’s youngest spy. Sydney may be the only person alive impervious to Winter’s charms, but as the mission brings them closer, she’s forced to admit there’s more to this A-lister than slick dance moves and a handsome face. Panacea’s unlikeliest partners just might become its biggest heroes—and maybe even more—if they can survive each other first.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC.

LIKED BY THE END.

This wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The Hating Game tagline felt like a misnomer (so if someone can point out where that was, please let me know). But the Mission Impossible vibes were there at least! I like this trend of a more romantic comedy + suspense. It’s a mood I am here for.

There wasn’t as much romance as I was hoping for. Though the second half did a better job of adding to those elements. I would have loved to have seen them be able to connect more and not just about the job they were on. I liked both Sydney and Winter as standalone characters. There were some flashbacks that helped flesh out their personalities and I think there’s going to be some great development in book two for both of them.

The antagonist was painfully obvious so don’t expect to be surprised by necessarily that piece. Action wise, I definitely enjoyed those scenes. High intensity, not quite sure what was going to happen. Waiting for the next page kind of on edge.

I do have plans to read the next book and I’m curious to see what the next adventure will bring!

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Contemporary Romantic Suspense
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: make-outs
  • Violence: med-high
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: near death experiences, gun violence, kidnapping, poisoning, loss of a parent

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Steelstriker (Skyhunter #2) by Marie Lu

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 384 pages
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Roaring Books Press
Release Date: September 28th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Explosive action and swoon-worthy suspense collide in this riveting conclusion to the Skyhunter duet from #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu

As a Striker, Talin was taught loyalty is life. Loyalty to the Shield who watches your back, to the Strikers who risk their lives on the battlefield, and most of all, to Mara, which was once the last nation free from the Karensa Federation’s tyranny.

But Mara has fallen. And its destruction has unleashed Talin’s worst nightmare.

With her friends scattered by combat and her mother held captive by the Premier, Talin is forced to betray her fellow Strikers and her adopted homeland. She has no choice but to become the Federation’s most deadly war machine as their newest Skyhunter.

Red is no stranger to the cruelty of the Federation or the torture within its Skyhunter labs, but he knows this isn’t the end for Mara – or Talin. The link between them may be weak, but it could be Talin and Red’s only hope to salvage their past and safeguard their future.

While the fate of a broken world hangs in the balance, Talin and Red must reunite the Strikers and find their way back to each other in this smoldering sequel to Marie Lu’s Skyhunter.

Thank you to Macmillian Audio and Netgalley for an ALC.

WHAT I WAS HOPING FOR.

Duologies are a fickle beast. I have been disappointed quite a few times this year. Thank goodness, Steelstriker was not one of those books.

As I received an ALC I wanted to first mention the audio book. I listened to Skyhunter via audio and Steelstriker had the same narrators. LOVED IT. Seriously fantastic. I was able to listen at 2.5x speed and had no trouble with the narration. They did an incredible job and would highly recommend!

Now the book itself, ohhhhh the ACTION [and the pain]. This book is not light-hearted or for the feint of heart. Full of drama and intrigue as page by page I wasn’t sure who would survive. With that, there were some times I felt the book was slow (most of the middle). Some scenes and portions of the plot didn’t seem to work towards fulfilling the ultimate goal that was set-up in book one. It came noticeable enough to mention, but luckily the rest of the book carried over well.

And I would have desperately loved even more romance. I adore Red and Talin. These incredible brave, tough and scarred souls who found each other amidst everything crumbling around them. Wow I couldn’t get enough of their connection and the handful of moments I got with them on the same page.

Gratefully, those needed taken down are and the world can start grappling with all that has befallen their nations. I’m glad for an epilogue (that was necessary) to tie up some plot points and give a glimpse at the future.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Fantasy
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses to one implied closed door
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: war themes, mutilation and medical experimentation, torture, poisoning, blood and gore depiction, executions

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Book Review

Book Review: Skyhunter (Skyhunter #1) by Marie Lu

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Sci-fi
Length: 374 pages
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Release Date: September 29th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In a world broken by war, a team of young warriors is willing to sacrifice everything to save what they love.

The Karensa Federation has conquered a dozen countries, leaving Mara as one of the last free nations in the world. Refugees flee to its borders to escape a fate worse than death—transformation into mutant war beasts known as Ghosts, creatures the Federation then sends to attack Mara.

The legendary Strikers, Mara’s elite fighting force, are trained to stop them. But as the number of Ghosts grows and Karensa closes in, defeat seems inevitable.

Still, one Striker refuses to give up hope.

Robbed of her voice and home, Talin Kanami knows firsthand the brutality of the Federation. Their cruelty forced her and her mother to seek asylum in a country that considers their people repugnant. She finds comfort only with a handful of fellow Strikers who have pledged their lives to one another and who are determined to push Karensa back at all costs.

When a mysterious prisoner is brought from the front, Talin senses there’s more to him than meets the eye. Is he a spy from the Federation? Or could he be the weapon that will save them all?

FANTASTIC.

A nod to the audio for this one as well. I loved it.

This book was great. I have a hit and miss vibe with Lu’s books, this has renewed my faith that I do love her writing and story telling. I was captivated from the first chapters for Skyhunter. It’s so easy to fall into the writing style and to be captured by how everything starts out.

I loved the scheming and plot. I knew what the story was about and loved the shock value moments of finding out new information. Talin was such a formidable heroine. She is strong and memorable. Talin and Red are a new fav ship that better be sailing off in the next book. Their connection and friendship really helped drive the story as two people from different sides of the land. There’s so much action, and twists and turns. For a sci-fi/dystopia novel I was enraptured (it’s usually not my go-to). The flow kept things moving and I don’t remember anything ever dragging.

But also, THAT ENDING. Talk about a cliffhanger. I have no idea where things are going now and I kinda love it. I’ll definitely be picking up the next book.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult dystopia / sci-fi
  • Language: a little
  • Violence: physical, creature attacks, zombie (referred to as ghosts) attacks, depictions of battles; bloody/gory but not overly so

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Book Review

Book Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Historical Fiction / Magical Realism
Length: 336 pages
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: March 3rd, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish–to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age–her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true–but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

A BIT DULL.

I did a buddy-read for this and I think that was more interesting and fun than this book was.

The writing was gorgeous and easy to follow. That was never my issue, I didn’t click with the story as a whole. Magical realism + historical fiction are a hard combination to mix. I usually don’t like them, and this was no different. I found it a unique premise and clearly saw the effort put into this. A lot of research into Mozart’s history was accomplished to make this book what it was. I would have loved a historical fiction based off of Mozart’s life without the fantasy aspects.

I mostly felt disconnected from the story. I did feel some depth with Nannerl and truly saddened by her inability to stand and do what she wanted just because she was a woman (with respect to the time period). She didn’t really ever do anything about this though, which I guess as I’m writing this, falls in line with the historical aspects (based off of the author’s note, not my own research).

It was a younger YA than I was thinking and honestly it needed some more flair for me to be into it. With the characters mostly very young the entire book it wasn’t like they could do much anyways (other than practice the claiver). I was underwhelmed and sped read to get through it. I struggled to even write more for this review because I don’t feel like I have anything to say about it.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction / magical realism
  • Language: none
  • Romance: a kiss
  • Violence: general sickness (small pox, etc.)

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