I’m so excited to be participating in the blog tour for Cora Carmack’s latest, All Played Out, today! You may or may not know this, but I was a member of Cora’s street team for All Lined Up (and All Broke Down, until real life got in the way and I had to step down), so I’m thrilled to spread the love for this lady and this series.
All Played Out by Cora Carmack
Series: Rusk University #3
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Publication date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: ARC, 320 pages
How I got it: From the publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.
Straight A’s? CHECK.
On track to graduate early? CHECK.
Social life? …..yeah, about that….
With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay... Scratch that. She knows she hasn't had the full college experience).
So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a "to do" list of normal college activities.
Item #1? Hook up with a jock.
Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it's impossible to get hurt... again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.
Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she's never known. But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he's willing to take the chance when it's more than just a game.
Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.
If you follow my blog at all, you know how much I loved the first book in Cora Carmack’s Rusk University series. All Lined Up was everything I could possibly ever want in a new adult sports romance. This is exactly why I hated admitting I was disappointed in the second book in the series, All Broke Down. Now, don’t get me wrong, Silas was all kinds of hot and amazing and, even if I didn’t feel like I ever really connected with Dylan, I loved the two of them together. It was the thing that happens near the end of the book that threatened to ruin it for me. I love Cora’s books, but I was a little afraid that it might’ve ruined the entire series for me. I can unequivocally say now, after finishing All Played Out and seeing what Cora intends to do with All Closed Off, I’m ready to once again Bleed Rusk Red.
In reading the first two books in the series, I can honestly say I never had a deep love for Mateo Torres. I mean sure, he came off as smoking hot and I imagined I would enjoy watching him on a football field, but he didn’t strike me as the kind of guy I’d ever call one of my top book boyfriends. Oh, how very silly I was. About halfway through All Played Out, I realized he was a strong contender for Top Cora Carmack Book Boyfriend, a spot Cade has held onto since Faking It. There was definitely more than meets the eye to this cocky jock who spends his time bouncing from woman to woman.
Nell was a heroine after my own heart. In fact, I saw a lot of my high school self in her. My friends and I were all total goody goody types who got excellent grades and were friends with the teachers. I mean, to this day I’m Facebook friends with several of my teachers and at least every few months, my mom runs into one of my old teachers and they talk about how much they adored me. (And I’ve been out of high school a LONG TIME now.) But, I digress. Nell. I liked her. She was a little shy and a lot unexperienced, but I loved how she came out of her shell and started to experience life during this book. It made me reminisce about doing the same when I was a freshman in college.
I loved Mateo and Nell together. Despite how different they were, they made a fantastic pair. I never would’ve pictured him with a girl like her, but damned if I didn’t really enjoy reading about it as it happened. I really liked how they got to know each other and grew together, learning about each other as they learned about themselves as well. The romance was sweet and sexy as could be. I do love a good reformed bad boy.
One of my very favorite things about this book was the friendship that developed between Nell and Stella. If you read my review of All Broke Down, you know how torn up I was about what happened to Stella in that book. I can’t say I’m over what happened, but I feel better after getting some serious Stella time in this book. She has a long way to go, but she’s finding herself again. And, most importantly, she has people who really care about her and are there to help her. I hope Nell will play an important part in Stella’s story in All Closed Off.
I loved this book. It had all the humor, heart, sexiness and awkwardness I have come to expect from Cora’s books. I think her fans, as well as fans of the series and new adult in general will really enjoy this book.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
“I can’t believe I’m about to do this. I’ve gone crazy. You’ve made me crazy.”
Torres’s hand lingers at my waist for a long moment before he does what he’s supposed to and helps boost me up onto the base of the Rusk statue that we talked about at breakfast a few days ago. The base alone comes about as high as my chest, and I never could have gotten up without him. Or a ladder. The statue’s pose is reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial, with Rusk sitting down, only his hand is open and stretched out, and that’s where I’m heading. If I can manage to climb all the way up without falling and breaking my neck. When Texas was an independent republic, Rusk served first as secretary of war and later the Supreme Court chief justice. And when Texas became a state he was elected as one of its first senators.
And now I’m honoring his memory by doing my best to climb up into his lap like he’s some giant bronze Santa Claus. I step up on his foot and try to haul myself up onto his knee, but I have a pitiful amount of upper-body strength. As in … basically none. I jump, hoping that might help, but I only end up clutching ridiculously at the knee, unable to pull myself up but too afraid to let myself drop for fear that I might twist my ankle landing on the statue’s foot.
“I’ve got you, sweetheart,” Torres says, having hopped up behind me with zero assistance. Then his hands are on my ass, and he’s pushing me up onto the knee.
“Did you suggest we do this just so you could grope me?” I call down to him.
Carefully, I climb to my feet, holding on to Rusk’s outstretched arm to keep me steady. Then, after one deep breath, I scramble my way onto his large bronze arm and shimmy my way down into his hand. I sit in his palm, and have to hang one leg over each side. My thighs are a bit too large to fit comfortably, so I feel like I’m wedged into his hand. And one look down at Torres’s grinning face tells me what an idiot I am.
I’m straddling the statue’s hand.
And while it’s holding my weight just fine, there’s no way I don’t look ludicrous. And probably a little lewd.
“Most people don’t actually sit in his hand, do they?”
“It’s the knee for most people, true.”
“What? I figured go big or go home. Besides … it’s pretty fucking hot.”
“I’m going to kill you as soon as I get down from here.” I start trying to shift myself out of the hand, but my butt really is entirely too large for this thing.
“No! Wait,” he says. “Let me jump down and get a picture. You’re up there already. Might as well make the most of it.”
I try to scowl at him. But it is pretty funny when you think of it. And it will make a good picture. When my brother and I were growing up, Leo’s room had been covered in stuff like this. Photos with friends. He had a big stop sign on his wall that he and his friends had stolen God only knows how. He had souvenirs from places they’d been and things they’d done. Nothing crazy because we weren’t quite well off enough to travel or anything. But little things that meant something to him even if they didn’t matter to anyone else.
I had trophies. Medals. Certificates. Those were my memories. But no one takes those kinds of things to college with them. You’re supposed to pack them away in boxes because as soon as you graduate, they don’t really matter anymore.
But now… I have this.
While Torres descends, I look out at campus. It’s dark, but there are streetlamps dotting the sidewalk. Noble Library is a few blocks over, and is still open, but otherwise the university seems abandoned. The statue is in the middle of a grassy courtyard, surrounded by old oaks trees that have probably been growing since the university was founded back in the late 1800s.
It’s peaceful and beautiful, and it occurs to me that I’ve never just sat somewhere on campus and looked. There’s always been somewhere to go or something to do, and I’ve never taken the time. I lean back on my hands and breathe in the night, and when Torres calls for me to look at him, my smile is wide and genuine.
“Come on! Get crazy,” he says.
I throw my hands up and smile even bigger. He laughs and snaps another picture on his phone.
“You’re a real wild one, Antonella De Luca.”
Then something occurs to me, and my stomach tumbles with nerves and a surprising feeling of exhilaration. Can I check two things off my list with this late-night adventure? Can I actually be a little wild for a change? I think about Torres’s words. You’re up there already. Might as well make the most of it. I take a deep breath, shift to sit on my knees, and wait for Torres to slip his phone back in his pocket.
Then I call, “Hey, Mateo!”
When he looks up, his eyes questioning, I gather my courage and the hem of my shirt and lift it up for one, two, three seconds. Then I tug it back down, keeping my eyes squeezed shut because I’m too scared to see his face.