Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway: All Played Out by Cora Carmack

All Played Out - Tour banner

We are absolutely thrilled to bring you the Review & Excerpt Tour for Cora Carmack’s ALL PLAYED OUT! ALL PLAYED OUT is a New Adult Contemporary Romance and is the 3rd book in the Rusk University Series, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.

All Played Out - cover

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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.


All Played Out is the third book in the Rusk University series. While the group dynamic and characters continue throughout the story, this can easily be read as a standalone. References are made to previous happenings, just enough to remind you of the other couples or situations, if you are a follower of the series, but not too much if you are new to the series and want to go back and read the other books. Though there is one particular plotline that started in the last book and is referred to in this book about a secondary character. But her book will actually be the next one in the series, so again, you are okay to continue from here, or go back to the previous books if you want more.

All Played Out is the story of Mateo Torres and Antonella (Nell) De Luca. At first sight, these two are polar opposites. Mateo is unabashed, confident, flashy, and seems to be going through college having a great time, not taking things too seriously, and the life of the party. And he's also a football-playing cutie. Nell, on the other hand, is socially shy, obsessively studious, singularly focused, and non-athletic. and she's the roommate of Dylan, girlfriend of Mateo's teammate Silas. So it is only through mutual friends that these two even crossed paths, but cross paths they finally have.

Now Nell is at a bit of a crossroads, weeks from graduation and realizing that she's rethinking the decisions and strategies that have gotten her to this point in her life, or more specifically her lack of life, social life that is. Nell has her own personal hang-ups that have been holding her back socially, and a college bucket list, it seems, is her new plan to force new experiences into her life and see if what she's been missing out on is meaningful and important or not. 

Mateo has his own past he's been redefining and using his own coping, or distracting, strategies to deal with. But when Nell shows up, there's something about her that challenges Mateo's thoughts of his past and his present. What better way to get to know Nell, deal with his past, and have fun at the same time, than to help Nell check off her bucket list, whether Nell wants him to or not. What proceeds is a story filled with personal realizations that neither Nell or Mateo was prepared for. And the question remains: Will these realizations and new developments ultimately help them, heal them, or drive them apart?

I really enjoyed getting to know Nell and Mateo. These two could have easily been stereotypes, but Carmack was able to develop them into their own depths, giving them their own layers that were unique. Mateo could have just been some player-type, and yet he had a lovely sincerity and heart within him. He was funny and silly and inappropriate, but he was also kind and gentle and thoughtful. Nell could have been the nerdy virgin with no social skills. But with her intelligence and intuition, she also had a boldness and awareness that allowed her to be brave and resilient, but also fun and spontaneous. These two really brought out the caring, considerate, genuine qualities in each other that showcased that these two "opposites" weren't as opposite as their friends initially judged. 

The "bucket list" itself initially made me nervous. Just because college is for "experimenting" doesn't mean that's what everyone in college should be doing, or that some or many "experiments" have powerful and lasting consequences. For this story, however, I was glad that Carmack chose a character like Nell to check off this type of list. She was just the intelligent, thoughtful, aware, conscientious character to do it justice. I was also relieved in the way the plot developed around a certain issue from Mateo's past. I feared the author was going to go a certain direction with the drama and plot devices, and was thrilled when my fears were for not. The storyline was just what it needed to be.

Overall, the Rusk University series is a great New Adult series with thoughtful, fun characters and plotlines that delve into the serious and not-so-serious. All Played Out was a fun, sweet, mostly light-hearted read about two characters that found love, connection, and understanding in one another. As referenced before, the next book will be of the more serious nature, but that's the beauty of this series. It takes on different aspects of college life and characters, and I look forward to what is to come next.

He calls Carson, and that’s when I get the real explanation. 

Nell is drunk, and Dylan doesn’t want to leave her home alone. When he hangs up the phone, I can’t hide my shock. “Nell is drunk? The Nell that lives with Dylan?”

“Wasted, apparently.” 

“I’m in,” I say, and when we both look at Brookes, he’s watching me. And I can tell by the look he’s giving me that he knows I’ve got something going on with Nell and doesn’t approve. I lift an eyebrow in the most casual so-what? gesture I can offer. 

He nods. “Sure. I’ll come.” But the words are said to me not to Silas, and I get the feeling what he actually means is, Sure. I’ll come watch and make sure Torres doesn’t do anything stupid.

We tell Silas to go on ahead, and we’ll come along in a few minutes. But as soon as Brookes is in his room, I jog after Silas, and catch him as he’s getting into his truck. “You mind if I catch a ride with you?” I lie, “Brookes got a call, and he’s gonna be a bit.” 

While Silas drives, he has me text Brookes and McClain the address. Brookes wants to know why I left with Silas, but I’m not about to tell him that I didn’t want to spend the car ride with him harping on me to leave Nell alone. 

Because I can’t leave her alone. I just can’t. 

Silas parks the truck, and I follow him up a metal and concrete staircase to a second-floor apartment. He opens the door without knocking, and that’s when I see Nell standing on the coffee table with some big red-haired dude, singing Spice Girls at the top of her lungs. We step inside just as she’s telling him what to do if he wants to be her lover. 

I think of her list. She told me getting drunk was on it, and all of a sudden I’m furious that this guy got to help her check that task off instead of me. “Nell,” I say, before I think better of it. She twists to see me, and her socked feet slide on the coffee table, and then she’s stumbling into the ginger giant, and both of them are going down. I dart forward, but I can’t catch up to her. They hit the ground with a thud, a groan, and Nell’s too-cute giggles. She’s lying right on top of him, and he has his hands on her bare back where her shirt has ridden up from the yoga pants that fit her like a f---ing miracle. 

She lays her head in the crook of his neck like she’s completely forgotten that I’m here. If I stopped to think, I’d have known how crazy it would look to storm over and tear her off the guy. I would realize what my actions would mean to Silas and Dylan. But I don’t think. I just know I can’t spend one more second watching her snuggled up against this guy without losing my mind. She squeals as I pull her up into my arms, and I don’t think her feet are even touching the ground. 

“You okay?” I ask, but all she does is laugh again and lay her head on my chest. I catch a whiff of alcohol, a strong one, and I realize she really is completely smashed. She probably doesn’t have a clue who she’s snuggling up against. Probably can’t even tell the difference between me and whoever the f--k is on the floor. 

But even if she doesn’t realize what she’s doing ... it feels damn good to have her wrapped around me again, and for a few seconds it dazes me. Then I look up to find everyone in the room watching us.


I lock eyes with Dylan and say, “How did this happen?” 

“I’m still working on that. As far as I can tell, she decided she wanted to invent her own cocktail, and she enlisted our friend Matt’s help.” Ah. Matt. He’s one of Dylan’s activist friends. I didn’t realize he was close to Nell, too.  Nell points to him sprawled out on the floor and adds, “This is what happens when you spend all day trying lots of different mixes of alcohol.”

That seems to catch Nell’s attention enough to rouse her, because she pulls back and places both her small hands on my face. 

“I figured it out. It took me a long time, but I got it. I call it Newton’s Third Law.” 

“Uhh ...”

“Get it? Yours was Bad Decision. And mine... is Newton’s Third Law.” She descends into giggles again, and I scan my minimal science knowledge to try and remember what she’s talking about. I’d taken a physics course last year for my kinesiology major, but I just barely scraped by. Unlike high school, where I was concerned with keeping up to impress Lina, last year I’d been mostly focused on forgetting her. 

“Is that the one about actions and reactions?” 

“Exactly! Every action has an equal and . . .” She pauses and swallows, and man, she’s so far gone. “Reaction. Equal and opposite reaction. So … action.” She gestures to an empty cup on the bar, then to her own drunken state. “Reaction.”

Then she does this little move that’s halfway between a fist pump and a celebratory dance. She’s so f---ing adorable, it actually hurts. Somewhere between my chest and my stomach there’s a knot that twists every time I see her. And I’m starting to enjoy it, the strange pleasure pain of wanting her.

Rusk University

And don’t miss the first two books in the Rusk University Series…

All Lined Up


My Review ** Amazon 

Barnes and Noble ** iTunes

All Broke Down


My Review ** Amazon 

Barnes and Noble ** iTunes

For more of what’s next in The Rusk University Series, go here!

ACO announcement

Add  Book 4, ALL CLOSED OFF, to your Goodreads now!

Cora Carmack is a twenty-something New York Times bestselling author who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She's done a multitude of things in her life-- boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She now splits her time between Austin, TX and New York City and spends her days writing, traveling, and spending way too much time on the internet. In her books, you can expect to find humor, heart, and a whole lot of awkward. Because let’s face it . . . awkward people need love, too.      

Website ** Twitter ** Facebook ** Author Goodreads ** ALL PLAYED OUT Goodreads

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