I absolutely thrilled to bring you my stop on the Review & Excerpt Tour for Cora Carmack’s All Played Out! APO is a New Adult Contemporary Romance and is the 3rd book in the Rusk University Series, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.
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….
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.
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About Cora Carmack:
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.
Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am a big supported of two things: new adult literature and Cora Carmack. Over the past couple of years, I have taken the plunge down the rabbit hole into this blogging world thanks, in part, to Cora's influence. It was through her street team that I started this blog in an effort to promote her Rusk University series. We've come a long way since then. I absolutely loved each and every page of All Lined Up, and while I had huge issues with All Broke Down's plot, I still found it rather enjoyable. What about All Played Out? The newest installment in the series.
Well friends, I won't beat around the bush, it's a great read, but probably my least favorite thus far in the series.
All Played Out is the third installment in the acclaimed Rusk University series. A new adult contemporary romance series set in a fictional Texas university set against the backdrop of adapting to life as a new adult. I love this series because, for the most part, I have grown with these characters so much. I've experienced life as they have, and funny enough, often in the same ways. It's been a great growing experience for me as both a reader and a new adult myself.
My biggest qualms with the story came in the forms of the characters and the plot, so let's get those negatives out of the way before I can rave.
Nell DeLuca may be (or had the potential to be) the most realistic and relatable character that Carmack has written to-date. She's intelligent, more than a little introverted, and a social virgin to most all things one comes to associate with college life. She's not a partier, she has never had a serious relationship or sex, she's nerdy, she's... real. I get so so sooo aggravated reading all about these college aged kids who do nothing but party and gallivant around like irresponsible teenagers. Also, contrary to popular belief, many, many college students are exactly like Nell. They are academic-driven with very little experience to the lifestyle that some seem to have.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the college scene, it's nothing like you see depicted on television or in books. For every one partying college kid, there are ten who are stuck in their dorm rooms studying their butts off to try to pass their next exam. While the partiers are out partying, a large group are busy working their way through the night/weekend to pay for the education they are there to receive. In my experience those out living the fantasized college experience are not the majority. They are just the ones with the time to participate in them!
Like Nell, many student will not be familiar with raging parties. They won't be sexual deviants who sleep their way across campus. They won't give a hoot about college sport 'celebrities' and probably couldn't tell them from Adam. I know I sure couldn't. My point here is that Nell is the most 'real' New Adult character I have seen written in the genre to date. So what went wrong?
Nell finally reaches the point in her college career where she realizes that she's missed out on all the fun times because she's been so concentrated on school to enjoy her experience (I can totally relate to Nell on this front having worked 2-3 jobs at one time during most of my college years). So what does she do? She makes a list. A bucket-list of sorts of things she wants to accomplish before finishing college. While this is fun and exciting, I was more than a little aggravated.
Nell jumps right into that college-stereotype. She went from that grounded mature young woman to just another New Adult stereotype pretty quickly for me. Some of Nell's listed items are pretty intense for a girl who has never even been drunk. Just saying.
My biggest complaint was just how quickly Nell jumped down the rabbit hole. In only one night Nell goes from zero to fifty. Drinking, making out with guys, and hell, skinny dipping after trespassing into a neighbors yard. For someone who has never done any of these things, I think this was a massive step. While it was definitely fun to read, I just didn't find it to be real. Maybe that's just me as a male reader, but I saw Nell as against all those negative stereotypes, only to turn into one herself.
While Carmack does an awesome time showing that college can be more than about just work, I think the whole message of 'in moderation' is lost here. Doing a lot of the things Nell does for the first time can be very scary, especially for a woman in Nell's position. Drinking with people you don't know, attending your first house party, sex, and general college-age shenanigans are not the norm for people like Nell, yet she jumped right in. While other characters and situations were definitely factors in Nell's decision, I just don't feel like the Nell we see in the story is anything like the Nell we are introduced to. That was extremely disappointing to me.
At times Nell was very immature and her IQ seemed to drop fifty points whenever it came to Torres. While it's always a funny thing to think about, I found myself feeling more sorry for Nell than enjoying her plight. Maybe I'm completely wrong here, but Nell isn't the character for me, at all. She just changed way too much in my opinion, and not in a good way.
On the thoughts of Nell and her role in the story, I think Carmack summed up my feelings pretty perfect with this line from the novel:
"There's a middle ground here, sweetheart, and you jumped right over it into the deep end."
-Mateo Torres, All Played Out
While I had my faults with Torres, it really wasn't anything to complain about. He was exactly was I imagined his character to be. Another male NA-stereotype. Tragically misunderstood male protagonist with a tragic backstory who hides his past and true self behind a mask of humor and douchey-ness. Yep. Check. Torres does a whole lot of comparing Nell to a former love of his and I never really received any kind of resolution to that storyline. All Played Out just kind of wrapped everything up nice and neat. Just the way it should have... I guess?
Sex and romance are great, and they've become a staple in the NA literary world, but for me it has to be believable. Not only in the physical sense (anyone can write two characters randomly having sex), but also in the mental and emotional sense. If they characters are physically there, but not there anywhere else, how can a reader be expected to respect the story? Thankfully Carmack tackles her, many, sex scenes with realism and always tries to tie in emotion as well, my only complaint on that front is that I just think everything happened too fast for my tastes. This is not anything against Cora's writing style, at all, just an observation.
On the surface, All Played Out is a great novel. It's quick paced and it's a lot of fun! For a few hundred pages, the reader will be immersed in a fun romantic story full of quirky twists and more than a few funny moments. If you can take the novel at face value and not look too far into it, I am confident that most readers will really enjoy this third installment of the series.
We get the chance to see lots of characters that I have come to love from our past stories including Dallas, Carson, Dylan, Silas, Matt, Stella, and so many more. I will admit that multiple times throughout the story I was more interested in what was going on in their lives that with Mateo or Nell. It was kind of like a TV show where you just wish the camera would go into the other room for a few minutes.
In the conclusion, Carmack wrapped everything up into a conclusion that was fitting to the storyline. While all readers can appreciate the happily ever after that our character receive, I can only wonder what Cora has up her sleeve for future novels. Cora is big on hitting on some hard-hitting issues as you guys have surely seen, so I am anxious to see how she tackles those issues in future novels.
I would love to see Carmack explore more of the dark underbelly of the college experience: financial hardship, depression, alcohol abuse, etc. She's in the process of the sexual abuse issue and I am really interested to see how that plays out. I am thankful that authors such as Carmack aren't completely glamorizing the college experience when there are so many bad things happening in the NA community today.
Carmack has promised some big resolution to Stella's story that we shall see in future installments in the Rusk U series and I really hope she is able to successfully tell those stories. I have no doubt that Carmack has the talent to tell those stories, I only hope for the best for our characters!
Carmack is an incredible writer with great talent, so I hate to be even the slightest bit critical of her work, but All Played Out just did not do it for me as a reader. I've discussed this with multiple fellow bloggers and readers and, aside from a couple of people, the general consensus seems to be that I only feel this way 'because I'm a guy', but whatever. Who knows, I hate that I didn't live it, but that's okay. Who says you have to fall in love with every piece of literature one of your favorite authors writes?
As you can see, I had lots of thoughts regarding All Played Out, while it may not have been my favorite read of the Rusk U series, I still strongly believe that fans of the series will enjoy it! That being said, I am granting All Played Out a 3-star review, while I found the plot to be interesting enough, the execution came in short for me. Regardless, this was a great third installment in the series and I cannot wait to see what happens in book four! Be sure to check out this series for yourself, you won't be disappointed!
And don’t miss the first two books in the Rusk University Series…
ALL LINED UP, Book 1
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ALL BROKE DOWN, Book 2
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Alright readers, that's all I have for you on the topic of All Played Out by Cora Carmack. As many of you guys know, I got my start in blogging by being a member of Cora's street team helping to promote this awesome series! It's a great honor to consider her a friend and to help out by offering up my thoughts on the novel. Special thanks to the team InkSlinger PR for allowing me to participate! Until next time, Bleed Rusk Red, and Happy Reading!