All Played Out, by Cora Carmack

all played out

Grade: B

Doing it at: 63%

Catnip: Girl Genius; Virgin; Football; Rusk University; Friday Night Lights; Dual Narrative; Libraries

Shame Scale: Almost zero, Cora Carmack’s new adults are sweet and have real plots and you only have to worry a little about the advanced reader in your house looking over your shoulder

Fantasy Cast: Demi Lovato; Diego Boneta

What do we taste like: sweet, like the drink I’d given her earlier

Book Description:

In the third book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack’s Rusk University series, a good girl is about to find out what happens when she creates the ultimate college bucket list and she sets her sights on a jock.

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.

Welcome back to Texas and the lives of the Dillon Panthers! Or the Rusk University Wildcats, it’s the same, just college instead of high school so it feels more OK to be into the sex. I was a little disappointed that we weren’t getting Stella’s story in this book (this is what happens when I read things in order! I face disappointments), I’m dying to read about her and Ryan. However, Nell and Mateo won me over pretty quickly.

All Played Out gives us Nell, Dylan’s room-mate and the team-mate of the boys from the previous two books. Mateo Torres is loud and flirty, always joking and showing off and charming the pants right off of girls. Antonella DeLuca is a girl genius. She’s graduating from college two years early and has spent all of her time on campus studying. No partying, no going to football games, no regretful one night stands with the weird guy who sells weed in history class. At first I was concerned that Nell was going to be too straight-laced for me to root for, I didn’t want to read a whole book about a female Sheldon Cooper. But Nell is not a lady bazinga, she’s softer and sweeter and worried that she’s missed out on the whole college experience by sticking to her strictly dictated life plan. Sure she’s on task, but what does she really know about love?

Seeing Dylan so madly in love with Silas has Nell questioning everything. Which is why she makes her list and why she ends up going to play Ultimate Frisbee with Dylan and Silas and friends. There’s some explaining of the rules of frisbee which is tolerable only because we get to meet Mateo through Nell’s eyes (seriously Carmack, I love you, stop sneakily teaching me about sports).

Mateo is instantly flirting with Nell, because that’s what he does, but she calls him on his shit and he starts to actually like her beyond wanting to bang her. Also, she reminds him of his high school ex girlfriend, Lina, who broke his heart. I immediately knew that was only going to be trouble for our couple, but what can you do? You can’t yell at book people to not be idiots and think they’ll hear you, you can only cringe and move on.Nell likes ‘Teo as well, he’s big and handsome and warm and makes her feel all tingle-y. Being near him reminds her that her to-do list has “hook up with a jock” as an item. Mateo makes her nervous, but not so nervous that she can stay away from him when she goes to a party at his place to cross getting drunk off her to-do list.

He tips in some cranberry juice and two more kinds of liquor. “What is that?” I ask “A bad decision.” “Then why are you making it for me?” He shoots me a lopsided smile, and I’m forced to acknowledge that maybe the warmth creeping up my neck has far less to do with alcohol than I wish it did. “No sweetheart. It’s called a Bad Decision. The drink. It’s my own special invention.” ….. “It’s really good. Thank you.” He’s looking away from me and out at the party as he says, “For you, Nell, I’ll make as many bad decisions as you want.”

It is later that night after Nell is feeling the effects of that Bad Decision that Mateo discovers her list. And decides that it is his duty to help with it; starting with crossing off “go skinny-dipping.”  Nell might be shy and not that experienced with the gents, but she’s also emboldened by alcohol and determined to mark some things off her list. So, we get a steamy naked make out session in the pool, that stops just short of P in the V. Like extra super close:

What if he’d just…I don’t know…stuck it in, no warning or whatever. Like…SURPRISE! Here’s a penis

Cora writes some great dialog, both of the internal and spoken variety, her girls always seem like REAL girls, which makes it so easy to root for Nell. We want her to get her best orgasm ever, lose her virginity, do a keg stand, take a picture on an iconic campus statue. We want her to fall in love Mateo and we want him to fall in love with her. At no point did I feel like those two didn’t deserve their happily ever after. It takes a while for Mateo and Nell to actually get with the getting, but there’s plenty of fooling around all over campus. Including fooling around in the library stacks, which is pretty catnip-y for a book lover. He wants to help her live her last two months as a college student to the fullest, ‘Teo also is feeling very possessive about being the one to help her with all her firsts. They’re “his firsts” to give her. Nell tries to resist, but it isn’t long until she’s going head over heels for the charming football player. She wasn’t sure she was even capable of feeling something so strong about someone after years of keeping everyone at arm’s length in pursuit of her goals. But, here she is.

Mateo is falling hard for Nell, but isn’t sure how much of that is for Nell herself and how much is because of his memories of Lina. This is a dilemma for him because he’s just the tiniest bit of an asshole. I really really liked him. He’s a charming, sweet book boyfriend. But this old girlfriend hang up irked me and when that + football caused the inevitable problems in the final book stretch I had all the sympathy for Nell and none for ‘Teo. The boy needed to get his shit together.

He does of course and we get a cute (maybe just the tiniest bit saccharine) happy ending. Bright futures all around and enough Stella and Ryan action in the side story to really give me the hope that she’s coming up next! Until then, as always, Tramps: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, P in the V, Can’t Lose.


All Broke Down, by Cora Carmack

all broke down

Grade: B

Doing it at: 67%

Catnip: Reformed Bad Boy; Opposites Attract; Dual Narrative; Boys In Uniform; Strong Female Lead; Handcuffs; Friday Night Lights

Shame Scale: Very low shame, like the other Rusk book we reviewed this one is just sexed up YA. There aren’t even any tell-tale abs on the cover

Fantasy Cast: Tyler Kitsch and Diana Agron

Book Description:

In this second book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack’s New Adult, Texas-set Rusk University series, which began with All Lined Up, a young woman discovers that you can’t only fight for what you believe in . . . sometimes you have to fight for what you love

Dylan fights for lost causes. Probably because she used to be one.
Environmental issues, civil rights, education–you name it, she’s probably been involved in a protest. When her latest cause lands her in jail for a few hours, she meets Silas Moore. He’s in for a different kind of fighting. And though he’s arrogant and not at all her type, she can’t help being fascinated with him. Yet another lost cause.
Football and trouble are the only things that have ever come naturally to Silas. And it’s trouble that lands him in a cell next to do-gooder Dylan. He’s met girls like her before–fixers, he calls them, desperate to heal the damage and make him into their ideal boyfriend. But he doesn’t think he’s broken, and he definitely doesn’t need a girlfriend trying to change him. Until, that is, his anger issues and rash decisions threaten the only thing he really cares about, his spot on the Rusk University football team. Dylan might just be the perfect girl to help.
Because Silas Moore needs some fixing after all.

In our continuing series of pretending books are Friday Night Lights story lines, I bring you the second Rusk University book, All Broke Down. This is our Tim Riggins novel, and we LOVE Tim Riggins. He’s the bad boy of our dreams because inside he’s a marshmallow. And it’s not his fault he’s bad, he had a troubled childhood! Silas, our book protagonist, had a rough childhood as well. The novel opens with him encountering his mom for the first time in years, his slutty-neglectful-bleached blonde mom; who his friends cat call because they think that she’s one of Silas’s hook ups. After sending mom on her way, Silas goes to meet an old friend in a bar and ends up getting into a fist fight with him. Which lands Silas in jail, where he meets Dylan (all the girls in this series so far have names I can not get behind). Dylan has been arrested for refusing to disperse from a protest at a local homeless shelter the city is closing. She’s wearing her bleeding heart on her sleeve, living a prim and proper life in all other ways, and very into this boy with a bruised face and bloody knuckles who is hitting on her from the other holding cell. This is Dylan’s big YOLO moment.

Silas, in a rare kind of selfless move, bails Dylan and her friend out of the pokey, and drives them back to his house to enjoy the party that’s raging there with the rest of the football team. This was when I learned that driving a stick shift can be hot.

“He pulls the stick down, and it comes much closer to the seat than I anticipated, which means Silas’s hand is between my thighs, his knuckles grazing my skin until I widen my legs another inch”

The two end up in the bathroom at the house party, making out – very un-Dylan-like behavior – and are pretty close to some much hotter action when they are interrupted. Cora Carmack seems to realize that Bad Boy Heroes require more sex than the nice guy we had in All Lined Up. We say thank you for that. Once Dylan leaves the party she doesn’t think she’ll see Silas again. This was just a one time thing, bad boy football players are NOT for her. Except when she goes to his house to tell him this, he’s just had the worst day of his life after his reckless behavior got him kicked off the football team. Silas asks Dylan to help keep him on the straight and narrow, and teach him to be a good guy, so that he can learn to be a leader for his team and not wreck everything he’s tried to build for himself. And since he’s cute and Dylan wants to do him (essentially) she agrees.

Silas and Dylan are doing wholesome activities, like helping to rebuild houses for the elderly and volunteering at the animal shelter. He is well, and quickly, on his way to becoming a better man and the kid of guy Coach would want on the team. He is also quickly fucking Dylan. As no one would be surprised to hear the platonic portion of their relationship doesn’t last very long once they’re spending this quality time together. Silas is very into Dylan, he’s making it clear to his roommates and teammates that this girl isn’t just another hook up.

All is going well until the pair run into Dylan’s uptight society pillar parents at a campus alumni party. And Dylan is a cold bitch and acts like she and Silas are just barely acquainted. Her justification is that she thinks she’s doing it to protect him from their meddling and questions. Of course he doesn’t see it this way, and you can’t really blame him for thinking she’s ashamed of him, when he’s been trying so hard. Silas also has to deal with his mom trying to get money from him (I don’t know what money she thinks a college student has but OK), and a bad situation with a fellow member of the football team. I ended up liking Silas so much, despite his introduction in book one of Rusk University being incredibly douche-y.

We get our HEA along with the set up for the next book with a very realistic handling of a real life college campus problem. Carmack takes her character seriously, there’s nothing cringe inducing in these books, just cute guys and sweet romances. Full Eyes, Clear Hearts, P in the V, Can’t Lose.