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I Belong

Review: Ghostlight by Sonia Gensler

August 5th, 2015 Kristie Posted in Review No Comments »

GhostlightTitle: Ghostlight

Author: Sonia Gensler

Genre: MG Horror

Series: N/A

Publication Date: August 4, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages

ISBN-10: 0553522140 (Knopf Doubleday)

ISBN-13: 978-0553522143 (Knopf Doubleday)

Reviewed by: Kristie

Synopsis:

Things that go bump in the night are just the beginning when a summer film project becomes a real-life ghost story!

Avery is looking forward to another summer at Grandma’s farm, at least until her brother says he’s too old for “Kingdom,” the imaginary world they’d spent years creating. Lucky for her, there’s a new kid staying in the cottage down the road: a city boy with a famous dad, Julian’s more than a little full of himself, but he’s also a storyteller like Avery. So when he announces his plan to film a ghost story, Avery is eager to join in.

Unfortunately, Julian wants to film at Hilliard House, a looming, empty mansion that Grandma has absolutely forbidden her to enter. As terrified as Avery is of Grandma’s wrath, the allure of filmmaking is impossible to resist.

As the kids explore the secrets of Hilliard house, eerie things begin to happen, and the “imaginary” dangers in their movie threaten to become very real. Have Avery and Julian awakened a menacing presence? Can they turn back before they go too far?

Quick & Dirty: Young teens investigate a haunted house in this spooky and entertaining read. They also learn hard truths about secrets and the power of forgiveness.

Opening Sentence: We’d only been at Grandma’s for five minutes before Blake ruined everything.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Ghostlight is a middle grade novel about young teens as they investigate a haunted house in this spooky and entertaining read. They also learn hard truths about secrets and the power of forgiveness. The novel stars Avery, a twelve year old girl, who spends the summers at her Grandma’s house with her brother. Avery has just arrived with her brother when he informs her that they will not be playing the game they made up because he is now too old to play at age fifteen. Avery storms off because of her hurt feelings from Blake. In her fit of anger she sees a strange boy, Julian, about to go into Hilliard House. Hilliard House is the vacant house that Avery’s grandmother warns her to stay away from.

Avery and Julian become fast friends and since Avery has nothing to do all summer, Julian talks her into making a movie. His giddiness and love for film rub off on Avery so much so that she wants to film a movie over her potentially boring summer. Julian wants to film a horror movie and use the Hilliard House as the backdrop. The problem? Avery isn’t allowed to go anywhere near Hilliard House. Plus, they need to get inside the house and Avery’s grandma is the only one with a key. With the help of Julian’s sister Lily they find more inside the house then they ever imagined.

Ghostlight delivers a powerful message about how terrible lies can be and the need for the truth and forgiveness. I will say I was a little surprised by some of the events that happened but overall I would recommend this for a young reader who is interested in film and horror/hauntings.

Avery is a fun and inquisitive girl but she is very temperamental. She starts out as immature and selfish but as the story plays out she begins to learn lessons that are very valuable. I enjoyed Avery’s tenacity even in light of how much trouble she knew she was going to be in. Ghostlight is told entirely through Avery’s first person point of view.

Julian is the same age as Avery’s brother but I often felt that he was closer to Avery’s age. He also has some deep issues that he has to work through and maybe with Avery’s help he may learn a lesson or two. I felt bad for Julian even though he kind of put himself into those situations.

I will say I was surprised by a few events in this novel. A kid shouldn’t have to go through that. I was even surprised how this novel played up the paranormal aspect. I was totally expecting something else. I will say that I connected to this book in a way because I used to spend my summers at my grandparents’ house in Alabama. It was also in the country and there was an abandoned log home nearby that was kind of creepy. I never explored it but after reading this, I wonder what I would have found.

Overall, I would recommend Ghostlight to a young reader who would like to read something a bit paranormal without going all R.L. Stein or Christopher Pike. I didn’t feel like there was anything objectionable and the message delivered was enlightening.

Notable Scene:

I struggled to stand. “Don’t you dare touch me!”

Just as the words came out of my mouth, the bulb on Julian’s forehead shattered. He flew back, slamming against the opposite wall.

“Jules!” cried Lily, dropping the doll.

I scooped up my flashlight and pointed it at him. His body slid down the wall, camera clattering as it hit the tile floor. He lifted a finger to his cheek and it came away streaked with blood.

Lily shrieked.

I turned the light on her. “Shut up!”

A tear spilled out of her eye. “’When you pointed the flashlight…there was a shadow in the mirror. A man’s shadow!”

That strange pressure filled my ears, making them ache, and I gritted my teeth to keep from screaming back at her. “That’s it. Seriously, you can quit the whole act now, because I’m done with this.”

After one last glance at Julian, I stumbled out of the bathroom, leaving them to fend for themselves in the dark.

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FTC Advisory: Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House provided me with a copy of Ghostlight. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

August 4th, 2015 Kristie Posted in Review No Comments »

NevermoreTitle: Nevermore

Author: Kelly Creagh

Genre: YA Paranormal

Series: Nevermore (Book #1)

Publication Date: August 31, 2010

Format: Hardcover, 543 Pages

ISBN-10: 1442402008 (Atheneum/Simon)

ISBN-13: 978-1442402003 (Atheneum/Simon)

Reviewed by: Kristie

Synopsis:

Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due—so unfair—on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.

Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.

As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

His life depends on it.

Quick & Dirty: A dark, horror young adult novel that felt like a cross between Edgar Allen Poe stories and Labyrinth!

Opening Sentence: Edgar opened one eye to a slit.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Nevermore is a young adult, horror love story about a cheerleader who falls in love with a *gasp* goth boy. The first half of this novel kind of plays like a contemporary love about two people who couldn’t be more different yet like each other and the people around them who keep telling them they shouldn’t be together. The second half holds the horror and paranormal showcasing Poe’s work in a dreamscape setting.

Isobel Lanley is teamed up to work with Varen Nethers in English class. They have to work together outside of class because their lame teacher won’t give them class time to do the project. The project must focus on a great American writer/poet with Poe being the obvious choice. Isobel is not happy with her partner. Varen is the crazy goth boy who has terrible rumors saying that he is a vampire and drinks blood among other things. When Isobel actually meets Varen for the first time she is drawn to him. She can’t quite figure it out. But Isobel’s boyfriend, Brad, has to be an utter Neanderthal/psycho/little man that he threatens Varen every chance that he can get. He doesn’t want Isobel doing a project with Varen. Isobel begins to realize how terrible Brad is and feels for Varen.

Strange things begin to happen to Isobel, things that are tied to Varen. She just thinks she’s going crazy or at the very least daydreaming. Her feelings toward Varen begin to grow into something that she just didn’t think was possible, but everyone keeps seeing the outside layer of Varen and warning her away. They don’t see the quiet, soft-spoken boy who has captured her imagination and her heart. Varen actually takes care of Isobel and pays attention to her unlike that jock of a boyfriend. Varen ends up getting drawn to deep into another world where Isobel must find him and hope that she can save him.

For the most part, I did like Isobel. She parted ways from her friends when they were just awfully rude. No one should have to go through the stuff her friends put Varen through. Or the language used. Isobel stuck to her guns even though she ended up losing her IN crowd, but because of this she made new friends that she probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I did have a little bit of a hard time believing in her feelings for Varen but by the end I really believed in her desperation. (Plus, I imagined Varen as the lead singer in a band I listen to so that help me with her feelings.)

Varen was pretty much what I would expect of his type of character, quiet and soft-spoken unless he’s talking about something he is passionate about. He has a bit of desperation about him but he is a little rude trying to warn Isobel off of him because he doesn’t want to get hurt by her spurning him.

I may have been a bit presumptuous likening the story to The Labyrinth movie but I really got the vibe from Isobel and Pinfeathers during The Grim Façade scene with the music, the dancing and the strange creatures.

I would definitely recommend Nevermore for fans of Poe and for readers who want something a little more different about their paranormal reads. I already can’t wait to see how this series will go on and can’t wait to pick up my copy of Enshadowed. Nevermore is told entirely through Isobel’s third person point of view, except the Prologue which is Edgar’s.

Notable Scene:

He spun her before she could wrench away, and they coiled in a tight circle. The world blended into a mesh of chaos, color, and noise.

“Stop!” she shouted, but he ignored her, throwing her into revolution after revolution, almost swinging her into another pair of masked dancers who scampered aside, laughing.

“Where’s your mask?” he asked. “Everyone is wearing one but you, cheerleader. Are you trying to say you have nothing to hide?” He dragged her through the steps.

“Let go of me!”

“You know, I’ve been chatting with your friend all evening.”

“Varen? Where is he?”

“Really, cheerleader. I’m beginning to think you have a one-track mind.” He pushed her away violently, and Isobel stumbled onward, nearly toppling into a pair of courtiers dressed as what she thought must be a pair of black spray-painted toucans. She stared at them confused, and in return, they glared at her until Pinfeathers yanked her once more into the dance. She crashed flat against him and he spun her again.

“I meant your other friend,” he said. “Then again, you have so many. It’s been hard to keep them all straight! I wouldn’t exactly say he’s much of a conversationalist, though. Kind of the strong, silent type. At least until he screams. You look beautiful tonight, by the way, have I told you yet?” He smiled.

Nevermore Series:

1. Nevermore

2. Enshadowed

3. Oblivion

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FTC Advisory: Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster provided me with a copy of Nevermore. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Early Review: Forbidden by Cathy Clamp

August 3rd, 2015 Kristie Posted in Review No Comments »

Forbidden CCTitle: Forbidden

Author: Cathy Clamp

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Luna Lake (Book #1)

Publication Date: August 18, 2015

Format: Paperback, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0765377209 (Tor/Macmillan)

ISBN-13: 978-0765377203 (Tor/Macmillan)

Reviewed by: Kristie

Synopsis:

USA Today bestselling author Cathy Clamp reboots the Sazi universe in Forbidden, a tightly-paced, high-tension urban fantasy thriller.

Ten years have passed since the war that destroyed the Sazi Council and inflicted a horrible “cure” on thousands of Sazi, robbing them of their ability to shapeshift.

Luna Lake, isolated in Washington State, started as a refugee camp for Sazi orphans. Now it’s a small town and those refugees are young adults, chafing at the limits set by their still-fearful guardians.

There’s reason to fear: Sazi children are being kidnapped. Claire, a red wolf shifter, is sent to investigate. Held prisoner by the Snakes during childhood, Claire is distrusted by those who call Luna Lake home.

Before the war, Alek was part of a wolf pack in Chicago. In Luna Lake he was adopted by a parliament of Owls, defying Sazi tradition. The kidnappings are a painful reminder that his little sister disappeared a decade ago.

When Claire and Alek meet, sparks fly—but the desperate race to find the missing children forces them to set aside their mutual attraction and focus on the future of their people.

Quick & Dirty: Dark, eerie and mysterious urban fantasy/paranormal romance mixture. This novel was full of mystery and action so it didn’t slow down one bit. The amount of abuse the main character does through may turn readers away.

Opening Sentence: Fear wasn’t something Claire Evans thought she’d ever feel again, but an all-too-familiar buzzing filled her ears while bile rose into her throat.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Forbidden is an urban fantasy novel set in a strange paranormal world unlike anything I have ever seen before. This world is shrouded in mystery, tragedy and terror. If you dislike abuse of any kind, you may want to stay away from this novel. The amount of abuse that the main character goes through was infuriating even though it is demonstrated to show how terrible the things in Luna Lake have gotten out of hand. Forbidden is a spin-off of the paranormal romance Tales of the Sazi by C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp. It is set ten years after a virus tore apart the Sazi community. Sadly, I haven’t read this series but Forbidden has me intrigued enough that I really want to see how this world began and what it was like before the virus.

Claire Evans, red wolf and Wolven agent, is going undercover in Luna Lake to investigate the disappearances of children and to find out what exactly is going on in this remote Sazi settlement. Luna Lake is an oddity in the Sazi world, a settlement that combines all races of shapeshifters. The shapeshifters often don’t get along and separate themselves to keep them from hunting each other. As soon as Claire arrives in Luna Lake she can tell all isn’t as it should be. She is attacked by a mysterious black force. The townfolk seem to like her but that soon changes.

Alek moved to Luna Lake when it was created. He was in his middle teens at the time. Alek and his brother, also wolves, were raised by a pack of Owls. Alek has no idea what is going on in Luna Lake. When he meets Claire he is immediately drawn to her and her strength.

Claire is designated as an Omega in an unfair test. Why is this important? Omega status is basically a town slave (just in Luna Lake). Omega’s do all the cleaning and chores in town. Omega’s also get the living daylights beaten out of them on a daily basis. Claire is strong enough to take the beatings but she has to take them in order to find out the crazy mystery in town.

I like a good mystery but the mystery in this novel drove me crazy. It seemed like absolutely no questions were being answered, just more and more questions were getting piled up. Then to top it off the townspeople were forgetting important things i.e. Missing Children! What?!? What is going on here?

I will say, between the crazy mystery and actual action scenes this book doesn’t slow down. The actual events of the novel taken place in less than a week’s span of time. I was entirely engrossed and I had to know how this novel was going to end. Also, the main villain was quite different from anything I had seen before.

The setting is bleak and remote and it really translates to how Luna Lake is seemingly outside of the rule of the other paranormals in this world. There is a real hierarchy to the shapeshifters and how they operate within their own packs and how the phases of the moon allow certain people to shift over others. The one thing I thought was funny, was how they could talk in their shifted forms. I broke down laughing over trying to see in my mind’s eye a wolf, owl, and cougar talking.

I was a little indifferent towards Claire. I waffled between really liking her and just thinking she was a wallflower. Yeah, she solved the mystery but she took a lot of beatings and kept justifying it because she couldn’t reveal why she was in Luna Lake to begin with. As for her relationship with Alek, I thought it was a little electric and I was shocked on how that played out later. Even the romantic structure was a bit weird for me so I’m a little iffy on if this series will stay with Claire and Alek or move on to someone else. It was definitely written more like a paranormal romance with Claire and Alek both getting their own third person point of views.

Overall, I would recommend this to urban fantasy/paranormal romance readers who want to try something a little different with shapeshifters. The synopsis says this is an urban fantasy and not a paranormal romance like the previous series was so I am really intrigued about what is next.

Notable Scene:

“Let me explain how things work up here, Ms. Sanchez.” The chief’s voice grew rough, his scent angry to the point of fury. “You’re the Omega. You’re nothing. You have no rank, no prestige, no standing until you earn some. You will swear your allegiance to Mayor Monk, as your Alpha, for the remainder of your stay here and will have no contact with your old pack.” She felt a moment of panic, did her best to suppress it. “You will not meet the eyes of any other pack member, regardless of their gender, rank, age, or species.” In a blur of motion, her head rocked to the opposite side from a second vicious slap, and white flowers erupted in her brain. This time she did fall, her knees slamming into the floor with a shock of pain. “You don’t seem to understand your station. You looked at the principal, the secretary, nearly every teacher in school today, along with the waitress in the restaurant.”

Wait. What? How was she supposed to serve food if she could only stare at the floor? “You are forbidden to interact with any town resident for the next week other than the mayor, me and Rachel, who will be your guide during your training. You will listen and do as you’re told, when you’re told, and how you’re told. You are forbidden to refuse or disobey direct orders and will do whatever you’re instructed to do by your superiors.”

Within reason, surely, she thought. The mayor was in her mind in an instant; she screamed and raised her hands to her ears, feeling that her brain was going to explode. The chief kicked her backward sharply, sending her sprawling on the floor, and pulled out of head at the same time. She remained where she landed, mostly because his foot came down on her throat.

She fought to breathe and tried to turn her head so she could get air. He ground his foot on her neck in response. “You breathe when I let you, Claire. You think what your Alpha allows you to think. There is no within reason in this town. Do you understand?”

Claire didn’t answer, wasn’t sure if it was another trick. How had the chief known what had been in her mind? Who was the Alpha here? She held her breath until she couldn’t anymore, keeping her eyes on the ceiling, not meeting his eyes.

He lifted his foot, seeming to be satisfied. “You may answer.”

It took two tries to get her jaw to work. When she spoke, she made sure there was no fear in her voice, only anger. That seemed to both amuse and excite him. “Yes.”

Luna Lake Series:

1. Forbidden

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FTC Advisory: Cathy Clamp graciously provided me with a copy of Forbidden. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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DNF Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

August 2nd, 2015 Bridget Posted in Review No Comments »

Will Grayson, Will GraysonTitle: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Author: John Green & David Levithan

Genre: YA LGBT Contemporary

Series: N/A

Publication Date: April 6, 2010

Format: Hardcover, 310 Pages

ISBN 10: 0525421580 (Dutton/Penguin)

ISBN 13: 978-0525421580 (Dutton/Penguin)

Reviewed by: Bridget

Synopsis:

Will Grayson meets Will Grayson. One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers are about to cross paths. From that moment on, their world will collide and lives intertwine.

It’s not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old – including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire – Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most awesome high school musical.

Quick & Dirty: This was a book outside of my comfort zone that I decided to try, but it was definitely not for me. I ended up not even coming close to finishing it.

Opening Sentence: When I was little, my dad used to tell me, “Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose.”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

There are two boys with the name of Will Grayson and they are about to have a life changing experience. They meet at an “adult bookstore” in Chicago and it starts a series of events into motion that are altering for both boys. The two Will’s couldn’t be more different, but the lessons they learn from each other will have lasting effects. Together with both new and old friends they will embark on a journey filled with heartache, love, and a high school musical!

There are three characters featured in the story. There is Will, Will, and Tiny Cooper. The story is told from the two Will’s POV but really the story is mainly about Tiny because he is how the two Will’s are connected. One Will is Tiny’s best friend from growing up and the other is Tiny’s love interest in the story. Tiny is very flamboyantly gay and honestly it was really overwhelming for me. I thought that his character was way overdone and he was too stereotypical. It made him feel very unrealistic and not at all easy to relate to. I did feel bad for Tiny at times because no one should be treated badly or made fun of like he was. But I just found his character to be annoying and I felt no connection with him beyond feeling bad for him.

Then there was the best friend Will. The book starts off in his head and I was instantly not a fan of him. In the first few pages he just complains about his situation. He has been friends with Tiny forever and he sticks up for him when people start to make fun of him, which I found admirable. But then on the very next page he is complaining about how embarrassing Tiny is, and all my admiration for him flew out the window. I found his voice to be very whiny and really annoying.

Lastly, there is the love interest Will. Okay, I thought the other two characters were pretty bad, but this one topped the cake. His dialogue was really dark and moody. All he talks about is how horrible his life is and how much a failure he is. In the first few pages of being inside his head it totally depressed me and I found him to be an ungrateful jerk. I really didn’t get to read much of his dialogue, but what I did read was not impressive. Unfortunately, I felt no connection with any of these characters and  it ultimately ruined the story for me.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson was not a book for me and I ended up not even coming close to finishing it. I didn’t have very high expectations going in because in all honesty, I don’t really read LGBT books, but I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and try one. This was not a good one to try for someone who is new to this genre. I really did try to give this a chance but, I felt overwhelmed by how much they focused on all the gay stuff. It felt like that was the only thing they talked about in the book and for me personally, I didn’t find it interesting at all. I do want to point out that I have no problem with LGBT characters, I just don’t have any interest in reading a book that focuses on LGBT politics, it’s just not my thing. I read other reviews and many others said the book is filled with great humor, but personally, I didn’t really find anything I read to be all that funny. Now to be fair, I did give up pretty early in the book so maybe it would have gotten better, but I couldn’t stand any of the characters, so I saw no reason to continue. This was obviously not a book for me, but I know there are others that enjoyed it, so if it sounds interesting to you — give it a try.

Notable Scene:

i am constantly torn between killing myself and killing everyone around me.

those seem to be the two choices. everything else is just killing time.

right now I’m walking through the kitchen to get to the back door.

mom: have some breakfast.

i do not eat breakfast. I never eat breakfast. i haven’t eaten breakfast since i was able to walk out the back door without eating breakfast first.

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FTC Advisory: Dutton Books/Penguin provided me with a copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: All Played Out by Cora Carmack

August 1st, 2015 Bridget Posted in Review 1 Comment »

All Played OutTitle: All Played Out

Author: Cora Carmack

Genre: NA Contemporary Romance

Series: Rusk University (Book #3)

Publication Date: May 12, 2015

Format: Paperback, 336 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062326244 (HarperCollins)

ISBN-13: 978-0062326249 (HarperCollins)

Reviewed by: Bridget

Synopsis:

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.

Quick & Dirty: All Played Out is a sexy read that is just pure entertainment! This is my favorite of the series so far and I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a great NA contemporary romance story!

Opening Sentence: There’s a half-naked man in my kitchen.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Antonella De Luca has spent most of her college years studying and getting ready to attend graduate school. She never made time for anything as silly as boys or parties. Nell knows what she is good at and socializing with other people is not one of her better qualities. She is on course to graduate early and she can’t wait. Then one day her roommate points out that she hasn’t really experienced the college life to the fullest because she has only focused on the academic part of college. Nell decides to run an experiment and see if she is really missing anything by not participating in the “normal” college things. She makes a bucket list that will force her to step outside of her comfort zone. Then she meets Mateo Torres and he shatters all her thoughts of what she really needs to be happy!

Mateo Torres or better known as just Torres is a wide receiver for the Rusk University football team. Torres is basically your ideal party boy. He likes to keep things causal and he is a total flirt because he’s not interested in ever getting his heart broken again. When he meets Nell for the first time he is instantly attracted to her, but she’s not the type of girl he normally dates. She is gorgeous and way to smart for someone like him, but he can’t seem to get her off his mind. When he discovers her bucket list, he decides to make it his mission to help her acclaim posh everything on the list.

As the two of them spend more time together things start to heat up between them. Soon they are both falling and that’s not something either of them planned on. Can two very different people from very different worlds really make a relationship last?

Nell is such a fun and interesting character. She’s extremely intelligent, witty, analytical, and kind of anti-social. I love her academic mind and how she turns everything in her life into an experiment. She comes across as shy at first, but really she is just not interested in being very social. That’s pretty much the entire point of the to-do list she has created. She wants to finally experience the college atmosphere and do things that normal college students are doing. I think one of the best things about the story was you get to experience so many firsts with Nell. You get to watch her character grow so much throughout her journey, and it made my connection with her a lot stronger. Watching her realize that she can actually fall in love for the first time was really sweet and heartwarming. Watching her open herself up to the idea of having friends and being in a relationship was really great. I loved everything about Nell and I’m so glad I got to read her story!

Torres is one of those funny guys that always has a smile and is extremely charming. It seems like he can never be serious at first, but as you get to know him you realize the flirty banter and outgoing persona he displays is actually a defensive mechanism so people don’t see the real him. He has been hurt in the past and doesn’t want to ever feel that way again. Because of a bad past relationship he has steered clear of ever getting serious with anyone. Football is his life and until he meets Nell he is okay with just having football and random hookups. His relationship with Nell is explosive. They have an instant connection and extremely hot chemistry! At first they don’t seem like they would be very compatible, but they are actually really good for each other. Torres is such a complex character and I thought he was a very swoon worthy book boy.

All Played Out was a great sexy read full of growth, emotions, and humor. I have read all the books in the Rusk university series and really enjoyed all of them, but I think this one was my favorite. I really connected with the characters and the story was really entertaining. The romance was done perfectly even though it developed really fast, it still felt realistic to me. Like all good contemporary stories there is tons of drama, but it’s not overdone. The pacing was great and it was a fairly quick ready or me. I sat down to read it and found myself staying up way too late to finish it. I think Cormack has such amazing writing and she really knows how to create a steamy scenes! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. Stella has always been one of my favorite characters in the series and I know her story is going to be amazing. If you are a new adult romance fan you should definitely check out this series!

Notable Scene:

“Oh, psssh. You are twenty years old. And you are brilliant and beautiful and driven, but you are not perfect, despite how often it seems so.” I do a weird, gurgly , sobbing laugh, and I can’t help but think about Torres last night. He called me perfect. Several times. But that was an entirely different kind of compliment, and one that has no business sneaking in around thoughts of my mom. She continues , “You are allowed to make mistakes, Nell. And even though it might seem right now like one mistake is enough to derail your entire future, it’s not.”

“You don’t understand, Mom.”

“Don’t I? I might not have gone to college or picked some high-tech career, but we all make choices . You don’t think I agonized over whether or not to marry your father? You don’t think both of us had doubts about taking over the restaurant? You don’t think it’s terrifying to raise children? To know that every choice you make not only determines your future, but theirs, too? The future is never just one choice. It’s a thousand. And they never stop. You will choose your future every day of your life. And should you wake up one day to find that you regret the choice you made the day before, then you make a new one. Don’t worry about whether you might be wrong someday. Worry about whether you’re right now. Tomorrow can wait.”

“Tomorrow can wait,” I repeat. The tears are still flowing, but I no longer feel like I’m choking on some invisible ache in my throat. I no longer have to gasp for breath.

“It can,” she promises . “No point worrying about what happens at the end of the road when there’s a hundred steps to take before you get there. You worry about today’s step. Because I promise you, passerotta, there will come a day when you stop obsessing over what lies ahead and begin to look backward instead. And when that day comes, it won’t matter so much whether every step was in the right direction because life is not a straight line. It will only matter that you took them. That you never let yourself stand still.”

“I don’t know why people always call me the smart one,” I say. “You definitely have me beat.” She laughs, and the sound

Rusk University Series:

1. All Lined Up

2. All Broke Down

3. All Played Out

4. All Closed Off (2016)

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FTC Advisory:  I purchased my own copy of All Played Out.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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