May 12, 2015

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

All Played Out by Cora Carmack
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Pages: 320
Series: Rusk University
Review Source: Edelweiss

Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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.
My Thoughts:
All Played Out is an entertaining novel featuring a very sweet romance. Nell and Mateo don't make a lot of sense at first glance and yet they make absolute sense: they balance each other out perfectly. Nell grounds Torres, opening him up to his real self, and Torres lets Nell get outside herself, focusing on something besides school and rigid plans. I loved how the romance grew between these two characters. I liked their flirting and how they worked together on Nell's list. One of my favourite parts of a romance novel is seeing the two love interests grow together by spending time with one another, and those scenes in All Played Out were truly lovely.

This is a very easy, fun read, but an emotionally satisfying one as well. I liked that even though there were hurdles and issues it wasn't super angsty or drawn out. Basically, All Played Out is a super enjoyable, sexy read. This is a very addictive series, and I'm excited to see where things go next with Stella's book.

The Cover:
So sweet!


Purchase Links:
Kobo | | | Chapters-Indigo | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | iTunes

Excerpt from All Played Out --

I groan, and flip the page in my spiral so I won’t have to look at the words anymore. Starting small with the alcohol had been a wise decision. Perhaps I should do the same with other big items on my list. But how did one get smaller than sex and hooking up? I couldn’t just put “kiss.” I’d done that before, and a few more kisses weren’t going to make any difference in my confidence when it came to sex.

Really, it’s the unknown that bothers me. Not just on this list, but in everything. So maybe that’s what I need to get used to.

I skip to the bottom of my list and add …

17. Kiss a stranger

I tap my pen against the page, surveying the words, and decide that kissing a stranger is a good stepping-stone. Then a voice comes from over my shoulder, making me jump up and drop my spiral in shock.

“Do I count as a stranger?”

I press my hand over my thundering heart and turn to face the subject my rumination.

“You scared me.”

“My bad.” Contrary to his words, Torres doesn’t look the least bit sorry.

He bends to pick up the spiral, and I lunge forward to stop him. “Wait! Stop!”

It’s too late. He already has ahold of it, and lifts it up above his head, completely out of my reach. He’s got nearly a foot on me in height, and when I try to jump, I barely get my unathletic self a few inches off the ground.

“Give that back.”

“Hold up, sweetheart. I just want to take a little peek.”

“Don’t you dare! It’s private.”

Frantically, I try to recall what was written on that page as he holds it above his head in an attempt to read.

“‘Go skinny-dipping’?” he says, his eyes dancing suggestively. “Whatever this is ... I like it.”

I step toward him, and he angles his body to the side so that the spiral is farther away, but we’re still close.

“‘Pull an all-nighter.’ ‘Sing karaoke.’ ‘Flash someone.’ Oh, sweetheart, tell me this is a list of things you want to do. Please, God.”

“It’s none of your business. That’s what it is.”

“Unlucky for you, I’m a nosy person.”

He starts to turn the page back, and my heart tumbles in fear. He cannot see the first page. Not ever. I hurl myself at him, practically climbing up his body in an attempt to retrieve my list. And all he does is laugh, and stand there as if there isn’t a whole person hanging on to him.

“Asshole!” I say, pushing at his chest.

“Come on, you can do better than that.”

“Nosy bastard.”

He rolls his eyes. “Well, if that’s all you’ve got ...” He starts to turn the page again, and there’s thunder in my ears, and my lungs feel all twisted up inside my chest.

“Fuck you,” I say once, quietly. Then I repeat it, louder, my voice raspy from fear and exertion. “Fuck you, Mateo Torres.”

And I resign myself to the fact that I’m not going to get my spiral back until he’s had his fill of humiliating me. But to my shock, he bends and picks up my pen from where I’d dropped it when he surprised me. Then he draws a line through something on the paper.

“Congratulations. You’ve officially completed number sixteen. ‘Cuss someone out and mean it.’”

He hands me the spiral, then the pen, before folding his arms over his chest and meeting my eyes with a carefully blank expression. I glance down at the item on the list that he’s crossed out, and I don’t know whether I want to laugh or stab him with my pen. Maybe both.

About Cora:
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.

Where to find Cora:
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Follow along with the rest of the InkSlinger PR tour here.

Click on the graphic above or this link to read Cora's announcement about Book #4 in the Rusk University series.

May 1, 2015

My Favourite Underrated Young Adult Books (Part 1)

I love all books. I love bestsellers, I love books with buzz, I love indie books, I love lesser known books. There's something special about that last category, though. Those gems that not many people seem to known about. I have to admit that I read a lot more commercial books or books that are well known. It makes sense: after all, those are the ones by authors with a track record or the debuts that get tons of buzz (read: marketing budget from the publisher).

It's hard to say what to define "underrated" as... defines the word as "to rate or evaluate too low; underestimate." So I suppose that a book could be read a hundred million times, but because of its low rating on Goodreads or Amazon be considered "underrated" by some. But I think what most people mean when they say a book is underrated is that not many people have read it. It doesn't have a lot of buzz -- it's an amazing book that not a lot of people are talking about.

There was an article a few weeks ago that talked about "underrated book series" that YA readers should read. I understand it was from community suggestions, and while I may not have a firm definition on what an "underrated book" is, I do know that if I see a book on the New York Times Bestsellers list or a movie based on that series, it's definitely not underrated.

So in that spirit I've gathered a list of books that I believe are amazing books, well worth reading, that just happen to have a lower amount of ratings on Goodreads. I tried to stick with books that had 5,000 or fewer ratings. Some have more, and some have way less. I've also included a few series where the first book was fairly well read, but by the next (or last) book the numbers went down drastically.

Without further ado, here are my first picks, with statistics gathered the week of April 6...

Underrated Young Adult Novels:

Waiting for the Storm by Marie Landry [108 ratings, 4.20 average]
My heart, it aches. Everyone who is at all a fan of contemp YA stories needs to stop and read this masterpiece. Full disclosure that I consider Marie a friend, but I was reading her books before I got to know her as a fellow Canadian blogger. This is a quiet and emotional story about dealing with grief and change. It’s a great family story, but it also contains an incredibly swoony romance.

Relic by Renee Collins [462 ratings, 3.67 average]
Magical, exciting, and unique. Relic is a Western style alternate history involving magic relics (bones of long dead magical creatures). There’s a mystery which the main character has very high stakes in, and some light romantic elements.

Exile by Kevin Emerson [634 ratings, 3.61 average]
This book has a great concept, and it’s executed beautifully. You have a girl who’s worrying about her romantic relationship, who’s working hard to truly manage a band (she goes to a performing arts high school where this is taken Very Seriously), and she’s helping to solve a mystery involving a dead rocker. Everything is so well done, and I had a blast reading this one.

How I Lost You by Janet Gurtler [801 ratings, 3.78 average]
How have so few people read this book?! I am actually hurt by this. Janet writes some absolutely amazing contemporary YA, reminiscent of Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, and Deb Caletti. This book is probably my favourite of hers, a great story about a toxic friendship. It features a girl who wants to be a college paintball player, which is definitely something I haven't seen before. It also has a very sweet romance featuring an incredibly nice guy.

Rival by Sara Bennett Wealer [1,231 ratings, 3.65 average]
As the title declares, this is a book about rivalry. It’s about female friendship and the complexities of that, especially in high school. It’s also about a competitive singing group, which is done so well. Bonus points for a full on nerd boy character and awesome mentions of fanfiction and dorky online hobbies.

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley [2,854 ratings, 4.01 average]
Sam is one of the first girls to attend Denmark Military Academy, and her story is not an easy one to read. I was absolutely enthralled with this book, flipping the pages as fast as I could, but I also can’t remember when a book made me more angry -- in a good way, sort of? The author’s writing was so powerful and the treatment Sam receives so despicable that I was practically shaking with anger for a lot of the book. This is a compelling read about an incredibly strong girl (not just talking physically, either).

Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally [3,363 ratings, 4.08 average]
I feel like Miranda Kenneally gets pretty good buzz in the YA blogger community for her amazing contemp YA romances. But this book has less than 10% the amount of readers Catching Jordan does, which is a huge shame because it's an AMAZING book. This is another book which portrays grief and loss beautifully. Miranda's books are always smart, interesting, and swoony, but this is really one of my favourites of hers, if not the favourite.

Amplified by Tara Kelly [4,589 ratings, 3.75 average]
Tara Kelly is the best at writing about music. You can tell that she loves it just by the way her characters love and describe it. I loved how lively and fun the band in this book was, and I absolutely adored the romance. Love/hate chemistry and flirty banter? Yes please!

Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson [6,537 ratings, 3.80 average]
This is a genre-bending read which thoroughly caught my attention. I loved the general setting (Sudbury, ON, Canada) and the more direct setting (mental institution!). I can't really say much more about this book because it has a certain twist to it, but know that it is incredibly interesting and compulsively readable.

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen [Book 1: 14,134 ratings, 4.01 average; Book 2: 3,307 ratings, 4.11 average]
This is a book with a decently high amount of readers where the amount of readers for Book 2 drastically dropped. What happened? Was it readers who didn't mesh with the dialogue style of the book? Was it just less marketing that led people to forget about the series? Either way it needs to be remedied, because while Scarlet is a great book, Lady Thief may be even better. You NEED to read this book where Will Scarlet is actually Scarlet, a girl, with another secret identity under her belt. I'm incredibly excited for the series closer to release on May 19.

I hope you'll check out some of these recommendations, and stay tuned for Part 2!


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