Kulti by Mariana Zapata

I've dabbled in a few sports related contemporary novels over the years and while semi-enjoyable, there's never been one to really stick. A fact not exceptionally surprising since I'm not the most athletically gifted person (I was secretly thrilled to be cut from the 10th grade basketball team my brother convinced me to try out for). Maybe it's because I've been watching the Olympics pretty much non-stop for the last two weeks (USA! USA!) and feeling a bit more sporty than usual that I wound up picking Mariana Zapata's Kulti. Not a totally new-to-me author since I'd listened to her more recent The Wall of Winnipeg and Me and while perfectly enjoyable, I wasn't overly impressed. I needed something I could enjoy with half an ear while I was refinishing some furniture, so I started the audiobook. And then around the half-way mark, I gave up and bought the darn ebook because Kulti reached right inside and refused to settle for anything except for my full attention.

Now, let me preface this review by stating that my entire understanding of soccer consists of what I've learned from watching my kid's U-8 soccer games. Never having played myself, I honestly have no clue when it comes to a dribble or a bicycle kick or whatever. And I was perfectly happy to remain in ignorance. But Mariana Zapata made me care. Suddenly I was utterly absorbed in Sal's training regimen, infinitely caught up in her success, sitting there with my heart in my throat with each brutal injury.

Competitive by nature and unapologetic about it, Sal trains harder than anyone else so she can run faster, kick harder, and just in general ball it up as a professional soccer player. She's a freaking work of art. I might just have a teeny crush on her. But, whatever, this girl is gold. Blessed with a solid sense of humor and an even better fan base in her friends and family, I was cheering hard for her from page one. All that finely-honed edge is thrown however when her team's newest assistant coach is named as international soccer star, the Reiner Kulti.

"He's going to be your coach," he squeaked, and I mean really squeaked.
"I know." I laughed that time. "I've gotten like ten emails from people I know asking me to confirm. You're all insane."

Dad simply repeated himself, "He's going to be your coach."

That time, I pinched the bridge of my nose to keep from making a sound. "I'll tell you when the open practice will be so you can meet him."

Then he did it, he crossed the line again. "Sal--Sal, don't tell anyone, but you're my favorite."

Kulti, the German who starred in Sal's teenage fantasies and basically inspired her to take her game to the next level. Now he's her coach and Sal has to figure out how to pick her jaw up off the turf and learn something from this god of soccer. But the silent, brooding Kulti who shows up to her practices is nothing like the explosive star player she remembers, leaving Sal confused and more than a bit angry with the surly German.

Compelling and engaging, I simply could not stop reading Kulti. This book was everything I'd been looking for in a contemporary romance. Funny with sharp dialogue and honest characters. While each famous in their own right, Sal and Kulti are real people who get hurt or tired and who periodically complain when they are pushed into crap situations. Did I mention that Sal is freaking hilarious? I was dying to find out what outrageous thing would she'd do or say next.

I'd been playing with the boys since I was a kid, and they'd missed the memo that said I was a girl seven years younger than them. Apparently, Kulti had too.
"Playing a little rough, aren't you?" I asked as I ran up behind him, trying to block him from getting a clear shot of the goal.

He looked up at me from under his eyelashes. "Are you whining?"

I huffed. Asshole. "No, but if that's how you want to play, then that's how we'll play." Between the people I played with for fun and Harlow, I could take it.

Fast and fierce. Swoon! I couldn't get enough of Sal's supportive soccer-crazy family and the teasing friendship she shared with her teammates. Honestly, I can't think of a book that has made me so proud to be a woman in a long time (Okay, maybe Summer Skin. But before that one, it's been a looong time). Plus, it comes with one of the best sloooooow burn romances I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

So do your self a favor. Pick up Kulti. Block off the evening and cozy up with soccer superstars Sal and Kulti. And then let me know so we can gush about it together.

Signing with Victoria Schwab

I went to Utah a few months ago to visit family and while there found out, thanks to my fabulous YAckers friends, that the incredibly talented Victoria Schwab would be doing a signing at the King's English Bookstore in Salt Lake City to promote her newest YA book, This Savage Song.
Well. This news just made my entire month. 

Thanks to my mom who volunteered to watch my kids, I was able to carpool with the fabulous Holly from The Book Harbinger and we enjoyed catching up on our way up to the event.

Victoria was such an engaging, personable speaker. Instead of giving a prepared speech which she declared would be boring (at least for her lol), she invited audience members to ask questions and proceeded to give extremely in-depth and revealing answers.
She talked about how she plots her novels,
how she develops her characters (she works backwards, if you're curious),
how little star stickers motivate her as a writer(!),
and my personal favorite, when describing This Savage Song..."And then it goes horrifically wrong -- as all my books eventually do."

Simply put, she was amazing and made me love her that much more.

During the signing portion, we even fangirled over Cillian Murphy's cheekbones in Peaky Blinders together. My kind of people.
Sigh. Yet another embarrassing picture of me looking like a ridiculous lunatic while a talented author patiently endures my squeeing. 
Honestly, I am an intelligent adult capable of forming coherent sentences. just not in the presence of rock-star authors it seems.

After regaining my composure, I also got to hang out with my fellow YAckers Holly and Angie. I always love seeing those smart ladies!

Verdict on This Savage Song? Get it. Read it. It will make you feeeeel!