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.


Anonymous said...

Looks like you enjoyed this one a lot more than I did! I found it a bit dragging and I'm all for slow burn romance but not if the couple still haven't gotten together by 90% of the book.

Janicu said...

Yay, I felt similarly to you. I JUST read KULTI last week, it was my first Mariana Zapata book. Really liked that it took so long to get to the romance because it felt believable that her COACH is off-limits. That it went from dislike to grudging respect to friendship, to maaayybe like... AND THEN revealing of feelings only when there was good reason to: this progression was one I felt happy with.

We'll see if I also like THE WALL OF WINNEPEG AND ME, that's the second one I've downloaded. I only worry that these books could get too repetitive if the same progression is used and reused.

Michelle said...

Chachic- LOL I saw your review but for some reason that aspect of the story didn't bother me at all. Maybe because I knew that was the case going in? What really sold me on this book was Sal herself. I just love her character and how tough and talented she is.

Janicu - Oh good!! Right?? I was so happy that Kulti respected her enough to totally keep his distance because he understood just how precious her career was to her. The development of their relationship was just perfect!

I hope you like WALL of WINNIPEG - I listened to that one first and that slow burn didn't work as well for me. Maybe because there was nothing really stopping them (besides themselves) from getting closer until like the 90% mark. But, I'd love to hear your thoughts!