I’ve learned a lot about my reading habits since I started cannonballing.
For instance, I know that I like Stephen King and Rainbow Rowell above all other writers, and that a sub-par book from them is still going to get at least 4 stars from me.
I know that I’m still on the fence with fantasy — but thanks to suggestions from other reviewers like narfna and Malin, I’m making some headway there.
I’ve also learned (mostly through trial and error) that I like a contemporary romance better than a period one.
I’ve tried. I read the Brothers Sinister books and thought they were pretty good. But they just weren’t as interesting to me as some of the more modern stories by writers like Sarina Bowen, Lucy Parker, and Sally Thorne.
And all of this leads me to Kulti.
All of the glowing reviews for this book in CBR8 weren’t wrong. I honestly couldn’t put this book down. I had shopping, wrapping, cleaning, cooking, and all sorts of other holiday items on my to-do list, but my kids found me more than once just standing in the kitchen reading this book on my phone. Everything in my life took a backseat to Kulti.**
Sal (not short for Sally, but for Salome) is a professional women’s soccer player on a top-tier team in Houston. She comes from a close-knot family: her father is a Mexican immigrant who has worked hard to get Sal and her brother, Eric (also a pro Soccer star in Europe), to the level that they are at. Her mother is from Argentina, and secretly the daughter of soccer royalty. And her little sister is a grumpy teen who hates soccer.
Sal works hard both on and off the field — she runs a landscaping company with her best friend and she keeps herself in good shape by keeping to a strict routine. Nothing in her life varies too wildly, and that’s just how Sal likes it.
Reiner Kulti was the greatest soccer player of his generation, and one of the most famous athletes on the planet. He was known for his temper, his passion, his skill, and for Sal, his good looks. From the moment Sal saw him on TV when she was little, she knew two things: that she wanted to play soccer like Kulti, and that someday she would marry him.
Sal, Eric, and her dad all worshipped Kulti. Until one day, shortly before his retirement, Kulti and Eric played against each other and Kulti broke Eric’s leg. When Kulti joins Sal’s team as an assistant coach, everything in her life turns upside down.
While still incredibly handsome, the real-life Kulti is nothing like Sal had hoped. He’s rude, obnoxious, conceited, and even worse, he’s a terrible coach and role model for the women on the team. He simply ignores them all, unless he takes a second to yell at them and debase them in front of their teammates.
Now, of course, since this is a “romance”, we all know that Kulti is secretly a good guy, and that somehow he and Sal will fall in love and live happily ever after.
But what makes this story so much fun is the journey that Sal and Kulti take to get there. Softball games, tattoo parlors, trips to the mall, and time spent lounging on the couch and watching reality tv were all fun to read, as they were such normal things. Kulti’s celebrity gave all of this normality an interesting perspective — Kulti couldn’t just walk into a mall or go to the park and play pick-up softball without a crowd of people surrounding him.
I was really impressed with the writing and the characters here. Every single character had a real personality, with both good traits and bad. I thought it was hilarious that Sal’s dad couldn’t keep himself together around Kulti. It was nice that Sal had a strong support system of friends — both male and female — that stood by her while everything in her life changes. I liked that neither Sal nor Kulti ever changed anything about their personalities for the other, they just worked harder to understand each other and communicate with each other. And I loved that Sal had a tendency to swear.
Was there anything that didn’t work for me? Sure.
I didn’t love the strange way that Sal’s crush on Kulti was wrapped up. I really didn’t like Kulti’s weird obsession with Sal’s letters from years ago. And I despise the title of the book. Yes, I get that Kulti is a totally credible name for a German soccer star, but is that really what you want to name your breakout novel? Hmm.
I had never heard of Mariana Zapata before, but I’ll keep an eye out for some of her future work. (Yes, I did search the CBR database and saw that a few of her other books had been reviewed with a bit less enthusiasm. That’s OK. I’ll wait for a good one.)
**So, wait. If I was so obsessed with this book, why did it take me so long to finally finish it and review it?
Once I got to the point where I knew Kulti and Sal were about to have THE moment, the moment from which there is no turning back, I put it down and let myself enjoy the holidays. I enjoyed visits from family, delicious meals (not cooked by me!), and lovely gifts, including a new, spiffy Kindle with three glorious Liane Moriarty books on it (reviews to follow). And then we got hit by a horrible virus and I spent several days either taking care of sick kids or lying in bed wanting to die. And that’s when I picked it up again.