Sunday, December 1, 2019

Audiobook Review: Kulti by Mariana Zapata

 Kulti by Mariana ZapataAuthor: Mariana Zapata
Series: N/A
Narrator: Callie Dalton
Audience: +18
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Length: 16 hours and 13 minutes
Release Date: July 28th 2015 (first published March 20th 2015)
My Rating: 5 Cups
Source: Audible
Blurb (from Goodreads):

“Trust me, I’ve wanted to punch you in the face a time or five.”

When the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to.

It didn't take a week for 27-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she'd seen in the international soccer icon - why she'd ever had his posters on her wall or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies.

Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man who hadn't known she'd existed. So she isn't prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team's season: a quiet, reclusive shadow of the explosive, passionate man he'd once been.
I've been meaning to read Mariana Zapata for a while now. In fact, she's the author that finally convinced me to try out the Audible Escape subscription I now love so much. Because I didn't know where to start, since I've heard a lot of good stuff about her books, I pestered my dear friend Sam from Fictionally Sam to point me in the right direction and Kulti was the second book on her list I think. Since it was also the first book that I noticed by her on AE, I decided to go with it. And let me tell you, it was glorious.

Full disclosure: I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew when I downloaded this audiobook was the cover, the author, and the fact that Sam told me to read it. That's it. I decided not to read the blurb because I wanted to be surprised. And much surprised I was.

Mariana Zapata has a way of making really powerful heroines. Sal is an athlete, and her work ethic is something I can only dream of having. She loves the sport so much, and she's really good at it, probably one of the best female soccer players. She isn't too good at standing up for herself, however, which you later find out more about. She's playing a competitive sport, one where it's generally men that get all the attention. So when her hero, Reiner Kulti, becomes the team's second coach, she's excited. Her dream has come true. Yes, a part of her still has that teenage crush on him, but she's also excited about the prospect of learning from him, one of the best players in the world. Boy, is she in for a disappointment. Her expectations about him and working with him were insanely high, and so was the disappointment she felt when she realized Kulti was not the guy she thought she was. He wasn't teaching them anything, he wasn't telling them what to do, what they did wrong, nothing. Sal is rather impulsive, so when she's had enough of Kulti's attitude after one particular game, she goes and gives him a piece of her mind.

Her impulsiveness is something I related to on a spiritual level. I'm one of those "react first, think later" people, so I was really happy when she got in his face and told him that he was acting like a jerk and letting everybody down with no reason.

On the other side of this story we have our dear Kulti. Kulti was a mystery. We see him from Sal's perspective, so we get to experience the same feelings of disappointment, anger, and confusion as Sal. But at the same time I wanted to know what he was hiding. Why he was so quiet, why he kept to himself, why he didn't try to actually be a coach to these women. It was hard to watch at times, because you could tell he loves the game. Slowly, as the story goes on, we get to discover Kulti and all his layers. He's actually a pretty sweet guy once you get to know him.

I will admit that while I was listening to this book I was literally flooding Sam's DMs with my thoughts and they go anywhere from "omg this is so funny" to "okay but the unresolved sexual tension is giving me heart palpitations". The book put me through every emotion possible, from amusement, to anger, to tenderness, to love, to some second hand embarrassment. The thing that amused me the most was Sal's little quirks. She has really inventive curses, and her tendency to think about the most inappropriate things to remind herself that Kulti is just a guy, just a regular guy like all other guys she's met before, was adorable.

When they say Mariana Zapata is the queen of slow burn they are right, people. This was very slow. The relationship developed over time, it wasn't rushed, it wasn't forced. It felt like the natural progression from enemies to friends to lovers. I didn't fully expect the true force of this slow burn. I  wasn't prepared for how much this author will make you want to get to the hot and heavy stuff. Which I loved because it was a nice change of pace for me.

I basically devoured this story in three days. I loved this book. I loved everything about it: the pacing, Sal's dad, Sal and Kulti's friendship, their chemistry, the fact that we get to see them train together, play together, even Sal at some soccer matches. I wasn't expecting to see a match, but there were a few and they were glorious.

The ending was absolutely perfect and everything I could have wished for. I loved this book so much that after reading it I went on a binge of all of Zapata's books, at least the ones available on Audible Escape.

The narration was impeccable. Callie Dalton is becoming one of my favorite female narrators, and I've actually come to expect to hear her narrate Zapata's books. They make an incredible team, Mariana with her writing style and her stories, and Dalton with her ability to bring to life all these characters, and make the reader live the story, not just read it.

All in all, this was a very good story and I can't wait for my reread (because I foresee a lot of MZ rereads in my future). Until then, I shall dive deep into MZ's backlist.

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