Cover Image: Like Happiness

Like Happiness

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Member Reviews

What a powerful book! Big fan of the dual timeline! Also if love reading books about people who love reading books this is the one for you! Really enjoyed this audiobook!

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I really wanted to love this book, especially after I loved the ending so much, but overall, it just didn't quite do it for me.

The premise intrigued me - a young, impressionable woman infatuated with a successful author that has had a marked impact on her life. The relationship between Tatum and Domínguez was at times really tough to read. There were times when I empathized with Tatum because really, what young girl hasn't found herself in an inappropriate crush situation? But as time went on and Tatum allowed herself to be marginalized and disrespected over and over again, I just felt exhausted by the whole thing.

Like Happiness is really well written and conveys a lot of powerful messages. The ending was spectacular and the storyline was great. I ended up really enjoying this book, but some parts were too drawn out and my connection with Tatum was too tenuous for me to ultimately root for her.

I listened to this novel on audio and the pacing was done well and the narrator was well cast.

Thank you to Celadon and NetGalley for the copy.

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In 2015 in Chile, Tatum Vega's life feels like it's finally coming together until a reporter contacts her about her past relationship with the famous author M. Dominguez.

The novel alternates between Tatum's current life and a letter she writes to Domínguez, revealing the complexities of their relationship and how it still affects her.

While the story might feel slow in parts, the character development and the way it makes you think about complicated issues made me really like it. The author explores themes like gender dynamics, Latinx identity, power struggles, betrayal, and manipulation through the eyes of a young woman and her complicated relationship with a famous author.

Thank you @celadonbooks and for the gifted audiobook. The narrator Marisa Blake did a fantastic job bringing this story to life in the audiobook!

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This debut novel follows the slow drama of a "fan letter that leads to a life altering relationship." I had the ability to alternately read and listen to this novel. It's told in dual timelines of past and present. The author uses the NC, Tatum, to explore the fine line between imbalanced relationships, identity, literature, and the impressions some people leave stamped on our lives.

While I enjoyed the audiobook I felt the narration was too monotone for the novel. I ended up reading the second half and liked the mental voice I crafted more. However, even with such relatable and hardcore topics, I was not able to connect with the characters the way I hoped. I found the relationship to be dry and pushing unbelievable in the level of connected I think the book was going for.

I would recommend checking out other reviews and pursuing this novel for the array of topics the author flows expertly together.

▫️Coming of Age
▫️Power Dynamics
▫️Complicated/Imbalanced Relationship Dynamics
▫️Accusations of Assault

Thank you to Macmillan Audio for the gifted ALC. All thoughts are my own.
True rating 2.5/5.

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Like Happiness is Ursula Villareal-Moura's debut novel. Omaiga was this exquisitely painful to read! Part coming of age, part exposé on toxic men, the story centers on the obsessive relationship between a young college student and an established, older author. Tatum wrote M Dominguez a fan letter that quickly morphed into a relationship that was sometimes friendship, sometimes mentorship but often more. As a Latinx person, she saw herself reflected in his first book and that elevated him to hero status in her eyes She falls in love and spends 10 years just waiting for him to truly see her. But he is consistently just out of reach. He runs hot and cold, disappears, and then reappears when he needs something, makes her feel special, saves her, and then goes back to being unreliable and selfish. Fast forward, M is brought up on charges of sexual misconduct and Tatum takes a long, hard look at her past. Is she also a victim? Was she groomed? Has she put to bed all those feelings and thoughts regarding M? This was unexpectedly poignant and hard to read but definitely one of my top five of 2024! I look forward to this author's future works.

Thank you @netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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As someone who tends not to gravitate toward coming-of-age stories, it took me awhile to get into Like Happiness - it was just so focused on Tatum's college experience at the beginning.

I stuck with it, and ultimately found it to be pretty well done. I couldn't help but wonder whether the narrative was inspired by Junot Diaz.

More than anything, this felt like a story about grooming and misogyny (and a bit on growing up, sexuality, and Latinx identity). I'd put Like Happiness in conversation with My Dark Vanessa, Notes on a Silencing, and even, I think, Jaded (which I happened to be reading at the same time).

I didn't particularly care for or dislike the narration by Marisa Blake. Sometimes her narration felt one-note, but I wondered if that was intentional (i.e., Tatum reading the letter she was writing, not letting emotion slip in).

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There is so much of this book and story that I really like. One - I adore books that reference a lot of other books. Because we are focused on two people who love literature in this book, there are so many titles thrown around that I added to my TBR. Two - There was so much in this book that I could relate to. Our main character is finding who she is throughout the span on 10+ years and the decisions she made felt so real and often devastating in a way that I know I made similar decisions.
My only critique of the book is that I felt like there were moments when the narrative was contradicted itself. We would hear a detail in one section of the story that then wouldn't really make sense for something that would happen later. They were small things but it left me confused at points. Like her relationship with Hiroshi... I felt like things were going good but she never introduced him to her parents? And then his downfall was so fast and didn't seem to add up to me.
Overall I really do recommend this book and will pick up more by this author.
Thank you NetGalley and MacMillan Audio for the audiobook ARC.

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3.0 Stars

Thank you NetGalley and MacMillan audio for the arc in exchange for an honest review! I am incredibly grateful!

I wish I had more to say, but I started this book immersed and ended it staring into space while feeling like it was incomplete. It felt has if this story has missing parts or pages that I didn't get experience. Tatum's story is one I stand behind, felt for and still enjoyed overall, but I just was waiting for some moments that never came.

Trigger Warnings: Toxic Relationships, Drugs, Racism, Infidelity, Assault, Abuse, Addiction, etc.

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𝘊𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘮𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘢𝘳𝘺 • 𝘓𝘪𝘵𝘧𝘪𝘤 • 𝘓𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘹
𝘋𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘛𝘪𝘮𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘦𝘴 • 𝘓𝘎𝘉𝘛 • 𝘉𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘴 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘉𝘰𝘰𝘬𝘴
𝘗𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘥 26 𝘔𝘢𝘳𝘤𝘩 2024

This was an enrapturing debut. On the surface it was a quick listen, where you'll want to know what is going to happen in a case of alleged sexual assault. But there are lots of layers of this onion to unpeel.

Covering topics including:
• impact of tokenism
• books about books
• representation in publishing
• gender stereotypes
• immigrant culture & expectations
• morally grey

Told up front there is some sort of betrayal between a famous Latino author M. Domínguez and his adoring fan, Tatum. The rest of the book is to show us how and what actually transpired. At first it seems innocent and then it becomes a tale of an older man leveraging power imbalances and celebrity status to use a naive younger woman who looks up to him. Will there be consequences or will this end like so many other stories of its ilk.

In this case the older man is himself of an underrepresented marginalized group and I wanted this brilliant author to be better than that 😮‍💨 Is it morally grey if he never promised her anything, if he told her he didn't want commitment, or a relationship. Is it cheating & leading on, or just playing with emotions if there was consent.

The writing was for me top notch. Hard to believe it is a debut with scenes coming to life in pretty prose. The narration by Marisa Blake was well done, easy listening.

One small letdown for me was the ending, where I wanted to know more about what happened after. It seemed to stop abruptly. Having said that I highly recommend reading Like Happiness; it will make you think and is beautifully written.

𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘴𝘰 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘵𝘰 @netgalley and @macmillanaudio 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 ALC!

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Tatum Vega is in college when she picks up M. Domínguez's debut collection of short stories. Impulsively, she writes him a fan letter telling him how much his writing affected and inspired her, and she can hardly believe it when he responds. And so begins a tumultuous relationship between Tatum and the much older writer, one marked by blurred lines, power imbalances, obsession, and subtle manipulation. Now, more than a decade later, Domínguez has been accused of sexual misconduct, and Tatum is compelled to reexamine her relationship with him.

Like Happiness joins a growing number of contemporary novels that seek to explore toxic relationships and the complex power dynamics that often go hand in hand with them. This book, though, is a bit more subtle, because Domínguez doesn't actually have any defined power over Tatum; he isn't an authority figure in her life. It's a more understated version of grooming and manipulation that relies on Domínguez ensuring that Tatum consistently feels off-balance, inferior, and naive. Tatum's idolatry of Domínguez is at first intellectual rather than physical, with his writing/mind serving as the basis for her initial attraction. The sexual aspect of their relationship is secondary, and largely lacking --which is one of the ways Domínguez influences Tatum and ensures her continuing obsession and feelings of inferiority. It's only years later, removed from the maelstrom of the relationship and with the wisdom of lived experiences, that Tatum can fully reckon with his treatment of her.

Ursula Villarreal-Moura's writing is luminous and emotional as she weaves a bittersweet coming of age story with fascinating commentary about gender and power imbalances, the nature of fame, and Latinx identity. I enjoyed the structure of the book, which alternates between Tatum in the present and a letter she writes to Domínguez dissecting their relationship. Although, frankly, Domínguez doesn't really deserve such a letter, and Tatum's present-day life, and how she found her way to it, could have been further explored. But overall this is a strong, thought-provoking debut, and the audiobook is brilliantly read by Marisa Blake, who infuses Tatum with both vulnerability and strength.

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This wasn’t the obsession story I was hoping for and I even found the dynamic of her current relationship lacking in plot. I think this could have dug a little into those two storylines to be on the darker side that I was hoping for.
That being said, the storyline was enjoyable for what it was, the narrator was well paced.
Thank you netgalley!

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Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for a free ALC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

3.5 stars

This novel was definitely more literary than I usually tend to read. I enjoyed it well enough overall, but it ended very abruptly, and ultimately it felt that there were a lot of directions the novel could've taken to delve into things more deeply, but didn't. I wished Tatum and Vera had a bigger part of the book. The time jump between Tatum in her happy future in Chile with Vera versus her unhappy past in New York left too big an unexplained gap.

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This book is a very interesting story about a famous writer and a young woman and how their relationship is extremely toxic, destructive and tumultuous.

Tatum Vega falls in love with a book by the author M Domínguez and begins a relationship with him which becomes an on going toxic on an off relationship with very interesting power dynamics that change throughout their relationship.

Tatum now lives in Chile in a happy relationship with her partner Vera and feels like finally everything is how it should be but suddenly a reporter calls asking for an interview regarding her relationship with author M Domínguez. He has been of accused of assault and the reporter is looking for more information. Tatum has stayed away from her past for many years and has not wanted to relive it but this interview forces her to revisit her past and her relationship with the author.

The story is told in a very interesting dual timeline between the past and the present describing their toxic on and off relationship with the author. I really enjoyed the book and was very surprised by it!

I completed a hybrid reading of this book- I read the physical copy while listening to the audiobook and really enjoyed both! The narration was well done and book was very good!

Thank you NetGalley and MacMillan for the ALC and Celadon books for the physical ARC of this book.

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I enjoyed listening to Like Happiness for the most part, but I didn't absolutely love it and I didn't feel like I was listening to a story that was necessarily new and fresh. It reminded me of several stories I've read before. I think the premise also gave me a little bit of the ick as it's focused on a college student's relationship with a much older author whom she admires.

The book flashes back and forth from when Tatum Vega was in college and first starts conversing with Mateo Domínguez to the current time when Tatum is living in Chile with her partner when she's contacted by a journalist who's writing a story about Mateo and recent sexual assault allegations.

I do think these are important stories to tell and I especially appreciated the growth of Tatum and revelations she experienced after her relationship was done. I also want to make it clear that I'm not at all knocking the fact that the book gave me the "ick." I don't think the author could have written a book on this topic that didn't bring a lot of ick with it! Ultimately, I just didn't love reading it and that's OK as every book will hit every person differently. I do think it's beautifully written and will be a hit for many.

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Forced to re-examine her murky relationship with an older author in her early years of adulthood, ‘Like Happiness’ by Ursula Villarreal-Moura is an examination of power dynamics and obsession in a relationship that lies between the lines of friendship and romance.

Huh. I don’t know how I feel about this. I’ll be honest, going into this novel I felt a little lukewarm, but it surprised me and consumed me almost immediately. As Tatum reflected on the nature of her relationship, I found myself glued to her inner monologues, at times in discomfort with its honesty. There were parts of the book that cut me to my core, some parts felt a little too close to home. I will be keeping my eye out for Villarreal-Moura’s work from here on out.

I listened to an advanced listener’s copy, and I really enjoyed the narrator and the production. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoyed ‘Anita De Monte’s Laughs Last’ and ‘My Last Innocent Year.’

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LIKE HAPPINESS by Ursula Villarreal-Moura (#gifted @netgalley is a thought-provoking debut novel about Tatum Vega, a college student transplanted from San Antonio to New England, who comes across a short story collection titled “Happiness” by the author M. Domínguez. As it quickly becomes her favorite book, she sends him a fan letter about how much it means to see herself represented in literature. Surprisingly, he responds—and thus begins a friendship that will change Tatum’s life.

Written in the form of a letter from modern-day Tatum (now living in Chile) to Domínguez three years after breaking off contact with him, the engaging, highly readable first-person prose conveys Tatum’s voice with flair, which was my favorite part of the novel. She’s funny, well-read, and a touch naïve as she moves to NYC and rearranges her life around to Domínguez while he strings her along (or grooms her). Villarreal-Moura crafts a sympathetic character in a relatable scenario, and I was very invested in Tatum’s trajectory throughout.

LIKE HAPPINESS pairs perfectly with Xochitl Gonzalez’s ANITA DE MONTE LAUGHS LAST in its probing consideration of the nebulous power dynamics of the art and literary worlds, especially in romantic relationships, and the gray areas that arise when vast disparities in fame and money exist between two people. While some readers may want LIKE HAPPINESS to go a bit deeper or spell things out more clearly, the murkiness is part of what will stick with me—that a smart, promising young woman like Tatum can get ensnared (willingly?) in a relationship with exploitative patterns; the crossing of lines, blurred as they are; the in-between spaces that some “friendships” occupy. Powerful men preying on younger women is nothing new, but through her compelling protagonist, Villarreal-Moura raises fresh questions around the interplay of race and class with in these situations. The audiobook is narrated Marisa Blake, who perfectly captures Tatum’s character – I loved the listening experience!

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This book was beautifully written and very well done. It tackled it all and was truly an excellent read. Many of Tatum’s emotions she experienced while remembering her past with Mateo were palpable because they were explained with such precision. Not my normal go to at all but I’m glad I read it.

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I found the story that Tatum was telling kept me captivated. Revisiting her past decisions and relationship with Matteo and how those choices led her to where she was in present day had me hooked.
I felt as though the ending lacked closure. Being able to read the news article that was written for the Times or learning about how Tatum moved to Chile and met her partner, or even learning about Matteo's crimes - it just seemed like the ending was missing something.

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LIKE HAPPINESS is a story of power, relationships, and those two ideas interact with and influence one another when they're wrapped up int he same situation. Power dynamics are a heavy theme in this book, which feels timely and right on the money for discourse happening in pop culture as of 2024. However, for a book with the craft of writing as such a heavy theme, I felt the writing lacked in here just a bit. Maybe it's not to my taste and others will devour Villarreal-Moura's flow, but I just couldn't get into it. It felt a bit too monotoned and flat for me.

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I love unique and original stories and this one really surprised me. I love the format of how is told, our protagonist tells her story like she is reading her own memoir.
Like Happiness is a powerful coming of age story about abuse, power, class and race.
A complex and compelling debut.

Thank you Celadon Books and Macmillan Audio for this gifted copy.

𝗟𝗶𝗸𝗲 𝗛𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀 by Ursula Villarreal-Moura releases today March 26, 2024.

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