Member Reviews

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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It sounds like "Like Happiness" by Ursula Villarreal-Moura is a compelling debut novel that delves into themes of love, obsession, and abuse through the perspective of its protagonist, Tatum Vega. Tatum's journey, as depicted through dual timelines set in the US and Chile, offers readers a nuanced exploration of her past and present.

The novel appears to tackle the complexities of relationships, particularly Tatum's involvement with Mateo, which evolves into an unhealthy dynamic characterized by manipulation and grooming. The use of dual timelines allows readers to witness Tatum's growth and self-realization as she navigates her troubled relationship and confronts her abuser.

The pivotal moment in the plot seems to revolve around Tatum's decision to write a letter to her abuser, which serves as a significant turning point in her journey towards healing and empowerment. This letter not only confronts her abuser but also provides readers with insights into Tatum's inner struggles and the traumas she has endured.

The parallel perspectives offered by the dual timelines offer readers a deeper understanding of Tatum's experiences and the emotional complexities of her journey. By juxtaposing her past and present, the novel seems to highlight the transformative power of self-reflection and resilience in overcoming abuse and reclaiming agency over one's life.

Overall, "Like Happiness" appears to be a thought-provoking exploration of love, trauma, and empowerment, with a narrative structure that keeps readers engaged and invested in Tatum's journey towards healing and self-discovery.

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Thank you Celadon #partner for gifting me an ARC copy and thank you Macmillan Audio for the audiobook via NetGalley and thanks to Marisa Blake for the narration!
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Like Happiness explores the unbalanced relationship between a young Tatum who becomes an ardent fan of an older and influential author, Mateo. A now grown Tatum living in Chile is contacted by a journalist to enquire her past with Mateo, who’s now being accused of sexual abuse by another woman. This sets the tone of the entire book where Tatum starts writing a letter to Mateo - but really to herself - reflecting on the entire relationship from start to finish, where Mateo had been progressively grooming her.

Tatum realizes much later that her entire life and decisions revolved on being close to Mateo, while she never held any meaning to him. The climax of the book was utterly heart wrenching in the way Mateo’s narcissistic self acknowledged his lack of respect for her as a woman.

The first person POV and the letter format were absolutely perfect in grasping Tatum’s personal emotions throughout the book. Ursula Villareal-Moura is an author to watch out for. Like Happiness is her debut novel but her lyrical prose and lexicon of words feel like reading from a veteran writer. My favorite word I learned is Limerence

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TW: Abuse

Themes:
Latinx
#MeToo
LGBTQ+
Present-past narratives

What beautiful prose. This poetic language flows like water down a stream. The narrator did a beautiful job telling this story. It was a delight to listen to this novel. It was elegant yet complex. The story explores the nuances of a relationship among a young woman and a famous author, and gives you a front seat to the struggles of manipulating and abuse of power. I loved this book, and I will definitely read more from the Ursula Villarreal-Moura. I can’t wait for her next release.

Thank you to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for the opportunity to listen this beautiful story in exchange for my honest review.

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I like the way this book flashes back in time to tell two stories at once. I feel many women will relate to this story. Loved the Latina representation in this book and the Spanish used throughout.

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"Like Happiness" is Ursula Villarreal-Moura's debut novel, publishing date of 3/26/24 (happy publishing day!!).
I was given an early access to this audiobook courtesy of NetGalley and Macmillan Audio. It is narrated by Marisa Blake, who does a good job but somehow her narration sounded a bit too sharp for my own personal taste. I wonder if I read the physical book, maybe my impression would have been better.

I really liked the book cover, which has the font and graphics in "X" which I read as "Latinx" as well as a cross-road in the main character, Tatum's life. Tatum grew up in a working-class household from San Antonio, TX and attending college in New England, much like her beloved English lit authors such as Sylvia Plath. While attending college, she read an influential novel, "Happiness," and send a letter to its author, M (Matteo) Dominguez. From there, a relationship with an older and famous author begins. Written from a two timelines of Tatum's life, it explores her feelings towards her beloved author while she navigates growing up in a city far away from where she was from. I thought her life in collage was well described and interesting. It has a lot of reference to books, authors, musicians and artists. There are a LOT of name dropping, as well as section of Tatum befriending a friend from Japan, and some cultural references. I feel that there is a very fine line one must walk when making cultural references, because it could alienate readers if it is not done well. Maybe somewhat unfortunately, I am familiar with some of those references, and it didn't add up for me - plus name dropping was way excessive for my taste. Further, I wasn't convinced of the attraction (or the relationship) to this author. Maybe he just didn't appeal to me, and it made a very flat read personally. The book has over 4 + star ratings on GoodReads and seem to be popular - so if one is interested, I would encourage to give it a try - you may end up liking this book.

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I was underwhelmed by this book. The narrator was fine but I didn’t care much for the characters or story. I only finished it to review.

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If you loved how Anita De Monte Laughs Last took down the whiteness and elitism of the art world, as well as how mysogyny protects men, then you will ADORE Like Happiness that examines the power imbalance between and adult best-selling author and his teen fan-turned-friend. This book will have you SCREECHING at the top of your lungs and hoping for better Tatum Vega. Reckons celebrity culture, Latinx identity and even with the #MeTooMovement.

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Like Happiness, by Ursula Villarreal-Moura, debuts today! I am so excited for others to read this book. I absolutely loved it. I think my favorite trope is ‘person becomes disillusioned with life goals’. What’s your favorite niche trope?

Like Happiness dissects the predatory relationship between a famous writer and his devoted younger fan. The story is told through the fan’s, now older, perspective. Through a letter written to the artist mixed in with flashbacks, the reader dives into their relationship and long history. I love that the writer is not really the center of the novel. His ”genius” is in the wings and the Tatum Vega is at the center.

The novel questions power dynamics in relationship, what predatory relationships look like, but not just in a physical way. It also delves into betrayal, idolization. I read this at the same time as Anita de Monte Laughs Last and I think they are a great compliment to one another. Both discuss art, creators, and women.

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Part literary appreciation, part coming of age story and part disturbing manipulation... Like Happiness by Ursula Villarreal-Moura is a novel that will evoke a magnitude of emotions from readers and for me, this is the best kind of story.

Soon after starting this book, I stopped reading, closed my Kindle cover and asked out loud "what even is this book?" It was at that moment I knew this novel would become a five-star book for me! Once I started reading, I devoured this story, but was always aware of and waiting on the impending car crash at the end.

This is dual timeline, told from the awareness that comes with age in Chile 2015, and an earlier time looked back on in memory, hinting at the naivety present during Tatum’s younger years. This book is disturbing in its nuanced ways, and shows just how powerful it is to have the upper hand in a relationship. I was repulsed and my skin crawled with indignation as I read. This would be an amazing book club read, where it can be discussed and dissected at length.

The audiobook is well done, performed with respect for the words and subject matter. Marisa Blake's voice somehow had an air of conceded acknowledgement in one timeline, yet innocence and trustfulness in the other.

There is a powerfulness to the cover’s depiction, and it's a beautiful symbolism to the story inside.

This novel made me think and question: if the protagonist of a story feels a certain way towards the antagonist, is the reader expected to feel the same way, or is it acceptable to have a completely opposite opinion of that same character?

Thank you NetGalley, Celadon Books and Macmillan Audio for the complimentary copies to read and review.

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LIKE HAPPINESS
Ursula Villarreal-Moura

I have five books I could’ve talked about today March 26, 2024. There are a lot of great titles that will be published today. Take a look at my Book List page for all my most anticipated releases categorized by month.

Today, I’m choosing to talk to you about LIKE HAPPINESS by Ursula Villarreal-Moura. Because of its voice, its questions, and its individuality.

Let’s talk about LIKE HAPPINESS!

Now:
Tatum is living in Chile with her partner in 2015. She is miles and miles from the place and time she spent with Dominguez, a famous writer in New York. One day she receives a phone call from that faraway place. A reporter has a request for a statement and asks her to revisit a tender time she’s still recovering from.

Then:
He reminds her of home. She knew when she met him, he would either give her life or be the death of her. For him, she was willing to take the risk. What she didn’t know was that she’d die a hundred deaths in his wake.

Parts of him made parts of her make sense. She molded herself to fit the space he allotted her only to lose shape of who she was. But what does all of this, and all of him, mean to her after all these years? How did their relationship influence who she is or isn’t today? Will the space from time and distance allow her to see what she was too close to see before?

In LIKE HAPPINESS we go back and forth to revisit the time in New York with Dominguez. And reflect on it in current times through a letter written to Dominguez.

LIKE HAPPINESS is about books and literary life, religion, sexuality, influence, and power—the dangers of falling in love with your whole heart, and trading power for connection.

I liked the voice. For that alone I will watch what Villarreal-Moura does next. I’m excited to hear stories through her lens as a writer.

I enjoyed reading LIKE HAPPINESS for the most part or the most. My complaint is that it skimmed the surface of topics instead of going into depth in any one area. I gave it three stars and recommend it to readers looking for a fresh perspective on an old conversation.

Thanks to Netgalley, Celadon Books, and Macmillan Audio for the advanced copies. I enjoyed reading in audiobook format and appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback!

LIKE HAPPINESS…⭐⭐⭐

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Tatum grew up in Texas, with her family who worked hard for everything they got, but did not come from wealth. Tatum earned her way into a New England school, where she decided to reach out to an author "M" and sing his praises. To her astonishment he replies, and so begins a many year ling relationship between Tatum and "M". However, the difference in what they each wanted from the relationship, their ages, and their socio-economic standing differs so much that it is hard to determine how to judge the relationship. So when Tatum is contacted by a reporter explaining that M is in the spotlight for accusations of sexual assault, she is forced to revisit the long and difficult relationship she had with M.

This was a different type of coming of age novel. Tatum's relationship spans across the many years of her young adulthood, and for much of the time defines her life... however, the relationship was far from perfect. Overall I found the characters interesting, if not slightly taxing over time (from the outsiders perspective its easy to see the relationship is not going to work out for either party). The audiobook was well produced, and the narrations were easy to listen, and enjoyable.

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I adored Like Happiness! The writing is so sharp and effervescent. Villareal-Moura perfectly captures young adulthood and how we look back on our behavior and thinking in the future. We meet our protagonist Tatum when she's in her late 30s living in Chile. She is contacted by a reporter from the New York Times about the relationship she had in her 20s with an acclaimed writer M. Dominguez, who is now accused of sexual assault by a much younger woman. In the novel she speaks directly to him recounting the duration of their relationship and her formative twenties.

Tatum is entranced by M. Dominguez's short story collection and writes him a letter expressing what his work means to her. They begin an epistolary relationship that swiftly develops to an in-person, largely platonic relationship. He is about a decade older than her, working as a professor at Columbia in New York. The author captures so perfectly that feeling of being in your 20s, you're trying to find your way and feel you're more mature than you actually are. Tatum is constantly lost in books and this book was so appealing to me as a former English major. The author writes so beautifully and thoughtfully, looking back on her formative years during their relationship.

Though this topic has been covered a lot in literature, this was so well-done. Villareal-Moura shows the nuances and complexities of relationships. Our narrator has a different experience with Mateo than the accuser, showing that a someone's relationship with an individual can vary greatly. In our society, we are still trying to reckon with unclear power dynamics that have been pushed into the spotlight. This book was so thought-provoking.

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Thank you to the publishers & NetGalley for this ARC.

Like Happiness by Ursula Villarreal-Moura is a dual-timeline POV of a woman who in the present day is happily living her life working at a museum in Chile with her partner. Tatum Vega is asked to take a walk down memory lane, one she is trying not to remember, when a reporter from the States calls Vega looking for corroboration on her relationship with the author she has since distanced herself from, M. Dominguez, who has been accused of assault. While readers learn about her current life and what alludes to her past relationship with M; they will also watch the timeline of Tatum and the author’s relationship take place in the retelling of their complicated relationship in the other POV which is portrayed as a letter from Tatum to M. Although I can’t say that the novel had me hooked from the beginning, the way Villarreal-Moura writes is beautiful and captivating. This book touches on the complexities of life in a very coming of age way for a young woman with themes of gender, race, Latinx identity, and power dynamics and left me deep in thought after the book ended about the intersection of all of these themes.

I was rooting for Tatum for the entire book. My heart broke for her many times throughout the book as she struggled with her identity, feelings of isolation, and many attempts trying to prove herself only to be left feeling like how she did at 13 time and time again. I really like how the story was written, hearing about the same situation from two different points in time. I would hear a little bit about something Tatum brings up, and it would leave me making a mental note in my head, hoping she would continue to write about it later. One thing I will say, as a woman in her 20’s, it was hard reading about another sister in the literary world being groomed by and completely obsessed with a slimy, older man and watching the power dynamic play out.

There really wasn’t much that I can say that I didn’t like about the story. I did feel like the end of the novel was a bit rushed, however that did not take away from the story itself. I read this story as an audiobook. The flow of the story is flawless. I feel that Marisa Blake was the perfect narrator for this novel. I do have to say though that it was a little confusing in the beginning to catch on to when Tatum was speaking from her letter to Matteo or when in the present day. I caught on after enough chapters however I did feel like it could have been made more clear which point of view was being heard. I would imagine that it would be more clear if reading the physical/e-book.

This novel effortlessly navigates power dynamics, Latinx identity, sexuality, race, gender, and in general a 20-something woman just trying to find purpose in herself. Although Tatum was writing the letter to M, I feel like she was really writing it for herself, writing her own story about their situation, and taking her story back. With the story being set in the beginning of the Me Too movement, one takeaway I had was you can never truly separate the art from the artist. I don’t know if there will be a sequel, but considering this is Villarreal-Moura’s debut novel, I would definitely read another story from her in the future. 3.5 stars rounded to 4

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This was a beautifully written novel about Tatum, a student that becomes obsessed with an author of a book, meets him which then starts a complex and toxic relationship between the two of them. Years later Tatum receives a call from a reporter asking about an interview with her to explain the relationship between her and the author. The storyline went back and forth between present day and Tatum explaining her story. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator did a fantastic job presenting Tatum’s story, even with her complex character. There were many important topics that were discussed throughout the story. I loved reading about the evolution of Tatum’s life and how she becomes less dependent on the author as time goes on. This was a quick read that kept me engaged and I loved the Latino representation. I am excited to see what this author comes up with next!

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Like Happiness by Ursula Villarreal-Moura

Thank you Celadon books, Macmillan Audio, and NetGalley for my free ARC and audiobook.

Blurb:
“A searing debut about the complexities of gender, power, and fame, told through the story of a young women’s destructive relationship with a legendary writer.”

✨My thoughts:
Like Happiness is an intriguing read that held my attention from the start. The characters were layered with precision and it was very intimate, it felt like I was being told a friend’s story. Although Domínguez was a complete dirtbag, I was happy to witness Tatum’s growth throughout this story. I experienced this book as both a physical read and an audiobook and I enjoyed both versions, I will recommend both to people. I seriously can’t believe this was a debut and will definitely be looking forward to future books by this author and I’ll be purchasing this one to keep on my shelves. Like Happiness is out tomorrow 3/26/24!

Happy reading!

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Macmillan Audio ALC
This was the first novel that uses second person narration that I have not DNF. So bravo for the way it was incorporated to not take me out of the story. I think part of it was, that narrator was so excellent telling the story. She brought Tatum to life. I was instantly captivated by Tatum and wanted to know what her relationship with this author was like. This was a character driven story that explored the relationship between an older famous man and Tatum over their long, complicated friendship. I liked the complexities and nuances here and the ending made me gasp. I thought it was an excellent debut, and I would definitely read this author again.

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Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Fiction

Audiobook feedback: audio was perfect! I have no pointers. I was entertained the whole time.

Book review: This book kept me guessing till the end, and it had a shocking ending. Tatum, the main character, has a story to unravel about her relationship with M. You get to meet her in her young 20s and also in her mid 30s. As she grows, you get to experience life with her. You get to learn the meaning of friendship, live, power, and abuse. This book makes you rethink your relationship with people around you.

This fantastic boom comes out on March 26!!
Representation: Latinex, queer, strong MFC

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