Member Reviews

This book is a really touching and poignant coming of age story. I started the book on audiobook and finished reading it in book form and I liked the book better than the audiobook. I thought the narrator did a good job trying to bring Tatum to life, but she is a complicated character and I liked the voice I gave her better. The book takes place in two parts or timelines the present tense in 2015 and as a letter Tatum writes outlining her relationship with her friend and well known author M. Dominguez. Tatum fell in love with M. Dominguez’s first book, a collection of short stories about Latino people which was the first she saw herself represented in literature. Almost finished with her degree but not enjoying her small school in Massachusetts she writes a fan letter and to her surprise it is answered. What follows was hard to read at times because Tatum put her life on hold in hopes Mateo would see her at some point. In 2015 she is contacted by a reporter after a young woman raises an allegation about Mateo. Tatum is initially resistant to an interview, but she ends up giving one and more so reflecting on her own experiencing and letting herself have closure.

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What a time to release a book about grooming and unhealthy, unbalanced power in a male-female relationship. I thought the narrator, Marisa Blake, did a stellar job at bringing Tatum to life. I also appreciated that I could listen at 2.5x with ease. Fabulous story and fabulous audiobook! Thanks Macmillan Audio for the gifted ALC!

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✨ Review ✨ Like Happiness by Ursula Villarreal-Moura; Narrated by Marisa Blake

Thanks to Celadon Books, Macmillan Audio, and #netgalley for the gifted advanced copy/ies of this book!

I had big feelings about this book - I loved it and I was endlessly frustrated by it!

It's 2015 and Tatum Vega's living in Chile with her girlfriend when she's called by a reporter asking about her relationship with the famous author M. Domínguez, based on another woman's accusations of his treatment of her. Did Tatum experience this in her long friendship with Domínguez?

The book then follows a dual timeline, alternating between Tatum reflecting on their relationship in 2015 alongside excerpts of a letter she's writing to Domínguez reflecting on her life and their relationship which lasted approximately 10 years from her time in college through her 20s. While she doesn't see herself being groomed by Domínguez, as the reader, we have a different view on this and it's not comfortable to read.

Tatum's parents live in San Antonio, and her time spent there is some of my favorite in the book -- from scenes at the famous Mi Tierra and Trinity University to her potato, egg, and avocado breakfast tacos with her dad -- it just felt like she nailed SA (and as an SA local I guess this isn't surprising!).

The book also makes me as a reader think about the cult of fame assigned to certain authors and whether this should exist. They are normal people just like us in many ways, so why do we put so much reverence behind them? And what are the consequences of this fame and reverence?

I also was left wondering how the story changes if Domínguez was a woman or younger or older or different in so many different ways? How would that change this relationship and its expectations?

The audio narration was excellent and the book is on the shorter end of novels, making this a quick and engaging read!

Overall, this was a super compelling book that will draw you in and give you lots to think about. It's such a rich reflection on gender, sexuality, fame, literature, and racial representation. I'm so glad I had the privilege to read this, even if it's still keeping a tight hold on my brain 😂

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4.25)
Genre: literary fiction, general fiction, queer, new adult
Setting: NYC, Chile, San Antonio, Massachusetts
Pub Date: 26 March 2024
Length: 7 hrs and 15 mins

Read this if you like:
⭕️ messy inner / interpersonal stories
⭕️ Latinx representation
⭕️ stories about race, gender, and identity
⭕️ books about books

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Like Happiness by Ursula Villarreal-Moura tells a story within a story. It started out as a fan letter to her favorite author, that quickly turned into an all consuming friendship/situationship. We follow an alternating past/present POV of Tatum Vega as she reexamines the toxic relationship that influenced much of her early adulthood and reclaim the narrative (literally through a letter) in order to gain closure and move on. This book explored themes of power dynamics, gender, Latinx identify, and so much more.

I loved this book, finished in one day, and was hooked from the get-go because it was set up in a way where I knew something major was going to be revealed and I just needed to know!!!

I felt such a wide range of emotions while reading and found myself easily relating to and rooting for Tatum throughout the book. Tatum was such a well-rounded character full of her own nuances, struggles, and triumphs. I love her and felt such a strong connection to her and her story.

I did a tandem read for this while I was moving and really enjoyed my experience using both modes of reading. The audiobook was really great and Marisa Blake did an incredible job with the narration!

Overall, this was a brilliant and beautifully written debut that I would definitely recommend to those who like:
Character > plot books
Dual timeline
Books about writers
Fast paced novels
Coming of age

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LIKE HAPPINESS by Ursula Villarreal-Moura is an engaging novel! I enjoyed the second person narration of the main character, Tatum, writing to her ex-friend M. I also enjoyed the dual timelines of past and present as Tatum recounts her complicated relationship with M over the years. Their relationship covers power dynamics, social class, wealth disparity, cultural forces and literary fame. I liked the expansive timeline and following Tatum as she grows up from attending college to finding a career. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator Marisa Blake was excellent!

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They say never meet your heroes, but Tatum does when she is just about to graduate college. They form a lifelong, problematic friendship which she begins to reflect on after a reporter calls her to get the history of their relationship as he is now accused of assaulting another woman. Tatum attempts to more accurately frame their relationship now that she has distance and hindsight in her pocket, as this story jumps between her past to her present.

Great narration!

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LIKE HAPPINESS by Ursula Villarreal-Moura is read by Marisa Blake is a toxic relationship story that I can't believe is a debut!

Tatum Vega is a woman living in Chile where her life feels at peace, finally. A reporter finds her and begins to ask questions about a man she had a relationship with years ago, and for a decade, back in NYC. This dredging up of old stories makes Tatum reevaluate her 20's while they intertwined with this man.

I was all over the place while listening to this story. First, the narration was phenomenal with all the accents and characters. I don't know if I would have kept reading without the audio. That is not an indictment against the story, but it was a hard one to keep going for me. It felt a bit like watching a train wreck. It was just painful to go back through the memories with Tatum as an adult and see all the flags, though interesting as an epistolary format.

I think I would feel the same way looking back over my own mistakes. This reality is what makes this a really fascinating story, along with all the gender, power, race, & identity issues. I am glad I read this complicated novel, and ended up very impressed by the end with the writing and thoughtful introspection.

I do recommend this story for those who are interested in dissecting toxic relationships inside a coming-of-age story.

Thank you to @netgalley & for this thought-provoking story that publishes on March 26th.

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Thank you #partners @celadonbooks & for my #gifted copies 💙

Like Happiness
Ursula Villarreal-Moura

📖 Like Happiness follows the story of Tatum Vega, a young Latina woman, as she recounts her complicated relationship with a man at the forefront of the #MeToo movement.

Tatum is gifted, and as a young woman, she seems to struggle finding her place amongst the intellectually inferior, especially as a Latina in a predominantly white environment. When she discovers 'Happiness', a book of short stories by Mateo Dominguez, an older Latino man, she sees herself in its pages and it becomes her favorite book. Tatum reaches out to the author, and is surprised when he responds. And so begins their decade long relationship full of complexities and uncertainties and a clear power dynamic.

Years later, the New York Times reaches out to Tatum for an interview, as Dominguez has been accused of sexual improprieties. Through a letter to Mateo, Tatum recounts their friendship with the benefits of age, maturity and hindsight, and confronts the ways in which their relationship shaped the trajectory of her life.

💭 I loved this!! We all know I'm a sucker for a coming-of-age novel, and this one ticked so many of my boxes. Villarreal-Moura explores themes of sexuality, identity, belonging, idolization, and the ways in which young women fall prey to older men, oftentimes at great personal cost. Like Happiness is powerful, multilayered, thought-provoking, and unexpected, with a compelling protagonist that readers will come to care for. And while I'm not always a fan of a letter format, it's actually perfect here! Hear me when I shout that this debut novel is a must read! 🗣️

🎧 I paired my physical ARC with the audiobook, and wowza! The narrator, Marisa Blake, is fantastic!!! She really captured Tatum's voice, and her powerful performance was such a pleasure to listen to. If you're an audiobooker, read this one with your ears, and thank me later. 😉

Can't wait to see what this author does next! 💙

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Like Happiness is a fiery rebuke of fame and a thorough examination of what it’s like to be under the thumb of a cult of personality. While it’s not comfortable to think about, patriarchal men in power sometimes create disposable young women, using and abusing the women in their path. The final twist of the Like Happiness is shocking and couldn’t have been better.

I felt drawn into Tatum’s story, often forgetting it was only fiction. Once, I had to remind myself that M. Domínguez was a fictional character – that he isn’t a best-selling author with decades of dirty secrets. I worked myself up thinking, “How can this author still be so powerful? After all this?” Villarreal-Moura’s writing feels personal and raw. Like Happiness often reads like a memoir, albeit the best-written memoir I’ve ever seen.

Ursula Villarreal-Moura has much to say about power, influence, gender, sexuality, and cultural identity. There’s also great bisexual representation! The narrative structure in Like Happiness also works extremely well, particularly the almost-epistolary sections from Tatum to Mateo. I thoroughly enjoyed Like Happiness and can’t recommend it enough.

Rating and Final Thoughts: 5/5 Stars. The audiobook is an incredible listen and the narrator does a remarkable job. Pick this one up by audiobook if you're able.

Thanks to Celadon and Macmillan Audio for providing me with arcs of the book! All the above thoughts are my own.

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I could not put this down - an incredible story of a young Latina woman named Tatum who befriends a famous author after writing him a fan letter. From there, their relationship ebbs and flows as they develop and change over the course of their lives - for better or for worse. Ursula Villarreal-Moura makes readers feel like they, too, are part of the story and involved in the nitty gritty details of each character’s life. The story jumps in time between present day reflection of the events, and then plunges readers back into the thick of Tatum’s youth as events unfold.

This amazing debut from Villarreal-Moura does not shy away from all the nuances of life it involves - gender inequality, imbalanced relationships, differences in memory, friendship, betrayal, and our relationship with our own cultural identity. This book felt very personal and self aware, and very genuine.

The end was a bit abrupt but I think that was intentional to reflect certain aspects of the narratives in the story. However, it left me hoping for more resolution for Tatum - but again, doesn’t life often leave us wanting more? Isn’t closure never quite as we hope it will be?

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I read this as an audiobook arc and *loved* the narration from the voice actor, they did such a good job and I honestly can’t stress enough how strong the performance was—would highly suggest going that route over the physical book!

You can read the synopsis elsewhere, so I won’t get into that here, so anyway…to the review!

I really liked the “then and now” timeline changes throughout the book—that’s one of my favorite formatting choices where you know there’s a “reveal” coming—it adds a great balance of tension and character develop that I personally enjoy a lot more than linear pacing most of the time. The story of a woman learning that a former love/best friend/situationship who happens to be an extremely influential writer is being accused of something sinister/terrible to another woman is so realistic—it felt like a scenario ripped directly from the MeToo movement. And as you get further in, you see the tension and resentment building from the MC reflecting on the toxic relationship, and its ultimate downfall is revealed in a pretty shocking reveal. all in all, I really liked this book and how vivid and real it was. And the twist of what happened between them I absolutely did not see coming. That said: the downfall of the relationship felt… a smidge lackluster I think? I really enjoyed it, I was just candidly expecting something with a bigger explosion at the end given the accusations and the decade-long (maybe? that feels right in terms of length but I’m writing this review a week after finishing the book so apologies if that’s not 100% accurate) relationship.

tldr: if you like contemporary fiction, this is absolutely worth the read, esp as an audiobook.

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This book just went on for way too long. I felt like the ending was obvious early on, and it made me literally roll my eyes once I got there. I didn’t feel much empathy for the narrator (maybe in part because the audiobook narrator wasn’t great) because her character never grew at all. I never got a clear sense of M as a character, either. It felt like it needed a lot more editing to make it more concise and scathing in its commentary, which felt well-trod and too obvious. I did appreciate the literary references, and I most enjoyed her time in Chile in 2015. I would have liked more of that.

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Told in a unique narrative, this is sort of a letter of closure to an abuser. This hits on so many aspects of an unbalanced power dynamic in a long lasting relationship and it TRULY spoke to me.

The trauma is nuanced in this book, but in no way does the author pretend it’s okay. Written with such a fantastic pace, you’re almost lulled into this false sense of illusion along with our main character as she navigates the relationship that spans years between her and her favorite author-turned-close friend.

I loved absolutely every single moment of this book!

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I wasn't entirely captivated by this book. It's told in two timelines. Tatum is writing a letter of her relationship with an author and the present of talking to a reporter. I never felt connected with the main character. I did enjoy the narrator. At one point in the book I wondered if this book was going to end soon. If this had not been an ALC I may have stopped reading and placed it on my bookshelf thinking I may pick it up again.

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“Like Happiness” is a story that will stick with you, staying in the back of your mind to resurface for reflection now and then. Dealing with issues of identity, finding yourself, the ability to see or be seen both in literature and in real life, fame, manipulation, the allure of meeting someone you idolize, and how we justify someone when expectations don’t match reality; this novel really packs a punch. You’ll see Tatum come into her own as she reflects on her relationship with Mateo; it’s consuming nature, power imbalance, grooming, toxicity, betrayal, and the nuances found within relationships, both good and bad.

In many ways, Tatum’s story felt very personal and intimate. Told primarily through a letter chronicling the relationship between herself and Mateo which she is writing several years after the dissolution of their toxic relationship (in New York). Occasionally the story returns to the present, Chile 2015, where we see the growth and change in Tatum from the innocent, young woman who first wrote a fan letter to the woman of today who is conversing with a reporter to show people what Mateo is really like.

You can’t help but shake your head at how quickly Tatum is to justify M’s personality even as he dismisses her over and over while taking precisely what he needs and wants. I think it’s all too easy to fall prey to this kind of dynamic in a relationship of any kind and Villarreal-Moura does an excellent job of shining a light on this type of power dynamic.

I alternated between the digital and audio books and really enjoyed both. Marisa Blake did an exceptional job narrating “Like Happiness,” allowing me to fully immerse myself in the narrative.

Thank you to NetGalley, Celadon Books, and Macmillan Audio for advance copies of this book. I alternated between the digital and audio books, really enjoying both.

A fantastic debut novel, Ursula Villarreal-Moura is definitely an author to watch.

Available March 26, 2024.

#debutauthor #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #likehappiness Macmillan Audio Celadon Books NetGalley #authortowatch #fiction #multiculturalbooks #literaryfiction #fictionbook #bookreview #ursulavillarreal #ursulavillarrealmoura


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Like Happiness is a captivating work as a woman gets dragged into the MeToo movement and realizes a relationship she had with an author was very different in her memory than she had the capacity to recognize at the time. After being contacted by a reporter because another woman accused him of sexual abuse, she writes him a history of their mostly platonic but intense, sporadic, and unequal relationship.
Their intensity and fluctuations and her maturing perspective make for a thought-provoking examination of any relationship.

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I ended up really enjoying this book and the narrator. It was a little slow at first but it picked up in its emotional intensity. I think we as a society need to stop letting men talk.

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I binged this audiobook in less than 12hrs. Like Happiness by Ursula Villareal-Moura.

Like Happiness is an emotional journey following Tatum, a girl who finds herself in a rocky relationship with a book she adores, and the man who wrote it. The two form a friendship, transitioning into a relationship that takes many forms, but usually becomes a toxic on-again-off again relationship. The book chronicles her life, relationship and the journey of self-discovery.

I loved how we got a glimpse of Tatum's life in the present while she is also recalling the actions she took in her past. The writing was wonderful, though Tatum took a bit for me to like - she was a bit insufferable at first, however, she was in her teens then so it was understandable.

Tatum's life is an absolute wild ride and it was extremely enjoyable to see where life took her. I gasped at the last 10% - it caught me by surprise and honestly I loved that it did.

Exploring Latinx heritage
Emotionally charged
Toxic, obsessive relationship
Coming of Age story
Audible Gasp while listening
Bisexual rep

Thank you to NetGalley, Celadon Books and Macmillan Audio for the physical ARC and ALC of Like Happiness by Ursula Villarreal-Moura.

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Sad to say that this one just did not hold my interest.
Although the start was good, it fell flat for me after that.
Unfortunately, I did not care for the female main character…OR, the male.

*****. SPOILERS BELOW. *****

This revolves around a young GIRL who is obsessed with a book…and writes to the author. To her surprise, he writes back.

This is the beginning (and, imo, ending) of the book.

We then launch on a VERY LONG, drawn out relationship between the two ( mind you, she is a teenager, and he is much older…) that never goes anywhere….

It is also just very confusing…

Thanks to #NetGalley and #MacmillanAudio for an ARC of the audiobook which releases on 3/26/24.

Like Happiness by Ursula Villarreal-Mourea.

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Tatum is living happily in Chile with her partner, Vera, her three cats, and her job at the museum. Then a reporter from the US calls to ask her about an old friend/flame/boss/famous writer, M, who has been accused of assault. This triggers Tatum to bring up sometimes crushing memories of her ten year relationship with M. At the same time, the reader sees an explosive letter that Tatum sent to M, explaining where she stands and why to M.

This book takes a look at gender and power and the way those elements shape relationships. Tatum bares her soul - where does this get her with M? Where does she want to be? Does she even really know? How long will she let this relationship stifle her soul?

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