Member Reviews

First of all, I have to say that the audiobook narration by Marisa Blake was fantastic. I really think this format was the perfect way to experience this novel.

It was hard for me to fully relate to the main character, Tatum, who seemed too naรฏve at times. She meets her idol, the author of her favourite book, and starts a friendship with him. The path of that friendship, and Tatumโ€™s choices, made me feel a sense of dread, and the tension kept me reading until the conclusion. I loved the writing style and the voice of this debut author. Some aspects of the narrative reminded me of My Brilliant Friend, others made me think of Yellowface. I know for sure that Iโ€™ll read more by this author as this is my favourite book of 2024 to date.

I highly recommend this one. It would make a great book club discussion!

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๐‹๐ข๐ค๐ž ๐‡๐š๐ฉ๐ฉ๐ข๐ง๐ž๐ฌ๐ฌ
๐๐ฒ ๐”๐ซ๐ฌ๐ฎ๐ฅ๐š ๐•๐ข๐ฅ๐ฅ๐š๐ซ๐ซ๐ž๐š๐ฅ-๐Œ๐จ๐ฎ๐ซ๐š
๐๐ฎ๐›๐ฅ๐ข๐ฌ๐ก๐ž๐ซ: ๐‚๐ž๐ฅ๐š๐๐จ๐ง ๐๐จ๐จ๐ค๐ฌ
๐๐ฎ๐› ๐ƒ๐š๐ญ๐ž: ๐Ÿ‘.๐Ÿ๐Ÿ”.๐Ÿ๐ŸŽ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ’ ๐ถ๐‘œ๐‘š๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” ๐‘†๐‘œ๐‘œ๐‘›!

3.5 โญ๏ธ

I liked how this is formatted as a sort of hindsight view, as we walk in on Tatum Vega in 2015, now living in Chile with her girlfriend. She is contacted by a journalist who wants to know about her relationship with the writer M. Dominguez, who has been accused of sexual misconduct. Tatum tells the journalist that, no, Dominguez has never mistreated her.

The book shifts to Tatumโ€™s memories of her time with M. or Mateo as she has come to know him, from the fan letter she wrote to him when she was a college student and the strange friendship that blossomed from it.

But now, with the memories replaying, questions begin to plague Tatum as she looks back - was it a friendship? Had she been obsessed? Did he take advantage of her? She realized it was not sexual abuse, but something was off. All she believed, or wanted to believe about her old friend and mentor was starting to feel twisted.

There is a lot you could unpack: power struggles, heritage, betrayal, sexual identity, and I even felt there was a bit of academic snobbery going on. I just need more from the characters to balance the weight of the themes at play.

A thought-provoking debut.

Thank you @celadonbooks for the gifted digital ARC.
Thank you @macmillan.audio for the gifted audiobook.

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Wow! This is such a different perspective on a toxic relationship. A reporter requests to talk to Tatum about M, a famous latin author, who was at some point her friend/paramour. The reporter tells her that M has been accused of sexual harassment and while she first says that he never abused her, reflecting on her experience with him stirs back old emotions. This book is told from the perspective of Tatum now, interspersed with parts of a letter she is writing to M retelling their story from the beginning.

Like Happiness reminded me a lot of Anita de Monte dies Laughing, so it's strangely coincidental that both of them are coming out the same month. They both have an older male figure that explores from a young student/artist, take place in New York City, and, obviously, they both have latina protagonists. If you liked that book, you'll like this one as well!

I received this ARC from NetGalley and the publishers to read/review. All of the statements above are my true opinions after fully reading this book.

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Thank you to the publishers, author and NetGalley for the free copy of this audio book.

This was a really interesting read looking back at a toxic relationship. A little slow but that didn't take away from the story much. The narrator did a great job.

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Ursula Villarreal-Moura's debut novel Like Happiness addresses the need for intersectional feminism head-on in a heartbreaking exploration of one woman's experience with power and love.

I won't lie, I am a harsh critic, and I know this about myself. I'm often my own worst enemy when it comes to books because I refuse to let myself enjoy the story when I don't absolutely love the writing, but Ursula Villarreal-Moura created a unique predicament for me in Like Happiness.
While I had a very hard time falling into the writing, I tore through this book in just a few hours. After I finished, I found myself mourning the characters I wouldn't get a visit from again. This is both a compliment and a criticism. I desired to keep these characters with me past the book's end because I felt love for them. However, they also did not feel fully fleshed out. The story was unfortunately lacking closure because the characters did not feel fully realized, even in the end.
The overall language choices feel robotic and academic. While this is, in part, intentional characterization, it also felt out of place and forced the characters to blend together without definable characteristics. Even background characters and settings are unnecessarily described, blurring lines of importance. From haircuts to nail colors, we learn too much about characters who are only mentioned once.

I enjoyed this story and felt it was important, but I wished it had been told in a different way. Personally, I feel this title may have worked better for me in the written format. As the characters were writers themselves, and this was nearly an epistolary novel, I almost needed that tactile reference to make the story flow.

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I enjoyed reading this. The writing is very good. The author's use of second person through much of the book is well done.

In thinking about this afterward, I struggle with a lot of it. The protagonist's closure through explaining to Matteo how he hurt her is confusing. He's so self-centered and oblivious - why would he care how she feels, especially now? Also, she faults him for stringing her along for a decade, but he didn't really. And many of the character flaws he has, she does also. Most notably, she treats her family and friends pretty poorly, reaching to them when it's convenient for her.

Obviously I'm torn on this one. I would certainly read whatever is next from the author, and I purchased a copy for my library.

Thank you NetGalley and BookishFirst for the ARC.

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Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced audiobook.

An enjoyable read about the #metoo movement, from a different perspective, with characters of color. I also really liked that in the present day timeline the main character no longer lived in the U.S. (nice to see a story that doesn't need to be set in the U.S. for characters to have a valid narrative).

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Tackling toxic relationships, gender dynamics, and power inequalities, "Like Happiness" tells the story of Tatum Vega in dual timelines.
After listening to the audiobook, I determined that readers will enjoy seeing someone meet their favorite author and learn the secrets behind the veil. Many times we have built up those people because their writing stirred something in us, but at the end of the day, they aren't what they seem. Our hearts will be connected to Tatum as she describes her life and being dragged along to connect with Mateo. Thanks NetGalley for the ARC audiobook to review, all opinions are my own.

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This novel effectively used time jumps to tell the story of a queer Latina woman who had a complicated relationship with an older Latino author starting during her undergraduate studies and extending on for years to come. It was a well-written novel and the audiobook performance was good. I look forward to reading more by Villarreal-Moura in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the audiobook ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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What do I think of this one? For starters, this is a very easy story to get wrapped into. How she meets Mateo and how her life wraps around him. At some point, it starts to get hard to listen to it. And then the betrayal at the end? Damn - that was rough.

I did find it a little confusing when it switched to the 2015 in Chile parts of the story. Idk if I just missed the switch or what but that threw me off a couple of times!

Iโ€™d give this one a 3.5. Engaging character even if she was naive. It was hard to listen to her be groomed by this man, idk the toxic relationship was tough. Itโ€™s giving what John Mayer does to get more creative content for his musicโ€ฆ.fu**ed up

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This was lovely and poignant - a beautiful exploration of the complexities of dependency and power. Villarreal-Moura's prose reads almost like poetry, and I really enjoyed the reflective format and use of second person. The concept of this book is not particularly ground-breaking - a narcissistic man in a position of power appropriates a woman's story for his own gain - but it's told in such a tender and personal voice that it still has a lot of impact.

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley and Macmillan Audio in exchange for my honest review.

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4.75

This book truly made me think and feel. It's a book that brings you on the journey of a young woman who is realizing that she might have had a not so healthy relationship with a famous author years ago while also recounting the events of the past. I think this book is very powerful in the sense that, you feel a lot, and you really feel for Tatum as she realizes in the "present" that she was used (for reasons we find out at the end) and still felt a sense of admiration for the person throughout her life until she truly broke down finding that she didn't admire the broken man she had "fallen for". This book is a journey that feels so real that for a second or two, I thought I was reading a memoir and not a fiction story, even though that is the point of the book and it's supposed to make you feel that way. I do think that a lot of people will relate to or at least empathize with Tatum and her journey.

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This was an interesting story about a toxic relationship that spans over a decade that starts between an author and a college student. It covers a lot of ups and downs in their relationship and how it ultimately came to where it was at in present.

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This book was compulsively readable. I listened to almost the entire book in one day. I found the writing compelling, and I was very curious about Tatum and her history with M. I think I needed more about how she got from the end of her relationship with M to her current, happy life in Chile, but otherwise I loved this book. I will be looking forward to reading more from this author.

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Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for the ALC! This was a brilliantly written and incredibly captivating literary fiction debut, Like Happinessย centers on a woman analyzing her toxic yet formative relationship with a well-known writer following allegations of sexual harassment. Since the majority of the storyline is just the happenings of a life, this is definitely a book for readers who want something character-focused. The writing was compelling, the characters' voices were clear and strong, and the growth of the main relationship was masterfully done. The only real complaint I had was that I was hoping there would be a more profound connection between the adult, well-adjusted narrator we saw in the present and her earlier self. Overall, this is a simply stunning novel, and I couldn't believe it was a debut. Wow!

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[arc review]
Thank you to Celadon Books for providing an arc, and to Macmillan Audio for providing an alc in exchange for an honest review.
Release date: March 26, 2024

Like Happiness explores power dynamics in a toxic relationship as well as sapiosexuality.

<i>โ€œMy circuitry for language and desire are intertwined, which made my learning experience incredibly arousing.โ€</I>

Tatum initiates a relationship with an author named Mateo via a fan letter when after reading his published work in college, she finds that it greatly resonates with her.
Years later after theyโ€™ve parted ways, itโ€™s revealed that Mateo had allegedly sexually assaulted other women, and while that didnโ€™t happen between him and Tatum, as she reflects upon their past interactions, she comes to realize that it was likely that he groomed her.

I can understand where she was coming from at first, having felt truly seen in literature for the first time as a minority race and the comforts that might come with that. But everything else, and the way she inserted herself into his life was a bit much and almost came across like she was full of herself.
Iโ€™m unsure if at the end she was able to separate the art from the artist after having built Mateo up to such great lengths, and even masturbating to the things he wrote.

I wasnโ€™t too fond of the writing structure as there was both dual timelines and an alternation between first and second person narration.
Overall, it felt unfinished. It takes until 92% to even learn that Mateo used Tatum as his partial muse for his newest novel, which at the time was a betrayal to her. But aside from the recounting of their decade long relationship in the form of an interview/letter, there really wasnโ€™t enough substantial commentary to the aforementioned themes in the blurb to provide the โ€œcomplexitiesโ€ that itโ€™s claiming to delve into. Perhaps a pov from Mateo or the other women he allegedly assaulted would have added more dimension.

Side note: the early audio and ebook versions did differ from each other, so Iโ€™m hesitant to review too in depth as I don't know what reflects the final version.
ex.
<i>โ€œLast name?โ€
โ€œGuy pronounced a word that sounded like a torture device.โ€</I>
vs
<i>โ€œLast name?โ€
โ€œJamie pronounced a name I had never heard.โ€</I>

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This was gifted to me by the publisher & Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

I was intrigued by this story in the beginning. We are following Tatum, who has been contacted by a media outlet to get her story on a man that she's known for the better part of her adult life. The man is an author and their relationship was sticky and complicated. Tatum finds herself questioning all of the things that she thought she knew about her friend and deciding if she really wants to tell her story when it was so different from other people's stories.

I was optimistic, but this book ended up not being my cup of tea. I found it to be boring and honestly just not what I wanted from a story like this one, it had so much potential, but fell short for me.

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This was a fantastic exploration of academia and the abuse of power within marginalized communities. This story follows Tatum, a young woman struggling to thrive in the academic world until she meets famous author Mateo, who at first seems like a great friend, until he isnโ€™t.
Later in her life, Tatum receives a call from a journalist asking her to comment on the recent S.A allegations against Mateo and how her relationship to Mateo truly was. Told through letter written to Mateo, Tatum recounts her relationship to him and how he held so much power of her.

This was such a wonderful audiobook and overall important book. It touches on topics of racism, classism, and the power men hold over women during financial strain. Highly recommend if you are looking for a book that will make you think about the power we have within ourselves and the power we have to stand up against predatory men.

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I gave this audiobook an honest try, but I could not get into it. I felt that it jumped around and I could not understand where the plot (or lack of plot) was going. The book totally failed to engage me,.

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Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for this ARC copy!

Like happiness follows our Tatum who leaves her life in Texas for school with grand plans on how life is going to go and what her life will become but after she arrives she realized that things are not quite working out the way she wanted. Then when she is feeling lonely she reaches out to an author who she has been obsessing over.

When she is contacted many years later about allegations against him she decides to write him a letter and their story is written like a letter to the now estranged author about their time together and the impacts that he had on her life, both good and bad.

As the letter progresses Tatum starts to discover more and more about their relationship and the impact he had on her life all these years later, and how her naivety kept her from seeing just how wrong their relationship had been.

It also gives a lot of insight on what the world of academia is like for POCs the undertones of a system built on racism and elitisms.

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