Member Reviews

This book has an interesting and timely premise about power dynamics and toxic relationships that gives readers a fictional window into "me too" claims against celebrities. Tatum Vega is an engaging protagonist and the novel captures several other issues such as racism on elite college campuses and difficulties facing first generation college students. I wish the author discussed Chile and her relationship there more, along with the fallout of the investigation. Great narrator. Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for the eARC.

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An intriguing story. Will definitely stick with me. Brings a new perspective different than anything I’ve read before.

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Beautifully written. I was captivated by this tale from start to finish. Tackling toxic relationships, gender dynamics, and power inequalities, Like Happiness tells the story of Tatum Vega in dual timelines. In the present, she’s settled into a contented existence when a call from a reporter forces her to work through her past relationship with a famous writer- leading us to dive into that past alongside her.

This story is brilliantly told, and there were definitely many relatable elements, but I felt increasingly frustrated by past Tatum’s choices. Many of us have found ourselves in similarly unhealthy dynamics at some point or other, but to stay in the sort of limbo she held herself for a full decade was hard to witness or fathom. Still plenty of issues to mull over long after finishing this layered read.

Marisa Blake did a fantastic job of narrating the audiobook, convincingly conveying every facet of Tatum’s emotions and recollections.

Thank you Ursula Villarreal-Moura, Celadon Books, Macmillan Audio, and NetGalley for providing this ARC for review consideration. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Like Happiness by Ursula Villarreal-Moura dives into the narrative of a young woman who finds herself enamored with an older author. After sending a fan letter and receiving a response, we follow the next ten years of their life and how their relationship evolves and also how it doesn't. Another sad case of a time when the older gentleman should have left the lady alone, but instead drags her along with an undefined role in his life....essentially being groomed. This book was just alright for me. I really wanted to love it, but it was a bit drawn out for my liking. Although it did provide some interesting conversation for book club. It seems many of us can relate to the feeling of being dragged along and allowing ourselves to hold out hope for something that is never going to happen.

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LIKE HAPPINESS by Ursula Villarreal-Moura is a compelling exploration of self-discovery, tangled relationships, and the impact of power dynamics. Set in 2015, Tatum Vega, living a seemingly content life in Chile with her partner Vera, is jolted when her past resurfaces. The narrative gracefully shifts between Tatum's present-day struggles and a poignant letter to M. Domínguez, the brilliant author who once dominated her life. The book delves into the complexities of relationships, confronting issues of gender, celebrity, memory, and Latinx identity. Tatum's journey forces a reevaluation of her past, questioning decisions and unraveling the lasting impact of a tumultuous relationship. Villarreal-Moura skillfully navigates themes of resilience and self-exploration, delivering a thought-provoking narrative that lingers in the reader's mind.

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What profound story about toxic relationships and power imbalance! What I loved most is that Tatum and Mateo are both Latinx, but there’s still extreme power imbalance within other aspects of their lives—age, money, power, gender.

It’s also a thought-provoking story of what constitutes “grooming” and what is “too much power” in a relationship? can we form true friendships when the lines between mentoring and love are blurred?

I especially loved Taryn’s character development and how throughout the course of her flashbacks/interviews, she gained a deeper understanding of what her relationship with Mateo was really like—even after so many years.

The writing is incisive and powerful. And I’d be recommending this book to everyone!

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It started with a letter to her favorite author…now it ends with a letter sent to the same author, detailing their relationship and taking back her reclaiming herself. We go back and forth between current day where Tatum is looking back on the past and telling her story, and the past where she has fallen into Domguez’s arms. He has recently been accused of assault by another woman, and a reporter wants to hear Tatum’s story as well…

This was a really well done debut novel. It’s an age old idea, man in power, younger woman that falls into his traps, well…you know the rest. It did move a bit slowly, but I enjoyed being along for the ride as Tatum learned to take her power back from Dominguez. I certainly had moments of UGH don’t let him do this, but of course it would be a very short book if she didn’t fall for his manipulations. I listened to this one on audio and really enjoyed the narration and taking in the story that way.

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Easy read. Relatable in the sense that most women have experienced a man who takes advantage of his power over us in our youth. I like how this book showed that that can happen in more than one way. I wish there had been more nuance to Tatum's queer identity.

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I’m not really sure what I was expecting from this audiobook, but it wasn’t the story I listened to. This was a very different book, and it won’t be one I’ll soon forget.

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Thank you Netgalley for this audio edition of Like Happiness by Ursula Villarreal-Moura.

Oh wow, this is a power house of a debut that packs a punch! Tatum, a woman living in Chile with her partner is stunned to receive a phone call about an author who she had an off-again, on-again romance with. He is being accused of sexual assault, and Tatum is being asked for corroboration. And even though Tatum's experience with the author was different, she can't help but see a lot of problematic elements of their relationship.

This book hops timelines from present day to past, and it hooks you from the first chapter. I LOVED all of the literary references, I can never get enough of books talking about other books. I thought that the exposure of casual, and not-so-casual racism in the literary world was very important, and this was just overall a very good story.

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This was absolutely beautifully written!

Ursula Villarreal-Moura’s writing style had me feeling like I was in the room with Tatum Vega as she reflected on her past and combed through her memories of M. Domínguez, dissecting there decade long correspondence and coming to terms with the reality of the present.

Absolutely fantastic debut by Ursula Villarreal-Moura!!

Method Read: 📖 & 🎧

Thank you Celadon Books & Macmillan Audio for the advanced copies!

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It all started with a letter so might as well end with another. Tatum wrote that letter to M. Dominguez because his book spoke to her. She felt seen and understood. She wanted to thank him for writing it; she wanted to show her appreciation. When she got a response, she was over the moon. After all, an author took time to respond to her (maybe childish, maybe little too hopeful) letter. Years later when she sat down to write another one, she finally came to terms with what had happened.

Grooming comes in many forms. At a young age, certain things sound and feel like winning that championship ring. They make you feel special than others because you have the attention and you are under the spotlight. Most of the times, there is nothing wrong with these feelings, or compliments or attention you receive. But in those rare moments, words and actions have ulterior motives. A letter back from an author you liked can be first step of his grooming plan.

I appreciated those moments in the second when Tatum realized what had happened yet still held onto the memory. That was a great way to show how years of this treatment cannot be wiped out by changing countries. I enjoyed the storytelling and themes used in this book a lot.

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4.75/5 ⭐️ 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?

Thank you to NetGalley and the author for the audiobook ARC of this book. All options in this review are my own.

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Tatum is now in her 30s living in Chile with her partner Vera. A reporter calls Tatum to investigate a man she spent nearly a decade with, famous author Mateo, who is being accused of assault. Tatum recounts to the investigator about her decades long friendship and more with Mateo, and everything she has learned and felt regarding this time in her life.

At first, I wasn’t sold on Tatum as a character. However, I soon realized I was already halfway through and didn’t want to stop listening/reading. Tatum’s story was intriguing, and the character development between Tatum and Mateo kept me interested. I loved the audio narration, and I think the audio made this bingeable for me. I also enjoyed the past/present timeline, and how Tatum is “talking” to Mateo in her recounting of their relationship. I enjoyed this one overall!

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Like Happiness explores the imbalanced relationship between a writer and a young fan in duel timelines. I liked that this book had LGBTQ+ and Latino representation. It is well written but it just didn’t hit the mark for me. I kept wondering where the story was going and it felt like an abrupt ending to me because of that. The narrator is good, I think she does a good job of representing all the characters.

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan audio for the ALC for my honest review.

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Tatum Vega is living in Chile with her partner, Vera, when she is contacted by an investigative reporter who is doing a piece on the author, M. Dominguez. This call catapults Vega back in time when she was a young college student that became enamored with the writing of Dominguez. The author weaves, with beautiful prose, the story of them meeting and forming a friendship that spanned over 10 years. Vega does so by writing a letter to Dominguez while she is being interviewed by the reporter regarding abuse allegations by another young woman. In this letter, she unpacks her own story, gains clarity into their relationship, manipulation and ultimate betrayal.
The story is well written and engaging from the start and kept me fully engaged throughout.
The narration was superb. Character voices clearly delineated with a beautiful flow. The narrator drew me into the story fully and made it all come to life.
A beautifully written novel that I highly recommend listening to.
I was given this book by MacMillan Audio and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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4 stars

Well, this author has certainly tapped into an experience that will be highly relatable for many readers of this novel. Folks who have had some space from grad school will find this a razor-sharp series of memories and horrors. All those high-level convos that you wouldn't be caught dead having in public now, terrible romantic decisions you made, and constant questioning about where and how you fit and especially whether someone really did make a mistake in letting you in here...well, they'll come back with a vengeance.

Tatum is a fantastic main character who lives in Chile with her partner and is settled, which may seem surprising when readers take a look at the kind of uncertainty she experienced in her past. She has to take a trip back into that past when a reporter contacts her about a former personal connection: an author she refers to usually as "M." This guy is...a piece He fits all of the icky stereotypes (that we all have unfortunately seen the nonfictional origins of in our own programs, experiences, etc.) of a self-important, misogynistic, petty dude who rides a wave of celebrity and lets it constantly crash into the women - young women - who express any interest in him. It turns out M.'s actions have been received differently by other women, and this forces Tatum to reconsider what her relationship with M. actually was.

This novel is both understated and extremely precise, and as a person who spent a lot of time in grad school and has spent more than two decades working in higher education, my verdict is that this is DEAD ON. M. is not an outlier, and he's nothing special, but neither are most of these fellas. The different, special, and interesting ones - the subjects expressing that unwarranted affection - like Tatum? Well, THOSE are the ones whose stories are worth hearing.

I liked this even more than I expected I would, and I'm now very excited to read more from this author.

ALSO...This novel doesn't require TW, but I will say that folks who had relationships with powerful figures that seemed cool at the time and later seemed, well, NOT cool may find aspects of this one a little close to home. Read the description, and if you already feel like maybe it's too much, still read this but just after a little more time.

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Thank you NetGalley and Publisher for this audio.

Wow! The book was so gripping and emotion I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. This story is so beautifully written. I couldn't put it down!

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this was an amazing book !! i really loved it and felt very attached to the characters.
moreover, adding LGBTQ+ as well as different ethnicities is amazing representation

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The narrator did a great job in telling Tatum’s story. I felt like her tone was just right and kept my attention as the story unfolded. Tatum is contacted many years after her complicated relationship with author M Domínguez. The author has been accused of sexual assault, prompting her to reassess her relationship with him. She does this through a letter she has written to Domínguez detailing her feelings/memories of their relationship. Also coming to terms with her ever changing sexuality as she discovers herself. I would definitely recommend this book to others.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC copy of the audiobook for review.

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