YA, 5 star

ARC Review: Always Isn’t Forever by J.C. Cervantes

From New York Times bestselling author J.C. Cervantes comes a sparkling, unforgettable YA romance, perfect for fans of You’ve Reached Sam.

Best friends and soul mates since they were kids, Hart Augusto and Ruby Armenta were poised to take on senior year together when Hart tragically drowns in a boating accident. Absolutely shattered, Ruby struggles to move on from the person she knows was her forever love.

Hart can’t let go of Ruby either…. Due to some divine intervention, he’s offered a second chance. Only it won’t be as simple as bringing him back to life–instead, Hart’s soul is transferred to the body of local bad boy.

When Hart returns to town as Jameson, he realizes that winning Ruby back will be more challenging than he’d imagined. For one, he’s forbidden from telling Ruby the truth. And with each day he spends as Jameson, memories of his life as Hart begin to fade away.

Though Ruby still mourns Hart, she can’t deny that something is drawing her to Jameson. As much as she doesn’t understand the sudden pull, it can’t be ignored. And why does he remind her so much of Hart? Desperate to see if the connection she feels is real, Ruby begins to open her heart to Jameson–but will their love be enough to bridge the distance between them?

Overall Recommendation:

Bring your tissues because Always Isn’t Forever will tug at your heartstrings while you’re screaming at yourself to not let your heart beat with hope for Ruby and Hart. Reminiscent of You’ve Reached Sam, an unexpected early death throws a wrench in their plans for their forever future, but these two lovebirds find a way to connect with each other again even after death. Except Hart can’t tell Ruby he doesn’t appear as he used to! I loved the dual POV that gave insight into their love that defies the passing of time and their age. Their journey for even one more moment together had me hogging the tissues in a corner as I gobbled their story in one sitting. 100% worth the read!

**Always Isn’t Forever comes out June 6, 2023**

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review

It’s not a joke when the synopsis compares Always Isn’t Forever to You’ve Reached Sam. The cover gives even the same vibes. But where You’ve Reached Sam hit a little bit of a roadblock for me, this book blew past my expectations and opened my heart (and the floodgates) to Ruby and Hart’s story.

I’m a sucker for romances that hit you deep in the heart and this one is no exception. For a story about death and getting a divine second chance to potentially reconnect, whether you love the book or not hinges on how well you love the two protagonists. I’d say I’m sometimes pretty jaded when it comes to romance stories – I’ve definitely read a lot – but these two teenagers had such a woven and realistic story of love from childhood friends to something more.

The dual POV from Hart (in Jameson’s body) and Ruby gave so much insight to who they each were, but also who the other meant to them. Hart was a songwriter, and his soul was entwined with music and melody that dreamt of their love. While his memories were slowly disappearing, he held on desperately for his memory of Ruby and the music he was in the midst of writing for her at the time of his death. Ruby, on the other hand, loved the water, practically lived in it. After Hart’s drowning, she had to reconcile her love for the water and its hand in taking away the only boy she ever loved.

My heart is still beating rapidly just thinking of their story. The prose and flow had everything to do with it too. Cervantes carved their love story through quick chapters, little memories engraved in their souls, and raw emotions that aren’t always easy to deal with in the face of goodbyes.

Love doesn’t need more than one heart.

If there’s one thing that both Hart and Ruby learned, it was this quote. Oh, my poor heart suffered with Hart as he desperately tried to tell the people he loved, especially Ruby, that he was back. But regardless if she didn’t fully know who he was inside a new body, he knew. And love doesn’t require more than one heart.

Aside from these two whom I fell in love with, there were a few secondary characters making an impact. Ruby’s sister, Gabi, is exactly what I would want in a sister if I were to have one. She pushed Ruby when others may have given up when she went into a sad spiral. They bickered and they disagreed on things but you can tell love was the underlying motive for everything Gabi did for Ruby. And on Hart’s side, let’s just say there’s a fun divine being he befriends who ended up being a nice, more lighthearted character to throw into their mix.

Who surprised me most was Jameson. We can’t forget the boy whose body Hart took. This is NOT like The Host (aka my favourite book ever) where two souls vie for one body. The divine rules for body recycling is interesting, but a body can hold memories so getting to know pieces of Jameson was also amazing. Cervantes has a way of making each character feel real with their emotions and how they grapple with things like grief and guilt and joy.

All this to say, Always Isn’t Forever blew past my expectations. Did I think I would cry? Yes. Did I actually cry? 100 times yes. But it held such a good balance of hope, love, and grief that I could only ever hope to find in a book. If you liked You’ve Reached Sam, I’d say you’d LOVE this one.


Let’s Talk Bookish – Summer Reading Plans

Aria @ Book Nook Bits is the new host for Let’s Talk Bookish! If you aren’t following her yet, good check out her blog and give her a follow!

June 2: Summer Reading Plans (Aria)

Prompts: It’s almost summer! What kinds of books do you like to read in summer? Do you have any summer reading plans? What books are at the top of your summer TBR? 

Welcome to another week of LTB here at DTRH, everyone! I can’t believe it’s June already, but this topic arrives just in time, what are everyone’s summer reading plans? Or are they just an extension of what happens during the year? Time to find out!

For me, I like to read relaxing books during the summer for sure. Rather than diving into difficult reads, summer just seems like the perfect time to be relaxing (beach or not) and reading a book that doesn’t take too much out of you, you know? Of course this doesn’t totally disturb the regular flow of things, and books I’ve been wanting to read that are heavy don’t just suddenly get pushed aside necessarily. However, given the choice, and given the luxury to read whatever I want in the nice weather of the summer, I definitely lean towards quick and easy reads, particularly ones that are feel-good.

This summer I really am just aiming to read as much as I can. The regular school year is always crazy busy and I read way way less than I hope to. As such, I really hope to (happily) churn through a lot of books this summer so that at least I feel I really tried to reach my quotas and also get to try a lot of different books! I have already ramped up my reading a lot compared to what I was able to do during the year, and that has really helped to bring my bookish spirits back up and continue on.

I’m currently reading Leigh Bardugo’s Hell Bent, and I’m enjoying it so far (spoiler!). I definitely have a lot of recommendations to get to from my friends and the community, so I will be happily working through that this summer as well. I saw a book at the bookstore called The Immortalists, which seemed really interesting, so I had to pick that up, that’s definitely one on my list to read. My bookclub has chosen Cloud Cuckoo Land as the next book, so expect to see that on the horizon as well! Really these are just a few of the titles on my TBR, but I’m really going to try having as much fun as possible this summer reading through whatever I can.

What are y’alls plans for this summer? Lots of reading? Or maybe it’s time for a break? Let me know in the comments below!


Let’s Talk Bookish – Reading Slumps

Aria @ Book Nook Bits is the new host for Let’s Talk Bookish! If you aren’t following her yet, good check out her blog and give her a follow!

May 26: What Causes Reading Slumps? (Aria)

Prompts: There have been past LTB topics about ways to get out of reading slumps, but I was curious about why they happen in the first place. Do you fall into reading slumps often? What causes them? Are there patterns you notice with when you tend to read fewer books? What do you do to get out of a reading slump?

Welcome back to another week of LTB here at DTRH, everyone! Today’s topic is about reading slumps, which I’m sure is relatable to everyone in the bookish community, blogger or not. I actually wonder if there are those who love books who have never fallen into any sort of slump. Let me know in the comments below if that applies to you!

I don’t fall into reading slumps too often, although I do not think that is directly correlated to reading a lot. Getting busy and not having time to read is not what I would personally categorize as a reading slump, though feel free to disagree there. I feel like the slumps often happen when you read a few books in a row that aren’t particularly exciting, and no new upcoming books really tickle your fancy either. The dampeners on your excitement to read another book is what starts the slump I think, and if nothing gets in the way of that, it can quickly snowball into total slump, I think.

I really think the cause is like a lack of motivation. For whatever external reason it is, usually a bad book, or perhaps just a series of books that aren’t exciting, these kinds of dampeners can really lower the excitement and motivation to read. I think if you just act passively in these situations, it can be really easy for the motivation to slip away, and just get less and less excited to read.

When I get busy I tend to read fewer books, which I think is the case with most people. But it’s not a strict correlation there either of course. If I’m excited enough about a book, most likely I will just make time for it despite the busy schedule. Yet sometimes I don’t read when I’m busy; I assume no book is just interesting enough at the time for me to consider a particular priority. I think it’s really easy to put down books and stop reading and then fall into the weird paradoxical slump where you “really want” to read, but don’t actually read. Does anyone else do that?

Honestly I usually hard force myself out of a slump usually. Or what also really helps is talking to other bookish friends or members of the community who are excited for something. All these will usually re-ignite my passion for reading and make me want to read as well. Even if I don’t speak to someone, honestly if I just pick up any book that sounds a little bit interesting, or something more exciting like a thriller, often times the emotions of reading a book will also jog my love of reading and get me out of a slump. Even if this doesn’t necessarily always have a 100% success rate, I find that since I really do enjoy reading, it isn’t too too hard to climb out of the slump.

How about you all? Are slumps common or just a rare occurrence? And how do you get out of them if so? Let me know in the comments below!