Monday, August 1, 2016

Blog Tour ARC Review + Giveaway: Counting Daisies by Nicola Haken

Counting Daisies 
by Nicola Haken
Genre: M/M Romance
Release: August 1, 2016

Dylan Roberts and Cameron O’Neil were good kids. Growing up together, they shared everything. By the age of fourteen they were more than best friends – they were in love. They dreamt of their future, of success, marriage…happiness. They were going to grow old by each other’s side.

But… “Kids are stupid.”

When tragic circumstances forced them apart, Dylan discovered that life wasn’t the fairytale he dreamed of; it was dark, difficult, saturated with pain and shame. Life wasn’t meant to be enjoyed, merely survived, but even that became a challenge.

Damaged, worthless, and disgusting, he saw no point to his pitiful existence…

Until he came face to face with the boy he used to love.

Successful, honourable, and happy, Cameron had achieved the future they planned. He was good, positive, popular…everything Dylan would never be. What would happen if Dylan let him back into his world? Would he destroy Cameron too? Would his poison push him away like everyone else?

“Everybody leaves.”

“They leave or they die.”

But what if…what if Cameron didn’t?

This is the third book I've read by Nicola Haken, and every time she manage to surprise me and make me cry. She tends to touch on some very sensitive subject and seems to really know what she is writing about. I assume she did her research extensively because her knowledge into the subject matters are really detailed. So far, I've read about her story on HIV, mental illness and now drug addiction. I wonder what will come next.

In Counting Daisies, we have a story about two teenage best friend, Dylanand Cameron. When Dylan's last surviving family died, he entered the system and they lost contact with each other until 15 years later. Things are never the same again for these two as Cameron is now a successful chef and restaurant owner, while Dylan is basically a homeless junkie.

I don't think is a spoiler to reveal that Dylan is a junkie since the blurb did warn about scene on IV drug use. The entirety of the story basically revolves around Dylan and his drug addiction and how he goes about the road towards recovery with the help from Cameron and his new friends. Reading about Dylan's struggle in day to day life and how his addict mind works make me realize how we are so ignorant about the issue. 

When Cameron and Dylan reunited, and subsequently Dylan's problem came to light, Cameron was being really supportive despite all the heartache and uncertainty. Their love for each other was never in question, but will Cameron able to cope with such pressure for loving a recovery addict? 

Nicola gave us a very raw, harsh and realistic story for Dylan and Cameron that is certainly not glorifying substance abuse. But I does make me think twice before judging and condemning people for fall victim to it. 

Apart from all the heavy and emotional moments, the story does have its lighter moments as well. I like the camaraderie between Cameron and his co-worker, Paul and Derek. All the cooking taking place also just make me hungry while reading. I also like the fact that Dylan had such a positive and supportive people surrounding him. I can honestly said that I'm a little bit in love with Paul and Derek, especially Paul. I quite positive there will be a book for him soon.

Overall, Counting Daisies is yet another emotional read that pack a solid punch by Nicola Haken.

He clung to my shirt, his knuckles turning white. “Make it s-stop.” 

“I…I don’t know how.”

Fuck this. Fuck heroin. Why the hell would someone do this to themselves? I’d never seen this level of pain before that hadn’t resulted in death, and even that was only on TV. 

Dylan sobbed into my chest and I held him while he did. My arms were all I had to offer. He remained so cold despite my palms rubbing up and down his back, and he was dirty, too - dried up vomit sticking to his skin and hair. I’d never felt so helpless in all my life.

Needing to do something, anything, I climbed to my feet, lifting his body with me. “Come on,” I encouraged, struggling to take his weight on my own. “Try and walk for me.”

He whimpered and mumbled but made little effort to move. So, sliding one arm behind his thighs, I scooped him up like a baby, carrying him towards the bath. He clung to my neck, his grip weak, while I turned on the water. I turned the temperature down to barely warm, worried the heat might burn his shivering skin, before lowering him into the bathtub, under the fine spray of the shower. 

His muscles twitched and his eyes closed as he hugged his knees to his scrawny chest. Taking a sponge and some shower-gel, I scrubbed softly up and down his trembling body, gently manoeuvring his arms and legs when needed so I could clean every inch of him.

“I’m tired, Cam,” he barely whispered, dropping his head to the side.

My heart ached, like it was trapped inside a vice that was trying to crush its ability to beat, as I lathered some shampoo into his fair hair. “You can sleep soon. Nearly done.” 

I tried not to cry as I massaged his scalp. I wanted to be strong, but I’d never felt more vulnerable. Removing the showerhead from the hook on the wall, I hovered it over his head, rinsing away the tea-tree scented suds, before doing the same to the rest of his skin. After shutting the water off, I grabbed a large towel from the heated rail next to the toilet and rubbed it over his skin in the bathtub before lifting him out and doing the same to his back.

“I-I can’t d-do it anymore,” Dylan cried as I wound my arm around his waist, urging him to take a step.

“You are doing it. It’s almost over.” I had no idea if my words were the truth, but I had to hope they were for both of our sakes. Honestly, I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore either.

Nicola lives in Rochdale, England with her husband and four children (six if you include the dog and cat!) She is the author the author of the m/m romance Souls of the Knight series, and is currently working on a standalone with new boys, James and Theo, due for release early 2016. When she is not busy playing with her imaginary book friends (or talking about them with real life friends!) she can usually be found carrying out her ordinary mum/housewife/all round slave duties. Oh, and if the kids ever ask, she moonlights as the Pink Power Ranger while they're sleeping...

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