Friday, August 5, 2016

Release Tour ~ Counting Daisies by Nicola Haken ~ (Reviews, Excerpt, Teasers + Giveaway)

Release Tour ~ Counting Daisies by Nicola Haken ~ (Reviews, Excerpt, Teasers + Giveaway)
Title: Counting Daisies
Author: Nicola Haken
Genre: MM Romance
Release Date: 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 a deep and powerful book with the main theme which is refreshing less about the path of a relationship and way more about the real life gritty obstacles that come on the way of their HEA.” - Reader Review

“This book was phenomenal. I cried so many tears. Story was heart breaking and heartwarming all at the same time.” - SiKReviews

“This was a beautifully crafted story of friendship, love, bonds, addictive behaviour and heartache. It was hugely emotional in parts, and Nicola doesn't hold back.” - 2 Girls & Their Kindles

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.

5 + Stars

*copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I'll first say, I wish I could rate this book with more than 5 stars!

Dylan and Cameron were best friends growing up, as well as first loves. They've known each other since they were four years old. Both teens had plans, Cameron to be a successful chef, Dylan to just be successful at something and not have live hand to mouth as his family has in the past. Cameron succeeds, but Dylan falls short. As a young teenager of 14, the last family member he has, his grandmother, passes away suddenly, and Dylan is thrown into the foster care system. Dylan is convinced he is unwanted and unworthy, everyone he has ever loved has either died or left him. After his stint in foster care and a failed construction business attempt, Dylan moves from light recreational drugs to heroin to make the pain go away. When Cameron and Dylan meet up again after 16 years, will Cameron be able to help Dylan face his past demons and kick his heroin addition or will it all be too much for him?

This is one of the best fiction books I've ever read dealing with addiction to date. I knew it would be a powerful and probably heartbreaking story, but I was still taken aback by some of the things in this book. Nicola did a phenomenal job at capturing an accurate account of the life of an addict. This book was powerful, real, raw and so emotional. I've never thought about a drug addict in the terms that she put them. In the back of my mind I've always known drugs are an escape from what you can't deal with in life, but the author managed to truly bring that into perspective for me. I applaud her for taking this subject matter on. Most authors leave it in the background, but Nicola brings it to the forefront of the story and shows you what it's like to live as an addict, detox from the drugs, and later to live as a recovering addict. The detox scenes are graphic and truly heartbreaking. Cameron is a wonderfully supportive friend and partner to Dylan, and with his POV we also get to see the effects of living with and loving an addict. The heartbreak of having to watch someone you love destroy themselves and slowly slip away from you.

This was an amazingly well-written book that will take you on an emotional roller-coaster. Dylan and Cameron have a great chemistry and connection. The love they feel for one another is clearly visible. Highly recommended, but bring your tissues with you!!

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie in exchange for a fair and honest review. ***

How many of us are lucky enough to meet our soulmate at 4 years old?  Or to fall in love with our best friend at 14?  Dylan Roberts and Cameron O’Neil were inseparable growing up. Their relationship morphing from friendship into something more and by 14 they had fallen in love. They spent time laughing and talking, planning and dreaming of their future together. With so much potential, they had the world at their feet.

“People say young love, first love, whatever you want to label it, isn’t real. It’s a dress rehearsal. Teenagers aren’t capable or mature enough to understand what love entails. That’s what people think. But we did. Dylan and I had a bond, an awareness of each other, even before we hit puberty and our friendship developed into attraction.”

That young and innocent, they could never have anticipated Dylan's world imploding. Being sent away without getting to even say goodbye, losing everything, Dylan being virtually alone. No longer did those plans of the future seem achievable or the wonderful dreams realistic. Life became a struggle, a struggle to forget, a struggle to survive.

  "You're smart, Dyl. You could be anything you want to be."... ..."You think?"   "I know. You're clever enough to be a doctor, or a shit-hot lawyer. You'll be something really great, I know you will"      "Yeah," I agreed with a smile..."Maybe I will".                                                            ❁

Over the years, Dylan would lose more and more of himself. That boy he was at 14 didn't exist anymore.  Now he was broken, only a shell of himself, the only love of his life was the poison he shoots in his veins.

"I felt the warmth from the needle travel through every inch of my body. It was magical. As my breathing slowed, so did my mind. Every ounce of pain, every conscious thought, disintegrated until all that remained was a hollow, blissful shell. These were the moments I lived for, the only times my heart didn’t hurt and my body didn’t ache. I was an addict; a fucked-up, selfish and pointless excuse of a man. But in that moment it was worth it. The world wasn’t a scary place anymore. I wasn’t alone. Right this second life, and heroin, was beautiful."

Cameron O'Neil achieved his dreams of being a Chef and owns a successful upscale restaurant. He has great friends, a good family, he's happy.  Yet he stills thinks about his first love Dylan and the what if?  So when he sees Dylan again, bruised and beaten down, he can't help but want to know what happened to the boy he once knew. But Dylan isn't ready for Cam to see the real him yet.

After a night of talking, Dylan disappears again only to show up a week later in desperate need of help. This time, Cameron refuses to let Dylan disappear again and will do whatever he can to keep his friend.  Dylan may not think he's worth much but Cameron will always think of him as the boy he loved.

At just 12% in, my heart broke into a million pieces. Dylan is the type of character that grips me and never quite let's go. Nicola Haken is an amazing writer and I am not just paying lip service right now. I am an emotional reader,  I love being able to truly get into a story and live it right along with characters. I cry, I laugh, I've even raged right along with them but very few have ever stuck with me in such a way that even months, and in some cases years, have passed since I've read that final page, and I still tear up thinking about it. At 12% into Counting Daisies I knew this would be one of those books.

I had to wait days before I could even begin to write this review because just thinking about it had me tearing up. With as beautifully as this story is written, I was scared I would never be able to truly do it justice. I can only hope that I can adequately express how much I loved this extraordinary book. How much I love Nicola Haken's writing.  It doesn't matter how much research someone does about something so complex as addiction, it takes talent to be able create a fictional character like Dylan and make him so real that I truly felt as if I were there right beside him.

I can't pick out what I loved, liked and disliked about Counting Daisies because in truth, I loved it all, from page 1 till the very end even as I cried. I loved Dylan for the strength he had no clue he possessed, for his courage, his vulnerability and his heart.   I loved Cam, who was so loyal and loved so fiercely he couldn't give up. Their friends Paul and Derek who brought the lighthearted moments that were needed. All the characters were amazing.

I definitely recommend Counting Daisies, just make sure you have the Kleenex ready. If I could give more than 5 Stars I would. Best book I've read this year!

5 + Stars!

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie in exchange for a fair and honest review. ***

I don't know how Nicola Haken does it, but every single time I pick a new book by her I think it's fantastic and I'm sure nothing will top it, but as I did with The Making of Matt and Broken, I stand corrected. 

Counting Daisies is an emotional rollercoaster, a very realistic account of what an addict goes through while he's hooked and as he tries to fight its hold on him. It's powerful, it's raw, it's compassionate and, above all, it's hopeful. 

My heart broke so many times for Dylan, for all the things he'd gone through, for the hold heroin had on him, for how difficult it was for him, and perhaps because of that, I was equally proud of him, of the strength he didn't know he possessed, at how brave he was. He was absolutely lovable, maybe even more so because he was so flawed and real. Cameron was reliable, strong and so loving with Dylan. It was heartwarming to see him try to help Dylan so much. I absolutely loved them together, too. To see how much they loved each other, how perfectly they fit together, despite all they were going through. 

Paul and Derek were great friends to them, and I'm chuffed to bits to know that they are getting their own book! 

This is definitely a must- read, a book I'll definitely read again several times. 

Rating. 5+ Stars!!!

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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