Book Jacket

 

rank 312
word count 40063
date submitted 21.04.2011
date updated 26.04.2013
genres: Fiction, Romance, Harper True Life
classification: moderate
incomplete

BENEATH THE BLOSSOM TREE

Laura Bailey

"...in that moment I realised that being with the man I love for any length of time was worth the risk of losing again..."

 

Beneath the Blossom Tree is the harrowing tale of Laylla Jonson as she struggles to overcome the death of both her parents. Alone in the world, having lost touch with her friends and abandoned by her self-indulged relatives, Laylla feels she has little to live for but the memories of her parents will not let her give in.

With nowhere else to turn, Laylla enrolls in university, intending to pursue a life of solitude and self-exclusion. But this is something her new friends simply will not let her do! Forced into socialising, Laylla realises every life has a story and she is not as alone as she once thought.

As she begins to recover pieces of her old self, Laylla meets the enigmatic, unfathomable and very desirable Jacob Bennett. Laylla and Jacob fight their feelings, each wrestling their inner demons. When Jacob realises Laylla means more to him than he has ever felt before, he will do anything in his power to break down her walls but this is one battle he may be destined to lose.

Based on true life events.

 
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tags

cancer, coming of age, durham university, emotional, england, friendship, grief, harrowing, heart warming, love, new york, romance, tear jerker, teena...

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147 comments

 

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Fontaine wrote 49 days ago

I've read the first four chapters of your book. I enjoyed them very much. This is written in a deceptively easy style which moves the story along well, but also has depth both of characterisation and description. You have some nice lines in here and the MC is believeable and nicely different to her sister. I disagree with another comment that what has happened to her isn't that distressing. Of course a lot of people lose both parents, but this MC is quite young, still, and it would have been traumatic at that period of her life.
I do have issues with the counselling scenes but if you tell me that they realy happend that way, I'll believe you. I just think the doctor is incredibly unprofessional.
Small nitpick from chapter 1. How does her sister know where she left the car? I know it's a small point but the parking of the car featured a lot and I just noticed that point and it pulled me out of the story.
So, in summary, good pace, characterisation and description. The passages where she is rememberng her mother are partcuarly well done.
Highly starred.

PhilippaS wrote 50 days ago

RCG Review - Posted Chapters 1 through 4

Hello, Laura. I'm here for the RCG review for your book and I will say that despite my 'picks' below, I am enjoying this story very much. Your prose is truly excellent. The word pictures you draw seem effortless. First, with the serenity of the cemetery - the comment on the butterfly and it's place in the world, later with Lizzie and Laylla on the beach, 'each pulling our fingers through the grains of rugged gold' and 'the curls of her hair intertwined in mine.' Beautifully done!

Now, to the nits:

Title: I like the title because it's inviting and appealing. It's suggestive and makes me want to pick the book up to see what it's about.

SP: I found this to be interesting. It is, apparently, an excerpt from inside the story and leaves the question of 'losing (what?)' hanging out there, drawing a potential reader in to see what the LP has to say.

LP: The opening to this is, for me, a bit over-the-top. Many of us have lost both of our parents through accident, illness, disease or simple old age. It's just as much a part of life as being born. Therefore, as painful and as difficult as the loss of a parent can be, I don't know that I would open this with 'harrowing' unless you give us a clue as to why it's more than usually heartbreaking.

Further, if the MC is seeking 'a life of solitude and self-exclusion' wouldn't a nunnery be a better choice than university with its teeming social life, dormitories, and auditoriums full of students?

Characterization: I love the tenderness between Laylla and Lizzie, expressed with the bit about their hair intertwining and the action in the office when they collect their test scores. Laylla is a well-drawn, well-rounded character. She has her ragged edges, her inner pain but is still obviously a kind person who takes her responsibilities almost too seriously.

So far the plot is moving a bit slowly - long chapters with lots of expressions of pain and angst - but it's fitting with the fact that the MC is deeply mourning her parents and is just trying to get through each day as best she can without giving way to grief.

I have no complaints about the style / voice / dialogue - all are well done enough that nothing leapt out at me as being "wrong" or out of place.

There appears to be a good balance of show v. tell (although I don't get too worried about it since I read classics which are almost all tell and 'penny-dreadfuls' which are almost all show). I'm an easy reader to satisfy as long as the story is well told, inherently believable and engaging.

Specifics:

Chapter 1 - Prologue. THESE ARE THE WORDS ... This is a very abrupt and jarring opening to a setting that is otherwise serene and lovingly described. I don't know that the "shouted" (all caps) declaration explaining the opening two lines is needed. Perhaps introduce Laylla and then, after she sets the flowers down, she runs her fingers longingly along the words she chose for the headstone. Keep it soft and gentle as the rest of those opening paragraphs flow and unfold.

Chapter 2 - (Chapter One): This also opens with a shout which is, obviously, a stylistic choice. This is not, however, appealing to me as a potential consumer of your product. Frankly, if I flipped through this book, or any other, and found that I was being shouted at from the opening of each chapter, I would hastily put it down and move on. I read to relax and enjoy myself. These all-caps introductions are nothing less than an in-my-face assault.

'I agreed to drive, for two reasons, the first...' No comma is needed after drive and the comma after reasons should be either a colon or a period. 'I agreed to drive for two reasons. The first...'

Through the prologue (all tell) and well into Chapter One (much tell) there's little dialogue so I'm not yet getting the sense of who Laylla is as a person.

When she's sitting in the car and looks at herself in the rear view mirror I think it can be simplified to make it more powerful: "In the rear view mirror I saw a girl. A young, vulnerable girl just seventeen years old with long dark curls...'

'...is not for another twenty minutes or so, Dear.' Since 'Dear' is not a proper name, it should not be capitalized.

'They had purposefully built a building to compliment death and his callous...' If 'death' in this sentence is intended as the robed dude who hauls around a scythe, I think capitalizing Death as a proper name here would be appropriate.

'Eventually, the handle of the blue door turned down toward the floor. Jess appeared at the door...' Door is redundant here. I'd eliminate the second occurrence and leave it at 'Jess appeared. Her light brown hair...'

The term 'alright' is a spoke colloquialism. It's not appropriate as a written form and should be 'You're sure you'll be all right on your own?'

'Why is it doctors have...' is a question. This sentence should end with a question mark.

I laughed out loud at the ballsy approach Laylla took to 'Janet' - well done!

I believe I've tripped over an American v. British use of the word 'focussed'. In America it's 'focused' and 'focusing'. Is the correct British spelling 'focussed' and 'focussing'? I'm not sure because now my 'misspelled' words with the double 's' are coming up as wrong. In any case, there are a couple of occasions on which 'focused' and 'focusing' are used through the first four chapters and these should be looked at.

Now I'm confused. Earlier in the meeting between Laylla and Janet, Laylla said she's finished with college yet later in the chapter, Janet says, "You've just sat your A level exams(,) haven't you?' This is followed by a new paragraph, "Do you want to go to university?" There are two issues here. First, are not 'college' and 'university' united? In the U.S. (and I believe in Britain since 'King's College' is a part of 'Cambridge University'), a university is a collection of colleges that provide, within the over-arching university structure, specific courses of study. The second issue is that if both remarks are made by Janet, they should be in a single paragraph: "You've just sat your A level exams, haven't you? Do you want to go to university?" If you want to throw in a break to make the two questions distinctly separate remarks, tuck Janet's name in the middle in some way.

'She (mother) did not want to inflict herself on Jess and me (not I).' If Jess weren't in the picture, Mum would not have wanted to inflict herself on 'me'. There's another, similar occurrence at the end of the paragraph: 'she let Jess and me take care of her', not Jess and I.

'...and that was when we struck our deal.' No comma is required in this phrase, or in, '...then replacing the mirror in an attempt to be inconspicuous.'

When Laylla gets back to the car after her appointment ends, paragraph indents suddenly appear and continue off and on through Chapter 4. Presumably these are a hold over from an earlier edit?

The use of the term 'reignited' in relation to the car is odd. 'Restarted' would be better since otherwise it sounds as though you've relit the match and tossed it onto the car after adding a bit of petrol to get it going.

The sentence, 'As I made my way along the promenade, a young boy almost whipped the feet from beneath me, chasing a brightly coloured balloon in the wind...' The disjointedness of this sentence may reflect Laylla's inner turmoil, but it's hard to follow. I would suggest: 'As I made my way along the promenade, a young boy chasing a brightly coloured balloon driven on the wind, almost whipped the feet from beneath me. He seemed to be mindless of the fact that the balloon was attached to his arm by a string.'

'I saw my mum in my mind, strapped into to a leather...' Pick either 'strapped into a leather' or 'strapped to a leather'.

Chapter 3 - (Chapter Two): The commas in the first sentence are not needed. This is a fine stand-alone sentence: 'It may have been Janet's faith or my own foolishness.'

'I began racking through things I could say in my mind, but I was drawing a blank.' Obviously, Laylla is desperately searching for something comforting and encouraging to say to Lizzie. However, the phrase 'things I could say in my mind' makes it sound as though, even if she discovered appropriate words, she'd keep them to herself. I suggest: 'I began racking my mind for things I could say, but I was drawing a blank.'

I like the image of Janet chiseling a brick out of Laylla's protective wall but question the phrase, 'hard had and steel capped boots in tow.' Since 'in tow' means 'pulled behind' it doesn't make sense. Perhaps, 'She was probably merrily whistling away in the image in her mind, as she chiseled a brick out of my protective wall, hard hat tilted at a rakish angle while her steel capped boots tapped out a cheery rhythm.'

Two uses of 'focus' in the sequential sentences, Now,"... but I tried to focus and force it away. "I want you to focus on a place..." Suggest, "I want you to think of a place..."

Multiple uses of 'image' and 'mind' in three subsequent sentences: '...each time an image began to form in my mind... It was like a spasm of images in my mind...' Suggest, "It could be the last time you were happy, or it could be any particular memory that stands out for you." (Insert Line Break) 'I squeezed my eyes shut and began to think but each time an image began to form, I forced it to clear again. It was like a spasm of memories, each fighting against the other...'

Chapter 4 - (Chapter Three): Misuse of 'passed' in the sentence, 'Saint Cuthbert's was at the end of the Bailey, a long cobbled street winding from the city centre, (past) the castle and cathedral...'

'House 8 was a little further along...' Major Peeve Alert! I know that the current vogue is to consistently misuse 'further' in place of 'farther'. I've commented on this many times here on Authonomy and my teeth are aching from it (because when I see 'further' when it should be 'farther' my teeth clench).

Correctly, 'House 8 as far along the Bailey.' It is not: 'House 8 is fur along the Bailey.' Therefore, the correct adjective in this case is 'House 8 is farther along the Bailey.'

Pedantically 'speaking', if you speak (or write) in linear distance (Point A to Point B to Point C) it is 'Point A is far from Point B and Point C is farther still.' You would not say 'Point A is fur from Point B and Point C is further still.' When you are speak esoterically, as in promoting or advancing your education or career, for instance, 'further' is correct. 'I am taking additional classes to further my education so I might further my career.' (And yes, I will openly and willingly confess to being on a single-handed crusade to resolve this matter.)

Over breakfast, 'Had it have been a question from Sara...' Remove 'have' from this phrase so that it reads, 'Had it been a question from Sara...'

When Laylla is dressing for the welcome dinner, there's a lot going on with the primary sentence. 'I was sluggish in dressing for the welcome dinner but stood in my evening gown I looked at myself in the mirror and I had to admit that a very minute...' Whew! I suggest adding a period after dinner and changing the rest to: '...dinner. Standing in my evening gown(,) I looked at myself in the mirror. I had to admit that a very minute part of me was looking forward to it.'

"You clean up pretty well too," I told him. I was wary (not weary, unless she's tired) that he might interpret...

'Sat in the college bar, we were all...' Unless it's colloquial, I believe this should be, 'Seated in the college bar, we were all...' This same usage comes later in this sequence when Paul points Laylla out to Genaya and says, 'I think your roommate is sat over there...' I believe this should be 'your roommate is sitting over there...' and 'roommate' should be one word, not two as it appears in your MS.

Genaya's school history: 'She went to a school full of rowdy kids and was treated (as though she was) as dumb as they were.'

After all of the darkness that came before, the end of Chapter Three is uplifting and hopeful - it bodes well for what comes next and makes me want to read on.

All the best~
Philippa Stirling

Genevieve's Piano
Eulogy for Elliot
Elizabeth's Braid
Ascension of the Moon

Ashley Yvonne wrote 179 days ago

I have previously reviewed your first couple of chapters, but now I have finished all 15 and am doing the official RCG Review:

1) Pitch – I loved the quote as an introduction, it drew me in. And the rest seems true to the story up to this point.

2) Characterization – I feel connected to Laylla, you give us an in depth look into her thoughts and I feel like I know her. I also really feel like I know Genaya very well. Paul seemed really well built up, but since Jacob has shown up his storyline has taken a backseat and I'm not sure how he feels about it. (but Laylla probably doesn't really know how he feels about it all either so it's only fair we don't.) I was really liking Paul though. The other characters are not really fleshed out (but their minor). Although I would like to know Laylla's roomates better, I was confused by how they all became good enough friends to hang out all the time and move in together, when they originally didn't seem to like Laylla too much and she wasn't overly fond of them.

3) Plot – Besides my question about Laylla's roommate's I think the plot is really fleshed out and doesn't seem to be missing any holes.

4) Setting – I think the where could be clarified earlier in the story, I mentioned in my previous review that I wasn't sure which Durham this was (I had though North Carolina).

5) Style/Voice – I enjoy the overall style and writing. Laylla's thoughts are easy to read, but are a little repetitive.

6) Dialogue – The dialogue does fit each person. I would like to see more though.

7) Spelling/Punctuation- Some minor errors but nothing that interfered with my understanding of the story.

8) Show, Don’t Tell – Much of the story is told through Laylla's thoughts. There are good scenes that show her feeling's and connections, like her sledding with paul, the falling when running, etc) I loved these scenes. There were other scenes that you begin showing, but then slip back into telling: when Laylla finds the coffee on her desk she reflects about her previous night. It broke the scene and made my mind have to jump from time and place. Not horrible, just not as smooth as it could be.

9) Thoughts/opinions/suggestions not covered: I really enjoyed this story, it was a melancholy read and definitely stirs the emotions. The introduction of Jacob has peaked my interest, I only wish I could read more about him. You've done a great job of setting the stage. I'm not sure how long your story is going to be total, my assumption would be really long if you continue through a slow moving relationship (which I love by the way, I love that they connect right away, but don't lose their heads just yet.) You may want to consider condensing the first ten chapters to stay within a publishable limit of words. Or as is you are focusing more on Laylla's personal growth, which is fine as well, you just have to consider what you want your book to be and who will be the audience.

Thank you for putting this story out here for everyone to read. Best of luck with this book!

Ashley Yvonne wrote 183 days ago

Hi, I am really enjoying this book so far! I am going to read all you have posted but I've just finished ch 3 ( or part 4) and wanted to share some of my thoughts so far.

Your writing is smooth and easy to read, even in Layla's depression her mind is comfortable to be in, a good thing for fist person narrative.

Some suggestions to take or leave, start with chapter 3... Going off to collge, that's where her story begins. Then you can shadow back to the rest. Don't get me wrong, the first 2 chapters were very well written, this will mos def be a case of cutting your darlings, by I think it could help draw readers in sooner. Although the two scenes I think that should make it into shadow back, the scene with. Psych where she remembers her mom, and when her best friend is with her on the beach and they just sit there. I loved that.

The other suggestion, if you keep the prologue, add a date to it and then to the first chapter, it confused me for a bit. I wondered how much time had past or if it was rewind.

Last suggestion, when describing Durham say the whole place... For a while I thought Durham North Carolina in USA. It's always better for the reader if they are not having to readjust their thinking.

Again these are just suggestions. I really am enjoying this read and will offer more fedback as I continue to read.
Also, I'm commenting from my phone so please disregard strange spell checks,

ChristineL wrote 228 days ago

Beneath The Blossom Tree
Laura Bailey

RCG review for Chapter 1 – 3.

Short and long pitches – very good.

Prologue is touching, the parents' grave, the butterfly and a hint of a happier ending.

The writing style is poetic and contemplative.

In the first three chapters, we are introduced to the main character (Laylla) and supporting characters (Jess, Janet, the Johnson family, Lizzie).

The characterization is another strong point. We feel for Laylla, Jess and even Dr. Holland. They are all just trying to cope as best as they could (two cope with traumatic death of loved ones and one copes with a difficult patient who would not let her in). Although Laylla thinks of herself as not being talkative, she can be, and is more than capable of delivering critical comebacks (seen in her sessions with Janet). This is understandable, Laylla is grieving and in grief, we are seldom at our best.

The plot is about overcoming grief and finding meaning in life. An emotional coming-of-age.

The description is vivid and touching, especially when it comes to memories of the parents. I do like the flashbacks here and there, rationing the back stories instead of dumping them out all at once.

The setting of Durham with its cobbled streets is a treat to read. Regarding location, I'm not quite sure if it is Durham, Ontario, Canada. “University” makes me think that this is either in Europe or Canada. My guess will be England since there are words (such as 'kerb') used in this piece which are not usually used in Canada (I believe we use 'curb').

The writing is generally excellent and error-free. The strength of this manuscript lies on the description of Laylla's inner conflicts. Highly starred. I wish you the best.

Christine Lee
The Summer of Jade Dragon

Sheena Macleod wrote 232 days ago

Laura, I read the first three chapters of your story. It touched me as a reader. Both from a personal perspective and from your own inner life being exposed to the reader. I notice this is based on true life events, it is not easy to be so self aware and honest about yourself. Not everyone possesses the ability to do this. These things, however make us who we are, and you show great strength in telling your story.

The writing is well edited and smooth. The pace is very good. The one edit comment might be to check through and make sure you use a new line for new speakers (there are only a few times you miss this).

The title and cover match perfectly, and it is very poignant regarding the meaning.
It is hard to comment on someones true experiences. the story is yours to tell. I do, however, think you tell it well.

I hope to see this book published.

Sheena
The Popish Plot

P.S.Hope wrote 244 days ago

Beneath the blossom Tree:

RCG

Title/Cover:
I am unsure as to the significance of this title, when I am starting this read. Maybe, somewhere later in the read, I might know the reason for this name. Ok! Now I get it! (from para 5)
The cover image is great. I have a feel that the whole pic is not seen here. I may be wrong!

Pitch:
Short- A beautiful string of words that forecasts something sad in the near future.
Long- Both the leads have been introduced in this and promises to be a great read in the offering. I would pick this book for a read, solely based on the pitches.

Start:
God! I don’t care if I seem childish (I really meant girlish!!! Haha), but, I read the first two lines a couple of times over and over. Beautiful words! If I were ever to write a second book, I would love following your footsteps. End of the first 100 words, u had me crying. (I seldom cry!). I guess, and I wish, this is how each book started.

Characters:
Laylla (lead) is a ‘from-the-start’ likeable character. Jess, Dr. Janet, Mark, Lizzie, mom….. all have their say in this story. Especially the way Laylla recollects about her mom, and the character portrayed (of mom) is sad and, ‘what to say’, as motherly as one wish a mom to be. She has brought life into characters and has definitely given each character their well needed place in this work.

Plot:
Laylla, an orphan by fate, walks us through her life as she searches for support in life. An interesting plot that has a lot in offering.

Dialogue:
I guess this is the normal way in which people communicate. So, I wouldn’t recommend a change.

Show, not tell:
This work is full of such elements. So, who as I to comment on such a great read?

Spelling/punctuation/Grammar:
I am a bit off in this regard. None the less, I found nothing.

CH1:
I wish this chapter was long. It had a sense of gloom all over it, yet, it helped create a great bond with the reader. I felt as if I were under Laylla’s skin.

CH2:
This turns out to be one hell of a monumental weepy. The way u brought about the counselling was great. I felt tears drop down my eyes as I read the line “Janet, I took my exams between taking my mum to the bathroom, nursing her through fits, sweeping her hair from the ground when the chemo took hold, and lying awake in bed each night, just listening, praying for her to take another breath.” You couldn’t have described cancer in much greater way than what u wrote. It is seldom described as to how one feels when they are left alone in the world after their parents die. You made the feelings come to life (be it the uncle or the grandpa)

CH3:
The plot is beginning to take shape and Laylla is definitely heading for college. Also, I felt the stress in the relation b/w Janet and Laylla lessening. Said, unsaid, the author has a definite knack in always taking Laylla’s thoughts towards her mom. And I believe that this makes this read interesting along with her confession that she considers her a mis-fit in college. The way Janet helps Laylla find her place of mental refuge is a beautiful recreation of how a counselling works wonders for a patient. It all seemed a bit familiar, yet humbling.

Tell you what, I don’t feel that this work needs a review. By far, this is the second book I had read on site that had made me cry. Please pardon me for not posting a review. All this wonderful work need is a few backing and a lot of recommendation.

I am unsure as to why this book took so long to reach this high rank. Maybe, one of the few flaws of this site. So, in order to continue my read, I am leaving the critique here and concentrating on the read.

Wishing you the greatest success in having this MS published and thanking you for this wonderful read

Take care
LOL


Moments in this read, when I felt I was lucky enough to read this great read:

A butterfly used to express the feel of freedom.
A feeling someone feels to overwhelm him/her self when standing near the grave of a loved one.
The scent of guilt on seeing the old man in BMW go searching for the parking spot
The sharing of the plimsolls.
“I was the star of a film I didn’t want to be a part of”
Janet guiding Laylla into seeking her place of mental refuge.
Each and every situation in which Laylla remembers her mom. (One of the basic strengths in this read)



Madison A. wrote 248 days ago

♥ RCG Review ♥
Beneath the Blossom Tree | Laura Bailey

Whoa! You weren’t kidding about the initial similarities between our books! The deceased parents, Lizzie not wanting to leave Laylla in the same way Ellie’s brother, Richie, didn’t want to leave her, the mention of taking ‘risks’… But you’re right that they went in drastically different directions after that. ☺

1) Pitch – Short: Intriguing. My interest is piqued. Long: Very descriptive. I feel I’m well-informed of what I’m about to read. The Prologue was nice, too, creating a rich visual image to draw on.

2) Characterization – You draw the people in your story well, so much so, I can’t bring myself to call them characters. And, as this book is based on true life events, I imagine they really are more than characters. Laylla’s pain can truly be felt by the reader, as well as the comfort she receives from Lizzie. I have a friend like Lizzie, so I can identify well with their friendship. I will say I wasn’t fond of Dr. Janet Holland.

3) Plot – Laylla struggles to deal with the premature deaths of her parents, withdrawing into herself. It’s the journey she takes to find herself and find love.

4) Setting – Durham. I particularly thought you did well describing Laylla getting out of the car near Lizzie’s house…the boy chasing the balloon, etc. I was completely immersed in the story.

5) Style/Voice – You are very good in your use of imagery to pull the reader into the story. You have a strong narrative voice that gives an easy flow to each chapter.

6) Dialogue – Flowed well, not stiff or too formal. No issues.

7) Spelling/Punctuation – Chapter 1/…she did not want to inflict herself upon Jess and I. [Should be Jess and me.]
Chapter 1/ I threatened to drop out of school if she persisted, and that, was when we struck our deal. [Remove comma after ‘that’.]

8) Show, Don’t Tell – I thought you did very well in not dumping too much description of Laylla’s past. What little you did mention felt just right to me.

I really enjoyed all that I read and I wish you the all the best.

Madison

Tsupport wrote 250 days ago

Laura,
Beautifully written Prologue gives a glimpse of the story, which is a great hook. You continue beautifully describing the scenes, fox ex. the walks in Durham from the childhood or the Janet’s reaction to her score results. Well-done.
Daria
(Friend of Aneta Bukowiec)

Sarah-Jane wrote 260 days ago


Hi Laura,
I have now read up to the end of chapter 10. The characters, as expected, have continued to develop as their individual relationships become entwined. The way you have written Paul and Laylla's relationship is excellent ,and I think a lot of people who have experienced troubled pasts will attest to being drawn to others who have struggled, subconsciously, and great friendships are borne out of this. The arrival of a love interest, in the form of Jacob, has me hooked, so I will read more over the weekend. I love the flow of the story and the raw emotions portrayed.
Excellent:)
Sarah Jane
Glass Half Full

Sarah-Jane wrote 261 days ago

Hi Laura,
As my reading continues, your book sits on my bookshelf :)
Best wishes
Sarah Jane
Glass Half Full

Kate Steele wrote 261 days ago

I have read up to chapter 3.You describe pain, the visceral, unbearable pain of the bereft, with brutal honesty and eloquence. You write of emotions most of us do not experience until we are a deal older than you were, in a way that we cannot fail to relate to. You remind us how it feels, bring back our own pain, the physical, sharp pain of loss, the episodes of hyperventilation, dry-eyed emptiness, the utter need to feel physical pain to feel alive. I like it best when you are angry, behave badly, pour out your grief. Little details add veracity - the smell of coffee on Dr Holland's breath, her inability to get the register right, her apologetic yet all too clear (in your eyes!) exasperation - with you or with herself?. Ambiguous, I like that.
I am going to make a suggestion - yes, keep the details that show what a happy, lovable child you were (sharing pumps was a great one) - but be wary of using certain images: the butterfly, for example, does not work for me (though it may for others - this is purely subjective on my part); for me it is just on the edge of cloying - please forgive me if I sound offensive and arrogant, it really is not my intention. The cleansing effect of the cold sea does work , however. I always get a stabbing sensation in in my throat when I wade into cold water, it takes my breath away.). Let your actions and the dialogue, the stream of consciousness and the moody atmosphere do the work for you. Resist the superfluous. You really do not need it.
You write fluently, from the heart, and some of the prose is heart-breaking without being in the slightest way sentimental. That should be your goaI. I am feeling quite choked up, have shed tears - high stars. I will be back.

Kate Steele, Is That All There Is

Carlabear wrote 263 days ago

RCG Review for Under the Blossom Tree

Hi Laura, I'm so sorry this has taken so long for me to complete. No reflection on your book of course - I really enjoyed it. RCG review below xx

Love the title and the cover.
Pitch: I like how you’ve used a quote for your short pitch and that’s what drew me in to your story. The first sentence of your long pitch almost put me off to be honest. I thought, do I really want to read a harrowing story? I want some lurrve! But I liked the sound of the rest of it and Jacob sounds interesting.
Characterisation:
Laylla: We really get to know Laylla intimately and see the world completely through her eyes. I really cared for her and found her back story absorbing and moving.
Jess: Reading down some of your other comments, I noticed that Jess was seen in quite a negative light by most readers, but I like Jess. I think it’s understandable that she has her own life and concentrates on Paul. I thought it was a nice moment when she gets into bed with Laylla on Christmas morning.
Lizzie: Lizzie seemed really nice at first but I am disappointed and confused by the change in their friendship once they start university.
Genaya: I thought Genaya was going to be a scary bitch when she first appeared so I was really pleased when she turned into a really lovely best friend for Laylla.
Paul: All round nice guy, bit of a tart. I like Paul but I don’t want him to get with Laylla. He’s good as a friend I think.
Jacob: Oooh Jacob sounds lush! I love the way he’s all silent and strong and mysterious. I love the whole love at first sight, powerful connection stuff and the fact that they don’t get together immediately.
Setting: In the beginning, I felt like your settings served to highlight how Laylla was feeling. I loved the whole university setting with the shared rooms in halls of residence and then how she moves on to a shared house. I especially love the lectures when Jacob appears!
Show don’t tell: I felt like the first few chapters were told rather than shown, but this is Laylla telling us her story and we get a real insight into her world and the reasons why she is like she is. I felt like there was more showing once Jacob appears.
Spelling and Punctuation:
Chapter 5: Paul’s speaking: … but my parents where somewhere else that day … where should be were
Chapter 6: I was confused by the last but one paragraph. She says: I agreed to go back to his room, and just like that, we slept together. And then it goes on to say: We didn’t make love. I didn’t and don’t feel good about it. But in the midst of everything, to have him touch my body and really desire me, I couldn’t resist. At first I read it as they did do it, and then they didn’t, and then that she did do it because she couldn’t resist. But after a couple of reads, I decided she feels bad because she didn’t do it with him but liked that he wanted her so much. I just think this might benefit from being a little clearer.
Chapter 7:
One b in Robins
Chapter 8: I started [to] accept invitations to nights [out] –
I didn’t stop waited for the pain to take revenge – should this be waiting for the pain?
Chapter 11: The fear I hadn’t et get a hold of me … L missing from let.
Insert comma before name Jacob: Who the hell do you think you are, Jacob?
I really feel for him when she says he is strange :o(

Chapter 12 – The tense changes from past to present – Matthew is Paul’s friend … I figure …
I’d rush home from class and make Mum and Dad listened to the piece … change to listen
I found the bit where she play the piano and Jacob walks in really moving.

Chapter 13 – … and throw something in the microwave something for dinner – Get rid of second something
He had imperfections, but imperfections that were beautiful me – insert to before me.

Things I loved:
I loved the Priests’ explanations of why people die in in chapter 5 when Paul and Laylla are talking. I think these are really comforting thoughts for people who have lost someone.
Chapter 9, I loved the introductions in class when Jacob puts his hands up and says his greatest fear is love and Laylla feels like he read her mind.
Chapter 12 – Laylla’s memories of her father in the snow were lovely. I also liked the way you say “the sky made it snow for us.”
Was gutted when it ended with Laylla refusing to go out with Jacob! I’d love to read more. I really enjoyed this and although I started to read it and then had a massive break and then came back to post this review, I never actually forgot your characters or stopped caring about them. My only worry is whether it takes to long for Jacob to appear in the story. Would some readers find that a bit too slow and lose interest? For me, who grew up reading stuff like Thorn Birds where we’re taken through the whole of Maggie’s childhood before we get a hint of rumpy pumpy, it’s not a problem and I liked the extra depth. Thank you for writing – Under the Blossom Tree is a really lovely read.

Carla Burgess
Way off Track

Sarah-Jane wrote 264 days ago

Hi Laura,

I have read the first 4 chapters of 'Beneath the blossom tree'. The short and the long pitch are very effective at engaging the readers interest.
Your portrayal of Laylla coping with such a traumatic life event is superbly done. The pace matches the way emotions roll during an event like that, and for a young person in that situation the emotional roller-coaster is a turbulent ride. The writing is clear and concise, and the character development is un-rushed and invites you in to meet the cast - excellent.
High stars and a backing very soon whilst reading continues!
take care
Sarah Jane
Glass Half Full

KathrynW wrote 282 days ago

I've read the Prologue and chapter 1 and have been impressed by the strong narrative voice and the deceptively easy to read style - it takes a lot of work to smooth sentences out so that they have clarity and beauty. I like the emotional content, and the opening scene at the graveside which engages the reader's interest and sympathy.

I wasn't too keen on the 'newborn butterfly', because butterflies are not born as such, they metamorphosise. I also found that you sometimes shift tense. An example of this is the third paragraph of chapter 1, where the first sentence is in the pluperfect, the second sentence is in the present and the third sentence is in the past tense. These are nitpicks. Overall, I really like your writing and your pacing of the story: not over wordy but not rushed either.

Best wishes

Kathryn
Highway Code
Waters of Grace

Jjkendrick wrote 288 days ago

This is an RCG review of Beneath the Blossom Tree by Laura Bailey

Hi Laura,  I like your story; loss from cancer is a subject close to my heart.  The fact that it is based on true events makes it even more of a draw. I find Laylla's voice to be warm and inviting. She is easy to like. My greatest criticism would be with the pace of the story seeming a bit slow. I found my mind wandering at various times.  Maybe consider working some more of the story in with added action to keep the reader focused. Again, that may be just me. I have no training so take my opinions with a grain of salt. (and perhaps a margarita.)

Your short pitch is poignant and speaks to the emotion of the story. 
your long pitch sets the tale up nicely, leaving the reader a clear idea of what to expect.  You need a comma before the first "but".  I don't think I would start a sentence with "but" either, especially in a pitch.  I know it's acceptable, yet I still have a problem with it. Could just be me, but I would probably start that sentence with "Unfortunately" or "To her dismay."

Prologue/Chapter 1
I am finding almost nothing in the way of grammar or punctuation issues. Kudos.
Prologue sets the tone of the story nicely. It's clear we are in for some heartache along with some joy.

Chapter 2/1
"Now more than ever, I enjoy....."  You've changed tense for this paragraph. i would rewrite and keep past tense.
"You'd hope so."  thoughts should be in italics.
"Do you want to go..."  I think this should be up with the line above since the Dr. is the one still talking.
"I ran down the steps to the beach, and (uncover). Not sure what you mean here.

Chapter 3/2
I'm not sure why you used caps here, it doesn't seem warranted.
I don't think you need commas around "or"
"had your attention not (have) been allocated elsewhere. Should take out "have"

Chapter 4/3
Don't understand the use of caps again.
"she (was) sat up in her bed."  remove "was"
I very much like the interaction between the students.  It's interesting and picks up the pace of the story. The reader feels empathy for Lallya and finds themself rooting for her and a happy ending. You've done a great job creating a personal character who is easy to connect with.

BeeJoy wrote 298 days ago

Oh wow. I was in tears over this. Lol. You made this sound so believable and true. I am in love with this book. I am recommending it to some froends. Great job girl. Love the cover too!

Elizabeth Kathleen wrote 302 days ago

Hi Laura, I've read a couple chapters of your book and found it very interesting. It was a nicely written book and flowed along very well. I'm sure had a nice time writing it as you remembered these things happening in your life. It's not easy to do things we're not comfortable with and take on challenges - but you've done it. I hope all goes well for you in your life!
God bless you!!
Elizabeth Kathleen
"The Sticks and Stones of Hannah Jones"
"If Children are Cheaper by the Dozen, Can I Get a Discount on Six?"

GCleare wrote 317 days ago

RCG Review - I found the start of this to be slow going, but once it got rolling along with the therapy scenes and then university, I was hooked and read through chapter 9. There are quite a few grammatical issues with the writing that I think are probably due to local differences... things like "she was sat on the bed" (would be "was sitting" in the US), and "he was different to the others" (would be "different from" in the US). Nice job on the development of Laylla as the MC, lots of showing instead of telling. I did wonder why she is so dramatically affected by her parents deaths, considering she is an adult herself, done with college and ready to be out on her own. My nephew lost his parents both within a year of each other when he was 18 and he was old enough to move past it...is living his own life as they do at that age. I felt Laylla responds as a much younger person would, unless I missed something about her story that comes out later in the book. Maybe we need some hints about this early on in the book? Good luck with this! x Gail

carol jefferies wrote 319 days ago

Hi Laura,

Beneath the Blossom Tree

I much enjoyed reading your book and was captivated by your story-telling from the first page.

The prologue is so poignant and I was relieved to discover she had a sister, Jess. I liked the end of it implying she was destined to be with someone, and I wondered who.

The opening chapter with Laylla and Jess attending counselling is so realistic. Laylla's hostility is understandable. I felt so sorry for her feeling so alone, especially when she gets her results and then begins university.

The only piece of criticism for me personally, would be when Paul tells Laylla about the priest at the wake of his sister, Sophie's funereal explaining that his sister was chosen by God to die. The randomness of death is baffling but part of grief and can't be explained away. Considering Paul was only seven at the time perhaps it helped him at the time.

My book 'The Witch of Fleet Street' is about a recently bereaved 16 year old orphan, but as I received some negative feedback when I included some details about her grieving process, I have glossed over it to some extent.
Your story makes me wonder if I should have ignored such criticism.

I am backing your book because I could not put it down.

Carol Jefferies
(The Witch of Fleet Street)

R. Dango wrote 320 days ago

This story read like a non-fiction. Convincing with visual details, and the characters all well described.
In chapter 1, I was confused momentarily how many people were present at the grave site, and whose arm did she fell back on. I suppose that it cannot be her brother-in-law's as he hasn't got three arms but I had to read that part over after the ending line.
The scene with the counsellor is extremely well written. I could even visualize the room even though it was not described. I suppose that it was the conversation which made it so real. The stubborn reaction of Laylla to the counselor somehow made her feel more vulnerable and made me sympathize so much with her. On the other hand, I felt the parking lot scene to be tiny bit long. But it is just my feeling and others may not share it.
So far I have read three chapters and I have enjoyed reading it.

R

Nepalwriter wrote 323 days ago

Whew! A lot of deep emotion here! You've written of her grief in a very touching manner. The reader can certainly feel her pain and her intense anger. The description of her mom in the wheelchair was outstanding.

You definitely pull the reader in. I really care about Laylla and want to know what happens to her. Excellent characterization

Rather than comment more on how very good the story is as others have already done, I'd like to offer a few constructive remarks. I find these more helpful in reviews.

Another reader commented on word repetition of "strolling." I noticed a number of places in the first 2 chapters such as "girl" 4 times within a few lines and "Jess and I" 4 times in a paragraph. Two of those should have been "Jess and me". Inflict herself on Jess and me." "Let Jess and me take care of her."

A number of times, you use "have" and "had" when it would be cleaner to eliminate them. "I have bought two bunches." Just say "I bought." "I have longed for them." Just say "I longed for them." "I had hardly spoken" Just say "I hardly spoke."

"Count me in," she beamed with the smile of .... Beamed can't be used as a speech tag.

"Built a building to compliment death and his callous attitude toward life." Built building is a bit repetitious. Also I missed who "HIS " is referring to.

These are all nit picking. I'm just trying to make strong writing even more powerful! You've got a very good thing going here.

Linda author of Everest Whispers.


Brian G Chambers wrote 323 days ago

Laura
This is exactly how first person stories should read. You have done a beautiful job of this. The prologue had me reminiscent of my daughter Fiona visiting the grave of our grandson, Linus, every week. She speaks to him whenever she visits him. She tells him everything that happens in her life and to his twin Tilly, what she's been doing lately and how she is progressing. Then your first chapter was just as moving. Your writing is superb. You write with such feeling and passion, it reads almost like a true story. Truly believable. This will go down very well with women of all ages. Though I think you should give a warning at the beginning for them to keep the tissues handy. Overall an excellent piece of work and it deserves the six stars I am giving it. Also a place on my WL until I can find a place for it on my shelf.
Brian.
PS Thank you for the support of my stories.

flygurl wrote 325 days ago

Laura, your book is a breathe of fresh air. The dialogue, even when the MC is just thinking out loud (ie. about her philosophy on suicide or her feelings in general), is perfectly conversational and relatable. Laylla gives us hope that there are smiles, life and a meaningful existence after loss and tragedy. We don't like her sister, but she is interesting and provides a good contrast to the MC. All of your characters are very well developed. The pop culture references are fun and again add a nice contrast to the book. The pace and flow of the book is perfect. Finally, your writing is near flawless. Excellent work!

Jo Heslop wrote 334 days ago

RCG Review – Beneath the Blossom Tree

I somehow managed to delete my notes on your book, so I hope I cover everything :)

Love the book cover and the title of your book, when you read the book you realise the true meaning behind it.

Nice use of a quote in your short pitch. The long pitch gives just enough away. Reading it back, after having read all the chapters on here, I’m not so sure about the start of the third paragraph. Nowhere else to turn, she enrols in university ... it’s as if this is a last resort, like she doesn't want it. When in truth, it was a promise she made to her Mum, so maybe mention that?

Laylla – Guarded, with good reason, but also immensely strong, having coped with what she has at such a young age. A well written character.
Jess/Mark – I'm glad you didn’t feel the need to make Jess mollycoddle Laylla. They are so self-absorbed, it forces Laylla to stand on her own two feet.
Lizzie – I warmed to her initially, the way she comforts Laylla when she loses her parents. So close, that they don’t feel the need to talk to each other after she cries. After they leave for university, I begin to dislike her immensely. I know how easy it can be to lose touch when you move off to university, I've been there, but she practically abandons her. Again it forces her to move forward with her life and not hold on to her past.

Jacob – the chapters you have uploaded don’t really give that much of his story away. He seems like an intense character, with your descriptions of the staring and his mood swings. There is something about him that seems to draw you in. It reminded me a little of the initial meetings between Bella and Edward in the Twilight book. (Sorry, big fan of those books :) )

The prologue made me well up, its beautifully written. The last few sentences hook you, you want to read more about her journey and find out who he is.

Being an avid reader, I have rarely found a book that moves me to the point of tears. Your story did, from the moment I began reading. My tears didn’t stop until I reached chapter four and began again when I read Paul’s story. The section where he tells her about the priest was so moving, something I will always remember.

You give a great insight into her thoughts, at the beginning when she visits the counsellor.

I don’t remember coming across any spelling/punctuation errors. I personally don’t like the capitalisation at the opening of each chapter. When I clicked to the next page and read the first line in a chapter, my mind automatically starts shouting. With a delicate story like this, I think it would be better to have something softer, maybe try bolding the first sentence of each chapter?

This is a fabulous book and I would be keen to read the whole thing. If you ever upload any more chapters, let me know. I’m dying to find out how things develop between Laylla and Jacob. (If thats how things play out? I hope so)

Backed and well worth a read. Wish you the best of luck!

Jo Heslop







Pippa Whitethorn wrote 334 days ago

I wouldn't describe this as an enjoyable read - it is emotional, upsetting and sometimes difficult to read, but this is exactly what it should be. It is a great book. I like Laylla - you have written her very well - her anger comes across in the therapy sessions and her pain is so well described that it makes you feel it too. She is a very sympathetic character. The prologue is good as it lets the reader know that Laylla eventually reaches a point where she has come to terms with things and has found someone to give her the support she deserves. Without this the beginning of your story would be much harder to read.

I made a couple of notes as I read, but not many as your writing was so good. Feel free to ignore these if they're not helpful.

You had 'strolling the cobbled streets....strolling beneath the....strolling by the river' in three sentences in the first chapter and I wondered if that was a bit too much.
I wondered how Jess knew where Laylla had parked.
I don't think you need 'I explained' after 'this stuff doesn't work on me.'
'I reignited the car' - I haven't heard this phase before - it sounds like you're setting fire to it - but maybe it's one I've just not come across before.
I loved the bit where she shares her plimsolls with her friend so they have one each.
In chapter 4 you had 'I was weary that he might interpret...' I think it should be wary.

All that is really minor though. Your book made me cry when I read it, so it must be well done.

Good luck with this

Pippa

Alice Barron wrote 339 days ago

I wondered what the significance of the blossom tree was and now that I realise what it is I think it is quite beautiful to have the bodies of both parents underneath the blossom tree. They sort of live on here in this idyllic spot. The blossom tree may wither and fade but never die and will bloom continuously each year. It's just lovely and a very beautiful tribute to the parents.
Laylla obviously misses her parents very much. What a terrible tragedy to lose both of them so young. I know no age is the right age to bid farewell to a much loved parent but some ages can deal with it a little bit easier than other ages.
You have crafted a very moving story and also a very enjoyable read. I haven't read all of what you have here but I am keen to read on so I am placing your book on my watchlist.

You may like to look at this in chapter one.........Sometimes I make small talk with my parents, just as I would if they were alive. I'll tell them about the my day.....you need to drop the or my from this sentence.

In chapter two I just wondered if you need in her hair in the sentence......A seventeen year old girl, with long dark curls in her hair. Would it work better without those words.
Well done, Laura. High stars.

Alice.

Fontaine wrote 350 days ago

What a terrific start to a book. I was very moved and then there is that extremely intriguing and hopeful sentence at the end. I have to read on.

Cathy Hardy wrote 352 days ago

Sorry to take so long to get back,

Anyway. Good opening. Love the quote and you have written your story very well, can't spot any errors.

The death of the parents was told well and was very sad, and you get a good feel for the characters really quickly.

Laylla is quite broken, but you can still sense her fighting spirit, particularly by her cynical attitude towards the counseller.

I haven't got to the love story yet or the A level results, which I presume were ok, which is nothing short of a miracle. I know how hard it is to study with such awful distractions.

I liked the character of Lizzie and her relationship with Laylla. e.g. "the curls of her hair entwined with mine."
Your writing does have a poetry to it and I shall read on. High stars!

Bea Sinclair wrote 352 days ago

RCG review. Based on chapters 1-5 (Inc)
I have read and backed this book in the past so I thought I would revisit "Beneath the Blossom Tree"
I love the short pitch but I feel the long pitch gives away rather too much of the story and could be abridged.
The story is told by Laylla, in the first person.
In chapter 1 we are introduced to a sad but accepting, contented Laylla. As chapter two opens however the reader sees that Laylla was not always philosophical about her plight. The other characters (her sister, Mark and Lizzie in particular) are also affected and I like the way the author shows their good intentions towards one another but also demostrates how inadequate the consolation actually is. I also like the the way Laylla's internal anger comes over in the writing. Her university experience of feeling alone within the crowd and Paul's revellations about his own family bereavement are well handled-I liked the priest's affirming stories.
The small-town setting in the beginning of "Beneath the Blossom Tree" is given just enough description. The theme which hits me throughout is one of growing acceptance of self and circumstance. The writing style is confident and straightforward, there is some powerful imagery in description of the town, the cemetery, the Dr's waiting room etc but this in well scattered throughout in between action and dialogue.
Dialogue is well used, giving a flavour of NE England without cliche and stereotypes. Spelling and punctuation is good throughout, I noticed only one typo. As I have already given this book high stars, I can only add that it is a good read. Yours Bea

Kathy K G wrote 355 days ago

I've read all the chapters you've uploaded and found myself wishing for more. You've created an intriguing pairing with Laylla and Jacob. Both are intensely private and almost prickly characters who appear perfect for one another. Laylla's initial attraction/aversion to Jacob seems a little odd, almost forced, especially since you have her hooking up (almost) with two men for whom she feels nothing but physical attraction. Perhaps it's because it's based on true life events, but there is a definite memoir feel to this story. In a way you're almost writing historical fiction, and I've found in my own writing that sometimes the desire to express an historical 'truth' can get in the way of the story. There were times, for me at least, when some of the details of Laylla's life slowed the narrative. But of course that's only a personal preference.

I truly enjoyed this story and read everything you posted here. High stars from me and I'm keeping it on my wl in the hopes you add more!

Kathy

Andrew Esposito wrote 356 days ago

Beneath the Blossom Tree is a gut wrenching journey that is lovingly written by the author. There is a lot of insight into the lives of the parents and how the orphaned Laylla and Jess cope with life after death. It is a touching account where the use of a social worker enables the reader to understand the background and the needs of Laylla much better. It's an easy read that offers hope to a healing family suffering a great loss.

The use of 'foils' in the Prologue didn't sound quite right to me, perhaps this is a localized term. I kind of liked the capitalization on the first sentence of each new Chapter. It is more likely not to appeal to many readers because it has an effect of 'screaming' at the reader. Other than this, I think your writing is well constructed.

Laura, your novel is deeply personal - it did entice me to read on as if you were confiding in me as a personal friend. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish you much success. Best regards, Andrew Esposito / Killing Paradise

AlexandraMahanaim wrote 357 days ago

Beneath the Blossom Tree

I really like how you compare bravery to butterfly getting out of the cocoon. This story is really down to earth, a personal struggle with grief. It shows that Laylla chose to move on. I like her first days in college and that she is making friends. It makes me return to my own time in college and I recall meeting my roommate for the first time: good times. I like Paul and so happy for him being there for Laylla.

I really like that your title concentrate the story on the love for her parents. Somehow it is comforting that her parents reunite in death strangely dying in a similar fashion and lying together beneath the blossom tree…

I read prologue and three chapters and find your writing relaxing and informative.

Few little things that caught my eyes, nothing big, though:
Chapter 1:
In paragraph starting with “No, honestly[,] Laylla…”
Chapter 2:
In paragraph starting with “That’s a good thing[,] Lizzie…” Please note that there are other dialogues that follow that don’t have commas around a person addressed in dialogue.

Thank you for sharing your story,
Alexandra Mahanaim
Return to Eternity
Love story—symbolic approach to creation

KMac23 wrote 359 days ago

Laura,
I’m glad you asked me to look over your added chapters. I reread your work and remember why I liked this story as much as I did. Your character Laylla feels very real to me, in her counseling session, her move to the University and the time she spends with her new roommate. She meets Paul who can identify with her feelings of loss. I like the bond they share with each other. They make good friends. She develops relationships with the other girls at the school and begins to find her way.

I read your new chapters. I'm not sure what to think of Jacob and Laylla's meetings. They have a bit of a strange chemistry when they are around each other. I’m not sure where this is going as he comes across as safe and protective of Laylla, yet at times not.

She makes the mistake of going with Mathew to his room and finds her way out of that. When she did that it seemed out of character as I viewed her as intelligent and not quick to jump in to things with men. Her time with Jacob afterward was awkward. She seemed mixed up as to who the guy was, and I felt bad for him as he was acting as if he cared. It did leave for intriguing possibilities. Your book is interesting. I like the story and would like to know more about Jacob. I wish you well.

Kara
A Gate Called Beautiful

Bell52 wrote 369 days ago

I found your story sad but interesting. It has great potential but feel it could do with a good edit. You get carried away sometimes and some things dont make sense. Also a tip that i've been told - dont write "shrugged her shoulders", just put shrugged. Dont put "nodded her head", just put nodded. I look forward to reading more.
Michelle Read
Long Lost

Charles Knightley wrote 378 days ago

BENEATH THE BLOSSOM TREE
Laura Bailey

I found this an engaging story. The prologue was sad but expected from the pitch, we were warned it was a harrowing tale.

The book was easy to read and well written. The editing was good, I have no criticism about punctuation etc. Well done.

Highly starred and waiting for some space to back the book.

Charles Knightley
The Secret of Netley Abbey


Jennie Lyne Hiott wrote 378 days ago

I gave the first two chapters a read today. I love the title and your main character is easy to love. It is beautifully written, descriptive but not overly. I did see a few sentences that seemed out of place in the paragraphs, but you may find those when you edit again. So, far I think this book is well-written and inviting. High stars.

Good luck and have a blessed day,
Jennie Lyne Hiott
Hearts and Lies

Michelle Richardson wrote 381 days ago

Laura, your writing and timing was perfect. I cried at the end of the first chapter and forgot I was reading a book
on Authonomy. The way you describe so vividly both the emotion and the others around the MC was excellent. I will return to read more and have no hesitation in backing this.
Best of luck with it x
Michelle

B A Morton wrote 382 days ago

Beneath the Blossom Tree

Firstly, I love this title.

This is beautifully written with a skilful first person narrative enabling the reader to be carried along by this poignant tale. The prose is simple yet very expressive. The opening at the graveside was so emotional yet by contrast the interchange with the counsellor was understated and witty.

Laylla was immediately likeable with her openness in both in dialogue and internal thoughts. It was easy to get caught up in her life and want her to make the right decisions.
I also enjoyed the setting as I know Durham well.

There were a few little things that I spotted as I read. Please ignore if you don’t agree.

I felt the capitalization at the beginning of chapters was a little jarring for such a gentle piece.

How about blossom petals rather than blossom flakes?
And pink and cream blooms, so you don’t have repetition of the word petals?

Jess says she’ll wait in the car...how does she know where it is? Laylla parked it after she left.

As I note from your bio that it’s based on true facts. I do hope it has a happy ending.

A lovely story, Laura. Sprinkled with stars.

Best of luck with it.

Babs


Maevesleibhin wrote 382 days ago

Beneath the blossom tree.
I read everything that you posted.
In general, I think that this is a well-written and compelling, character driven story. You have excellent first-person character development, and an entertaining group of supporting characters which, although perhaps not as well-developed, are strong props for your main character.
And the plot is compelling enough to have kept me reading to the end of the posting.
You're clearly a very good writer, and your skill shines through in the section, particularly in the early chapters. This having been said, I feel that you could make your story stronger by being faster in some ways, and slower in others. By faster I mean get from the hook in the beginning of the book, which is where we see her as an orphan, to the place you're taking me to at the very end of the posting, where she meets a potential love interest, faster. By slower, I mean, avoid a lot of the summarization which features heavily in several of the chapters, and focus of descriptions and dialogues.
Hook and plot- I often object to prologues as a matter of principle. They are often not necessary and I think in your case you could do without it. I would recommend starting right on chapter one.
The first few chapters hook very well. I found the death of both her parents and her vulnerability very compelling. I loved the careful description of her driving around prior to her appointment. I found her talk with her therapist was quite moving.
The plot, which I found compelling in the first few chapters, as a whole dragged a bit for me after she went off to university. This is neither here nor here, as this is a character-driven book, but a bit more plot development would have kept me better focused. The main plot component seems to be her losing connections with her old life and establishing ones in her new one, plus the love triangle with Paul and Joshua. This kind of plot has a certain inevitability to it - I could be wrong, but I guess Paul will wind up with the girl. Again, the plot is really a backdrop to CD, so perhaps it does not matter too much. But I feel that if you focus a bit more on her internal conflicts the plot would be a bit more compelling.
Character development- you have outstanding character development of your MC. I think part of your success comes from showing her at vulnerable and less vulnerable times. The psychologist's appointments I found very successful.
I was a little disappointed with the Cd of the supporting characters, particularly the sister, who starts out as very interesting and then becomes rather plastic. I understand that this is part of the point, that she and the best friend big go shallow, thus isolating her further. But the shallowness went beyond the character to the CD itself.
Paul is the remaining character with something going for him, but he, too, seems to be struggling between the profundity of his own family struggles and the superficiality of student life.
Ambience and descriptions. Descriptions do not stand out in my memory of this reading very strongly. However, I would not say they are badly done. They're just understated. I don't feel like I have a very strong image of what the University looks like, the coffee shop where she gets her coffee on a daily basis, or even her home. I have a pretty decent sense of the park, but I feel that I'm filling in the gaps to a great extent. I think you would have little difficulty adding a little bit of padding to the descriptions if you felt like it. I think it might make the reading a little richer.
Writing and mechanics. As I mentioned earlier, I found that sometimes you revert to summarizing's rather than sticking to descriptions and dialogue, which are more compelling and interesting. I would urge you just avoid doing this as it makes for less interesting reading. As far as mechanics are concerned, I did not find very many typos or grammatical errors. I think the writing is quite strong.
Again, I think this is a successful novel so far and I am enjoying reading it. I would definitely keep reading if there were more material posted. I think that I would want you to focus a bit more on the plot's development in the later part of the posting, or bring it much tighter to your main character's character development.
Best of luck with it,
Maeve

Seringapatam wrote 385 days ago

Laura, Brilliant read. Software is correct, this is not for the feint-hearted but it needs to be read. I love the narrative voice in this book and as I read it I soon understood that it was this alone that got me hooked at such an early stage of the read. You describe things so well and that again grabbed me. Your flow when you are delivering the book is first class and when you put all the above you have a good well written book. So so well done and I will be watching this from the side lines.
Sean Connolly. British Army on the Rampage. (B.A.O.R) Please consider me for a read or watch list wont you?? Many thanks. Sean

rikasworld wrote 396 days ago

It's good to read about Durham (I live nearby so I know it well). You describe the city beautifully. This is a very emotive read, seventeen is way too young to lose parents and be left to cope alone. I admire your heroine's approach to therapy. Maybe crying helps but I'm not convinced. Finding a place in the mind to feel happy and secure must be a good thing though. Closing up a parent's house is hard at any age. I'm glad at least that she has her place at uni. a future that will help her.
I thought this was very well written.
Just a couple of minor edits. Her parents should 'lie' in their grave, not lay in it. I also wondered in Ch. 2 exactly which beach she was at when she left Durham.

Software wrote 466 days ago

This is not for the feint-hearted. It may be positioned as romantic fiction but it has the distinct feel of stark reality. Beneath the Blossom Tree has been beautifully constructed to reveal the sad and poignant account of the main protagonist, Laylla Jonson. There are no knights in shining armour coming to her rescue here. This girl has to battle through multiple tragedies, become self-reliant, respond to the vagaries of the world she inhabits, and take challenges head-on. Though incomplete, when Laura Bailey develops the remainder of the work, it will result in a very good cover to cover novel. Highly starred, WL'ed and when complete will be on my bookshelf.

Clive Radford
Doghouse Blues

sherit wrote 482 days ago

Without your pitch, I wouldn't have a real clue where this is headed, but I do like your characters and they way you right. I have to be honest, this is hard for me to read in parts because my sister died of cancer three years ago and I was with her at hospice a lot at the end. I'll be back for more, but may take me longer. All the best,
Sheri / Crazy Quilt

Wussyboy wrote 488 days ago

Well, you can certainly write, Laura, and your book is edited to a very high degree, I found very few typos. Laylla is a very well-drawn and sympathetic character, and there is a lot of good stuff in the first 9 chapters. But I'll be quite honest, the book only leapt to life for me in chapter ten, when the 'true romance' of this romance book finally started to happen. 'Love at first sight', well, it worked for me, excellently written and (imvho) should be brought forward MUCH earlier! (as Mindy has already suggested). As to the rest, a lot of what I wanted to say has been voiced by other commentators. Will you be doing an edit shortly, I'd be pleased to read again.
Starring this highly.

Joe Kovacs
He ain't Heavy, He's my Buddha

Mindy Haig wrote 489 days ago

Hi Laura,
I read all of you uploaded chapters today. I really like the premise. I think Laylla is a good character. I like the interaction with the Doctor, and Laylla's interpretation of how the therapy works with the crying. (Personally, from a family experience I think she is right). I think my main criticism Is just simply that it takes too long to get to Jacob (and then you cut me off right when we did!) Clearly this love that is nearly instantaneous is the main story of the book, but 10 chapters is quite a long way in. Not that I think you need to change the order, but I thought there were things that the reader already had a good grasp of that didn't need so much detail. (Lizzie moved on, Jess was getting married, classes were harder for Laylla than for some of the others...). I liked Paul telling his story, and as a reader, I sort of wanted them to hit it off, so her rejection of him I thought was too harsh, too public. That may be intentional, and it may be clear why it was so later in the book, but with only so much to go on, I thought it was a bit cold. Anyway, I thought it was very well written. I enjoyed what you have here.
All the best!
Mindy
The Wishing Place
Glory

Littleredriley wrote 489 days ago

High stars ;0)
Highly polished and sucked me right in. I'd like to say i love this, but i find it to sad to love ;0(
I've added you to my WL as i need to know whats going to happen.

Great writing, keep it up

Claire C Riley
Limerence

sherit wrote 493 days ago

Hi dear...I started reading and will be back to read some more but before i forget...just one thing stuck out to me...When Jess leaves Dr. Holland's office she says she'll wait for her sister in the car...but how does she know where the car is, since she was dropped off while Laylla drove around looking for a space? just f yi.

Sheri / Crazy Quilt

Suzi F wrote 494 days ago

Hi Laura

This was a very interesting read. I've only read the first two chapters but was engaged in Laylla's narrative and her emotional, internal struggle with her grief. I liked the dialogue in Janet Holland's office, where I felt the story flowed well and moved at a good pace. You gave just enough information to convey the situation and especially Laylla's hostility .
I wonder at other times if you try to give the reader too much information too soon in the story. And although you set the scenes well, some of your description seems a bit repetitive and detracts from the pace of the plot. I found myself skimming over these parts as I had already understood the mood and feelings you were trying to convey and I felt it could have been edited.
This is a poignant story and a subject which is highly intriguing. Best of luck with it.
Teresa
Love, Suzi x




Suzi F wrote 495 days ago

Hi Laura.
Thank you so much for backing Love, Suzi x. Will have a look at Beneath the Blossom Tree, asap.
Teresa

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