The Tortoise Website

The Tortoise Website
Click on image to go to Author website. "THE RACE IS NOT TO THE SWIFT." Eccl. 9:11

Monday, 30 January 2012

Review of A Bit of A Do by David Nobbs

A Bit of A Do by David Nobbs is about two middle-aged couples whose long-term marriages break down.

In a series of six hilarious social gatherings they and their relations and friends interact with one another as they try to rebuild their shattered lives.

David Nobbs is a very witty writer and he handles these sensitive and moving issues with assurance.

Although I enjoyed this excellent book, towards the end I found that some of Nobbs’ humorous repetitive devices wore a little thin and thus would not bear rereading. However, it is well worth reading once.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Review of An Embarrassing Odour by Andrew Biss

An Embarrassing Odour is such a skilfully written story that Andrew Biss had me completely fooled by the outcome. I was convinced I knew the answer to the embarrassing odour halfway through the story but the humorous twist in the tale came as a complete surprise.

Ethel is a smelly old woman of seventy eight, or is she? Andrew Biss will keep you guessing right to the end in this extremely accomplished story from the pen of a master short story writer.

Told with characteristic wit, this story comes from the collection Strange Tales of the Curiously Uncommon. If An Embarrassing Odour is anything to go by then Andrew Biss has produced yet another superb short story collection. Highly recommended.

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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Solar Panel Panic Mark 2

Wednesday 07 December 2011 continued

After the Solar Panels were installed on our roof, Mrs. Tortoise happened to glance up at the ceiling of our study room and saw a wet patch above her head. More panic as we investigated in the loft and discovered that the roof was leaking through a large hole in the inner felt.

The builders came and filled up the hole in the felt with filler. I emailed to the Solar installation company to say that this quick fix was not enough and that the leak from the roof needs to be investigated.

Mrs. Tortoise told me about a second hole in the felt and I was annoyed with her because she hadn’t told me about it and she hadn’t insisted that it was filled when the builders were here.
The solar installation company told me that the Solar Panel fitters were in located in Manchester and that the local team would only be trained by the beginning of January!

I replied that the other hole needs to be filled now. But this was not the end of the story or the resolution of our leaking roof.

Our nerves were frayed today. We went to buy some paint for our new conservatory but Mrs. Tortoise irritated me by changing her mind as soon as we walked out into the car park!
Mrs. Tortoise and I were arguing and upset with each other the whole day as a result of the leaking roof. We tried to watch some TV to take our minds off the problem but as soon as we turned off the TV Mrs. Tortoise began going over the same issues again. I couldn’t stand it and escaped to bed.
I woke in the night and repented of my behaviour and attitude towards Mrs. Tortoise. I determined to be more patient with her on the morrow.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Masterly Collection by an Excellent Writer

In Andrew Biss’s  superb collection of short stories The Impressionists there are six stories.

The first one is called Big Girl and is about Peggy who weighs in at a colossal 276 pounds. It is uncanny the way Andrew Biss has got so completely into the mind of an overweight woman and so accurately conveys her angst. At the end of the story I felt a sincere empathy with her and her plight, so brilliantly does Andrew Biss portray her. That he can convey such angst both with wit and empathy is remarkable. That she quotes from Nietzsche, Henry David Thoreau, Confucius, William Shakespeare, Andre Gide and Quentin crisp is a reflection of the erudition of the author, I think.  Yet these quotations are woven so seamlessly into the story that they do not seem out of place.

The story contains some swear words, which I wouldn’t normally like, but in this story Peggy is justified in expressing her feelings in this way and if you read this brilliant story and you definitely should, then you will see that they are perfectly justified within the context of the story.
This lead story reminds me of A Ball of Fat by Guy de Maupassant and like that story it is worth the price of the book, a meagre couple of pounds or dollars, all by itself. The other five stories in the collection are a bonus and what a bonus they are.

The second story is called The Replica. It starts off in the first person by speaking about the replica in the mirror. Then she begins describing her husband. Then it describes her life as a writer in the third person. I didn’t like the constant shift between first and third person and ultimately I found this a depressing and dispiriting story. It is a story lacking Andrew’s characteristic wit and charm. He is strongest when writing in the first person.

With the third story A Small Act of Vandalism the wit reasserts itself.  Malcolm has his mother’s ashes in a little porcelain box and he describes them as” a bit like instant coffee, you might say, only without the flavour.” This is another story skilfully told in the author’s authentic voice. He makes you really care and empathise with Malcolm and the dilemma in which he was placed. A really lovely story, lovingly told.

The fourth story, One Night Only is about a serial killer interviewing himself prior to his execution. It is funny in a gruesome way. Again the authentic voice of the author shines through this gritty story.
The fifth story is Organ Failure, which is set in a funeral home. This is a short, dark little story in which it is impossible to empathise with the woman telling the story.

The final story in the collection is WYWH, which is another very accomplished story, very witty and very poignant.

Like all short story collections it is a mixed bag, but a mixed bag ranging all the way from good, through excellent to masterly.

Replica and Organ Failure are good.

A Small Act of Vandalism, One Night Only and WYWH are excellent.

Big Girl is a masterpiece.

I like the way Andrew Biss, writing in the first person is able to express the feelings and emotions of an overweight woman, a young man, a serial killer and a middle-aged woman and to you cause you to empathise with them and to see them as real, individual people. This is a rare talent. I highly recommend this collection.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

An Attitude of Gratitude

Wednesday 07 December 2011

Luke 17:11-19 “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?”

Jesus healed ten lepers but only one returned to thank Him and to give glory to God. Gratitude is a very rare attitude and on that must be cultivated and especially taught to children. It is so easy to take God and people for granted and to assume that all our blessings are deserved and therefore not worthy of thanks.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Review of The Passionate Friends by H.G.Wells

The Passionate Friends by H.G. Wells is told in the first person in the form of an autobiography of a middle-aged man to his son. That a man would write to his son about a passionate involvement with a woman that was not his mother is a strange construct, I thought.
The woman in question, Lady Mary Christian, comes from an aristocratic family. Stephen Stratton is a lifelong family friend. They become lovers but Lady Mary decides to marry a Lord for the social position and wealth it brings with it.
The story is interesting while the two are involved with each other.
Stephen goes away to South Africa for five years and Wells writes a boring chapter about social conditions there. When he returns the lovers take up where they left off, and the story becomes interesting again.
When it is discovered that Mary and Stephen are lovers, as part of the agreement between the parties he must go abroad again for three years. More boring chapters ensue while Wells writes a socialist essay, which has absolutely nothing to do with the story.
Several years go by and after Stephen returns to England he marries. Three years later he receives a letter from Lady Mary, which is absolutely preposterous in its content in that it is the voice of Wells expounding his views on the role of women in society, which is another boring chapter.
Finally, they meet in Switzerland by accident. The old passion is there but they only chat. The husband finds out and begins divorce proceedings. To save him from all the pain and anguish of a divorce case Lady Mary commits suicide.
Wells wraps up with another boring final chapter which kind of fizzles out.
This book was a love story and with socialist essays intertwined. I enjoyed the story but was infinitely bored by the essays.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Marketing and Promotion Efforts

Tuesday 06 December continued
I revised The Book Traveller for publication and uploaded it to CreateSpace.
I did some more research on the Internet on Marketing and as a result I uploaded my book, The Confession of Sandy Harris and its links to Google Books.
I put together a Chapter Sampler of all my books in order to create a free PDF to put on my website, which can now be downloaded at:
I tried for the second time to create a signature with my links in my email, but I couldn’t make it work. I have limited techie skills!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Review of The End of the World by Andrew Biss

Get ready for a zany roller-coaster ride that becomes more bizarre the further you get into this surreal story. Told with great verve and spiced through with wit, this hugely entertaining story will grab you, hold you and won’t leave you until the ride is over. Even then, the story will stick in the memory.
Andrew Biss says of one of his characters: “Hank, it appeared was either a brilliant, wildly imaginative entrepreneurial dynamo, or just stark raving mad.”  This could, with equal justice be said of the author and after reading The End of the World I can but conclude that Andrew Biss is brilliant rather than mad.
He continues: “This concept of his, though certainly outlandish and bizarre-sounding on first hearing, still seemed to possess its own peculiar logic.” And so does The End of the World. This book can truly be described as novel which means new, strange, unusual, different, fresh, innovative, original, rare, singular, uncommon, unfamiliar, surprising and unique.
If you haven’t yet discovered the wit and wonder of this international playwright and author then prepare yourself for a rare treat.
And if you don’t find this unusual and imaginative writer exhilarating then you must be dead from the neck up!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Doing our duty.

Tuesday 06 December 2011

In Luke 17; 10 Jesus says: “...when you have done all those things which you are commanded to do say ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”

From this I gather that we must not think we have done anything extra –ordinary or give ourselves praise for only performing what it is our duty to do. Every act of love and service is merely our duty and should be performed with humility without expecting either gratitude or praise.
Jesus says in v.9 “Does he thank that servant because he did all those things that were commanded him? I THINK NOT!”
Paul says something similar in Romans 12:1 “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
So why do I feel put upon when I do not receive either gratitude or praise when I think I have deserved it?  Probably, because I forget that I have only done what I am required to do. Such is human nature!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

A Reprieve!

Monday 05 December 2011 continued

I received a letter from my Cardiologist today. I have been waiting for several months to discover the results of the tests I had earlier in the year after having had a heart attack and having had a stent inserted in my right artery in May this year.

I have been taking five tablets every day since and exercising by going for a walk for 40 minutes every day.

I had already been advised that I have extensive heart disease affecting my left arteries and that it was thought that a triple bypass might be the best treatment in the longer term.

After reading through all the medical jargon in the Cardiologist’s letter he suggested that because I am asymptomatic, not experiencing any Angina pain or breathlessness that I should continue with my medical therapy, as there is no indication to have surgical intervention at this time.
So hugs and kisses from Mrs. Tortoise and general relief all round!

I must admit that the thought of having my chest cut open, in spite of the success of bypass operations these days, was not one I particularly relished!

So I have been given a reprieve for the immediate future, for which I am thankful.