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Matthew

Singapore, Singapore
  • 33
  • reviews
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  • 44
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  • Hiroshima Diary

  • The Journal of a Japanese Physician, August 6-September 30, 1945
  • By: Michihiko Hachiya MD
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 8 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars 51
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 47
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 48

The late Dr. Michihiko Hachiya was director of the Hiroshima Communications Hospital when the world's first atomic bomb was dropped on the city. Though his responsibilities in the appalling chaos of a devastated city were awesome, he found time to record the story daily, with compassion and tenderness. Dr. Hachiya's compelling diary was originally published by the UNC Press in 1955, with the help of Dr. Warner Wells of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hiroshima Diary

  • By Matthew on 10-22-16

Hiroshima Diary

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-22-16

I specifically read this in preparation for my visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. And yes, it obviously enriched my experience. For anyone planning to visit Hiroshima I would make this an essential pre-visit read.

The tone of the writing is fascinating. Extremely unemotional; a little detached even. Which, in itself, is a really curious window into the mind of the author. It’s hard to say this one man represents the fortitude of the entire population of the time… but through Dr. Hachiya’s lens the Japanese people definitely do seem stoic. Interestingly, most of the anger for their plight seems to be reserved for the Japanese armed forces with very little animosity toward the United States.

For those with any kind of scientific or medical bent… a good percentage of the diary describes the clinical symptoms of those “survivors” suffering from radiation poisoning, which is both mesmerizing and horrific. I say “survivors” but in reality, many of those who survived the blast but were exposed to radiation, eventually died.

"There is only one way in which one can endure man's inhumanity to man and that is to try, in one's own life, to exemplify man's humanity to man."
-- Alan Paton

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

  • By: Gail Tsukiyama
  • Narrated by: Stephen Park
  • Length: 14 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 213
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 111
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 112

It is Tokyo in 1939. On the Street of a Thousand Blossoms, two orphaned brothers are growing up with their loving grandparents. The older boy, Hiroshi, shows unusual skill at sumo wrestling, while Kenji is fascinated by the art of creating hard-carved masks for actors in the Noh theater. In an exquisitely moving story that spans almost 30 years, Gail Tsukiyama draws us irresistibly into the world of the brothers and the women who love them.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Another great story from Ms. Tsukyama

  • By L. Walker on 12-13-07

Disappointing

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-22-16

I can’t recall a more disappointing book-reading experience. I rarely give up on books after the half-way point — so close to the end! just finish it! — but this was too torturous to finish.

Tsukiyama has a very distinctive writing style that will either appeal or not. In my case, it did not. What others may hear as minimal and beautifully unpretentious, in my ears was weak, flat and lifeless. So there was a fairly significant style problem right from the beginning.

I also hated that Japanese words were thrown into the story, but then explained… along the lines of: “She put on her kimono – a kind of traditional robe – and went outside”. This is an exaggerated example but definitely representative. It kept taking me out of the story and reminded me that this is a story about Japan, for non-Japanese, and there was something really irritating and irksome about that.

To describe the two protagonists, Hiroshi and Kenji, as characters is an undeserved compliment… they were actually caricatures. Hiroshi is a first-class sumo wrestler and Kenji is a first-class Noh theatre-mask master… two of the most stereotypical and impossibly niche career choices imaginable. I’m trying to imagine a story set in 1940’s Australia with one brother as a famous kangaroo wrangler and another as the architect of the Opera House. Actually that’s a bad example… that in fact sounds like a good book. I think this sounds like a petty criticism, but you’re just going to have to trust me – they seemed like caricatures. And I couldn’t decide if they were meant to represent some kind of fantasy parable of distilled Japanese culture, or if Tsukiyama was genuinely trying to tell an everyday story about a normal family but lazily reverted to recognizable typecasts.

It’s one thing to dislike a book, but another altogether to have high expectations that are then dashed. I really wanted to like this, as it was recommended in Japan (Lonely Planet Country Guide) as one-of-two novels to read before visiting Japan. The other recommended novel was Hiroshima Diary… I hope that’s more my scene.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

  • By: Michael Chabon
  • Narrated by: David Colacci
  • Length: 26 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,688
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,354
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 3,378

It's 1939, in New York City. Joe Kavalier, a young artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just pulled off his greatest feat: smuggling himself out of Hitler's Prague. He's looking to make big money, fast, so that he can bring his family to freedom. His cousin, Brooklyn's own Sammy Clay, is looking for a partner in creating the heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit the American dreamscape: the comic book. Inspired by their own fantasies, fears, and dreams, they create the Escapist.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Escape From Reality is a Worthy Challenge

  • By Dave on 07-11-12

The best narration I've ever heard

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-15-15

This was possibly a perfect narration performance. I'm so impressed with the quality of this audiobook.

  • 'Night Mother

  • By: Marsha Norman
  • Narrated by: Sharon Gless, Katherine Helmond
  • Length: 1 hr and 2 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 68
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 48
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 47

This play tells the powerful story of an epileptic woman in her early 40s systematically preparing her own death...and the frantic and touching efforts of her mother to stop her. This searing drama, which won the Pulitzer Prize on Broadway, is guaranteed to keep any listener on the edge of their seat.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • You WILL Cry!

  • By Evie B. on 05-08-14

Haunting, heartbreaking and incredibly powerful

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-26-14

I’ve seen the destructive influence of unchecked depression, and this short play — in its simplicity and honesty — is so accurately painful.

If there is such a thing as “beautiful tragedy” I don’t think you’ll find anything closer than the dialogue between Jessie and her mama.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Secret Garden

  • By: Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Narrated by: Vanessa Maroney
  • Length: 8 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 373
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 223
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 229

This is the story of Mary and her friends and a garden which had been locked away for 10 years.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Magical Storytelling

  • By Penny on 07-02-06

Delightful

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-14

Eeh! I mun say th’ little book be a right s’prise. Aye, true capt.

I think the word “delightful” is overused, but it’s deserved in this case. I — and my three kids aged from five to nine-years-old — really, REALLY enjoyed The Secret Garden and every character in it.

Mistress Mary (in all her contrariness) and Master Colin (in all his despicable tantrumness) are somehow exactly what the other needed, and able to bring transformational healing and hope where no other could. Some elements (especially in the beginning) are a bit politically incorrect for 2014, but the heart of this story is pure.

This particular narration by Vanessa Maroney is incredible. There is a lot of Yorkshire dialect in this book, and choosing the right narrator is very important. Maroney does a great job bringing all the characters to life, and switching back-and-forth between the incredibly broad and common Martha and the uppity Mary.

I know this is not a film review, but I can’t help mention the 1993 film adaptation directed by Agnieszka Holland. It is almost as wonderful as the book. Apart from a few pointless-but-forgivable plot changes (and the total absence of my favourite character, Mrs. Sowerby) it’s delightful — that word again — to see the stunning secret garden come to life. And the incomparably gorgeous Yorkshire moor feels less like a locale and more like an important character.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Fault in Our Stars

  • By: John Green
  • Narrated by: Kate Rudd
  • Length: 7 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 22,153
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20,100
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20,202

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten. Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Wonderful Poignant Story

  • By AudioAddict on 04-25-13

Two teenagers I actually liked

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-30-14

I loved this book. And I’m afraid all efforts to explain why will sound corny or gushy. You see… I shouldn’t even like this book. The two protagonists are teenagers who—despite their relative intelligence and maturity—are teenagers. Teenagers. Who actually likes teenagers? John Green apparently, but not me. I didn’t even like myself when I was teenager.

But Hazel and Gus are not normal teenagers. They are a delight; the kind of kids you’d be proud to call your own. And the kind of characters I found myself thinking about as if they were real. Yes the dialogue is a bit trite, but teenagers are inherently trite.

I’m not proud of my love for this book, but I’m not going to deny it either.

Hazel and Gus disoriented me and broke my heart right in two. In the best possible way.

And Kate Rudd’s narration is—literally—perfection. I haven’t read the text version, but my biased opinion is that Rudd’s narrated version is better.

  • The Art of Racing in the Rain

  • By: Garth Stein
  • Narrated by: Christopher Evan Welch
  • Length: 6 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 14,933
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,079
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 12,081

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Enzo (because he's so wize) for president.

  • By Lora on 06-17-08

A wasted opportunity

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-27-14

***
*** CONTAINS SPOILERS ***

First a confession: I am a total sucker for anthropomorphism. You could dish me up the most pathetic, pointless drivel and I’d lap it up as long as the main character is a cat who thinks like a human. Or it could be a fox. Or a lion. My affliction is not speciesist. I spent the entirety of Christmas Day 1986 weeping and hitting replay on Charlotte’s Web—it was a real bummer for the rest of the family. This ridiculous Achilles Heel has continued to this day, and I can barely mutter the words “That’ll do pig, that’ll do” without tearing up. Don’t even get me started on Watership Down—“Briiiiiiight eyes, burning like fiiiiire”.

I’m so bad I couldn’t even finish the first chapter of “Art of Racing” without having a bit of a blub. But I quickly learned—and I would’ve never predicted this—this is NOT a story about a dog. It’s not even really a story about this particular dog’s (Enzo) relationship with this particular dim-witted owner (Denny). This is a story about the destruction of Denny’s family, and it just so happens that the narrator was his dog. But that narrator could’ve just as easily been Denny’s budgerigar… or his table lamp.

I couldn’t tell if Enzo’s naïve, platitudinal world-view was a brilliant character study, bringing to life the type of delusional person who refuses to see fault in their chosen idol—or just a lazy way to tell this specific story with these specific characters.

And speaking of characters—what a bunch. Dear old dense Denny, who sends his dying wife (and grieving daughter to boot) to live with her parents for—what was the reason again? And then invites a horny, up-for-it teenager for a sleepover. Sheesh. He’s not a bad person. He’s just bad at life.

And the twins! What a pair of bitter and evil old sods. Or was that just the perspective of the unreliable narrator? I guess that’s the root of my critique; was Denny really a bumbling fool and all we saw was “Denny the Superhero” through Enzo’s idol-worshipping, love-addled eyes? If that was Stein’s intention, kudos to him for writing a novel way more subtle than I’ve given him credit for. Or was “Art of Racing” really just a bunch of stale self-help —“that which you manifest is before you” — dressed-up in messy, Hollywoodesque story-telling.

I wish Stein asked my opinion on his first draft. I would’ve told him to cut it half and introduce a second act: the same story told completely from the perspective of Eve’s cat who looks on with disdain and questions every idiotic decision made by the whole jolly lot. I guess I could be speciesist after all.

For what it’s worth, the narration was pretty good.

  • Me Talk Pretty One Day

  • By: David Sedaris
  • Narrated by: David Sedaris
  • Length: 5 hrs and 51 mins
  • Abridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 94
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 68
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 67

David Sedaris' collection of essays - including live recordings! - tells a most unconventional life story. With every clever turn of a phrase, Sedaris brings a view and a voice like no other to every unforgettable encounter. You can also listen to Sedaris in an interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • I wept

  • By Tanya Tear on 10-22-13

Not For Me

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-21-14

Why David, why? Why don't I like you? I really tried, honestly I did. After I panned "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls" everyone told me I'd started in the wrong place. Everyone told me your very best work was actually “Me Talk”, so I dutifully went back for a second round with fresh hopes and a forgiving heart.

Oh David. The uneven but occasionally funny “Diabetes” was actually better than the extremely even (i.e. never-once-interesting) drivel in “Me Talk”.

David, David, David. We really should've hit it off, but I'm afraid your anecdotes are just a little too pointless, laughless and — dare I say — truthless for me to bother with Round 3. If this is the best you have to offer, let's just agree to go our separate ways. It's not me, it's you.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Nemesis

  • By: Philip Roth
  • Narrated by: Dennis Boutsikaris
  • Length: 5 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 439
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 297
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 296

At the center of Nemesis is a vigorous, dutiful 23-year-old playground director, Bucky Cantor, a javelin thrower and weightlifter, who is devoted to his charges and disappointed with himself because his weak eyes have excluded him from serving in the war alongside his contemporaries. Focusing on Cantors dilemmas as polio begins to ravage his playground and on the everyday realities he faces, Roth leads us through every inch of emotion such a pestilence can breed.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Without pathos about life...

  • By Mirek on 11-21-10

It gets better

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
3 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-17-14

Blahblahblah for the first two-thirds — the entire beginning part of this book felt like an amateur piece of pseudo-journalistic historical biography with no theme and nothing important to say. NPR’s Heller McAlpin reckons Nemesis has an “odd secondhand quality” and I couldn’t say it better.

But then — thank God — something changes. For those who’ve read the book, the turning point I’m referring to may be different to your own, but I thought things got interesting when Roth gave Bucky the impossible choice to either stay in the relative luxury and safe-haven of the Poconos summer camp [with his horny, nubile fiancé noless] or return to the sweltering, disease-ridden Newark [with its terrified kids and heartbroken parents].

At this point I was immediately reminded of the confronting themes of Ash Barker’s “Sub-merge: Living Deep in a Shallow World”. I’m talking less about the God of Sub-merge, and more of its themes: having a personal call to be countercultural; gaining our lives by losing them; taking up a “socially downward journey" among the urban poor.

Of course, this moment is just a springboard. The last third of the book explores some even more interesting themes of control, choices, community, commitment, betrayal, loss, theology and — in my opinion, most compellingly — deciding which of the burdens from our past we choose to yoke ourselves to and which we choose to cast aside.

It is this shift in Roth’s narrative that eventually saves Nemesis from itself, gives it something important to do and makes it a worthwhile listen.

  • Metroland

  • By: Julian Barnes
  • Narrated by: Greg Wise
  • Length: 5 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 33
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 30
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 28

The adolescent Christopher and his soul mate, Toni, had sneered at the stifling ennui of Metroland, their cosy patch of suburbia on the Metropolitan line. They had longed for Life to begin - meaning Sex and Freedom - to travel and choose their own clothes. Then Chris, at 30, starts to settle comfortably into bourgeois contentment himself. Luckily, Toni is still around to challenge such backsliding.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Gosh I love Julian Barnes

  • By Matthew on 01-14-14

Gosh I love Julian Barnes

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-14-14

Yes, I’ve been living under a rock—I only recently discovered Barnes through his most recent novel, "The Sense of an Ending" (2011). I couldn’t wait to dig into his back catalogue, and thought a sensible place to start would be the very beginning i.e. "Metroland".

Thematically, Barnes doesn’t seem to have strayed too far from his sweetspot over his 31 year career… my review for "Sense" noted themes of “memory, remorse, history, philosophy, secrets and lies” and this could literally be copy-pasted into my review of "Metroland" without arousing suspicion.

For my money, "Metroland" was more of a slowburner—a little sluggish to get moving but deeply satisfying by the end. It was profoundly uncomfortable to recognise some cringey parts of myself in Chris. But even more so to recognise bits of me in the incredibly prickly Toni.

Now that I’ve experienced Barnes’ bookend novels, I’ve concluded his true gift is in creating mundane and disappointed worlds with overt lack of sympathy that—somewhat paradoxically—leaves the reader with a sense of gentle optimism. Not a small feat.

Can’t wait to throw myself into "Flaubert’s Parrot".

As for this specific audioversion, Greg Wise is fantastic and sublime.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful