Hardware review of CM4 Q Card Case for iPhone 5/5S

January 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

CM4 Q CardCase for iPhone 5/5s (RED)CM4 Q Card Case for iPhone 5/5s [RED]
Manufacturer: CM4
UPC: 853999002230

The Q Card Case for iPhone 5/5s by CM4 unites your desire to simplify life and protect your iPhone.
Product Highlights:

Comfortably fits 3 cards (credit cards, IDs, etc) plus cash
Lay-flat Screen Guard™ provides ultimate screen protection
Soft-touch finish allows case to easily pull out of your pocket
Natural Throw™ buttons maintain an organic connection with your iPhone
Fully compatible with Lightning to 30-pin Dock Adaptor
Exclusive patented soft-touch rubber and premium fabric design

I was reluctant to purchase CM4’s Q Card Case for iPhone 5/5S. I couldn’t find one in real life to hold and feel. Normally, I wouldn’t buy such a tangible object over the Internet. But the problem was, no matter where I looked I couldn’t find one to actually touch and feel. Earlier, I had purchased some very cheap plastic card cases, but the sliding action of those wore away my driver’s license and debit card details. The cool thing about the CM4 Q Card Case was that it has a leather-like card holder on the back. A cloth like material, I thought, would be better for my cards. I was right. And, there’s even room for a few folded up Canadian bills (they’re all plastic now).

CM4 Q CardCase for iPhone 5 or 5s - features

Even better, the front of the case, by which I mean the side with the screen, has a rubber lip running around all four sides. Now, not only is my wallet better for my cards, my phone is better protected from drops and damage. Consequently, I no longer have to use a screen protector.

CM4 Q Card Case for iPhone 5 or 5s FRONT

Along the bottom of the case there’s a wide cutout for the microphone, speaker, and Lightning port. I use a couple of different lightning cables and both fit through the slot easily. Likewise, I can use my Sony dock, without removing the phone from the case.

CM4 Q Card Case for iPhone 5/5s - RED on a Sony ICF-CS15iPN

I’ve had the CM4 Q card case for just over four months now, and find it to be the best case I’ve ever owned. Like previous card cases, including one that was a transparent hard plastic, I’ve added a piece of paper with my gym membership’s bar-code to the outside of the wallet section (see the photo below).

CM4 Q CARD CASE for iPhone 5 or 5s

Overall, I’m completely satisfied with the CM4 Q Card Case for iPhone 5/5s. And, I’m following the company on Twitter – just in case I should get the new bigger iPhone and need the new bigger case.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Mage’s Blood by David Hair

January 7, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

mages blood coverMage’s Blood (The Moontide Quartet #1)
By David Hair; Performed by Nick Podehl
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 25 hours
Themes: / fantasy / crusades / religion /
Publisher summary:

Most of the time the Moontide Bridge lies deep below the sea, but every 12 years the tides sink and the bridge is revealed, its gates open for trade. The Magi are hell-bent on ruling this new world, and for the last two Moontides they have led armies across the bridge on “crusades of conquest”. Now, the third Moontide is almost here, and this time the people of the East are ready for a fight… but it is three seemingly ordinary people that will decide the fate of the world.

Overall, 2.5 stars. I prefer character driven stories, and this is definitely that. So why didn’t I enjoy it? The answer for me at least is the characters. I found most of them unenjoyable. If I have no one to really root for, the story has to be that much better or I’ll be bored. Don’t get me wrong, there are things to like about Alaron and Elena, but there is a lot not to like. I don’t need perfect characters who fall into the chosen one trope, but something about their faults really just rubbed me the wrong way and I often found them frustrating and unlikable.

The best character in the book was Alaron’s friend Ramon, who while he was basically a walking trope, was brought excellently to life by Mr. Podehl’s narration and added some nice comic relief to the story. Most of the other characters are flat, or too trope heavy. We have some mustache twirling bad guys, and the helpless Ramita who seems to merely be there to drive the plot as a goal/pawn for the other characters in the book.

The world building here was alright, but seems to borrow too heavily from actual cultures (in particular the Middle East, and religion of Islam) that it didn’t feel much like being transported to another world apart from the magic. And that was another issue I have. I guess Brandon Sanderson spoiled me for poorly developed magic systems, but it all felt just a bit too hand wavy to me.

Overall this book was just too uneven. There were some parts I really enjoyed, and there are questions I’d like to keep reading to get the answers too, but it’s just not worth it for me. There is too many other things I’d rather be reading.

This is my first audio book read by Nick Podehl. I’ve heard mixed, though mostly positive things about him as a narrator, especially for the Kingkiller series.

I thought he was excellent here, and really helped me get through the unenjoyable parts of this book. I think if I was reading this rather than listening, I might have quit the book without finishing.

I look forward to listening to other books read by him in the future, just not the other books in this series.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Tarkin: Star Wars

January 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Tarkin Star Wars coverTarkin: Star Wars
By James Luceno; Narrated by Euan Morton
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 4 November 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 hours, 27 minutes

Themes: / star wars / empire /

Publisher summary:

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly….and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel – by intimidation…or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin – whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy…and its enemies’ extinction.

Tarkin is one of the first books in the rebooted Star Wars expanded universe. The story gives us a lot of Tarkin’s back story and how he came to be a Grand Moff of the Empire. The story started a bit slow but picked up as less back story and more plot took place. Tarkin is a very interesting character because of his intelligence and ruthlessness (he actually reminds me strongly of Grand Admiral Thrawn in some ways). Star Wars fans will like this book but I will say that it felt more like the prequels than the original trilogy.

The plot of the story isn’t a linear narrative and spends a lot of time giving flash backs of Tarkin’s youth. These flash backs give interesting perspective into how he thinks but also kind of disrupt the story happening in the present. The flash backs show that Tarkin isn’t just some plain old officer in the Empire but he has had his trials and tribulations to earn his place.

I think one large reason why I liked this book instead of “really liked” is how much the prequels are brought into the plot. Everyone who has seen the prequels saw the Death Star plans came from Geonosys and saw the younger version of Tarkin in the movies, so this story definitely has a place in the prequels…except I don’t really like the prequels.

On the audio side of things, Euan Morton brings a different style of narration to this story from what I’m used to in a Star Wars book. I think the idea is that he’d do well with a British accent to match that of Tarkin from the movies and he pulls it off well. All the usual music and sound effects are present as you’d expect and I still think they’re doing a better job with the use of music lately. I should also add that I don’t remember any annoying/repetitive/distracting background ambiance sounds as in some other Star Wars audio books.

Posted by Tom Schreck

Review of The Legend of Drizzt

December 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Legend of DrizztThe Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories
By R. A. Salvatore
Publisher: Audible Studios
Publication Date: 12 August 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours, 27 minutes

Themes: / Forgotten Realms / dark elf / fantasy / short stories /

Publisher summary:

The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories expands upon the epic legend of the dark elf with 12 tales performed by the all-star cast of Felicia Day, Dan Harmon, Greg Grunberg, Tom Felton, Danny Pudi, Sean Astin, Melissa Rauch, Ice-T, Wil Wheaton, Al Yankovic, Michael Chiklis, and David Duchovny!

For years, the Legend of Drizzt has included short stories published in Forgotten Realms anthologies and Dragon magazine. Available here for the first time in audio are all the classic stories by the New York Times best-selling author R. A. Salvatore!

From the startling origin of Drizzt’s panther companion, to the tale of Jarlaxle and Entreri’s first encounter with the dragon sisters, the tales in The Collected Stories enrich this vividly-imagined series by building the world around Drizzt through exploring the backstories of side characters and magical locations.

Wizards of the Coast outdid themselves on this one and brought in a cast that’s actually hard to believe unless you start listening.
I thought the stories were excellent and for the most part the readings were well done. Ice-T was decent, but extremely slow and kept pronouncing the “w” in “sword” and that word is used a ton in his story. It drove me nuts.

Weird Al did a good job, especially with the voices, but his voice is a little too … bubbly … silly … there’s got to be a better word … for this type of serious story.

Usually Wil Wheaton does a good job, but I don’t rate him super high as a narrator because he never does different voices for the characters, at least not well. This one he did an excellent job with the voices. He’s another, however, that might have too much sarcasm in his voice for this type of story. Which is why he is the perfect narrator for anything from John Scalzi.

Last one and I’m done talking, biggest surprise was Michael Chiklis, who did an insanely good job with EVERYTHING. I hope he does tons more audiobooks and quits acting for the real money … in audiobook narration! We all know Scott Brick is rollin’ in it, amiright?

Overall, it’s more than worth the price I paid and then some and pretty cool to have these celebrities reading names like Drizzt and Zaknafein and Menzoberranzan and I’m not even touching the dwarf names of the top of my head that us geeks love oh so much.

4 out of 5 stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of Ilium by Dan Simmons

December 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Ilium by Dan SimmonsIlium (Ilium #1)
By Dan Simmons; Narrated by Kevin Pariseau
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 25 Discs; 30 hours
Themes: / Mars / gods / ancient Greece / scholars / Shakespeare / fantasy /
Publisher summary:
From the towering heights of Olympos Mons on Mars, the mighty Zeus and his immortal family of gods, goddesses, and demigods look down upon a momentous battle, observing—and often influencing—the legendary exploits of Paris, Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, and the clashing armies of Greece and Troy.Thomas Hockenberry, former 21st-century professor and Iliad scholar, watches as well. It is Hockenberry’s duty to observe and report on the Trojan War’s progress to the so-called deities who saw fit to return him from the dead. But the muse he serves has a new assignment for the wary scholic, one dictated by Aphrodite herself.With the help of 40th-century technology, Hockenberry is to infiltrate Olympos, spy on its divine inhabitants…and ultimately destroy Aphrodite’s sister and rival, the goddess Pallas Athena. On an Earth profoundly changed since the departure of the Post-Humans centuries earlier, the great events on the bloody plains of Ilium serve as mere entertainment.Its scenes of unrivaled heroics and unequaled carnage add excitement to human lives devoid of courage, strife, labor, and purpose. But this eloi-like existence is not enough for Harman, a man in the last year of his last 20. That rarest of post-postmodern men—an ‘adventurer’—he intends to explore far beyond the boundaries of his world before his allotted time expires, in search of a lost past, a devastating truth, and an escape from his own inevitable ‘final fax.’ Meanwhile, from the radiation-swept reaches of Jovian space, four sentient machines race to investigate—and, perhaps, terminate—the potentially catastrophic emissions of unexplained quantum-flux emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of Mars.

If someone were to describe this book to me (if they even could), I don’t know if I would believe how much I absolutely enjoyed it. Dan Simmons is a mad genius.

Shakespeare-quoting humanoid robots, Greek Gods, post-humans, and old-style humans somehow make the craziest awesome story imaginable.

Ilium is a story told through essentially three unrelated viewpoints. First, there’s Hockenberry. This is told in first person. Hockenberry is called a “Scholic,” a human from our the 20th century (our time) who was rebirthed in a future where Homer’s Trojan War is being fought. His job is to report on the war … to the Greek Gods.

At first, this is completely confusing. Why? is a question I asked myself over and over, but it begins to make sense with time. Plus, it’s hard not to be fascinated with the events of the Iliad. It’s also impressive how much research went into it, though that’s only an assumption since my knowledge of the Trojan War is essentially from the movie, Troy (but I have read the Odyssey!).

The second viewpoint is the humans, mainly Daemon. Daemon is a self-involved fool who is unlikeable to say the least. But who wouldn’t be when you have everything handed to you on a silver platter by robots called servitors (sp – I did listen to the audio so forgive me), like all humans everywhere. Pleasure is their life, knowledge … is lacking.

The third viewpoint is that of a sonnet-loving humanoid robot called a “moravec” and named Mahnmut. Specifically, and only, Shakespeare’s sonnets. It’s work consists of exploring the moon of Jupiter called Europa. Mahnmut is called in on a mission with a group of moravecs to explore some occurrences on the planet mars.

At first, I was highly entertained, though confused, with the events of the Trojan war and the other parts were just above boring. Slowly, the story takes hold and it had me hook, line, and sinker.

Listening to the audiobook, I was looking forward to my morning and evening drives and not too sad to do errands on my lunch hour either. Somehow, it ALL makes sense even though it sounds like the oddest collection of classics to make up a cohesive story all its own. What does Shakespeare have to do with the Iliad or Proust (his work makes appearances too) for that matter, all set in the future with technology that gives humans everything they ever want or need?

It’s crazy I tell ya. Crazy! How did I like this book this much? I’m telling you, Simmons is a mad genius. I will just sit back and let him take me on his journey. It’s amazing. I question not.

Kevin Pariseau is the narrator of this audiobook and while at first I thought he over-acted the part of Hockenberry, though somehow not the other parts, I really grew to like him and found out that it was literally just the character of Hockenberry that he was playing. And it’s impressive given how many Greek words and names he’s got to …erm… name.

The only problem is that Ilium is only half the story. It stops at a huge cliffhanger and I’m already heading to Olympos to see how this ends.

5 out of 5 Stars (Mind … blown)

Posted by Bryce L.

Review of Impulse by Steven Gould

December 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Impulse by Steven GouldImpulse (Jumper #3) \
By Steven Gould; Narrated by Emily Rankin
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 Discs; 12 hours
Themes: / teleportation / off-the-grid / jumpers / teenage angst /
Publisher summary:

Cent has a secret. She lives in isolation with her parents, hiding from the people who took her father captive and tortured him to gain control over his ability to teleport. Her parents are also hiding Cent from the government agencies who want to use them for their own purposes. She’s connected; movies, TV, Internet, but Cent’s parents are absolutely firm: no one can know where they live. There can be no images of them, or of Cent, anywhere.Cent has seen the world, but only from the safety of her parents’ arms. Her mother has not neglected her daughter’s education. She’s been all over, met people rich and very poor, has worked on her mother’s global relief projects. Cent has teleported more than anyone on Earth, except for her parents, Davy and Millie, but she’s never been able to do it herself. Her life has never really been in danger. Until the day she went snowboarding without permission and triggered an avalanche. When the snow and ice thundered down on her, she suddenly found herself in her own bedroom. That was the first time. The second time will change all their lives forever.

Progression of the Jumper series:

Book 1, Jumper: Let’s take a simple concept and weave a cool story that’s brilliant in its simplicity.

Book 2, Reflex: Let’s take that simple concept and add to it by restraining it, but while also pushing boundaries. Also, let’s add a cool mystery and some spies.

Book 3, Impulse: Let’s take all the great things we’ve built up so far … and add teenage angst! A forced romance! A holier-than-thou attitude for all the characters!


(Okay, these are misleading, cause it’s not teen angst in the hilarious or awesome way.)

Impulse takes up a number of years after Reflex, enough time for the jumping couple to have a daughter, Cent, who is now a teenager. She’s repressed to say the least, especially owing to the family’s understandable obsession with secrecy. Cent doesn’t even have a birth certificate, they’re so afraid of word getting out about them.

Also understandable. However, she’s a teenager now and she’s dying for friends, so she finally convinces her parents she can go to school without screwing things up.

Of course, there are bullies, and love interests, etc. and it’s just about impossible to not screw things up like we already knew.

First, I felt judged much of the time. This family of jumpers spends most of its time doing humanitarian things, keeping all it’s actions green and reducing it’s carbon footprint. Usually, I’m all for this stuff, but I felt like the message was, if you stray in the least you’re the worst person in the world.

Second, it was a little hard to believe the tale from Cent, who is this shut-in who immediately befriends some girls, has guys crushing on her, and is the absolute best at everything in the world. And add to that the paragraph above and it gets a tad annoying.

Third, there wasn’t really any plot going on. Midway through the book, nothing’s really happening because Cent’s just barely getting things going at school and facing bullies and whatnot, but nothing that amounts to an overall plot to keep you glued. Nothing that pushes you to keep going because you have to find out what happens!

At the very end, I was finally entertained, and that’s why I can’t completely hate this book. If I weren’t listening to it on audiobook, I probably would have given up at the midway point. It’s a case of too little too late.

Speaking of audio, I thought the narration was great, though a bit jarring at first. It’s been the same male narrator for the first two books and now it switches, again understandably, to a female narrator. It’s just weird hearing a woman do Davy and even Milli for that matter, but only for the first disc or two. It’s quickly forgotten.

Posted by Bryce L.

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