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Listen Up! Listening Speed + Review of Written in Red

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Welcome to my new weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to…
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Listening Speed

When I first began my journey into and eventual love affair with audiobooks, I was a little put off by how slow that first book was for me. It felt like I was being read to, rather than feeling immersed in the story. Let’s face it, we all read faster than we speak. Additional, most people tend to skim, even subconsciously, some text, which is something you really can’t do when listening to an audiobook.

It was then that I discovered that the Audible app, as well as Overdrive and other audio playback apps, allowed me to quicken the playback speed of the narration. For example, Audible has seven listening speeds: 0.75x, 1x, 1.25x, 1.5x, 2x, 2.5x, and 3x. For most books, I like the 1.25x speed. It quickens voices just enough to feel more like a conversation, rather than being read to, but not so fast that it approaches chipmunk speed. Feeling more like a conversation is critical for my enjoyment of the book, as well as allowing me to feel like I’m part of the story.

There are some narrators that I prefer to keep at 1x speed because of accents used, or their speaking speed is naturally faster. And I definitely keep the speed at 1x or less when listening to books with my young daughter because she needs extra time to process what’s being said. The bottomline is that generally, you have many options for creating a better listening experience. I suggest playing around with the speed to see if you find something that makes you more happy!

Audiobook review: Written in Red

Author: Anne Bishop
Narrator: Alexandra Harris
Audio Speed: 1.25x
Series: The Others #1

Written in Red is a wonderful blend of unique mythology and extensive world-building, crossing the line between the urban fantasy and fantasy genres. Taking place on an alternate version of Earth, the book shares the story of two race of beings: the humans and the Others. The Others are shape-shifting beings who learned to “take the shape of humans” so that they could communicate and trade with the humans. But make no mistake, the Others rule the earth and consider humans prey.

Meg Corbyn is a special human: she can see glimpses of the future when her skin is cut. Considered the property of her controller, Meg has been held captive her entire life and never been allowed to experience life outside her controlled environment. When she escapes, Meg finds refuge among the Lakeside Others, learning about life – both the good and the bad – without being controlled.

At over 18 hours, Written in Red is a long audiobook. The story is utterly fascinating, alternating between several point-of-views to develop the considerable and intricate world-building and characters. There are multiple “slice of life” scenes that provide the listener with vivid imagery of what life is like among the Others. While I never found myself bored with the story, I do feel that the book could have been edited down a bit. For example, often the listener would experience the same scene from more than one point-of-view, adding length that doesn’t necessarily need to be there.

Ms. Bishop creates an array of compelling and interesting characters. While I would tag Meg as the primary character because the story is her “coming of age” tale, there are at least a half dozen more characters of substance and another set of supporting characters who fill up much of the page space. The Others, who come in all different sub-types such as wolf, bear, crow, vampire, elemental, are primarily their “Other” self wearing a human shape. I appreciate how their mannerisms and behavior are mostly non-human, and they really have no clue how to be human. This makes their acceptance and even love for Meg something unique and special. There is tremendous character growth in several of the Others as they learn from Meg.

Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed is that the bad guys are bad. There are no redeeming qualities for those that set out to hurt Meg and the Others who protect her. While I hated Asia Crane, I appreciated how smart she was going about her plans to infiltrate the Others and get rid of Meg. The only thing that really bothered me was that there are a couple of extended scenes from her POV, which really started to drag on for me.

From the start of the book, we know that Meg foresees her own death. Written in Red follows Meg and her companions from the moment she sets foot in Lakeside up to and through the moments of her prophecy as they unfold. While there are issues and problems that pop up as part of this journey, the bulk of the action is relegated to the end of the book.

The narration by Alexandra Harris grew on me, but it wasn’t spectacular. I found her general narrative voice pleasing, and most of the female characters fitting. However, her performance of a few of the primary characters, such as Simon Wolfgard, annoyed me. In addition, her cadence is slow and almost simple. Here is an example of a book that I felt sounded better at 1.25x speed. However, I couldn’t tell if it was the text or her performance that made it feel so slow at times. Her narration didn’t prevent me from listening to the second book, but it gave me pause, and I wonder if perhaps I would have enjoyed the book a little more in written format.

Rating of the story: B
Rating of the narration: C+

JENsignature

  • Carole

    Sounded good to begin with…but…meh.

    • It’s not going to be for everyone. The world-building is broad and detailed, and I found myself completely drawn in, even when there were slow parts!

      • Jennifer @ The Book Nympho

        I was drawn into this series because it’s different. I can’t wait to listen to book 3. I’ve decided not to read the eARC. lol

  • I listen at 2x speed for most books. If I am not familiar with the narrator then I will slow down till I get their voice down.

    I liked the narration and story of this series more than you. However, that is the beauty of narration–our ears all like different things 🙂

    • I wonder if I’ll ever jump up to 2x… probably not. 1.5x sounds too fast for me still. 🙂

      When I post my review of the second story, you’ll see my ratings go up. I think for me, narration is definitely something that grows on me, so the rating for a specific narrator tends to go up within a series. The books, while not my favorites, are compelling and I look forward to listening to Visions in Silver soon!

  • Jennifer @ The Book Nympho

    You know what an audiobook junkie I am. I’ve never listened to an audio book at a faster speed. I tried it a couple of times with books I was doing a reread through audio and still couldn’t do it. I stick with the normal speed. But it’s great that you have that option.

    • It’s that slower, southern drawl you are surrounded by everyday! 😉

  • Great post! I use 1.5 speed every time I can hear them inhale before the next sentence, that annoys me to no end. I never speed up my favorite narrators, and I never use 2.0 speed that’s too fast for me.
    I loved Written in Red, I’m a big fan of the author, so I was static when I heard she had a new series. She’s got an amazing imagination.
    I had a weird experience with Alexandra Harris, I loved her in book 1, but not so much in book two. That never happens to me, I normally like the narrator even more with the second book.
    I have a little trick for you, go for a couple minutes (4-5) at 1.5 and then go back to 1.2, you’ll see fast you get back to 1.5 b/c 1.2 will feel slow. The hearing adjust to the hight speed.. it’s funny, but it works for me all the time…lol

    • I’m sure as I start to listen to more books, I’ll adjust my preferred listening speeds. Generally, I like it to feel like I could hold a conversation with them at that speed. There have been a couple of narrators that I’ve gone back and forth from 1x to 1.25x until I could figure out which I liked better.

      That’s interesting that you ended up liking a narrator less during the second book. But if you were on the fence about something, and it didn’t improve with the second book, I can see that becoming a problem. For example, I’m listening to the Cat & Bones series right now and the voice of Cat’s mom just gets more and more annoying with each book. Thank goodness she’s not a main character!

  • Marcela aka Bookaholic Cat

    I love the book, but sadly I didn’t like the audiobook. I agree with you, Harris doesn’t do a good Simon. Every time he was talking I was hearing Scooby Doo…. let’s me tell you, that’s not good. Despite that, I love this series so much I’m planning to listen to the audio of Vision in Silver. I love the book and can’t wait to experience it again.
    About the listening speed, I usually listen at 1.25x or 1.5x depending on the narrator. 2x it’s too fast for me, I like to enjoy my audios and when they are too fast I don’t enjoy them much.

    • Haha! Yes, Marcela, once you told me about the Scooby Doo connection, I couldn’t stop making it! LOL. Although, her narration grew on me some with the second book (something I talk about this coming week on Listen Up!).

      I agree that if a book is too fast, I don’t enjoy it.

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