Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Review - Emeline and the Golden Ukulele

Emeline and the Golden Ukulele

by Susan Kinsey
Date: 2020
Publisher: BooksGoSocial
Reading level: C
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 37
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

The Talented Tiara contest is only days away before Emeline's ukulele breaks. Disappointed she won't be able to enter, the sea fortune tellers assures her there is another way. Sent on a journey through the bottom of the sea, Emeline must find the sea wizard's golden ukulele to borrow on one condition--she must believe in magic. When a jealous classmate tries to stop her, Emeline must unite with her friends, believe in herself, and enter the Talented Tiara contest without any self doubt. Read Emeline and the Golden Ukulele and enjoy this short, witty chapter book to build reading skills, imagination, and embrace your love for the mermaids under the sea.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Drawn in by the cute cover, I was expecting a simple chapter book about mermaids. Unfortunately, this is a book full of technical issues so blatant as to be a huge distraction. And the story is too weak to offer much redemption.

Emeline is a mermaid who wants to enter the Talented Tiara contest. No, it's not a contest for talented tiaras. It's a talent contest for undersea creatures where the prize is a tiara. Emeline wants to play her ukulele, but when she tries out for the contest, a string breaks. This leads her to the other side of the black rocks to borrow a sea wizard's golden ukulele, which can only be played if she has the love of music in her heart. On her way, she must try to ignore a mean girl named Pearl who seeks to undermine her confidence.

To begin with, the whole premise is really weak. Emeline's ukulele pops a string... and somehow this is a big deal. The octopus at the repair shop tells her it'll take four days to fix (a broken string takes four days to fix?!) but the talent show is in three days (except, it isn't; the author messed up the timeline). Wouldn't a broken ukulele neck have made more sense? At the end of the story, the resolution to the main character's problem is hackneyed and unrealistic. (Nobody would disqualify a contestant simply for trash-talking!)

The author seemed to forget her setting throughout the book. The text is continually describing smells. The girls eat popcorn and cotton candy at the fair. (Do you know what happens when either of those things hit water?) Emeline's mother somehow made pancakes. (How do you get the batter to stay in one place and not go floating off on the currents?) For that matter, how do you twirl a baton underwater with all that friction? And, at one point, Emeline and her friend were sitting under a tree. There are trees at the bottom of the sea?

But that's not even the worst of it. This is probably the most badly written book I've read all year. First, it comes across as a school assignment where the teacher implored the students to avoid the words "said" and "asked" as much as possible. I counted twenty alternate dialogue tags in the first chapter alone! That's extremely distracting. And, at times, the tags didn't even make sense in context. People "groaned" when they didn't seem to be particularly distressed about anything, or "cooed" just for the heck of it. Characters sometimes performed actions that seemed awfully random, like raising their hands for no reason or putting their hand on top of their head; it was almost as if the author thought there should be some sort of action, but couldn't think of anything appropriate for the moment.

And then there were the typos. Oh, the typos. "An ukulele" popped up at one point. "Weary" was used when it seemed "wary" was the word the author was going for (and, even so, I think the word she actually needed was "disappointed"). Emeline was referred to as "petty" when it should've been "pretty". And Mrs. Gills turned into Mrs. Gill once thanks to a misplaced apostrophe. I kind of lost count of all the errors after a certain point, and now I'm annoyed. This book had zero editing (and, if it did, the author needs to ask for a refund).

Had the message been stellar, I might've been willing to overlook some of the technical issues. After all, those are easily fixed. But the characters aren't appealing (Emeline is a wishy-washy sort of heroine who's easily swayed by a few unkind words that she knows aren't even true) and the resolution is way too pat (would Emeline have won if Pearl hadn't been disqualified for the flimsiest of reasons?).

I can't recommend this one at all.

Thank you to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Plot: 2/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 0/5
Editing: 0/5
Originality: 2/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall Rating: 1.25 out of 5 ladybugs

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