Richards, Jasmine. The Book of Wonders.
Zardi enjoys her life in Arribithia with her grandmother, older sister Zubeyda and her friend Rhidan, a foreign orphan being raised by her family. Rhidan doesn't know his part, but when the two run into the sailor Sinbad in the port, he mentions that Rhidan looks like the people of the Black Isle. Zardi's father is an advisor for the sultan, who has banned magic from the kingdom, but not even this keeps the family safe-- Zubeyda is chosen to be the sultan's next "praisemaker" which will result in her being imprisoned and then hunted to the death. Zardi thinks that Sinbad would be able to help both with getting Rhidan back to his people and in overturning the sultan, so they hop a boat in search of him. They end up having many adventures, finding out about Rhidan's past, fighting magical creatures, and eventually getting back to the kingdom just as Zubeyda is being hunted. While things may be okay at home, Rhidan is still interested in the Black Isle, so the book ends with an elipsis...
Strengths: The setting and stories reminiscent of the Arabian Nights lends a fresh twist to this fantasy quest. Getting very weary of typical Celtic fantasy, but I can't think of anything with Sinbad, and this is quite well done.
Weaknesses: I felt that I was missing many of the Arabian Nights references.
Hubbard, Jenny. Wanderlove.
Publication date 13 March 2012. E ARC from Netgalley.com
Bria Sandoval has broken up with her boyfriend, her parents are constantly squabbling, and they don't want her to go to art school. She wants to travel, so books a trip to South America with a package tour that ends up being filled with uptight old people. She is jealous of the style of the backpackers she sees, and when one asks her to a party, she goes. There she meets the guy who invited her, Rowan, who travels around working as a dive instructor, and his half-sister, Starling, who does volunteer work. The two convince her to leave the tour, ditch half of her luggage in favor of one backpack, and follow them on their travels until it is time for her to fly home. When Starling is called away, she leaves Bria with Rowan so she can keep him out of trouble. Bria enjoys seeing the nontouristy side of South America but is concerned about Rowan's past (that might involve drugs), but not concerned enough that she can't be really attracted to him. In the end, Bria learns a lot about life, relationships, and herself.
From the Publicist: "Wanderlove is about celebrating favorite places, so Hubbard has turned the Wanderlove website (www.wanderlove.com) into a place to upload and chat about our own hidden destinations. There are already quite a few beautiful photos up there! She’ll be giving away three butterfly-doodled hardcovers of Wanderlove to participants. Anyone who submits an entry between now and March 5th, the day she gets back, will be eligible to win.
Strengths: This had really good travel features-- I'm half afraid to give this to my daughter who is a senior lest she think she can run off, not tell me where she is, and ignore my e mails. Of course, the other half of me wants to do the running off myself! Good for high school, if they don't mind a couple of f-bombs.
Weaknesses: Mainly personal. To me, all the characters had a fairly high slappage factor. Bria especially does a ton of whining, teeth gnashing, and handwringing over both the boyfriend and the art school. In the end, she decides that she HAS to be involved in art in some way even if she ends up teaching it, which given the current state of my school system made me want to shake her. (About 55 art, gym and music teachers are being considered for cuts. I've ranted about "following one's bliss" before. No bliss following. Employment first, then bliss following. Says the woman looking at starting her third career at 50.)