A week ago we boarded a flight out of Akron Canton Airport with the temperature at a frigid 22 degrees. A few hours and thousands of miles later we landed in Fort Lauderdale to a balmy 88 degrees. For the next week I spent a great deal of time reading to the sound of the surf in between visits with my brother-in-law Ryan. I just returned from one last nighttime walk in the sand. Tomorrow we’ll land once again in Ohio to walk in the snow.

So for those of you who may soon be escaping the cold to head for warmer climates (or perhaps you are smart enough to live there), here’s my review of this week’s “beach reads.”

The trilogy, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.
I read this series so that I could respond to the myriad concerns I was receiving from parents about The Golden Compass book and movie. From a purely literary standpoint they were just okay reads. From a parent’s standpoint, I wouldn’t let a child under the age of 12 read them and then only if I read them as well and we discussed them together. Stars: 2 1/2

The Darkest Evening Of The Year by Dean Koontz.
Like the title implies, this book is dark. However, it is a great beach read that will keep you turning the pages. As with most of Koontz’ books, good triumphs and even though it doesn’t leave you with the warm fuzzies at least you can sleep without nightmares. Stars: 3

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer.
Let me begin by saying that I am a huge Krakauer fan. I think his book, Into Thin Air, is one of the greatest adventure books ever written. I still use it to teach leadership lessons. And with that said . . . Into The Wild isn’t worth the waste of time. It’s not the writing style–it’s the lack of story. In real life we know way too little about the main character and why he would end his life in such a meaningless way. Stars: 1 1/2

Marley And Me by John Grogan.
My good friend Marty recommended this book to me. And what Marty recommends I read. For good reason. If you are a dog lover YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK. If you don’t love dogs you will probably hate it. Grogan might as well have been writing the story about Julie and my experience with our first dog Sampson. I laughed and I cried and I loved this book. Stars: 4