Due to Christmas festivities, I didn't have time to write detailed reviews of these December reads, so here are the condensed versions:
Farmer Boy: Another wonderful entry in the series. This is the story of Almanzo Wilder who would later marry Laura Ingalls. I imagine these stories were memories he shared with Laura as she wrote the novels. Most of the memories have to do with farm chores and the delicious food he ate.
Almanzo's father is quite different from Laura's "Pa." He is a prosperous farmer and his family lacks for nothing. But that doesn't mean his children are spoiled. Although he would be considered too strict by today's standards, I really appreciated it that he let Almanzo "suffer" his way through some sticky situations. Intermixed with all the firmness is a lot of love and wise counsel. It was a pleasure to "watch" this young boy grow up!
Merchant of Venice: This is one of the most accessible Shakespeare plays I've read because I could actually remember who was who. It has some of the most famous lines in all of literature and a happy ending too. After reading this, I greatly enjoyed watching the 1996 film version on YouTube. The actor who played Shylock did a wonderful job of expressing the nuances of his character.
Finding Father Christmas: I am so used to Christian fiction being substandard that I was actually stunned that Finding Father Christmas was well-written, had likable characters, and introduced subjects of faith without preachiness. It also dealt with a difficult subject in a discreet way. (The second novella, Engaging Father Christmas continued with good writing and characterization, but was a lot sappier.)