This past week I finished James Goldberg's The Five Books of Jesus (#52) and I'm nearly finished with A. L. Soward's Espionage.
I found Goldberg's book surprisingly enjoyable--and I say this because religious fiction is not often my favorite genre; also because when I picked up the book the first time the opening was so mystical that it was off-putting. But the book itself was lovely: the language was poetic and lyrical. But what I liked best about the book was that I felt it gave me a new perspective on familiar stories in the New Testament: I started seeing the stories in terms of individual characters making real decisions and sacrifices in their lives to follow (or not follow) Jesus. There's an interesting essay by the author about his journey to self-publish at the LDS blog, Dawning of a Brighter Day.
Although I'm not quite done with Espionage (so my review will wait for another day), I think my friend Jessie Christensen captures my reaction well in her comparison of Espionage and Code Name Verity, a nationally published book about WWII spies. Both books take the same subject, but Code Name Verity was a much stronger book, partly because the voice was so much clearer.
Of the Historical novels, I think that Goldberg's book probably should win in terms of writing--but as a reader, my favorite was Carla Kelly's My Loving Vigil Keeping, which was interesting and moving and, um, romantic. (Yes, I have a weakness for romantic plotlines!)