The North Water by Ian McGuire - Patrick Sumner is a disgraced army man with few options. He takes a job aboard the Volunteer, a potentially cursed whaling ship as the crew's surgeon. Also aboard is Henry Drax, a violent and cruel man with a taste for young boys. When one such boy comes to Sumner complaining of injury, a war between the two men erupts. The voyage only goes south from there, escalating to shipwreck and starvation. This book is dark, brutal, and graphic. It's also really fun to read, as far as those things go. I was hooked from the start. I've read a few whaling adventures in my day, but this one really captured the filth, the isolation, and the brutality of such a voyage. This is a great one, but not for the faint of heart.
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley - If ever a book set a tone, this is it. Just thinking about it sends a chill through me. After the body of a child is found in The Loney, an isolated part of England, Smith, now an adult, begins to think back to his own childhood and his time spent there. At that time, he took care of his disabled brother Andrew. Their parents, the mother in particular, were incredibly religious and each year, they went on a pilgrimage to The Loney, to be pious, but also to hopefully cure Andrew of what ailed him. There is not much in the way of plot for much of the book - many conversations, descriptions - but you immediately have a sense of who the characters are and the environment that they live in. The relationship between Smith and Andrew is particularly well-done. The action picks up towards the end of the novel, and it's gruesome and terrifying. Hurley's prose is straight out of any great Gothic horror novel. If you can stick with this one, I really recommend it.
The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things by Courtney Elizabeth Mauk - Jennifer has been missing for a year. There are no leads, no clues, until a body is found that could be hers. During this lost year, her parents and brother have coped with the unknown in different ways. Her mother dresses up in Jennifer's clothes, frequents nightclubs she went to, and hopes to find the man who she believes killed her. Jennifer's father struggles with many of the parenting choices he made and wonders if he could have changed things, while Ben, Jen's younger brother, seeks her out in her friends. And they're all the worst. This book was boring and although it tried to show grief in different ways, which I appreciated, it didn't really work for me.
Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich - The Burroughs clan has owned Bull Mountain for generations. They've run moonshine, marijuana, and most recently, meth, untouched by law enforcement due to the mountain's unique geography. Clayton has distanced himself from the illegality by becoming sheriff in a neighboring county. When a fed knocks on his door looking for help, Clayton assumes this will be more of the same - federal agents coming in, not knowing what they're doing, and failing. But this agent has some secrets of his own. Firstly, I loved this book. It's like any movie or tv show starring Timothy Olyphant (someone make this happen). I love a good story of badness form generation to generation, betrayal, loyalty, all of the above. Also, the action here is fantastic. As things escalate, you know they're only going to get worse and worse, bloodier and bloodier. This was a super fun read and if you love family dramas, definitely check it out.