Browsing Tag:

true crime

april book club 2018

Posted in Living by

I didn’t read quite as much this month, and I’m not sure why. (Maybe it has something to do with the Golden State Killer being arrested and being legally required to read every released article and interview? I’m not sure.) At any rate, my Kindle and library book checkout game was still strong, and there are some definite must-reads on the docket this month.

As always, * indicates that I received a review copy through NetGalley, and ** denotes books I received for review from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions!

The Last Cruise*: I really liked this book a lot, but the end made me super mad. Which is a good thing! Feeling things about books is kind of the point, right? The Last Cruise chronicles the experiences of three different groups aboard a vintage ship taking – you guessed it – its last cruise. This would be a good poolside book if you’re into suspense and drama, but I might not suggest taking it on a boat.

From the Corner of the Oval*: THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. I couldn’t put it down and found myself wanting more and more! Beck Dorey-Stein was one of President Barack Obama’s stenographers, and this chronicles her White House career, from getting hired via craigslist to traveling internationally on Air Force One to deciding that her government days are over. Her writing is incredible, engaging, and I can’t recommend pre-ordering this highly enough. If you’re feeling like you’re making all the wrong choices in your relationships, friendships, career, or in general, there’s going to be something in this book that resonates with you.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

The Gutsy Girl Handbook*: A follow-up to Kate White’s 1996 book, I really liked this a lot. I’ve been focusing a lot on my career this year, and the worksheets and advice in this handbook are really helping me shift my mindset, generate big ideas, and not be afraid of intimidating people with those ideas.

Men Explain Things to Me: I really wanted to like this essay collection, and I think I would have if I hadn’t had specific expectations for it. It took me months to finish (I started it back in January or February) expecting it to be funny, or at least have aspects of humor. Instead, it’s more heavily focused on institutional sexism, sexual assault, and crime. It is a good read, but it wasn’t what I had expected.

My Oxford Year**: Not a book I would typically see myself picking up, but Julia Whelan is my favorite audiobook narrator. When I saw that she was publishing a book, I was super excited. This one was a good read – it’s a love story about a girl who doesn’t want a love story – my biggest complaint was basically just that I wish they focused more on the political position she was helping with in America while studying abroad – but it’s an excellent read if you like chick lits or romance.

Emergency Contact: Mary HK Choi did a great interview with the New York Times last month, and I found it to be funny and clever. Emergency Contact was equally great – I absolutely loved the story, I loved the way it was told, and I loved how Penny comes out of her shell and allows herself to have friends and really grow outside herself.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: I was about 63% through this book the night that GSK was taken into custody. Naturally, I woke up the next morning, scrambled around to get the audiobook from Scribd, and finished listening with 30 minutes to go before the press conference. Incredibly researched, incredibly written, and incredibly tragic – both the story of the victims, as well as Michelle, who never got to see her good work be rewarded.

Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better*: It was National Poetry Month and I didn’t read as much poetry as I should have, but this was my favorite collection by far. Kuhn’s writing reads like a combination of Amanda Lovelace and Rupi Kaur – gorgeous and light imagery, but with heartache, trauma, and optimism. If you like poetry, I definitely recommend this.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

DROPKICKromance**: I really wanted to love this book. It includes so many things I love – poetry! Wrestling! An author from Michigan! – but it ultimately fell really short of my expectations. Author Cyrus Parker is married to Amanda Lovelace, and their relationship is #goals, as the youths say, but his writing style is almost an exact replica of Lovelace’s. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot better if the style had been a little more unique. He writes a lot about a shitty relationship, then falling in love again, which I also relate to a lot and enjoyed – I just wish it was a little separate from his wife.

This Is Where it Ends: This had been on my Goodreads “to read” list for awhile, so by the time I saw it on my library’s Libby system, I’d sort of forgotten what it was about. It’s a pocket story of the 54 minutes of a school shooting, and I wouldn’t be surprised if author Marieke Nijkamp had been involved in a similar situation. She writes with such clarity and experience, you really feel like you’re in the quiet halls with the students as the perspectives shift. It’s an incredibly affecting book that should be read

You’re Never Weird on the Internet: Boyfriend had this on his Audible account, so when I couldn’t find anything on Libby, I started listening to this one day. It was interesting to listen to – Felicia had a super interesting upbringing and was homeschooled, and even went to the University of Texas on a full ride for violin performance. I liked hearing her talk about her internet life – in a lot of ways, I relate, since I’ve been online since grade 4 and some of the most important relationships in my life were forged on the internet.

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions: This was a quick, easy read that I really enjoyed. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about feminism and gender lately (thanks Dessa, and trying to read more diverse, “harder” books. This letter to her best friend who had asked her for advice on raising her child a feminist is as funny as it is insightful.

What did you read this month? Anything worth adding to an already too-large TBR pile?

April 30, 2018
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doing Chicago: true crime tour with Vimbly

Posted in Travel by
I received a free tour from Vimbly for this review, but all opinions are my own.

Vimbly review

Vimbly is the fastest way to book thousands of activities, classes & date ideas – their website displays available activities and times, and allows you to book tickets directly on the website. It’s easy to share a link with someone else to plan out an activity. There’s even a “Bucket List” feature that lets you bookmark things you might be interested in checking out later!

The coolest thing about Vimbly is that it’s sort of a one-stop-shop for tourists and residents alike. They have the traditional sightseeing tours, but they also have things like jiu jitsu and dance classes, pizza and dessert making lessons, and escape rooms.

Vimbly also features free events – I’m heading to this brewery tour at Lake Effect Brewing Company with a girlfriend tomorrow, and I would never have thought to look out for that before!

In case you do book something with Vimbly that you don’t love, their Handshake guarantee means that they’ll issue you a refund if you’re dissatisfied. How’s that for customer service?

For this tour, Dani and I opted for the True Crime and Serial Killer tour. Given that we went on a haunted history tour in June, this should not be a surprise.


This tour was even more fun. The scene was set as soon as we arrived – the bus was playing spooky music and the tour guide, Eric, leaned in as though I was giving him the password to get into a speakeasy.

The first spot we went was Washington Square Park, which was one of John Wayne Gacy’s hunting grounds. Eric also told us that the park used to be called Bughouse Square because a psychiatric hospital used to be nearby, and they used to be called bughouses.

Another really cool thing about booking tours in your own city with Vimbly is that you learn about other cool events in your city. At Washington Square Park, we saw flyers for the Newberry Book Festival. Neither of us had heard of it before and you can bet that we skipped on over to it a few weeks later.

From there, he continued to talk about other Chicago serial killers as well as Gacy. He and Jeffrey Dahmer used to be regulars at L&L Tavern, which is a bar that Dani and I visited after seeing My Favorite Murder live for that reason. We started heading over to the Logan Square Office Max, which is an area I know pretty well.

Eric told us about the Ripper Crew, which I’d never heard of. I definitely had no idea they happened in an area I’m so familiar with.

From there we headed back toward Lincoln Park and drove past the site where the Sausage King of Chicago killed his wife before driving over to the Congress Hotel. We’d been there on the first tour as well, so it’s definitely a known spot to visit if you’re a crime enthusiast in Chicago!

I definitely recommend using Vimbly in your own city, or for checking out things to do on your next vacation!

August 11, 2017
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weird chicago: haunted history tour

Posted in Travel by
Weird Chicago provided free tickets, but all opinions are my own.

weird chicago

If you follow me on social media (or remember this post from last year’s gift guide), you probably know that I love true crime. After a recent dive into a new podcast (holla at my ladies!) and living with Dani, I’ve grown interested in paranormal phenomenon as well. I’d heard of Weird Chicago before, and I’ve always wanted to do a tour of Chicago’s biggest crime stories. (Honestly, the only one I’m really familiar with is the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre – mostly because the scene of it is across from Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company.) I was really excited to see their Haunted History tour, and Dani and I jumped on the chance to go!

Our tour guide, Krystal, was energetic and engaging. She said that they can change up the spots they go based on the people on the tour and what’s going on in town. Since there weren’t any little kids on our tour, she added a stop where we could grab a drink at a bar – and it turned out it was a place I’d had an experience many years ago. One of the coolest parts of the trip was that Krystal gave us tips on the best way to shoot paranormal photography. She also asked if anyone was a medium or clairvoyant because some of the sites are very active and people who are sensitive have gotten sick in the past.

As a note – you can bring drinks and snacks on the bus, so I highly recommend that. (There’s a Walgreens and a McDonald’s near the pickup, if you need a quick place to run in.)

chicago's most haunted places

The first stop was on the Chicago Riverwalk, a beautiful paved walkway that’s super popular for tourists and locals. It’s also the site of the Eastland Disaster. Krystal told us the story, and I was shocked that I’d never heard of it before. In 1915, a company chartered this steamship (along with three others) to take their employees as a reward for great work. The ship’s infrastructure failed, resulting in a huge disaster: 220 people died, including many full families. (We were also there on the 102nd anniversary of the disaster, which was a coincidence.) People have reported seeing faces in the water and hearing cries for help – cries so real that emergency services are still called weekly for reports of drownings.

eastland disaster

From there, we boarded back up on the bus and Krystal started telling us about how cemeteries (vs. graveyards) came about. She explained the history of how Chicago’s first cemetery came to be, and told us we were going there. I was really surprised when she told us what it was, because it’s a place I really love – Lincoln Park (including the Lincoln Park Zoo.)

It’s a great park now, so it was really surprising to learn that there are still thousands of bodies buried in the park. Even though people at the time were supposed to move their family’s remains after the city realized that having a burial site so near to the lake wasn’t going to work, many didn’t move them at all. There’s only one remnant left that symbolizes what the park used to be: the Couch Mausoleum. She told us that the most haunted place in Lincoln Park is actually the Zoo (which is one of my favorite places in Chicago!)

Couch Mausoleum

Since we were in Lincoln Park, I had a pretty good idea what the next stop would be, and I was right. Lincoln Park is just a skip and a jump from Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company… across from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre site. Even though I’m aware of it, I didn’t know that much about it. Krystal used volunteers from the group to illustrate all the people who were killed, and it was really interesting to hear the history and full story of what happened. There’s a retirement community next door, and one of the first floor apartments had so many complaints from residents that they would hear knocking and yelling constantly. I got very nauseous at this location, it was very weird. It came on quickly and I had to lean up against the fence to keep my strength. (One of the major characters in this story was a dog, so maybe that’s why I was so affected.)

st. valentine's day massacre site

We headed downtown to the theater district to a nondescript alley by the Oriental Theater. Krystal told us it is referred to as Death Alley. In 1903, the Iroquois theater that was there at the time had a fire break out – not unusual at the time for theaters due to the heavy materials and lighting they used. It was billed as the world’s first “fireproof” theater, though, and they opened with a few important shortcuts taken – including no fire alarms and no fire escapes from the balcony. Hundreds of lives were lost (some due to fire, some due to people being pushed from the balcony out to the street) and today, it has a suicide rate of three times that of other places.

Finally, we wrapped up our tour at the Congress Hotel. I’ve actually stayed at the Congress Hotel once in 2009 for a conference. I was young, and “enjoying” the conference amenities, if you know what I mean, when I thought it would be a great idea to enter a stairwell that was marked “CLOSED – DO NOT ENTER.” It was so creepy. Cobwebs and dank smell that told you the door hadn’t been cracked for years. I was the only one in the stairwell, and I kept hearing scratches against the wall and a clanging sound on the steps. I hightailed it out of there, and I hadn’t thought about it again until we pulled up. Krystal told us stories about some of the ghosts that still live in the hotel (including one room that the hotel doesn’t rent out unless you request it – and even then, you’re waiting a year to get in) and it’s kind of cool to hear the backstory of some of these “residents.”

It was a really great experience and made me want to learn even more about the city’s history. If you’re a tourist, a transplant, or even if you’ve lived in Chicago your whole life, I highly recommend checking out one of Weird Chicago’s tours!

July 14, 2017
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