Book Review: ‘The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway In the Sky’ by Jeff Kurtti, Vanessa Hunt, Paul Wolski

I pre-ordered this and got it late last year. It sort of got lost in the shuffle of my stack of books needing to be read but I finally got around to it and I should’ve sooner because I really wanted to kick back and enjoy this.

I’m glad to say that this big, oversized coffee table book was a really neat read.

Growing up in Florida, it was hard not to be captivated by Disney’s magic, especially when trips to the parks were fairly common in my childhood and ’80s through ’90s Disney theme park stuff always hits me hard in the nostalgia part of my brain.

In fact, I loved riding the monorails as much as I liked riding the actual rides. It was always a cool, fun experience flying along the rail, a dozen or more feet above the beautiful grounds of the Disney parks and resorts.

I suspected that this book would be like many Disney books about the company’s history. It was full of large pictures throughout the decades, showcasing all the different monorails, it’s creation, construction and every other part of the vehicle’s long and colorful history.

This also featured a lot of concept art and promotional material about the monorail system.

The chapters were all really interesting a well-written and alongside all the imagery, helped to paint the full story of this great attraction from Walt Disney’s earliest vision of it to being the easiest way to get around the Disney parks since its inception.

For those that also have a burning nostalgia for the history of Disney’s parks, this is a must-own. Plus, it wasn’t as expensive as one would think. I paid something like thirty bucks for this pristine, thick, hardcover beast.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: other books about the history of Disney parks or theme parks in general.

Book Review: ‘The Conan Companion: A Publishing History and Collector’s Guide’ by Richard Toogood

If you remember the review I did for the book Paperbacks From Hell, this book is a lot like that one. Although, it’s focused specifically on Conan titles.

What’s cool about this, though, is that it doesn’t just go through the history of the original Robert E. Howard stories and books but it also covers the books that were written by other authors later on. It also explores the comic side of things to.

This is part history book, part reference book and part art book. Well, mostly art book, as it showcases so many great covers from the nearly century long literary history of the Conan franchise.

I loved thumbing through this as I was reminded of many book covers I had long forgotten and even more that I had never seen. When I was a kid, it was seeing these book covers in the library that really drew me to the character, even more so than the original 1982 movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Granted, the comics pulled me in too but there was just something about the paintings that adorned the covers of the paperbacks I’d come across that really captivated my imagination.

This is a pretty cool book to own if you’re a fan of fantasy art or the Conan mythos. If you’re a big fan of both, even better. 

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Paperbacks From Hell, as well as other Robert E. Howard related non-fiction books, many of which I’ve reviewed here.

Book Review: ‘Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction’ by Grady Hendrix

If you grew up in the ’80s (and I’m assuming the ’70s), you probably remember walking into book stores and seeing amazing but terrifying artwork adorning the covers of hundreds of horror paperbacks.

Some of those images were burned into my mind for life. Some of them I forgot about. However, this book brought them all back and it was cool as hell seeing all these covers once again.

This book is more than just some art book full of classic horror novel cover art, though.

The author, Grady Hendrix did a superb job of outlining the history behind the art that decorated these book covers for a few decades.

He talks about his own experience and appreciation for these books but he also breaks down all the subgenres and discusses the history and details behind them.

There is a lot to digest here between the great chapters that Hendrix wrote, as well as the hundreds of pages of stupendous art.

Plus, this book is top notch with high quality paper, images and construction.

This will definitely be a book I pick up and reference over the years, especially when looking for inspiration for my own stories.

Rating: 9/10

Book Review: ‘Tiki Pop: America Imagines Its Own Polynesian Paradise’ by Sven A. Kirsten

There are books on Tiki culture and then there’s Tiki Pop: America Imagines Its Own Polynesian Paradise by Sven A. Kirsten and publisher TASCHEN.

What I mean by that is that this book is the bible on Tiki history in the United States, as it covers its genesis, all of its key elements, how it expanded into everything in pop culture and ultimately, how it faded away and then saw a bit of a revival.

Like all books I own by TASCHEN, this is image heavy and presented on premium paper stock. It’s a legitimate art book that truly delves into Tiki history and displays everything that one could imagine from that pocket of Americana.

This book is a very thick hardcover that covers so much territory, even for being chock full of hundreds of images and also being translated into three languages.

I found every single chapter intriguing and well researched. My only real gripe about the book is that the written part of each chapter is kind of short and I felt like it all could’ve been greatly expanded on. Maybe the author can do that in the future, as this has so many great entry points to different parts of Tiki pop that can be expanded upon in many books.

Regardless of that, this is still the greatest book I have ever come across on the subject. Plus, it’s beautifully and immaculately presented. For lovers of Tiki culture, this is absolutely a must own and it’s also really inexpensive for its size and quality.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other books on Tiki culture and pop culture from bygone eras.

Book Review: ‘Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History Book’ by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson & Sam Witwer

I never got to play Dungeons & Dragons, even though I was fascinated by it. My mum dumped the religion on me pretty hard and then by the time I was older and didn’t care about that, none of my friends really cared about playing D&D anymore.

I’ve always adored the franchise and everything within it, as I’ve always loved fantasy, especially sword and sorcery fiction and movies. I also dug the hell out of the cartoon when I was a kid, which I was actually allowed to watch for some reason.

This big, thick, hardcover masterpiece is a damn fine book to add to your collection. Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, the artwork collected in this alone makes the book well worth the price tag.

One really cool thing about this is that it’s foreward was written by Joe Manganiello. Yes, that Joe Manganiello, who apparently was a massive D&D fan. Sam Witwer, another actor known for a lot of his sci-fi roles, also contributed to this.

This book covers a lot more than even its large size would imply. It shows the history of the property in just about all of its forms from early role-playing manuals to the animated series to video games to comics to books and just about every other medium and product that adorned the Dungeons & Dragons name.

I love this book. Right now, it’s on my coffee table. Granted, I should probably move it before someone with French fry fingers gets it all nasty. 

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: anything, from any media, about Dungeons & Dragons, as well as other big, hardcover art books on cool nerd shit.

Book Review: ‘The Art of Vampirella – The Dynamite Years’ by Various

Like all the other large format art books put out by Dynamite Entertainment, this one if full of spectacular pieces from my favorite artistic medium: comic books.

Plus, it also features one of my favorite indie comics characters of all-time: Vampirella.

While the Warren Years Vampirella art book blew my f’n mind, this one doesn’t quite hit the mark for me in the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great book to own for fans of the character and comic art. However, I’m a much bigger fan of the ’60s and ’70s classical art style of the other book. That era was full of work by great fantasy painters from Spain and Italy and it had a totally different vibe.

This collection features modern comic book art. I do like most of it but it doesn’t blow my socks off like the old school stuff.

If these are the sort of books you like to collect, this one shouldn’t disappoint. The art styles have changed over the decades since the original Vampirella stories but there are still great pieces to enjoy here.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other art books put out by Dynamite Entertainment that features the history of the characters they publish.

Book Review: ‘Otomo: A Global Tribute to the Mind Behind Akira’ by Various

I really would love to see an art book that features the best work of Katsuhiro Otomo one day and maybe that exists in Japan but I’ve never come across one, here, in the States.

This is still a pretty cool book though, as it features tribute pieces done by dozens of artists inspired by Otomo, especially his work on the long-running manga Akira.

Honestly, there’s not a bad art piece in the lot and I enjoyed every page of this hefty, oversized hardcover.

Each spread has the art piece to the right with the left side giving you a nice bio of the artist who created it.

There’s not much else to say really. This is a neat book to own if you love Otomo, Akira or cyberpunk styled art.

It’s well presented, looks nice on the shelf and it’s actually pretty inexpensive for what it is.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira manga and other works, as well as other comic/manga art books.