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Hello, and welcome to imagic reflections!

Here, we talk about books, history (actual and alternative), the latest discoveries in archaeology, music, movies, and just life in general.  Whatever catches my interest at the time.  Occasionally, I’ll post a scrap kit for you to download.  This doesn’t happen as often as I’d like anymore, but that’s life.

Before downloading any of my scrapbook freebies, please take the time to read my Terms.   Downloading any of my creations implies an agreement to these terms, whether or not you have actually read them.  My terms may be changed at any time without notice, so be sure to check back.  Thank you and have fun!

My book reviews express my own opinions and feelings about books I’ve read, but if you want to repost them elsewhere, then feel free to do so.  With appropriate credit, of course.

LibraryReads October List

library_reads_logo_websiteTime to take a look at LibraryReads October List. Because one can never have too many books in ones TBR pile.  Even if said pile resembles a ginormous mountain.  Say, Mauna Loa in Hawaii.  I mean from ocean floor to peak.  Or, maybe, Mt. Olympus.  The one on Mars.  :)

Two books really jumped out at me.  The first, the favorite, A Sudden Light, very nearly made it on my most anticipated reads list.  For no other reason than I loved The Art of Racing in the Rain.  If you did not cry at least once by the end of that novel, there’s something wrong with you.  I’m just saying.  Anyway, looking at the blurb, A Sudden Light looks interesting in its own right.   The second book to catch my eye, The Boy Who Drew Monsters, sounds awesome.  Read the blurbs and judge for yourself.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
September 30

Sudden-Light_SteinWhen a boy tries to save his parents’ marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future.

A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family’s struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all.

A Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue
October 7

Monsters_DonohueFrom the New York Times bestselling author of The Stolen Child comes a hypnotic literary horror novel about a young boy trapped inside his own world, whose drawings blur the lines between fantasy and reality.

Ever since he nearly drowned in the ocean three years earlier, ten-year-old Jack Peter Keenan has been deathly afraid to venture outdoors. Refusing to leave his home in a small coastal town in Maine, Jack Peter spends his time drawing monsters. When those drawings take on a life of their own, no one is safe from the terror they inspire. His mother, Holly, begins to hear strange sounds in the night coming from the ocean, and she seeks answers from the local Catholic priest and his Japanese housekeeper, who fill her head with stories of shipwrecks and ghosts. His father, Tim, wanders the beach, frantically searching for a strange apparition running wild in the dunes. And the boy’s only friend, Nick, becomes helplessly entangled in the eerie power of the drawings. While those around Jack Peter are haunted by what they think they see, only he knows the truth behind the frightful occurrences as the outside world encroaches upon them all.

In the tradition of The Turn of the Screw, Keith Donohue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a mesmerizing tale of psychological terror and imagination run wild, a perfectly creepy read for a dark night.


Tangled Roots: Roland Chosewell Dixon

We already knew that one of our great-grandmothers was a Dixon.  Here’s their marriage record.  So, her father was Bryon Dixon.  We find Bryan Dixon in the household of John D. Dixon in 1870 census.  However, in the 1880 census, he is Edward B. Dixon.  Thus, Edward Bryan Dixon son of John D. Dixon.  The 1880 census also tells us that married Nancy Jane Daniels in 1844. Incidentally, it also answered the question of whether his mother was Mary or Catherine.  Both:  Mary Catherine Paul.

However, before we get sidetracked with Pauls and Daniels’, we weren’t done with the Dixons.  The 1880 Pamlico County Census (yes, again), told us that Joseph Franklin Sumberlin married Margaret Ann Dixon, daughter of William Dixon and Margaret Scott.  Here’s the marriage record.

So, what was the connection?  There had to be one seeing as how all of them were living in Township 1, Pamlico County.  The answer came when I stumbled over this and many other conversations over at Genforum (which, unfortunately, will be closing at the end of the month).  They were brothers.  Sons of Roland Chosewell Dixon and Penelope Keel.  Roland fought in the War of 1812 and, briefly, in the Civil War.  He died November 26, 1864.  I don’t know the cause of death.  His youngest son, and namesake, Roland Chosewell Dixon, Jr., died September 30, 1864 during the Yellow Fever Epidemic (scroll down a bit) that was ravaging New Bern at the time.  Roland Sr. might have as well.

I want to thank Suzy Dixon Bennett, apparently my cousin many times over, for taking the time to post her research.  Thanks to her research, I can now trace my Dixon ancestry back to Walter Dixon, Sr. who migrated from Virginia to Pitt County.


Eureka! Sort of…okay, not.

I found this this morning.  Unfortunately, the dates are wrong.  Plus, there’s the minor detail that he’s in Texas and was born in Kentucky.  His father, Josiah, was born in what is now Tennessee.

Tangled Roots: The Hunt for Dewitt Continues

And gets even more tangled.

I’ve found out who Graves Sumrell was, thanks to this conversation at RootsWeb between Bill Kittrell and Patsy Evans.  Thanks, both of you.  It also told me who Nancy Susan King’s parents were.  Interestingly, there are Kings on my mother’s side.  We’ll have to investigate that.

Were Stewart, James, and William brothers?  I have no idea.  If anyone does, please, please, pretty please, through me a bone.

Stuart Summerlin appears in the War of 1812 Muster Rolls for Green County.  1814 Muster – 2nd Regiment – 9th Company.  Green County Census records for this time burned when the Green County Courthouse burned down in 1887.

Besides all of that, I’ve found a few other Sumrells/Summerlins/Summerells in Lenoir County.  A Thomas Summerlin appears in both the 1800 and 1810 censuses.  The 1810 census tells us his middle initial was M and that he was born before 1755.  In the 1820 and 1830 censuses, we found James and William P. Sumrell.  William appears, again, in the 1840 census, as does Graves.

To add to the confusion, there are several Sumrells/Summerlins in early Pitt County in 1762 and 1764, including two named Thomas.

Despite the influx of Sumrell related data, we still haven’t found the extremely elusive Dewitt/Derritt.  Maybe it was a middle name?  The marriage record of James Sumlin and Margaret Stilley shows his parents as P. Sumlin and Matilda.  Something to think about.


Tangled Roots: The Hunt for Dewitt

My sisters and I have been bitten by the genealogy bug.  It’s both fascinating and addictive.  We knew the names of our great-grandparents on both sides, but, after that, everything was fuzzy.

For obvious reasons, we started with the Sumrells.  With a little digging, we’ve decided that the original surname was probably Summerlin.  Or other spellings thereof.  Sumberlin, for example, which we found in the 1880 Pamlico County Census.  I’ve become very familiar with this document.  Especially Township 1.  If you have an ancestor on that list within Township 1, chances are we’re related.

We know for a fact that Joseph Franklin “Frank” Sumrell was our ancestor.  In the notes column, this census tells us that his parents were Dewitt and Matilda.  The search for them was on.  This is were it has lead us:

  1. Also in the 1880 census, we find a James Sumrell in Township 3.  For that is where we find him, his wife, Peggy, and their children, Mary and Henry.
  2. In the 1900 census, we find James Sumerell, wife Margret, and son Henry A. (among others) in Richland Township, Beaufort County.
  3. In North Carolina, Deaths, 1906-1930, we find a James Henry Sumrell who died in 1916 in Beaufort County. His father was named Derritt Sumrell, born in Lenoir County.  There are lots of Sumrells/Summerells in Lenoir County.  Especially in the area known as Contentnea Neck.
  4. The patriarch of this family seems to be a Washington Thomas Summerell.  He has many descendents.  His parents were James Summerell and Nancy Susan King.  They married in 1803.  I have no idea who either of their parents were, or even if we’re connected.
  5. I do know that there was a Franklin Summerell in the household of Washington’s son, Peter, of the right age in 1870.
  6. Further, in 1860, a James and Frank Sumerell appear in the household of William Sumerell.  William was born in c. 1835.
  7. A William S. Sumrill, born 1833, appears in Washington’s household in 1850.
  8. Notice that Washington has a son named Atlas.  In North Carolina, Deaths, 1931-1994, we found Henry Atlas Sumrell.  His parents are listed as James H. Sumrell and Margaret Ann Stilley.

Though circumstantial, all of this seems to add up to some sort of connection between our Sumrells and the Contentnea Neck Sumrells.  And, just to add to the confusion, there is also a Graves Sumerell in the 1860 Lenoir County Census that has a James in the household of appropriate age.  I’m curious about him and the others in his household.

Who were Dewitt’s parents?  And who as Matilda?  I haven’t the slightest clue.  Any cousins out there who can help with the search?

Next, we delved into the Dixons.  What a tangled mess that turned out to be!

Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History by Trevor Bryce

In this latest work, Trevor Bryce kept me entertained for two out of the three millennia of Syria’s long, eventful history it covers.  Through the rise and ebb of Ebla, the arrival of the Amorites, and the glories of Yamkhad.  The great clash of the three super-powers of the Late Bronze Age (Hatti, Mitanni, and Egypt) and their dramatic fall at its end.

Ancient-Syria_BryceThe verve with which Bryce tells of the duplicity and naked ambition of Abdi-Ashirta and his son, Aziru, as well as the desperation and frustration these roused in the King of Byblos, was wonderful.  And the new spin on the debacle that was Urhi-Teshub.  You know that Ramesses was secretly laughing his butt off.  Not only were these tales informative, but vastly entertaining.

Oh!  And speaking of Ramesses, I really enjoyed Bryce’s telling of the Battle of Kadesh, both here and in The Kingdom of the Hittites.  You can just see the young Pharaoh.  So young, brash, and self-confident as only a teenaged boy can be.  And then he meets the cunning and experience of Muwatalli, Great King of the Land of Hatti.  No contest.  Ramesses doesn’t obliterate the Hittites the way he tells it in his inscriptions all over Egypt, but escapes by the skin of his teeth.

Then we have the ravages of Assyria from it’s battle for dominance with Urartu to it’s fall at the hands of a resurgent Babylon and the Medes.  Then come the Persians with the meteoric rise of Cyrus followed a few centuries later by the anti-climatic death of Darius III at the hands of Alexander III, King of Macedon.  It is at this point that my enjoyment takes a nosedive.

I really liked this book up until that point.  Absolutely loved it.  Then we get to Alexander.  Frankly, I’ve never been a big fan of his or any of his supposed heirs.  I know, I know, it’s fascinating and entertaining to read about all the scheming, backbiting, betrayal, and assassination.  Or it should it.  But the whole era bores me to tears.  And I’m not much more interested in Rome.  So, despite the skill of Mr. Bryce, the last two parts of Ancient Syria, or the last millennium or so, were boring to me.

Ever since I read his The Kingdom of the Hittites, the first edition back in the ’90s, Trevor Bryce has been one of my favorite ancient history authors. In fact, I think I’ve read it twice.  I’ve also read the 2005 edition.  With all of the new discoveries and text-joins that must have happened since then, I’m kind of hoping for another edition sometime soon.  And here’s to hoping he rewrites with the style he uses in his latest, Ancient Syria:  A Three Thousand Year History.  Imagine if Bryce injected the same life into the tales of Uhha-Zitti and Piyama-Radu as he has here for the ravaging Habiru chieftains of Amurru!

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars for first two millennia; 2 out of 5 stars for the third.

Even More Page to T.V. Awesomeness

masterpiece-PBSIt has recently been announced that BBC Two’s miniseries-in-the-works, Wolf Hall, based on Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize winning novel of the same name, will be broadcast here in the U.S. on PBS as part of the 2015 Masterpiece line-up.  I’m so excited.  Can’t wait to see Damien Lewis as Henry VIII.

Uhtred is Coming!

That’s right.  Uhtred is coming … to T.V.  BBC Two and BBC America have announced that they are making Bernard Cornwell’s beloved Warrior/Saxon Chronicles into a television series to be called The Last Kingdom (also the title of the first book).  And, if that ain’t enough to make you grin, the show will be made by Carnival Films, the producers of Downton Abbey.  They also produced a mystery series called Rosemary & Thyme that I used to watch on PBS.  Production will start in the fall.  Here’s the blurb for the book, The Last Kingdom:

Kingdom_Cornwell‘I had been given a perfect childhood, perfect, at least, to the ideas of a boy. I was raised among men, I was free, I ran wild, was encumbered by no laws, was troubled by no priests and was encouraged to violence.’

Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of 9th Century Northumbria, but orphaned at ten, Kingdom_Cornwell-2adopted by a Dane and taught the Viking ways. Yet Uhtred’s fate is indissolubly bound up with Alfred, King of Wessex, who rules over the last English kingdom when the Danes have overrun Northumbria, Mercia and East Anglia.

That war, with its massacres, defeats and betrayals, is the background to Uhtred’s childhood, a childhood which leaves him uncertain of his loyalties, but a slaughter in a winter dawn propels him to the English side and he will become a man just as the Danes launch their fiercest attack yet on Alfred’s kingdom. Marriage ties him further to the West Saxon cause, but when his wife and child vanish in the chaos of a Danish invasion, Uhtred is driven to face the greatest of the Viking chieftains in a battle beside the sea, and there, in the horror of a shield-wall, he discovers his true allegiance.

Will you watch?