Cover Image: Mirrorland

Mirrorland

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REVIEW
MIRRORLAND | CAROLE JOHNSTONE

With Mirrorland I had expected an almost fantasy meets reality story in the vein of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. However, what I got was something much darker. A twisty, intensely atmospheric, psychological gothic thriller whose twists about a missing twin and dark family secrets that won’t stay buried, keep you guessing to the end. It is a book about imagination, and the stories we tell to protect ourselves from the harsh realities of life. It’s a story about buried secrets, family and the echoes of childhood that impact our adulthoods. It’s a fascinatingly, complex debut.

Mirrorland is beautifully written and incredibly detailed. But it is a slow burner, whose pace will not appeal to everyone. With chapters encompassing the past, the present and the imaginary world of Mirrorland, it is hard at times to keep track of all these story strands, but for a debut author Johnstone does an astonishing job of knitting them all together for an astonishing ending.

A very clever, intense, psychological thriller debut ⭐️⭐️⭐️out of 5
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A lovely mysteries tale .I was totally engrossed from the first page.I will definitely look forward to reading more of Carole Johnstone books and will recommend to my friends
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Ever start reading a book and find yourself struggling to pick it back up? I've been fighting a slump all year and I really didn't care for the beginning of Mirrorland. The imaginary and real worlds blend together mid sentence and I just wasn't getting on with it.

I was a quarter into my Netgalley copy and after a week without reading it Dave invited me onto TheWriteReads tour so I forced myself to pick Mirrorland back up and I am SO GLAD.

I found Cat and Ross hard to like at the start and I seem to have read too many missing sisters in fiction lately but WOW does this story take a turn. 

There's a fun little map of Mirrorland in the front of this book and you're going to need it, the imagination packed into the sisters' world is mind blowing for two little girls. As you learn more and more about their lives and their mother you come to appreciate just how much they needed the escape. 

Mirrorland gets darker and darker as you read on, you'll be desperate for answers. Why did El and Cat fall out so catastrophically? What happened on THAT historical night? And what really happened to El? Everytime you think you've guessed it I guarantee you'll be wrong.

I don't provide trigger warnings in my reviews but for those who need them I'd advise you to look them up for Mirrorland before you go in, or feel free to drop me a message.

Mirrorland is told in first person POV by Cat via both past and present timelines punctuated by diary entries and emails.
The writing is easy to follow once you get into the rhythm of switching between reality and imagination, uncovering the truth alongside Cat had endeared me to her character by the end.

Mirrorland is an intense ride that I highly recommend, I will definitely be looking for more by Carole Johnstone in future.
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I gave this book 4 stars because it was well written and cleverly written but I still can’t decide if I loved it or not.
It’s the story of twin sisters El and Cat. They became estranged and haven’t kept in touch for twelve years.
Cat returns home after her sister disappears while sailing her boat. Mysterious letters and emails start arriving with clues for Cat to discover what has happened to El and who is responsible. 
The story jumps between the present and their childhood adventures in the mysterious world of Mirrorland, a secret and sometimes scary fantasyland created  within their house .
As suppressed memories begin to return the truth about the far from perfect childhood El and Cat experienced is revealed. 
As the book progresses the reader learns the truth about El’s disappearance and justice prevails. However, a clever twist at the end proves otherwise.
I enjoyed the book but towards the end got a bit bored with the stories from Mirrorland and just wanted the mystery of El’s disappearance resolved. At times I couldn’t differentiate between “then” and “ now” which made me very confused at times.
Good book but too much Mirrorland for me. Look forward to more from this author.
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Mirrorland, the debut novel from Carole Johnstone, is a mind-bending, inventive, unusual and quirky book which absolutely blew me away. It’s about twins Ellice (El) and Catriona (Cat) who as children are as close as can be but as adults have drifted apart with El remaining in their native Edinburgh and Cat moving to LA. They haven’t spoken in over a decade and Cat has remained in the US, but a phone call from Edinburgh telling her that El has gone missing has her boarding a flight and returning to her family home.

No. 36 Westeryk Road is an imposing and foreboding place filled with memories of Cat’s childhood with El. As girls they lived a fantastical life, spending their days letting their imagination run riot, re-naming bedrooms The Kakadu Jungle, The Clown Cafe, The Donkshop and The Princess Tower and creating an imaginary world. Running under the house is a secret passage, used in the past by servants to access things like the wash house, but for Cat and El it is a secret world they named Mirrorland. This was a place where they pretended to be on a ship, sailing to an island to find their father, a swashbuckling sailor. They had a whole cast of shipmates, brought straight from their imagination and they’d spend hours down there playing and inventing stories.

El’s disappearance has devastated her husband, Ross, and he is fearing the worst. She took her boat, the Redemption out and neither she nor the boat have been seen since. It is looking like she has died at sea, but Cat, her mirror twin is sure she is still alive and when she starts receiving clues to a treasure hunt from somebody who knows too much about Mirrorland, she feels surer than ever that it is El sending them. But is it?

Returning to the house unleashes a whole host of memories on Cat and Johnstone takes us back in time, building Mirrorland and throwing us straight into the action. I have to confess to being very confused initially and I didn’t really understand what I was reading but I am so pleased that I persevered because the pay off was worth it. It is a fantastical world which feels incredibly real and I could almost feel the ship listing in a storm and was there in the Clown Cafe with the twins. Vivid and creative writing brings this world to life and provides important context for what is happening in the present.

A thriller wrapped in a gothic fantasy, Mirrorland is such a fun read, despite some dark subject matter. Once I ‘got it’ I was fully invested and unable to put it down, mainly because of its quite wonderful plotting. The writing is pin-sharp and precise, every word weighted to ensure maximum impact and to challenge perceptions. The characterisation in particular is excellent and my feelings towards Cat changed page by page which I loved, finding her a complex and three dimensional character.

A treasure hunt, time jumps, a fantastical world, characters who leap off the pages and ingenious storytelling mixed with a thriller make this such an inventive book. It almost feels like a giant puzzle, filled with clues and dispirit parts which only show the bigger picture once you stand back and it has made me want to re-read it as, although I did work out some of the ending, I want to see what clues I missed. It is SO clever and come highly recommended from me.
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During their isolated, traumatic childhood in an ominous Gothic Edinburgh house, twins El and Cat created a dark imaginary world called Mirrorland where they’d have adventures with pirates, witches and clowns. As adults, the twins have drifted apart. Cat is living as a struggling writer in LA while El married Ross, the boy who lived next door to their childhood home, where El and Ross still live. But now El has gone missing and Cat is called back to Scotland to confront the past and follow the clues as to where El could have gone. Mirrorland is definitely one of the darkest, most twisted thrillers I’ve read in a long time. I really wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t, which added to the mindfuckery of it. It’s an intense exploration of the uniqueness of twinship where the twists just keep coming. Ice-cold and very clever, I have a feeling that this book will have a good year!
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Interesting premise but the story went a completely different way than I expected and I wasn’t at all prepared for the magical realism. It’s a sub genre I don’t tend to do well with and unfortunately in this instance it didn’t work for me either.
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This was a slow burner of a read, but well worth it. 

It starts when Cat returns home to Edinburgh after her twin sister, El, goes missing whilst out sailing. The return to her family home sparks a myriad of memories for Cat, mostly centered around the imaginative fantasy games of their childhood.

As time passes, with no sign of El’s return, Cat becomes increasingly concerned and the mystery deepens as the story takes a thrilling turn into a tale of deception and betrayal.

I look forward to what Johnstone has in store for us next. 

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for the review copy.
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This is a novel I wanted to like but found the fantasy element off putting and it slowed the narrative. I liked the theme of the twins and guessed the ending long before the final chapter but all the characters were unlikeable. Three stars.
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My Review
I was so delighted to get my hands on a copy of this debut.
A different read for me in that it had a slightly gothic feel to it.
I really felt the hairs stand on the back of my neck quite a few times throughout reading.
I did find it to be a slow start for some reason but then a number of chapters in and it suddenly took off.
I am not sure did I ever take to the twins though.
Their characters seemed strange, almost sinister. Like they had a sisterly bond but knew nothing about each other.
The house I will admit frightened me. It was so creepy, even some of the names of the rooms scared me....Clown Cafe being one of them..
A house almost like Narnia but a creepy Narnia...
I think the author created a story where I felt nothing was as it seemed...
We meet Cat in this story. Her twin sister El has gone missing from a boat trip and having lived away from their childhood home for a number of years, Cat must make her way back.
Feeling slightly apprehensive about what lays ahead of her, Cat knows that her trip home will bring back up many memories she thought she had dealt with.
You do wonder does she know her sister as well as she thinks and that thought kept recurring for me throughout.
So very well worth your time.
This book has everything in it. Great characters, a good mystery, quite creepy and oh so very dark...You will definitely enjoy it...
Thank you kindly to author Carole Johnstone and her publisher Borough Press for my copy of this book. Much appreciated.
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I really struggled with this one to start with and almost DNFd it. I found the parallel storylines a bit confusing and the childhood ones were strange. Once I got used to it, and found the rythym, it was better. I wasn't particularly enamoured by any of the characters, nor was I shocked by the ending - bits of it suprised me but the ultimate end was what I thought. Overall it was a clever story and it hooked me from about halfway....worth picking up 💜
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Cat and El are twins. Actually, they are Mirror Twins – “rare, special, two in one hundred thousand” -, their mother would dress them in identical clothes so that when Cat looked at El it was like looking in a mirror. Their childhood was far from ordinary, living with their mother and grandfather in no. 36 Westeryk Road, in a house where each room had a name and they had created a world of fantasy full of adventures called Mirrorland.

Now in their thirties, Cat and El haven’t spoken and seen each other in twelve years, but when El suddenly disappears, Cat hops on the first plane back home. El’s husband is distraught, the police is convinced that El is dead, but Cat knows she is alive and thinks that this is just another trick of her sister to get attention. And when Cat starts to get emails full of clues, her search for her sister turns into a treasure hunt and she is forced to face her past and her childhood.

I really enjoyed Mirrorland. It is stimulating, engaging, intense, and compelling with complex and multi-layered characters. It is not always easy to follow the story as the fantasy merges with the reality and the past mixes with the present, but I found myself completely immersed in the world of Mirroland and its characters and in the story of the two sisters. As you read, you realize that Mirrorland is not simply a world invented by two very creative children and their mother, but the truth is much more disturbing and darker than you expect: how much of Mirrorland is fantasy? And, is El disappearance connected to Mirrorland? Is her husband involved? And why the two sisters haven’t spoken to each other for twelve years? The truth is slowly unraveled and it is completely unexpected.

Slow-paced, well-written, and carefully-plotted, Mirrorland is a twisty and thrilling story that will keep you hooked from the first to the last page. Highly recommended!
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It’s amazing what can be created by a child’s imagination… but by doubling it with twins with that psychic twin intuition thing that only twins seem to have, it’s got to be something special. And Mirrorland is a pretty darn special place!

Cat’s return to the UK dredges up long forgotten memories for this grieving twin. The memories of happier times with her mirror image beside her and some Cat would rather be left in the past. I was intrigued what had come between the two sisters, why had Cat left with no intention of return?

As the investigation in to El’s disappearance developed, my mind began to mistrust everyone. Had El been the subject of a tragic boating accident or was something more sinister afoot? I was desperate for Cat to get closure but as the emails leading her on her sister’s treasure hunt uncovered more from the past, I didn’t know what to think. The past was coming back to haunt Cat but what was it hiding? The reminiscing that this treasure hunt instigated in Cat’s mind was fascinating. I didn’t know how much of Mirrorland was real – the twins’ imagination was brilliant.

This debut totally blindsided me at every turn. As the chapters gradually revealed what happened to El, I thought I had it sussed. But no, Johnstone totally pulled a magical rabbit out of a very twisted hat followed by a multitude of scarves that left me reeling as I finished. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
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I think this was beautifully written but unfortunately the story just wasn't for me and I really couldn't get into it. Gorgeous book for those who like magical realism.
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Although this was a very original and clever plot it was also very complicated and made my head hurt at times. I'm not really a fan of fantasy and those sections of the book concerning the make believe world of Mirrorland were very confusing and also rather long. I wasn't keen on any of the characters and some were truly awful. I'm grateful for the opportunity of reading it but it wasn't really for me I'm afraid.
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When El goes missing, sister Cat, returns home to discover the truth, the truth of what has happened to El and also the truth of their past. 

This is a story with lots of twists and turns and lots of information from the past.
It took me a little while to get into, to get used to how the story of their past was being told. But once you get into this, you will get hooked! 
Your gut will tell you one thing, but the facts suggest something else!! 
This will keep you up into the night as you try to figure out just what has happened in their past and how that could possibly affect Els disappearance. 
I found it quite a long read, but definitely worth it.

Thank you to Netgalley, the publishers and most importantly the author, for the chance to read this book, in exchange for an honest review.
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I’ve read and loved some of the author’s short fiction, but this is her debut novel. Mirrorland is a corker, part thriller, part mystery with some gothic fiction thrown in for good measure. I knew I want to read it when I read the blurb. It sounded like the kind of book I’d love to get lost in. Thankfully, my expectations were spot on. Mirrorland is very rich and detailed and reminds me of some of the works by Joyce Carol Oates. I loved the setting in Edinburgh, Scotland, a town not far from where I live and somewhere I’ve visited many times. I have a soft spot for book set in my country. I also enjoyed the flashbacks into Carol and her sister’s past. This is a great book to get lost in.
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Sadly I didn’t connect to this at all and dnf’d at 25 . I can see this working well for the right reader, but I wasn’t that reader at the moment. I’ll not be reviewing this extensively as it’s a case of wrong book at the wrong time rather than any flaws that I can put a finger on.
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For some reason, this novel was totally not what I expected. Not that I am sure what I did expect- but what I did find was an addictive, breathless read

At one stage I felt quite overwhelmed and confused by the fantasy elements of the story, but , with hindsight, this is an important part of the story, where fact and fiction blur and only serve to show the depth of imagination and mystery in identical twins El & Cat's lives

Some of the storylines are disturbing, there is a lot which makes the reader feel unsettled but ultimately there is a great finish with all loose ends tied up neatly.
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Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone is a riveting psychological suspense novel with a cover that doesn't just hint at the darkness inside the pages it showcases it. 
Catriona and Ellice are identical or 'mirror' twins who their mother always called rare and special. As adults they aren't close as they previously were. Cat returns to their childhood home due to the news of El being missing-presumed drowned by either suicide or a sailing accident. Cat feels El is still alive as she feels she would just 'know' if her mirror twin was gone.
 Their childhood home is now El's home with her husband Ross. Cat arrives back to the place that was their 'Mirrorland'. Their own safe space that they boarded ships and they created their own characters such as pirates, clowns , a witch and tooth fairy. They sailed the high seas and had adventures like no other. Carole Johnstone has nailed it with the imagery that is evoked with her descriptions of these girls highly detailed and complex imaginary world. I can just picture them playing out the scenes together. 
 Cat tells the pice she doesn't think El is dead as she would most certainly feel it as a twin. She tells the police, she in convinced that El is not dead, believing that she would somehow know if she were. This seems to become more and more likely as she begins to receive emails directing her to revisit parts of their fantasy world and seek out clues clearly left for her. Everything starts spiralling out of control as she revisits Mirrorland and is pulled back into the past of their imaginary world that exists for those who know where to look for it.
 A stunning novel that pulls you into the girls fantasy world of the past and also runs with the police investigation of the present. A psychological suspense thriller that begins to appear out of the fantasy. As things from the past start to slowly unravel it shows not all is as it seemed then and the way in which you see certain people alters.
 A multi-layered story that is a dark and really twisted one. The ingenuity of Carole Johnstone is crystal clear. The skill upon which she has crafted this plot is undeniable. As the book begins it makes you wonder what you are actually reading but she pulls you in with each individual plot thread and certainly pulls everything together to reveal this atmospheric, clever, moving but at times horrific story. The characters are really believable and the twins relationship is a difficult one and Carole Johnstone has depicted that so well. 
 A book that I feel my review does not even do justice to, but I have tried! 
 Thank you so much to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me on this tour, Carole Johnstone and Netgalley for my copy of the book.
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