Cover Image: Mirrorland

Mirrorland

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Member Reviews

Very creepy. This is a psychological thriller you have to stick with and not blink twice because you'll miss something--spexifically, what's real and not real.
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Happy Publishing Day!!

What did I just read?! That was crazy! This is such a creative, imaginative tale that has you guessing the whole time. Thank you NetGalley and Scribner for this digital ARC!

Cat and El are identical “mirror” twins who create an imaginary world under the pantry stairs, “Mirrorland” when they were young. With pirates like Blackbeard and Bluebeard, princes and princesses, witches and Andy Dufresne, this unique world was all their own.

Now adults, Cat is living in LA, but has to travel back to their childhood home in Scotland when her sister El goes missing.

She is sent on a scavenger hunt of sorts to solve the mystery. Along the way she is forced to revisit events of the past that have been buried and forgotten. 

This debut novel by Carole Johnstone is one you don’t want to miss!
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Twin sisters Cat and El have been estranged for years. When El goes out on her boat and doesn't return, Cat is obligated to return to her childhood home in Edinburgh, though every fiber of her being rails against it. The Mirror House, as it was always known to her. A house that was both a sanctuary and a prison, a means of escape and a dead-end. Despite El's husband Ross being utterly distraught over her disappearance, Cat is not convinced her sister is dead or even in danger. Her suspicions are reinforced when she begins receiving strange messages hidden throughout the Mirror House - messages with clues and information that only El would know...but is it really her? As evidence begins to mount which points to El's death, Cat slowly recovers childhood memories that had been long forgotten. Memories of Mirrorland, the imaginary world the siblings created together which could be just as brutal as it was whimsical. There are truths that Cat has buried deep, and only by returning to Mirrorland will she be able to uncover them.

This book was a wow for me. Johnstone creates a degree of depth and complexity both to the story and characters themselves, and she manages to do this without making the reader lose the thread of things. I found Cat a little difficult to sympathize with early on because it wasn't yet clear why she was so bitter and skeptical when it came to El. As the plot unfurled however (and ever so tantalizingly - Johnstone also has a way of giving the reader just enough to keep them guessing and completely on the hook), I became fully invested in Cat's unyielding quest for the truth. Reading about the girls' games in Mirrorland was fascinating; characters like the witch, Bluebeard, the Tooth Fairy, Mouse, the clowns, and the pirates transported me and kept me wondering about all of their significance as a whole.

My only slight hang-up was with the conclusion, and being the conclusion I guess that might not be considered so 'slight,' but it was something I could live with. There are some elements I found to be a little too fantastic for my taste though the rest of the book compensated.

Mirrorland is a highly original and intense look at the complicated dynamics between siblings, the weight of familial secrets, and the power of childhood imagination. A huge thanks to NetGalley, Scribner, and Carole Johnstone for the opportunity to read this ARC and provide an honest review.
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Mirrorland is a dark thriller that started slow and confusing, but ended up being an enjoyable read. 

We follow Cat whose estranged twin sister has gone missing. She goes to their childhood home where her sister, El, lives with her husband. El’s husband, Ross, is a childhood friend that both girls loved. The police and Ross think that El is dead. Cat is convinced El is alive because she’s getting strange emails that lead to notes and old diary pages from her. We follow Cat throughout the story as she tries to figure out what happened to El.

There were lots of twists and turns along the way that made me want to keep reading. My only complaint is that I didn’t enjoy the bits of the story that took place in Mirrorland. The girls used their imaginations to create this fantastical land, but I did not like the way it was woven into the story.
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Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone is an intriguing psychological mystery.

  Identical twins Ellice “El” and Catriona “Cat” grow up in a household with just their mum and granddad. Their old Victorian house has an unusual passage to a place the imaginative sisters call “Mirrorland”. In Mirrorland, they have grand adventures on the high seas and the old West. Inside the house, their mum reads darker fairy tales and stories to them. But, when the sisters are twelve years old, they go into care after they are found at the local harbor. El and Cat remain close until old childhood friend, Ross MacAuley comes back into their lives. After El and Ross decide to marry, Cat leaves Scotland for the United States where she remains until her brother-in-law lets her know El is missing. Cat immediately returns and waits in vain for news about El who is presumed to have died in a boating accident. She stays with Ross who, by an odd twist of fate, now lives in her old childhood home. With memories assailing her at her turn, she is forced to look at her childhood through a different lens as she attempts to convince everyone El is still alive.

  Cat initially views her long ago past through a haze of nostalgia.  She looks fondly back on her and El’s various escapades but a hint of uneasiness runs underneath the surface. Cat has an unnerving ability to forget upsetting pieces of her history so she does not know what to believe when she begins receiving unsettling notes and emails. The only time she feels truly safe is with Ross and although he is El’s husband, he was her one-time boyfriend. Cat is still attracted to her brother-in-law but should she completely trust his version of events?

  After Ross and his mum move into the house next door, he is a frequent visitor to Mirrorland. Cat is immediately smitten but she can be a little shy so it is sometimes hard to capture his attention. The sisters can be cruel on occasion as they join forces against him during some of their adventures. As they are reunited in their late teens, Cat is delighted that she and Ross spend time together as a couple. But she gives him up without much of a fight and cuts off all contact with him and El once they announce their engagement.

  While the mystery surrounding El’s disappearance is interesting, the first third of the story is a little slow-paced as Cat gets caught up in reflecting back on her childhood.  These passages are long and a bit confusing because it is impossible to tell what is real and what is not. It is not until the storyline focuses mainly on the present that the pacing picks up. Cat is a fascinating woman but she is a somewhat unreliable narrator. And since El is mainly seen through Cat’s memories, it is difficult to know if her portrayal of her sister is accurate.

  Mirrorland is an eerie mystery with an atmospheric setting. The plot is very imaginative but the pacing is a little uneven. The twin’s play area is somewhat creepy and Cat comes to realize that her memories are not quite accurate. Ross is initially devastated over El’s disappearance but some of his behavior is eye-brow raising. With very clever plot twists, Carole Johnstone brings this suspenseful mystery to a pitch perfect conclusion.
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This book took me a minute to get into because in the beginning, I was not quite sure what I was reading. There were a lot of fantastical descriptions of imaginary games from the narrator’s childhood, which made the switching back between the past and present a bit jarring. This made the book seem longer than its 320 pages, and I almost put it down. However, I decided to keep going, and I’m very glad that I did. When I got to the last third of this book, I could not stop reading. Every time I thought it was over, there was another twist to be had. Some of them I had an inkling for, but others definitely shocked me. The ending definitely made up for a rough beginning, and I really enjoyed this one overall! These are deeply flawed characters, but you learn more and more about their motivations as the story goes on, and more deceptions are uncovered. I think certain elements of this book will stick with me for a while.
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My parents are quite the couple, married over 50 years, always doing things together, always on the high-energy-train-ride to nowhere. The reason I bring them up is because they always taught me to tell the truth, never cherry coat, and never go with the grain.
I'm not sure what all the hype is about, I'm not one that wins the gold for popular opinion, and in fact when I post reviews and or posts I do so with almost 1k followers that have been carefully trimmed to 'actual real people' not bots, not trolls, and not just bloggers/reviewers, but people that can broaden my horizons and make me a better person simply for our friendships.
This book did nothing for me in the realm of thrills. It was actually kind of silly in terms of the Blackbeard, The Clown Cafe, the Mouse, and the other terms used rather frequently here.
In fact, to be brutally honest sexual abuse and domestic violence is no laughing matter. It should never be painted in this light as a 'freak of nature' as 'something to be gawked out' or as something that only stems from 'monsters in disguise'.
Domestic violence is real and sadly the characters portrayed it as a 'circus act' in the land of make believe and magic from delusional, crazy, and messed up people.
Because of this reason I felt the importance of the subject matter lost its appeal and for that I couldn't give in to the greatness of the remainder of the novel.
While it was written well it wasn't anything that I'd remember after reading because of this 'oddity' appearance rather than 'serious' actions that required adult intervention.
These twin sisters didn't seem all that close in my eyes. In fact, they seemed to do more to harm than help each other.
Drugs, violence, sexual abuse, DNA/paternal concerns, and more are highlighted in this novel and all of it was delivered in an off beat sort of way that just left me wondering why? Is spousal abuse funny?
If it is for some, it sure as hell wasn't for me.
Magical realism may be the central point. I've read many reviews claiming it's a mental drain on one's brain. Not if you're a speed reader.
However, the problem I did have what the fact that a spouse has done so much horrific actions and nobody but a mother noticed.
One of my biggest pet peeves is people staying quiet when they know something's off. See something -say something comes to mind.
This entire book left more questions than answers.
I'm not sure of the point of Iona the fiery princess who was left imprisoned high in her tower -isolated and alone after being kidnapped by her parent by an evil hag.
Nor, do I see why it was a brief -plop and drop- performance.
As for the finale, the fact that this animal named person may be a long lost relative the twins never knew about is also bizarre. As it was another 'plop and drop' and came at the conclusion.
I'll happily sit in the category of 'not my cup of tea' as I don't follow popular opinion on this one.
Thank you to Carole, the pub, Netgalley, and Amazon Kindle for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.
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DNF at 16% - just not my cup of tea.

I was really excited to receive a copy of this book to review but after putting in more hours than I want to admit trying to read it, I had to call it at 16%. When I read the description, I thought it sounded like a really interesting story and, once I started reading, found that I struggled to wrap my head around the concept of Mirrorland. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my review.
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Cat hasn't spoken to her twin sister, El, in a long time, so when El goes missing, Cat feels like she's stepping back into a life she tried so hard to forget about. Cat especially feels herself drawn back to Mirrorland, the space in their childhood home they turned into a gothic conglomeration of fearful fits of imagination. El seems to be leading Cat on a dark treasure hunt, one that threatens to bring back memories Cat's not sure she wants returned, but she's already in too deep to walk away.

This is a strange book, but that's not a bad thing. At first, I thought this was going to be a DNF (do not finish) for me. The first chapter was already so confusing, and I had a really hard time getting into the story. In looking at other reviews, it seems I was in no way alone in this. This is a book that seems to really divide readers, a one star or a five star read.

I am definitely glad I kept reading. By the time I hit 20%, I was completely hooked. There were so many twists I never saw coming, and I was really invested in the story. This is a dark read for sure, so be prepared for that, but it is a fascinatingly creative and creepy read as well.
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“Mirror land” is a wild ride. The book is about twin sisters that grew up in a house where they created a strange, fantasy world borne out of their collective imagination. When sister El goes missing, Cat begins to investigate and is pulled into memories of the past and back to Mirrorland. This is a creative, imaginative page turner and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC.
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I really want to like this book because it sounded so intriguing but I just can't. It moves as slow as molasses and is boring - something that shouldn't be possible with this type of book but there it is. I've gotten through chapter 5 (17% of the novel) and it still feels as if nothing is happening  and nothing ever will happen. Its been a chore, one I face with dread every time I open it, so I'm stopping here. Two stars rather than one because it feels like it should be interesting. Perhaps a different person will enjoy it.
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I have been so excited about reading Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone.  I would like to thank NetGalley and the publishers for giving me an arc for exchange for my honest review.  Mirrorland reminded me of The Girl in the Mirror as it had "mirror" tiwns.  We are dealing with an unreliable narrator who takes us on a twisty journey on a psychological thriller ride! Satisfying debut from Johnstone!
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Can we just talk about how PERFECT this cover is? The cover alone is going to make this book a huge success. Not only is the cover flawless, but so is the writing. This is an amazing thriller that is dark and edgy and original. Loved it! Thanks for ARC!!
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I had a very difficult time getting into this book and connecting to the characters. It was difficult for me to follow what was going on as the present shifted to the past interchangeably and if you aren't paying close attention, it's easy to get lost. It also doesn't help that Cat and El grew up believing in an imaginary place they called Mirrorland, which I think was just a special place in their house where they could hide and just be kids. (I was a little confused about this and couldn't tell if it was a boat near where they lived, tunnels connecting homes together, or just a hidden spot in their home.)

Unfortunately, by the end of the book I didn't really care about El and Cat and Mouse, or Ross for that matter. It was a little predictable and took too long to get to the good parts.
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A dark, twisting thriller that is submerged with themes of betrayal, revenge, memories, imagination, and the all too thin line between love and hate. It’s a study in how childhood memories can be rewritten with the passage of time and how the lines between imagination and reality become blurred. It’s a story of murder and long buried secrets. 

I found that I really liked this novel, but I went into it wanting to love it. I loved the childhood nightmares brought to life, though until you catch the flow, the tale can become quite convoluted and confusing. Once you’ve obtained the feel of the land, it flows along, twisting and turning until you reach the well played out ending. This has a gothic horror feel with nods to Stephen King and hints of Gillian Flynn. 

Overall, I would recommend this as a nice way to escape back into the land of childhood monsters and repressed screams. 

Thank you so much to #NetGalley, Simon and Schuster Publishing, #Scribner, and the talented Carole Johnstone for providing me with an electronic ARC in exchange for my honest opinions. This little devils playground will be available April 20, 2021 as will my full review on http://OceansOfBooks.com as well as the retail sites.
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This is a twisty psychological thriller that does border a bit on the unbelievable. I love the setting, the creepy house, and the way the author gives you a little bit of information then gives you a little bit more slowly revealing the truth of the story. 

What I didn’t like was the slowness of part one of the book. A little bit of flashbacks are good but there were so many in part one that I skipped several pages without really missing much. If I wasn’t reading and reviewing this book for NetGalley I would have stopped reading around the 15-20% mark but I’m glad I got to the end to find out the truth of Cat and El, as unbelievable as it is. 

**Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the e-ARC I received*
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Excellent psychological thriller. Cat and El are twin sisters who shared everything growing up. To escape the reality of the abuse they both suffered, they imagined their world as a different place. As children grew they invented Mirrorland, complete with witches, pirates, and other characters to escape with when their lives were miserable. As the girls grew up, they both fall in love with the same man, which causes a falling out between them. When one of them disappears, the other doesn’t believe it, she believes she would know if something happened to her sister. Fantastic story with many twists and turns, not to be missed.
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Labyrinthine, haunting, and fantastical, like the house at its center, Mirrorland is about a broken childhood and the stories we tell ourselves as kids to heal the pain. 

This is a tremendously original and compelling book. It is hard to describe the plot, but basically, two identical “mirror” twins, Cat and El, grew up together in a house where every room told a story like a fairy tale. Cat comes back to the childhood home when her twin (from whom she has been estranged for years) goes missing at sea. As Cat tries to put together what happened to El, she must first return to her childhood for answers.

The book is beautifully written and has a mystical, fairy tale quality. I wasn’t sure how this would work for me, because I’m not usually a fan of the fantasy genre, but I ended up liking it very much because all the fantasy elements were clues to solving the real-life mystery. Cat’s voice is original and very compelling, and her backstory is complex and one of the most interesting character arcs I have read in awhile.

The book is great. I’m still working through my feelings about the ending, and whether it had one too many twists for me. But overall I really loved this twisty, complex, deranged fairy tale of a book very much. 4.5 stars, rounded down only because of my slightly mixed feelings about the ending. Expertly written book. Stephen King’s recommendations never fail me!

Many thanks to Scribner, NetGalley and the author for the ARC of this really neat and very consuming book.
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"Because stealing someone else's air is how you breathe."

--------------------------------------------

Mirrorland is a psychological thriller that I imagine won't be for everyone but boy did I enjoy it! The story follows Cat who travels home to Scotland after her twin sister, El, goes missing. Cat and her sister haven't spoken in years but were very close as children, what pushed them close and pulled them apart is slowly revealed to you throughout the story. As a coping mechanism, Cat and El built themselves a fantasy world, Mirrorland, which was full of pirates, witches and clowns.

When Cat arrives she is forced to remember the details of that fantasy world as El has left her clues about what really happened to her in the place that only she can access. Through this Cat is forced to face the traumas of her childhood and the realities of her sister's adulthood. 

I really loved the almost reverential tribute to Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, I really reveled in that being a featured fandom in their fantasy world. I would say in the beginning Mirrorworld is a bit of a mess to untangle but stick with it because in the end it all makes sense. 

The writing is really evocative and your sense of paranoia will grow with Cat and will begin to suspect everyone and I predict you will really enjoy the ending.

Thanks so much to Netgalley for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
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This is a beautifully written, compelling and dark story about twin sisters, their intricate web of secrets and the power of the human mind.   

Mirror twins Ellice and Catriona grew up in a home mixed with moments of love and a lifetime of fear.  They invented Mirrorland, an  elaborate pretend world with pirates, a wicked witch, clowns and an evil tooth fairy.  I saw some reviews that thought mirrorland too fantastical but read in the proper context, of a make believe world devised as a means of escape, I think it was everything it needed to be.  

Despite their closeness, a falling out leaves El and Cat estranged for 12 years. Cat returns home after El's disappearance not convinced that any harm came to her sister.  She's her twin after all, wouldn't she know? The present day search for El is interspersed with long forgotten memories of the past, details that Cat has long ago repressed.  

We also get to read pages of El's childhood diary which is a creative way to get to know her and help Cat remember events she's long forgotten.  

There were a couple times I thought the book was over and was surprised to see it continue... But my overall opinion was that this book was incredibly creative and unpredictable and definitely one of my  favorites this year.
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