Her Last Holiday: from the Sunday Times bestselling author of Strangers and Sleep comes the most addictive crime thriller of 2021
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I enjoy books by CL Taylor and once again, I’m not disappointed. Her Last Holiday is an intricate and twisted thriller filled with psychologically complex characters. Central character Fran is on a mission to find out whether her sister’s death at a wellness retreat was really suicide. The organisers are creepy. One is bossy and manipulative, the other is an unknown quantity having just been released from prison. In addition to the suicide, there were two deaths at the retreat and one of the organisers was culpable. Teaming up with an undercover investigative journalist they join forces try to piece together what happened that fateful night on the island. I reviewed this book by an audiobook. The narrator brought the characters to life for me and made the swapping between timelines so easy. If you want a summer audiobook or beach read. Then this is it. I cannot praise C.L. Taylor enough. Queen Latifah comfortably heads a cast who delivered solid, believable performances across the board (and some new faces to me). OK, the story was a bit contrived and some sequences were a bit far fetched (the snow board ride for instance) but it was a great deal of fun. As her HMO plan does not cover the high cost of an operation, Georgia resigns herself to having only a few weeks to live. She quits her job, liquidates her assets, and sets off on a dream vacation at the deluxe Grandhotel Pupp in the Czech Republic's spa city of Karlovy Vary.
I'm sorry to say this book is another unmemorable thriller. Unfortunately, the author didn't manage to grab my attention. Also, there were too many characters and I never felt close to any of them. Told in two lines, that of the Gozo retreat and of the current retreat from the point of view of the three women involved, Jenna, Kate and Fran, I kept getting confused about who was narrating and which retreat we were at and who all the other characters were, since some of them changed their names during the Gozo retreat. Fran's time at the retreat in Wales really dragged and felt repetitious with the story becoming a really slow burn to get to the point where we find out what happened to Jenna. Fran signs up to attend the retreat guided by the same team duo that held her sisters retreat. Under disguise can she find the answers she is looking for?
Her Last Holiday' as an audiobook is well worth a listen. It tells the story of Fran, who, under pressure from her mother, goes undercover on a spiritual retreat, in an attempt to ascertain the truth behind the disappearance of younger sister, Gemma, 3 years previously. During the holiday, I met some of my Spanish colleagues and they invited us to visit their house which is located in a nice village in the city suburb. Really, I liked this place for the large landscape, calmness, and the kind people who live in. On the fifth day of our holiday, we walked around the city and saw the old city which has been built above the mountain. So, you can see the whole city from above it. Despite the enjoyment that we have got, the negative thing about that holiday was that we spent so much money and also many friends need to buy some things from there, so I bought some souvenirs and I hope that I can keep one for myself to remind of that divine place. I listened to this book as an audio book. The narrator really brought the book to life. The different voices used really worked to clarify who was who. The story is told in a 'past' timeline from the viewpoint of Gemma, and a 'present' timeline from Fran. Several characters feature in both timelines. Tom, the guru behind the retreat and his controlling wife, Kate, in addition to 3 guests who have attended both retreats. Which, if any, of these characters is behind Gemma missing, presumed dead, status?!
Once at the hotel, she sees the senator of Louisianna (who was supposed to attend her church service) and Congressman Kragen, the owner of the chain of shops that she works at. She also meets the hotel staff, ranging from a mean housekeeper to a kind chef she had wanted to meet. That is where the humor really starts.Last Holiday is clearly not an Oscar worthy film but it is an enjoyable one and one that's hard to hate. The premise is pretty depressing yet optimistic at the same time. Georgia is a hardworking, quiet and hopeful girl. In the beginning of the movie, she lives a dull existence until she hits her head and finds out she is going to die in two weeks. After this, she decides to live life to the fullest. She doesn't want to be scared of the world anymore. For her final two weeks, she decides to fly to a fancy hotel in Prague she has always dream of going to. This raises the question if you need to have a lot of money to really live life to the fullest. It seems a little too much for me but everyone would want to spend their last two weeks differently. For those expecting a movie like the original, forget it. The original had an effective twist at the end and it was more social commentary than escapist humor. This version is more escapist humor but that doesn't mean it's a bad movie just not as effective as the original.
Although I usually enjoy C.L. Taylor's novels, this is not one of her best or one I'm likely to find memorable. 2.5★ C. L. Taylor’s writing style is engaging and I have enjoyed her past work, so I look forward to reading what she releases next. But, this one was too OVER THE TOP, for me. 😕 Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah), a worker at a supermarket, is a normal, shy and reserved person. She's afraid to talk to the guy she loves (Sean, played by LL Cool J), and she never does anything exciting. Within the first 15 minutes, you see her cook a wonderful looking meal which she cooked along with the show "Emeril", in which she takes a picture of and gives to her neighbor. She in turn eats a Lean Cuisine. These greatly affect the establishment of her character, so I give props to the writers. Tom Wade and his wife Kate used to run wellness retreats under the name SoulShrink, for people unhappy with some aspect of their lives. Although with no training in psychology, Tom is the charismatic and gentle listener that people would come to hear while Kate managed the running of the retreats. However, after a retreat on the Maltese island of Gozo ended disastrously with the deaths of two participants and the presumed suicide of a third, Tom was sentenced to two years jail. After his release his cash strapped wife goads him into holding another retreat again, this time in Wales. THE AUTHOR: Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014. She lives in Bristol with her partner and son.
Kate is more than just Tom's assistant. Much more. SoulShrink was her idea, her baby, Tom the person she chose to front it. She is focused on success, complete with all the trappings, and God help anyone who gets in her way. One of my favourite lines: " 'There's no need to cause a fuss.' A fuss? I found out my dad's not my dad and she acts like I found a hair in my soup?"
The story, which looked at people's aspirations and dreams and the need to take every day as it comes, to enjoy life to the full (as we don't know what is round the corner) was played out with great passion and skill. Latifah's comedy acting (loved the raised eyebrow and sideways glances) was relaxed and easily won over the sympathy of the audience. Great, also, to see Gerard Depardieu again as I haven't seen him for a while. Both of the characters keep secrets and as they discover more lies of each other’s, they never hesitate to use them as leverage. It was a truly entertaining to be witnessed of their power game as if watching a challenging tennis game ! Tom Wade, the now infamous man behind Soul Shrink Retreats, has just been released from prison after serving his sentence for the deaths of two people. But he has never let on what happened to the third victim: Jenna.When Fran arrives, she learns that several other guests who had attended the retreat that Jenna was on, are in attendance as well. This is my first book by this author, but I will certainly read her other books. I recommend this story, especially to those who like discovering family secrets from years ago and complicated family relations. I just love Last Holiday! It's one of my favorite movies ever, and I've probably seen it twenty times by now. It stars one of my favorite modern actresses, Queen Latifah, costars one of my favorite celebrity boyfriends, Gérard Depardieu, and features an incredibly inspiring storyline filmed at an exotic, glorious setting. It's my dream to follow in Queenie's footsteps and take a vacation to Hotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary.