This Sydney-based writer has authored a number of non-fiction publications on Australian natural and cultural heritage themes as part of her work for the local, state and federal government sectors.
Over her professional career she has worked as a researcher, writer, natural and cultural heritage interpreter, science communicator, exhibition and audiovisual developer and document specialist.
When it comes to works of fiction, including her latest book, 'Colour in Winter - No time to be lost', she writes under the pen name Halliday Smith to avoid confusion with a previously published author who shares her name.
The author loves going bush, especially to 'far out' Australian localities including north-western NSW, the far north of South Australia and Central Australia.
In her spare time, she researches overlooked aspects of Australian history and creates contemporary Australian landscapes on a WACOM tablet, drawing inspiration from Australia's evocative and scenic wide open landscapes.
Where to find Halliday Smith online
Colour in Winter - No Time to be Lost
by Halliday Smith
A woman’s decision to downsize her lifestyle to pursue a childhood dream is unexpectedly hijacked by a later in life pregnancy. Torn between her needs and those of the unborn child, her response to her predicament not only threatens to tear apart her family but also catapults her into a road journey through the centre of Australia with the last man on earth she would have chosen to accompany.
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Smashwords book reviews by Halliday Smith
- In the Darkness
on May 08, 2013
Well done to the author of this fast-paced book for her skill in the use of plotting and back storey to inform the action and build rapport with her key characters. As a journalist with first hand experience of criminal reporting, Tracy Frank has artfully fashioned a credible and compelling read.
There were ‘notes’ of Jodi Picoult and Lionel Shriver in Tracy Frank’s writing, including the slow but relentless revelation of the fate of Cadence Carter, a 17-year old cheerleader student on the brink of life who vanished hours after the concluding event of her senior year schooling and start of the rest of her oh so promising life.
By way of confession, I almost put the book down in the opening chapters as it became quickly apparent that Cadence was in serious trouble. Oh no. Not that kind of book? I was glad I persevered, however, as the author employed restraint and sensitivity throughout, choosing not to indulge in overly graphic sensational in-your-face details about the abduction. Thus said, the author takes the reader on a gritty unsentimental journey as her characters react to the circumstances they unwillingly find themselves in.
The disappearance of the teenager into the so-called darkness, shakes up her local community, unleashing the best and worst in her circle of friends and immediate family, stirring up murky emotions of guilt, suspicion, blame, grief and downright anger.
Tracy Frank’s characters come across as simultaneously authentic and unpredictable, aided by her evocative use of language and situation, including some fascinating scenes with food, and the masterful touch of the squirrel incident. Nothing seemed too far-fetched, overly maudlin or clichéd as the story progresses, and while the book includes some religious messages, they were appropriately voiced, furthered the story and in no way came across as too preachy.
Criticisms? In my opinion, there were some instances of overwriting, for example ‘ . . . he wrapped a knuckle of his index finger on the door three times … ’ and ‘ . . . Trista’s tears [slowed] from a deluge to a light rain . . .’, descriptions that to me seemed to be trying too hard. And then there was the ending, which I won’t reveal here for obvious reasons. While it was satisfying on many fronts, redemptive even for all concerned, I was hoping for a different outcome.
Above all, In the DARKNESS reminds the reader of the preciousness and fragility of life, and the importance of making the most of it while we can, on the basis that we can never know what’s round the corner, as Cadence discovers.
- Out of my Mind
on May 11, 2013
The two things that caught my attention about this little book were its inventive name and attractive contemplative cover. On the inside, it’s an eclectic ‘sandwich’ of vividly described fragments of the author’s past interspersed with short stories and gritty observations of everyday life.
Set in the top end of the South Island of New Zealand, ‘Out of my Mind’ turns its attention to the everyday staples of the life in the rural hinterland - the cruelty of siblings, senseless bullying, keeping shop, putting up with house guests, the vulnerability of the elderly, and so on.
While some pieces come across as jotted down notes to self about a possible story concept, Rose Conroy’s evocative descriptions lift her writing in others, for example, the ‘ . . . muddy monster thrashed through the guardian willows along its banks and eyed the terrace where our houses stood . . . ’ as she recalls the ‘big flood’ of 1957. And ‘Goat Gratitude’ splendidly documents a herd of ecstatic goats enacting a ‘perfectly choreographed routine, not a hoof out of place’ to honour an act of kindness.
- Still Waters
on May 23, 2013
Written from two women's point of view, this intriguing book is set against the unusual backdrop of the navigable lakes and rivers of Florida, USA.
At the heart of the storyline is the inexplicable theft of the hard drive from researcher Teena Shostekovich’s home computer, and with it the only version of the novel she had spent six months writing to take her mind off a fraught and highly contested work situation.
As the story unfolds, the consequences of this puzzling theft lead to unsettling email communiqués from the thief, interspersed with Teena’s growing friendship with the detective intent on getting to the bottom of the heisted hard drive.
I enjoyed this book on so many counts, not the least for its original subject matter, skilful writing, sure-footed characterisation and compelling relationships. Equally satisfying was the unexpected interweaving of two strands of the plotline, namely the twists and turns in would-be author Teena’s personal and working life and those of her fictional heroine, feisty cowgirl Jessie Weston, disparate storylines that eventually meld into one.
The further I delved into this book, the more apt the concept of navigable and unnavigable waters became for the trials and tribulations of Teena and her fictional heroine as they take their chances with life and love, putting me in mind of the old adage, ‘Still waters run deep’.
How refreshing it was to come across a book that unsentimentally explores the unsung roles of public servants ‘fighting the good fight’ against the odds. In this case, it is Teena and her colleagues who are tasked with preventing the covert conversion of Florida’s navigable waters into private land for sizeable personal profits.
The subject matter of this book rings sufficiently true that it came as no surprise to discover that the author is an authority on Florida’s navigable water bodies and a dressage rider and trainer to boot.
Quite simply, I didn’t want this book to end, and right up to the last page, couldn’t guess at the final outcome.
- Kick Start
on June 01, 2013
This zingy novel is an empowering tonic for stay at home mothers the world over who married young, had kids, tended their family and put themselves last while trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations.
The centerpiece of Kick Start is the reaction of our heroine Linda to her husband Rick’s ‘trading up to a younger model’ and the subsequent disintegration of their outwardly picture perfect 18-year old marriage.
Her predicament is made even more stressful because the moralistic well-to-do society she lives in ‘simply didn't do divorce. So tasteless, so lower class.’
Dealing sensitively with the subject matter and with plenty of humour, this novel explores a mother’s efforts to reconfigure her way of being in the world after her husband’s betrayal evicts her from her comfort zone.
While romance is not my favourite genre, Kick Start drew me in with its lively writing, clever dialogue and artful use of local idiom. The well-drawn cast of characters came across as real people with Linda’s unconventional best friend Connie providing a sterling antidote to the former’s church going acquaintances.
This book boldly strays from the conventional romantic plot line where the heroine takes a dislike to the hero but over time allows herself to be seduced and subsequently falls for him.
The attractive younger man Linda runs into when she goes back to college to shore up her financial future is also in the process of reinventing himself after his own career prospects have been hijacked.
Will they get together and if so, will it last or is it just a fling on his part? The opposite of Linda’s husband on so many counts, ex-Navy Jack was sufficiently appealing that for a while I suspected he was keeping an almighty flaw under wraps that would shatter their slow burning relationship.
As the novel progressed, the question was whether they could surmount their age difference and Linda's concerns about what was best for her children. And without giving the plot away, was her stifling marriage really over?
While this book will have special appeal for women going through divorce, its life lessons are universal. At its heart, Kick Start reminds the reader that life is by no means over when closing in on 40. And that it’s never too late to act on the premise that you only get one go at life. As Linda explains, ‘Heaven knows everything in my life needed a kick start. But it wasn't going to happen unless I made it happen.’
- Caught in a Storm
on July 04, 2013
The underlying premise of 'Caught in a Storm' brings to mind the 'Marie Celeste', the mystery ship found floating with a meal on the table and no one on board. But instead of an abandoned ship, elk hunters George and Mary, caught out by an unexpected blizzard, have stumbled across a fully furnished hut. And many moons have clearly passed since the occupants walked out the door.
While George lights a fire, thankful for the hut’s small stock of firewood, an exhausted Mary finds an old diary. And after an anxious night, she is transported back in time as she starts to read entries penned by the woman of the house.
Having overlooked the fact that 'Caught in a Storm' was a longish short story rather than a standard length novel (my bad!), I was surprised when the plot suddenly wrapped up, with few twists and turns other than the story’s final revelation.
Had the author interleaved episodes from the historic diary with the elk hunters’ efforts to stay alive, the story may have been a more satisfying read. As a reader, I was looking for more dramatic interludes to retain my interest, for example the couple’s inability to leave the hut for a week because of an unseasonal build up of snow.
Being out of food and running out of firewood would have heightened the tension, providing time to compare and contrast the two storylines. And I would have liked the pair to have unearthed more clues to the couple’s disappearance, deepening the sense of intrigue.
From a practical point of view, I couldn’t help wondering why a hut that must have been less than a day’s walk from the road had remained undisturbed for so many years. And the dialogue was clunky in parts, for example: ‘He said that if they were careful with the wood, burning only a piece at a time to keep off the chill, the wood should last through the night.’
Great story idea, with room to improve re its execution.
on Aug. 08, 2013
Great cover equals a great read? Not necessarily. But in the case of 'Stuck', the answer turned out to be a resounding yes! I really enjoyed this book, both for its insights into another world - set as it is in Nova Scotia, Canada - and for its uplifting and inspiring conclusion. At the essence of this book is an exploration of the meaning and importance of freedom, as experienced by so many of Stacey D. Atkinson’s compelling characters.
Having accepted the ‘adult in the room’ role, our gutsy heroine, Odette, a modern day cross between Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, is doing everything to keep her ‘unconventional’ family afloat.
As the plot thickens/progresses, Odette’s grit and selflessness had this reader cheering as not one, but two love interests sail into her ‘ordinary life’ from across the seas.
The author’s contemporary storyline is well-paced, entirely believable and interweaves a fascinating cast of characters, faults and all. In doing so, she encapsulates modern-day Canada, both as a destination of choice for refugees and a nation that will be impacted by climate change and rising sea levels.
The dialogue is totally believable, with greetings in French capturing subtly the bi-lingual nature of the characters, a nice touch.
At what of Odette’s own bid for freedom? Will she become 'unstuck', in doing so fulfilling her childhood dreams and living up to her seafaring grand papa’s hopes for her? After all, he likened her to the north star because ‘she burned the brightest’.
All I can say is, read on. There's a lot to like in 'Stuck'.
- Somebody I Used to Know
on Aug. 22, 2013
With its fair share of underlying tensions, Theresa Smith’s debut novel, ‘Somebody I used to know’, certainly lives up to singer-songwriter Gotye’s angst-ridden smash hit of the same name.
But the author’s storyline is a lot more complex than the hit song’s ‘you done me wrong’ premise, dealing as it does with the tricky territory teenagers confront as they negotiate the highly-charged pitfalls of adolescence. None more so than the events leading up to a tragic incident that breaks up the close-knit ‘gang of four’, Nora, Luke, Nick and Jen, and changes their lives forever.
‘Somebody I used to know’ is a good read but it is not your average ‘happy families’ type love story. Instead the author subtly explores on several fronts how a dysfunctional upbringing not only shapes individuals but influences the relationships they are drawn to.
Subterfuge lies at the heart of this novel, as decisions made by young heads in the best interests of others come back to haunt their makers down the track.
The author skilfully explores a number of points of view, including those of her mid-30s heroine Nora, and her coming of age teenage daughter Ness. And we have a pretty good idea about Nick’s state of mind through the device of the letters he started to write after the disintegration of the foursome.
The novel is well paced and the characters believable, gaining dimension as the plot unfolds through the skilful use of back story. And the sexual scenes are equally credible, free of cliché and entirely age appropriate.
As to the book’s setting, it wasn’t until Byron Bay got a mention that I realised that it played out in NSW, Australia. While I would have liked more descriptions that undeniably anchored the book ‘down under’, perhaps the author chose a more ‘wide open’ setting to increase its appeal to international audiences.
What would the reader have done in similar circumstances, had they been walking in the shoes of the protagonists? In posing this question, ‘Somebody I used to know’ is a moral tale well worth reading.
on Sep. 09, 2014
If you’re looking for escapism, Brisbane-based Nene Davis’s novel ‘Further’ may not be your cup of tea. That’s because her contemporary novel tackles rarely trodden territory that some might instead describe as somewhat offputting ‘in your face’ realism.
But don’t be put off! For thoughtful readers juggling multi generational family responsibilities (especially those of the female variety), there’s a lot to like about this novel on the empathy front.
All praise to Nene for so sensitively tackling some of the momentous issues facing today’s global citizens who end up living at opposites ends of the earth to their loved ones. Her novel ‘Further’ shines the spotlight on a family adjusting to a ‘sea change’ of epic proportions, namely swapping Wales (and the Irish Sea) for coastal Queensland (and the Pacific Ocean).
According to her blurb, Nene’s novel ‘mines’ her own family’s migration story from Wales to Queensland some years ago and this first hand ‘lived’ experience has resulted in an authentic and moving storyline.
Her fluid writing style uses dialogue to propel the story forward as her characters are forced to confront, and struggle with, their respective times of life, some opening up, others narrowing down. And central to the action, mother of three Isobel is having anything but the time of her life as she struggles to do the woman thing and manage her brood, her marriage and her mother, sometimes at a distance.
Without giving the plot away, the ending moved me to tears of the cathartic variety.
- Every Woman's Tale
on Oct. 01, 2014
39 nine-year-old Kate Sullivan begrudgingly takes time out from an unrelenting 24/7 work schedule to attend a seminar (on her boss's say so) that promises to improve one’s ability to multi task.
If you can’t sort out your priorities, then do one thing different the presenter urges her students, many of whom are out-of-control working mums like Kate, juggling in and out of work responsibilities to the best of their abilities.
In this 'what Katie does' scenario, our heroine makes one small change that impacts her relationship with her family and underpins the action that ensues.
From the start, 'Every Woman’s Tale' is a bruising and exhausting read, throwing you into the ring with the Sullivans as Kate juggles and struggles with having it all but at what cost.
Regardless, this unsentimental and gritty novel will appeal to anyone whose chronically overstretched, as in caught in the vice of the modern day work life imbalance.
PS. Great read, great book cover!