Candy and Me: A Girls Tale of Life, Love and
Hilary Liftin is a woman I can relate to. Framing her life by the large quantity and diverse quality of candy shes consumed over the years, Liftins memoir, Candy and Me: A Girls Tale of Life, Love, and Sugar, is an enjoyable trip down a memory lane where the road is paved with sugar. Her unnaturally sweet lifestyle will cause wonderment and if were honest, probably more than a little envy among readers. Liftins seemingly endless desire for candy, combined with a metabolism that wont quit, allows her to cloak her habit to a certain degree, but anyone who knows her well is aware that the way to her heart is with Bottle Caps candy.
In a mix of chapters that are bite-sized and longer, each given a brand name candy title, Candy and Me begins Hilary Liftins story with her early childhood binges, sneaking confectioners sugar while her parents were out. Through school and summer camp, college and dating, candy is Liftins constantalways ready for a celebration, pick-me-up, or just plain consumption. From the well-known and loved favorites of every kids childhood to obscure regional candy, and from treats found at the corner store to those found only across the Atlantic, Candy and Me is an opportunity for the reader to share in Liftins candy land, triggering readers own memories about a favorite candy and how and where it was enjoyed.
Making for a sweet, funny, and at times touching look back at her life, the simple childhood pleasures of candy corn in Liftins girlhood are juxtaposed with the angst of junior high and conversation hearts; the innocence of her first college boyfriend and her short-lived Swiss petite fruit fixation is in stark comparison to the mini Bottle Caps given to her by a newly ex-boyfriend in later years: I didnt want to have to associate them with a breakup bribe. They were meant for good, uncomplicated times. As Liftins romantic relationships change from young crushes to serious dating and cohabitation, her relationship with candy evolves as well.
Candy and Me is Hilary Liftins second book after Dear Exile, which she coauthored with Kate Montgomery. Her writing style is familiar, intimate, and charming, like shes letting us in on her secret life. Little does she know how many of us probably share a like affection for sweets; I myself buy chocolate chips, not for making cookies (as my then-boyfriend, now-husband was truly disappointed to find out) but for snacking. Sprinkling her story with interesting miscellany about the history of candy, candy making and candy naming, Liftin shares with us her quest for love and candy, and finding that with the right love, shes able to appreciate candy for what it is: just desserts.
With her fourth book, Singled Out, Trisha Ashley writes chick lit for grown women. Heres Cass Leigh, a horror writer working on her next book, whos now having second thoughts about the long-term affair shes carried on with a married professor for about twenty years. Max always told her that his wife was okay with it, but after her death under mysterious circumstances, startling revelations from beyond the grave cause Cass to start doubting him. Will she be able to break the spell Max has her under? When she meets the dashing Dante Chase, new owner of the local haunted mansion, on a dark night, Cass wonders if he might be the one to turn her head away from Max once and for all, until it seems that Dante may be unable to escape his own haunted past.
Add Casss father, a religious zealot, to the mix, whos convinced that Cass is quite literally the spawn of Satan, and her saintly sister whos using Cass as a ruse to distract her husband and parents while shes really off sinning with another man, and Cass has more than enough real life drama to spin into her wildly popular paperbacks, which are routinely panned by critics and reviewers.
Singled Outs characters are absolutely memorable. From Casss late-night jaunts through local graveyards for inspiration; her best friend Orla, with her singing telegram business, hiring Cass to do Crypt-ograms; her friend Jason, whos developed a sudden and extreme interest in Cass when shes vamping it up in her Crypt-ogram costume; her ex-lover Max and his deceased wife, making sure she gets the last word in Cass and Maxs relationship; troubled Dante Chase, whose mother-in-law insists he was responsible for her daughters death, and of course, Casss wildly dysfunctional family. Singled Out offers something for everyonea little romance and mystery mixed with the occult, a humorous touch and spooky aura.
Each chapter of the book opens with a quote from a harsh review of one of Casss books, and weaves occasional lines from her novels throughout the text, demonstrating how Cass finds inspiration in her everyday life. Her prose is lively and descriptive, making a good book even more enjoyable to read: It was a March night so cold that I walked in an ectoplasmic cloud of my own breath and everything, including me, was crispy-crunch-coated with frost, and My sister hovered over me, her fair Madonna face distorted by a weasely snarl of exasperation unfamiliar to her many admirers, including probably her husband. I recognized it, though. Ashleys use of Ma and Pa in Casss reference to her parents is really the only jarring part of the book; every time Cass mentioned her Pa, it pulled me out of the story, reminding me of Little House on the Prairie.
As love and mystery swirl through Casss life in equal parts, Ashley keeps all the characters and multiple subplots in check. The books broad genre bending is refreshing, and Singled Out is sure to appeal to readers who enjoy single girl-type books and light womens fiction, whether theyre twenty-five or forty-five.
Amy Brozio-Andrews is a freelance writer and book reviewer.
© Melt Magazine 2005