By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Candy and Me: A Girl’s Tale of Life, Love and Sugar
Hilary Liftin
Free Press

Hilary Liftin is a woman I can relate to. Framing her life by the large quantity and diverse quality of candy she’s consumed over the years, Liftin’s memoir, Candy and Me: A Girl’s 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 we’re honest, probably more than a little envy among readers. Liftin’s seemingly endless desire for candy, combined with a metabolism that won’t 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 Liftin’s story with her early childhood binges, sneaking confectioner’s sugar while her parents were out. Through school and summer camp, college and dating, candy is Liftin’s constant—always ready for a celebration, pick-me-up, or just plain consumption. From the well-known and loved favorites of every kid’s 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 Liftin’s 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 Liftin’s 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 didn’t want to have to associate them with a breakup bribe. They were meant for good, uncomplicated times.” As Liftin’s romantic relationships change from young crushes to serious dating and cohabitation, her relationship with candy evolves as well.

Candy and Me is Hilary Liftin’s second book after Dear Exile, which she coauthored with Kate Montgomery. Her writing style is familiar, intimate, and charming, like she’s 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, she’s able to appreciate candy for what it is: just desserts.

Singled Out
Trisha Ashley
Thomas Dunne Books

With her fourth book, Singled Out, Trisha Ashley writes chick lit for grown women. Here’s Cass Leigh, a horror writer working on her next book, who’s now having second thoughts about the long-term affair she’s 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 Cass’s father, a religious zealot, to the mix, who’s convinced that Cass is quite literally the spawn of Satan, and her saintly sister who’s using Cass as a ruse to distract her husband and parents while she’s 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 Out’s characters are absolutely memorable. From Cass’s 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, who’s developed a sudden and extreme interest in Cass when she’s 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 Max’s relationship; troubled Dante Chase, whose mother-in-law insists he was responsible for her daughter’s death, and of course, Cass’s wildly dysfunctional family. Singled Out offers something for everyone—a 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 Cass’s 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.” Ashley’s use of “Ma” and “Pa” in Cass’s 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 Cass’s life in equal parts, Ashley keeps all the characters and multiple subplots in check. The book’s broad genre bending is refreshing, and Singled Out is sure to appeal to readers who enjoy single girl-type books and light women’s fiction, whether they’re twenty-five or forty-five.


Amy Brozio-Andrews is a freelance writer and book reviewer.


© Melt Magazine 2005