Hot Best Seller

Hot Little Hands: Fiction

Availability: Ready to download

This exceptional collection of stories is about young women of different ages, from their early teens to their late twenties, coming to terms with what it means to desire, and be desired, with funny, surprising and sometimes confronting results. Ulman first made her mark with the story Chagall's Wife in Meanjin; this collection shows that she's a young Australian writer to This exceptional collection of stories is about young women of different ages, from their early teens to their late twenties, coming to terms with what it means to desire, and be desired, with funny, surprising and sometimes confronting results. Ulman first made her mark with the story Chagall's Wife in Meanjin; this collection shows that she's a young Australian writer to put alongside Ceridwen Dovey, Nam Le and Fiona McFarlane.


Compare

This exceptional collection of stories is about young women of different ages, from their early teens to their late twenties, coming to terms with what it means to desire, and be desired, with funny, surprising and sometimes confronting results. Ulman first made her mark with the story Chagall's Wife in Meanjin; this collection shows that she's a young Australian writer to This exceptional collection of stories is about young women of different ages, from their early teens to their late twenties, coming to terms with what it means to desire, and be desired, with funny, surprising and sometimes confronting results. Ulman first made her mark with the story Chagall's Wife in Meanjin; this collection shows that she's a young Australian writer to put alongside Ceridwen Dovey, Nam Le and Fiona McFarlane.

30 review for Hot Little Hands: Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    2016 is going to be my year of short stories. While Hot Little Hands is a short story collection, the stories tend to be on the longer side. They are set in Australia, the US, the UK and Russia. Most stories are told from the point of view of teenage girls or young women. Many of the teenage girls are first generation immigrants from Russia in Australia. Many of the young women are graduate students or struggling writers in the US. I suspect that these settings are tied to the author’s own backg 2016 is going to be my year of short stories. While Hot Little Hands is a short story collection, the stories tend to be on the longer side. They are set in Australia, the US, the UK and Russia. Most stories are told from the point of view of teenage girls or young women. Many of the teenage girls are first generation immigrants from Russia in Australia. Many of the young women are graduate students or struggling writers in the US. I suspect that these settings are tied to the author’s own background and life experience. Despite the young age of the stories’ protagonists, there is nothing sentimental or soft about these stories. Many of them are dark – or at least darkish -- and heartbreaking -- but in an odd quiet understated way. The girls and young women depicted are both naïve and knowing – they are old beyond their years without being particularly wise. The effect is often that as a reader I felt like I was watching the main characters walking on the edge of a precipice, hoping that they would save themselves – often from themselves and sometimes from others. Skilful writing and strong emotions conveyed without drama or fanfare. It really worked for me. Not all of the stories were 5 stars, but most of them were. One story in particular about young Russian gymnasts really shook me up. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy. It looks like this book was originally published in Australia, and will be published at the end of May 2016 in North America. I hope Abigail Ulman finds an audience here. She has some real talent.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    It's funny what some books trigger in us..... Half way through reading these stories, I started having images of Mary Martin in Peter Pan singing "I Won't Grow Up".... TRY...not to start singing? Hard, huh? I needed to get that song out of my head.... THESE STORIES about adolescent girls -and young women in their 20's - often teeter totter between feeling like a kid and an adult. Oh God... Another song came rushing into my head: "I Enjoy Being A Girl"....from Rogers & Hammerstein's Broadway musical, " It's funny what some books trigger in us..... Half way through reading these stories, I started having images of Mary Martin in Peter Pan singing "I Won't Grow Up".... TRY...not to start singing? Hard, huh? I needed to get that song out of my head.... THESE STORIES about adolescent girls -and young women in their 20's - often teeter totter between feeling like a kid and an adult. Oh God... Another song came rushing into my head: "I Enjoy Being A Girl"....from Rogers & Hammerstein's Broadway musical, "The Flower Drum Song". The sad thing is this: these stories are much darker than the old classic musicals. Life seems so much harder for young girls today! These stories are realistic for 'today's' times. "It's a Hard Knock Life"... ( I can't stop singing musicals since reading these stories). The girls in this book create turmoil -- or are thrown into turmoil. They are curious, have desires, have been let down, disillusioned, have fantasies, hopes, ...and more than anything I think the girls in these stories ( bless their little hearts), are confused. Big Girls 'do' cry, and growing up is hard to do! 2016 just got harder. Abigail delicately -reveals the world our girls are growing up in ---literally by showing us the same issues are happening globally. There are Nine Stories in this collection. Each one leaves you with a punch to ponder. "Chagall's Wife" : An unforgettable story between a teacher and student. This is my favorite story! Soooo well written! Grabs ya by the balls...and you can't let go! "Jewish History": Young Russian Gymnasts visit America for six days. I grew up as a gymnast myself & am Jewish, so my interested elevated. It's good! "The Withdrawal Method": Claire is in her 20's, a grad student/musician, and is pregnant...( unexpected). I had mixed feelings about this story which takes place in SF. I thought this story was good except, I felt there were too many - minor -characters introduced which didn't add enough to the main plot. I like how Abigail kept things simple with only two characters as in "Chagall's Wife". I just thought "Chagall's Wife" was a flawless- period!!! Claire shows up again in two more stories: ........"The Pretty One". Claire is having a very difficult time finding her true inner voice & ........."Your Charm Won't Help You Here" ( I thought this story was very sad) - emotional ... and very well written. Overall ...These stories are full of achingly exquisite prose > fierce..disturbing... with moments of quiet humor. Abigail Ulman is much too young to be so talented! Congrats to her! Thank You Random House Publishing, Netgalley, and Abagail Ulman

  3. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    Three out of nine ain’t bad. That’s how many stories I loved in this collection. Each of the nine stories is about a teenage or 20-something girl trying to figure out how to navigate the world. In many stories, the girls are figuring out what to do about sex. But don’t think the book is about sex, because it’s really about innocence, attraction. And self-consciousness, friendship, shame. When I started this review I was remembering a lot of blah, but then, hm, I looked at the stories again and ju Three out of nine ain’t bad. That’s how many stories I loved in this collection. Each of the nine stories is about a teenage or 20-something girl trying to figure out how to navigate the world. In many stories, the girls are figuring out what to do about sex. But don’t think the book is about sex, because it’s really about innocence, attraction. And self-consciousness, friendship, shame. When I started this review I was remembering a lot of blah, but then, hm, I looked at the stories again and just lit up. The three gems are shiny and keep me from seeing the matte-finished duds. But wait, I have to take a peek at these so-called duds for a sec. They aren’t duds, actually--they’re just not super interesting. Sometimes it was the character that I couldn’t connect with, sometimes it was an ambiguous ending that annoyed me, sometimes the story just wasn’t juicy enough. I kept feeling like something was missing, but I couldn’t say what. But the gems! Ah, the gems: “Warm-Ups” threw me for a loop and still gives me the shivers. It’s about a Russian teen who travels to America to perform gymnastics. The first part of the story was pretty dull, then whap! It was a holy-shit moment if I ever saw one. “Same Old Same As” opens with a girl talking with her therapist about being sexually abused. Despite its subject, it’s not high drama. It’s a quiet story that seems truthful and sad. If it’s quiet and I still like it, you know it has to be good. This one certainly got me thinking. Then there’s “Your Charm Won’t Help You Here,” the last story in the collection. This story of a young woman being detained at customs had me on the edge of my seat. It was fast-paced, smart, super tense, and relatable. I’m thinking this one has to be autobiographical because the tone is confident, direct, and full of passion, like you often find in a good memoir. Many of the other stories, now that I think about it, have a certain writing-school-self-consciousness about them. Which makes me realize that maybe what’s missing overall is the passion that comes when writing from your heart and soul. There is, of course, one (too long) story that bored me to tears: “Head to Toe.” It’s about two teenage girls who have sleepovers, go to horse camp, and seem depressed (or is it just inert?). Enough with the teenage angst already! The dialogue is embarrassingly empty (really, are teens so monosyllabic?) and their problems seem dumb. I don’t remember having a lot of intense conversations when I was a teenager, but I also don’t remember having such inane conversations, if you can call them conversations. Frankly, I couldn’t wait for the story to be over so I could get away from them and their boring lives. So overall, a mixed bag. The stories I liked were very very good—there’s just not enough of them. People will have other favorites, I’m sure. I will definitely check out what this new Australian writer comes up with next. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Because there's no option for zero stars. Here every story I read or looked at features immature teens. prepubescents and twenty-somethings talking and acting like teens or prepubescents. I read the first three and disliked them all. I love short stories but these lack interesting characters and events, structure and cohesion. They read like fragments. Or word salads. I skimmed more of the book and found nothing that captured my interest. I rarely don't finish a book, and it always feels bad know Because there's no option for zero stars. Here every story I read or looked at features immature teens. prepubescents and twenty-somethings talking and acting like teens or prepubescents. I read the first three and disliked them all. I love short stories but these lack interesting characters and events, structure and cohesion. They read like fragments. Or word salads. I skimmed more of the book and found nothing that captured my interest. I rarely don't finish a book, and it always feels bad knowing the author put a lot of work and a piece of their heart into it. I'm sorry; it just isn't my book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nat

    This collection of short stories are about break-ups that last longer than relationships; about sexual encounters, both real and imagined; about stumbling on the fringes of innocence and the marks desire can leave. About a desperate longing for maturity - and what happens when you finally attain it. This review contains *spoilers*. Jewish History: 4.5/5 stars This was such a phenomenal story to begin with. Damn, I feel so emotional right now because of it. This short story follows Anya, a Melbourne This collection of short stories are about break-ups that last longer than relationships; about sexual encounters, both real and imagined; about stumbling on the fringes of innocence and the marks desire can leave. About a desperate longing for maturity - and what happens when you finally attain it. This review contains *spoilers*. Jewish History: 4.5/5 stars This was such a phenomenal story to begin with. Damn, I feel so emotional right now because of it. This short story follows Anya, a Melbourne student in a Jewish school. We start out in Jewish History where the teacher (Mrs. Kansky) requests from her students - for Yom HaShoah - to interview any survivors in their family, or find out what happened to them if they’re dead now, and tell the story to the class. The stories the students told really, really resonated with me. And also the characters felt so incredibly realistic. There's this one scene in particular where the writer perfectly describes how I felt sometimes during class: “Anya,” she says again, her hand on my arm now, her bracelet cool against my skin. “This story is from more recent years. That’s not what we’re discussing this term.” Her voice is quiet and she’s looking right into my eyes. “Maybe you can tell it later in the year, but I think right now you should go and sit down.” So I do. There is nothing else to do so I go back to my seat and put my hands on my desk and stare at them. Yulia passes me a note but I don’t feel like reading it. I leave it there, folded up next to my pencil case. And though the class continues, I hear nothing for the rest of the lesson but a low humming noise in my ears, like an airplane stuck in midair.” Yes, yes, yes for that last sentence. So many things the writer mentioned had happened in my own classroom, and I’m just internally grateful for having read this story. It may be short, but it speaks volumes. I feel truly sad knowing that not many like it exist. I mean, I seriously needed to take a breather after reading this phenomenon (mostly to rave about it to my mother... who was super impressed by it, too). And… how have I gone so long without it in my life?? P.S. Bradley Ruben is a dickhead for what he did. Chagall’s Wife: 3/5 stars 14-year-old Sascha happens to stumble into her boring old science teacher, Mr. Ackerman, at a café. From there on they decide to go to a number of places and talk, and then... she tries to win him over or is it vice versa?? Honestly, this story just made me uncomfortable. I really don't like relationships where one side is majorly younger than the other. Also, in this case her wanting her science teacher made me cringe. I personally disliked all of my science teachers, so I couldn’t really understand why she felt the need to connect with him. Also, trying to imagine my own science teachers in Mr. Ackerman's place made me sick to my stomach. However, the writing was incredibly beautiful and specific... which is my favorite kind of writing: “Our silence was long and expectant, like the minutes between the snooze button and the return of the alarm.” The Withdrawal Method: 4/5 stars “Being unexpectedly pregnant is like learning that someone you love has died. You remember, then you forget, then all of a sudden it dawns on you again. ” This follow Claire's decision to terminate her pregnancy. And though the story was short, it managed to encompass a lot of well-developed characters, some I liked (Claire) some I didn't (Luke). Speaking of... Luke's the clingy and obsessive asshole that got her pregnant by using the “the withdrawal method” and whenever he talked, I just kept wondering: But I know a story is great when it manages to make me hate someone in less than 50 pages. And that it did. And just when I was starting to get convinced that most of the men in her life were douches, we meet Anton who was pretty cool, if I do say so myself. “So I was reading up about this abortion stuff. And there’s this website run by a really nice woman in Georgia called Loretta who’ll pay for a girl like me to have an ultrasound of my baby. Just to help me make the decision.” “That’s sweet of her,” he says in a croaky voice. He has sleep goop caught in the corners of both eyes. “So I was wondering if you’re interested in a road trip?” He stares at me and yawns at the same time. “Are you serious?” “No. Actually, I need someone to pick me up from the clinic tomorrow. I’m not allowed to leave by myself. I guess I was wondering—” He looks like he doesn’t want to do it. But then he says he’ll do it. “Thank you,” I say. “You’re the only person I know who wouldn’t judge me, or try to sleep with me, or tell me to keep the baby.” “Jesus,” he says. “I can’t wait to meet your friends.” And I can’t help it: The future reference makes me happy. “Do you want to go get a coffee or something?” I ask him. “No,” he says. “I’m going back to bed.” I don't know if Claire and Anton will end up being more than just friends, but I liked that it ended on a hopeful note. Warm-Ups: 3.5/5 stars 13-year-old Kira is a gymnast that receives the opportunity to visit America and perform on the balance beam with 3 other girls from her group. It was her lucky break. When they arrive in America, however, something goes seriously wrong, and I still don't get it. “Sometime before dawn, I realize that I don’t have a picture of Coach Zhukov. I decide it’s the first thing I’ll make him do when he comes to find us. “Smile for the camera,” I’ll say, capturing him in my viewfinder. “And I won’t tell my parents about what went wrong.” I seriously need to know what happened. Where were the people in charge (e.g. Coach Zhukov and his assistant)?? But on a completely unrelated note, there's this one part that perfectly managed to encompass one of my most pressing thoughts: “This is the weird thing—I can clearly imagine anyone’s face, except if it’s a boy who has a crush on me. Once somebody has saved me a seat in English class, or teased me in a way that means he likes me, I can’t keep his image in my head for a second. I can remember pieces of him—the color of his eyes, or a shirt he wore—but I can’t create a whole picture from those parts.” This is such a specific feeling that I had no idea anybody else could capture so well in writing. YES. Same Old Same As: 3/5 stars “Dr. Carvden had been using the word abuse for months before Ramona said it for the first time. “It just makes me feel gross,” Ramona told her. “Like I’m damaged goods.” “You’re not the damaged one,” the therapist said. “You’re someone else’s victim. This isn’t your shameful secret, it’s his.” This offers a point of view on the aftermaths of abuse that I hand't read about before. It's different because once the girls at Ramona's school find out, they offer her non-stop support and sympathy - which Ramona is stoked (?) about... She feels excited that she's the centre of attention at their school (?) “But what she saw there was not what she had expected; what she saw was not a teacher coming to bust girls using mobile phones on school grounds, but a group of six or seven girls with Kirsty at its center, and in Kirsty’s hands a cupcake covered in pink icing with a fat red candle sticking out the top. “We just wanted you to know we’re thinking about you,” Kirsty said. “Yeah,” said Amber, her curls nodding in concurrence. The bell rang for the end of lunch but none of the girls moved. “And we know it’s not your birthday or anything,” said Kirsty, “but we thought you might want to make a wish. For the start of a new life without anything weird or, you know, gross in it.” Some things get messed up along the way, and I didn't like how both her therapist and mother handled the situation; I don't find that they had Ramona's best interest at hand. “Am I in trouble?” “Honestly? I haven’t got a clue what to do with you anymore. You’ve put me in a terrible position. Do you realize that? Now whenever I come back here, for parent–teacher or sports day or to pick you up, all the other parents and teachers are going to be staring at me like I’m a terrible mother. Like I’m married to some kind of monster, instead of to sweet old Tony, who’s working nonstop to help me pay for everything and raise you kids. Do you understand?” “I wouldn’t worry about it. In, like, two weeks, no one will even remember any of this happened.” “I hope not.” The ending of the story, however, left me feeling a bit confused. It ends with her joining her family to watch tv, and Ramona's also thinking of quitting therapy because she’s “cured” now... What? The Pretty One: 3/5 stars The narrator in this one was actually really surprising because it was Claire from the previous story: "The Withdrawal Method." We left her on a pretty open ended note, so I loved getting back into her head. But I realized very soon that she had changed a lot... and not to my liking. In this story Claire's obsessing over this barely legally aged kid named Sylus (aka "the pretty one"). She starts acting really out of character and I kept thinking, "Is this really Claire?" And it really was her... because we got to have some closure on whether she had the abortion or not. “Did I cry last night?” I ask him that night over tacos and horchata. “Yeah, you were missing your family. And then you said you were scared about what’s gonna happen after you finish your PhD. And then you cried about your ex, and how horrible the breakup was.” “Well, I guess we covered all bases in one go,” I say, scraping the jicama to the edge of my plate. “And you, uh, you told me about the abortion,” he says, looking at me and lowering his voice. “I was sorry to hear about that. I cried a bit then, too.” I just... I found it creepy seeing her pine over some 19-year-old kid when she herself is almost 30. But when she hangs out with his friends, she realizes just how different she and Sy are. “The girls are all talking about Gay Pride, and how it’s gonna be awesome, and they hear there’s lots of nudity, and should they go to the park or watch the parade downtown? “Hey, they should also have a gay shame parade,” I say. “Where gay people dress up like they’re trying to pass as straight, and everyone else stands on the sidelines dressed like “disapproving parents, shaking their heads.” They all stop smiling and just look at me. I can actually see chewing gum stuck in a clump to one girl’s molar. “She’s joking,” Sy says from the floor, and everyone relaxes a little.” So, remind me again why she thought that was a good idea to say out in the open? And I could not for the life in me get why Sy and her stayed together for so long... especially when she started acting a little paranoid. “What are you doing?” I ask. “Just getting some fresh air.” “Where did that girl go?” “What girl? Oh, I don’t know. I guess she went home.” “Did you make out with her?” He looks at me like I’m crazy. “No,” he says. “I don’t care if you did,” I tell him. “Just be honest about it.” “I didn’t do anything with her. I’m in love with this other lady.” “I don’t believe you. And I don’t even care. You can do whatever you want.” And their relationship made me even more uncomfortable when this happened multiple times. But they did break it off towards the end, which made me feel (shamefully) really relieved. Head to Toe: 3/5 stars This follows two best friends named Elise and Jenni. They used to party hardcore, but now they're feeling a bit blue... so they mostly hang out at home. After awhile of this, Elise randomly decides to go to horse camp with Jenni. They arrive at the camp and share their cabin with three other girls... all 11 years-old. Though not a lot happened, my favorite moment was when they returned late at night to their cabin to find the other girls in a quarrel because of a "game" called Secret Swaps. “Dude,” whispered Jenni. “I’m so glad I’m not eleven anymore.” “I know,” Elise whispered back. “It’s the worst. Everything’s so confusing and, like, no one has their shit together.” “Did you really look at her vag?” “Yeah. She was freaking out that something’s wrong with her. She just flashed it really fast.” “And it was fine?” “Yeah, completely fine. I wish I had that amount of hair.” “Perv.” “How does that make me a perv!” “I dunno. But it definitely does.” “I hope they’re asleep when we go out.” “I know, I can’t take much more of their dramz.” When they head back home, Jenni and Elise slowly return to their old party habits. But... it was never revealed why they were so out of it at the beginning of the story, and I would love to know the reason. And lastly, I cannot leave without mentioning that one scene where Zack and Elise were doing it upstairs because damn, it made me cringe so badly. All I can say is that he definitely watched too much porn for his own well-being. I mean, not only was the sex really, really awkward, but what he said afterwards scarred me. “How does it feel right now?” “What do you mean?” “I don’t know. Vaginally, emotionally, whatever.” “Fine.” “You should go to the toilet.” “What?” Elise laughed. “I don’t know. It’s good for girls to go straight after. It stops you from getting an infection or something.” “Okay,” she said.” It's not even what he said, it's just how he said it... He seriously gave me the creeps. The only way I can convey the awkwardness and discomfort I felt is through this vine. Like, I can't sleep because of the continued disgust I have for Zack. Plus One: 2.5/5 stars 22-year-old Amelia is a "wunderkind blogger-turned-author-turned-mother-to-be" and also the queen of procrastination. I mean, she literally decided to get pregnant because she couldn’t finish her essay collection. “She got pregnant with a gay friend, and waited six weeks to make sure it was actually happening. Then she emailed her agent. It’s going to take me longer than expected, she wrote, even though it had already taken longer than expected and her last email, with the subject line Any day now…, had been sent four months ago. It’s early still and I probably shouldn’t say anything but—I can’t help it. I’m pregnant.” The film Blue Valentine is to blame for starting all this. And her rushed decision making manages to upset quite a few members of her family. “No one in her mother’s family had had a son for as many generations as could be remembered. It had been girls all the way until now, and the other Banks women were taking this hard, considering it a sign that the baby was an aberration and a mistake.” But the more I got into the story, the more I realized how Amelia's problems didn’t really feel like problems - it read mostly like #whitepeopleproblems, which I'm really not interested in. “But why did I do this? It’s like I’m nothing now.” “I think—” Her mom went quiet. Amelia stopped crying and tried to slow her breathing. She waited to hear what her mom thought. “I think you just wanted to keep busy and feel involved. And not writing the book made you feel futile. That part was the suicide. So you just did this big new thing. That’s what I think. And I think you’re going to be great at it.” “You do?” Amelia said, looking up at her mom. “Sure,” her mom said. “Better than me, anyway. I had no idea what I was doing. Still don’t.” I'm honestly still baffled by the fact that she's responsible to keep a tiny human alive. Your Charm Won’t Help You Here: 4.5/5 stars On her way back from Turkey, Claire gets stuck at immigration. And yes, it's the same Claire from the previous short stories... “I am completely blindsided when he tells me the interview is over and I will not be going on to San Francisco, that I will be on this evening’s flight back to Istanbul, or I will be going to jail. “But I have a visa.” “We just canceled your visa.” “Why?” “Because you have an intent to immigrate.” Damn, I never realized just how messed up the TSA is in America. I mean, Claire's getting deported because they think she's trying to immigrate to their country. “If I were Nicolas Cage I’d be elbowing someone in the jaw right now, but I’m me, so I cry tears onto my feet and watch them sink into my shoes.” The whole situation is honestly terrifying. Like, two days ago she was having the time of her life and now she's in some cell waiting for God only knows what. “I think about my American friends and wonder if I’ll ever get to see them again. I think about them and I wonder if it’s possible to be a patriot of a country that isn’t yours. Not an intent-to-immigrate-type patriot. Just, like, a spectator on the sidelines, eating cotton candy and waving at the big parade.” The only positive, since it's been 3 years after the last time we were in her head, was seeing her changed and matured a bit (she even quit smoking cigarettes). This short story really managed to capture all the horrors Claire went through in such a realistic way that I now feel even more terrified of airports... I mean, almost all the officers treated Claire like complete crap. And I even got a little emotional for some reason when she started telling the reader what will happen in a week, month, year from now. “Six weeks from now, I’ll be camped out on the sofa bed at my parents’ place, surrounded by my suitcase and all my stuff, staying up late at night to talk to my American friends online. Telling them to come visit me and not believing them when they say they will. Asking Lars to forgive me so we can get the band back together. And when I finally tell them all the story of how I got deported, they’ll laugh at how scared I was for them to know. “What did you think we’d say?” my friend Amanda will ask. “Everyone knows the system’s broken.” The whole situation was just so broken and messed up. Damn. P.S. I hate Gallagher with a burning passion. All in all, I would say that this collection started and ended with the best stories, for me. They really opened up my eyes and heart, and I'm so immensely grateful. *Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying Hot Little Hands, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission!* Support creators you love. Buy a Coffee for nat (bookspoils) with Ko-fi.com/bookspoils

  6. 4 out of 5

    Idarah

    Earlier this year I reviewed a book of short stories, and commented on how I would like to incorporate more collections into my reading diet. In keeping with that goal, I’ve purchased quite a few, but Hot Little Hands fell into my lap by way of my library. I was able to both read and listen to it as both of my hold requests came in at the same time. How serendipitous! These few but lengthy stories feature women, both young and more mature, navigating through the uncertainties of adolescence a Earlier this year I reviewed a book of short stories, and commented on how I would like to incorporate more collections into my reading diet. In keeping with that goal, I’ve purchased quite a few, but Hot Little Hands fell into my lap by way of my library. I was able to both read and listen to it as both of my hold requests came in at the same time. How serendipitous! These few but lengthy stories feature women, both young and more mature, navigating through the uncertainties of adolescence and adulthood. Ulman, a native Australian, almost always tied in Jewish cultural elements into each story, and I appreciated how they were set in different parts of the world. Very ambitious for a debut collection. Most of the stories had no clear resolutions; some came to abrupt conclusions making you wonder if you’d skipped a page or two in horror, while others were a continuation of the same story in multiple year increments. I found comfort in that. While I didn’t love every story, each one moved me in a different way so that I rounded this book up to a 5-star read. Highly recommend, but not for the faint of heart. Pretty sure I’m going to be purchasing this one for my library, but can’t decide between the audible edition or the hardcopy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Debbie

    Three out of nine ain’t bad. That’s how many stories I loved in this collection. Each of the nine stories is about a teenage or 20-something girl trying to figure out how to navigate the world. In many stories, the girls are figuring out what to do about sex. But don’t think the book is about sex, because it’s really about innocence, attraction. And self-consciousness, friendship, shame. When I started this review I was remembering a lot of blah, but then, hm, I looked at the stories again and ju Three out of nine ain’t bad. That’s how many stories I loved in this collection. Each of the nine stories is about a teenage or 20-something girl trying to figure out how to navigate the world. In many stories, the girls are figuring out what to do about sex. But don’t think the book is about sex, because it’s really about innocence, attraction. And self-consciousness, friendship, shame. When I started this review I was remembering a lot of blah, but then, hm, I looked at the stories again and just lit up. The three gems are shiny and keep me from seeing the matte-finished duds. But wait, I have to take a peek at these so-called duds for a sec. They aren’t duds, actually--they’re just not super interesting. Sometimes it was the character that I couldn’t connect with, sometimes it was an ambiguous ending that annoyed me, sometimes the story just wasn’t juicy enough. I kept feeling like something was missing, but I couldn’t say what. But the gems! Ah, the gems: “Warm-Ups” threw me for a loop and still gives me the shivers. It’s about a Russian teen who travels to America to perform gymnastics. The first part of the story was pretty dull, then whap! It was a holy-shit moment if I ever saw one. “Same Old Same As” opens with a girl talking with her therapist about being sexually abused. Despite its subject, it’s not high drama. It’s a quiet story that seems truthful and sad. If it’s quiet and I still like it, you know it has to be good. This one certainly got me thinking. Then there’s “Your Charm Won’t Help You Here,” the last story in the collection. This story of a young woman being detained at customs had me on the edge of my seat. It was fast-paced, smart, super tense, and relatable. I’m thinking this one has to be autobiographical because the tone is confident, direct, and full of passion, like you often find in a good memoir. Many of the other stories, now that I think about it, have a certain writing-school-self-consciousness about them. Which makes me realize that maybe what’s missing overall is the passion that comes when writing from your heart and soul. There is, of course, one (too long) story that bored me to tears: “Head to Toe.” It’s about two teenage girls who have sleepovers, go to horse camp, and seem depressed (or is it just inert?). Enough with the teenage angst already! The dialogue is embarrassingly empty (really, are teens so monosyllabic?) and their problems seem dumb. I don’t remember having a lot of intense conversations when I was a teenager, but I also don’t remember having such inane conversations, if you can call them conversations. Frankly, I couldn’t wait for the story to be over so I could get away from them and their boring lives. So overall, a mixed bag. The stories I liked were very very good—there’s just not enough of them. People will have other favorites, I’m sure. I will definitely check out what this new Australian writer comes up with next. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    Oh my how I wanted to love this book - it was a freebie from Goodreads after all | thank you Goodreads - but I just ... well ... with all the praise for the book I expected so much more. Maybe short stories are not my cup of tea. IDK ... I'll be back soon with more details ... I'm back! 3.0 STARS Maybe short stories are just not my gig! Honestly prior to this year short stories were nowhere near my literary radar screen. My only prior experience with the genre was Edgar Allen Poe way back in high s Oh my how I wanted to love this book - it was a freebie from Goodreads after all | thank you Goodreads - but I just ... well ... with all the praise for the book I expected so much more. Maybe short stories are not my cup of tea. IDK ... I'll be back soon with more details ... I'm back! 3.0 STARS Maybe short stories are just not my gig! Honestly prior to this year short stories were nowhere near my literary radar screen. My only prior experience with the genre was Edgar Allen Poe way back in high school but nothing much beyond my Poe experiences. Of course I loved Poe and still do, but his tales are in and of themselves pretty unique and groundbreaking adventures that defy the label of short stories … I just think of them as Poe, a category all by itself. My short story ambivalence changed in 2016 when many of my GR friends began posting review after review of new short story publications, many of which were very highly rated. So with a nudge from the exuberance of my friends, I dove into the short story pool. First came Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker. It was just OK. Then I won a copy of Hot Little Hands by Abigail Ulman – thank you Goodreads! – and dug into this highly rated collection of short stories about the experiences of contemporary young women. It was OK. I truly wanted to love this tactile little book with the fascinating cover photo but in the end, it was just OK. Ulman’s characters range from grade school kids up to twenty-somethings, experiencing some pretty powerful situations like sexual abuse, pregnancy and abortion, love and relationships, even the sex trade! Sexuality, especially casual sex, is the ever-present undercurrent of the stories … an eight-grader comes to realize her influence over the desires of her teachers and older men in her life; birth control via the withdrawal method; sudden and frightful realization that good looks don’t always work to your advantage; booze, drugs and sex. So much sex … sex so matter of fact that it felt like an act as common as flipping on the living room lights, brushing your teeth or doing the laundry. Is this truly characteristic of Gen Y and the Millennials? I am so out of touch. Warm Ups was the only story that made a lasting impression, like a surprise kick in the gut, an emotional ambush. Kira has just turned thirteen. She and her fellow gymnasts are anxious to make the team and travel to America to complete. Coach Zhukov has made all the arrangements. The girls are somewhat surprised by some of Coach Zhukov’s selections but no matter, they are off to America! When they arrive, the performance has been cancelled, the hotel is no different than their flat in Vladivostok and Coach Zhukov is not there. The front door to the unit is locked. They find a condom wrapper next to one of the mattresses and a lacy pink camisole in the bathroom. Coach will sort it out! Plus One is about twenty-two year old Amelia, the wunderkind blogger turned author fresh out of college. She accepted a great book deal that would pay her bills for a year but five months in it she realized people didn’t care about her stories – they are great for a blog but terrible for a book! She just didn’t have it in her to finish the book, even got pregnant to secure more time from her publisher but in the end she never wrote the book. Motherhood was her way out, to save face. She had outgrown her audience! For me Plus One is emblematic of this collection of short stories. Just as Amelia’s famous blog musings did not transfer very well to book format, most of the stories in this collection are interesting and to some degree entertaining but kind of thin on the emotional connection. Many felt like very long blog entries! I enjoyed experiencing the perspective of the world through of eyes of these young women and don’t regret for a moment reading this little collection but in the end the hype was larger than life. An interesting read but nothing earth shattering or ground breaking.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    I’m always nervous when I read a collection of short pieces. Will I get fed up with constantly being introduced to new characters I never really get to know? Will the stories engage me and then end abruptly, leaving me hanging? This debut collection from Aussie author Abigail Ulman include nine stories, set in Australia and America. Each is told from the point of view of a young female – they are all adolescent girls or girls in their 20's - and they all display a sense of uncertainty, of being I’m always nervous when I read a collection of short pieces. Will I get fed up with constantly being introduced to new characters I never really get to know? Will the stories engage me and then end abruptly, leaving me hanging? This debut collection from Aussie author Abigail Ulman include nine stories, set in Australia and America. Each is told from the point of view of a young female – they are all adolescent girls or girls in their 20's - and they all display a sense of uncertainty, of being a little lost. Many are seeking love or to find a place in the world they feel comfortable. The quality of the stories is variable but I found something to like in the majority of them. The strength of the writing is in the acutely observed actions and conversations of the people we meet. Sometimes the narratives peter out to nothing but the people always feel real. There is humour here and amongst it all one hard hitting moment that truly surprised and shocked me. My personal favourite is Jewish History, which tells of a group of young Russian gymnasts preparing to visit America with their coach - it is far and away the stand-out piece for me. I do recognise that reader reaction to these tales is likely to vary significantly. Each has a message and some readers will be naturally disposed to appreciate some of the stories that passed me by. And I do believe there to be definite talent on show here; if you’re a short story fan then there will be plenty to keep you entertained. If not, you still might want to think about tucking this away for those times you just need some thing short and bittersweet. My thanks to Penguin Books (UK) and NetGalley for providing an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    I really enjoyed this collection of stories, even though they were often sad. I was especially upset by the last one ("Your charm won't help you here") probably because of its frightening (to me) look at how my country is behaving post-9/11. And the narrator, Claire, is the focus of a number of linked stories in the collection. I also really liked a story about a New York City woman (22 years old-just barely into womanhood) who decides to solve her crisis over completing a book deal by having a b I really enjoyed this collection of stories, even though they were often sad. I was especially upset by the last one ("Your charm won't help you here") probably because of its frightening (to me) look at how my country is behaving post-9/11. And the narrator, Claire, is the focus of a number of linked stories in the collection. I also really liked a story about a New York City woman (22 years old-just barely into womanhood) who decides to solve her crisis over completing a book deal by having a baby with her gay friend. Although the set up is cliched, the story was fresh. The narrator's voice in these stories, whether in Australia, New York, San Francisco, or England, is always fresh, even when jaded. Probably most jaded are the young teens who have a lot more sexual experience that I would have thought-I felt as worried for them as if I were their mothers (or, more probably, in my case, grandmother). However, the girls seemed tough, able to take care of themselves. But all a little bit sad or deadened inside. The stories were interesting and all of them held my attention, whether the characters were killing time in a mall or at a horse camp solving the problems of the sixth graders with a world weariness only a tenth grader could have. Ulman has an interesting voice. I look forward to reading more of her work as it appears. I want to thank NetGalley and the publisher, Random House, as well as Abigail Ulman, for giving me the opportunity to read this work (in exchange for a fair and honest review).

  11. 5 out of 5

    TL

    3.5 stars overall I received this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for my honest review... all my opinions are my own :) ---- Most of the stories in here were pretty good, a couple of clunkers but they were still interesting enough to get through and see what happened. One story near the end had me pissed off and imagining them in a HulkSmash scenario (and the thing they accused the one girl of... is that even an thing? I had no idea it was a thing). These weren't "Darkly Funny" for me (tricky thi 3.5 stars overall I received this via Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for my honest review... all my opinions are my own :) ---- Most of the stories in here were pretty good, a couple of clunkers but they were still interesting enough to get through and see what happened. One story near the end had me pissed off and imagining them in a HulkSmash scenario (and the thing they accused the one girl of... is that even an thing? I had no idea it was a thing). These weren't "Darkly Funny" for me (tricky thing, matching up senses of humor no matter what the story is) but just good/great stories that helped me get through a frustrating day off and a few HulkSmash worthy work nights (I was seriously considering hiding out in a Hobbit house haha)... always a wonderful thing :). I don't really have favorites (see my status updates for ratings) out of these, pretty evenly spread out in that regard. Miss Ulman has some talent here and I wish her all the success in the world <3 This'll be another one where I think repeated readings will have me appreciating it all the more. Happy reading! Would recommend

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bianca

    I'm afraid Hot Little Hands goes into the meah category. I saw the blurb and the fact that it was about girls and young women, so I thought it'd really appeal to me. Unfortunately, the stories had no impact on me, I didn't connect with the characters, and worst of all, I didn't care about them. Given that the majority of the stories are dark, I should have been much more affected. To be honest, even the writing didn't impress me that much. So, I'm sorry to say, 'Hot Little Hands' just felt cold a I'm afraid Hot Little Hands goes into the meah category. I saw the blurb and the fact that it was about girls and young women, so I thought it'd really appeal to me. Unfortunately, the stories had no impact on me, I didn't connect with the characters, and worst of all, I didn't care about them. Given that the majority of the stories are dark, I should have been much more affected. To be honest, even the writing didn't impress me that much. So, I'm sorry to say, 'Hot Little Hands' just felt cold and clammy. I've received this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lorilin || thegoodbug

    I'm not even quite sure how I feel about this book. So many young girls having so much sex. Yikes. The book is well-written and has a quiet, contemplative tone. The stories flow well with each other, though the characters are new in each one. I felt connected to all of the main female characters. I definitely cared about them. I wanted them to make good decisions, to come out okay. On the one hand, it was easy to read this book. But, on the other hand, well... Let's just say that by the time I fin I'm not even quite sure how I feel about this book. So many young girls having so much sex. Yikes. The book is well-written and has a quiet, contemplative tone. The stories flow well with each other, though the characters are new in each one. I felt connected to all of the main female characters. I definitely cared about them. I wanted them to make good decisions, to come out okay. On the one hand, it was easy to read this book. But, on the other hand, well... Let's just say that by the time I finished it, I felt emotionally numb. There is just so much sadness in here. So much loneliness and isolation. These are women who are figuring themselves out, figuring out what it means to be sexual beings, and you'd think there would be some power and maybe even a little bit of joy in that. But there isn't. Most of the women are lost and sad. They all seem so fragile, so exposed in their grief and vulnerability. It left me feeling unsettled. Ultimately, Hot Little Hands isn't a feel-good book. The stories are well-written and engaging, but they are also very depressing. I do think the book does a great job of showing how vulnerable young women are, how often and easily they are abandoned--as well as how difficult it can be for them to figure out how to love someone else in a way that still honors their own self-worth. But the overall feel of the book is pretty melancholy. Prepare yourself. ARC received through Amazon Vine.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Book Riot Community

    I love this collection! Nine connected stories comprise this smart, darkly funny book about contemporary young women. A Russian teen gymnast travels to America; two high schoolers go back to sleepaway camp; a young woman moves from London to San Francisco to start what she thinks will be her adult life; and more. Each story is about the impatient wish of these young women for their grown lives to start and the struggles they have dealing with that responsibility. Ulman’s writing is concise and h I love this collection! Nine connected stories comprise this smart, darkly funny book about contemporary young women. A Russian teen gymnast travels to America; two high schoolers go back to sleepaway camp; a young woman moves from London to San Francisco to start what she thinks will be her adult life; and more. Each story is about the impatient wish of these young women for their grown lives to start and the struggles they have dealing with that responsibility. Ulman’s writing is concise and heartbreaking. Backlist bump: Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell Tune in to our weekly podcast dedicated to all things new books, All The Books: http://bookriot.com/category/all-the-...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Professor Weasel

    4 1/2 stars. I really enjoyed this a lot!! A fantastic story collection. Thematic links are young girls, sex, Australia, Russia, San Francisco, and not knowing what to do with your life. This is definitely the kind of book I would buy for my female friends. Here's a brief commentary on each story: "Jewish History" - I really enjoyed this one. Kind of like "Mean Girls" written by a melancholy Emily Gould. Very powerful closing sentence. I liked the narrator's perspective, a Russian girl in Austral 4 1/2 stars. I really enjoyed this a lot!! A fantastic story collection. Thematic links are young girls, sex, Australia, Russia, San Francisco, and not knowing what to do with your life. This is definitely the kind of book I would buy for my female friends. Here's a brief commentary on each story: "Jewish History" - I really enjoyed this one. Kind of like "Mean Girls" written by a melancholy Emily Gould. Very powerful closing sentence. I liked the narrator's perspective, a Russian girl in Australia who doesn't quite speak English yet. "Chagall's Wife" - the first of many "mature" young girls that appear in this collection. Man, none of the girls in this book would have wanted to be friends with me in middle school; they'd have found me such a hopelessly boring square. The girl in this story spends an afternoon in an art museum with her teacher and they go to the movies, and us readers feel very, very nervous about what's going to happen next. I love the interrupted, in-the-moment, suspenseful ending (quite a few of these in the book). "The Withdrawal Method" - the first of three stories in the book about Claire, a twenty-something finishing her PhD in film studies in San Francisco, playing in a band and "flailing around" (as one might say). In this story she has an abortion. "Warm-Ups" - possibly my favorite in the collection. It's also possibly the darkest. It's about thirteen-year-old gymnasts who go to the U.S. for a performance (not going to say more than that). What a heartbreaking, gut-twisting ending. This story uses slow build-up of dread very well. "Same Old Same As" - another great story, with a divisive lead character. Ramona is in therapy and starts telling everyone that her stepfather has sexually abused her, enjoying the attention that she gets from her classmates. It's an ambiguous story right till the end and is definitely one that would challenge readers who need to "like" a main character. I found it very honest. "The Pretty One" - the second story with Claire, about her relationship and break-up with a younger man. I like how she found solace working in her dissertation (lol). Kind of like "The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing," with a lot more drinking. I found the descriptions of San Francisco hipsters listening to bluegrass music, juice cleanses and too many facial piercings painful to read. I found the ending a bit too sweeping, like it was trying to sum everything up. "Head to Toe" - maybe the strangest story for me. Very understated. It's narrated in a distant style: "this happened, this happened, this happened," with little interiority of the two main female characters. Two sixteen-year-old best friends grow tired (as in existentially so) with their partying lifestyle. They return for a week or so at the horse camp they used to attend as children. The story ends with them returning home and then going to a guy's house where one of them has porn-style sex while listening to Kanye West. This was a story that made me go "what?" but I definitely kept turning the pages, with a sense of trainwreck fascination. "Plus One" - my other favorite story in the book. Twenty-two-year-old Amelia can't finish her collection of essays, so she decides to get pregnant with her gay friend instead. This story made me think of Lorrie Moore and Jenny Offhill. What a devastating ending. This is another story I found extremely honest. "Your Charm Won't Help You Here" - I won't spoil it, but basically this story describes why Claire ends up having to leave San Francisco. I found it compelling. I'd love to know how the author did research for this one. All in all I would highly recommend this book and await the author's next work with great interest.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cassie (book__gal)

    I’m so here for stories that subtlety demonstrate the intricacies of being a young woman. This collection of short stories deftly shows how life in your teenage years and 20s can be so ordinary and yet so elusive all at once. It’s a snapshot of that strange time in a woman’s life when she’s insightful and perceptive but doesn’t yet know how to harness her wisdom (guilty as charged).⁣ ⁣ These aren’t all standout stories, but I especially enjoyed "Chagall’s Wife", "The Withdrawal Method”, "Your Char I’m so here for stories that subtlety demonstrate the intricacies of being a young woman. This collection of short stories deftly shows how life in your teenage years and 20s can be so ordinary and yet so elusive all at once. It’s a snapshot of that strange time in a woman’s life when she’s insightful and perceptive but doesn’t yet know how to harness her wisdom (guilty as charged).⁣ ⁣ These aren’t all standout stories, but I especially enjoyed "Chagall’s Wife", "The Withdrawal Method”, "Your Charm Won’t Help You Here", and "Warm Ups"; this last one I mentioned here really shook me. Straight shivers down the spine. Also, the character Claire, who appears in 3 of the stories in this book has become one of my favorite characters in recent contemporary fiction. She’s kind of cold and darkly funny and smart all at once. I like her even when she’s unlikable.⁣ ⁣ If you enjoyed Back Talk, you’ll enjoy this one. Looking forward to reading more from Abigail Ulman in the future.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jillwilson

    “I can’t wait to get it into my hot little hands.” It’s a pungent phrase isn’t it? Implying eagerness, yearning, and excitement at an almost grasp-able prospect. Quite appropriate to this book which is partly about young girls on the cusp of adulthood, just finding out about sex and power and about the power of sex. This is a collection of nine stories. It’s unusual in that the protagonists of all the stories are young girls/women. Some are set in Melbourne, some in the Stares and one story (the “I can’t wait to get it into my hot little hands.” It’s a pungent phrase isn’t it? Implying eagerness, yearning, and excitement at an almost grasp-able prospect. Quite appropriate to this book which is partly about young girls on the cusp of adulthood, just finding out about sex and power and about the power of sex. This is a collection of nine stories. It’s unusual in that the protagonists of all the stories are young girls/women. Some are set in Melbourne, some in the Stares and one story (the best one, ‘Warm-Ups’) begins life in Russia. Three of the stories feature the same woman, Claire, who is trying to work out, in a ‘Secret Life of Us’ kind of way, what her life is about. Ulman writes very confidently about this demographic. Her grasp of dialogue and attitudes is entirely convincing. She gets this age-group. – and she should write well, she studied in the States under writers such as Colm Toibin and Tobias Wolfe. But? I have to agree with this reviewer: “There’s not one thing wrong with these stories. They’re all polished and shining and as sparse as is fashionable, with the legislated amount of subtext. All superfluous adverbs have been marched to the exits. Despite, or perhaps because of this, the stories set in the United States seem curiously lifeless, like an assignment for a Master of Fine Arts. There are pregnancies and unrequited love and writer’s block and general ennui among the bloggers and PhD candidates and baristas of this small world, but there’s little narrative tension.” In fact I love the last paragraph so much that I wish I knew who’d written it (The Saturday Paper reviews are almost anonymous: http://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/20...) For at least half the collection, I was left thinking “So what?”. I’d spent time with a bunch of smart young people at the peak of their “What evs.” Great evocation of time and place but sort of vapid. It made me think about Seinfeld. I returned to Jennifer Egan’s criteria for short stories in BASS: • A basic power to make the reader lose her bearings, to envelop the reader in a fictional world – tick • Compelling premise, distinctive language – some of the time • Genuine surprise, going past obvious possibilities into territory that felt mysterious – hardly at all • An engagement with the wider world at this specific point in time – tick I seem to be increasingly looking for surprise in writing – perhaps that’s concomitant with getting older. And the other thing I like is a sense of emotional layers, of depth – eg in Toibin’s Nora Webster – on one level, this is a book about an ordinary woman but we as readers are invited to connect with her emotions and to react –in both positive and negative ways to her. I think, in this collection, there’s an authorial disdain (or is it in the characters – these floating teenagers and twenty-somethings?) for emotional connection and consequently, little in the way of narrative tension. Three stories will stay with me I think: Head to Toe, Chagalls’ Wife and Warm Ups.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michael Livingston

    Probably 2.5 really. This collection of stories, all with young women or girls as protagonists is pretty patchy. I quite enjoyed the three linked stories about the young English woman trying to figure out her life while living in the US, which felt quite autobiographical, but many of the others passed me by. It's very readable - Ulman is a good writer, but there was something a bit aimless about most of the stories that left me frustrated. Probably 2.5 really. This collection of stories, all with young women or girls as protagonists is pretty patchy. I quite enjoyed the three linked stories about the young English woman trying to figure out her life while living in the US, which felt quite autobiographical, but many of the others passed me by. It's very readable - Ulman is a good writer, but there was something a bit aimless about most of the stories that left me frustrated.

  19. 4 out of 5

    texbsquared

    I'm not always the biggest fan of short stories, but these ones really drew me in. Beautifully written, and some of them downright disconcerting. The final story in the collection is the one that was truly terrifying, though. I'm not always the biggest fan of short stories, but these ones really drew me in. Beautifully written, and some of them downright disconcerting. The final story in the collection is the one that was truly terrifying, though.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    Abigail Ulman's Hot Little Hands was up against some stiff competition when looking at the collections of short stories I've read this year, but I'm happy I got my hot (if I'm being honest) always-freezing-sometimes-clammy little hands on this. Each of the stories in this collection features a woman navigating her teens/twenties. Ulman writes with subtly and some of these stories pack a serious punch. Not every single one is a knock out, but when does that ever happen? I tore through this collec Abigail Ulman's Hot Little Hands was up against some stiff competition when looking at the collections of short stories I've read this year, but I'm happy I got my hot (if I'm being honest) always-freezing-sometimes-clammy little hands on this. Each of the stories in this collection features a woman navigating her teens/twenties. Ulman writes with subtly and some of these stories pack a serious punch. Not every single one is a knock out, but when does that ever happen? I tore through this collection pretty quickly and I'm excited to see what's next from Ulman. Of the group, there were a few that really stood out. I'd heard hype surrounding "Warm-Ups" so was reading it with an extra critical eye and knew exactly where it was going about half way through. That didn't make it any less devastating but did help me keep it together and not throw the book against the wall when I finished. I found other characters pretty unbearable, but only because I know those people in real life and find them unbearable there too. My personal favorites were the stories that followed Claire - a young British woman living in the US. Claire's got her flaws and they make her one of the most relatable characters I've come across in a while. It's been a refreshing year for me in terms of characters like Claire. I don't know if this is a movement in general or if I'm just finally finding my way to the right books, but I'm loving all the complex, imperfect, hot-messes of a female protagonist that I've been reading lately. Thank god for these authors humanizing young women who drink, do drugs, have sex, fall in love, cope terribly when heartbroken, try/fail/try again to be a better daughter/sister/friend, make regrettable decisions, have no clear sense of direction, and no strong desire to marry or procreate. Where was this when I was in my early 20s? Probably around...I guess I should say: Why wasn't I reading these characters in my early 20s? I've always found Jane Austen and the like to be a bit of a snooze. I am not a proper lady, nor do I aspire to be one. I am not all that interested in the rules of courtship or grand estates or the question of marriage. Abigail Ulman is more my speed. In this collection she's put out stories and characters that feel tangible and contemporary. This felt more like an accurate picture of what it is to be a young woman today than anything I've read in a while. And how refreshing it is that it's not delivered as a critique - no slut shaming, no condemnation - just acknowledgement that normal, everyday girls and women are out there having these experiences and trying to find their way. I like to think I have my life a little more put together these days, but a collection like this would have gone a long way in making me feel less isolated and anxious when I was going through it. Definitely recommend to young women who feel like they don't fit the typical narrative. Recommend to anyone else interested in a different picture of what it means to be a young women today. Recommend to the Jane Austen-ers out there so you can feel more put together than the rest of us slobs (I kid).

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kelsi H

    Please check out all of my reviews at http://ultraviolentlit.blogspot.ca! Hot Little Hands is a collection of short stories, all about young women of varying ages and circumstances. The stories share several themes, including desire, as alluded to in the title – the girls learn about their own desires, but also about becoming an object of desire, and about how confusing that can be when we’re young. The title comes from a figure of speech that is really about yearning – not just sexual but also a Please check out all of my reviews at http://ultraviolentlit.blogspot.ca! Hot Little Hands is a collection of short stories, all about young women of varying ages and circumstances. The stories share several themes, including desire, as alluded to in the title – the girls learn about their own desires, but also about becoming an object of desire, and about how confusing that can be when we’re young. The title comes from a figure of speech that is really about yearning – not just sexual but also a sense of anticipation for the future, and the urge to grow up quickly to experience the world. The girls in these stories are searching for their place in the wider world, trying to discover their individual sense of self, and many of them are described while traveling to new countries and experiencing new situations. Some of the stories are more linked than others, especially several about a girl named Claire. She is the narrator of my favourite story in the collection, “Your Charm Won’t Help You Here.” In the story, Claire is attempting to enter the United States en route from Turkey, and she is held up in customs for reasons she cannot understand. It is a scathing analysis of the dangers of travel in a post-9/11 world. I often find short story collections frustrating – I feel like as soon as I begin to engage with a plot and its characters, it’s all over. Although these stories have some cohesive themes, it’s not quite enough for my preferences. However, the dialogue and inner thoughts of the girls are realistic and distinct, and the writing style itself is confident and evocative. Ulman is definitely an author to watch, and I will be waiting impatiently for a debut novel. I received this novel from Random House and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Penny Schmuecker

    Typically I find reading short story collections very difficult. It seems I'm just identifying with the characters and the story ends. They always leave me feeling like I've been cheated on the rest of the story. That being said, I'm making it my goal to go out of my comfort zone and have found a few gems in doing so. Hot Little Hands is one of these. If I could say only one thing about this collection it would be that the author, Abigail Ulman, has perfectly captured the lives of the millennia Typically I find reading short story collections very difficult. It seems I'm just identifying with the characters and the story ends. They always leave me feeling like I've been cheated on the rest of the story. That being said, I'm making it my goal to go out of my comfort zone and have found a few gems in doing so. Hot Little Hands is one of these. If I could say only one thing about this collection it would be that the author, Abigail Ulman, has perfectly captured the lives of the millennial young women in her collection. The stories take place in Russia, the United States, and Australia but you could remove location from any of the stories and it becomes clear that coming into adulthood is very complex for young women, perhaps now more than ever. Ulman allows us into the lives of these women through the use of her perfected "teenspeak" dialogue: you could easily hear these conversations if you were eavesdropping at a shopping mall food court. She absolutely nails it! As someone who grew up in between the Summer of Love and the invention of the internet, these stories reminded me of how much has changed with regards to sex and love and how differently those ideas are now represented. As a 50 year old, I watched these young women through the eyes of a mother and someone who has made mistakes. I wanted them to make better choices but realize that growing up is about making mistakes in love, and learning to live with the consequences These nine stories are extremely enjoyable and I look forward to more from Abigail Ulman.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ola

    I did not enjoyed that book. From around 20 per cent in, I was just debating whether I should drop it or try to finish it. Eventually I endured, and I read the whole book. Generally I enjoy short stories, but stories in this book didn't have any power or message that was captivating. For some time I had an impression that the book was written by someone who’s English is not the first language. This is not necessary bad thing, English is not the first lanuage for me. But in the book this impressio I did not enjoyed that book. From around 20 per cent in, I was just debating whether I should drop it or try to finish it. Eventually I endured, and I read the whole book. Generally I enjoy short stories, but stories in this book didn't have any power or message that was captivating. For some time I had an impression that the book was written by someone who’s English is not the first language. This is not necessary bad thing, English is not the first lanuage for me. But in the book this impression I got means that the wording, and the language was just lacking something, some ease of the wording or the way sentences are built. I was frustrated at the end of every single story. I would like them to end with some kind of message or leave me filled with emotions, or make me wonder about the story. Stories in the book were ending flat. That's all I can say about them, they were flat.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Shannon

    To be honest, I don't often read short stories, unless it is Stephen King. But this sounded intriguing and I was provided a free advanced reading copy from Penguin Books. This collection of short stories are all about girls and young women in their teenage years and into their early twenties. Some of the titles are quite humorous once you read the stories themselves. The girls/women are all located in different cities or countries and range in nationality and ethnicity. Most of these stories inv To be honest, I don't often read short stories, unless it is Stephen King. But this sounded intriguing and I was provided a free advanced reading copy from Penguin Books. This collection of short stories are all about girls and young women in their teenage years and into their early twenties. Some of the titles are quite humorous once you read the stories themselves. The girls/women are all located in different cities or countries and range in nationality and ethnicity. Most of these stories involve the characters going through tough situations, some of them are "coming of age" type situations while others can be considered heartbreaking. They all seem to struggling and confused at times. Some seem wise, while others are very naive and there are a variety of issues brought up from unexpected pregnancy to a girl's first sexual experience. The variety in the stories made them interesting and the author has a strong writing style. I expect that if you can not relate to any of the stories personally, one or two of them will still have a fairly profound impact on you. I was provided a free copy of this book from Penguin Books in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Madison Griffiths

    I really wanted to like Hot Little Hands, especially given that it was recommended to me. There were certainly endearing facets of it. I particularly loved the first short story (‘Chagall’s Wife’), which effortlessly tackled how it is that hyper-sexualisation becomes a disturbing rite-of-passage when it comes to school-age girls and how they perceive themselves. I also enjoyed ‘Head to Toe’, an analysis of the gentle, subtle and oft confusing queerness of adolescent, female friendship. But gener I really wanted to like Hot Little Hands, especially given that it was recommended to me. There were certainly endearing facets of it. I particularly loved the first short story (‘Chagall’s Wife’), which effortlessly tackled how it is that hyper-sexualisation becomes a disturbing rite-of-passage when it comes to school-age girls and how they perceive themselves. I also enjoyed ‘Head to Toe’, an analysis of the gentle, subtle and oft confusing queerness of adolescent, female friendship. But generally, I was left a little hungry. Some metaphors felt very strained, but—in saying that—Ulman does a beautiful job capturing how women fit into a variety of spaces as well as describing gendered contexts, especially across borders, ages and anxieties.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Girl with her Head in a Book

    I read this in more or less one sitting and found it one of my more unsettling reads of 2016. Although this is not Ulman’s debut, it still has that experimental feel to it – the characters also seem surprisingly remote, giving the book an overall chilly feel. Hot Little Hands centres on the female experience and what it means to be desired – each of the stories within the anthology has a female character at its focus, looking at women and girls from a range of ages and backgrounds. My boyfriend I read this in more or less one sitting and found it one of my more unsettling reads of 2016. Although this is not Ulman’s debut, it still has that experimental feel to it – the characters also seem surprisingly remote, giving the book an overall chilly feel. Hot Little Hands centres on the female experience and what it means to be desired – each of the stories within the anthology has a female character at its focus, looking at women and girls from a range of ages and backgrounds. My boyfriend read some of it over my shoulder and referred to it as my ‘weird sex book’ but in truth there is not a lot of this – Ulman focuses more on what is not said or acknowledged, trying to make her elliptical silences do all of the work for her. I am not sure to what extent this was successful but it was nonetheless an interesting if slightly bewildering read. The more effective stories centred around young girls negotiating the awkward moment between childhood and adulthood when one begins to recognises the desires of others. One young girl finds herself on an outing with her teacher but unsure of what exactly she wants. Two girls in their mid-teens who lost their virginities aged twelve silently mourn their lost innocence, going off to horse camp in a vain attempt to claw back their sense of self. It is this sense of your personhood becoming a commodity, of being an object that Ulman conjures so vividly. For Jenni and Elise, they live in a teenaged society of hook-ups, short-term relationships and of stubbornly feigning disinterest – it is no wonder that they need a breather. It was a sensation that many women may recognise; I remember aged twenty being chatted up in a bar by a man who I calculated to be older than my Dad and although I was polite enough, I found it strangely un-nerving – he was a grown-up, why on earth was he looking at me? It is this moment when adults stop being pseudo-parents and take on a whole new function – it’s confusing. Yet what came across the most was the distance between the characters and the lack of communication – one of them makes reference was made to A Visit From The Goon Squad so I wondered if it was deliberate. Adolescent Ramona is sent to a psychiatrist and afterwards announces to her mother in traffic, at the dinner table, to her friends on Instant Messenger – everywhere – that she ‘got molested last year’. Reactions are varied but never quite what Ramona was looking for. Claire tries to reconnect with an ex-boyfriend but he does not want to hear from her. Another girl performs oral sex on a boy and then he never speaks to her again. There is an over-arching theme of loneliness to Hot Little Hands, and I felt uncomfortable that Ulman was trying to fashion beauty from it. I did not warm to this anthology – I felt very little connection here although aesthetically I could appreciate the artistry. Perhaps I was just too much of a good girl growing up – my boyfriend has been known to wonder if I am a time-traveller from the 1800s due to my old-fashioned outlook. Do I perhaps find it easier to express sympathy for the young girls tired of play-acting a role beyond their years rather than for Abby, the young woman who chooses to be a single parent as she has no goals in life? She appeared reckless, thoughtless despite her naivete but Jenni and Elise just seemed like children. Still, the story that stuck in my mind most of all was the one where several aspiring young Russian gymnasts seemed to be trafficked into the sex trade – as I realised what was befalling them, I felt like I wanted to cry. Hot Little Hands is not a cuddly read and at times the collection even feels rather aimless, but I feel that Ulman should be commended for her attempts to capture – to vocalise without exposition – these often ignored moments of the female experience.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Blake Fraina

    It’s a pretty well established fact that the average girl's self-esteem plummets when she hits puberty. It’s the time when she goes from feeling no different from her male peers to suddenly being judged pretty much solely on her appearance, not to mention being commodified as an object of sexual utility. She goes from person to thing. Abigail Ulman’s short fiction collection, Hot Little Hands, consists of nine stories, the most impactful five of which chart the treacherous waters of female adoles It’s a pretty well established fact that the average girl's self-esteem plummets when she hits puberty. It’s the time when she goes from feeling no different from her male peers to suddenly being judged pretty much solely on her appearance, not to mention being commodified as an object of sexual utility. She goes from person to thing. Abigail Ulman’s short fiction collection, Hot Little Hands, consists of nine stories, the most impactful five of which chart the treacherous waters of female adolescence with all its attendant drama and humiliation. While the rites of passage from boyhood to manhood are glorified, Ulman deftly illustrates how girls at the cusp of womanhood seem to be walking on the edge of a perilous precipice. In “Same Old, Same As,” the popularity of high-school non-entity Ramona soars after she reveals that she’s been molested by her stepfather. At a sleepover, she and her new clique sit around in a circle while each girl reveals in turn some sexual indignity she’s suffered at the hands of a man (from flashers, frottage and surreptitiously viewing a brother’s violent pornography to forced fellatio and handjobs in front of a roomful of a boyfriend’s mates). It all makes Ramona’s claim that her stepfather insisted on toweling her off after her baths seem trifling in comparison (although it is not, believe me). Ulman successfully makes the point that ALL adolescent girls are subjected to hostile, unsolicited sexual overtures in some form or other. The two tenth-grade protagonists of “Head to Toe,” old hands at sex, drugs and booze, get one last shot at the pleasures of childhood when they spend a weekend at horse-camp, an equestrian sleepaway otherwise populated by ten and eleven year olds. They shine briefly in leadership roles mediating a fight between the younger girls, but in short order return to their normal existence of partying, drinking and pretending to enjoy [purposefully] degrading sexual encounters with teen boys. Perhaps the most shocking and unsettling tale is “Warm Ups” about a group of tween Russian gymnasts whose trip to America is not all it seems. Ulman takes the concept of lost innocence to its extreme in the cautionary tale of these determined but guileless young ladies. Truly heartbreaking. Less powerful are the four stories that follow twenty-somethings (although these probably justify publicity suggesting this book is humorous and comparing it to HBO’s “Girls”), but they also have their charms. Three of them follow an Aussie ex-pat named Claire who lives in San Francisco teaching film studies. The Claire stories seem more like excerpts from a longer work than stand alone pieces, but it makes a nice change to read about an adult who has some degree of agency over her own life and choices. Even if those choices are mostly kind of foolish. Only in the very last story, “Your Charm Won’t Help You Here,” do we see Claire in a situation so frustrating and over which she’s so completely powerless, that it’s almost hard to read (despite the blacker-than-black humor). Girls seem to be having a moment. Emma Cline’s remarkable The Girls will surely be on every critic’s 2016 top ten list. Other summer releases with teen girls at their center include Robin Wasserman’s Girls on Fire, Michelle Latiolais’ She and Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me. Abigail Ulman’s short stories make an interesting contribution to the emerging conversation.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emkoshka

    I read Abigail Ulman's story 'Chagall's Wife' when it was published in the journal Meanjin several years ago and it stayed with me thereafter, its suggestive ending haunting me. Unfortunately, the rest of the stories in this collection didn't live up to its promise. Ulman seems to be the epitome of that writing axiom, 'Write what you know'. The stories all feature young women, many of them of Jewish and/or Russian origin, most of them completely self-absorbed, oversexed and unlikeable. The three I read Abigail Ulman's story 'Chagall's Wife' when it was published in the journal Meanjin several years ago and it stayed with me thereafter, its suggestive ending haunting me. Unfortunately, the rest of the stories in this collection didn't live up to its promise. Ulman seems to be the epitome of that writing axiom, 'Write what you know'. The stories all feature young women, many of them of Jewish and/or Russian origin, most of them completely self-absorbed, oversexed and unlikeable. The three stories featuring Claire smacked of the writer being heavily influenced by Girls and wanting to write her own millennial angst female story but failing because the protagonist is so, well, meh. But maybe that's the whole point of Girls; I don't know, I don't think I could stomach it after tasting this version in print. The only standout stories of this collection were 'Chagall's Wife', the chilling 'Warm-Ups' and perhaps the final story, 'Your Charm Won't Help You Here', for its claustrophobic description of the American border protection system.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Weezelle

    It’s hard to know what to write about Hot Little Hands. The blurb on the back of the book promises that it ‘contains nine funny, confronting and pitch-perfect stories about stumbling on the fringes of innocence’. Yes, there are nine stories; and yes, they are confronting; but no, they are not funny. Definitely, not funny. The first story is about the development of an inappropriate relationship between a pupil and teacher, the second is about a girl who after sexually appeasing a boy in her high It’s hard to know what to write about Hot Little Hands. The blurb on the back of the book promises that it ‘contains nine funny, confronting and pitch-perfect stories about stumbling on the fringes of innocence’. Yes, there are nine stories; and yes, they are confronting; but no, they are not funny. Definitely, not funny. The first story is about the development of an inappropriate relationship between a pupil and teacher, the second is about a girl who after sexually appeasing a boy in her high school is promptly shunned by him, the fourth story is about a group of young Russian girls who are trafficked to America. Do you get my drift? Abigail Ulman’s writes beautifully, and I loved the way she explored the modern complexities of adolescent girls’ and young women’s lives, particularly in relation to the negotiation of their sexual experiences. I warmed to all the characters, whom she has each endowed with distinct and quirky personalities. But every story has a dark and troubling sting in it’s tail. While I don’t need rainbows and unicorns, I would be less equivocal about this book if there had been some confirmation that life for girls and young women isn’t totally shit. My sense is that this isn’t what Ulman intended, but ultimately I was left with a feeling of despondency – something quite at odds with what was promised on the cover. For more reviews like this, check out my blog www.penguinedition.wordpress.com

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tess

    I always have a hard time with short story collections, I much prefer novels and long stories. However, this collection very pleasantly surprised me. All 9 stories are focused around young girls or women, most are brutally realistic but designed to suck you in immediately. All of the stories are different enough to stand on their own, which makes the whole thing go down a bit easier. They are all vaguely coming of age, more or less, which is a very intriguing topic to me, especially when done we I always have a hard time with short story collections, I much prefer novels and long stories. However, this collection very pleasantly surprised me. All 9 stories are focused around young girls or women, most are brutally realistic but designed to suck you in immediately. All of the stories are different enough to stand on their own, which makes the whole thing go down a bit easier. They are all vaguely coming of age, more or less, which is a very intriguing topic to me, especially when done well. I think Ulman has pulled it off nicely in this book. It’s hard to talk about it more, since every story is a bit different and they are more short bursts of experiences rather than one long journey into a novel, but I would definetely recommend this if you are drawn to female coming of age stories, especially ones set in different places around the world.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...