Review: “Bernie and the Putty (The Universe Builders #1)” by Steve LeBel

Review- Bernie and the Putty (The Universe Builders #1) by Steve LeBel

A review by Amanda.

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for a fair and objective review.

Bernie is a teenager who holds the world in his hands, literally. He belongs to a race of self-described gods who create universes from scratch. Their entire society revolves around building multitudes of worlds, just because they can. Children learn the basics of building in school, leading to various specialties and supporting careers; not everyone has what it takes to become a Builder. Bernie has run into a few obstacles along the way, including a bully, his parents’ divorce, a chaotic cloud that follows him everywhere, and an unwillingness to follow certain directions that he disagrees with. Nonetheless, he has been given an opportunity to show his potential employers what he can do, if he can overcome the new obstacles being thrown his way.

The concept of this book is unique and compelling. The details for the universe creation process are thorough and logical, with some whimsy thrown in here and there for good measure. The story has plenty of heart and humor to keep readers entertained and invested in the characters. The world-building and the overall plot are enough to keep one reading despite the novel’s pitfalls.

Bernie is a likable character, if not an exceptional one. He is a misunderstood geek, an outcast with few friends. Although he is smart and talented, still comes across as a bumbling, absent-minded type. Many of his successes are due to luck and accidents, or because someone else has helped him in some way. The supporting characters feel one-dimensional, especially the female characters. The two women who contribute most to the plot and dialogue only exist as love interests. They do not appear to have any agency beyond that. Other women only appear as needed to help Bernie. Even his mother exists only as part of an explanation Bernie’s circumstances. Women are described as “unfathomable” and naturally manipulative, especially when trying to attract a guy, which plays into misogynistic stereotypes about women.

The writing style seems geared towards a younger, middle-grade audience. There is a lot of exposition and not a lot of room for readers to come to conclusions on their own. Readers are privy to the inner thoughts of almost every character, which can be helpful but feels unnecessary at times. A couple of minor plot points build up and then fizzle out, although there are more books in the series so those could be addressed later.

Fans of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan may enjoy this book.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

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BLOG TOUR: “Riddle of Fate” by Tania Johansson

Riddle of Fate by Tania JohanssonA review by Maria.

First off a big thank you to author Tania Johansson for allowing me to read and give an honest review of her novel, Riddle of Fate.

Khaya is part of a group of people with special abilities working for The Company. She tells the future for them. But Khaya becomes a liability when she discovers she’s developed another ability, because anyone in Company history with two abilities has gone crazy and even murderous.  As Khaya starts to realize her life is in danger from the ones she trusted most, she embarks on a dangerous quest with the angelic Derrin to fight for her life and change the course of the future.

Khaya was an interesting character. She already knew she had the power of premonition and her job with the Company was foretelling the future. It was helpful, since readers missed her introduction to her first ability, when she discovered the second power and suddenly had to learn everything all over again. I really liked the interactions that Khaya had with her co-workers in the company and found myself wanting more. And I liked how very smart and distrusting Khaya was when her life became in danger. Instead of just being the too trusting heroine, she thought and used her brain, and often ran away from people trying to help her. I think the only aspect I didn’t like in reference to Khaya was her interactions with her boyfriend Brier because they always seemed lacking.

Derrin was mysterious and sexy and it took quite a while to learn anything personal about him and his past. But he was always there to be the hero for Khaya and save her from danger. Once more of his past was revealed this character really started to grow on me and I adored how he was often all-knowing but sometimes clueless at the same time. The beginning of the book was really Khaya as the main character with Derrin in the background and the second half of the book had Derrin more in the forefront as a main character while dealing with the angels. Having these two perspectives made the novel very unique and refreshing.

The story started off amazing and fairly fast paced. The writing flowed well and kept me interested. But the second half of the book delved heavily into the angel hierarchy and angel politics. It helped that the angels and the Company were both after Derrin and Khaya but the politics dragged the story down and I found myself struggling to finish the book.

Lastly, the romance was very much a background feature in this book, making it a different kind of paranormal romance story. This book was character driven which made the romance worth the wait.

I’m not sure if Johansson is making Riddle of Fate into a series or not, but I plan to read more books from this author.


Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Book & Author details:
Riddle of Fate by Tania Johansson
Publication date: May 29th 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult


Khaya’s life, a life the Order say was never meant to be, is thrown into turmoil when she discovers she has a second ability. The Company who employs people like her – with rare and special abilities – insists that having more than one inevitably leads down a dark spiral into madness. So they are watching and waiting, ready to terminate her at the first sign of trouble.

Now, on the run from the Company’s agents while trying to prove her sanity, Khaya realises they are not the only ones she should fear. Angels are working towards her demise as well.

The question that haunts her is this: What did she do that was terrible enough to elicit the wrath of angels? And can she trust the mysterious Derrin, or is he the cause of all her tribulations?


Tania JohanssonI grew up in a small town called Ficksburg in South Africa and moved with my family to England aged fifteen.I then completed my schooling through a correspondence course from South Africa. This challenging time taught me a lot of self-discipline and determination. Qualities that have been invaluable while writing my first novel.

In 2004 I started studying optometry at Aston University in Birmingham, UK and currently I live and work as an optician in Kent.

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Review: “Chasing Ravens” by Jessica E. Paige

Chasing Ravens by Jessica E. PaigeA review by Amanda.

I received a copy of this book for free from Booktrope in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Chasing Ravens is a beautiful story, woven from folklore around a young girl searching for a place to belong. Anouk is a quiet, lonely girl forced to live with her snobbish aunt and disinterested uncle in a new village after the deaths of her parents and her beloved grandmother. A renowned healer, she had begun teaching Anouk to follow in her footsteps, telling tales of mythical creatures who live in the woods. The only thing that brings Anouk comfort in her new, unwelcoming home is walking alone in the woods, collecting herbs that her aunt sells at the market, and recalling her grandmother’s stories.

Accepting of her tolerable, if not exciting future, Anouk is shocked into action when her uncle strikes a deal to marry her off to the town drunk. Fearful and disgusted at the prospect of marrying a cruel man more than twice her age—one who may have been responsible for the deaths of his previous wives—Anouk throws caution to the wind and flees with only her dog, Pip, and a horse stolen from her uncle. Hoping that neighbors in her home village will find it in their hearts to take her in, she rides through the forest, unsure that she’s even going in the right direction. Forces beyond her control lead her to an unknown village, hidden in the woods, and what may be Anouk’s best chance for acceptance, friendship, and a future.

This story is written in the manner of one passing down a folktale to new generations. The reader gets a good sense of the landscape, the people, and the creatures, but in a simple, straightforward way. This is not Tolkien’s lengthy descriptions of the minutiae and rightly so. The author does a brilliant job of blending reality with the imaginary, familiar with the new. There are recognizable characters from folklore (like Baba Yaga) who have been featured in many stories across the world, and ones that I had not heard of before but caught my interest nevertheless. I could have read this straight through and finished it in a day, but chose to put it down and savor the story. I would eagerly recommend this book to lovers of fantasy, fairy tales, and folklore.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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