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The Universe Builders #1

Bernie and the Putty

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ASIN B00KKQT1CC moved to the most recent edition here

Winner of 15 Awards for Excellence.

Dive into a humorous fantasy world unlike anything you have imagined. A world of gods and goddesses who build universes for a living. Are they all-powerful and all-knowing? Well, not exactly... 

As Bernie graduates from God School, he is thrilled to land his dream job as a builder of universes. His first assignment is to build his own universe. Determined but unsure, bright but without confidence, Bernie forges ahead, only to find problems everywhere. Mysterious asteroids, unexplained volcanoes, shifting continents and more lead him to suspect sabotage. But who could sabotage his universe? Only another god could do that. 

It’s god vs. god, guile vs. goodness, where only one of them plays by the rules. Bernie must find a way to outwit his vicious foe. If he fails, it will cost him everything. 

A fascinating tale of good vs. evil and a young hero on a journey of self-discovery in an original, humorous, fantastic wrapper. 

Awards & Recognition:

*** GRAND PRIZE *** Writer's Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards (2014)
*** FINALIST *** Stargazer Literary Awards (2015)
*** FINALIST *** Beverly Hills Book Awards (2015)
*** GOLD *** eLit Book Awards (2015)
*** FINALIST *** Next Generation Indie Book (2015)
*** WINNER *** San Francisco Book Festival (2015)
*** FINALIST *** International Book Awards (2015)

Praise for The Universe Builders:

“…had me hooked from start to finish…I couldn’t put it down.”

“This book was fantastic! I was riveted, wanting to know what was going to happen to Bernie.”

“…weird, crazy characters that will tickle your funny bone and, at times, tug at your heartstrings.”

“…a fascinating tale of good vs. evil and of a young hero on a journey of self-discovery.”

“…a mind-bending journey…and a great start to a series.”

“Everybody loves an underdog story, and I’m no different.”

“This book was just wonderful!”

416 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2014

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About the author

Steve LeBel

5 books285 followers
What is the best way to describe an author who writes humorous fantasy?
Do we tell about bookshelves full of fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal books, his love of mythology, or the years he spent as dungeon master? Or is it more important to know his favorite player-character was a chaotic-good elf? What about that stack of old comic books he never seems to get rid of?

But there's a serious side too. The other half of his bookshelf is filled with books on management, marketing, computer programming, and financial analysis? What about his years as a hospital president, or the many businesses he created, his years as a stock trader? What about his early years counseling drug addicts?
Is there a pattern to his travels around the world? Why chose places like King Arthur’s Camelot, the Temple of Delphi, Buddha’s Tree of Enlightenment, China’s Forbidden City, or the Great Pyramid of Egypt? What is it he's searching for?
And what does any of this have to do with writing a good fantasy book?
Perhaps it’s that mix within Steve that makes The Universe Builders such a delightful story with such serious undertones.

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5 stars
400 (54%)
4 stars
191 (26%)
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94 (12%)
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30 (4%)
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17 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 144 reviews
Profile Image for Heena Rathore Pardeshi.
Author 1 book250 followers
September 13, 2014
You can read the original review at JC's Book Haven

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Everything about The Universe Builders was brilliant. It has a very strong story-line and absolutely beautiful characters. The uniqueness of the concept is so refreshing that it delighted me to no extent. The narration is simple yet effective and pulls you in the book right from the start and keeps you 'right there' all along.
Steve LeBel has done an amazing job in building the characters and he has successfully created a character that every reader can relate to (much like our beloved hobbits.) Bernie is the most adorable and relatable character you'll come across. He is sincere, responsible, extremely loyal, honest, innocent and most of all, sensitive. On the other hand, Bernie's cloud is mischievous, impatient and immature, displaying striking contrast to Bernie's personality, complimenting it perfectly. I'm very sure that each and every reader will be able to relate themselves with Bernie, in some or the other way.
Other commendable elements or I should say life-forms in the book are Sissy and Lookies. They added the "awwww" factor to this book and I'm looking forward to reading more about them in the next instalment of the book.

Suzie's love for Bernie is so genuine that it will make you smile to yourself. I loved the way Suzie understood Bernie and how she always supported him. On the other hand, Bernie, who also likes Suzie a lot, is very shy and blushes whenever she's around (which makes him even more adorable!) Bernie's cloud, aware of his feelings for her, always tries to get them close to each other, leaving Bernie embarrassed most of the time. Bernie and Suzie are perfect for each other in each and every way and I really hope that they get together as lovers in the next instalment. *Fingers-crossed*.

Conclusion: I enjoyed the hell out of it and hope you will too! It's one book you really can't miss. I can't stop thinking about the book even after finishing it, and that's what makes it a perfect read for me with a 5-star rating.
Profile Image for Julie Powell.
Author 66 books309 followers
August 19, 2014
I was sent this book for review quite some time ago and have only just been able to read it because my list is vast. As a reviewer as well as an author, I don't necessarily know what to expect and this story surprised me - it is an amazing read.

Being a mixture of fantasy, science-fiction and science-fact for the main part, this was fascinating in itself, and yet it was filled with intrigue, good v evil and a touch of romance. It is also steeped in philosophy and myth, intermingled with such topics as bullying, power games, ecology, morality and ethics.

I love the realistic feel of the characters, especially Bernie and his mix of emotions and kind heart.

I don't want to give away its secrets so will say that, in my opinion, this story is original, intelligent, well researched and very clever, and written in such a way as to draw in the reader from the start.

Yes, I am now a fan.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Patrick Hodges.
Author 47 books119 followers
January 27, 2016
Let me say this at the start - this book was flat-out one of the most imaginative and creative story lines I've ever read. This book has won fourteen awards, and I can now say that it has earned every single one of them.

Many of us have worked in offices, cubicle farms where we feel the pressure every day to succeed, with a glowering boss looking over our shoulder or through the glass of his corner office. Plus, we have the co-workers: the brilliantly cool guy, the sweet girl, and the jerk who makes it his mission in life to ruin yours.

Young Bernie works in such an office. He looks human, and many of his mannerisms are very human. After his celebrity father abandons him and his mother, he becomes shy and withdrawn, cowering within his father's massive shadow. He eats his lunch in the cafeteria and wonders what will become of him.

What's different about Bernie? Oh, yeah. He's a god. And he works at an office where it's his job to create universes. That's right, UNIVERSES.

And you thought YOUR job was tough.

In this job, if something you create doesn't turn out right, it's policy to clean the slate and start over, no matter how many billions of lives might be erased in the process. Such is the way of beings of such immense power. But the soft-hearted Bernie doesn't have such callous disregard for his creations in him.

A happy accident that takes place on Bernie's first attempt yields unexpected results, and as Bernie struggles to keep his job, his rival Billy seeks to destroy everything Bernie crates. Billy. Goddamn Billy. (NOTE: I have written books about bullying. I was a bullied kid myself. I have read many books involving bullying. And never have I wanted to leap into the pages of a book and throttle a character to death more than Billy. Thanks a lot, Mr. LeBel.)

Though there were times that the narrative went into a little too much detail, the seamless admixture of philosophy, metaphysics and astrophysics is a thing to behold. I cannot recommend this read any more highly.
Profile Image for Lori.
274 reviews
August 6, 2014
A very different kind of read for me. I really enjoyed this book. you have a bunch of God's building universes but in particularly two who the book focuses on.
kind of a evil verses good story.
very intriguing, fascinating, enjoyable.
you have your main character Bernie, a young god who graduates from builders school. he's kind of odd but in a good way. Then you have his enemy Billy who is out to destroy him when he lands a job at The Business.
Billy will do anything, go to any length to get Bernie Fired , can poor sweet Bernie survive his torture?
All because Billy holds a huge grudge against Bernie for scaring him permanently for embarrassing his friend Suzie in school. which really wasn't Bernies fault, his cloud went out of control.
This story is very cool actually, the universe building is a great idea, concept, that has you thinking.
I say it's a must read. especially if your in the mood for something different or if this is just you kind of book. I think it's great for all ages, teen to adult.
you will find you get attached to Bernie, Lenny and Suzie and despise Billy for his cruelty.

I was given this book for a honest review.

Bernies Fight Review:
As you know I recommend The Universe Builders.
I highly enjoyed Billy Fight also.
I'll just say it answers more then the questions of what happened when they fought, why Billy hates Bernie so much, and some questions about the builders school and why him and his mom live where they do.
so read the book and get your self a copy of this and read on.
but you can't get this book without reading the 1st book. a little catch.
Profile Image for Patricia.
1,579 reviews42 followers
February 9, 2014
I was honored to get this book to review for the L,S,K Sweetheart blog and books to curl up with blog. I have to say I was very surprised at this book . It had me hooked for the first chapter. Bernie is a young god just finishing god school. Where he is on to bigger and better things working for the company as a builder. He is the builder of new universes and life forms. But with every bit of good there is a lot of bad , That bad comes in the form of Billy, The bully from school. Bernie doesn't get a long with Billy especially after Bernie punched him. See Bernie is a loner after he had to move after his parents divorce. He works hard and gets through school. When he starts at the company , he has his best friend his soon to be girlfriend to help him out. But , as he starts building his world some one is there to sabatoge him and all the progress Bernie has done. Will Bernie create his universe or will he be fired, You will have to read the book to find out .
Steve Lebel. has written a great story of young gods and goddess's and how they have to work . They head to their jobs everyday , just like us lonely mortals do. Which makes them very human like .
Steve really weaves a great store between actual science of creation of the planets ,and the mythology of gods creating these said universes. This book is very entertaining and can be read by anyone from teen ager to us old people . So if you want an entertaining read check it out , You will get a good read and a few giggles every now and then
Profile Image for H.William Ruback.
Author 1 book12 followers
February 1, 2014
It is said that there is a grain of truth in each legend of mythology, I’m not sure though that Bernie is what the Norse had in mind. A world of gods and goddesses creating universes for The Business, gives this story infinite possibilities. And Steve LeBel does not disappoint.
Bernie, fresh from God School has landed his perfect job, making worlds for The Business. With the aid of his friends he will try to build the perfect world. But for every light there is a dark and the dark in Bernie’s world is another young god named Billy. Billy is hell bent on doing whatever it takes to destroy everything that Bernie builds, and it will push Bernie’s powers to the limit to defeat him.
There are times when the technical jargon flows so smoothly that you would swear Mr. LeBel was an Astrophysicist. Then at times he wraps the story like a mixture of Pratchett (they wear the same kinds of hats) and Hans Christian Anderson. A story that can be enjoyed by any age. The possibilities for future adventures are limitless and I for one will be anxiously awaiting the next one.
Profile Image for Amber M. McCarter.
265 reviews23 followers
September 5, 2017
I feel like I've missed something here. This had enough intriguing little plot points sprinkled throughout to trigger some thought... But nothing too deep. And overall, it seemed a bit too simplistically composed, character "development" included (there really wasn't any). Some of the most crucial foundations for the story were unnecessary at best, if not downright implausible. In fact, if it weren't for those, this might have made 4 stars in my book. As it is, I can't quite understand where all the praise and awards for this book are coming from. I mean, I've discovered that I'm apparently rather picky, but... still. It did, however, leave me with a lingering sense of... intrigued amusement, which is more than I could say for most books that I've endowed with this mediocre rating.
Profile Image for Andi Houtsch.
95 reviews2 followers
February 16, 2014
I received this book as an Advance Reader Copy, having signed up for the possibility based solely on the synopsis and cover art. I was immediately intrigued which says a lot about Mr. LeBel’s ability to hook a reader before they’ve even started reading the book itself.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Bernie and the Putty. The writing is superb; so much so that I forgot that Mr. LeBel is not a teenager fresh out of school. Bernie and the cast of characters reach out and grab you from the get go, even if only to make you wonder who they are and why they’re even friends (or enemies) with Bernie.

In the reading it is obvious that Mr. LeBel is writing from a place of deep personal experience and a passionate interest and expertise in the sciences. I love a book that I can learn from and this book delivers a gamut of lessons ranging from weather systems to plate tectonics, right down to the fundamentals of what it would take to create not just life but a solar system to which that life will eventually belong. All of this wonderful sciencey-geeky-nerdy (I can reference this phrase because I’m one of those sciencey-geeky-nerdy people) information is delivered couched within the frustrating woes of a budding builder with pacifist tendencies that often proved to be his ruin in the past and still threaten his success. My brain is full of not only plot and characters but solid information and knowledge to support both. That scores highly in my appreciation factors.

Bernie and the Putty is an entirely unique book and well worth the read. This story delivers consistently, and often with surprising plot twists that serve to add layers of complexity and keen insight into what makes us all gods – our very humanity.

The true proof of enjoyment is my willingness to reread the book at some future point. This one is a keeper and I thank Mr. LeBel for sharing his talent.
Profile Image for L.S..
684 reviews24 followers
April 7, 2014
Loved it!

I saw how a friend had highly recommended this book and was convinced that it was right up my street. Let me just say – what an unexpected delight! I expected to enjoy it, after all every review I read was very positive, but I did not expect to be drawn in so quickly. The story had me captivated until the end and an overwhelming desire to see Bernie victorious kept me hooked. His genuine need to maintain his own strong moral code tests him to the limit. Others, his friend Lenny being one of them, might have been less considerate for his creations, but not Bernie. Challenged at every step by Billy the bully god, he always seeks to find the best solution that doesn’t include death, destruction or any form of violence.

As a young, impressionable god, he is shy, trusting and more than a little gullible. His relationship with Suzie is so innocent, sweet and touching. Bernie struggles with his own emotions, he embarrasses easily but he doesn’t run away. He is a resilient young man, with a heart of gold. The life form that he creates – albeit unwittingly – becomes very important to him. He is not self-obsessed by his own godly powers, although he is amazed at his own abilities at times. Having been abandoned by his father at an early age, the kinship that later grows between him and Alcandor (one of the leaders on his universe) is wonderful to see. The two of them each fill a void in the other’s life, and with a shared thirst for knowledge, their relationship blossoms.

The story is clearly one of good triumphing over evil, but written in such a way that it is not at all preachy. It merely entertains and inspires the reader – which is no mean feat. It’s a great read, you will be wrapped up in Bernie’s world instantly and will care for his creations and him in no time at all.

I do hope that Bernie will be back :)
Profile Image for Hayley Guertin.
125 reviews12 followers
December 27, 2015

This book was just wonderful! The story was captivating, and the characters were interesting and fun. I absolutely loved the storyline, and the story was quite original. I recommend this book to anyone!

Bernie and The Putty is about a boy who lives in a world full of gods, who create universes. When Bernie gets a job at The Business, he gets an assignment to create his own universe so they can see what he can do. But, he is met with a few bumps along the way. Will he make it through his probationary period?

The characters were fun to meet, and to me, very interesting. I loved meeting and getting to know Bernie from the first page to the last. My favourite character had to be Lenny, with his charms and gadgets and what not.

The storyline is mind blowing to me. I believe that this book is extremely original and well written. I loved the story, and thought it was brilliant. It's a wonderful new twist to how worlds and such are created.

The ending of Bernie and The Putty was just what I wanted it to be. But, to find out what it was, you are going to go out and get the book! Trust me, it's worth it! I have to give this book 5 out of 5 stars!
Profile Image for Chris Snead.
1 review2 followers
January 18, 2014
With the genre described as fantasy/humor, I went into this expecting something along the lines of Douglas Adams' hit "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", and Mr. LeBel didn't disappoint. While it wasn't the same kind of silly, slapstick comedy, it was extremely entertaining and I thought I felt a hint of Roger Zelazny (Chronicles of Amber...another fantasy series that I absolutely loved). If you have enjoyed either of those, you have to try "Bernie and the Putty", you will love it. Everybody loves an underdog story, and I'm no different...but I think this is the first time I've read one where the underdog is a god. Bernie is the kind of guy you can’t help but love, and Billy is the kind of guy you love to hate. Mr LeBel's creative genius shines throughout the entire book, and I can only hope that this is the first in a series of Universe Builders novels. My only issue is that I would love to see this made into a movie, but feel that...as with so many other literary works of art...Hollywood would be unable to do it justice.
Profile Image for Tabitha Ormiston-Smith.
Author 50 books48 followers
September 25, 2014
In The Essence of Christianity, the philosopher Feuerbach posited that man creates God in his own image. In The Universe Builders LeBel has done, although rather less seriously and more entertainingly, just that, creating gods who are just like us, even down to the jeans and untied shoelaces of the young god. Just the originality of it would have been enough for me to rate it above average, but to the novel premise are added solid writing, likable characters, humour and that favourite of mine, a bully who gets his comeuppance.

Suitable for all ages, this book is a thoroughly good read. It rollicks through the attempt of a young god to survive the sabotage attempts of a workplace bully and secure his place in the prestigious Business, and comes to a very satisfying conclusion, neat but not too pat.

Given the subject matter, I feel I should not close without mentioning that devout readers need have no fears of blasphemy; there is no suggestion of conflating LeBel's gods with anyone's Divine Being, or of disrespect to any faith.

Profile Image for Felicia Madura.
Author 3 books3 followers
January 24, 2014
This book totally took me by surprise! I am generally a horror/thriller fan, but something about this story really sucked me in! It’s got an interesting plot about gods and universes, and one god in particular, just starting out in the world. He’s a kid, just out of school, and he hasn’t had the best of luck. The author does a great job of building the empathy for his main character, Bernie. I loved the story line, and it was well paced. It definitely kept me turning pages to find out what poor Bernie would have to go through next. There are some twists and turns that keep you guessing, and it ends wonderfully, leaving the door open for many possibilities. I would love to read more of Bernie’s adventures. This story will undoubtedly capture your heart, as well as make you wonder if WE have our own Bernie.
Profile Image for S.M. Lowry.
Author 1 book7 followers
February 11, 2014
This book was fantastic! I was riveted, wanting to know what was going to happen to Bernie. The story has humor, a well thought out world of gods and their creations, and subplots interwoven in a way that makes this book difficult to put down. Bernie has many challenges he must overcome, including living up to his powerful Builder father who abandoned him, being poor, and dealing with his chaos cloud and his enemy, Billy. This is a fascinating tale of good vs. evil and of a young hero on a journey of self-discovery. I highly recommend this book not only to young adults but also to anyone who wants an enjoyable fantasy read.
Profile Image for J. Scott Payne.
Author 9 books13 followers
February 4, 2014
Steve LeBel, a first-time novelist, gives comic and cosmic insight into what it actually might be like to have god-like powers. He has painted a delightful portrait of a probie god grappling with his first assignment: to create a universe.

Bernie has an enemy and doesn’t know it. And an ally, a chick who digs him, but he doesn’t know that either. See Bernie’s a nerd, so terribly earnest he forgets to tie his shoes, comb his hair or button all his buttons. He’s also fundamentally decent, too decent, and that’s the wellspring of the conflict and droll resolution in Bernie and the Putty.
Profile Image for L.J. Capehart.
Author 6 books2 followers
March 25, 2014
This was a fun book to read! Bernie is a very likeable character. The plot is creative, and interesting, and I really enjoyed it. And frankly, I think the ending was perfect! I hope Steve Lebel continues writing more stories about Bernie, and his friends. This was very well done.
181 reviews
November 19, 2014
I have read many wonderful books recently, but I was absolutely captivated by Steve LeBel's Universe Builders. From the first few words I was caught; sucked into a wonderful world where the gods have their own homes, go to school, work, have friendships and favorite hangout places among other things. It was such a different, unique and thoroughly delightful world I rarely wanted to leave, and even when I had to my mind would stay on where I left off in the story. To me, that is the mark of a truly excellent book. It was almost like Mr. LeBel thought the way I did I felt so much a part of the characters and their lives. The witty, sarcastic, sometimes snarky characters made me laugh at times, root for them in their troubles, and despise the ones who were evil. Every new page brought some new delight and each time you thought you had everything figured out...nope...something else would get thrown in to the ring. It was relatable, easy-to-read, flowed wonderfully, and had one of the most satisfying endings I have read.

This book is the story of Bernie the god who just wants to graduate school, become a builder, and do his job well. He is a humble, peace-loving boy; gentle, friends with many creatures, and yet besieged with anything that could possibly go wrong in his life. Yet Bernie persists. He graduates, manages to get a job at the quite amusingly named "the business", and sets about on his first task....creating a universe, anything he wants. He comes up with a plan, starts building from the plan, and then his school-yard enemy and bully comes into play. Due to an incident resulting in a fight, which is never fully explained, Billy the bully sets out to make Bernie fail. Every time Bernie creates something new, Billy puts a kink in the plans to the point where Bernie is simply trying to keep up with all the problems in his universe. Along the way he makes friends with a co-worker Lenny and reconnects with Suzie from school. The two of them help him, both to keep his sanity and to prevent Billy from getting Bernie fired before he even has a chance. The three of them end up with equal stakes in making Bernie's universe a success. I do not want to ruin the book by giving too many of the details away, so let me just say the ending made me laugh and cheer at the justice served and the way everything turned out. It seemed the perfect ending, with such sweet poetic justice.

There were so many different amusing threads or bunny trails in this book that I loved: The lookies in the forest and Sissy the shoulder pet as new, unheard-of creatures; Lord Alcandor of Bernie's planet acting as a confidant and father-figure to him; the titling of the gods' world (i.e. having them live in "the town", go to "the school", work for "the business", etc); the OWT gadgets, and so many more. It felt like the author dipped his toes into the technology bubble with all the backdoors and OWTs of the book, into philosophy and ancient Rome or Egypt with the way Alcandor and the people of Bernie's planet ran their world and even the gods' world to a certain extent, into astronomy and space with the gods and their building and creating, and into math and physics with all of the knowledge of motion, gravity, etc required to create a planet, sustain life and to keep it perpetuating. And yet it was so easy to read and so much fun....truly a fantasy novel for all ages.
Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,461 reviews378 followers
September 29, 2014
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The Universe Builders: Bernie and the Putty is written by Steve Lebel and stands a part in a sea of mediocrity. It features a main character named (surprise) Bernie and he is a God in another Universe that has graduated school with a major in Universe building and is hoping to obtain a job with “the company,” to build universes for a living.

Let me just say that this is one of the best books I have read all year, maybe ever. There are so many phenomenal layers to this book; I feel as though I could reread it over and over again and find something new each time. Steve has created an imaginative world based in possible dimensional trains of thoughts and takes a humorous poke at the idea of not being alone in the universe. He even goes one further and explores the idea of God creating our universe, but not just one God, that there are many Gods in another universe that create countless universes encompassing many life forms.

The Universe Builders provides the reader with a normal guy in our main God named Bernie. He is somewhat of a geek and doesn’t have many friends. He lives in a lesser neighborhood with his mother and is constantly fighting against what seems normal for everyone else. I love his sense of “humanity” in wanting to fight for the most humane treatment of his life forms. When other Gods have no qualms about “blinking” out a life force, Bernie will go out of his way to preserve any life that he can and work around it.

The antagonist of the story is found in Billy. Billy’s life mission has been to bully Bernie throughout school. In an attack on a girl named Suzie, Bernie finally fought back leaving Billy with a permanent scar on his face. When Billy finds himself in the same office as him, he will do anything in his power to ensure that Bernie is fired, and some of his heinous acts break your heart.

I found myself feeling intensely connected to the characters and the situations, especially when it came to some of the life forms. I definitely had a few moments of tearing up and others of wanting to slap Billy in the face haha. This was such a wonderful book, I hated when it ended. I hope to read more about this “universe” created by Mr. Lebel.

Overall I give this book 5/5 stars. I recommend it to anyone. It was so great it should be enjoyed by all. It was well written, detail oriented, well thought-out. I hope to explore more of the worlds within Steve’s mind some day in the future.

*I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Charles Garard.
Author 10 books11 followers
November 30, 2014
Steve LeBel is an author who can write. This is obvious you say, and maybe it should be, but this is the best e-book in the fiction realm (novel or book of poetry) that I have read so far among those promoted on the Facebook group sites. He knows how to write English sentences -- something that should be but is not a requirement for all e-book authors.

This is not to stay that Steve's novel is perfect. No work is. For example, the exposition in the beginning, after the introduction, is very sketchy with little attention given to descriptive details. Infrequently, he will jump from one center of consciousness to another in short order, but this is a rare and minor problem.

I read no images of the characters to make them come alive on the Kindle page. None, that is, until about halfway through when we meet a minor character named Candi. Her introduction is superb -- giving us a charging rhino of dynamic energy. This character must be based on someone he knows. Unfortunately, such a description doesn't re-appear and she becomes lost among the other characters.

One chapter is a two-person conversation detailing the back story. Exposition is supposedly better revealed through dialogue than through omniscient narration, but this scene stretches it a bit too much -- what some critics would call "author convenience."

Steve's descriptive arsenal is saved for the planets the gods in the story are creating -- particularly our hero Bernie, and these suggest that he is an expert in geophysics and cosmology. In this regard, his writing is exemplary.

My only disappointment came about with his repeated visits to the planet being created by our hero to show the devastating results of error and heartless sabotage by a rival god. This is a good venue for the author to deal with philosophical and metaphysical (even theological) issues. However, I was anxious to return to the primary plot-line dealing with Bernie and his friends -- including a furry creature who sits on a friend's shoulder. At about the mid-point of the novel, the narrative began to pick up and only then was it difficult for me to put the Kindle down.

(spoiler alert):

A happy ending blossoms at nearly the last second when all seems lost -- a fairy tale kind of recovery. The hero is unconvincingly catapulted to overwhelming success because of a groundbreaking discovery on the part of judges in a contest. Throughout, more girl-boy physical interactions on the part of the teenage gods might have been included, but these are not the choices that Steve makes. He is, after all, the creator, and this novel is his universe.
Profile Image for Lori.
274 reviews
July 31, 2014
Really cool book

a good verses evil book. 2gods , one trying to discover who he is, shy, niece, not much confidence in himself but a very special boy who will soon have to learn some very tough lessons in life even as a god. the other a very anger evil boy god who hates Bernie the, good hearted boy he is. Billy being the anger mean evil boy who takes advantage of everyone around him but makes it a point to destroy Bernie for reasons of his own besides he's a bit demented.
I found this book to be very good. kind of a lighthearted read. Bernie just is so good he makes you like him and the universe he builds is p pretty cool. the idea of the book itself is very cool. I think it was a sort of fun read but then you feel really bad for Bernie at times and just hate Billy. you find his friend pen my odd but interesting. Bern uhh especially love but he doesn't get it for along time and little unique creatures who follow him around interesting. the book just makes you think. I had a hmmm..moments. I really thought I t was an enjoyable read for all ages. teens to adults. you might even learn something or just think can this be true?
I recommend it. it's very well written. a great story and if you read on at the end a bonus. you'll.have to buy it to find out. I'm not giving any spoilers.
but you will find them on the review of my blog.
I suggest reading this book.
my blog review will be up in a day or 2. http://thereaderhaven.wordpress.com. The Book Junkie.

Thanks Steve for the push to read it and jump you ahead. it was a wonderful change of pace for me.

I was given this book for a honest review. I'm honestly giving it a 5 star. It's very well deserved.

Profile Image for Nicole Delacroix.
Author 3 books64 followers
July 19, 2014
I first thought this would be another foray into a look-a-like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, what I found was a whimsical and witty dive into the unexpected. The story itself is pure genius at it's very best, the characters are well written, wonderfully developed and oh so thankfully flawed (for GODS!). The narration is perfect third person, you feel like you're sitting on each characters shoulder as the story unfolds. I had honestly resolved to read a few chapters each day until done and here I am 7 hours later finished with the book wishing I had savored it more. I want to scream, 'where's the next in the series??'. The created world is so complete and so detail, that nothing is left to chance. By the end of the book I was so wrapped up in the action of what was happening, that I was near tears. There are many great books out there, this one is simply one you DO NOT WANT TO MISS. I think the author is clearly a truly gifted story teller, and I haven't felt so enraptured by a story in such a long time, thank you Steve! I can't wait for the next in the series, so please don't break my heart and tell me I have to wait long. There is layer upon layer of nuance and well crafted story that anyone would fall immediately under the authors' spell. Magical, whimsical, and full of wit and humor - the only thing that was missing was the line "Hi, I'm Bernie, and I'll be your God." I'm so happy that I added this book to my reading list and moved it up in my stack. My only disappointment is now in addition to waiting for a new season of Sherlock, I'll have to wait for the next book in the series.
Profile Image for Tammy K..
586 reviews
December 24, 2014
A rare Gem!

Fresh out of school with a degree in Universe Building, Bernie lands himself a chance at a coveted position at 'The Business' the place where universe are created. To gain the position, he must build a worthy world. Given unlimited supplies and total artistic control over his project, you would think this would be an easy task.
Yet all is not roses for the young god, who has spent his whole life living in the shadow of his Universe Award winning father. Troubled by a chaos spirit, this incredibly shy god must find it in himself to stand up to his childhood (and now workplace) bully, win the girl of his dreams, and save the people of his newly created planet.

This book was a sheer pleasure to read.

I just love a feel good book! Ones where the little guy rises up to meet the challenge, never gives up, wins the day and my heart. <3

This book contains a full emotional roller coaster ride. I found myself smiling, laughing, growling, and tearing up.

I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages who enjoy Action - Adventure, Science Fiction - Fantasy, Feel-Good stories.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author via Goodreads for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Linda Watkins.
Author 16 books349 followers
January 21, 2014
I was privileged to be selected to read an Advanced Reader Copy of Bernie and the Putty, the first book in Steve LeBel's Universe Buliders' series. While the genre is a departure from what I usually read, LeBel's gentle humor and unique storyline piqued my interest.

The main character is Bernie, a shy young god who has just graduated from (you guessed it) "god school" and is about to begin building universes. He has good friends, Lenny and Suzie, who help him along his way, but he also has an enemy. Billy, another young god who was a year ahead Bernie at school, is determined to sabotage our hero's career and sets about to ruin any chance he has of success.

However, in his corner, Bernie finds other unusual friends that help him on his way - but I'm not going to spoil the surprise by telling you about them here. Just suffice to say that LeBel has created a fascinating world populated by a bunch of weird, crazy characters that will tickle your funny bone and, at times, tug at your heartstrings.

I give "Bernie and the Putty" five stars and look forward to see what LeBel will come up with in the next of his Universe Builders series.
Profile Image for Susan Tarr.
Author 9 books147 followers
December 3, 2014
What an amazing story! I was riveted! Since it is pure fantasy, I had no inkling of what might happen next.
Bernie is such a delightful, kind and caring young chap. But when the odds are against him, he comes out fighting. Just not in any manner we might imagine. He has all the angst of any young man growing up in our society. He struggles with bullies, lack of finances, being who he is and the age he is. He knows he is different, and cannot easily conform to the norm, but what is going on in his head cannot be stifled.
He’s just graduated from God School's Building Program, and need to be in a secure job so he can help his mum. The job he lands has the strictest boss, and that has Bernie really worried. And though Bernie works his heart out, even that job seems to be doomed, and sabotaged time and time again. Indeed, his whole life seems plagued with disappointment after disappointment.
But Bernie is a young god, after all. He has secret ways of dealing with…stuff.
The writing and style in this work is of a very high caliber. I am so impressed. And for young and old, it’s a delightful read. Definitely 5 stars!
1 review1 follower
September 4, 2014
The Universe Builders is possibly one of the best books I've read in a long time. It was absolutely riveting and drew me in from the first page. The premise is interesting and engaging. A young god named Bernie has recently graduated from the School and begun his first job at the Business, where he is assigned to create a universe. He struggles with his nature and a former schoolmate turned coworker who repeatedly bullies him.
The storyline was fresh and completely original. Instead of being the more eccentric humor of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it had more of the subtle wit of a Terry Pratchett novel. This is not a book you can read in installments; once you start you will be unable to let it go.
Profile Image for N. Jr..
Author 3 books189 followers
February 7, 2015
Not exactly my type of book, but I did find it rather witty and offbeat. That's the main reason for the 4 stars
Profile Image for Kathy Davie.
4,643 reviews699 followers
January 31, 2016
First in The Universe Builders fantasy series for Young Adults and revolving around gods, builder gods!

A special thanks to Steve LeBel for allowing me to read this story.

Wow. LeBel's Bernie and the Putty has won at the New York Book Festival, the 2015 San Francisco Book Festival Prize for Science Fiction, and the Grand Prize for the Writer's Digest Self-Published e-Book Awards; nominated for the Beverly Hills Book Award; was a 2015 semi-finalist for the Kindle Book Award for Sci-Fi/Fantasy; and was a finalist for the Stargazer Literary Awards, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the International Book Awards, and for the Gold in the eLit Book Awards.

My Take
This was brilliant in so many ways. I've not read anything like this before. And talk about the ultimate empowerment, a teen with the power of life and death in a blink of the eye. LeBel has put so much thought into this universe. And I like how he's kept the parallel going with humanity, with our distant past, with our history. Even better is all the science, physics, geology, sociology, astronomy, life cycle processing, and more that LeBel makes understandable. I had never thought about what was involved in building a world like this. The thought he's put into the shimmer alone was lovely.

LeBel cracked me up at so many points. Heck, his whole premise of gods going to school and creating universes as school projects…lol… I sure enjoyed his pulling in that bit about overachieving gods who create a universe in six days, ahem, *grin*.

Oh, man, even gods have to make outlines and plans before they get to play. How unfair is that? Seems there are rules for Creation Mechanics.

It is a different perspective on teens, the best and the worst of them: Billy and his bullying, his gang who kowtows to him out of fear, and then Bernie, the underdog, who believes in the sacredness of life with his supporters.

I did enjoy how LeBel informed us of Bernie's past as he checks in with Bernie's teachers. Poor guy. And I do not like teachers who pick on their students, who hold up their mistakes for students to laugh over year after year after year. I think it's reprehensible. And why aren't these teachers helping Bernie control his so-strong cloud? Why are they picking on him without taking that cloud into account? It's as if all the impulses of being a child, a teen, has gone into the cloud as it acts out on every emotion, forcing Bernie to struggle for control. This bugs me. Then there are the teachers who get so hidebound within their subjects that they can't handle a student who questions. Why not encourage kids to think? That Gabriel who tried so hard to force Bernie to flunk. When we get Bernie's side, there's a whole different perspective. One that would make me launch an investigation in that teacher's classroom style. Why are those teachers allow to stay in place? And I wanna know why Ezrha would take him at all seriously. Zachariah is the jerk of a headmaster.

What are any of these people thinking? They're all CONDONING bullying behavior. They're punishing the kids getting bullied. And what's really sad is that this is what is going on in the real world, in our schools all the time. Don't any of these people ever look at both sides of an issue? Talk with the actual participants as opposed to listening to rumors and making up their own versions? Jesus, they sabotaged this kid from the word go.
"Dick and Jane are one of the Great Mysteries."

Beatrice, a teacher Ezrha respects, has only good things to say, and yet he's already leaning against Bernie because of prejudiced teachers. Of course, you could say that Beatrice is prejudiced, but read it. You'll immediately understand. And if you have kids, you may want to take another look at your kid's teachers!!

I do not like Ezhra. He's too hidebound himself. Too caught up in listening to teachers who are jerks. Especially when he talks to Suzie because he knows she thinks so highly of Bernie when he says "…I can't pretend to listen to your input when my mind is almost made up". I'm sorry, but that sounds as if he's "allowing" Suzie to talk but he has no intention of actually listening to her.

LeBel leaves me wondering about so many things, and I wanted to know more about the watchers and why they obsess about Bernie, about Bernie's jerk of a dad, why the gods are so obtuse about jerky gods like Billy, why Suzie (who has known Bernie for yonks) can so easily misinterpret his actions on that first day, what is it about those woods that go past the Edge, and more.

On the negative side, I'm not sure if LeBel has decided on a reading audience. The language is definitely more on the adult side, however there are incidents in this that are too stupid to be believed that would be embarrassing in a middle-grade novel. I mean, why on earth…oops, I mean The World…does it take so frickin' long for any of the three friends to realize it's Billy doing the sabotage?? I mean, hullo! Heck, I knew Billy'd be messing with Bernie's project as soon as I knew he was part of the same department let alone in the next cubicle.

The story needs some massive editing. It keeps going forever, and as much as I enjoyed the story concept, I got to wondering if it would get anywhere. Part of that annoyance was Bernie's naiveté about Billy. Part of it was all these side trips into too much information that didn't add to the story and way too much detail in those areas of the story where some detail provides the background color and helps us see, feel what's happening without having to drone on and on about it. I think a lot of the side trips would have been better as short stories.

Where is Bernie's dad? I would have thought he'd have popped up at the end. Nor did I understand why Bernie didn't talk to his mom. He mentioned throughout the story that his mom had helped his dad on his three prize-winning universes, and yet he never considers asking her for advice.

How is it that there have only been 47 winners of the Most Beautiful Planet if the awards have been going for 7,000 years, and it's the Annual Universe Awards?

Jesus, that employee manual sounds nuts. Why doesn't Bernie use a camera to film what's happening to his world? He's with the OWT. He must be able to find something he can use. Lenny cracked me up with his obsession with charms. And just how stupid is Shemal? He must have some idea of what a bully Billy is. Candi mentions that there are a lot of gods trying to get transferred out of Final Assembly. Wouldn't that trigger some questions?

And in spite of all my bitching and moaning, I liked this. I want to read more. As a reader, I hated the ending 'cause I'll have to wait to see what LeBel comes up with next. As an editor, I loved his ending — and Alcandor's thinking! It's a clever bit of deduction and the new vista this opens up is great fun for the series, for the new world, for Bernie, for everyone.

The Story
Bernie’s life has been chaos, almost as if this were a fairytale and an evil godmother had cursed him with his cloud of chaos. Today, however, today Bernie is jubilant for he has graduated as a builder. It’s everything he’s ever wanted, if he can get a job.

It seems Bernie’s luck is in when he gets placed in the pilot program. Until he finds out that Billy is in the cubicle next to him. He has two strikes against him already with Ezhra unsure of his ability and Shelam known as the toughest manager in The Business. But now Bernie will have to cope with deliberate sabotage and a hostile workplace.

Worse, we suffer with the people of Bernie's new world as they try to cope with one disaster after another. Each event becoming worse and killing more of them, sending them into the panics our own world has experienced over the centuries. A conflict between science and religion, between two men wanting the same woman.

The Characters
Bernie is a young god with too great an interest in pacifism. At birth, he was "blessed" with a disorder cloud. Hannah is his mom and she works as a waitress at a Central Plaza restaurant. Simeon is his father, and he's won three Universe Awards. A major achievement among the gods and obviously made him too good for his family.

The watchers, a.k.a., the lookies, in the wood are led by Bowin; he's followed by Gingi, Catila, Renot, Gower, and Sibot. Groddix and nazarks are nasty beasts in the woods. Platus is a flying animal, a bird.

Suzie works in The Business' HR department and has looked out for Bernie for years. She's a bit in love with him. Lenny is Bernie's only other god friend, and even he has a hard time with Bernie's pacifism. Sissy is Lenny's good luck charm. Saul and Ruth are Lenny's parents. His Grandpa Titus usually has the family album. Artie is some kind of mute friend of Lenny's.

Billy is a nasty bully of a kid, even as an adult, he's still got an immature, warped mentality. All you have to do is read what he does on the weekends. Red Dog and Butcher were his "friends" back in The School. At work, he's extorting Jimmy, Candi, and Donald into being his sheep. Shemal is Billy's uncle. I don't understand why everyone doesn't gang up on Billy and get him fired. Rachel is a healer his parents call in.

Shemal is a tough manager at The Business in the Final Assembly Division. Ezrah is Suzie's boss, the Director of Personnel, and it's up to him whether Bernie gets (or keeps) his job. Saul is in the Supply Division. Just pop on in and pick up a world.

The school
Caleb teaches elementary creation; Gabriel is creation ethics; Peter; and, Beatrice is a truly wonderful teacher. Wanda was one of those wunderkind students whom no one can ever surpass.

Peter owns Good Shimmer Products, and he supplies businesses with retail products. Isaiah owns the bookstore.

The Town is where the gods live, and it's divided into five sectors with the first sector the center and most prestigious while the fifth sector is on the outskirts and most people disdain it. The Town is located in The World. The Business is the business of building universes — and it's the most prestigious job a god can have. Not just any god can do it, you know. Refugees are creations a god brings home with him. A bit like kudzu. The Edge is as far as the gods have gotten in exploring The World. The School is where, yup, everyone goes to school. OWT is an Off World Technology group which is fascinated by technology found on intelligent worlds. Universe Putty is like glue and holds parts of the construction in place as you work.

The Annual Universe Awards have more categories than you can shake a stick at. There are three judges: Jazelda, Thomas, and Michael. The pilot program gives a new builder six months (or less) to wow his new employers. Or get fired.

Bernie's universe
Speaker Zardok is the head of the religion, the High Priest of the Temple and Speaker for the Sun, which the people worship. Vianna was a free spirit who pursued "knowledge and the thrill of discovery". Lord Alcandor is the world's greatest scientist.

This world has a senate of lords and senators and includes Lord Rigel, Senator Grenwy, Lord Noseter, Lady Eonis, Priestess Ximow, and Senator Anitol. Lord Gondal is the leader. Tuderon is Gondal's aide. Minister Landor is in charge of port facilities. Minister Wadov, Branton is the minister for science, Nottag is the minister for building projects, and Tonst is the minister for temple affairs.

Gaia is an integral part of a world.

The Cover and Title
The cover is perfect as the background focuses on a young torso clad in a T-shirt, his hand stretched out to us with a young universe floating above that hand. It’s beautiful, miraculous with its tiny moon, mirror-like planet, and yellow sun. For this is the topic, the title, of Bernie and the Putty, a useful commodity, the duct tape of the universe.

But, please reverse the font sizes on the series name and the book title. I didn't even know the title was there in its thumbnail size.
Profile Image for Aria Veil.
Author 1 book31 followers
August 20, 2018
Delivering on such a premise is no easy task. It is astounding how Steve LeBel was able to pull off such a story with ease like it was the most natural thing in the world. "Bernie and the Putty" was able to lay out the groundwork for books two and three which is essential for any type of series.

It is a treat for both young and adult readers. The experience takes you into god school to landing his first job and lastly, to diving into a universe of his creation. Bernie bears that same conflict that we all struggle with. In this sense, you would have to consider if one person's kind and gentle heart to be his greatest weakness or his greatest strength?

As an author, I too have firsthand experience with world-building and I'm telling you, it is not a walk in the park. Creating a new set of norm takes lot of skill to master and as I have read his work, I would say that it gets better and better from here on out. Thank you Steve LeBel for creating this new universe that is filled with wonder. This book is an awesome travel companion, one that people would love to come back to every now and then.
Profile Image for Ryan D. D..
Author 5 books3 followers
February 27, 2020
Taking Universe Building to the next Level

A coming of age novel, with a very clear karmic message. Our friend Bernie gets tossed through the ringer as he gets a dream position next to his old school bully. Our bully carries his action into the work-place trying to sabotage poor Bernie. Great comedic moments, bouts of conflict, and positive messages with a fabulous and highly detailed world. You won't be disappointed.
Profile Image for Kathy  Barrow.
18 reviews
December 17, 2018
There's a little but if Bernie in all of us.

I don't even know how I ended up with this book but I sure am grateful I did. This was such a sweet, coming of age story. What made it delightful was Bernie is a god. He's young and sweet and awkward, as we all are when we're discovering who we are. I cannot wait to see what the universe has in store for Bernie or what Bernie has in store for the universe.
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