About the Book
Title: Heaven and Hound: Rise of the Alpha (Heaven and Hound series) * Author: LJ Clarkson * Publication Date: November 23, 2014 * Publisher: Indicated Publications and Promotions * Pages: 151 * Recommended Age: 8 to 13
Summary: Dog-fearer extraordinaire, Barny Pedrotter is the world’s most unlikely Alpha. To him, mutts are the worst. Protective. Snappy. Love the taste of Barny’s pants. Proven when the millionth Pomeranian attacks him on the way to school, sparking childhood fears. The whole thing-him crying and leaping onto his best mate’s back, and trying to defend his pants with a newspaper-is caught on video and goes viral. Thanks to the local newspaper twisting the facts and branding him a dog beater, he loses his vacation position at LC Comics. Now he’s left with three days to find another job, or else flunk ninth grade.
Trouble is, the only available position is training Mr. Lucius’ cursed and disobedient hellhounds to track his missing father. No matter how scared Barny is, he’d rather face the fleabags than fail school. Except working with Mr. Lucius drags Barny into a millennia-old family feud, where Lucious’ jealous, scheming sister, Gaybreeal, tries every little dirty trick to sabotage them and spark a war between Heaven and Earth. Barny must summon the Alpha within to command the hounds, or end up on their menu.
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My Thoughts: In this quirky and entertaining middle grade book, we are introduced to a cast of characters, loosely based on Christian beliefs, including “Pop” whose children Mr. Lucius, Gaybreeal, and Mik Hail among others have been banished to Earth to live among and help the mortals. Thankfully, the Day of Judgment is upon them, and the children will soon be called back to live in heaven with their Pop (if they passed their test, that is). However, Gay is determined to do everything in her power to prevent her brother, Mr. Lucius from making contact with his father.
To help in his quest to locate and communicate with his father, Mr. Lucius creates two “hell hounds” from a lock of Pop’s hair so they could sniff him out as necessary. Unfortunately, Gay casts a spell on the two hounds (Delta and Gamma) making them lazy and disobedient. Enter Barny Pedrotter, a troubled 9th grade boy whom the hounds choose as their alpha. It is up to Barny to regain control of the hounds and help Mr. Lucius regain entry into heaven.
Heaven and Hound: Rise of the Alpha features an assortment of colorful and memorable characters including mortals such as Barny, his father James, and Barny’s schoolmates and immortals such as Mr. Lucius, Gay, and Pop. The story is told from a number of perspectives, primarily Barny, James, and Gay. At first I found this confusing as I could not see where the story was going, but as the threads became interwoven, I came to appreciate that the individual perspectives were necessary to fully understand the story. I think children will be able to relate to Barny’s character in particular and I hope that in future stories, the focus is maintained on him.
The story features many humorous moments as well as more tense moments between the characters. The hounds, Delta and Gamma, were a delightful wild card and could either be vicious and destructive or big and lovable pushovers at the hands of their alpha, Barny. I do have to mention that these hounds were not typical dogs. That is, one or the other dogs were described as having unusual features such as scales, four eyes, a thorny tail, and a spiky ridge on the spine. I was having a hard time imagining what the dogs looked like and unfortunately, the cover image shows quite normal dogs!
One of the things that I really enjoyed in the story was the mentioning of certain movies, books, and other items from pop culture such as a BlackBerry, the TV series Downton Abbey, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, the World Cup, the Manchester United football club for example. The author also cleverly weaved in her other middle grade book, The Silver Strand throughout the story, although in Heaven and Hound it was referred to as a comic book.
My Bottom Line: Heaven and Hound: Rise of the Alpha is a fun-filled story featuring a quirky cast of colorful characters, an original and compelling plot, as well as many humorous moments and surprising twists. I can’t wait to see where the author goes next with this series and I recommend this book to children ages 8 to 13 looking for a quick and humorous read.
* This book was received free-of-charge from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions expressed are my own. *
More Buzz About the Book
Be sure to read excerpts from the “Heaven and Hound Book Review Blitz” hosted by Mother Daughter Book Reviews.
BeachBoundBooks: “The story shows us the best way to overcome a fear is to face it head on, just as Barny does with the hellhounds. It’s also a story of forgiveness, second chances, and unconditionally love, something the bickering siblings need a lesson in. The evil schemes and bits of magic keep readers engaged. I found the story to be well-penned and wildly entertaining.“
Bound4Escape: “Heaven and Hound kept my interest throughout. It’s a quick, and sometimes funny, read with a couple surprises. It’s the first book in a series and I look forward to reading the next one. I definitely recommend Heaven and Hound for all readers ages 8 and up.“
Oh My Bookness: “It’s a fun tale wonderfully put together with a nice flow, and just enough description to keep the reader engaged. It’s a tale that I can see being enjoyed by many for the sake in its entirety its a good story, if you pick up some references thrown within great, if not, it’s one of those stories that is enjoyed either way and by many.“
Beauty Brite: “I read this book with my 11-yr-old daughter and she was excited each time we sat down to read because she couldn’t wait to hear what came next for the sympathetic main character, Barny.“
Angela B. (Goodreads): “Heaven and Hound is a fun, whimsical tale of a boy doing everything he can to keep his family going while facing bullies, bad grades, expulsion, and a couple of frisky hounds. Barny is a strong kid and keeps his chin up against all odds, a great example for kids. I would highly recommend this book to young readers.“
About The Author: LJ Clarkson
LJ Clarkson tells everyone she gave up her Environmental Engineering career to study a Masters in Creative Writing and pursue her writing dreams. But that’s not entirely true. Ten percent of the time she sleeps in. Playing spider solitaire consumes 5% (bad, bad habit). Running Indicated, a promotional site for authors steals another 18.75%. In her remaining waking hours, she writes, laughs at her own jokes or characters, sings out of tune, recites useless, but very fascinating facts and reads children’s books. If she were a Mastermind, she’d uninvent early mornings, grammar, broccoli, cleaning, and her dog’s fussy eating habits. She is the author of the Mastermind Academy and Heaven and Hound series.