Bloggers: What do you say about a less-than-stellar ARC?

I was in the dumps a few days ago. I love mysteries, domestic noir, suspense books anytime anywhere.  I even dig a good procedural like the excellent Tana French and Robert Galbraith books.

Being a new blogger, I joined NetGalley a few months ago and went straight for my genre of books. While I’ve read some good ones, I read so many lackluster, blah (boring) ARCs that I seriously got burned out. Also, how do you bloggers handle bad ARCs? Some, I can’t even finish. Then, what about the review?


My husband (not a big reader) says I should be honest and tell it like it is – let people know if the book is lousy. In these cases, I feel too much for the author, the hard work he/she put in and their feelings, too. I just can’t trash a book publicly. It does irk me when a so-so book is heavily promoted and I see tons of other bloggers tweeting about how great it is.  Is that solely so they will get more free books to review?

I have tentatively decided to only write reviews for “good”  books. Or semi-good. I’m not a snob, I just WANT TO READ GOOD BOOKS!

Not knowing how this whole blogger/book reviewer big picture works, I at first accepted a couple of author’s requests to read their books. One self-published, one has been published about a year. Both really bad.


Do I let them know their books sucked, I couldn’t finish, no way I can write a nice review? I’m really interested in your thoughts on this subject.  How do you handle bad books?

In case you care (you do, don’t you?) I climbed out of my reading slump by concentrating on my TBR list. First up, DARK MATTER. High fives all around. Perfectly exciting and different and well written. Now, Sharp Objects. It’s looking outstanding.

Author: J e w e l s

Professional reader, amateur opinion giver, INFP (mediator personality✌️). Animal advocate, supporter of books and yarn, coffee and Portland. Unhealthy obsession with true crime. Twisty book and movie lovers are my tribe. And my fam is the best!

48 thoughts on “Bloggers: What do you say about a less-than-stellar ARC?”

  1. I struggle with this as well! I usually just leave a “note to the publisher” saying this book just wasn’t for me and if I don’t finish it, I also don’t rate or review it out of fairness. This is a tough one, I say go with your gut! For me, there are SO many books I want to read and so little time to waste on books that don’t click with me personally!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. On NetGalley I write that it wasn’t a book that suited me, and if it was a DNF or not, but might suit someone else, however, I leave notes for the publisher addressing my issues.
    Authors, be straight. Tell them that you struggled and why especially with self-published authors as I know of some who never had their work proofread or whatever else was needed and just went with it.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Don’t ever let them use you as a proofreader and if you feel they are then stop reading and tell them straight away that there are too many mistakes in the book and you recommend getting a proofreader and beta readers. These are tasks that should be paid for so don’t let them use you. I have told authors when I have noticed they used the wrong name or misspelt something but only as long as it is a blatant oversight.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. The DNF ones I review on Amazon and Goodreads and get one star. I explain why they are awful and why I would rather die than finish their book etc. All other books I stick on my blog. I have no problem writing a review saying there are flaws in this book. I like writing the more critical reviews as much as the ones that are totally amazing. You need to decide what to do for yourself. Where you draw the line. Some people only put glowing reviews on their blog. I like to show books warts and all and be honest. It is ok not to get on with all books. I am pretty sure that authors and publishers know they will get a variety of reviews. Seriously don’t worry about Netgalley. They offer lots of proofs. They know that not everyone will get on with a book. We have all sent books backing saying ‘this really was bad’.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You don’t have to. You know what good writing and quality books look like. We mustn’t let them get away with things like poor grammar, spelling, plots with holes in or anything that makes me want to scream. I see it as my duty to point things out. I am always polite and I word it carefully. You can be subtle about it. They need this kind of feedback!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. If I don’t enjoy a book I say why. Negative reviews are much harder to write than positive. I feel awful writing them, especially if I have interacted on social media with the author. But… reviews are for future readers. If they follow me because they are interested in my opinion, that has to be honest.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I try and finish a book and explain/ describe it – even if I didn’t like it, someone else may. Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean it was bad. If I think it really is bad I tend to abandon and not review: life is too short! I suppose though do pre select books based on friends’ views, other blogs, publicists’ description etc and I try to avoid books I’m likely to dislike. So the pre screening should help!

    I have had a couple of frustrating Netgalleys that I was enjoying but were so badly formatted I couldn’t finish. I have pointed this out to the publishers and would be happy to finish a legible copy and review!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If it’s a successful writer or one who’s being hyped as the next best thing to Charles Dickens, then I review it and am honest about why I didn’t like it, including calling them out for bad writing, etc. If it’s a new author who’s not being hyped all over the place, I tend to not review but send feedback via NetGalley. I try never to take books directly from authors as I don’t like being put in the difficult position of having to tell them if I think the book isn’t good. But on the rare occasion that I do take one, then I send them honest feedback by e-mail and hope they mean it when they always claim that’s what they want…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I did the same when I joined NetGalley and read too many books in the crime and thrillers genre. I’ve dnf’d on quite a few and sent feedback to the publisher saying I couldn’t get into it and gave up. I let them know I won’t be reviewing it because it would be unfair as I didn’t finish it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I always review my DNF books, even NG ones. Sometimes I can’t read them because, for example, I find them to YA and I can’t stand YA writing, sometimes I just can’t connect with it, and sometimes I think it’s awful lol. I always explain my reasons of why I didn’t like a book, it’s good to be honest!! 🙂 I find it hard to read self-published books because 9 times out of 10, I think they’re rubbish. I’ve stopped accepting self-published books on my policy page now!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Have a 40 page rule. If the book falls at this hurdle I send a note to the publisher/ publicist via email or Netgalley. If a book starts to disappoint in the latter stages/ has flaws I will always comment on this, otherwise you lose your integrity as a reviewer. After all, we all get books on the premise that we will be offering an honest review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A note to the publisher on Netgalley and some thoughtful feedback about why exactly it didn’t appeal to you is enough. I do post negative reviews if I was interested enough to finish the book, then explain what I did like about it that got me through to finishing it, along with whatever criticism I have. I think it’s still helpful for people reading reviews to read critical ones, maybe they’re not bothered by the same things, and only reading positive ones doesn’t help you decide what’s worth your time 🙂


  11. There’s a lot of really fair comments here- I think that it’s best to be honest- I agree with what someone said about sending a note to the publisher- I don’t personally think it’s a good idea to promote it/write a positive review if you didn’t like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I think it’s best to be honest, but it’s so hard when you know that an author has done all the work to write the book. I’m with you on that! I’m not a book basher, and I understand exactly how you feel. Sometimes I wonder if it makes us “higher” raters. Hmm… ❤ Great thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I’ve not had too many bad ARC reads. I mostly choose them carefully from NetGalley and Edelweiss. If there’s one that I don’t really enjoy I still read to the end and write a review. For example:
    I’m always honest and have never been swayed to praise a novel just to receive more ARCS. I sort of resent your comment that ‘tons’ of other bloggers would be dishonest in their reviews just to get more ARCS.
    I do not accept many author requests as I’ve not been happy with many of them and don’t want to squander any precious reading time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comments. I appreciate your opinions! Also so happy for you that you’ve not had too many bad ARCs! Like I said, I’m new to blogging and these are my first impressions.


  14. Being honest is important. I certainly dislike when a book is getting rave reviews, I decide to read it and find it is terrible. For example, I just read, “The Ghost Bride,” because it had excellent reviews. Well, the book started out interesting; however, as the story went on I felt the author was trying to “fill space” and the writing was like a beginning draft. This often happens with books lately, where I find books are getting terrific reviews, but they feel like they are still in draft stage and were rushed to print. SO, PLEASE, give an HONEST review… there are nice ways of saying the book was not well written, i.e plot was underdeveloped, flawed characters, etc. None of us want to waste time reading a book that still needed work. 🙂 Look forward to your reviews.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I have done a lot of textbook reviews in the past and recently thought it might be fun to get into NetGalley. I signed up but now that I see your struggle, perhaps I will put that on hold! Thanks for sharing this post and for stopping by my blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I say go for it! You def have to research beforehand before you request a book to try and get only the ones you THINK you will like. No guarantees at all though. Having said that, I have read some amazing books on NetGalley! (No Exit was one that pops to mind)

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This is my daily struggle I can’t make myself give an arc less than 3 stars, i feel so rude, and uh i just can’t, i know i should be honest, but seriously why would i hurt the author’s feelings? And I cherish authors so much, so I can’t bring myself to write a bad review, i write the good stuff and in the end i mention what bothered me briefly,

    Liked by 2 people

  17. This is so HARD.

    I only read books already published, but I won’t even give stars on my reviews.

    I can’t imagine what it’s like as a book blogger where you see so much more.

    I’m on both sides as a reader and author. I love to read, but wow, lately I’ve had a spate of books so bad I can’t finish them. Many of these had great reviews.

    Yet, as an author, I get the blood, sweat, and tears that went into them. How devastating a bad review is.

    So torn on this.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I feel your pain. I spend a considerable amount of time writing each review, so I would prefer to be working on something good. I have come across some real stinkers that I could probably have had some fun with, if one is fond of blood sports, but really, it’s not the best use of my time. I can certainly understand making an exception for a book that has been overpraised, but which seems lacking. It is a public service to set up a flashing buoy of a review to alert readers to potential peril. One solution for a less-than-stellar book might be to post a small review, at least noting that you had read the book, mention any positives you might have discerned, briefly list the flaws, and politely suggest that the next book by the author will likely be better.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. So I’m not going to lie very early on in my reviewing days I wrote a not-so-favorable review about a book the community was raving about with non-stop 5 Star reviews. I know I should have felt bad, but at the time I had like zero following and it was my honest opinion so I posted it. You know what happened? The author PERSONALLY contacted me to hash out what I didn’t like. There are over 1500 reviews for this book and she reached out to me! We exchanged emails back and forth and she actually made edits/changes based off my feedback, sent me a new edition of the story, and told me she’d keep me on the list for future beta reads to ensure better quality going forward. Authors are people too and as long as you’re not being salty for no reason they want advice on how to improve their writing and our reading experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I enjoyed reading this thread. I’ve sent notes why I did not finish a NetGalley book. Early on NetGalley I gave a book 2 stars but the author loved my review. I said it had nothing you couldn’t find online except you’d miss her snarky humor. I was sent a book by an author, gave it, generously, 3 stars and he freaked out because I called it episodic, without a driving plot, but with some memorable scenes and characters. You just don’t know how an author will take a review!

    Liked by 1 person

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