Chai break

Chai break #1: How do you review poorly written ARCs/galleys/giveaway wins?

Chai break is a new weekly feature on This is Lit to discuss concerns that every book blogger has. This is meant to be a lighthearted discussion that you’d have over tea and the only reason for it not being called Discussion Post is that the site’s author thinks that would be too mainstream. Pfft.

Gulp down your tea, nerds, for today we’re going to discuss some serious shizz.

How do you rate a free book that you received as an ARC or won in a giveaway that’s just bad?

You receive a free copy of a book and it’s just so patently boring–the story line is pathetic, the plot is ill-conceived, and the ending is the only part that makes you happy because you get to put an end to this torture at the hands of sheaves of paper. But now comes the worst part–how do you review it? Do you hold back a little or do you go all in and call a shitty book a shitty book?

My opinion:

If the book is bad, you can call it bad since the agreement clearly states that you’re giving an honest review. Every review that a book blogger writes should be an honest review so that readers get an honest idea about the book they want to read. But sometimes, when the book is won through a giveaway, something holds the reviewer back. I noticed this trend while reviewing a book I won through a giveaway. Every review before mine was a 4/5 star rating. They all won the the book through giveaways, too. Every reviewer was waxing eloquent about the book and my review was the only 1 star rating in the list. I said the writing was “cringe-worthy” and called out the off-hand remarks made about South Indians, which was in poor taste, really.

I did feel bad about giving a poor review so I added a line at the end that said I didn’t want to seem ungracious. This a book that I received for free. I felt a little guilty about calling a spade a spade when I got the spade for free, with no caveats requiring me to tell everyone that the spade was a spade. (Dayum, I’m too deep into this figurative nonsense.)

I personally believe that there is nothing that should hold you back while reviewing a bad book, giveaway win/otherwise. I added the line about not wanting to be ungracious because the author was reading all the reviews and commenting on them. He most definitely would’ve been hurt by my review. But, in a few days, he’d hopefully have gotten over it and try to make his next book better. This is how I rationalized on this thought. (The author did end up commenting on my review. He said he was sorry I didn’t like it and mentioned that he hoped I’d like his next book. I thought it was sweet of him to comment.)

To the people who believe that you need to handle reviews of free books with care, I ask this–you are reviewing the book, not the person, so why hold back?

Now tell me what you think. Do you ever feel bad/guilty about giving a 1 star review to a free book? If you’re an author, how would you take getting such a review? Let’s launch the chai talk in the comments section!

~ Shruti

17 thoughts on “Chai break #1: How do you review poorly written ARCs/galleys/giveaway wins?

  1. I haven’t received too many books in giveaways, and I’ve never had to rate them lower than three stars. I’ve read other books that I either own or borrowed from the library low star ratings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve actually given review copies awful ratings if I didn’t like it. And then felt like absolute crap about it. 😦 But I agree with you. We shouldn’t feel guilty about calling a spade a spade, even if it is a free pretty looking spade.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I find writing a negative review to be one of the most difficult types of reviews to make. I try to treat books I receive in giveaways the same way I would any other book, so if I think a book deserves 1 or 2 stars, that is what I will rate it.
    I’m honest but (hopefully) not too blunt, I do my best not to make any personal statements about the author. No matter what, I want to respect the time and effort the author put in so my main goal in a negative review is to give constructive criticism. I try to temper my criticisms by acknowledging anything that was a positive and I usually end with a reminder that my opinion of a book is just that – my opinion. Not everyone has the same reading experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this feature! Chai and casual book discussions are both the best.

    This entire post resonated with me; I actually wrote my own post about the topic recently (, and basically said the same thing you did. I value a reviewer’s honesty significantly higher than I do their “kindness to the author,” or however you want to view artificially inflated ratings.

    Thank you for being an honest, critical reviewer! I know I’m not the only reader who appreciates it. =)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Liam! These days, I’ve developed quite the artificially inflated ratings radar; you can just tell when a reviewer is not being honest. Usually it’s with a giveaways win or an indie book. It’s sad that people actually do it…

      I’ll stop by to check out your post too!😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Sruti I agree with you BUT.. Let me explain. I ALWAYS write honest reviews gifted book or not. But I hate bashing writers (or people in general). I think we HAVE to call a spade a spade but respectfully. When I did not like a book but I could see the author did his/her best I will never destroy her work with just a few words. What I will do is highlight what did not work for ME and why (I’m also one fish in an ocean of readers and can’t pretend to represent everyone). I’ll also try to see if it’s more a case of “it’s not you it’s me” and other peolpe with different tastes would like the book better. If it’s a newbie I’ll message her/him privately to give some pointers and explain maybe what could be better. So in a nutshell I will NEVER give 4 or 5 stars if I did not honestly like a book but I will ALWAYS try to express my opinion in a useful way for the readers and the author. So far, I’ve only read two books that I’ve been not so polite with in my review: one of Laurel K Hamilton. It was the “Xth” book in her series Anita Blake and she repeated whole passages in her book (I mean word for word as if we were too dumb to spot it). It was clealy a book written to make money and nothing else with absolutely no respect for the reader. The second one was Bound By Vengeance by Cora Reilly because this book had so many editing errors, inconsistencies etc. once again it had no respect for the reader who had paid for it. If you’re interested in a 2 stars review but one that I hope is a respectful one go read my The Fate of The Tearlings review. And very good idea this subject because we all have the problem one day!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your inputs!😊

      I would never make personal attacks; I would just state my honest view about the book and leave it at that. One thing I like about your way of handling it is the messaging the authors part. Our views ultimately reach the author and that’s great!😊


  6. Amen to this post! I’ve always rated books as I see fit. I never like it when people hold back or submit to peer pressure to have a certain opinion. You trust you instincts more than people. This is a topic I think needs to be discussed more within the community and openly showing that respectful honesty. I’ve rated things on Net Galley 1 or 2 stars or even DNF them (trying not to do that anymore). Such an eloquent post πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

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