Book Review | The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite books that I’ve read all year: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn.

If you’ve been following along, I’ve read a few duds this year. And after a few blahs last month, I decided to craft my November TBR with my favorite genres in mind: historical fiction and fantasy.

So far this month, I’ve read Vicious by V.E. Schwab (which I really enjoyed; I won’t review that one until I read Vengeful later this month) and then this beauty, The Rose Code.

A little bit about The Rose Code:

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to the mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, a product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer…

My thoughts

The Rose Code was everything I wanted in a historical fiction novel. I read The Alice Network a few years back and really enjoyed Quinn’s storytelling (I am going to read The Huntress next month), so I went into this one with high expectations. I was not disappointed!

This book is full of rich history and masterful explanations of the process of cryptanalysis during WWII. I never heard of Bletchley Park and was fascinated to hear that there were brilliant women who worked alongside men during the war to help undermine Germany and its allies. Osla, Mab, and Beth played different roles at BP, and it was truly amazing to witness their work unfold and follow their journeys. I just loved the characters that Quinn created.

Of course, they all followed different paths. Osla, a deb who was fluent in a few languages, including German, worked to decode and translate messages during the war. Mab, who came from poverty in east-end London, worked with the giant Enigma machines, breaking codes. Mab was my favorite of the three. I loved her maturity, dedication to her sister, Lucy, and how she protected her friends. And lastly, Beth, who was good at crosswords, worked in one of the most prestigious huts and as one of the park’s few female cryptanalysts. All workers at BP were sworn to secrecy, but that didn’t stop Osla, Mab, and Beth from creating a long-lasting, yet fractured sisterhood. They all were big bookworms too, and the group formed the Mad Hatters Society, a book club with more colorful characters.

I just really enjoyed reading this one. Along with the work at BP, Quinn throws in some royal family history with Osla’s love interest being Prince Phillip. Of course, we know how that turns out. Mab meets an amazing man, Francis Gray, and you witness unconditional, fierce, love. Beth is also entwined in romance while she navigates leaving her mother’s strict house and her own self-discovery. Beth is also sent to a mental institution by someone who betrays her, and readers also get to witness the ugly truths of how women with mental illnesses were treated.

This book is equal parts enticing and maddening. It’s such a beautiful story. Every twist and turn, every climatic point. The Rose Code will make you laugh, cry, and hurt. It comes together so holistically, and I closed it wanting more.

November Hopefuls

Ahh, November. One of my favorite months. Not only is it my birthday month, but autumn is in full swing. Leaves are fully peaked and falling, the weather is crisp, and you get to pack on layers of cozy sweaters and drink hot beverages all day.

I love Thanksgiving and I love preparing for the holidays, so, November is really where it’s at.

In November, I love to dive back into my favorite genres: historical fiction and fantasy. I like to read big, chunky books during the winter months. I love cozying up in my nook with a cup of tea and getting lost in a story. I have two months left to meet my Goodreads goal, and I have some PLANS.

Let’s get to November:

Vicious (Villains #1) by V.E. Schwab

Vicious (Villains, #1)

I read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue last year and did not enjoy it, but readers have encouraged me to give her Villains and Darker Shades of Magic series a try, so here I am! I am about 30% through this one already and it is definitely intriguing. Excited to see what comes out of it.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose Code

I really enjoyed The Alice Network and look forward to reading Quinn’s latest book, The Rose Code. I’ve seen some great reviews on bookstagram for this one. This one is THICK, but I always fly through historical fiction books. The Rose Code is about three women who broke German military codes during the war and how they are torn apart by a series of events.

Vengeful (Villains #2) by V.E. Schwab

Vengeful (Villains, #2)

If all goes well with Vicious, I will be picking up the second book in Schwab’s Villains series (I believe a third one is in the works!)

Night Road by Kristin Hannah

Night Road

Another Kristin Hannah. This one I plan on reading via audiobook. Knowing Hannah, I will make sure the tissues are nearby.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus

Now this one I am looking forward to! I read The Starless Sea this year and wasn’t a fan, but readers informed me this one is breathtaking. I also read that Morgenstern wrote this book during NaNoWriMo, which I will be participating in this year! I have this one in paperback and audio, so I will most likely do a mix and match with this book.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

The cover alone has me interested, but give me a historical fiction about public libraries, suffrage, feminism … I am HERE for it.


What are you reading this month? Have any of these made it on to your list?

And, see what I’ve read so far in 2021!

January Wrap-Up

February Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

April Wrap-Up

May to September Wrap-Up

October Wrap-Up

May to September Wrap-Up

Uh…yeah, so. Hi…

This is awkward. I kind of disappeared the past few months because …

We are going to have a baby! Our first child is due in early February. The first trimester was very rough, and I did not come up for air and feel better until a month ago. So, I am slowly returning to “normal” until the third trimester takes over again.

Seeing that I have a good excuse … I am forgiven, right? I can move on to the books?

OK, cool.

This is going to be a long one, folks. I have read 15 books since I wrote last, and I am going to list them out below with a few sentences on each.

And awayyy we gooo …. (sorry, I am super jazzed as I write this)

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Without a doubt my favorite book so far this year. I absolutely loved this story. The story world, the characters, the fast-moving plot. It was so good. So, so good. If you weren’t a fan of Shadow and Bone and really want to give Bardugo another try, pick up Six of Crows.

Beth & Amy by Virginia Kantra

Beth and Amy (The March Sisters, #2)

Virginia Kantra’s retellings of Little Women are just OK. I am not a big fan of retellings anyways because why mess with perfection, but then again, She’s the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You slaps. I was not expecting anything groundbreaking or anything insightful with this one, so I did not feel disappointed reading it. They are cute and easy reads, but I wouldn’t highly recommend them.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows #2)

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This one wasn’t as good as Six of Crows, but I loved revisiting these characters and learning more about their stories and what happened next. I felt that this one dragged a bit — it could have benefitted from some good editing and cuts. Otherwise, I finished the duology really loved them!

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass, #7)

A full Throne of Glass series review is forthcoming once I get over my book hangover. I finished this book in June and golly, what an adventure. This book is THICK, folks. Lots going on. Lots of storylines to wrap up. It got a little too much and I started to lose track and interest. I mostly finished to finish the series, and that’s disappointing. Again, I will do a longer review of the series soon!

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night

This was one of my most anticipated thrillers of the year, and I devoured it in one sitting. But I will tell you … I didn’t love it. The plot was a little too familiar to me, and I got super bored with all the movie references. The main character was beyond unlikable and the ending beyond unpredictable. The small twist barely made me gasp. Underwhelming.

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Watching You

I was super bummed after reading Survive the Night, and then I was super bummed after reading Watching You. Again, the main character was unlikable (which is usually OK in books, don’t get me wrong), but I was not even interested in how much I disliked her. And the ending, like Sager’s, was not surprising. Bleh.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation

After reading two dull thrillers, I moved to a genre I almost never read: contemporary romance. I wanted to switch it up and hopefully get out of my “meh” reading slump. This one did not disappoint. I loved it. If this were made into a movie, it would be my favorite movie ever.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising

When I saw that TJR was coming out with a new book this summer, I sighed with relief. Great. One of my favorite authors will release another book that will change my life. Unfortunately, Malibu Rising (or as I call it, Mali-boo Rising) did not make the cut. I was engaged the first 100 pages, but TJR lost me after that. I didn’t care about most of the characters, and all of their troubled storylines seemed so hurried and fragmented. There was a lot of unnecessary drama, and the “big ending” was about 3 lines. Just underwhelmed. Again.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary

The cover alone pulls you in, right? I was hoping to read a whimsy, mystical, witchy-esque book to kick off spooky season a little early, but again, found myself going “meh” at the end. While I enjoyed the parts about the apothecary and murders (yep, you read that right), there was too little of that and more focus on a present-day, two-dimensional, boring character. I just closed the book wanting more.

The World of Pooh by A.A. Milne

The World of Pooh: The Complete Winnie-The-Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner

What can I say? I’m a pregnant woman who wanted to read some Winnie the Pooh. Loved every moment and cannot wait to read this to my little one.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History

…No idea what I even read. If there’s anything I’ve learned about Donna Tartt, it’s that she is a superb writer. But while she is a fantastic writer, she is also the world’s biggest flexer. This book is her flexing her writing skills paired with her knowledge of the Greeks and other snooty things. Not to mention this book is dripping with homophobia, antisemitism, racism, sexism (any kind of ism … throw it in there), and lots of triggers. I read the entire book with interest, but I didn’t like it.

The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine

The Female Brain

Because I am having a baby girl, I wanted to reread a book all about female brains. This is a good one for anyone who wants to learn about how the female brain works. She also has one on the male brain which I read that is much shorter. She makes a joke about why it’s shorter. I bet you can guess why.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan

I’ve been on a children’s book kick lately and oh my goodness, this book. Please be advised: If you are pregnant, do not read unless you want to sob on your couch for hours. This book is written in-verse and it is truly a masterpiece. I loved it!

Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

Blackbird House

You kind of already love this book because of its cover, right? Hoffman writes a series of short stories circled around this one grand house, Blackbird House. It is witchy, whimsical, and magical…but also kind of … boring? I liked some stories more than others, but it was a good witchy book to kick off the season.

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Wish You Were Here

When I got Picoult’s new book as an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) I dropped my witchy books and read this in two days. And … well … I hated it. I am a big Jodi P fan, don’t get me wrong, but this book was just not right. I will let my Goodreads review (with some spoilers, mind you) speak for itself.

So, while I was nauseated and encountering my first trimester, I WAS reading! See?!

What did you read these past few months? Share in the comments below!

Check out these posts to see what I’ve read this year:

January Wrap-Up

February Wrap-Up

March Wrap-Up

April Wrap-Up

January Wrap-Up

I thought I would share my January wrap-up (over a month late)!

January was a very good reading month for me. It was freezing and snowy in Connecticut, so I used that opportunity to cozy up in my new reading nook and read 6 books. I enjoyed most of them!

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Beartown (Beartown, #1)

I will let my review speak for itself, but this was definitely one of Backman’s best books. A Man Called Ove still has my heart, but this one really touched me and has stuck with me ever since. Backman is a go-to author for me, and after hearing how much other readers loved this one, I was not disappointed.

The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention by Julia Cameron

The Listening Path: The Creative Art of Attention (An Artist's Way Book)

I received an advanced listeners copy (ALC) from Libro.fm, and while I enjoyed most parts, I found a lot of the meditations and tips were repetitive from other books that I’ve read before. I wished that I had something new to take away from this book, but I still enjoyed listening to get a recharge.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Winter Garden

I discovered Kristin Hannah a few years back when I read The Great Alone (a great book), and after reading The Nightingale (now one of my favorites) and Firefly Lane (another one of my favorites), I had to read Winter Garden with a buddy group on bookstagram. I really enjoyed it! I thought it was a little slow going at first but was soon captivated by the story.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)

I have been reading the Throne of Glass series since last year with a buddy read group and I am really loving it. I discovered Sarah J. Maas last year during the start of quarantine, and her books have literally helped me get through the pandemic. So far, Queen of Shadows is my favorite of the series (there are 7 books and a book of short stories). I finished Empire of Storms in February (loved it) and I will be starting Tower of Dawn this month!

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The Starless Sea

I really, really wanted to love this book as much as everyone else. Unfortunately, I was exhausted when I finished it. Hear me out: Her writing is beautiful, but she paid too much attention to the bookish atmosphere and aesthetics than the actual plot. The stories within the story? Beautiful. The character development and plot? Not so beautiful. I was lost in the last 150 pages, feeling unsatisfied at the end. BUT — she can certainly create beautiful prose. I plan to read The Night Circus in April because people love it so much.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

The Prophets

I listened to an advanced listener’s copy (ALC) from Libro.fm, and I found the narration to be astounding. I heard that the physical book can be hard to follow with the different chorus of voices, but listening to the audiobook and the narrator grounded me as I took in this powerful debut. This book was unique, beautiful, and heart-wrenching.

Have you read these? If you are interested in any of these books and learning about trigger warnings, please don’t hesitate to email me: kass.readsbooks@gmail.com or contact me on Instagram: @keepitkassual.