Normally, "любить" is translated as "love" when you talk about people or animals, and "like" when you talk about food, stuff or activities.
Then... where does нравится fit in? Is it just another word that can be used for "like" interchangeably, or it is a little bit different?
нравится seems to mean "is pleasing to", which accounts for the pleasing thing being in nominative case, since it's the subject-thing that does the pleasing, and the person pleased is in dative case, since the pleasing is being "addressed to" that person.
It's formal and stylized English to say that "The dog is pleasing to me", but wouldn't that be a literal translation of «Mне нравится собака»?
This kind of grammatical structure appears identical to Spanish gustar, Italian piacere, and French plaire. where the thing doing the pleasing is the "subject" of the verb, and the person pleased is the indirect object - but all are translated as the indirect object liking the subject/thing.
So what if I would like to know if someone actually LOVES rice? Would that just be очень любит?
LOVES rice - обожает, очень любит, рис для него лакомство. We often use the words "love and like" as equals, but not always.
To me it doesn't sound like a question. Is the sound of questions and statements in Russion closer to each other than in other languages or is it just the audio?
In this context, "like" and "love" are almost identical in casual Ib English. "Do you like rice?" is INCORRECT! The correct translation could be "Do you like rice a lot?" or "Do you love rice?". But you do not accept "Do you love rice?" It should be accepted.