Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food&Love


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” A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the pastries she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that can cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.

Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one in the same.

Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home. “

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Stories Included:
Rain by: Sangu Mandanna
Kings and Queens by: Elsie Chapman
The Grand Ishq Adventure by: Sandhya Menon
Sugar and Spite by: Rin Chupeco
Moments to Return by: Adi Alsaid
The Slender One by: Caroline Tung Richmond
Gimme Some Sugar by: Jay Coles
The Missing Ingredient by: Rebecca Roanhorse
Hearts a la Carte by: Karuna Riazi
Bloom by: Phoebe North
A Bountiful Film by: S.K. Ali
Side Work by: Sara Farizan
Panaderia~Pasteleria by: Anna-Marie McLemore


Food has a language of its own and can connect us in such a beautiful and memorable way. Some of my fondest memories are set around a table with friends and family as we swap stories and reminisce together.

Although I don’t have fond memories of my mother, I remember my summer getaways to my grandparents’ house where I’d get to help my grandma cook and care for her house. Helping grandma K make chicken paprikash, goulash, and yummy desserts are some of the best memories I have. As I look back at my childhood, there are three distinct times of the year that were always my absolute favorite [summer vacation at my grandparents, the August family reunion, and Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house with cousins] and each of those times included delicious food.

Below I will write my thoughts as I read through each story listed in this book. I’m intrigued by the idea of having so many different stories, all involving food and love, written by different authors and all set in the same neighborhood. Sadly, as I quickly flipped through the book, I found not one recipe…I love any/all books that I’ve read that also include recipes. *sigh* If you have any yummy recipes you’d like to share remember sharing is caring.


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Rain by: Sangu Mandanna

Content Warning: Loss of a mother discussed

Rain brings us the story of Anna whose mother passed away a few months ago. During a trip to visit her Aunt, Anna meets a friendly face, someone she’s finally able to open up to about the loss of her mother.

This was a sweet story about how lost you can feel when we lose someone close to us, someone we thought would always be there for us.


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Kings and Queens by: Elsie Chapman

Content Warning: sibling in a vegetative state after a shooting

When I first started this story I wasn’t exactly sure where it was going. The main character, Neha, is so angry and lost, and though she remembers food being comforting it didn’t feel like she was comforted anymore. Her sister, before the shooting, was a light in all their lives and Neha doesn’t understand why no one, besides her, wants revenge for the loss of the life her sister will now never know.
It’s interesting to think of all the story that was packed in just 25 pages. Honestly, this could have been an entire book and I would have happily read through it to see more of Neha’s world.


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The Grand Ishq Adventure by: Sandhya Menon

Neha writes a “Dr. Love” column under the pseudonym, Dr. Ishq, she has a knack for reading what people write in and giving them the advice they need. Although great at helping others, in their pursuit of love, she’s always been too nervous to face her fear and confess her feelings. In this story we see Neha step out of her comfort zone and embrace her own advice.


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Sugar and Spite by: Rin Chupeco

Content Warning: Blood is used as an ingredient in magically spelled food. Mention of Japanese occupied Philipino towns being devastated by the occupation.

This was a story of generation magic and how a new generation is learning the old ways while also trying to make it their own. Rin Chupeco always has a way of creating fantasy worlds where good, evil, and shades of grey can be seen. Where I feel connected to the lead and the struggles they’re facing. This short story by Rin has me wanting to re-read The Bone Witch trilogy.


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Moments to Return by: Adi Alsaid

Content Warning: anxiety/panic attacks due to overwhelming fear of death

This was the story of someone who travels all the way to Hungry Hearts Row, from Montenegro, in search of magical food to cure them of the ever-present fear of death that looms constantly in their mind.


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The Slender One by: Caroline Tung Richmond

I have to say, so far, this is my favorite story. We meet Charlie who, like his grandmother, can see and communicate with ghosts. It’s up to his family to help ghosts pass on, including making comforting foods for ghosts who are sad/angry/etc so that they’re able to find peace in the afterlife.


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Gimme Some Sugar by: Jay Coles

Content Warning: Anxiety, a parent with cancer

Finally, a story with a recipe included! Honestly, I’m a sucker for any stories involving food that also drop recipes. This story was an emotional read. We meet Leo who decides to enter a food competition in hopes that he can win. With the prize money, he would be able to pay for a surgery that could extend his mom’s life. Leo doesn’t let his anxiety overcome him and chooses to have faith in himself and one of his grandmother’s recipes.


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The Missing Ingredient by: Rebecca Roanhorse

Content Warning: Death of a parent


Well, this story left me desperately wanting more. Honestly Rebecca how can you not give me more?! This is the story of Kelsie, and her mom, whose family restaurant hasn’t been the same since her father passed away two years ago.


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Hearts a la Carte by: Karuna Riazi

This story felt like the teaser for a full-length book. Girl meets boy and must come to terms with what having him in her life will entail.


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Bloom by: Phoebe North

Content Warnings: Mention of surviving the Holocaust, loss of parents, child abuse.

This story seemed too quick for me to really feel connected to the main character or their situation. It was like a small peek in and I really needed a bigger peek.


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A Bountiful Film by: S.K. Ali

Another story that felt like the beginning of a good book. It would be interesting to see more of this character and how they see Hungry Hearts row now that they’re a resident rather than just a visitor.


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Side Work by: Sara Farizan

Laleh was bound for college but a night of drinking too much led to her hitting a telephone pole on her way home. Luckily no one was physically hurt but the direction of her life ended up changing. Instead of looking to college, she’s nursing her emotional wounds by helping her uncle run his restaurant.


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Panaderia~Pasteleria by: Anna-Marie McLemore

Content Warning: Brief scene with racism and classism.

I love that they ended this selection of stories with Lila! Lila is a character that we’ve seen briefly throughout each of the Hungry Hearts stories which made is a perfect way to end the book. Lila has a talent for crafting baked goods that people need to give them strength, courage, or happiness. She never knows who exactly she’s baking for until she does. This short story is about her falling for someone and trying to express that love without words. This short story has trans rep and I have to say it was probably my favorite of all the stories in the collection.


Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels: https://www.pexels.com/photo/composition-of-spoonfuls-with-various-spices-4199098/

This was such a fun collection to read through. All the stories are set within the Hungry Hearts Row neighborhood but they each tell their own unique stories. Some stories read as straight contemporary where people talk about the food bringing others together but never mention magic as something real. Other stories, in this collection, show a magical and supernatural side to the food that’s crafted.

I really enjoyed getting to know so many different people who live, and eat, along Hungry Hearts Row and look forward to checking out more work by all the authors featured.


Published by Noelle Loves Books

Growing up, Japanese and Indigenous, it was hard to find books that showcased stories and worlds that accurately portrayed Noelle’s experiences. Fantasy quickly became her main love, as you could really be anyone, anywhere. As the years went on, and technology grew, Noelle was finally able to see more stories and authors that looked and felt like her. Noelle is open to all genre’s though she can mostly be found reading own voice, fantasy, and romance. Ratings: 5 Stars: Completely blew me away 4 Stars: Loved the story but didn't feel completely blown away by it 3 Stars: Liked the overall concept of the story but either had poor execution, had a lot of plot holes, or was written poorly 2 Stars: I struggled to understand the plot, poorly written, or just had really unlikeable characters along with a poor writing 1 Star: Horribly written, major plot holes, or extremely unlikeable characters and plots.

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