BY Brandon Voss
July 29 2011 1:45 PM ET
4. BOOK: Patchwork, Dan Loughry
Available July 31, Loughry’s frank and funny debut novel explores the effects of the AIDS crisis on an extended Midwestern family. After his partner’s death in the late ’80s, Sal, an HIV-positive florist, escapes to L.A., where new meds and new love await. Like the NAMES Project Quilt, where our characters begin their journey of healing, Loughry weaves a tale of grief and hope with results that are colorful, moving, and unforgettable.
3. FILM: The Smurfs
Out July 29, Hollywood’s latest big-budget expression of ’80s nostalgia stars Neil Patrick Harris as a New Yorker who helps save a displaced mini blue man group. You know Katy Perry voices Smurfette, but listen for Alan Cumming as Gutsy Smurf and The Daily Show’s John Oliver as fancy, flower-wearing Vanity Smurf, a good candidate for The A-List: Smurf Village. Also look for Tim Gunn’s Tim Gunn impersonation as an assistant.
2. MUSIC: Rabbits on the Run, Vanessa Carlton
Inspired by Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time and Richard Adams’s Watership Down — don’t ask, just enjoy — Carlton’s latest album is her first release since 2007’s Heroes & Thieves. Now 30, Carlton, who came out as bisexual last summer, sounds dreamier than ever thanks to her old-school use of analog tape on highlights like lead single “Carousel,” which features a children’s choir, and “I Don’t Want to Be a Bride.”