First, be sure you purchase the latest edition of every tech book you buy. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn't have the latest edition under Meloni's or Zandsta's name. You have to type the isbn number, 0672326205, in the search box to find the newest edition as of this review. Also keep in mind when reading reviews that Amazon mixes reviews of older editions with new editions which makes it very difficult to make an assessment unless the edition is mentioned in the review. New editions usually correct the complaints given in bad reviews so don't pass judgment so quickly unless you know exactly which edition the reviewer is writing about.
This is an excellent book for beginners who know nothing about programming. However you must know XHTML before beginning this book.
This book and "Teach Yourself PHP in 24 Hours" by Zandstra are built using exactly, word for word, much of the same content. However Meloni's book occasionally has more explicate examples and explanation, however it is missing four essential chapters that can be found in Zandstra's book.
3. Regular Expressions
4. PEAR - Reusable Components to Extend the Power of PHP
No real concern, because the reader could research these topics on php.net or other sites and my have to do so in order to complete the book since it refers to arrays but doesn't explain them.
Meloni's book, compared to Zandsta's, does have better examples with actual programs that may be usful to you. Meloni's book, as the title emplies, also goes deeper into Apache and MySQL.
After reading this book, you'll wont to get something like, The PHP Anthology By Harry Fuecks Vol. 1&2... or PHP and MySQL Web Development, Second Edition by Luke Welling, Laura Thomson. These books will teach you by example and are excellent.
A note to beginners... Learning to program can be very difficult. Unless you are some kind of genius, you must be dedicated and patient with your quest. Programming is a totally different way of thinking and there is a lot to learn... I think this book is a great way to learn PHP and to learn how to program in general.