I am an absolute beginner in PHP. I have never coded anything from scratch in PHP. In fact, I don't have much coding experience at all aside from HTML. The most experience I have in PHP is in wading through thousands of lines of code to copy/paste some mods to an open-source forum program I have on one of my websites.
Being an absolute beginner in PHP, I give the book 3 stars. Here's why:
The author glosses over theory (in some instances, he just does away with it all together) in order to hurry up and get to the part of the book where you code your own blog. That's fine if all you want to be able to do with PHP is code your own simple blog. However, if you're like me and would actually like to be able to code something other than a blog after you read this book, you NEED theory. There are several different ways you can code things to get the same output. You need to know the hows and whys of them all in order to choose the best coding method for your project. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating a buggy program and spending hundreds of hours and countless frustrations on a project that you'll ultimately have to scrap because it wasn't coded properly in the first place.
There is no Glossary. Dozens of new terms and concepts get thrown at you within the first two chapters of the book, most of which are poorly explained (if they are even explained at all). A glossary at the back of the book would have allowed the author to explain them in detail to true beginners in PHP without taking up space within the chapters themselves. Without it, the first couple of chapters can be a bit overwhelming.
There are errors in the test code. To me, this is perhaps the biggest flaw this book has. Even during the first few chapters, you are encouraged to write the test code out for yourself, save it, view what you've just created, and compare it to the example in the book. I spent nearly an hour in frustration over a section of code that was giving me nothing but errors, the entire time wondering what I was doing wrong. Fed up and discouraged, I finally decided to move on. Several pages later, after having read about a new concept, I discovered that the reason why I got nothing but errors before was because one line in the test code was wrong. In a book that is primarily teaching PHP through example codes, having even one line of coding wrong is unfathomable.
The good thing about this book is it DOES get you coding right away. It's encouraging to see code that you've written (even from examples) work. It's even more gratifying playing around with the example code on your own, changing different variables, to see how it changes the final output. Because you're coding a simple blog, you learn about databases and how PHP interacts with MySQL, something that is very valuable in the age of dynamic websites.
All in all, this book is worth the read if you'd rather code a sample project before starting off on your own coding journey. If you are a true beginner in PHP, be prepared to struggle a bit if you don't purchase a separate book on PHP theory or research it online before starting this one.